The desire and love for a home motivates most of the main characters in The Hobbit. Sometimes, the characters’ desires for home contradict each other. For instance, Bilbo Baggins says at many points throughout his journey that he regrets ever leaving his home in hobbit-town, while the dwarves with whom he’s embarking on his adventure seek to return to (and reclaim from Smaug) their home under the Lonely Mountain. In many cases, having home means having a claim to some position or material wealth. Thus, Thorin, the descendant of many dwarf kings, has a claim to his ancestors’ treasure, which lies under the Lonely Mountain; similarly, Bard, the descendant of the lords of Dale, can claim lordship of Dale as his birthright.
But having a birthright isn’t only a privilege—it’s a duty. To have a home, one must also be a fair and generous “host,” treating one’s guests, subjects, and property with respect. Most of the antagonists in The Hobbit —the three trolls, the goblins, Gollum—are ungracious hosts who refuse to entertain Bilbo and the dwarves during their long quest. Some of the other antagonists, such as the Master and Smaug, play the part of a good hosts but are actually doing so for the wrong reasons, like the Master (who’s trying to stay in power by manipulating the crowd), or trying to lure travelers into a false sense of security, like Smaug (who tells Bilbo to take what he wants of the treasure). Yet even the dwarves become ungracious hosts once they regain their treasure and their home under the Lonely Mountain, refusing to help the wood-elves or the men whose town Smaug has destroyed. Thorin even becomes ungracious to his own subjects, condemning Bilbo and the twelve other dwarves to starve during a siege. As a result, Bilbo leaves the dwarves, and a war breaks out between men, elves, and dwarves. The desire for a home is a universal human feeling, so we sympathize with Bilbo and the dwarves because they feel this desire particularly strongly. But sometimes, this desire becomes too powerful, and leads the characters, such as the dwarves, to be ungracious hosts and overprotective of their home—to make of their home something to be owned rather than shared.
In the end, Tolkien implies, having a home means loving it, but not too much. Bilbo is a good model for how to regard one’s home—he loves his hobbit-hole, but he’s willing to invite others into it and to travel far away from it, too. Bard provides a good example of how to treat one’s birthright. Unlike the Master, he doesn’t exploit his position as the lord of Dale; on the contrary, he fights to feed and shelter his people, eventually bringing great prosperity the town.
Home and Birthright ThemeTracker
Home and Birthright Quotes in The Hobbit
The master of the house was an elf-friend-one of those people whose fathers came into the strange stories before the beginning of History, the wars of the evil goblins and the elves and the first men in the North. In those days of our tale there were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors, and Elrond the master of the house was their chief. He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer. He comes into. many tales, but his part in the story of Bilbo's great adventure is only a small one, though important, as you will see, if we ever get to the end of it.
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.
Mr. Baggins saw then how clever Gandalf had been. The interruptions had really made Beorn more interested in the story, and the story had kept him from sending the dwarves off at once like suspicious beggars. He never invited people into his house, if he could help it. He had very few friends and they lived a good way away; and he never invited more than a couple of these to his house at a time. Now he had got fifteen strangers sitting in his porch!
Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them. He did not, of course, expect that any one would remember that it was he who discovered all by himself the dragon's weak spot; and that was just as well, for no one ever did. But also he did not reckon with the power that gold has upon which a dragon has long brooded, nor with dwarvish hearts. Long hours in the past days Thorin had spent in the treasury, and the lust of it was heavy on him. Though he had hunted chiefly for the Arkenstone, yet he had an eye for many another wonderful thing that was lying there, about which were wound old memories of the labors and the sorrows of his race.
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.