The Hobbit is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have included this series as a whole, as one entry on my list of the 100 Best Books of All Time and on my list of the 100 Best Sci Fi and Fantasy Books.
The Hobbit Plot Summary (Spoilers):
A wizard, named Gandalf, arranges a surprise meeting between a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins and a company of Dwarves, lead by Thorin Oakenshield, who are on a quest to recover their lost home and treasure from the clutches of a dragon named Smaug.
Bilbo is reluctant to join the Dwarves’ quest, in spite of Gandalf nominating him as the Dwarves’ burglar, but eventually he is persuaded/manipulated into joining the expedition.
The company must traverse The Wild on their way to The Lonely Mountain, where Thorin’s people once ruled. Along the way, they confront Goblins, Spiders and Elves. With some help from Gandalf, the Eagles and a shapeshifter named Beorn, the company manages to overcome these obstacles and reach their destination.
While lost in the Goblin tunnels, Bilbo finds a magic ring, which renders its wearer invisible. Bilbo encounters a strange creature named Gollum, who challenges him to a game of riddles. Bilbo wins the game, but when Gollum discovers he has lost his precious ring and begins to suspect Bilbo of taking it, Gollum flies into a rage and attempts to kill Bilbo and take the ring. Bilbo uses the ring to turn invisible and escape Gollum and the tunnels.
Bilbo, who is thought of as something of a joke at the outset of the expedition, earns the respect of the Dwarves on the quest by using his magic ring to assist them in escaping first from the Spiders and then from the Wood Elves’ dungeon.
Bilbo is also instrumental in figuring out how to unlock the door to get into The Lonely Mountain and confront Smaug. Once inside, Bilbo uses his ring to scout out the Dragon’s treasure hoard. Bilbo discovers a gem called the Arkenstone, which he steals and then hides, and the dragon Smaug’s weak spot while scouting the treasure hoard. Bilbo shares the dragon’s weakness with the Dwarves, which an old Thrush overhears, but he keeps his possession of the Arkenstone, which Thorin has been searching for, a secret.
When Smaug discovers some of his treasure missing, he is enraged and having learned of the lakemen’s assistance to the dwarves from Bilbo, during his scouting mission, Smaug leaves the mountain and attacks the lake-town. The old Thrush shares the dragon’s weak spot with Bard, who leads the defense for the lakemen. Bard exploits the dragon’s weakness and kills him with an arrow.
The lakemen and a company of Wood Elves march on The Lonely Mountain and demand a share of the treasure as compensation for the destruction of the Lake-Town and Bard’s slaying of Smaug, but Thorin refuses and summons the aid of his relatives to fight Bard’s men and the Elves.
In an effort to avoid a war, Bilbo gives Bard the Arkenstone, so that Bard may use it to bargain with Thorin. Thorin is enraged and casts Bilbo out. War seems imminent between the Dwarves and the coalition of men and elves, but Gandalf arrives warning of an attack by a large force of Goblins.
The Dwarves band together with Bard’s forces, but are nearly defeated. The Eagles and the shapeshifter Beorn join the battle just in time to fend off the Goblins, but Thorin is fatally wounded in the fighting. Before Thorin dies, he reconciles with Bilbo. Bard buries Thorin with the Arkenstone and Thorin’s successor, Dain, awards Bard his promised share of the treasure.
Bard offers Bilbo his fair share of the treasure, but Bilbo refuses. However, thanks to the treasure they hid after confronting the Trolls, Bilbo still returns home a wealthy man. Bilbo learns that while Gandalf was separated from the Dwarves, he had been meeting with other wizards and organizing a force to drive an evil being called The Necromancer out of the The Wild.
Bilbo is forced to deal with some legal issues and loss of reputation upon his return, having been presumed dead and become considered a bit reckless and foolish for running off on his adventure with Gandalf and the Dwarves. However, Bilbo lives quite happily, enjoys friendship with Dwarves, Men and Elves and often tells the tale of his adventures, and eventually records them in a book. Bilbo gifts most of his wealth to his nieces and nephews, making him a very popular uncle. However, he keeps his magic ring a secret for all of his many years.
The Hobbit Commentary (Spoilers):
Though their are some grim moments in The Hobbit, most of the novel has quiet a light-hearted tone to it. Bilbo and his companions get into one scrape after another, but there is much singing and joking and general frivolity throughout the adventure.
The story is an enjoyable tale about Bilbo’s transformation from a timid fellow who has no desire to ever leave his Hobbit Hole to a bold adventurer, who while not always entirely successful, plays a pivotal role in defeating the dragon Smaug and makes a valiant, if not exactly successful, attempt to avert a war fueled by Thorin’s greed and lust for treasure.
Bilbo returns home a different Hobbit and his actions on this journey set in motion the epic events to come in the far darker and more dramatic tale told in The Lord of the Rings.