The Hobbit as a Fantasy Novel
The Hobbit is a fantasy novel about a peaceful hobbit that accompanies a wizard and several dwarves on a journey to steal the great treasures of the dragon Smaug and I believe it demonstrates or uses the features of the fantasy genre. The features of any genre are like a skeleton for the story of that particular genre. Different genres have different features such as different settings, characters, plot, themes and values. Features are like a list of criteria that is used to assess whether the novel fits into a genre.
The Hobbit is unable to demonstrate the entire features of the fantasy genre but it is still clear that The Hobbit used the features of the fantasy genre as a skeleton. The first thing to consider when determining whether The Hobbit demonstrates the features of the fantasy genre is the setting. The setting is the where the story takes place.
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Most fantasy stories take place ‘an enclosed world that is often exotic and mystical’ (Glasson, 1955, p. 55). The setting in The Hobbit follows this idea and the world that it takes place is enclosed and exotic.
With rows of strange and devious mountains and thick woods where elves and giant spiders live The Hobbit world is definitely exotic; with the abundance of several other creatures and dragons the world of The Hobbit is also quite mystical and magical. The setting of any genre is the fundamental building block for a stories development. For example, it is quite hard to create an interesting science fiction story that is set in the backyard of a young boy.
The Hobbit proves that it uses the writing structure of the fantasy genre by being set in a magical land full of exotic creatures and landforms which are the elements of a typical fantasy story. Setting isn’t the only aspect to be considered when writing a fantasy story; there are also characters to be put into consideration. In the fantasy genre there are usually the protagonist and the antagonist that are in conflict with each other. In The Hobbit the protagonist is a simple hobbit, known as Bilbo Baggins, who becomes a thief on a plan to steal treasures.
There is no antagonist in The Hobbit. Smaug is not the antagonist because an antagonist is ‘a principal character that opposes the protagonist’. Throughout the book Smaug does not oppose Bilbo Baggins until he is provoked. He is more of an obstacle than a villain opposing Bilbo and his party of dwarves. On the other hand, The Hobbit demonstrates the features of the fantasy genre through the development of Bilbo. Protagonists in fantasy stories are well-known for their development or change.
For example, in the book called Eragon the main character transforms from a deer hunting farm boy into a fierce and powerful dragon rider. In the beginning of the book Bilbo defines himself and the hobbits as ‘Plain quiet folk and have no use for adventure” (The Hobbit, p. 4). Throughout the book Bilbo changes into an extroverted and adventure-seeking hobbit through his experiences. Bilbo had changed from a simple hobbit into a fantasy protagonist with that could fulfil the task at hand.
Most stories have a diverse range of characters and within these characters are the protagonist and antagonist. Different genres have different personalities or criteria for their main characters. The main character in a fantasy story is usually changing, confident and adventurous. The evidence clearly reveals that The Hobbit demonstrates the features of the fantasy through the knowledge or skills that the hero gains through his quest. Plot and structure is a key feature to the features of the fantasy genre.
The plot and structure in the fantasy is quite unique in contrast to the features of other genres. ‘There is calm, upheaval, calm; then stability is restored’ (Glasson, 1955, p. 55) shows the dynamic structure of a fantasy quest. The Hobbit starts off in a peaceful and calm atmosphere until Bilbo joins Gandalf and the fourteen dwarves in an adventure. During his journey the calm atmosphere is disrupted and ‘upheaved’. When the journey ends Bilbo goes back to his normal life, despite his grown love for adventure.
Stability is restored at the end of The Hobbit because the arrogant dragon was killed and Bilbo’s returning to his peaceful life after a crazy adventure. The plot in a fantasy story usually centres on the hero’s quest or journey. The quest is usually a search for a powerful or ancient object that will restore the stability or calm that was disrupted by evil. The Hobbit conforms to this by focusing on Bilbo’s journey but the object (treasure) doesn’t restore the calm but instead creates conflict. In The Hobbit Thorin and his cousin nearly declare war but are forced to join in an attempt to stop the Goblin army.
With this evidence it is obvious that the quest was not aimed to destroy evil and it even started conflict. The quest in The Hobbit strays from the criteria of a typical fantasy story. Every protagonist in any genre encounters obstacles throughout story but the reasons for these obstacles change depending on the genre. A dramatic story would use obstacles as a method to exemplify the feeling of the character or his/her flaws while a fantasy story would use obstacles as a test for to prove the character is worthy or expedient.
For example, Bilbo encounters three trolls and tries to pickpocket an object from one of the trolls but he is discovered and captured in his attempt. This obstacle could’ve been made to show that Bilbo is not yet a master of stealing and how he still needs to improve before his convergence with Smaug. Most of the elements in The Hobbit successfully combine to create a suitable plot and structure for a fantasy novel. The Hobbit doesn’t completely demonstrate the features of a fantasy story mainly due to the themes and values in the story.
In a fantasy quest ‘Tradition values are fought for’ (Glasson, 1955, p. 55). Throughout The Hobbit values are not fought for. For example, Bilbo believed in a simple and harmonious life that is adventure free but as he doesn’t fight for what he believes in and ends up accepting Gandalf’s request. Even when delving deeper into the story values are not fought for and some are even broken. There are different opinions on the features of the fantasy genre and how a book fits into a particular genre and it makes it hard to find out whether a book really uses the features as an outline.
By using the typical opinion of the criteria or features of a fantasy quest it is quite clear that The Hobbit follows these outlines. The Hobbit is able to include: an enclosed and exotic setting, mystical creatures, characters that learn from their mistakes and flaws, a plot that focuses on a quest for an object and obstacles that test and teach the hero during his quest. Even though The Hobbit doesn’t use the themes and values of a typical fantasy quest but it still utilizes the features of the fantasy genre.