Tolkien’s classic children’s novel "The Hobbit" (1937) was initially written for his son, who proofread it for pocket money, and eventually paved way for the literary monolith that is "The Lord of the Rings." Although Tolkien himself disliked metaphor and analogy ~ although Jungian interpretation would argue that it matters not whether the author is conscious of symbolism and meaning, that it is there anyhow ~ the political undercurrents and horror of warfare is never far from the story, although never interfering with the elements of adventure and great quest. Simply, in the face of conflict, of apocalypse and devastation of war, Tolkien’s argument is for negotiation, sharing, compromise and democracy. All these features are combined in the famous Hobbit, Bilbo.
Bilbo is a diminutive, hermetic persona, both physically and psychologically, and somewhat subservient to the duties of politeness ~ as when the dwarves arrive for dinner unannounced and he is unable to turn them away ~ and exhibiting a small-town sensibility. As a child reader surrogate Bilbo, as in most fairy tales, develops awareness and adult skills by embarking upon a great odyssey. It is the tale of naïve, home-loving and home-safe character being thrown by force into the trials and terrors of the outside world. Bilbo becomes an anti-hero, in that he himself is less than traditionally heroic ~ like Beorn and Bard. His heroism take two forms: firstly, that he rises to the occasion when needed, whether it be stealing from Smaug the dragon or fighting the giant spiders to save the dwarves; secondly, that he is also the advocate of political diplomacy, which he demonstrates in attempting to undermine Thorin’s stubborn greed by negotiating with the elves over Smaug’s treasure hoard. If Gandalf represents an almost absent but ever-present governance, then Biblo is the active politician and diplomat.