The Hobbit Hero’s Journey
“A hero ventures forth from the world of the common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from the mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” (Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces). Joseph Campbell, an expert on mythology has outlined a standard form for heroic stories. He identifies ten stages in a hero’s journey, noting that all of the stages have to occur in every heroic story.
In the novel, The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Bilbo Baggins is described as an unlikely hero. According to Campbell, heroes are often the most unlikely person that anyone would expect to be chosen for an adventure. Bilbo goes through many of the stages identified by Campbell for a hero’s journey such as: being called to an adventure, attempting to reject the opportunity, encouraging Gandalf, a helper whoguides and protects him, and leaving the safe haven of his hobbit home to cross the threshold venturing into the unknown.
Bilbo Baggins is described as a respectable hobbit who comes from a rich family that never did anything unexpected, and never took adventures. His peaceful life was interrupted one day by a visit from a wizard named Gandalf. Gandalf had decided that Bilbo would make an excellent burglar on an adventure he was planning, because he could move quickly and very quietly. To this request Bilbo promptly replied “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t see what anybody sees in them…Good morning!… we don’t want any adventures here, thank you! (6). Gandalf does not really give the hobbit a choice about going on the adventure. He marks the hobbit’s door with his staff indicating that he is interested in an adventure, and soon after, dwarves start appearing at his doorstep. Bilbo had been called to an adventure by an outside force, attempted to refuse the call, and ended up accepting the adventure. This is the first stage in a hero’s journey. Another component of a hero’s journey includes a guide. Gandalf, a wizard capable of performing magic spells accompanies Bilbo and the dwarves on part of their quest.
Like many supernatural aids, he is called upon at different points in the journey to save the others. Bilbo discovers three trolls sitting around a fire. The trolls catch Bilbo when he tries to steal a purse from William, one of the trolls. The dwarves are also caught. Then, the trolls begin to argue about whether or not they should eat the dwarves and Bilbo. Gandalf returns just in time, and saves Bilbo and the dwarves. According to Campbell, the hero must fulfill the quest using his own strengths alone, so he can learn what his strengths are. Where was Gandalf” (56). After Gandalf and the company are saved by the eagles from the Goblins and the Wargs, they are taken to safety to eat and rest. The next day, Gandalf tells them that he must leave for a while. The guide often disappears at some point along the journey to allow this to happen, which Gandalf does. With the help of the guide, Bilbo evolves as a leader and a hero of the group by showing his strengths. Bilbo was very brave when he got was separated from the rest of the group, and had to find his way out of the evil mountain.
He also thought of a clever plan to put all of the dwarves in barrels and sail them down the river to escape. These strengths show how Bilbo started out extremely cautious, and became a great leader. Bilbo eventually accepts the idea that he is leaving his safe haven in the shire and accepting the call and risks the adventure brings. “…. Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a walking stick or any money…running as fast as his feet could carry him down the lane” (28). He was on his way with Gandalf to meet the others at the Inn to begin the journey.
He and the others mounted the ponies and headed into the Lone-lands. He even thought to himself early in the trip that adventures were not so bad after all. He had taken a big step as he crossed the first threshold leaving his home behind to enter a world unknown. This is a critical stage in a hero’s journey. Bilbo Baggins clearly emerges as a heroic figure as he progresses through the stages of a hero’s journey as outlined by Campbell. He was called to an adventure by an outside force, Gandalf. As with many heroes he attempted to refuse the offer, but was unsuccessful.
Gandalf the wizard acts as hisguide and protector along the journey, while still allowing him to reveal his own strengths. Bilbo takes a critical step in the process as he crosses the threshold from his safe environment into one filled with danger. He was transformed from a cautious, home loving hobbit at the beginning of the story into a brave confident hero by the end. According to Thorin, Bilbo had become”…a good companion on our long road and a hobbit full of courage and resource far exceeding his size…” (191).