Mahaffey 1 Sean Mahaffey The Hobbit October 4, 2009 Word Count: 591 Religious Symbolism in: The Hobbit

The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien, contains many different literary elements, but the most prominent of them all is that it is an allegory. The entire book is full of symbols that all point back to one thing. In the world conceived by Tolkien, magic is a substitute for religion. The people in this world worship sorcery and monsters. Every religion has a god or superior being of some sort. In this book, it is a wizard named Gandalf. This is true for many reasons. First, he seems to appear only when needed and vanishes without warning when he is not. This is a characteristic he shares with a savior. This is best expressed when he appears seemingly out of nowhere and saves Bilbo and the Dwarves from some hungry Trolls (Tolkien 39-41). Which leads me to my next reason; he only helps the good guys. Nowhere in the book is he seen helping anyone who could remotely be considered “bad.” Furthermore, he helps only those who are good by means of his magic, which is always some sort of flash or light, and light is a symbol for good or purity. This is proved when the Dwarves are once again attacked, this time by Goblins. Gandalf kills some of these Goblins with a flash of bright light. Then helps the Dwarves escape by providing light to see in the tunnels (60-65). These elements point back to the fact that Gandalf is a savior or god of some sort. In every religion, there is someone or something that opposes civilized life or good in some way. In this book, it is the many monsters that have an undying hate for the

” The last thing missing from this “magic” religion is an ultimate evil of some sort. it was perceived as an attack on religion. In conclusion. Elves. which is a symbol for good in this book (35-41). Dwarves. some opposing force that is as strong if not stronger than Gandalf. It is for all these reasons that this book was challenged. Smaug is nearly immortal(23) and very hard to kill(226-227). He coldbloodedly killed an entire city of Dwarves and stole their treasure (23-24). or neither. . attack the humans and have gone to war with the Dwarves several times (102). This shows that the monsters in this book are symbols for “demons. Smaug being the greatest of them all. he is tricky and seems to even be able to put thoughts into people’s heads(225). While Trolls may be the first monsters. which proves their opposition to “good.. be it good. He does just that in a conversation with Bilbo in his cave. All these things make him the perfect opposite of good. There are many characteristics about Smaug that are evil. Gandalf symbolizes goodness and purity in all aspects. who love the taste of Hobbits. All the monsters in this book show the same characteristics as the Goblins and Trolls. Furthermore. this book is an allegory which represents religion. There are also cave dwelling Goblins who.Mahaffey 2 “good guys. Almost everything in The Hobbit can be related back to some aspect of religion. His very name represents poison and evil. evil. They also thrive in the dark and avoid the sunlight at all costs (96).” Also. they are not the only ones. they turn to dust if they are exposed to light. etc.” The first ones encountered in this book are Trolls. That opposing force in this book is Smaug. on many occasions. while the bad side is made up of monsters or demons.

. New York: Ballantine Books. The Hobbit.Mahaffey 3 Works Cited Tolkien. 1965. John.

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