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The Hobbit | Symbols

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The Hidey Hole

Bilbo's home in the Shire is described as perfectly clean, cozy, and homey. It is his place of peace—a place he struggles to leave in the beginning of the novel, thinks about often on his journey, and is happy to return to at the end of his adventure. He thinks of home primarily when he is tired or worried, suggesting that even the memory of home comforts him. While the novel values adventure and bravery, this symbol is a reminder that adventure is only alluring if you have a safe place to return to.

Swords

The swords—Orcrist and Glamdring—are classic symbols of heroism. Throughout literary history, heroes have often been paired with equally memorable (and named) swords, such as King Arthur's Excalibur, for example. In The Hobbit the swords are powerful not only literally with their blades, but also figuratively with their names. When Bilbo names his sword, it is one step in his transition from naïve hobbit to literary hero.

The Ring

Gollum's ring symbolizes power. With the ring the impossible becomes possible. Gollum, a desperate, lonely creature, views the ring as his most precious object. When he loses it he loses what little power he has left in the world (to kill goblins and other creatures), rendering him even more pathetic than before. He is so pathetic that Bilbo even chooses not to kill him. With the ring in his possession, Bilbo is brave, adventurous, and victorious—three characteristics of a powerful literary hero.

The Arkenstone

The Arkenstone symbolizes a bygone era of peace—a time when Thorin's ancestors were at one with nature and the species of Middle-earth lived in harmony. Thorin is desperate to keep the Arkenstone (and the rest of his treasure hoard), refusing to share with anyone. Thorin is buried with the Arkenstone, which symbolizes his return to his people as well as the loss of peace in Middle-earth—symbolic foreshadowing of the adventurous trilogy to come.

Darkness and Light

In this classic tale of good versus evil, darkness and light symbolize the bad and good. Gandalf, a symbol of goodness, is described as having "long white hair ... sweeping silver beard ... [and] great snowy brows." This is contrasted with the dark, dirty, and dismal descriptions of Gollum, the goblins, and Smaug, who all live in the darkness. Very early in the novel Bilbo asks for "a little" light—symbolizing that he is honest, moral, and slightly naïve. The dwarves, however, who are greedy and self-motivated, ignore his request. They prefer "dark for dark business," meaning they don't want to be seen doing mischievous deeds and therefore do them out of sight and often in the dark.

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