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The Development Of The Character Of Bilbo Baggins

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As children develop into adults, certain events and time periods stand out as the reason for important changes in their character. J.R.R. Tolkien portrayed the main character of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, as a child on his trip into adulthood. Throughout The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist, changes from a childlike hobbit to a fully matured hero. J.R.R. Tolkien divides the change in Bilbo's character into the three major part of the book, prior to the quest, during the quest, and after the quest.

Prior to the quest, Bilbo Baggins was a conservative, respectable and stubborn hobbit who lead a rich and comfortable life (Stephanie web). These characteristics, as well as safety and a dull existence, are typical of the Baggins Family. Bilbo's father, Bungo Baggins, came from an unadventurous family that was, apart from their wealth, similar to most families in the Shire. Bilbo's mother, Belladona Took, came from a family that was very different from the Baggins Family. J.R.R. Tolkien describes the Took family as "not entirely hobbitlike," and "not as respectable as the Baggineses, though they were undoubtedly richer." The unhobbitlike tendency of the Took-clan to go on adventures however, was "something that only waited for a chance to come out." This opportunity arose during the fiftieth year of Bilbo's life when he first met Gandalf (Tolkien 3). Tolkien hints a change in Bilbo's character during the conversation between Gandalf and the dwarves in which they express their uncertainty about Bilbo's competence at being a successful burglar. Gandalf states: "There is a lot more than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself," meaning that he sees more potential in Bilbo than the hobbit sees in himself. He also hints this change while talking about the Bagginses in his statement "This is the story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected," in which he confirms the evolution of Bilbo's character (Tolkien 2). Bilbo's character evolves somewhat prior to the adventure in that he becomes curious and even excited about the search for the treasure. Even more importantly, he fells a surge to be different from the average hobbit, thus demonstrating the first shift of personality from a Baggins to a Took (Tolkien 20).

Most of the change in the character of Bilbo Baggins takes place during the course of the quest for the lost treasure. The most important event of the journey, the finding of the ring, causes drastic changes that make a hero of Bilbo because all the events after this point that cause change in Bilbo are in some way related to the ring. Prior to his conflict with Gollum and discovery of the ring, Bilbo undergoes several challenges that test his psychological strength (O'Neill 87). On his first assignment as a burglar, he surmounts the courage to spy on the goblins and, although he almost terminates the quest by causing the dwarves to be captured and forcing Gandalf to salvage his companions, this episode plays an important role in the evolution of Bilbo's character (Tokien 34). Tolkien uses foreshadowing during the thunderstorm at the departure of Rivendell to hint a sudden change in Bilbo's Character (O'Neill 85). The occurrence that leads to Bilbo's adventure with Gollum, the stealing of the ponies, causes another important change in Bilbo's character. Bilbo, mostly by luck, is able to see the ponies of his companions being stolen by Goblins. His impulsive scream, although somewhat foolish in that it causes yet again his capture as well as that of the dwarves, forewarns Gandalf and enables him to save his friends and recover the ponies (Tolkien 59).

This event during the quest leads up to one of the most important events of the book, Bilbo's conflict with Gollum. J.R.R. Tolkien illustrates the importance of Bilbo's finding of ring in his statement "It was the turning point in his career, but he did not know it" through which he relates later events that change Bilbo's character to this particular incident. Proof of this tie is shown shortly afterwards when Bilbo uses the ring to defeat Gollum and escape from the maze (Tolkien 68).

Following his discovery of the ring, Bilbo begins to face danger (Mathews 36). During the trip in the forest of Mirkwood, Bilbo uses Gandalf's absence to confirm his position as leader of the group through the memorable battle against the spiders (Mathews 38). Tolkien illustrates the importance of this combat through his words: "Somehow, the killing this giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark...made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt like a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath. 'I will give you a name', he said to it, 'and I shall call you Sting.'" The author thus stresses the importance of this incident (Tolkien 154). The naming of swords at that time was a sign of that heroism displayed by great warriors, and shows that Bilbo is gaining self-confidence and bravery (The 1924). The escape from the spiders brought about another challenge, the escape from the elves. Although the elves would most likely have released their prisoners after some time because of their natural righteousness, a delay would have prevented the dwarves from entering the mountain through the secret passage. Bilbo proves that he has the mental toughness of a hero by using brilliant strategy to enable his friends to escape unnoticed by the elves (Tolkien 154). These two adventures amplify Bilbo's appreciation for the quest so much that he stops complaining about the adventure and wishing that he had never left his house (Stephanie web). Bilbo further proves his mental strength by solving the riddle that enables the dwarves to enter the mountain, the final destination of the group.

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