The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien, literature, fantasy, film, psychology, psychoanalysis, development, Erik Erikson


In The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien constructs middle-aged Bilbo Baggins as a sheltered and emotionally immature ‘child’ during the opening chapters before tracing his development into an autonomous, self-aware adult as the tale progresses. This article examines Tolkien’s novel qua bildungsroman through both a literary lens—considering setting, dialogue, and symbolism, among other techniques—and via a psychological framework, emphasizing an Eriksonian conception of development. Additionally, Peter Jackson’s three-part film adaptation of The Hobbit is discussed throughout with ways that Jackson succeeds and fails at portraying Bilbo’s childlike attributes noted. I argue that Tolkien presents a sophisticated account of Bilbo’s childish persona growing into a mature adult worldview, and that Jackson appropriately reflects much, though not all, of this development in his films.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.