Follow TV Tropes

Following

Literature / The Hobbit

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/hobbit_cover.jpg
Dustcover of the first edition of The Hobbit, taken from a design by the author.

Clickhere  to see the Pocket Hardback Edition based on the first edition cover.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
Opening Line of The Hobbit
Advertisement:

The precursor to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit or There and Back Again, is a Children's High Fantasy Adventure Novel by J.R.R Tolkien. It tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a simple, respectable Hobbit who is content with his sleepy life in a small corner of Middle-Earth known as Hobbiton until a crafty old wizard named Gandalf and thirteen dwarves offer him the chance for a grand adventure to slay a dragon and win back a lost treasure in the Lonely Mountain, forcing him to grow out of his comfortable little world. Along the way, he encounters merry elves, ferocious trolls, wicked goblins, giant spiders, and other fantastic characters and creatures before coming face to face with the terrible dragon Smaug himself.

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the story in the early 1930s as a serious piece of fiction but to avoid scorn and derision among his peers said he was writing it to amuse children and in particular his three sons (which, as his own saying goes, contained a grain of truth: he used individual chapters from it as bedtime stories while he wrote them, using his son Christopher in particular as a test audience of sorts). It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim. The book has sold an estimated 100 million copies worldwide since first publication and along with its sequel is the Trope Codifier for the High Fantasy genre.

Advertisement:

A sequel was requested by his publishers, and as work on The Lord of the Rings progressed, Tolkien made accommodations for it in Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. These few but significant changes were integrated into the second edition. Further editions followed, correcting minor errors and reflecting Tolkien's changing concept of the world into which Bilbo stumbled (removing references to policemen and China, for example).

The work has not been out of print since the paper shortages during the Second World War.

Adaptations include:

  • A 1966 In Name Only short cartoon adaptation by Gene Deitch.
  • A 1968 BBC Radio 4 Dramatisation in 8 half-hour episodes. The master tapes for this were wiped in the '70s (a routine event for the BBC in this period) but a domestic recording was later recovered and used to re-issue the series.
  • Advertisement:
  • A very low-budget live-action version made in 1984 in Soviet Russia, as seen here. The same article also links to the Soviet version of the novel, with its uniquely styled illustrations.
  • A 1977 animated TV special by Rankin-Bass. Notable for using top-flight voice talent (several performances of which more or less defined the characters in the zeitgeist for decades and heavily influenced later depictions) and for having much of the music be based directly on songs in the book. It was also one of the first major Japanese crossover animations, and many of the artists went on to found Studio Ghibli.
  • A 2012-14 live-action movie trilogy. Starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo the Hobbit and Ian Mckellen as Gandalf the Wizard, the films were titled An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies which were directed by Peter Jackson as a prequel to his The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  • Several video-game versions:
    • The Hobbit, a 1982 Interactive Fiction game which is considered to be one of the defining entries in the genre.
    • The Hobbit, a 2003 video game made for the Playstation 2, Nintendo Game Cube, Xbox and PC.
  • A highly regarded Graphic Novel version approved by the Tolkien estate, illustrated by David Wenzel in 1991.
  • There and Back Again by Pat Murphy, which is The Hobbit IN SPACE!
  • Several Audiobook versions, including one read by Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in both the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies). Serkis originally did a livestreamed "Hobbitathon" reading of the whole book to raise money for NHS Charities Together & Best Beginnings during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and was asked to record an official version for Harper Collins later that year.


The Hobbit provides examples of (or the sources for):

  • Acrofatic: Bombur is constantly teased about his weight, but until the enchanted river incident he keeps up well, giving the trolls the best fight along with cousin Bifur and climbing trees at top speed.
  • Aerith and Bob: The trolls Bert, Tom and Bill (who even has a last name, Huggins) exist alongside Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin and Smaug.
  • An Aesop: The last few chapters of The Hobbit are all about the misery that comes from greed and how it can ruin good friendships. Thanks to the dragon hoard, we see Thorin go from a noble and wise leader to a paranoid miser that leads his fellows into an unnecessary battle. Thorin spells this out to Bilbo at the end.
    Thorin: There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Bombur gets this from the others in Mirkwood, after Thorin starts it off by ripping the poor guy a new one for rambling about his coma dreams. When Bombur wails that his legs (which the narrator has already told us are weak and wobbly from being comatose for six days) won't carry him and he needs to stop and sleep, the others reply with: "No you don't! Let your legs take their share, we have carried you far enough!" (It's implied that this exchange and variations of it took place over the course of an entire day) Later, when Bilbo describes having similar dreams as Bombur, they say that Bilbo's "gone like Bombur."
  • All There in the Manual: Tolkien's follow-up The Lord of the Rings and various posthumous publications about the world of Middle Earth specified many additional details and background information on things that were not expanded upon in The Hobbit.
    • The Lord of the Rings provides a backstory for Gollum and his ring of invisibility, and reveals that the mysterious "Necromancer" is a millennia-old fallen angel otherwise known as the Dark Lord Sauron (who is also the creator of Gollum's ring and is the "Master who ruled [the rings]" cryptically mentioned in the chapter "Riddles in the Dark"). It also discloses that the Elven King's proper name is Thranduil.
    • Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings provides a history of the Dwarves of Durin's Folk, including a genealogy which reveals that the mother of Fili and Kili (Thorin's sister) is called Dís and that Balin, Dwalin, Oin and Gloin are relatives of Thorin descended from a side branch of royal line.
    • In "The Quest of Erebor", published in Unfinished Tales, Gandalf relates from his perspective how he first met Thorin Oakenshield, why he developed the plan to take Bilbo along, and what he was doing when he wasn't with Bilbo's party.
    • The Silmarillion is an account of "the strange stories before the beginning of History, the wars of the evil goblins and the elves and the first men in the North" mentioned in the chapter "A Short Rest". This clears up various allusions made about the history of the Elves, such as the city of Gondolin (where the swords Orcrist, Glamdring and Sting were forged), the "elves and heroes of the North" who are Elrond's ancestors, and the migration to "Faerie in the West" which divided Wood Elves and High Elves.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The three Bilbo encounters are fairly standard as far as being and brutish, but they are unusual amoung Tolkien's other works in that they talk. The narration also alludes to trolls with multiple heads, an idea that does not appear anywhere else in the canon.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: In the chapter "The Gathering of the Clouds", Balin wishes the thrush was a raven so that he and the other dwarves could understand it, and he also tells Bilbo that the crows circling around the Lonely Mountain were rude and calling them ugly names as they travelled up the mountain. Some species of corvids, including crows and ravens, are actually capable of mimicking human speech in Real Life, though not to the extent that Roäc demonstrates later on.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The goblins (a.k.a. orcs) and the wargs.
  • Ambiguously Human: Gandalf speculates that Beorn is either a descendant of the bears who lived in the Misty Mountains before the Stone-giants arrived or a descendant of the men who lived in the region before the arrival of foul beings and beasts from the north.note 
  • Amnesiac Hero: Bombur forgets the last (eventful) four months but remains a protagonist through it... which is actually quite meaningful if you understand what he went through.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Bard's Black Arrow.
    Bard: I had you from my father, and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!
  • And Then What?: When Bilbo brings up the subject of just how he's supposed to get his share home, the dwarves themselves admit they didn't think about what they'd do after they got back their treasure. Thorin finally says that once Smaug has actually been dealt with, they'll have plenty of time to think about the issue.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • Bilbo starts off as a Classical Antihero, often left a bystander while events happen around him. However after choosing to spare Gollum, and especially in Mirkwood, he manages to become more of a straight hero.
    • Thorin is probably a Pragmatic Hero, as he is mostly noble and charismatic, but allows his greed and pride to almost push him into starting a war, though he ultimately repents of that.
    • The Elvenking fits a Knight in Sour Armor quite well. While isolationist and distrustful toward the Dwarves, he shows kindness to the survivors of Laketown and is more reluctant to begin a war for gold than any of his peers.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Smaug has exactly one vulnerable spot on his whole body, which Bard is informed of as he readies his final arrow.
  • Author Tract: While none are very prominent, Tolkien does pause the narration at times to offer some remarkably opinionated notes, such as that goblins may have invented the modern tools of war (tanks and explosives) which he himself despised so much after seeing them during the First World War. He also speaks in some length (although most of it is likely to pass over the heads of the younger, intended target audience) of the virtues of a traditional, pastoral, rural English lifestyle when compared to those of life in the city or of modern people.
  • Badass Boast: Bilbo and Smaug have a badass boast competition. Smaug's set the standard for how a fantasy dragon should look, talk, and act.
    Bilbo: I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen. I am the clue finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number. I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me.

    Smaug: I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong... ... My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!
  • Batman Gambit: Bilbo, aware of Thorin's all-overshadowing desire for the Arkenstone, uses that knowledge to force Thorin into negotiating with the Elves and Lake-men.
  • Battle-Interrupting Shout: Gandalf appears between the Dwarven, Elvish, and Human armies as they move to battle each other.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Beorn plays The Berserker trope quite literally, being a Voluntary Shapeshifter who becomes an enormous bear in battle. You definitely don't want to cross him, though fortunately, he's mostly Bad News only to goblins and wolves.
  • Beneath the Earth: A number of examples; almost everyone seems to live underground.
    • Bilbo lives in Bag End, the hobbit-hole that is quite literally "under hill" (though with many windows).
    • The visit to "Goblin-town" and Gollum finds them in caves under a mountain range.
    • The elves live in a cave system in Mirkwood.
    • Smaug, and before and after him the dwarves, live under the Lonely Mountain, the dwarf king being known as King Under the Mountain.
  • Berserk Button:
    • The Great Goblin at first appears willing to be civil to the company, or at least as civil as a goblin can get, interrogating them without resorting to torture just yet. Then when it's revealed that Thorin is carrying Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver, he goes absolutely ballistic!
    • Gandalf warns Bilbo that it would be a very, very bad idea to talk about fur-trading around Beorn. Wisely, they don't.
    • Taking a single piece of treasure from Smaug's hoard sends the dragon into an Unstoppable Rage that scorches the whole mountainside.
  • The Berserker: In the Battle of the Five Armies, Beorn in bear form plows through the Goblin army in an Unstoppable Rage. Bonus points for invoking the literal meaning of "Berserker" (bear-skinned), too.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Quite a few times.
    • Gandalf saves the dwarves and Bilbo from the goblins.
    • The eagles save the whole crew right in the nick of time.
    • Bilbo saves the dwarves from the spiders.
    • Beorn's and the eagles' arrival at the Battle of the Five Armies basically turns the tide.
    • Thorin and his original twelve companions charging from their fortress to attack the goblins' general and his bodyguard that had been tearing the heart out of the allies' line.
  • Big Eater:
    • Hobbits in general prefer to have rather more than three meals a day, and Bilbo is no exception.
    • Bombur appears to be this, and is correspondingly fat. By the time of the Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings, seventy-seven years later, he's gotten so fat that he can no longer move around on his own and requires six young dwarves to move him "from couch to table".
  • The Big Guy:
    • Bombur is the sole percussion in the company's music group, puts up, along with his cousin Bifur, the best fight against the trolls, and is the literal big guy, though not all of it is fat.
    • Dori is the strongest of the dwarves. He often ends up carrying Bilbo.
  • Bilingual Bonus: If you can decode the runes around the original cover (which are slightly adapted Anglo-Saxon runes rather than in-universe cirth), it gives a full title in English: "The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again: Being the record of a year's journey made by Bilbo Baggins; compiled from his memoirs by J.R.R. Tolkien and published by George Allen & Unwin." (Newer editions added "of Hobbiton" after "Baggins", and changed the name of the publisher.)
  • Bittersweet Ending: Smaug is killed, the enemy forces are defeated, the dwarves recovered Erebor with Dáin as the new king, Dale is rebuilt with Bard as the new ruler, the Necromancer is expelled from his fortress, and Bilbo returns home safely and rich... but Laketown was destroyed, thousands of Elves, Men and Dwarves lost their lives at the Battle of the Five Armies, including Thorin, Fíli, and Kíli, and Bilbo discovers that his fellow Hobbits have not only not missed him but have even tried to take over his home and belongings. He also finds out that no one believes the stories he tells about his adventures, and that added to his long absence makes him lose all of his reputation. Despite this, Bilbo doesn't care much. There's also the question of his ring, but that's another story...
  • Black Comedy: The goblins show they do indeed have a sense of humour, albeit of a very dark kind, when they cheerfully sing the "Fifteen Birds" song as they go about burning the dwarves alive, likening them to wingless birds to be cooked and eaten.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word:
    Glóin: You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like. Some of them do. It's all the same to us.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Beorn, at least once you've gotten through his defences.
  • Bookends: The story begins and ends with Gandalf visiting Bilbo in his home at Bag End.
  • Boring Return Journey: While Bilbo does have (unspecified) troubles on his return journey, "he was never in great danger"—mainly because this time, Gandalf is with him all the way and the region's goblins have just had their butts whupped and are in hiding.
  • Breaking Speech: Thorin gives Bombur an exceedingly nasty one because he’s annoyed about Bombur crying about being sick and in pain. It's cut from nearly all adaptions, except for a graphic novel adaptation, which notably leaves out the bit about Thorin telling Bombur that they would have abandoned him if he hadn't woken up when he did.
  • Break the Haughty: Thorin is something of a narcissist, probably due to his royal blood. He's still a likable person, though, until he reclaims his family's vast long lost fortune and Gold Fever gets the better of him. If it costs him his life or if he would have been killed anyway is debatable, but he realizes the error of his ways not long before he dies of mortal wounds inflicted by goblins.
  • Butt-Monkey: Bombur. He always manages to come last in everything, and if one of the dwarves slips and falls into a river, gets caught by an enchantment or has something unpleasant or humiliating happen to him, it'll be Bombur. He's also subject to frequent untactful comments about how fat he is.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: When the party is sleeping in pitch-dark Mirkwood Forest at night and Bilbo is on guard duty, he sees the eyes of multiple forest creatures glowing in the dark, watching them.
  • Call to Adventure: One of the classics.
    By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed)—Gandalf came by.
  • Canon Welding: When he began writing the sequel, Tolkien moved it and The Hobbit into his Middle-earth Legendarium setting, which had already been around for over thirty years, although nothing of it had been published so far. The move brought with it some Retcon and Re Write concerning the events of The Hobbit, which was partly explained as Bilbo being an Unreliable Narrator. (Or rather, a Reliable Narrator whose lying about the recovery of the Ring was extremely portentous and whose knowledge of the Elder Days wasn't quite up to snuff.) It also led to profound changes in the wider yet-unpublished Middle-earth stories at the time. This material would also be shaped further by The Lord of the Rings, and it was finally published posthumously in 1977 as The Silmarillion.
  • The Caper: Morally grey Main Characters "stealing" the treasure from Smaug, one of an Always Chaotic Evil race of Satanic monsters who stole it from its original owners.
  • Casting a Shadow: The webs that the Mirkwood spiders produce are extremely dark.
  • The Cavalry: The Eagles. Bilbo unwittingly rallies the Dwarven, Human, and Elven forces when he sees the Eagles on the horizon and announces their arrival. Then he gets hit in the head with a rock and passes out for the duration.
  • The Chooser of the One: Gandalf picks out Bilbo, personally, to help the dwarves' quest.
  • The Chosen Zero: The dwarves react to Bilbo as one. Ironically, he doesn't even know he's been hired as an adventurer.
  • Chromosome Casting: While largely justified by the genre conventions, no female characters appear in the text of The Hobbit. Bilbo's mother Belladonna Took is mentioned a few times, but she is a Posthumous Character.
  • City of Canals: Laketown is built on the surface of Long Lake. Which sounds like decent protection from dragons until you realize how rickety that would make it... oh, and flammable. Did we mention Smaug flies and breathes fire?
  • Clever Crows: The talking ravens that live near the Lonely Mountain are friendly to the Dwarves (unlike the crows, which ravens despise).
  • Clothing Damage: Bilbo tears his coat and loses several buttons when he gets caught in the doorway escaping from the goblins' lair.
  • Conflict Killer: The Men of Laketown and the Elves want to grab the treasure (and get revenge on Thorin's group for unleashing Smaug on them, however unwittingly) but Thorin has called in dwarven reinforcements. The two sides are gearing up to fight when the goblin army attacks, forcing an Enemy Mine.
  • Congestion Speak: At one point it's noted that when Bilbo has a cold, all he can say is, "Thag you very buch".
  • Contrived Coincidence: By astonishing luck, Thorin is in Rivendell and Elrond asks to see his map on the one day in the year when the moon-letters on it can be read. By even more astonishing luck, the moon is in exactly the right phase to allow him to read it, something which presumably happens only about once every 29 years!!! The movie lampshades this with Elrond's offhand remark, "Fate is with you, Thorin Oakenshield."
  • Cool Old Guy: Gandalf. The Hobbit doesn't specify how old he is nor the full range of his powers, but he's more-or-less the brains behind the operation, clearly capable of "magic," and not at all feeble or weak. He looks like this dried old geezer with a long beard and unreasonably large eyebrows.
  • Covert Distress Code: When Bilbo is preparing to sneak up on some trolls, he's told that should he get into serious trouble, "hoot twice like a barn-owl and once like a screech-owl, and we will do what we can"—however, it turns out Bilbo doesn't actually know how to make the correct owl sounds, so it doesn't do him any good.
  • Creepy Cave: Bilbo and the dwarves (technically used to caves and often living in them) learn the danger of caves the hard way: They take shelter from a storm in what seems to be a small cave in the mountainside, but turns out to be the vestibule to the vast caverns inhabited by the evil mountain goblins, who truss the entire party and carry them deep into their lair. During their escape, Bilbo is dropped and wanders blindly into the depths of the caves (being a hobbit, the narration points out this is much less scary and safer for him than it would be for a human), ending up at a subterranean lake where he meets Gollum, who wants very much to eat him. The chapter is also where he stumbles upon his magic ring, which will later turn out to be the most evil object in the world.
  • Crisis Catch And Carry: While escaping through the Goblin tunnels, Bilbo has trouble keeping up, so each of the dwarves takes a turn carrying him.
  • Cue the Sun: Bilbo's rescue from the trolls. Gandalf, unseen, keeps re-igniting the argument the trolls have about how to cook the prisoners until the dawn turns them to stone, effectively Talking the Monster to Death.
  • Cultured Badass: Pretty much all the protagonist dwarves, shown when they break out musical instruments (Thorin himself plays a harp) and explain their purpose to Bilbo by way of singing "Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold".
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Beorn vs. any goblin (including Bolg) during the Battle of Five Armies, being able to effortlessly take out the elite goblins that Thorin and co. couldn't get past.
    • Smaug against everyone and everything he fights (until Bard is told about his weak spot).
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Bilbo gives out a loud warning shout in the cave.
  • Cutting the Knot: Smaug can't fit through the hole Bilbo uses to get after him. So he flies to where he calculates the hole must come out and smashes the mountainside to bits.
  • The Cynic: Bard is well renowned for his grim attitude throughout Lake Town—but it comes in very handy when he's the first to twig that Smaug is coming and races to get the town ready to fight back.
  • Danger with a Deadline: Gandalf notices that trolls have caught Bilbo and the dwarves, so from his hiding place Gandalf disguises his voice to keep reigniting the trolls' argument over how to prepare the dwarves and hobbit for eating, stalling for time until the sunrise turns the trolls to stone.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Lemony Narrator has a number of wry comments to make on Bilbo, the dwarves, the nature of rich people, and even chides the reader once or twice for thinking they must be cleverer than the characters just because they're sitting comfortably at home and not trying to think in the midst of danger.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Thorin repents of his greed and forgives Bilbo on his deathbed.
  • Delighting in Riddles:
    • Gollum is a downplayed example: he doesn't speak in riddles all the time, but he's more than happy to challenge Bilbo into a game of riddles.
    • Smaug is an inversion. The narrative states that he, like most dragons, enjoys being riddled at.
  • Depending on the Artist:
    • Tolkien always had a specific design for Gollum in mind, and tried his best to write of that in the text. The way he looks in the Peter Jackson films (and most book printings from the '60s onward) is pretty much how everyone expects Gollum to look. However, in the earliest printings of the book, the illustrators hired had very different ideas for Gollum's appearance, so it can be strange to look through old printings and see Gollum looking like a strange yeti in one printing, while looking eel-like in another.
    • The Rankin-Bass Gollum, meanwhile, ends up being a kind of an intermediate step (which notably still influenced the Serkis/Jackson Gollum) — he's got the general shape and manner one would expect of a Hobbit ruined by centuries of quasi-unlife, though he's still a fair bit bigger than Bilbo, and also has a somewhat amphibian-like mouth and skin texture, and most notably has extremely large, fish-like eyes, the production purpose of which seems to be to make it easier to depict the "fell light" Tolkien mentions shining in them. (Interestingly, when R-B got to Return of the King, they revised his design a bit to more match certain revelations in LotR and make his kinship to the Hobbits a bit more clear.)
  • Deus ex Machina: Gandalf's main role for most of the book. The dwarves are about to be eaten by trolls? He shows up and rescues them. The whole company is caught by goblins? He kills the Great Goblin and helps them escape. After being absent for most of the book, he shows up again at the climax when the Men of Laketown and the Elves are about to fight Thorin's dwarven allies and reveals that an army of goblins is on the way to kill all of them.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • After Bilbo manages to get the dwarves into barrels, he realizes that he didn't put one aside for himself and there is no one to seal him in even if there was. This is lampshaded by the narrator saying the readers likely saw the fault in the plan before Bilbo did but then challenges the readers if they could have done any better.
    • In his conversation with Bilbo, Smaug points out the obvious futility of Bilbo's mission: Without a way to get rid of the dragon, stealing the hoard piece by piece under the eyes of the dragon would take "maybe a hundred years", and even then there would be no chance for Bilbo to get his promised share of the hoard (a fourteenth) safely home to Bag End. Bilbo is completely stumped, having never thought this far ahead. When he mentions it to the dwarves shortly after, they say that they hadn't thought of it either.
    • Both Gandalf and Bilbo point out several times that at no point had the Dwarves ever given serious thought to how they would actually get rid of Smaug.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: With the help of the Ring and a little riddling talk, Bilbo manages to have an almost civil conversation with Smaug, but just before he leaves he makes a parting shot about Smaug needing his rest since ponies take some effort to catch when they have a head start, "And so do burglars." As the narrator notes, "It was an unfortunate remark," since Smaug almost roasts him alive as he runs up the tunnel up to the secret door and then goes off and burns down Laketown.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The story is "compiled" from Bilbo's memoirs. This was exploited by Tolkien when he wanted to change the backstory of Bilbo finding the Ring to fit with The Lord of the Rings while he was writing it — the first edition represents Bilbo being economical with the truth.
  • The Dissenter Is Always Right: When the men of Lake-town see fire burning on the mountain, most of them think that Thorin and the other dwarves have retaken it and lit their forges, with only Bard suggesting that the fire means the dragon is coming to attack the city. Everyone tells him to stop being so gloomy but he raises the alarm anyway, so it's thanks to him that the town even survived long enough for him to kill Smaug.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: "Never laugh at live dragons." Wise words!
  • Dragon Hoard: Smaug destroyed the Kingdoms of Lonely Mountain and Dale solely to rob the kings' treasures. He heaped them up in a vault where he spends most of his time just sleeping on it. This habit also has the advantage that the coins and gems grow into his sticky, glowing hot skin, thus providing him with additional armor. When Bilbo steals a single cup from the sleeping dragon's hoard, Smaug detects the loss immediately upon waking, which implies he has a minute knowledge of his hoard that exceeds human mental capabilities; the narrator even lampshades this by saying that even if dragons never spend a single bit of their treasure, they "usually have a fair idea of the market value."
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: Noticeable, since Tolkien's perspective of Middle-Earth was constantly changing (and would continue to do so), and because Tolkien originally didn't think to place it in his wider Legendarium:
    • In the first edition of the book, Gollum willingly bet the Ring and was sorry he had lost it and couldn't give it to Bilbo after he won the riddle contest. When Tolkien decided to use the Ring as the hook for his sequel, he determined this would be Out of Character for Gollum, and he completely rewrote this chapter to the current version. He also provided an in-universe justification for the revision in The Lord of the Rings, with Bilbo being driven by the Ring to become an Unreliable Narrator when he retold the story.
    • The One Ring is merely treated as a powerful and unique magical item that grants the wearer invisibility with no other ill effects or connections to a wider world. (This still works, though, since only Gandalf has any inkling of what the Ring could even be, and the other dwarves aren't too concerned with it at present.)
    • Elves in general are portrayed as far more whimsical than the more stern and mysterious race they would become; Elrond's characterization is the only one that is comparatively consistent.
    • Magical creatures such as Smaug and the trolls are treated as more commonplace, as opposed to their scant appearances in The Lord of the Rings.
      • The trolls are also portrayed as intelligent (well, they can talk) and with personalities; later instalments would uniformly depict trolls as mindless, snarling brutes. However, it's possible that's only because every other time we see a troll, they're usually marching under either Morgoth's or Sauron's banner. The trolls we see in this book may just be what happens when trolls go "feral" and are left to their own devices with no master to serve.
      • Again with the trolls, they are shown to possess some kind of enchanted talking wallet which squeaks out "'Ere, 'oo are you?" when Bilbo tries to pinch it. As mentioned, magic is quite scarce in Middle-earth by this time in later instalments, and what magical objects there are tend to be ancient and often dangerous relics which have either been lost or locked away. In that context, the idea of three backwoods trolls having an enchanted mundane object as some form of security system is pretty bizarre.
    • Orcs are almost always referred to as "goblins", despite being the same creature in canon. (Certain lines in LotR imply that orcs are especially large goblins, but most of that text reads as though "orcs" in LotR is a name-swap for "goblins" in The Hobbit.)
    • The "land of Faerie in the West" being named as the destination of westward elves. In the context of the Canon Welding, this is borrowed from the Legendarium's tale of the very first elves waking in Middle-earth and then traveling to Valinor, except for a small number who remained (known as the Moriquendi or "Dark elves" because they never saw the light of the Two Trees). Thus Faerie can be taken to be an alternate name for Valinor, but it's never called that elsewhere.note 
  • Elves Versus Dwarves: Tolkien probably started the literally-elves-vs.-dwarves version of this trope, though their long grudge had been simmering in his unpublished writings for years beforehand, and had clearly defined historical causes.
  • Enemy Mine: The Elves and Men on one side, and the Dwarves on the other, are at the brink of open conflict over the distribution of the treasure. But they band together for sheer survival when the goblins and Wargs show up.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Thorin is the only dwarf not to greet Bilbo with "at your service." He is also the only one not to help clean the dishes.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Bilbo is struggling with one of Gollum's riddles, when a fish brushes by his foot. This makes him realize that the answer is in fact fish.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Neither the Elvenking nor the Master of Lake-Town are named during the course of the book, though the Elvenking is later given a name in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The Necromancer, mentioned in passing by Gandalf.
  • Evil Takes a Nap: The evil dragon Smaug spends most of his time sleeping on top of his Dragon Hoard after wrecking the dwarf kingdom to seize it. It's only after Bilbo wakes him up that he goes outside to spread death and destruction again.
  • Exact Words: Bilbo justifies giving away the Arkenstone by pointing out that Thorin promised he could pick his own share of the treasure. He Lampshades this to himself by noting that that probably wasn't what Thorin meant.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: Bilbo exploring the goblin tunnels, and later Smaug's lair.
  • The Fair Folk:
    • The elves of Rivendell aren't tricksters, but they are merry, quick to laugh at the Company, and break into song a lot.
    • The narrator says that Wood Elves can be a lot closer to this than High Elves. They're first seen partying in fairy-rings that wink out when the dwarves try to enter.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Gollum becomes very polite when he sees Bilbo has a sword. "Praps we sits here and chats with it a bitsy, my precioussss. It likes riddles, praps it does, does it?"
    • Smaug is extremely articulate when Bilbo sneaks into his lair, and has some enjoyment in conversing with him and trying to puzzle out Bilbo's riddling, but he would have killed Bilbo immediately if he could see him, and at the same time makes no attempt to hide that he's a merciless killer.
  • Fiction 500: Smaug sleeps atop a mound of coins and jewelry and his hideout has many more riches. Forbes magazine has estimated the value of Smaug's hoard at $62 billion, amending an earlier evaluation of $8 billion.
  • Final Battle: The Battle of Five Armies, in which everybody and the local werebear converge on the Lonely Mountain to fight over the loot.
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: The fourteenth chapter, "Fire and Water".
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Beorn does this during the Battle of the Five Armies, on his way to rescue Thorin.
  • Food Porn: Oh yes. One thing Hobbits love is a good meal—"especially dinner, which they take twice a day if they can get it." And since Bilbo is deprived of food more often than not on the adventure, he pays extra close attention when he does get a good meal.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Thorin is telling Bilbo at the beginning about how Smaug stole the dwarves' treasures, he remarks that dragons "can't make a thing for themselves, not even mend a little loose scale of their armour". Bilbo eventually discovers that Smaug's physical weak point is a gap in his armour.
    • Fili and Kili are the first of the Company to face mortal danger, nearly drowning while trying to retrieve the bolting ponies. They later die protecting Thorin at the Battle of the Five Armies.
  • Game Changer: The magic ring found by Bilbo Baggins gives him the power of invisibility, which allows him to aid the dwarves far more than an ordinary hobbit could have done.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The Necromancer due to him never actually appearing on-screen. He is described as a dangerous villain whom Gandalf considers facing more important than Thorin's quest, but the reader learns nothing about him since nothing about the battle with him or his actual villainy is elaborated on. Ultimately he's less a villain than an excuse to keep Gandalf out of the story.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Bilbo is a gentleman, not stinking rich, but "well-to-do" by hobbit standards and of a fairly high-status family in his homeland.
  • Giant Spider: Talking, man-eating, venomous spiders the size of people infest Mirkwood. It's enough to make one wonder why the elves still live there.
  • Glowing Gem: The Arkenstone is described as shining with its own pale light even in the darkness.
  • Gold Fever: It nearly leads Thorin to war with Laketown and the Wood Elves, and leads to the old master of Laketown into stealing most of the share of the treasure allocated to Laketown and dying in the wilds once it's all over. Bilbo, on the other hand, is (mostly) immune. (It's probably a hobbit thing.) In Thorin's defence, the treasure isn't just money to him, it's his birthright and an element of his people's ancestral home (think the British Crown to the Royal Family) that he's been trying to reclaim for much of his life. The narrator also implies that Smaug's long keeping of the treasure has cursed it, to some extent:
    But also he [Bilbo] did not reckon with the power that gold has upon which a dragon has long brooded, nor with dwarvish hearts. Long hours in the past days Thorin had spent in the treasury, and the lust of it was heavy on him.
  • Ye Goode Olde Days: "Long ago, when there was less noise in the world and more green..."
  • Grail in the Garbage: Among the trolls' hoard are retrieved the swords Glamdring, Orcrist and (later named by Bilbo himself) Sting, which are later deduced by Elrond to be Elvish blades forged in Gondolin for the ancient "Goblin Wars". This means these swords date to the First Age during the wars against Morgoth and are at least over 6000 years old, and they had garnered enough of a reputation in that time that even the goblins of the Misty Mountains had their own names for them and could identify them upon sight. Just how these priceless relics wound up in the possession of three stupid backwoods trolls is anybody's guess, though Elrond speculates they were "plundered from other plunderers".
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: In addition to the historical conflict between Dwarves and Elves, the story almost ends in a war between Dwarves on one side and Elves and Men on the other, which is averted only by Bilbo's peace-brokering and the goblins and Wargs showing up as a common enemy to force an Enemy Mine scenario. Both the dwarves and the men of Dale have legitimate grievances, and while the goblins and wolves are clearly bad guys, nobody else (even the Eagles) is really perfectly good, except perhaps Gandalf.
  • Grim Up North: The Withered Heath, north of the Lonely Mountain, is notorious as a breeding ground for dragons.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Mirkwood elves demonstrate the Drinking on Duty variation of this trope, allowing the dwarves to escape.
  • Guile Hero: Bilbo is not physically cut out for action heroics, but he manages to survive and influence events because of his stealth, his ability to talk his way out of sticky situations, and (in the business with the Arkenstone) his willingness to pull a Batman Gambit.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Gandalf describes Beorn as having this, especially regarding the topic of hunting and skinning animals.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • "He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighbourhood to be 'queer'..."
    • One of the wood-elves calls another a "toss-pot". Back then it meant "heavy drinker", but has come to have a much ruder meaning.
    • The elves in Rivendell sing a song in which one of the lyrics is "the faggots are reeking". This had a completely different meaning in the 1930s (especially in Britain, where the pejorative sense wouldn't really start to gain traction via American importation until the 1960s).
  • Herald: Gandalf deliberately sets up the whole adventure by dragging Bilbo into it, and selling him to the dwarves as some sort of professional burglar... or something.
  • Hero of Another Story: Gandalf. He has a lot of involvement with this one, but it's just one task of many that requires his attention, which is why he eventually leaves the group. While he's away, he goes on to defeat the Necromancer who had been terrorizing the south.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Rivendell, literally a hidden elf town at the bottom of a ravine.
  • Hobbits: Trope Maker, Trope Namer, Trope Codifier, and most likely Ur-Example as well.
  • Hollywood Density: Averted. Bilbo only takes a small fraction of what he was allowed to claim from Smaug's hoard, mainly because the two small chests of coins that he did take, one of gold and one of silver, were all that his pony could carry. It still took him eighty years to spend it all. (He gives away a small bag of gold, "almost the last drop of the Smaug vintage", to Sam shortly before the Scouring of the Shire in Return of the King.)
  • Home Sweet Home: Hobbiton, Bilbo's hometown. He may be one of those crazy Took nutters, but he is still a hobbit, and he wants to get home again.
  • Honour Before Reason: Bilbo refusing to kill Gollum out of pity.
  • Horse of a Different Colour: Goblins ride large, sapient, evil wolves into battle. This is explicitly an alliance as well, the Wargs have a completely separate social structure and don't even live with the Goblins normally.
  • Hospital Surprise: Bilbo gets hit on the head during the climactic battle. He doesn't wake up literally in hospital, but he's found by a soldier and taken to where Thorin lies mortally wounded.
  • Hostage-Handler Huddle: When the trolls capture Bilbo and the dwarves, they quickly get into an argument as they can't agree on how to cook them, with each troll putting in his own suggestion for how to prepare their meal and disagreeing with the others'. Every time the trolls start to agree, an outside voice (which later turns out to have been Gandalf) chimes in and restarts their argument. This persists so long, the sunrise catches them by surprise and turns them into stone.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Most Dwarves, Elves and Men introduce themselves in this manner. Hobbits, on the other hand, use family names.
  • I Call It "Vera": Sting, Bilbo's sword (er, knife) from a troll hoard.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Supplementary to his diet of raw fish, Gollum also eats the occasional goblin whenever he can kill one.
  • Incoming Ham: Thorin. "I am Thorin son of Thráin son of Thrór King Under the Mountain! I return!"
  • Inflationary Dialogue: In Gandalf's account to Beorn, the number of dwarves continually inflates, starting at "one or two" and ending accurately. Beorn does not fail to notice, but it succeeds at preventing a meltdown in negotiations.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • It's speculated that someone on the Tooks' family tree married into a fairy family, which accounts for the adventurous nature in those of Took blood. However, the narrator says, "This, of course, is absurd," and the whole thing is presented as a slur on the Took family rather than a practical possibility.
    • Played entirely straight with Elrond, who is explicitly described as having "both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors".
  • In the Blood: The Took side of Bilbo's family is well-known as the adventuring sort, and more than once, when Bilbo does something crazy or brave, the narrator notes that perhaps the Took side took hold of him. Naturally, decent hobbits consider them nuts.
  • Invisibility Cloak: It's a ring, not a cloak, but it grants invisibility when one wears it.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: And Bilbo does, resulting in the Memoirs There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Holiday, which cheekily is stated by Tolkien to be the novel's "base".
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After Smaug destroys Laketown and is slain, the survivors want to make Bard their new king. The current Master of Laketown concedes to step down if need be, but asks why he's being blamed for Smaug's attack, when it was the Company that went into Lonely Mountain and stirred him up. Thus he keeps his job for a little while longer.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Several characters, including Bard and Beorn, who are harsh when they're first seen but help the Dwarves in the Battle of the Five Armies.
  • Keep the Reward: After all is said and done, Bilbo only takes a few chests of the share he was promised back to the Shire. It's more than he needs, and it's all his pony can carry.
  • Land of Faerie: One of the facts the narrator gives about the Wood-elves is that they "were descended from the ancient tribes that never went to Faerie in the West", suggesting that Faerie is a distant land across the sea. It is also mentioned that the elves who went to Faerie "grew fairer and wiser and more learned" than the Wood-elves.
  • Last of His Kind: Smaug is said to be the last of the "great dragons", though this implies there are still less impressive dragons.
  • Legally Dead: When Bilbo returns to Bag End after one year of absence, he finds he has been presumed dead and his heirs are just holding an auction on his possessions. Since it's not so easy to convince the authorities that he is still alive, he resorts to buying much of his own stuff back to save time and bother—he's certainly rich enough to do it easily now.
  • Legendary Weapon: Early in the book, the party recovers a small treasure hoard from some trolls. Among the hoard are a pair of legendary elvish blades, Orcrist the Goblin-Cleaver and Glamdring the Foe-Hammer, two legendary swords forged millennia earlier by the elves of Gondolin. Thorin Oakenshield takes Orcrist and it's eventually buried with him, while Gandalf takes Glamdring. The swords are legendary (in the sense of being extremely notorious) among the goblins themselves as well, and they instantly recognize them.
  • Lemony Narrator: Tolkien, as narrator, interjects several asides to the audience in each chapter. Since the book is presented as being compiled from Bilbo's memoirs, it is up for debate about how much of this style is derived from the original text.
  • A Light in the Distance
    • When the starving travellers see the elven-lights in Mirkwood, they eagerly leave the trail hoping to beg for food. This, unfortunately, only gets them more hopelessly lost.
    • The encounter with the trolls began this way.
  • The Load: How the company initially view Bilbo. This changes after he saves them from the spiders.
  • The Lost Woods: Mirkwood is a sea of huge, ancient trees, under which there is perpetual darkness, and the sky cannot be seen at all. There are very few paths through it, and crossing it takes several weeks. The few sources of water there are may be enchanted. If you get lost (which is awfully easy, as the wood is apparently under a spell), your best hope is to be captured by inhospitable elves before you starve, the giant spiders get you, or (still worse) you stumble into the realm of the Necromancer. All things considered, best don't go there at all.
  • Luke Nounverber: But done as actual earned epithets, such as Thorin Oakenshield and Dáin Ironfoot, who earned their names in the Goblin Wars—Thorin, for example, had his shield broken in battle and replaced it with an oak branch, which he ripped off the tree in the middle of the fight.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: When the party is travelling through Mirkwood they go without campfires at night rather than attract the swarms of huge black moths that come out at night. Though not actually harmful, they're very unpleasant.
  • Magic Map: The map of the Lonely Mountain is just a regular map most of the time, but in the light of a certain phase of the moon it reveals information crucial to getting into the mountain alive.
  • Marked Bullet: Bard had an arrow he was particularly fond of, a family heirloom, and saved it for last.
  • The Marvellous Deer: The first marvel of the Mirkwood.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": "The bells were ringing in the dale/And men looked up with faces pale."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Bard's Black Arrow is supposedly of Dwarven craftsmanship, but there's no visible sign that it has any magical properties. That said, every time Bard has used it, it always hit its mark, and he's always been able to recover it. Shooting it at Smaug proved to be no exception, as it hit the one part of the dragon's body not covered by an impenetrable scale and killed the beast. The arrow, however, is not recovered this time—almost as though it had fulfilled its destiny.
  • Meaningful Name: "Beorn" is Old English for "bear" (cognate with the Scandinavian "bjørn").
  • The Mentor: Gandalf guides the party and helps Bilbo develop into a competent "adventurer," but he does not use his considerable powers to just do the job for them. Then he goes off to deal with the Necromancer, leaving the party to fend for themselves.
  • Minion Maracas: Thorin picks up Bilbo and "shakes him like a rabbit" when he learns that the latter has stolen the Arkenstone and given it to the Men and Elves besieging the mountain. (At least, Gandalf manages to convince Thorin to not throw Bilbo down the wall.)
  • Missing Steps Plan: As noted by both Gandalf and Bilbo, the Dwarves' plan to reclaim the mountain goes something like this:
    Step One: Travel to the Lonely Mountain.
    Step Two: Find and open the secret door to the treasure chamber where the evil, powerful dragon is sleeping.
    Step Three: ?????
    Step Four: Smaug is dead and they're all rich. And you really get technical, there are two more steps:
    Step Five: ?????
    Step Six: Bilbo makes it home with his share of the treasure.
  • Mood Whiplash: At first, it seems like a classic adventure story... then, Smaug annihilates Laketown and kills hundreds of people, then he dies... and eventually, Thorin goes mad, armies besiege Erebor and tens of thousands of men, elves and dwarves are killed in the Battle of the Five Armies, including Thorin, Kili and Fili.
  • Mundane Utility: It's mentioned that after his adventure Bilbo uses his magic ring whenever he wants to avoid unwelcome visitors.
  • Mythical Motifs: The dragon breathes fire and is definitely a symbol of the gold-greed that takes dwarves, humans, and elves alike.
  • Named Weapons: Glamdring, the Foe Hammer; Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver; and Sting. Glamdring and Orcrist are famous enough that the goblins recognize them on sight, calling them "Beater" and "Biter" respectively.
  • Namesake Gag: The game of golf is apparently named after the goblin chieftain Golfimbul. Not because he invented it, but because Bandobras Took knocked his head off and it flew through the air and landed in a rabbit hole.
  • Nature Hero: Beorn, a vegetarian who lives alone in a cabin, talks to animals, and turns into a bear. Don't mention furs or hunting in his presence.
  • News Travels Fast: When Smaug dies, the novel explicitly notes that word of this event spreads very fast across the region.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Throughout the journey, the dwarves just keep stumbling into trouble and making a royal mess of things.
    • First, they stumble right into a goblin lair. The incident results in the Great Goblin's death. Hence, the goblins and wargs band together and set out for revenge, gathering an army in the process, which catches up to them near the end.
    • The dwarves are then caught by the Wood Elves, and due to the mutual Fantastic Racism, refuse to tell them their motives. They're imprisoned, and upon escaping, the Elves become even more suspicious and angry with them.
    • Bilbo wakes the dragon (a risky proposition to begin with). Then, while pelting the dragon with riddles, he accidentally gives Smaug the impression that he was one of the Lake-men by calling himself a "barrel rider." Smaug proceeds to go on a rampage on Laketown, and the survivors aren't happy with them for it.
    • Bilbo himself, in stealing the Arkenstone and handing it over to the Elvenking and Bard, raises tensions between them and Thorin from merely a Mexican standoff/cold war to imminent bloodshed, despite his good intentions.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Thorin refuses to share the treasure and is ready to go to war with the Elves of Mirkwood and men of Esgaroth to defend it. Then Bolg shows up and his sudden attack brings the free peoples together.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: "Hoot twice like a barn-owl and once like a screech-owl." Parodied in that Bilbo can't even do a generic owl sound, much less specific ones.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Battle of Five Armies, maybe. The official five are the Men, Elves, and Dwarves on one side and the Goblins and Wolves on the other. However, the Eagles also took part, Beorn and Gandalf were there independently, and the Company joined the fray towards the end; but all of these groups may be too small to count as "armies" (though they did make a decisive impact)note .
  • No Sympathy:
    • Thorin and Company are in no mood to humor Bombur's constant whining about food after he fell into the enchanted river and they had to carry him asleep for six days through Mirkwood with little to no food themselves. It's also repeatedly mentioned that Bombur is the heaviest of the Dwarves.
    • Bilbo is annoyed by Thorin's lackluster response after he's released from his barrel and urges him to get up. The narrator wryly notes that Bilbo forgot he had enjoyed one more meal than the Dwarves, plus the use of his arms and legs with a more liberal quality of air. On the other hand, Thorin does see the sense in Bilbo's point about the need to get moving and helps him free the other Dwarves.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The lightless tunnel to Smaug's lair is so terrifying to Bilbo that actually seeing the giant dragon in all his gold-encrusted glory comes as a relief!
    • Later, when the Company is forced to retreat into Lonely Mountain after Smaug goes on a rampage, Bilbo becomes so frightened at the silence when the dragon doesn't come back that he wishes Smaug would return just to break the monotony.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Bilbo spends the climax of the Battle of Five Armies knocked unconscious after a rock hits him in the head. When he wakes up, he's told that Beorn even entered the fray in bear form!
  • Off Stage Villainy: The Necromancer. Gandalf's dialogue implies his villainy is very infamous. Apart from the implied torture of Thorin's father, none of it is actually elaborated on.
  • Oh, Crap!: "What has it got in its pocketses?!?" Cue Gollum wigging out.
  • One Bullet Left: Bard shoots the dragon with the only arrow he has left. Justified, as the one left is also a special one inherited through generations, and just before the shot he is told the dragon's weak spot.
  • One-Hit Kill: To be fair, Smaug got hit lots of times before, but none of those arrows were able to penetrate his armor.
    In [the arrow] smote and vanished, barb, shaft, and feather, so fierce was its flight. With a shriek that deafened men, felled trees and split stone, Smaug shot spouting into the air, turned over and crashed down from on high in ruin.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: The Riddle Game with Gollum, whose offer is to show Bilbo the way out of the caves (or to make a meal out of Bilbo if Bilbo loses the game). Played straight in the first few riddles (some of which are real stumpers), but subverted by the winning riddle: it's just a stupid question which Gollum mistook for a riddlenote . Of course, Gollum intended to cheat and eat Bilbo all along, since he had the Ring (or thought he did).
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Smaug is a huge winged, scaly, firebreathing, gold-hoarding, sentient and intelligent reptilian monster that can talk. Tolkien confirmed that Smaug is a fusion of the dragon from Beowulf (a winged creature of fire) and Fafnir from the Völsunga saga (huge size, talks, has a personal name). Through its influence on the fantasy genre, The Hobbit re-introduced intelligent, talking dragons to literature.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The Trope Codifier, though since there are thirteen of them in the main party, some of them do get one or two individual personality traits. (Thorin is pompous and long-winded; Dori is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold-cum-The Eeyore; Bombur is a fat Butt-Monkey; Balin is the nice guy; Fíli and Kíli are cheerful.) However, none of them seem to carry any weapons until they find some in the Troll's lair, at which point they end up not with axes, but swords. Nor are they particularly stolid: they seem like seasoned adventurers to Bilbo at first, but once on the journey they whine and grumble about things at least as much as Bilbo does (and eventually more than Bilbo). Thorin's gang might be excused, however, from the fact that they have been technically homeless for decades; Dáin's dwarves from the Iron Mountain fit the trope a lot better.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The story is "teeming with goblins, hobgoblins and orcs of the worst description!". "Orc" and "goblin" are used interchangeably, with Orc said to be the untranslated Westron word for goblin; see for example the sword Orcrist, and its translated name, the Goblin-Cleaver.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Beorn the "skin-changer" is able to shapeshift into the form of a huge bear, which he apparently does regularly by night, but also by daylight if need be (such as to fight in the Battle of the Five Armies).
  • Out of the Frying Pan: Lampshaded, when the party escapes the orcs of the Misty Mountains, only to be surrounded by wolves when night falls.
    "What shall we do, what shall we do!" [Bilbo] cried. "Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!" he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say "out of the frying-pan into the fire" in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.
  • The Outside World: The opening chapter mentions that "adventures" are generally frowned upon by the Hobbits, but the occasional hobbit has set out to see the world, particular those of the Took family.
  • The Power of Language: One of the book's Central Themes. From the Dwarves' song which first inspires Bilbo to go on his adventure to Gandalf's verbal spellcasting to Bard being saved by his inherited ability to communicate with thrushes, great narrative emphasis is placed on the power of the right words at the right time. Bilbo himself, as a Guile Hero, learns how to effectively Talk His Way Out of sticky situations—first by winning his life in a riddle contest, and later by talking circles around Smaug.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The three trolls don't want to eat Bilbo. But not out of moral objections!
    William: He wouldn't make above a mouthful, not when he was skinned and boned.
    Bert: P'raps there are more like him round about, and we might make a pie.
  • Pretty Butterflies: There are enormous, black-purple butterflies living in the treetops in Mirkwood.
  • Primal Fear: The Giant Spiders especially, but through the whole story Bilbo travels in a world where everything (aside from the trolls) wants to eat him.
  • Properly Paranoid: Bard is notorious among the Laketowners for predicting all kinds of disasters, like floods and poisoned fish. When the glow of the approaching dragon is seen in Laketown, the more naive townsfolk believe that the river is turning into gold, while Bard immediately assumes that the dragon is coming. He is mocked for it, but before long it turns out he was right, and the preparations urged by Bard allow the townspeople to put up a temporary defence.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Smaug, of all individuals, has one about Bilbo before they meet.
  • The Quest: Go forth across the land, over the Misty Mountains cold, to the distant Lonely Mountain to somehow get a massive pile of treasure out from under a very dangerous dragon. Try not to get dead.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:
    • When the evil worgs chase the party, they are described as having shining red eyes.
    • The very evil and malicious dragon Smaug has red eyes which emit searchlight-like beams.
  • Rewrite:
    • In the original edition of The Hobbit, Gollum gave Bilbo the ring willingly after losing the riddle game to him. After Tolkien had started working on The Lord of the Rings and decided that the ring was an Artifact of Attraction that had corrupted Gollum, this no longer fit the character of Gollum nor the nature of the ring, so Tolkien rewrote chapter 5 of The Hobbit in later editions so that Bilbo accidentally found the ring after Gollum had coincidentally lost it. The introduction of the 1951 second edition even mentions that Bilbo initially told a different story, and suggests his earlier "lie" may already have been due to the bad influence of the ring's magic.
    • In a lesser note, some other, smaller details were also changed. For example, Bilbo's chainmail shirt changes from "silvered steel" into "silver-steel", and finally to "silver-steel that the elves called mithril."
  • Riddle Me This: The riddle contest between Gollum and Bilbo. It's a hobbit thing, apparently.
  • Rightful King Returns: Bard brings the line of Girion back to rulership of Dale, and Thorin intended to take the Lonely Mountain back for the line of Durin.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: "I am Gandalf, and 'Gandalf' means me!"
  • Sacred Hospitality: Hospitality in its medieval sense is an almost universal virtue:
    • Bilbo feels obligated to offer hospitality to thirteen total strangers on the basis that they show up at mealtime. Played for Laughs with his abject horror as the numbers grow and he realizes he might not see any of the two beautiful cakes he'd baked for himself—because as host it would be his duty to go without rather than take a slice and leave a guest without one.
    • The goblins try to depict their abduction of the dwarves as 'inviting' them to come into the caves.
    • Gandalf gets Beorn to grant hospitality and strongly discourages the dwarves from exploiting it (by, say, making off with Beorn's ponies).
    • Bilbo feels an obligation to the Elvenking for being an (unsuspected) house guest of his.
    • One of Bard's talking-points when he parleys with Thorin after the dragon's death is that the Lake-men gave unstinting hospitality to the dwarves and suffered greatly because of it.
  • Savage Wolves: Wargs, the evil talking wolves who ally with goblins. Following the Company's escape from Goblin Town, they run into a pack of Wargs on the slopes of the Misty Mountains and are forced to climb trees to escape them. The Wargs later show up again as one of the five armies in the battle at the book's climax.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: In the Battle of Five Armies, it is said that Fíli and Kíli defended Thorin with "shield and body." All for naught, as Thorin died of his wounds anyway.
  • Sequel Hook: In the foreword to the second edition, Tolkien notes that the account of Bilbo's encounter with Gollum is different in this new edition, and Bilbo lying about how he acquired the Ring is of great importance. The reason for this will be revealed in the (then-published) sequel. In later editions this sequel hook is removed, and instead at the end the reader is directed to The Lord of the Rings for further adventures.
  • Serious Business: In-universe, the riddle game is regarded as "sacred" and the prose says that even a lowly creature like Gollum is hesitant to cheat at it. The sequel mentions that there's in-universe debate over whether Bilbo's last question is technically cheating, but it gets a pass because Gollum negotiated special rules (he accepted it on the condition of getting extra guesses) and therefore loses any grounds to challenge it.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The moon runes and Sundial Waypoint clues to Erebor's secret entrance are fantasy-flavoured versions of similar clues in Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
    • The opening narration of the first edition mentions that Hobbits are "smaller than dwarves... but very much larger than Lilliputians". Whether this is the Lemony Narrator using a species from a more well-known work of fiction (at the time) to give the reader a rough idea of what size Hobbits are, or an implication that Lilliputians exist in Middle-Earth, is unknown.
  • Shrouded in Myth: As Tolkien's narration puts it:
    Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Bilbo delivers several pointed rebukes to the Dwarves when he finds them unreasonable or pompous, particularly when Thorin starts speechifying before he sends Bilbo down into the dragon's lair.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Threatening Geography: The adventure starts out in Hobbiton and proceeds through hobbit lands, then into the semi-wilderness Lone-lands where they meet the trolls. The party enters the Misty Mountains, passes through the darkness of Mirkwood and eventually reaches the Desolation of the Dragon—the "bleak and barren" land around the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo implies that it gets even worse if you go off the map!
    Bilbo: Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Despite the tone being somewhat lighter than The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is more balanced. Its also a more Grey-and-Gray Morality story rather than a typical Good vs Evil story.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal:
    • Bard, Balin (though he can only understand raven), the Wood Elves, Beorn... there's a lot of this going around.
    • Averted when Bilbo can't understand bird speech and remains blissfully ignorant of exactly which ugly names the crows were calling them.
    • It's unclear whether the Mirkwood spiders are speaking English or whether Bilbo understands them because he has the Ring.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Tolkien nearly died of a dangerous spider-bite as a child. The descriptions of Mirkwood's massive, gluttonous, and malicious spiders draws from that (although their dialogue makes them a bit less scary than Ungoliant and Shelob).
  • Spider Swarm: Mirkwood is full of intelligent talking spiders. The group which Bilbo and company run into all live together in the trees and cooperatively hunt prey.
  • Standing Between the Enemies: Gandalf stands between the Three Armies (human, elf, and dwarf) to point out that their common enemies the goblins are approaching on warg-back.
  • Starter Villain: The three trolls. They prove too much for the dwarves and Bilbo to handle, and Gandalf has to rescue them.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Played with. When they finally arrive at the entrance to Mirkwood, Bilbo asks Gandalf why they can't just go around the dangerous forest. Gandalf points out that going around would require them traveling a further 200 miles north or 400 miles south. Additionally, the dangers of that are greater than just going through it. (The north is bordered by mountains with vicious goblins, the south is bordered by the lands of a dangerous necromancer.)
  • Stay on the Path: Gandalf's advice to the dwarves about to cross Mirkwood. Of course, the time comes when they disregard his warning, leading to much trouble.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: Bilbo gets to do this a few times, most dramatically with the Arkenstone.
  • Story-Breaker Power:
    • The reason the Eagles won't take the group all the way to the Lonely Mountain is due to the Lord of the Eagles not willing to venture anywhere near men due to the risk of being shot down by arrows when the men fear the loss of their livestock. Indeed, Gandalf once even helped mend an arrow wound the Lord suffered.
    • Gandalf leaves the group before they enter Mirkwood, and reappears just in time at the end to warn the good guys of the coming attack. In the original edition, his dealing with a random Necromancer was just the author's excuse to get him out of the way.
  • Stronger with Age: Smaug, who outright mentions the trope.
  • Sue Donym: "a bur— a hobbit." "a burrahobbit?"
  • Sundial Waypoint: The moon-runes needed to find the secret door into the mountain can only be read under the same phase of the moon in which they were written. The keyhole to the door is likewise revealed by the last light of Durin's Day.
  • Supporting Leader: Bard the Bowman and Dáin Ironfoot. Both are royalty and straight-up badasses who lead the defenders of Laketown and the army of the Iron Hills respectively; compare them with the central protagonist Bilbo, who is just a well-to-do hobbit and a Guile Hero, caught up in an adventure he didn't expect.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Everything that happens after the dwarves arrive at the mountain and find the secret passage:
    • Bilbo was hired to steal the treasure, but the treasure proves to be so vast that Bilbo couldn't possibly steal a significant portion of it.
      Bilbo: I should want hundreds of years to bring it all up, if I was fifty times as big, and Smaug as tame as a rabbit.
    • Smaug points out to Bilbo on his second visit that even if he were able to steal his one-fourteenth share of the treasure, he would still have to find a way to transport it through hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness back to his home. Bilbo had been so focused on getting to the mountain that he never thought of this, and he wonders if the dwarves have been laughing up their sleeves at him the whole time.
    • Unsurprisingly the dwarves, who got as far they did thanks to Gandalf and Bilbo rescuing them, have no plan to deal with Smaug. This becomes a real problem when they are trapped in the mountain with the only way out being through the dragon's lair.
    • Though Smaug is killed in a suitably dramatic fashion, it is only after he has already burned down Laketown, leaving its people homeless and very unhappy with the dwarves who provoked the dragon.
    • Bilbo fully expects the adventure to be over once he learns that Smaug is dead, but it turns out that sitting on a colossal pile of treasure with only 13 dwarves and a hobbit to defend it, even if you are in a mountain fortress, leads to its own problems.
  • Taken for Granite: The trolls turn to stone if caught outside in sunlight. Too bad for them, they aren't bright enough to remember this.
  • Talking Animal:
    • The Eagles and other birds, though how comprehensible they are depends on what species is talking and, in some cases, on the language skills of the listener.
    • Bilbo can understand the Spiders' speech.
    • Smaug, if you consider him an animal.
    • While Beorn's animals aren't heard speaking, they're certainly sapient and understand human speech.
  • Tempting Fate: Smaug. "Girion Lord of Dale is dead, and I have eaten his people like a wolf among sheep. And where are his son's sons that dare approach me?" Bard, the leader of the Lake-men's successful defense against the dragon, is Girion's heir.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Bilbo starts out doing as well as you'd expect a homebody away from home would do. He gets better, with the description of his first spider kill almost coming across as gaining a Character Level.
    • The dwarves themselves are rather bumbling for most of the book. They all are quite badass in the Battle of Five Armies however.
  • Trick-and-Follow Ploy: Done accidentally by Bilbo to Gollum. After Bilbo finds Gollum's "Precious"—a Ring that can turn him invisible—Gollum assumes that Bilbo was lying about being lost and is on his way to the backdoor. He races to head Bilbo off. Except Bilbo really was lost, so he follows Gollum out.
  • Triumphant Reprise: While passing back through Rivendell on his way home, Bilbo hears the elves sing the poem The Dragon is Withered, which opens by describing Smaug's defeat, to the tune of O! What Are You Doing? from his first pass through their realm.
  • Underground City: The dwarven city under the Lonely Mountain and the Elven King's hall in Mirkwood.
  • Underhanded Hero: In order to prevent a useless war between allies, Bilbo conceals his possession of the Arkenstone and hands it over to Bard so he can bargain for a ceasefire.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Bilbo. While he has grown up aware that magical people and things exist, like most hobbits he has little knowledge about and zero first-hand experience with it until that one fateful day.
  • Verbal Tic Name: Gollum owes his name to the gulping noise he habitually makes in his throat.
  • Villain Song: The goblins' song, which the goblins sing when they capture the company, who unwittingly camped on their "front porch", as it were.
    Grip, grab! Pinch, nab!
    And down down to Goblin-town
    You go, my lad!
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Beorn, the badass werebear berserker and one-man/bear army.
  • Was Actually Friendly:
    • The Wood Elves. Elves and dwarves have a mixed history, so they mutually distrust each other to begin with. When the starving Dwarves of Thorin's Company disturb the Elves' forest banquets they assume they are attacking, and then the dwarves' presence stirs up the spiders, who are the enemies of the Elves. For their part, when they are captured by the elves they refuse to say why they're in the wood, making the Elves more suspicious. The Elves turn out to be a lot nicer later on, helping the Lake men to build shelters and find food after the destruction of their city by the dragon. During the Battle of the Five Armies, Bilbo decides he had rather make his Last Stand with the Elves than anywhere else.
    • The men of the lake gave aid to the Dwarves when they first showed up but later sent an army to take their gold. But when the orc and wolf armies show up, they immediately join forces with the Dwarves again.
  • Werewolf Theme Naming: Beorn has a name that means "bear" in Old English, and he is a "skin-changer" who can turn into a bear at will.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Gandalf starts to scold Bilbo when he asks if they have to go through Mirkwood without him. He thought Bilbo meant to give up and go home. Bilbo is quick to explain that he was just wondering if there was a way to go around the wood rather than through.
    • Gandalf has some choice words for Thorin when he finds him ready to start a war to avoid giving up any of his gold:
      Gandalf: You are not making a very splendid figure as King Under the Mountain.
    • During the same scene, Bilbo gives Thorin a pretty solid rebuke when the latter savagely turns on him for giving away the Arkenstone:
      Bilbo: Is this all the service of you and your family that I was promised?
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: After the defeat of Smaug, Laketown sends an army to the mountain to seek compensation for the destruction of Laketown by the dragon. Thorin refuses to negotiate while there is an army at his gates, especially while the Wood Elves have their own army there as well. They give him some time to think it over, and after some hours the Laketown messengers return to give what Bilbo thinks is a reasonable demand and hear Thorin's response. He isn't in a talking mood.
    Messenger: At the least he shall deliver one twelfth portion of the treasure unto Bard, as the dragon-slayer, and as the heir of Girion. From that portion Bard will himself contribute to the aid of Esgaroth; but if Thorin would have the friendship and honour of the lands about, as his sires had of old, then he will give also somewhat of his own for the comfort of the men of the Lake.
    [Thorin shoots an arrow that hits the messenger's shield]
    Messenger: Since such is your answer, I declare the Mountain besieged. You shall not depart from it, until you call on your side for a truce and a parley. We will bear no weapons against you, but we leave you to your gold. You may eat that, if you will!
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Smaug dies and Bilbo fully expects the adventure is over. An attentive reader will notice there are still five chapters left, with three chapters before the actual climax of the story.
  • You Were Trying Too Hard: The "time" riddle. Bilbo is wracking his brain for an answer, Gollum looks like he is about to declare him the loser, and he tries to shout "I need more time to think!" but all that comes out is "Time! Time!" Which luckily for Bilbo was the correct answer.

Top