Although Bilbo Baggins is “fully grown” at the beginning of The Hobbit, his adventures teach him to be brave, to take responsibility for himself and for others, and to develop skills he didn’t know he had: in effect, to grow up. When Gandalf and the dwarves approach Bilbo with an offer to be their burglar, Bilbo is so satisfied with his life and his home that the mere thought of adventure is enough to irritate and even frighten him. Yet Tolkien gives clues that Bilbo, deep down, wants to go on quests after all: he’s a descendant of the famously adventurous Took family, and seems to have inherited some of the Tooks’ love for maps and quests. While Bilbo never explicitly says that he wants to go with the dwarves to the Lonely Mountain (he merely rushes after them, prodded by Gandalf), it’s likely that he secretly, even subconsciously, wants to join them, realizing his inner potential for adventure.
Along the way to the Lonely Mountains, Bilbo is placed in countless situations where he cannot rely on anyone else, and must learn to take care of himself. A particularly illuminating example of this phenomenon occurs when Bilbo falls off of Dori’s shoulders, and must out-riddle Gollum and out-maneuver the goblins to escape from the Misty Mountains. The contrast between the way Bilbo enters the mountains (on someone’s shoulders) and the way he leaves them (on his own, with a ring of invisibility to help him) couldn’t be clearer: his experiences force him to become stronger, more independent, more powerful—to grow up. Later, when giant spiders capture Bilbo in Mirkwood forest, he adds other skills to his resume, using his sword to kill spiders and skillfully springing the dwarves from prison. By the time Bilbo reaches the Lonely Mountain, he’s brave enough to sneak in Smaug’s lair while the other dwarves hang back. Travel and danger have encouraged him to develop his bravery and cunning—skills of which he shows dim signs when Gandalf approaches him at the beginning of the novel.
Yet, while Bilbo matures throughout The Hobbit, he doesn’t entirely reject the life he made for himself before he met Gandalf. Late in the novel, he’s still regretting leaving his hobbit-hole in the first place, and when the dwarves succeed in winning their treasure and defeating Smaug, he wants to return to hobbit-town. Bilbo grows up, but he doesn’t forget where he comes from—a fitting message coming from The Hobbit, a children’s book that people read long after they’ve grown up.
Coming of Age ThemeTracker
Coming of Age Quotes in The Hobbit
This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected.
As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walkingstick.
He looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns.
Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up – probably somebody lighting a wood-fire-and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again.
The goblins were very rough, and pinched unmercifully, and chuckled and laughed in their horrible stony voices; and Bilbo was more unhappy even than when the troll had picked him up by his toes. He wished again and again for his nice bright hobbit-hole. Not for the last time.
Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate.
He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it.
It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo's heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering.
He crept still nearer, and suddenly he saw peering between two big boulders a head with a red hood on: it was Balin doing look-out. He could have clapped and shouted for joy, but he did not. He had still got the ring on, for fear of meeting something unexpected and unpleasant, and he saw that Balin was looking straight at him without noticing him. "I will give them all a surprise," he thought, as he crawled into the bushes at the edge of the dell.
He looked at the 'black emperors' for a long time, and enjoyed the feel of the breeze in his hair and on his face; but at length the cries of the dwarves, who were now simply stamping with impatience down below, reminded him of his real business. It was no good. Gaze as much as he might, he could see no end to the trees and the leaves in any direction. His heart, that had been lightened by the sight of the sun and the feel of the wind, sank back into his toes: there was no food to go back to down below.
Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins.
He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.
"I will give you a name," he said to it, "and I shall call you Sting."
"If you mean you think it is my job to go into the secret passage first, O Thorin Thrain's son Oakenshield, may your beard grow ever longer," he said crossly, "say so at once and have done! I might refuse. I have got you out of two messes already, which were hardly in the original bargain, so that I am, I think, already owed some reward. But 'third time pays for all' as my father used to say, and somehow I don't think I shall refuse. Perhaps I have begun to trust my luck more than I used to in the old days" - he meant last spring before he left his own house, but it seemed centuries ago -"but anyway I think I will go and have a peep at once and get it over. Now who is coming with me?" He did not expect a chorus of volunteers, so he was not disappointed.
"I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I as chosen for the lucky number."
"Lovely titles!" sneered the dragon. "But lucky numbers don't always come off."
"I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me."
"These don't sound so creditable," scoffed Smaug.
"I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider," went on Bilbo beginning to be pleased with his riddling.
"Now I am a burglar indeed!" thought he. "But I suppose I must tell the dwarves about it sometime. They did say I could pick and choose my own share; and I think I would choose this, if they took all the rest!" All the same he had an uncomfortable feeling that the picking and choosing had not really been meant to include this marvelous gem, and that trouble would yet come of it.
“Misery me! I have heard songs of many battles, and I have always understood that defeat may be glorious. It seems very uncomfortable, not to say distressing. I wish I was well out of it."
From that treasure Bard sent much gold to the Master of Lake-town; and he rewarded his followers and friends freely. To the Elvenking he gave the emeralds of Girion, such jewels as he most loved, which Dain had restored to him. To Bilbo he said:
"This treasure is as much yours as it is mine; though old agreements cannot stand, since so many have a claim in its winning and defense. Yet even though you were willing to lay aside all your claim, I should wish that the words of Thorin, of which he repented, should not prove true: that we should give you little. I would reward you most richly of all."
"Very kind of you," said Bilbo. "But really it is a relief to me. How on earth should I have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the way, I don't know. And I don't know what I should have done with it when I got home. I am sure it is better in your hands."
"Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!" said Bilbo.
"Of course!" said Gandalf. "And why should not they prove true? Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!"
"Thank goodness!" said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.