The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Home Quotes in The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway. They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least, and they found it hard to leave. Bilbo would gladly have stopped there forever and ever – even supposing a wish would have taken him right back to his hobbit-hole without trouble. Yet there is little to tell about their stay. (3.26)
Here, Thorin & Co. are chilling in the lovely valley of Rivendell to gear up for their travel through the Misty Mountains. The narrator tells us that things that are good are "not much to listen to"; this lesson is as true of Bilbo's life as anything else. After all, we hear very little of Bilbo's fifty years before going on his quest with Thorin & Co. But we hear about three hundred pages'-worth of things about the one year Bilbo spends on his adventure. Do you think the things that the narrator chooses to emphasize are the same that Bilbo would dwell on in his (fictional) memoir? Are there episodes of The Hobbit that you wish the narrator had spent more time expanding?
So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountains. Soon Bilbo's stomach was feeling full and comfortable again, and he felt he could sleep contentedly, though really he would have liked a loaf and butter better than bits of meat toasted on sticks. He slept curled up on the hard rock more soundly than ever he had done on his feather-bed in his own little hole at home. But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find nor remember what it looked like. (6.97)
Sometimes, The Hobbit seems to be teaching us that the point of an adventure is to teach you the value of what you left behind: Bilbo sleeps on rock "more soundly than ever he had done on his feather-bed." Could Tolkien be channeling his wartime experiences in these passages? As a soldier in World War I in the trenches of the Somme, we're sure that Tolkien spent a lot of time dreaming "of his own house." But what might Bilbo's dream of a lost object represent? Why might Tolkien be including this detail about the dream here?
Already he was a very different hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief from Bag-End long ago. He had not had a pocket-handkerchief for ages. He loosened his dagger in its sheath, tightened his belt, and went on. (12.8)
What does Bilbo's pocket-handkerchief (or lack thereof) tell us about what kind of a hobbit he was back in Bag-End? What kind of a hobbit is he now, as he heads down to see Smaug and his treasure? How do you see Bilbo's character developing over the course of The Hobbit?