Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “The Hobbit" that can be used as essay starters. All four incorporate at least one of the themes found in “The Hobbit" and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Hobbit" in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Topic #1 The Role of the Burglar
In the beginning of Tolkien’s work, there is some confusion between the dwarves and the hobbit. Unbeknownst to Bilbo, Gandalf has signed him up to be a burglar on the dwarves’ adventure. When Thorin remarks that he does not think Bilbo is up to the task of being a burglar, Bilbo is offended. He does not wish to be a burglar. It is a bad thing. Then Gloin clarifies the definition for the purposes to which it is intended, stating that “Expert Treasure-hunter" is an alternative title. Examine the connotations of burglar presented in the book. Determine how Bilbo performs as a burglar — he steals a number of things from a number of characters. Is he always correct in doing what he does or are there times when his burglary falls into the more negative category?
Topic #2 The Quest/Adventure
Epic tales often feature the main character going on a quest. The story ends when the hero dies or when the treasure is attained. Choose an epic story and compare The Hobbit to it. How does the layout of Tolkien’s work compare? Bilbo begins the story as the untried hero. Throughout, he is faced with many dangers and much that was previously unknown to him. He stumbles through with a combination of luck and skill and more often the former. Does he fit the standard hero requirements? Explain why or why not.
Topic #3 The Song of …
A number of the highlights of the book are marked in song. Some of the songs are of joy, some in sorrow, some informative, and some fear-invoking. There is triumph and taunting. The dwarves, the goblins, the elves, and the humans sing songs. Bilbo even takes his turn against the spiders to save his friends. Gollum presents his own form of verse in the riddles during his contest with Bilbo. Explore the cultural significance of song and verse. How significant is it?
Topic #4 Gandalf the Catalyst
Gandalf is the flash of fireworks and the one who often swoops in at the last moment to save the day. Of course, without his tricks, Bilbo would not have gotten involved in the adventure in the first place. To the hobbits, adventure is a bad word. Gandalf is a troublemaker who has long plagued their village, taking perfectly law-abiding citizens and turning them into no-good adventurers. He knows much more than what he usually reveals. He seems to enjoy watching how situations develop without stepping in immediately. One could argue that he is frequently as much the cause of the problem as he is the solution. Adopting this viewpoint, argue for or against his importance as a character in the book.
Gollum’s part in the story is short. The special ring that Bilbo discovers in Gollum’s cave allows him to do many things that would not have been possible otherwise. If the ring were taken out of the equation, would there be a purpose in introducing the character of Gollum? Even with the ring, is it necessary to have Gollum? Determine the importance of Gollum. Form an argument for or against the character’s presence in the book and support it with quotes. How could the discovery of the ring and Bilbo’s escape from the goblins be engineered otherwise?
The Hobbit Quotes
This list of important quotations from “The Hobbit" will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements on our paper topics by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Hobbit" listed here correspond, at least in some way, to possible paper topics, which by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned.
“The Bagginses had lived in the neighborhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end." (Ch. 1)
The predictability of that which is comfortable and known wrestles with the excitement and mystery of adventure. Gandalf presents Bilbo with an opportunity to step outside of his comfort zone. Bilbo comes from a culture in which respectable people are those that keep to themselves and never ever go on adventures. On his mother’s side of the family, there are the Tooks, who long ago lost respectability in their town in favor of adventures. Bilbo’s other side is that of his father, who was the epitome of respectability.
“‘That’s right,’ said Gandalf. ‘Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet.’" (Ch. 1)
Gandalf alone seems to recognize the potential that is present in Bilbo. The dwarves are not impressed by his meek persona. Bilbo does not wish to leave the comfort of his hole, his status in The Hill. Gandalf takes a need of the dwarves’ and matches it with a need that he sees in Bilbo. He believes that Bilbo is capable of being more than he is and will not hear the doubts of either party, but rather insists that he has made the right choice and all will recognize it in the end.
“Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, or who or what he was. He was Gollum—as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face." (Ch. 5)
Of the characters presented by Tolkien, Gollum is one of the more curious. He is a creature of unknown origin, who spends his days catching and eating whatever he can. With the help of his ring, Gollum is able to occasionally triumph over larger prey than the lake fish. His occasional goblin meal takes away one of the bad guys. When Bilbo appears, Gollum intends to eat Bilbo as well. Other than his feelings for the ring, Gollum does not feel strongly for anything else. Tolkien gives him the role of telling Bilbo what the ring does and leading Bilbo to the exit gate, though he does not know it at the time.
“Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can’t see me!
Won’t you stop,
Stop your spinning and look for me?" (Ch. 8)
Bilbo’s attempt to irritate the spiders and draw them away from his friends, whom the spiders have captured, is successful. Of course, his inexperience at composing a song is obvious. However, there is something to be said for his enthusiasm. Bilbo is desperate to save the dwarves, and it seems as though he even begins to enjoy using his songs to taunt the spiders as he leads them on a chase. He thrills in the knowledge that the ring makes him invisible.
Knowing the truth about the vanishing did not lessen their opinion of Bilbo at all; for they saw that he had some wits, as well as luck and a magic ring—and all three are very useful possessions. In fact they praised him so much that Bilbo began to feel there really was something of a bold adventurer about himself after all, though he would have felt a lot bolder still, if there had been anything to eat." (Ch. 8)
When Bilbo first discovers the ring’s ability to make its wearer invisible, he does not mention it to Gandalf or the dwarves. He keeps it a secret and has a bit of fun. He likes that he is able to surprise the dwarves with his ability to appear suddenly. However, he eventually finds it necessary to share the knowledge of its existence with his companions, though he fears that it will lower their opinion of him. He is pleased when it does not. Their favorable response boosts his self-confidence.
“They all thought their own shares in the treasure (which they quite regarded as theirs, in spite of their plight and the still unconquered dragon) would suffer seriously if the Woodelves claimed part of it, and they all trusted Bilbo. Just what Gandalf had said would happen, you see. Perhaps that was part of his reason for going off and leaving them." (Ch. 9)
The dwarves and Bilbo are all distraught when Gandalf takes his leave of the group. Neither party wishes to be left alone with the other. Gandalf brought the two together, and both view him as the unofficial leader of the expedition. When he departs, they are forced to rely more on each other. When the dwarves are captured by the Woodelves and their purpose in the Mirkwood demanded, they are close to giving in. Bilbo’s presence keeps them from doing so, and their trust in him grows.
“He wondered what on earth would happen to them without him; for he had not had time to tell the dwarves all that he had learned, or what he had meant to do, once they were out of the wood." (Ch. 9)
With his plan to save the dwarves from the Woodelves, and his important role in the rescue, Bilbo becomes more of his own hobbit. He begins to take on a more protective view of the dwarves and their adventure, taking ownership of his place in the group. However, he learns that his plan was lacking because he failed to pass on important information to any one of the dwarves and also failed to include his own escape in the rescue plan.
“Now a nasty suspicion began to grow in his mind—had the dwarves forgotten this important point too, or were they laughing in their sleeves at him all the time? That is the effect that dragon-talk has on the inexperienced. Bilbo of course ought to have been on his guard; but Smaug had rather an overwhelming personality." (Ch. 12)
When Bilbo signed on for the adventure, Gandalf was present to stand up for him as needed. At this point, Gandalf has left the group. The assurance that Bilbo had is momentarily eaten away by the dragon’s words. It takes but a small suggestion to plant the seeds of doubt in Bilbo’s mind about the honesty of the dwarves, which is what Smaug wants to happen. If the group turns on one another, they will take care of his unwanted guests.
“‘Dazzlingly marvelous! Perfect! Flawless! Staggering!’ exclaimed Bilbo aloud, but what he thought inside was: ‘Old fool! Why there is a large patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!’" (Ch. 12)
Even though Bilbo is in a situation that he never could have dreamed up back in his little hole, he manages to keep his wits. His sharp eyes are just one of his attributes that gain him the respect and trust of the dwarves. In this instance, he is able to spot the one weakness in the dragon’s hide. He unknowingly gives that information to Bard, the man that kills Smaug, through a thrush who happens to be listening when Bilbo tells the dwarves of his discovery.
“‘Dead! Dead?’ shouted the dwarves. ‘Dead! Then we have been in needless fear—and the treasure is ours!’ They all sprang up and began to caper about for joy. (Ch. 15)
When the dwarves find out that Smaug has been killed by Bard, they are ecstatic. Their quest has come to an end, and they never even had to fight the dragon. The journey was long and hard, but now they are triumphant. They are confident that the treasure is now wholly theirs and do not stop to consider all sides of the situation. The humans and the Woodelves both feel like they have a claim to the treasure.