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The Hobbit

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Introducing J. R. R. Tolkien

His mother, Mabel, converted to Catholicism
and the religion would have a long lasting
effect on young Tolkien. The family was
befriended by the Parish Priest, Father
Francis Morgan, who would see the Tolkiens
through some troubled times.

An avid reader, Tolkien was influenced by
some of the great writers of his day including
G.K. Chesterton and H.G. Wells. It was
during this period of financial hardship, but
intellectual stimulation that Tolkien suffered
the loss of his devoted mother. She
succumbed to diabetes in 1904 when
Tolkien was only 12 years of age. Father
Morgan took over as his guardian, placing
him first with an aunt and then at a boarding
house for orphans. It was at this boarding
house, at the age of 16 that he would meet
and fall in love with Edith Bratt. Naturally,
their relationship was frowned upon. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was and Edith were caught in affectionate
a major scholar of the English language, circumstances - they bicycled together out to
specialising in Old and Middle English. Twice the countryside surrounding the city and had
Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at a picnic.
the University of Oxford, he also wrote a
number of stories, including most famously Throughout his life, Tolkien had cultivated a
The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings love of language, especially ancient
(1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic languages. At Oxford he would major in
era in an invented version of the world which philology, which is the study of words and
he called by the Middle English name of language. He would be much influenced by
Middle-earth. Icelandic, Norse and Gothic mythology. Even
His Life some of the characters and place names he
would later develop would be drawn from the
names from ancient sagas. The forest of
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, as he was Mirkwood, which played a prominent roll in
christened, was born in Bloemfontein, South both The Hobbit and in "The Lord of the
Africa in 1892. His early and barely Rings" was borrowed from Icelandic
memorable years were spent divided mythology. The names of many of the
between the city and a country farm. His dwarves in The Hobbit were actual
father, an English banker, was making placenames in the myths.
efforts to establish a branch in that country.
Many of Tolkien's early memories of South While still attending college, he looked up his
Africa and are reported to have influenced lost love, Edith Bratt, and proposed
his later works. marriage. She had accepted a proposal from
another, but in the end was persuaded to
He left South Africa to return to England with return to Tolkien. They would marry in 1916.
his mother and his brother, Hilary. His father,
Arthur, was supposed also to return to World War I, the war to end all wars, came in
England within the next few months. 1914. It would forever mark the end of many
However, Arthur Tolkien died of rheumatic of the Empires of Europe and would unleash
fever while still in South Africa. This left the death across the European Continent.
grieving family in relatively dire straights and Tolkien lost many of his friends in the war,
on a very limited income. They soon moved and he himself would serve as an officer on
to Birmingham, England, so that young the front lines at the Battle of the Somme. He
Tolkien could attend King Edward VI school. caught trench fever in 1917 and was sent

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back to England to recuperate. He would not In the late 1930's Tolkien began writing the
see front line service again. "Lord of the Rings". Work on the story would
go on for ten and a half years. He gave first
Throughout his schooldays he had been a chance at publication to Allen & Unwin, the
determined poet and scholar. His interest in publishers of The Hobbit. But it was rejected
language was such that he had even by a staff editor when Unwin was away on
developed his own languages based loosely business in France. The younger "Unwin"
on Finnish and Welsh. It was while was now in the family publishing business.
recuperating in Birmingham, with his wife at He found out about the rejected manuscript,
his side, that he began to create a mythology wrote to his father in France, requesting
behind his languages. This work would one permission to take on the project. Recalling
day result in his famous novels. the success of The Hobbit, but sceptical
about a "hobbit novel" written for adults, he
It was about this time that Tolkien was acquiesced to his son's request reluctantly.
blessed with the first of his four children.
After the war he was offered a professorship "The Lord of the Rings" was published in
at the University of Leeds. Besides lecturing, three parts and would become a huge
he continued work on his mythology. He felt publishing success.
that he, in a sense, was creating England's
mythology. In 1925 Tolkien with a colleague Fame and fortune were both a blessing and
published a translation and analysis of "Sir a bane for Tolkien. He enjoyed the popularity
Gawain and the Green Knight." It was a of his work. Yet, he was burdened with work
turning point in his career. It brought him responding to his adoring public. After his
notice at Oxford where he was offered the retirement at Oxford, he and his wife Edith
professorship of Anglo-Saxon. moved to Bournemouth in 1966. Edith died
in 1971. The loss of his life's companion did
The Hobbit, the work that would make him not sit well with Tolkien; yet he struggled on
famous, came out in 1936. He began it one for some two years till his death of
evening while grading exam papers. Seated Pneumonia on 2 September 1973.
at his desk, he opened up an exam novellet
to find the first page blank. He was surprised
and pleased that the student had somehow
entirely skipped the page. It seemed an
invitation to write, and in that space he
began his work on The Hobbit.

The finished manuscript of The Hobbit fell
into the hands of George Allen and Unwin,
Publishers. Unwin paid his own ten year old
son a shilling to read the story and report on
its publishability. The young man lavished
praise on the novel, and Unwin decided to
take a risk on it.

The Hobbit soon became a best seller and
made Professor Tolkien famous. He was
already well-known as a scholar for his work
in Philology, and he was also part of a group
of friends who called themselves the
Inklings. The centre of this group was C.S.
Lewis who would long be one of Tolkien's
best friends and admirers.

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Introducing the novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, the The Hobbit establishes a framework for the
prelude to The Lord of the Rings, was larger work to follow and whets the appetite
originally published by Allen & Unwin on for more information about hobbits, Middle-
September 21, 1937. According to Tolkien earth, and those who dwell therein: wizards,
scholar Douglas A. Anderson, its first printing elves, dwarves, trolls, and the minions of
was small—only 1,500 copies. Published in evil.
hardback with 10 black-and-white Though The Hobbit is an entertaining story -
illustrations and two maps furnished by the a well-told tale, albeit with a juvenile flavour
author himself, The Hobbit garnered positive because of Tolkien’s habit of addressing the
reviews and, as its publisher, Stanley Unwin, reader directly - its story elements lay the
predicted, led to a public demand for more groundwork for what would follow: The Lord
stories about hobbits. of the Rings. In The Hobbit we learn how the
And so began the novel that brought an One Ring came to Bilbo Baggins, who in turn
Oxford professor from the relative obscurity would give it to his nephew, Frodo. We also
of academe to a larger world. Early reviews learn about Gollum, who plays a pivotal role
were positive, heralding great expectations in the long tale that follows, and we meet the
from a new storyteller who showed great wizard Gandalf, who assumes an even more
promise. significant role as the war for Middle-earth
From The New Statesman & Nation: “His clouds the horizon.
wholly original story of adventure among
goblins, elves and
impression of a well-informed glimpse into
J. R. R. Tolkien on The Hobbit
the life of a wide other-world; a world wholly
real, and with a quite matter-of-fact, “If you care for journeys there and back, out
supernatural natural history of its own.” of the comfortable Western world, over the
Echoing The New Statesman, The Observer edge of the Wild, and home again, and can
commented: “Professor Tolkien’s finely take an interest in a humble hero (blessed
written saga of dwarves and elves, fearsome with a little wisdom and a little courage and
goblins and trolls, in a spacious country of considerable good luck), here is the record
far-off and long ago...a full-length tale of of such a journey and such a traveler. The
traditional magic exciting epic of period is the ancient time between the age of
travel, magical adventure... working up to a Faerie and the dominion of men, when the
devastating climax.” famous forest of Mirkwood was still standing,
The Times (of London) called it “a solidly and the mountains were full of danger. In
delightful novel” and “a fascinating excursion following the path of this humble adventurer,
into the early English scene.” you will learn by the way (as he did)—if you
The best, and most accurate, assessment of do not already know all about these things—
The Hobbit came from Tolkien’s friend C.S. much about trolls, goblins, dwarves, and
Lewis, who rightly concluded, in the Times elves, and get some glimpses into the history
Literary Supplement (Oct. 2, 1937), that “Its and politics of a neglected but important
place is with Alice, Flatland, Phantastes, The period.
Wind in the Willows.... [The] prediction is “For Mr. Bilbo Baggins visited notable
dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a persons; conversed with the dragon, Smaug
classic.” C.S. Lewis was right. The Hobbit the Magnificent; and was present, rather
not only proved to be a classic, a novel unwillingly, at the Battle of Five Armies. This
beloved by generations of readers, but a is all the more remarkable, since he was a
bestseller as well—a novel that continues to hobbit. Hobbits have hitherto been passed
sell at a brisk pace, in more than 40 over in history and legend, perhaps because
languages worldwide. As Douglas A. they as a rule preferred comfort to
Anderson affirmed in his introduction to The excitement. But this account, based on his
Annotated Hobbit, “There is no doubt that personal memoirs, of the one exciting year in
The Hobbit is a worldwide classic, for all the otherwise quiet life of Mr. Baggins will
ages, and all times.” give you a fair idea of this estimable people,
As a novel, The Hobbit holds its own as an now (it is said) becoming rather rare. They
engaging story well worth reading, but when do not like noise.”
read before tackling The Lord of the Rings,

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Chapter Questions and context information

Complete these in your workbooks.
1. What is Gandalf’s reputation?
2. How did the dwarves lose their treasure and kingdom?
3. What does the word hobbit make you think of? The possibilities include rabbit, hobby, Babbit,
habit and hob. The word is probably best seen as a blend of rabbit and hob, an obsolete British
word meaning “a rustic, peasant” or “sprite, elf.” How does Bilbo resemble a rabbit in this
chapter? When you finish the novel, ask yourself if he still reminds you of one.
4. What is an adventure? Is it something that happens, or is it the way we react to what happens?
Can we live without adventures? Is there any “magic” in this novel? Return to these questions as
the novel progresses.
5. Explain all the meanings of “good morning”.
6. What about adventures awakens Bilbo’s “Tookish” side? What causes his “Baggins” side to re-
emerge? Is the Baggins side timid or practical? Is the Tookish side heroic, curious or proud?
7. Even this early in the novel, we can see some of the characteristics of dwarves. What are they?
8. What are dragons like? As you read on, think about the differences and similarities between
dwarves and dragons.

1. Why is it important that Gandalf is not present when the expedition meets the trolls?
2. The trolls are evil, bestial, and disgusting. But do they seem mostly human or nonhuman?
3. Is strength or intelligence more valuable so far in this novel? Why?

1. What is the difference between the way Bilbo and the dwarves react to Rivendell? How does
Elrond feel about the expedition, and what does he say about the dwarves’ love of gold and the
wickedness of dragons? What values are important to the elves?
2. Who is Elrond? What is the effect of giving a detailed history of a minor character?

1. What does Tolkien tell us about goblins? Discuss what you think goblins look like, and what in the
novel gives you that idea.
2. “It is not unlikely that they goblins invented some of the machines that have since troubled the
world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once.” Can you take
this statement seriously? Why do you think fantasy is often anti-technological? What does it
emphasize instead?

1. Why is it good that Bilbo lost his matches?
2. How does Gollum guess that Bilbo has his ring?
3. How are Bilbo and Gollum alike? HINT: Their motives for the riddle-game, their ability to guess
each other’s riddles; their abilities underground; their living in holes. Can you call Gollum evil?
HINT: Discuss the concept that Gollum is the negative side of Bilbo, with which he must come to
terms before he can achieve his identity.
4. What skills does Bilbo show in dealing with Gollum?
5. “No great leap for a man, but a leap in the dark.” Discuss this quotation with respect to Bilbo’s
decision not to kill Gollum, and his newfound courage.

1. Why does the Lord of the Eagles notice the expedition?
2. Would Bilbo try to rescue the dwarves if they were still inside the Mountains? Would they try to
rescue him? Why?
3. Why doesn’t Bilbo tell the dwarves about his ring? Do you consider this lying? Why?
4. What does it mean for our opinion of Bilbo’s courage and prowess that Gandalf, his mentor, must
be rescued by the Eagles?

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1. What is a skin-changer?
2. What is the most important advice that Beorn and Gandalf give about Mirkwood? Why?
3. Compare the expedition’s arrival at Beorn’s house with the Unexpected Party of Chapter 1. Note
that now Bilbo is in on the plot. While both hosts have to be cajoled, it is for very different
reasons. What are they?
4. Discuss Beorn’s character. What are his virtues? Why is he suspicious of strangers? What about
him seems vicious? In what ways is he gentle? How does Bilbo come to understand him? Is there
a problem with being a grim man in a grim land?
5. Why is it necessary to the story that Gandalf leave the expedition?

1. When Bilbo climbs the tree, why doesn’t he see an end to the forest?
2. What are the unattractive features of Mirkwood? Do you think the forest is evil? What about the
enchanted stream?
3. After Gandalf leaves who become the leaders of the expedition?
4. What makes the expedition lose hope? Why is their despair unjustified?
5. What heroic acts does Bilbo perform? Don’t forget his naming of his sword.
6. Why does Bilbo tell the dwarves about his magic ring? What does his reluctance to do so tell us?
What do you think he learns from this?
7. Discuss the ancient feud between dwarves and elves. Whose fault is it? If neither side is in the
right, how can you tell the difference between good and evil?

1. Why does the Elvenking imprison the dwarves? Why won’t Thorin tell the Elvenking what his
mission is? Define pride and greed.
2. Is Bilbo a burglar now? How does he feel about stealing?
3. The escape plan is completely Bilbo’s. How good is it? How much does it depend on luck? Does
he deserve this luck?

1. Why does the master welcome the expedition?
2. “Some sang too that Thror and Thrain would come back one day and gold would flow in rivers
through mountain gates, and all that land would be filled with new song and new laughter. But
this pleasant legend did not much affect their daily business” Discuss the history of Lake-town
and the beliefs of its inhabitants. What does it mean that they do not take their legends seriously?
3. Compare the attitudes of the men of Lake-town, the Master, and the Elvenking to Thorin’s
mission. Who is reasonable? Who is silly? Then consider Bilbo’s attitude. Keeping in mind that
elves are renowned for wisdom, how wise is Bilbo?

1. In what way does Bilbo show that he has more spirit left than the dwarves? Why does he?

1. Who is the real leader of the expedition?
2. What is the most important thing Bilbo learns from Smaug?
3. “Some [dwarves] are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too
much”. What can Bilbo expect from the dwarves?
4. “Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did...he fought the real battle in the tunnel
alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait”. According to this passage, what is
true courage? What abilities and character traits does Bilbo have? How do his earlier adventures
prepare him for his confrontation with Smaug?
5. Describe the characteristics of dragons. Begin with greedy, wily, hostile, and riddle loving, and go
on to vengeful, treacherous, fond of flattery, and breeders of distrust and dissension. What is the
dragon-spell? Why are dwarves so susceptible to it? In this novel the traditional motif of the
cursed dragon-hoard is changed to the idea that so much treasure brings out the evil and foolish
side of dwarves--and even elves and men. In this and the following chapters, trace the changing
effects of the treasure on the dwarves and on Bilbo.
6. Explain the names that Bilbo gives himself when speaking with Smaug: “I come from under the
hill…I am the clue finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number”.

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1. “Anyway the only way out is down”. What earlier statement by Bilbo does this echo? When does
Bilbo’s courage assert itself most?
2. Why does Bilbo keep the Arkenstone? Does he have a right to it?

1. Describe Bard and the Master. Who speaks more convincingly? What does their appearance
suggest about them? Explain Bard’s pessimism. Who has more courage? Who has more
leadership? Do you believe that some people are natural leaders? Can this ability be inherited?
2. Why does the Elvenking set out from his halls? Why does he go to Esgaroth? What does this tell
you about the value he places on treasure?

1. From the very beginning, Bilbo has assumed that the climax of the adventure would be the
recovery of the treasure. Then he realizes that Smaug must also be dealt with. Now he finds that
even Smaug’s death does not end the adventure. Re-examine your earlier definitions of what an
adventure is.
2. Is gold worth fighting for? Why won’t Thorin deal with Bard and Elvenking? Evaluate Bard’s three
topics for discussion and Thorin’s answer; note Thorin’s complete lack of pity for the Lake-men’s
3. Discuss the difference between the content, rhythms, and music of dwarf-songs and elf-songs.

1. Just as the moment in the tunnel is Bilbo’s bravest, giving up the Arkenstone is his noblest. Why
does he do it? Would any other character in the story be capable of this? Why does he return to
the Mountain?

1. Name the armies in the Battle of Five Armies. Why is each group participating in this battle?
2. Where does Bilbo take his final stand? Why?
3. Trace Thorin’s moral degeneration through the last several chapters. Contrast his current attitude
with the Elvenking’s statement “Long will I tarry, ere I begin this war for gold.”
4. Which would be a greater evil--the killing of the armies of men, elves, and dwarves by the
goblins, or a war between men, elves, and dwarves? Why?

1. Who turned the tide of the battle?
2. “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”. Discuss Bilbo’s character now that his adventure is completed.
Why does he refuse the treasure? Why is he weary of his adventure?
3. Examine the final views we get of Thorin on his deathbed and in his tomb. Is his quest fulfilled?
Why is his death necessary? What lesson does he learn? Does he deserve our respect or
4. Examine in detail the various demands and offers made by Bard and the dwarves and the elves.
How does the final solution match what each party wants and deserves? What is the difference
between Dain’s gift and Thorin’s promises?

1. Why do they walk at the end of their journey?
2. What changes does Balin notice in Bilbo?
3. What happened to the old Master of Lake-town?
4. Look at the elves’ song. Describe the character and values of elves.
5. “He gained-well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end” “‘My dear Bilbo!’ [Gandalf]
said ‘Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were’”. What does Bilbo
gain from his adventure? Don’t forget to include the ability and desire to make poetry. What is the
difference in the way his home is dear to him now?
6. “‘You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere
luck, just for your sole benefit’?” Then what does manage them?
7. Why is Bilbo pleased that he is “only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”?

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Word definitions

Find definitions for these words in the dictionary and put them in the back of your novel. Try
to use them in your work for this unit. You may work in pairs or groups to search for these
words. You cannot type these.
If you’re not sure of the meaning for any other words in the novel add them to your list.

Antiquity Jolly Quench
Audacious Jutting Reconciliation
Blundering Kindled Remuneration
Circuitous Kine Recant
Clamour Knotted Reverence
Desolate Lamenting Scanty
Despair Lurking Sentinels
Droning Luxurious Shrill
Dubious Mirth Snivel
Eddying Muddled Stealthily
Expedition Necromancer Stowed
Feint Nimble Subterranean
Felled Obliged Summoned
Foreboding Obscurest Surly
Fugitive Obstinately Swelled
Furtive Ominous Throve
Galled Pinnacle Trifle
Grave Plight Vagabond
Grievously Portent Venerable
Haughty Portcullis Vexed
Heedless Precipice Waylaid
Hewn Presumption Wearisome
Hideous Promontory Wily
Incantations Prudent
Ingenious Pursue

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Assignment Activities

Present your completed assignment in a display folder with a title page. It may be
typed (12 size font, 1.5 spaced) or written neatly with appropriate illustrations. The
activities should be handed in periodically to the teacher for marking throughout the
unit. All tasks will be marked out of 20.
Make sure to include a bibliography of any texts or images you used for research.

1. Produce a timeline of WWI’s events. Include images, detail and key
people. Present on a poster. You may work in pairs for this activity.

This activity will help you get a better understanding of the causes and major events
of World War I, and how those events correspond with the characters and the plot of
The Hobbit.

The Task
After reviewing dates and information about key events of WWI, you will create a timeline of
some significant events. In class we will consider the relationship of major events of the war
to the life Tolkein and his work and its themes.
The Process
1. Explore each web site listed below, and take notes on major events of WWI Be sure to
include some events that lead up to the war.
The Great War Interactive Timeline -
Major Battles of WWI -
Eyewitness - Assassination of an Archduke -
2. Plan and draft in your work novels what you are going to include. What you present on card
must be a final version.
3. Divide a piece of poster board in half by drawing a line horizontally. Write the years of WWI
on the line.
4. Organise 7-10 WWI events chronologically above the line. Since there were many battles
and important incidents, you must determine which events may have impacted Tolkein in his
5. It is not enough to simply give the date and name of a major battle or event. Describe each
incident in at least two sentences. You may need to add pull out tabs, fold out pages and so
on to accommodate this information.
6. Incorporate at least five pictures into your timeline. You may print images from web sites,
draw original pictures, copy from novels, or cut from magazines. Place these below the
timeline to illustrate your work.

How You Will Be Marked
Your timeline must:

* include at least 7-10 significant events from WWI
* display events in proper chronological order.
* describe each WWI in at least two sentences.
* include at least 5 pictures
* be graphically and visually appealing (neat, colourful, creative, and easy to read).

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2. Imagine you are working for Tolkien’s publishers and have been asked
to design a poster to relaunch the children’s novel The Hobbit.
In this activity, you will explore the use of promotional posters and visual design to
convey themes, genre and characters of a novel to a particular market.

The Task
After viewing promotional posters for novels, students are to design a poster to promote the
novel The Hobbit. In class we will review themes and key design ideas.

How You Will Be Marked

Your poster must:
* include a title.
* include at least one picture.
* relate to The Hobbit and appeal to your classmates
* employ propaganda techniques evident from examples from web sites.
* be graphically and visually appealing (neat, colourful, creative, and easy to read).

3. Write a letter in the first-person point of view.
The Task
Assume the voice of a character on the adventure. Write a letter home using first person
point of view describing your experiences, feelings and thoughts.

The Process
1. Choose your character and consider their personality and the trials and events that have
occurred in the novel up to the point you are writing from.
2. List 10-15 adjectives that the character (or you may borrow from other characters) used to
describe their emotions. Write these in your workbooks.
4. Decide which scene in the novel you will write about. Review that part of the novel.
5. List or summarise the scene. Include characters, their injuries, setting, plot, etc.
6. Assume the voice of a character.
7. Write a letter to your family in which you discuss your experiences, emotions, thoughts, etc.
8. In the letter, structure ideas logically, support assertions (e.g., appeal to logic through
reasoning; appeal to emotion), defend positions with evidence, and address readers'

How You Will Be Marked
Your persuasive letter must include the following and will be evaluated on other elements of
persuasive writing:
* be in the first-person point of view.
* follow friendly letter format:
- include date
- include greeting
- include salutation
* discuss the experiences, emotions, thoughts of the character.
* structure ideas logically, support assertions (e.g., appeal to logic through reasoning;
appeal to emotion), defend positions with evidence, and address readers' concerns.
* accurately portray events in the novel (You are not telling a new story. You are just telling
it from a different perspective).
* be approximately 1 page.
* be neat, in ink or typed, and easy to read.

Optional: You may want to include a picture or drawing in your letter. You may print images
from web sites, draw original pictures, copy from novels, or cut from magazines.

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