Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Throughout epic literature, swords with names and lineages are the marks of great heroes. One of the most famous examples is King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur. The swords named Orcrist and Glamdring that Thorin and Gandalf win from the trolls symbolize their heroic deeds. Bilbo’s decision to name his short sword Sting after killing the spider is a major turning point in his quest—it symbolizes his bravery and initiative, and presages his transformation into a hero.
Though the thematic importance of hobbits is highly debatable, Tolkien himself acknowledged that the nature of hobbits was based on the rural, middle-class English people among whom he lived. This symbol enables Tolkien to explore the contrast between ancient and modern worldviews as the modern-minded Bilbo travels the ancient world of Middle-Earth.