In the fantasy world of Middle-earth, Tolkien has created many echoes of the “real” world. Familiar human traits, both good and bad, abound in the actions of the hobbits, elves, dwarves, goblins, wizards, necromancers, dragons, and other more unusual inhabitants of this world. In his essay “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien states that one of the major values of stories about the Perilous Realm of Faerie is that such stories provide opportunities for regaining a clearer perspective on the real world. While the adventure story is an entertaining, well-constructed narrative, it is also an appreciation of the simple things in life-good and regular meals, comfortable homes, songs and traditions, and the joys of friendship. In The Hobbit an unlikely hero learns that courage, honesty, and imagination count far more than physical power.

Much of the evil that the forces of good must overcome in Middle-earth is embodied in fantastic beings: a dragon, trolls, goblins, and monstrous spiders. The kind of evil that they represent, especially greed and destructive malice, is, however, familiar to all readers, children or adults. The strongest lesson about the insidious nature of evil lies in the way in which a good dwarf, Thorin, yields to greed and almost destroys his friends. It is Bilbo’s willingness to give up the wealth to which he has a right, combined with his sense of responsibility for his friends, that keeps forces for good from destroying one another and allows them to unite against common enemies. Although Tolkien never implies that his fantasy world can be completely freed from evil, he shows clearly that good is attainable by the individual who really works for it, whether that individual is a strong character like the wizard Gandalf or a diminutive, timid hobbit like Bilbo Baggins.

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