Symbolism in The Hobbit
As famous German author, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, once said, “Character develops itself in the stream of life” (Goethe 1). Most people do not stay the same over the course of their life. Personal experiences create growth in one’s character. These experiences can create a feeling of triumph or self-confidence which can be enough to change someone over time. This can be applied to reality or fiction. In The Hobbit, character change serves as the vocal point of the novel. J.K.K Tolkien portrays character change through symbolism. She uses symbolic settings and characters to portray character change and growth throughout the story. In J.K.K Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit, a life changing journey symbolizes Bilbo Baggins’s transformation to self-actualization. Tolkien is a master of using setting to symbolize phases in life. The dangerous forest, Mirkwood, symbolizes life’s most difficult times where there seems to be no end in sight. Mirkwood is a dangerous forest that has been rarely traveled and very few dare to enter. There is only one path in order to make it to the other side of the forest in one piece. The wise wizard Gandalf warns them, “Stick to the forest-track, keep your spirits up, hope for the best, and with a tremendous slice of luck you may come out one day and see the Long Marshes lying below you” (Tolkien 129). An aura of fear sets in, which is a very similar to the feeling one gets before the must undergo some hard times. Tolkien suggests that in life’s most difficult moments, one must
keep their head high and follow the path to prosperity. However, when one deviates from the path to prosperity, unforeseen challenges may arise. Unfortunately for Bilbo and his companions, they strayed from the path to prosperity which led them to being held captive by the wood elves in their castle. Luckily, Bilbo was able to use his magic ring to become invisible and avoid being captured. After a few weeks he came up with a plan and rescued his friends. Getting captured by the wood elves shows the horrible consequences that may occur should you deviate from your set path. However, with cunning, strong will, and self-confidence, one can get back on the path to prosperity. Bilbo Baggins faces this exact situation, and as J.K.K Tolkien points out, “Bilbo discovered a very interesting thing: the great gates were not the only entrance to the caves. A stream flowed under part of the lowest regions of the palace, and joined the Forest River some way further to the east, beyond the steep slope out of which the main mouth opened”(Tolkien162). Bilbo learned to use his resources and intuition to help his friends. However, Tolkien still indicates that most people who deviate from the path to prosperity do not make it back, since they would have all been goners if it wasn’t for Bilbo’s magic ring. Along with symbolic settings, Tolkien uses symbolic characters to shape Bilbo’s personality. This first character to really shape Bilbo’s personality is Gandalf. Gandalf is a wizard who seems to know more about what is going on than the readers as well as the main characters do. He symbolizes a mother or father who wants things done their way. By choosing "Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes” (Tolkien 25) This quote alone suggests that he has some authority over Bilbo and the dwarves, just like a parent would have authority over their kids. He Wright 3
is there at the beginning of the journey, much like parents are there at the beginning of a child’s life. Moreover, he lets Bilbo’s group continue on their adventure by themselves after a while, similar to what a parent would do as the child grows up. However, he is always there to help the group when in need. Also, he shows Bilbo how much he can get out of simply looking at his surroundings as well as read between the lines and thinking outside the box. Many...
Cited: Tolkein, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973. Print
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