Blog week 6 The Hobbit
Greed and Obsession in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
From the beginning, we see the presence of a class system in middle earth and Hobbiton, as well as discussion of material wealth. With Bilbo, we learn that he is part Baggins and part Took. The Baggins are known as simple, middle class hobbits (classic Hobbit behavior), while the Tooks were extremely wealthy and adventurous and therefore harshly criticized in the Hobbit community. While Bilbo certainly enjoys the comfort of his home and his possessions, he doesn’t seem to desire much more than what he needs to live a quiet, leisurely life.
The Dwarves provide a foil to Bilbo’s humble, passive persona. They are boisterous and adventurous, and certainly greedy. The whole reason the Dwarves were evicted from their home was because they amassed a treasure so great, it attracted the dragon Smaug, who easily destroyed their homes and hoarded the treasure. The Dwarves whole culture is based around mining and obtaining gold and other precious minerals and metals, and now they are basically homeless and broke. Smaug’s character takes greediness to a whole other level, having the most intense desire for gold and jewels, then doing nothing but lie in it. Tolkien definitely makes clear his negative opinion on greed, and the pursuit of adventure and friendship is much more important in life.
Gollum and Thorin Oakenshield are very similar in their obsession for certain objects. Both of them lost their homes, and in their long separation from home they both have grown obsessed with a single, important object. Smaug destroyed Thorin’s grandfather’s kingdom under the Lonely Mountain, while Thorin escaped with only his life. Though The Hobbit doesn’t explain exactly how Gollum came to live under the Misty Mountains, it does refer to a time “long, long ago, before (Gollum) lost all his friends and was driven away, alone, and crept down, down, into the dark under the mountains” (5.22).
Thorin’s object of desire is the Arkenstone of Thrain, a giant diamond that is, to Thorin, priceless. Thrain was Thorin’s father, so the stone represents to him his family and the loss of his family’s greatness. Thorin even considers waging war on Bard and the Elven King just to get his stone back. Bilbo clearly doesn’t feel this intense desire for material wealth, as he gladly hands the Arkenstone to Bard to try and prevent war breaking out. Perhaps this is because he knows he has his comfortable hobbit home under the Hill to go back to.
Gollum loves the Ring more than anything else in the world. He often calls it his “birthday present”, alluding to a time when he was a normal hobbit and actually had birthdays and presents. This is extremely depressing, as we see him whisper to it, crouching alone in the dark. When Bilbo steals the ring, Gollum swears eternal hatred on him for stealing “his precious”. While Bilbo doesn’t give Gollum back the ring (Gollum would probably kill him), he only uses it to avoid people, which is inconsequential compared to the potential power the ring holds.