Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Named Swords

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.

The Arkenstone

The Arkenstone is one of the key elements that sets off the events of the book. While the treasure that Smaug guards is the ultimate goal for the dwarves, the Arkenstone proves to take on a significance far more complicated. Because it’s the most coveted object of Thorin’s family line of the Durins, the jewel has an emotional pull for Thorin that blinds him to all else. As Bilbo reasons that he is entitled to it as a portion of the larger treasure, Thorin’s fury emphasizes that this goes far beyond mere financial gain. Contrasting this is Bilbo’s own indifference to the gem, which he freely gives to Bard as a bargaining chip. The madness that it induces in Thorin, however, puts him closer in character to Smaug, hoarding treasure purely to hoard. With the dwarves’ greatest love being the accrual of wealth, the gem raises a complicated point with lineage: in wanting to honor his own family, tradition, and legacy, Thorin experiences greed’s corrupting influence.