english literature

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A study of the hobbit

The Hobbit is an exciting fantasy about a hobbit that goes on the most fantastic adventure of his life. Bilbo (hobbit) goes to Middle Earth to seek the long lost treasure. Along the way, Bilbo encounters new friends, strange wild beasts, unlimited amount of danger, and temptation. The plot of this magnificent fantasy fits the 'quest' pattern from the beginning, all the way to the end. The characters contained within the words of this novel fir the archetypal characters in every way. IN addition, the settings of this particular adventure have something magical and enchanted about them. These are the elements required to having the perfect quest, and The Hobbit contains all these elements. Therefore, The Hobbit is a very good example of a monomyth.

The plot of this book contains three distinct phases: departure, initiation, and return. The departure phase often contains the call to adventure, the refusal, a supernatural aid, and crossing the first threshold. The call to adventure in this novel occurs when one day, Gandalf appears and asks Bilbo to go on an adventure with him in the following manner: "I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure that I'm arranging" [p.6]. There is also a refusal of the call, "We are plain quiet folk, and have no use for adventures" [p.6]. The supernatural aid is Gandalf, the wise old wizard, and when the dwarves and Bilbo encounter the trolls, [p.34-41] Gandalf comes and helps them and saves them all, and the first threshold is crossed. Bilbo and the dwarves can now move on. After the departure, Bilbo and the dwarves undertake an initiation, and are captured many times and almost killed if it were not for Bilbo. In the road of trials, Bilbo and the dwarves face many dangers and Bilbo has to save his friends many times after they are captured, and through this, he gains a great deal of wisdom and is raised to a higher status when he saves them from the wood-elves' prison [p.166-175]. Ultimately, when it is time to go back, Bilbo is hesitant to return because he has made so many new friends and is quite fond of them, but soon, he leaves with the elves, Beorn, and Gandalf with two trunks full of gold and silver as the boon and continues to lead a simple life. He is now the master of two worlds, and he can go back anytime he wants without any fear. Thus, the plot of The Hobbit fits the monomyth.

The characters in The Hobbit fit the archetypal characters of the monomyth pattern. For example, there is a hero (Bilbo); the wise, old man (Gandalf); and the evil villains (the goblins, the Wargs, the wood-elves, the trolls, Gollum, Smaug, and Bolg). In a typical quest, readers expect to find evil characters that must be outwitted or defeated by the hero. In this case, it is the goblins, the Wargs etc. Bilbo is expected to defeat, who will not stop at anything to get their hands on the treasure, even if it means killing millions. Bilbo defeats Gollum in the riddle contest and when Gollum decided to kill Bilbo, Bilbo uses the magic ring to become invisible and follows Gollum out of the caves [p.70-84]. Next, the goblins capture the adventurers and after the escape of Bilbo and his friends, the goblins join armies with the Wargs and are ready to cremate them when the Eagles come and save the dwarves, the wizard and Bilbo [p.99-100]. The trolls that catch the dwarves in sacks, are ready to roast them and ear them when Gandalf appears uses his brain and saves them all [p.37-42]. When the travellers are captured by the goblins, Gandalf disappears from his spot and later appears in the tunnel, kills the Great Goblin, and helps the dwarves and Bilbo escape [p.57-63]. Smaug, the dragon and the guardian of the treasure, is killed by Bard before the war with the help of a thrush [p.231-232]. However, Bolg (son of the Great Goblin) is defeated by Beorn, the man who can turn into a bear [p.266-267]. The one villain who dies without being killed is the Master of the Town. He runs away with the treasure that is to be used to repair the town damaged by Smaug, and is later found dead with the treasure. Consequently, the characters in The Hobbit reflect the conventional characters what would be found within any monomyth.

The setting for The Hobbit is the Hill, Hobbiton, Rivendell, Misty Mountains, The Island of Gollum, Mirkwood, the prison of the Wood-Elves, The Lonely Mountain, Long Lake, and Esgaroth. The novel begins on the Hill, near Hobbiton and quickly moves to a magical place called Rivendell where the dwarves and Bilbo stay for a while to get fresh supplies. Soon, they leave Rivendell and enter the dangerous Misty Mountains where they are captured by the goblins [p.57-63]. After they have all escaped into the tunnels, Bilbo falls on the way, finds Gollum on his Island, and scarcely escapes from him and the goblin army [p.65-84]. Next, the dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf go to the house of Beorn, who lives near the forest of Mirkwood [p.108-111]. Later, they enter the forest of Mirkwood [p.128-132], and have many more adventures. Then they see the light coming from the bushes and go off path (as they were told not to do) and are captured by giant spiders. After being released, they realise that Thorin, their leader, has been captured by the wood-elves and to save him, they go after him and are prisoners of the wood-elves [p.156-158]. To escape, they have to journey through Long Lake in barrels [p.170-180] and everything is done by Bilbo because he was not caught since he was invisible. Esgaroth is the last town before the Lonely Mountains and their second last stop as well [182-187]. The last stop for the dwarves is their destination, The Lonely Mountain, for which they have come all the way. The are much wiser than when they started out, and they are very delighted to be at their destination, but they have one last barrier, the dragon, to conquer before they can claim the riches. The setting insists that the reader use their imagination, illuminating images of what unmarked worlds might be like when man has dominated his most despised rival. Therefore, the setting of The Hobbit is suitably impressive in degree and fits the form of an ambitious and heroic quest across the universe.

The Hobbit is a very good example of a monomyth because the elements required to having the perfect quest are contained within The Hobbit. The plot of this glorious fantasy fits the 'quest' pattern from the start, all the way to the conclusion. The characters enclosed with the words of this novel fit the model characters in every way. Additionally, the settings of this particular journey have something miraculous and charming about them. Along the way, Bilbo encountered new friends, wild beasts, heaps of danger, and temptation and gained wisdom from his experiences. Bilbo started out to seek the long lost treasure, and found out what the real treasures were: friendship, honesty, and trust. The Hobbit is a thrilling fantasy about a hobbit that goes on the most dangerous voyage of his life.

About the ways in which ‘The Hobbit’ demonstrates the features of the fantasy genre.

The Hobbit is a fantasy novel about a peaceful hobbit that accompanies a wizard and several dwarves on a journey to steal the great treasures of the dragon Smaug and I believe it demonstrates or uses the features of the fantasy genre. The features of any genre are like a skeleton for the story of that particular genre. Different genres have different features such as different settings, characters, plot, themes and values. Features are like a list of criteria that is used to assess whether the novel fits into a genre. The Hobbit is unable to demonstrate the entire features of the fantasy genre but it is still clear that The Hobbit used the features of the fantasy genre as a skeleton.

The first thing to consider when determining whether The Hobbit demonstrates the features of the fantasy genre is the setting. The setting is the where the story takes place. Most fantasy stories take place ‘an enclosed world that is often exotic and mystical’ (Glasson, 1955, p.55). The setting in The Hobbit follows this idea and the world that it takes place is enclosed and exotic. With rows of strange and devious mountains and thick woods where elves and giant spiders live The Hobbit world is definitely exotic; with the abundance of several other creatures and dragons the world of The Hobbit is also quite mystical and magical. The setting of any genre is the fundamental building block for a stories development. For example, it is quite hard to create an interesting science fiction story that is set in the backyard of a young boy. The Hobbit proves that it uses the writing structure of the fantasy genre by being set in a magical land full of exotic creatures and landforms which are the elements of a typical fantasy story.    

Setting isn’t the only aspect to be considered when writing a fantasy story; there are also characters to be put into consideration. In the fantasy genre there are usually the protagonist and the antagonist that are in conflict with each other. In The Hobbit the protagonist is a simple hobbit, known as Bilbo Baggins, who becomes a thief on a plan to steal treasures. There is no antagonist in The Hobbit. Smaug is not the antagonist because an antagonist is ‘a principal character that opposes the protagonist’ (www.thefreedictionary.com). Throughout the book Smaug does not oppose Bilbo Baggins until he is provoked. He is more of an obstacle than a villain opposing Bilbo and his party of dwarves.

On the other hand, The Hobbit demonstrates the features of the fantasy genre through the development of Bilbo. Protagonists in fantasy stories are well-known for their development or change. For example, in the book called Eragon the main character transforms from a deer hunting farm boy into a fierce and powerful dragon rider. In the beginning of the book Bilbo defines himself and the hobbits as ‘Plain quiet folk and have no use for adventure” (The Hobbit, p.4). Throughout the book Bilbo changes into an extroverted and adventure-seeking hobbit through his experiences. Bilbo had changed from a simple hobbit into a fantasy protagonist with that could fulfil the task at hand. Most stories have a diverse range of characters and within these characters are the protagonist and antagonist. Different genres have different personalities or criteria for their main characters. The main character in a fantasy story is usually changing, confident and adventurous. The evidence clearly reveals that The Hobbit demonstrates the features of the fantasy through the knowledge or skills that the hero gains through his quest.

Plot and structure is a key feature to the features of the fantasy genre. The plot and structure in the fantasy is quite unique in contrast to the features of other genres. ‘There is calm, upheaval, calm; then stability is restored’ (Glasson, 1955, p. 55) shows the dynamic structure of a fantasy quest. The Hobbit starts off in a peaceful and calm atmosphere until Bilbo joins Gandalf and the fourteen dwarves in an adventure. During his journey the calm atmosphere is disrupted and ‘upheaved’. When the journey ends Bilbo goes back to his normal life, despite his grown love for adventure. Stability is restored at the end of The Hobbit because the arrogant dragon was killed and Bilbo’s returning to his peaceful life after a crazy adventure.

The plot in a fantasy story usually centres on the hero’s quest or journey. The quest is usually a search for a powerful or ancient object that will restore the stability or calm that was disrupted by evil. The Hobbit conforms to this by focusing on Bilbo’s journey but the object (treasure) doesn’t restore the calm but instead creates conflict. In The Hobbit Thorin and his cousin nearly declare war but are forced to join in an attempt to stop the Goblin army. With this evidence it is obvious that the quest was not aimed to destroy evil and it even started conflict. The quest in The Hobbit strays from the criteria of a typical fantasy story.

Every protagonist in any genre encounters obstacles throughout story but the reasons for these obstacles change depending on the genre. A dramatic story would use obstacles as a method to exemplify the feeling of the character or his/her flaws while a fantasy story would use obstacles as a test for to prove the character is worthy or expedient. For example, Bilbo encounters three trolls and tries to pickpocket an object from one of the trolls but he is discovered and captured in his attempt. This obstacle could’ve been made to show that Bilbo is not yet a master of stealing and how he still needs to improve before his convergence with Smaug. Most of the elements in The Hobbit successfully combine to create a suitable plot and structure for a fantasy novel.

The Hobbit doesn’t completely demonstrate the features of a fantasy story mainly due to the themes and values in the story. In a fantasy quest ‘Tradition values are fought for’ (Glasson, 1955, p. 55). Throughout The Hobbit values are not fought for. For example, Bilbo believed in a simple and harmonious life that is adventure free but as he doesn’t fight for what he believes in and ends up accepting Gandalf’s request. Even when delving deeper into the story values are not fought for and some are even broken.       

There are different opinions on the features of the fantasy genre and how a book fits into a particular genre and it makes it hard to find out whether a book really uses the features as an outline. By using the typical opinion of the criteria or features of a fantasy quest it is quite clear that The Hobbit follows these outlines. The Hobbit is able to include: an enclosed and exotic setting, mystical creatures, characters that learn from their mistakes and flaws, a plot that focuses on a quest for an object and obstacles that test and teach the hero during his quest. Even though The Hobbit doesn’t use the themes and values of a typical fantasy quest but it still utilizes the features of the fantasy genre


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