Comparitive Essay on the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit
A fantasy is an imaginary world where all things imaginable can be brought to life. J.R.R Tolkien portrayed fantasy through his use of skilled craftsmanship and a vivid imagination, which was presented in each piece of literature he wrote. In Tolkien’s two stories The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings we see the theme of fantasy brought to life through three essential elements, heroism, magic and retribution. Heroism is shown through the character’s courage and bravery in situations where conflict arises and this enables them to be seen in a new light. Magic is a form of extraordinary power seemingly through a supernatural force; it is used in a combination of combat and mystical items to aid the companions on their journey. Retribution is paid to the evil forces for the wrongs society had to endure while they were allowed to dominate. This system allows opportunity for physical and mental development in the characters and the aspect of fantasy to come to life.
During the character’s quest, weather they were headed to the Lonely Mountains or to the Cracks of Doom, they always experienced a form of heroism. In the story The Hobbit, we see heroic deeds being accomplished by the main character Bilbo. This occurs when the companions do battle with giant venomous spiders in Mirkwood forest. Bilbo finds depth and strength in his nature that he was surprised was there and smote these villainous creatures all on his own, saving his friends and adding to his stature among those in the group. “Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the Dwarves or anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins.” (144) There are numerous other opportunities to experience heroism in The Hobbit, one of which is near the conclusion of the tale when the brave and noble Bard kills the sinister dragon Smaug. As a child this character encountered Smaug for the first time while fleeing the ruination of their city; now even though Bard was overcome with the fear that every mortal has when they are near one of these tremendous beasts, he was determined to stand his ground due to the love he had for their small town. He was able to accomplish this impossible task because a small thrush perched on his shoulder and told him of the one weak spot of the dragon, the hollow of its left breast. Bard then inflicted death upon the terrible Smaug with his last arrow and was nearly killed himself by the tremendous weight of the beast in the process, but he jumped out of the way and into the water just in the nick of time. “With a shriek that deafened man, felled trees and split stone, Smaug shot spouting into the air, turned over and crashed down from high in ruin.” (229)
A character that displays the traits of heroism is one who overcomes the odds through the use of unique and valuable qualities; this remains just as true in The Lord of the Rings as it does in The Hobbit. One truly heroic act occurred when Gandalf the Great, determined to defend the fellowship took on a Balrog, this huge, bat-like source of evil stood on the bridge to freedom and did battle with the poor mage. Gandalf, stricken with fear caused the bridge to collapse and with it fell the Balrog. However, with one last effort the beast threw one final lash with his whip catching Gandalf and dragged him into the abyss where they would do battle. “With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard’s knees, dragging him to the brink.” (430) Another portrayal of heroism in The Lord of the Rings takes place when Sam, a quiet but honorable hobbit, conquered the dark and grotesque horned spider, Shelob. His master Frodo was in immense peril and in a desperate attempt to save him Sam savagely attacked her until she was forced off his dear friend. His fury knew no limits to his power and he forced the monster to go running for shelter exhausted from the encounter. “And Shelob cowed at last, shrunken in defeat, jerked and quivered as she tried to hasten from him.” (426) This concept provides the fundamental needs of a fantasy world and shows the growth of each character and the development of their role in the story.
Magic is a power beyond explanation where all the forces of nature and the energy of mankind are used through a seemingly supernatural influence. In The Hobbit this mysterious power is shown by Gandalf the Great in a dire circumstance. The companions become lost and take shelter in a nearby cave. They were attacked by goblins dragged into their layer and would have been destroyed if it wasn’t for the ability of Gandalf who set them ablaze, which bought time for them to make an escape. “Just at that moment all the lights in the cavern went out, and the great fire went off poof! into a tower of blue glaring smoke, right up to the roof that scattered piercing white sparks all among the goblins.” (59) A source of unexpected magic appears in the story when we discover that Bilbo has acquired a magical ring while in the mysterious under ground maze of the goblins high in the Misty Mountains. After being knocked out during a battle with the crazed and wicked goblins, Frodo wakes to find a ring in vicinity to him. He later discovers this ring has the strange ability to cause the wearer to become invisible. He then uses it to escape the grasp of the sinister Gollum and obtains freedom from the treacherous mountain maze filled with evil. “They could not find Bilbo with the ring on, slipping in and out of the shadow of the trees, running quick and quiet, and keeping out of the sun; so soon they went back grumbling and cursing to guard the door. Bilbo has escaped.” (83)
The force of magic is alive and well in every aspect of a fantasy novel. It remains a mystery in the lives of all those who are embraced by it adding mystery to an already wonderful and awe inspiring dimension. The Lord of the Rings shares a taste of this mystery when after the defeat of the great fortress of Isengard; Wormtongue inadvertently throws a seeing stone at the companions as a final gesture of abhorrence. This strange device called the palantir lured Merry to it and as a result he revealed himself to Sauron the Dark Lord. This lord of evil and chaos then sent the mighty flying Nazgul, a winged ringwraith, to soar over their camp that night, causing a potential dilemma for the companions. “At first the globe was dark, black jet, with the moonlight gleaming on its surface. Then there came a faint glow and stir in the heart of it, and it held his eyes, so that now he could not look away.” (247) The most fascinating things happen when dealing with magic and the most unexpected can be viewed if ever a portion of it is destroyed. This can be seen when the Ring of Power is destroyed and the forces of evil can no longer dominate after a long reign of torment. Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger, ring and all, in an attempt to be reunited with his “precious” but off balance as a result, fell into the Cracks of Doom destroying the ring forever. At the moment the ring met its destiny of annihilation, the rein of power ended for Mordar and the Dark Lord. “Towers fell and mountains slid; walls crumbled and melted, crashing down; vast spires of smoke and spouting steams went billowing up, up, until they toppled like an overwhelming weave, and its wild crest curled and came foaming down upon the land.” (270) Magic is significant in a fantasy world because allows us to see the unimaginable in the world of imagination, it is the very basis of the whole fantasy concept and is essential to maintain the sense of risk and adventure.
After a long journey, through forests and mountains, the characters put all the hardships aside and engage their enemies in an attempt to pay retribution for society. In The Hobbit, the companions first encounter the need for retribution when they come across a group of trolls roasting mutton. They are captured by these dark monsters and are forced to listen to the grotesque descriptions the trolls use in an argument on how to prepare them. However, Gandalf comes to their rescue and distracts the trolls till morning, at which point they are turned to stone by the sun. ” Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!’ For trolls, as you probably know, must be underground before dawn.” (38 – 39) Retribution can be found in most of the charters experiences, in The Hobbit this proves true near the end of their quest. Tragedy almost occurred when men, elves and dwarves were near battle over the dragons cache; suddenly out of the depths of the mountains darkness peered its ugly head. Goblins, Warg wolves and fearful bats attacked the group and they were all forced into a fight, The Battle of Five Armies had begun. With the battle almost lost they gave up faith in glory, as all hope dwindled a great shadow of light coved the sky; the Great Eagles of the North had arrived to aid all that was good. The tide was turned and evil was shown its weakness; they began to flee. ” The Eagles! The Eagles!’ Bilbo cried, dancing and weaving his arms.” (262)
With every adventure comes the possibility that a source of evil will be diminished, bringing justice to society. In The Lord of the Rings we find this justice when Saruman’s dark fortress is destroyed after a devastating attack by Treebeard and his strange Ent party. However, they did not eradicate him completely, they merely immured him in his keep to live in torment knowing their days power were over and good was triumphant once again. ” Though Isengard be strong and hard, as cold as stone and bare as bone, We go, we go we go to war, to hew the stone and break the door!’ ” (210) Also, in The Lord of The Rings, retribution is paid not only to the forces of the Dark Lord but also to the sinister Gollum. This occurs when the Ring of Power is about to be destroyed. Gollum bites off poor Frodo’s finger in an attempt to regain his only comfort in life, the only thing that ever brought him joy and happiness, the ring. However, in his attempts he loses his balance causing him to fall into the fiery furnace to be destroyed forever with his “precious”. “Even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped to far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek fell.” (270) These events provide retribution for the deeds committed by these forces in the past and allow society a chance to recover from the long-term affects the source of evil has caused over the years.
All through the characters journeys in Middle-earth we see the elements of fantasy play a major role, not only in the development of the plot but also in the growth in the characters. Acts of heroism build the structure of the book, creating suspense and intrigue, this hooks the readers to the plot forcing them to continue to read till stories end. Magic is essential to the storyline, without it the characters would be perceived as immortal, it adds flavor and a sense of danger to the novel. This extinguishes the immortal image and allows opportunity for the writers creative skill to be exposed. Every fantasy requires retribution in order to depict to the reader the moral that evil is wrong. It also allows the people of the story to be ensured that their hardships don’t go unnoticed and to be content in knowing that punishment was induced upon their oppressors. Through this system the author allows the reader to fully understand the characters, as well as the major changes both physically and mentally which allow the characters to successfully complete their task to dominate over the forces of evil.