the killing of this giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark
. . . made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different
person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach,
as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.
‘I will give you a name,’ he said to it, ‘and I shall call you Sting.’ ”
This passage from Chapter 8 depicts
Bilbo’s reaction to his narrow escape from the giant spider of Mirkwood,
one of the novel’s major turning points. Defeating a foe in combat
gives Bilbo a taste of the confidence that he has not previously
enjoyed, making him feel “much fiercer and bolder in spite of an
empty stomach.” From this point forward, Bilbo shows that he is
capable of taking the initiative and acting in the best interest
of the company rather than his own self-interest, as his ability
to ignore his hunger shows. He upstages Thorin as a leader and establishes
himself as a hero.
Bilbo’s decision to name his sword is also symbolic.
Named swords are marks of reputation and prowess in ancient epic
literature, and Bilbo’s naming of his sword essentially represents
his laying claim to the mantle of heroism.