Archetypes in The Hobbit

In this article you will learn about the archetypes in The Hobbit, the famous novel by JRR Tolkien, which contains examples of various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.

What are the Archetypes in The Hobbit?

Bilbo Baggins is a classic example of the archetypal hero who goes on an archetypal journey.

He possesses numerous heroic qualities – bravery, courage, strength, endurance and determination – and puts these to good use through application of his strong moral code which frame his ethical decision making.

He sets out on a journey to put right historical wrongs because of a sense of right and justice, willing to undergo this despite the dangers and costs, and unwilling to take anything but a proportionate reward for doing so.

In Gandalf Tolkien combines three literary archetypes – the wise old man, the mentor and the wizard.

As an older person Gandalf has great wisdom gained through life experience which he puts to use in mentoring and guiding Bilbo, as well as using his powers as a wizard to help the group on their travels to successfully accomplish their archetypal quest of recovering the treasure.

As a mentor Gandalf is not always present, appearing only when needed and acting only when absolutely necessary to ensure the success of the protagonist of the story.

Gollum is the archetypal outcast, one who lives isolated from society and as a result having no interaction with others, which has impacted on his personality.

Smaug is the archetypal villain, an individual motivated by evil ends who must be defeated by the hero of the story in order to complete the archetypal quest, or task, which they have been asked to accomplish.

The accomplishment of the quest is the primary driver of the story and the villain stands in the way of it’s completion, motivated only by their own desires and selfish needs – they are the opposite of the hero in almost every way.

The Hobbit Book Summary

  • Bilbo Baggins, tricked by wizard Gandalf, holds a party for Thorin Oakenshield and his dwarves, who sing about regaining the Lonely Mountain and its treasure from Smaug the dragon.
  • Gandalf shows Bilbo a map of a secret entrance to the mountain and suggests he join them in an expedition to recover the treasure.
  • On their journey Gandalf saves them from trolls. They are then driven underground by goblins and Gandalf rescues them, but Bilbo is separated from them as they flee.
  • Lost in the goblin tunnels, he discovers a mysterious ring and meets Gollum.
  • Gollum sets him a game of riddles – should he solve them Gollum will help him escape the tunnels but if he fails he will forfeit his life.
  • Using the ring, which gives him powers of invisibility, Bilbo escapes and finds the group.
  • The group, without Gandalf, enters the black forest of Mirkwood, where Bilbo saves them from giant spiders and the dungeons of the Wood-elves. As they get close to the Lonely Mountain, they are welcomed by the people of Lake-town, who hope they will bring about Smaug’s demise.
  • They find the Lonely Mountain’s secret door and Bilbo steals a great cup from Smaug’s lair, spotting a gap in Smaug’s armour.
  • Smaug, angered, sets out to destroy Lake-town believing they have helped the intruder.
  • A thrush has overheard Bilbo’s discovery of the gapin Smaug’s armour and it to Bard, Lake-town’s defender, who is able to kill the dragon.
  • Bilbo finds the Arkenstone, an heirloom of Thorin’s family, and hides it.
  • The Wood-elves and Lake-men besiege the mountain, demanding compensation for their help against Smaug, reparations for Lake-town’s destruction, and settlement of their claim on the treasure. Thorin refuses and reinforces his position on the mountain by summoning his kin.
  • Bilbo tries to prevent war by ransoming the Arkenstone but enrages Thorin, who banishes him.
  • Gandalf warns of an approaching army of goblins and Wargs.
  • Dwarves, men and elves join together but only win when joined by the eagles and Beorn, with Thorin is fatally wounded. He reconciles with Bilbo before his death.
  • Bilbo accepts a small portion of the treasure and returns home wealthy.

The Hobbit Archetype Examples

  • Hero
  • Wise old man
  • Mentor
  • Wizard
  • Outcast
  • Villain
  • Journey
  • Quest
  • Task

Want more literary archetypes?

Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.

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