"The Hobbit" second journal response
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In the second half of "The Hobbit" Bilbo matures in a big way. First of all, he gains the respect of the dwarves by doing some terrific deeds for them. Bilbo's first accomplishment was to save them from the giant spiders in Mirkwood by using his magic ring (page 157). They "had begun to have a great respect for him (Bilbo)" (page165). The next thing that Bilbo did was save the dwarves from the Elvenking who locked them up in his castle. The dwarves depended on Bilbo to think of some clever escape. When they first refused to follow his plan though (page 178), it showed he hadn't quite gained all of their respect. However, after his plan was successful, the dwarves were again grateful to him.
The most important step in Bilbo's maturation is when he gives the Arkenstone to Bard (page 270). It is important because it shows how Bilbo was trying to avoid battle between the dwarves and the elves and men. In addition, I feel it was very difficult for Bilbo to let the stone go because of its powerful beauty. When Bilbo first came upon it in the mountain he was enchanted by it (page 235). After Bilbo gave away the Arkenstone Gandalf was there to congratulate him (page 271). Bilbo felt a better person by giving the Arkenstone (page 272).
I am still very unsure about Gandalf. I still don't know how he know how he came knew that Bilbo would be of such use. Gandalf reminds me of a godly figure, knowing all and seeing all. Another thing that escapes me is that he came back just in time from his wizards' meeting and arrived back just before the "war of 5 races" (page 271).
I was rather disappointed in Tolkien's characters other than Bilbo. I realized that Tolkien didn't really develop Thorin's character very well when I didn't feel any emotion for Thorin when he died (page 288). Reading past fantasy books I have felt more emotion when characters died. It might just be the fact that "The Hobbit" was one of the first fantasy books.