About six years ago, I read the Hobbit for the first time and was mesmerized by it. It was so well written that I decided that I had to reread it sometime again. I also stopped myself from reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as I thought that I had to study the Hobbit deeply first. And that’s exactly what I did three weeks ago; I studied the entire book and took notes. Now I am free to read LOTR!
Spoiler Alert! The following analysis reveals the whole plot along with its twists and turns. So don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you!
The Hobbit chronicles the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, right from when Gandalf meets him one morning until the passage of one whole year. The stage is set on the very first chapter when Bilbo meets the 13 Dwarves, including Thorin Oakenshield, heir to the treasure under the Mountain that is guarded by the dragon Smaug. Together they cross the treacherous Misty Mountains that is overrun by goblins, pass through the dangerous Mirkwood forest, escape the prisons of the Wood-Elves, and finally reach the Lonely Mountain. How they overcome the dragon and the goblin onslaught towards the end makes for a very interesting twin-climax.
The following is a bird’s-eye view of how this story spans across its 19 chapters. The chapters that I have highlighted are the most important ones and the chapters that I have highlighted with the same colour are closely related to each other.
1 The goal is set, and all the important characters are established
2 Some action: encounter with trolls (adds little to the overall story)
3 Rest and some information to achieve the goal is acquired (nothing very important)
4 Important action that sets the ball rolling for the climax: goblin attack and killing of the Great Goblin (but the ball rolls in the background; the reader is not aware of the consequence of this action until the end)
5 Turning point: Discovery of ring
6 The action from the previous chapter escalates which leads us to new characters (The Eagles) that help the protagonist and his team towards the climax.
7 Rest and intro of new character (Beorn) that helps the main characters at the end
8 An ordeal (trek through forest), attack (spiders), and imprisonment (by wood-elves)
9 Ordeal continues in prison and escape
10 Rest at Lake-town
11 Search to locate the secret door
12 Protagonist acquires important info to defeat antagonist
13 This chapter adds very little to the overall story (Bilbo pockets Arkenstone)
14 The main antagonist is killed, but more trouble follows
15 Buildup to the second climax
16 This chapter adds very little to the overall story (Bilbo tries to stop battle with Arkenstone)
17 The second climax
18 Journey towards home
19 All is well
Based on the events, actions, character introductions, turning point, and the two climaxes, I have created the following graphs that show us the flow of the story.
I arrived at these graphs by assigning points to events, actions, character introductions (which explains the huge spike at the very beginning), turning point, the two climaxes and so on. Not all events and actions get the same points; I have awarded higher points to events and actions that are more important (example: the dwarves and Bilbo escape the wood-elves prison) and fewer points to events and actions that are less important (example: the troll incident which adds very little to the overall story). So what I did understand from all this was that The Hobbit, with its 90,000+ words, contain eight action blocks and 17 events.
To better understand these graphs, the following chapter-wise split-up would help.
The stage is set. The protagonist is introduced and he is told his goal – the quest for treasure.
The goal of the novel is established in the very first chapter.
We are also introduced to the most important characters in this chapter.
Just a small skirmish that adds little to the story, except for the only fact that the protagonist and his team acquire some weapons which comes in handy later. They also acquire some treasure which is nothing compared to the final goal.
A short rest and some intel on acquiring the treasure.
A mini battle takes place which sets the ball rolling for the final battle(unknown to the reader at this time).
A very important object is acquired by the main character which decides the fate of this whole story. This event changes the hero.
The situation is further escalated with more action as the enemies follow-up. But they are repeatedly defeated for a second time and the hero/hero’s team gets a new ally: The Eagles.
A short rest and again the team is reinforced with a new ally: Beorn.
But they also lose an important friend temporarily in this chapter: Gandalf.
An ordeal and a challenge (spider attack). Most of the team is imprisoned by the Wood-Elves.
Until Chapter 7, the team was going through an adventure. But in this chapter, the adventure turns into an ordeal.
The ordeal continues. But the hero hatches a plan to save his team and the plan itself is an ordeal. But it works.
A short rest
The buildup towards the climax begins from this chapter. They reach the Mountain guarded by the dragon and search for a way in using their map.
The hero is sent on a reconnaissance mission. He succeeds and find’s the enemy’s weakest point. The dragon then flies to Lake-town.
Adds little to the story except for the fact that Bilbo pockets the Arkenstone, which is very important to Thorin. The plot surrounding this stone is itself not very important and it adds very little to the overall story. Towards the end, Bilbo tries to use this precious stone to stop the battle, but the battle takes place anyway. So the author has used Arkenstone only for two purposes:
1. Thorin, in his deathbed, speaks philosophy: says that the world would be a better place if everyone behaves like hobbits who value food, friends, and music above things like treasure; a moral is conveyed.
2. Bilbo becomes a great friend of wood-elves and Bard because of this stone.
What the Arkenstone really does is that it adds value to the Hero’s character.
This is a little flashback into Chapter 12. The dragon after flying to Lake-town had been killed by Bard. The dwarves and Bilbo learn this important piece of news in this chapter.
But trouble brews up for the dwarves as the Elven King sends an army to acquire the treasure.
So chapters 11, 12, 13 and, 14 constitute a mini climax. Until now the readers are made to believe that succeeding the dragon to get the treasure to be the main goal. But now we have a little subplot and we need another climax.
The stage is set for a battle between elves and men on one side against the dwarves.
The Arkenstone story discussed previously. It adds nothing to the overall story other than enhancing the image of our hero – Bilbo Baggins.
This is the climax chapter.
A twist in the tale: just when we think that the battle is about to begin a new common enemy enters. The battle does happen, but the dwarves, men, and elves together fight against the goblins.
Our hero’s return journey commences with some rest in the middle.
The journey continues and Bilbo reaches the Shire. All is well.
Note: You can also read the above content on my Padlet page which is more clear and better presented.
I also wrote a more elaborate chapter-by-chapter summary for this book which I couldn’t fit into the narrow confines of this WordPress blog in a way that is best to read. So I relied on Google sites to better present it after experimenting with a few other blogging platforms. You can find it here.
Wikipedia has a fantastic page on the list of characters and their roles in the novel.