The Hobbit, or There and Back Again


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is a prelude to the “Lord of the Rings” series.

Plot Summary

In the fantasy world of Middle Earth, hobbits are half the size of humans. Bilbo Baggins is a respectable hobbit who enjoys his calm life until Gandalf the wizard tells him to prepare for an adventure. Gandalf has volunteered Bilbo to join a group of dwarves who are going to a faraway mountain. The dwarves want to steal their gold back from a dragon named Smaug. Bilbo is hired as the burglar of the company, even though he has no experience in stealing treasure or having adventures.

Bilbo is used to the comforts of home and finds the journey uncomfortable. Trolls capture Bilbo and the dwarves, but Gandalf rejoins the company in time to save them. The companions travel to Rivendell, a city of elves, and learn of a secret entrance to the dragon’s lair. As they travel, they are captured by goblins, chased by wolves and taken prisoner by Wood-elves. Every time trouble arises, either Bilbo or Gandalf manages to save everyone from destruction.

Along the way, Bilbo gets lost in an underground tunnel and finds a ring. He meets an evil creature named Gollum and escapes by putting on the ring, which makes him invisible.

When the dwarves finally reach the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo goes into Smaug’s cave and talks to the dragon, but Bilbo does so with the ring on his finger, which makes him invisible. Bilbo discovers a weak spot in Smaug’s armor. Later, a human archer kills Smaug by shooting an arrow into that weak spot.

The dwarves reclaim their stolen gold, but men and elves also lay claim to the treasure. The different armies are about to fight each other for it, but an army of goblins arrives and the dwarves, men and elves join forces against the goblins. The goblins are defeated, but some of the dwarves that started the adventure are killed in battle.

Bilbo returns home with a small share of the dragon’s gold and settles back into a quiet life in his hobbit village.

Christian Beliefs

Christianity does not exist in Middle Earth, but many Christian readers find biblical principles in Tolkien’s writings.

Other Belief Systems

The dwarves are superstitious; they are reluctant to travel with only 13 companions. Bilbo is mainly accepted into their company because he makes 14.

Gandalf is a wizard. His use of magic is intermittent. Often, he simply solves the dwarves’ problems by applying his superior knowledge.

Three trolls turn to stone when they are caught outside in the daylight. Trolls were supposedly made out of stone originally, but their maker is not mentioned.

Elves are said to be magical.

Bilbo’s magic ring makes him turn invisible. The ring’s power is explained in J.R.R. Tolkien’s later book The Fellowship of the Ring.

Beorn is a skin-changer who spends part of his time as a bear and part as a man.

Gandalf mentions a black sorcerer called the Necromancer.

Authority Roles

Gandalf maintains a grumpy attitude, but he always acts in the best interests of others.

The dwarf Thorin acts formally and thinks highly of his own importance, though he usually does whatever is best for all of his companions. However, once he gains greater authority and is dubbed King Under the Mountain, he becomes greedy and his pride nearly destroys his friends.

Elrond is a wise and kind leader of the elves in Rivendell.

The king of the Wood-elves is greedy and suspicious. He imprisons the dwarves even though they are weary travelers looking for shelter. He later joins forces with them to fight the goblins, and he shows kindness to Bilbo.

Profanity & Violence

The word queer is used to mean something unusual. One of the trolls says h—, and the trolls insult each another with the word booby. The word faggots is used in the archaic sense and means a bundle of sticks or firewood.

Most of the violence is confined to spoken threats. The trolls are cannibals and have an argument about how they are going to cook and eat the dwarves. Goblins sing about killing and eating the dwarves, and giant spiders also discuss how to eat the dwarves. Gollum wants to eat Bilbo.

There are many deaths and casualties at the Battle of Five Armies.

Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at

Additional Comments

Alcohol: Characters drink wine and beer with meals. Bilbo helps the dwarves escape from prison because the Wood-elves who guard them are drunk.

Tobacco: All the main characters smoke pipes.

Movie tie-in: Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and the movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In’s movie reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.