Topics for Discussion

1. Early in the first chapter the narrator comments on Bilbo’s parents. What is the significance of the references to his “Tookishness” in this chapter and later in the book? In what kinds of situations does Bilbo himself refer to his Took side?

2. The dwarves first hire Bilbo as their “burglar.” In which situations does he fulfill this role? When do his burglarizing exploits bring on unpleasant consequences?

3. Gandalf’s presence is important to the success of the quest, but he often leaves the travelers on other business. Why is his absence significant in the overall development of the plot?

4. The adventure with Beorn seems to delay the progress of the quest. In the chapter “Queer Lodgings” several happenings and pieces of information are relevant to later events. Why is the visit to Beorn significant?

5. The most obvious examples of magic in the world of The Hobbit are linked to Gandalf’s fireworks and to Bilbo’s magic ring. What are other examples of magic in the story? Which instances of magic are most essential to the success of the quest?

6. Smaug is presented as an enemy, but he is not portrayed as negatively as other beings that Bilbo and the dwarves have had to overcome. What are some of the traits that make Smaug a more respectable enemy?

7. In The Lord of the Rings Gandalf says that the ways in which Bilbo obtained and used the ring affected the “hold” which the ring had on him. The chapter “Riddles in the Dark” in The Hobbit reveals Gollum’s attitude about the ring. How does Bilbo’s use of the ring in this chapter and later differ from Gollum’s?

8. The travelers meet two groups of elves, elves of Rivendell and of Mirkwood. In what ways do these two groups seem to be different?

9. When the dwarves set out on their quest, they are interested primarily in regaining their treasure. What raises their story above the level of a simple treasure hunt?

10. To some extent Bilbo’s return to The Shire seems anticlimactic, but it does contribute to the underlying themes related to the innate nature of greed and the role of the hero. Why do you think Tolkien included the scene of the auction in the last chapter of the book?