I’m among the few on the planet I think that genuinely enjoys The Hobbit trilogy, as much if not maybe even more than The Lord of the Rings. Fighting words I know, but I believe they’re both good for their own unique reasons and it frustrates me that The Hobbit is never given a fair chance. Though they’re both trilogies, they were not created equally. According to interviews, The Hobbit suffered from constant company interference in order to cater to what they saw as marketable (this is why that love triangle exists). Yet despite this, I believe that The Hobbit is just as good a story even if it’s not ‘great’ like The Lord of the Rings. By which I mean that where Lord of the Rings is a ‘great’ story in terms of scope and stakes, The Hobbit is much more narrow. It centers on the reclamation of home and the enduring bonds of friendship rather than the coming together and saving of the world. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as an epic whereas The Hobbit was a bedtime story for his sons. That people expected the former of the latter when made into film, then decried it for not being so, is unfair. Home, what it is and what it means, is at the heart of The Hobbit.
A Baggins, of Bag End
At the very beginning of the novel, Tolkien gives readers a definition of a hobbit hole: that it meant comfort. So it is, in the film as we are taken into Bag End, the name of Bilbo’s home, with Bilbo we see no end of comforts: armchairs, robes, books, candles, food, tea. It’s easy to see that Bilbo’s home is the very definition of comfort, and so the very definition of a hobbit. So that when the dwarves begin arriving, Bilbo has no choice but to reluctantly play host to them and, for lack of better words, make them feel at home. To which the dwarves have no problem accepting. They immediately help themselves to anything and everything that Bilbo has within reach. With the arrival of each new dwarf, Bilbo’s irritation grows. It is clear that dwarves and hobbits have very different ideas regarding manners, or it could just be that a meddling wizard is the cause of it all. Despite his consternation, Bilbo is surprised to see how respectful the dwarves are to his home even though they do not appear to at first glance, and certainly not when they’re throwing around his mother’s West Farthing china. Though they emptied his larder, they cleaned and stacked everything they used. So when Bilbo learns of their lost home, home being one of the utmost important things to a hobbit, his heart warms in sympathy for their plight.
Yet it isn’t enough to convince Bilbo to join them. It would mean leaving his home, his things, his comfort. It’s just not what a hobbit does, especially for a group of dwarves he doesn’t know. Home is his solitude.
The Dwarves of Erebor
In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, dwarves make their homes deep inside of mountains. The dwarves of The Hobbit, led by Prince Thorin Oakenshield, come from the Lonely Mountain also known as Erebor. Some years prior they were run out of their ancestral home by the dragon Smaug and were forced to wander Middle Earth until they established a new home in Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains not far from Bilbo’s home in the Shire. Despite this, they long to reclaim their home from the dragon. This is all that they tell Bilbo during their stay at Bag End.
Home for the dwarves, though they long for Erebor, is in each other though not explicitly stated. It’s in their greetings to one another as they enter Bag End, it’s in their boisterous conversation as they eat dinner, in the songs they sing of the mountain afterward. Erebor is where they’re from, but their home is in each other. When Thorin arrives with word that none of the dwarven clans will aid them in their quest, the thirteen present are quick in their steadfast loyalty to each other. They vow to take back the mountain for each other, for Thorin before themselves.
What is home?
For much of the first film Bilbo and most of the dwarves are at odds with each other. Some out of cultural difference, some out of resentment, all compounded by the fact that all of them, Bilbo included, aren’t sure why he’s there. It all comes to a head when Bilbo and Thorin argue, leading Bilbo to angrily declare to Bofur that he’s going home because he doesn’t belong. Bofur tries to dissuade him, saying he’s one of them. For Bofur it’s that simple. They may not have a physical home but they have each other and that now includes Bilbo. That he understands that Bilbo is homesick, to which Bilbo angrily returns that they can’t know because they don’t belong anywhere.This scene is so beautifully done, highlighting the different meanings of home that each character has. For Bilbo home is a place and for Bofur and the dwarves it’s a people. Yet both are so desperately looking for the home the other has.
The end of the film has Bilbo realizing where he belongs when Thorin calls him “our hobbit”, and thus acknowledging for the first time his place within the group, and in doing so a home among them. As such, he vows to help them re-claim Erebor so they have a physical place to call home as he does. A physical place to belong.
The Value of Home
At the end of the trilogy, as he lays dying, Thorin apologizes and laments to Bilbo that “if more people valued home over gold this world would be a merry place.” Thorin had thrown away both friendship and home for the sake of the gold he’d found within the mountain. When Bilbo so easily forgives him, stating that he wouldn’t have traded anything that had happened in his company for anything, Thorin is overcome and makes the prior statement. And in doing so states Tolkien’s most important lesson of the novel: that home and the people that surround it are more important than the material things in the world. That by opening yourself you will find a home larger than you could have ever expected.
The trilogy ends with Bilbo’s return to the Shire and Bag End, from which The Lord of the Rings will pick up. So while The Hobbit is not so grand in scale, it is grand in heart because it teaches us that nothing is more important than home.
What do you think home means in The Hobbit? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image via Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/60306082499443825/
I'm a writer based in California. I received my Bachelor's and Master's in Literature from San Francisco State University. I dream of one day writing books of my own and maybe even being part of a writer's room for a show! I love to talk about pop culture, books, and travel to anyone willing to listen. Some of my favorite topics in those categories are "Avatar the Last Airbender", "Gilmore Girls", the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mexico, and Paris. My favorite thing in the world though is my dog, he's just the cutest!