Social Sensitivity

Although there is violence in several sections of The Hobbit, it does not become central to the plot. Both the trolls and the giant spiders talk of eating the dwarves, but no reader expects them to succeed. The emphasis is on the comic aspects of the two rescue scenes. Tolkien’s sense of poetic justice turns the quarrelsome trolls to stone and has the stinging spiders wounded by Bilbo’s newly named sword, Sting. In the first attack by the goblins the magic of Gandalf’s wand and sword take priority over the killing of goblins. In relating the final conflict with the goblins, the great Battle of Five Armies, the narrator calls it “a terrible battle,” the “most dreadful of Bilbo’s experiences,” but he does not show much of the fighting before Bilbo himself is knocked unconscious by a falling stone.

In most fantasy tales, the forces of good and evil are expected to enter into physical as well as psychological conflict. Some amount of violence is, therefore, essential to the plot, but the author does not overdevelop this element. The three heroes of the book-Bilbo, Gandalf, and Bard-all stand out in their efforts to prevent internal fighting among the groups that represent the “good”: dwarves, elves, and men. At the end the alliance of the forces of good in mutual support allows them to defeat the forces of evil.

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