Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wealth in The Hobbit

What is the literary purpose of gold, treasure or wealth in The Hobbit? How does this text, or other texts by Tolkien, view the possession of wealth? Give examples from the text to support your readings.


Thengel said...

In "The Hobbit", the most obvious relation to wealth comes from Smaug's hoard-- not only Smaug's behavior regarding his wealth, but also the dwarves' mindset in retrieving the stolen gold. "The Hobbit", being a children's book, is full of morals, and the dangers of wealth and greed are among those morals. A desire for wealth can blind a person. When Bilbo keeps the Arkenstone, he momentarily gives in to greed. Smaug is defined by treasure-hoarding, while Gollum is permanently consumed by his desire for his one treasure: the Ring. In Tolkien's world, greed breeds betrayal, possessiveness, and paranoia.

I also find it interesting that the most regal and kingly of Tolkien's characters, such as Gandalf and Aragorn, are humble in their means and bearing and seem to have no interest in material wealth.

Belladonna Took said...

In LOTR (Chapter IV of Book II), Gandalf explains, "the wealth of Moria is not in gold and jewels, the toys of Dwarves, nor iron... Its (mithril) worth was ten times that of gold, and now it is beyond price." The primary purpose of mithril is to protect you in battle (it saved Frodo's life). The ring (the most important treasure to Sauron) also grants survival benefits (heightened senses, invisibility, and longevity). In The Hobbit, Bilbo depended on the ring to survive his adventure. Smaug had a plethora of gold, but his most prideful treasure was his armor (also for survival). It would seem as if the greatest possessions of wealth are those that keep you alive. However, there are consequences to abusing them or allowing greed of them to overcome you. Bilbo's unnessesary usage of the ring made it harder for him to give it up and recover. Smaug's excessive greed rendered him friendless; no one mentioned to him that he had a weak spot in his armor. And the excessive greed of dwarves, men, and elves almost ended in a battle after the defeat of Smaug (the opposite of survival). The take home message seems to be that the most valuable wealth is in items that you desperately need, but overusing these items has severe consequences.