Bilbo Baggins is a young male hobbit who seems to prefer comfort to adventure. Hobbits are characterized by seeking secure lives, where frequent and delicious meals are assured. Hobbits are not known as adventurous or as risk-takers. The wizard Gandalf recruits Bilbo to the adventure because he thinks Bilbo would be a valuable asset for the dwarves as they attempt to recover their treasure. While Bilbo is not trained, he is intelligent, faithful, and able to problem solve in a crisis. He becomes not only an efficient burglar (for which he is recruited), but also a loyal companion whom the dwarves come to rely on and respect.
Gandalf is one of the wizards of Middle-earth, whose wisdom and intuition aids the quest in both the early and later stages. His selection of Bilbo as burglar turns out to be perfect. During the quest Gandalf intervenes with the trolls and later the goblins to allow Bilbo to toughen up and gain self-confidence as he learns his own special talents. Gandalf's return at the end of the novel is an essential part of the victory. At the end Bilbo finds out that Gandalf's actions with the expedition, which leads to the end of Smaug's reign of terror, and his work to drive the Necromancer (also known as Sauron) out of the north have secured the peace of Middle-earth for some time.
Thorin Oakenshield is the leader of the dwarves on the quest. He is a grandson of Thror and convinces his followers to join this risky adventure to restore the kingdom. While he is brave, Thorin has two major flaws. First, he has not created a workable plan to achieve his goal, and thus Bilbo frequently has to get them out of crises. Second, he is so dominated by his greed that he does not cooperate with the elves and men who might aid him. He appears uncaring and selfish in rejecting their petitions, but he does admit the error of his ways when he is reconciled with the hobbit on his deathbed.
Smaug is the dragon that guards the hoard on Lonely Mountain. He forcefully took the golden treasure from Thror two generations ago and killed most of the dwarves who inhabited the area. His attacks have desolated much of the surrounding territory, and he has dominated the area for so long he feels invincible. Smaug is a cunning dragon who enjoys a game of wits with Bilbo. But in his superiority the creature exposes his one weakness, a bare patch in his armor on his left breast, which leads to his defeat.
Elrond is an elf who rules the haven of Rivendell, an idyllic valley that provides rest and restoration to Bilbo both in the early and later stages of his journey. Elrond's detection and interpretation of the secret runes on Thorin's treasure map assist Bilbo in his effort to unlock the secret door leading to Smaug's lair.
Gollum (formerly called Sméagol) is a character that Bilbo Baggins encounters as he escapes the goblins. Gollum is a sad, lonely, miserable creature who lives by a very cold and dark lake. He is slimy and pale with large eyes that turn green when he is angry. He spends his days rowing his boat with his feet hanging over the edge, catching blind fish, or wearing his magical ring that makes him invisible and allows him to sneak up on and murder goblins. He has sharp hearing and a good sense of smell and—being always alone—talks to himself frequently. While he appears to be somewhat deranged, he is quite smart. Gollum intends to eat Bilbo, but he is tricked. Gollum becomes quite angry and murderous when he discovers that his magical ring is missing, and he suspects Bilbo might have it.