J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel “The Hobbit” is most often read as a simple children’s tale. However, there is a lasting and meaningful lesson that can be gained from its narrative. Bilbo begins the story very comfortable in his humdrum life. The friends and neighbors that surround him support the idea that “fitting in” and never “thinking outside the box” are the only acceptable ways for a respectable hobbit to go about his business.
When he is approached by Gandalf to become the thirteenth member of Thorin’s party, Bilbo wants no part of it. Why would he? To join with this raggedy company of dwarves would be to against every rule that his society’s expectations have set. On top of that, Bilbo would be giving up on all the creature comforts that his homey little hole allows for him. The risks do not appear to be worth whatever potential gains he might receive. All that Bilbo can imagine gaining from this adventure is uncomfortable suffering and potential death. He can not wrap his mind around the idea of personal growth and the expansion of his horizons.
Ultimately, Bilbo finds the spark of curiosity and bravery within himself and does chose to accompany the dwarves on their quest for their heritage. Along the way he sees and experiences many wondrous, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying things. The great elven community of Rivendell opens his eyes to the majesty and art of the ancient elves. His encounter with Gollum in the Misty Mountains teaches him to find his courage in the face of uncertainty and gives him the strength to face the even greater danger of the dragon Smaug at Lonely Mountain when he sneaks into Smaug’s treasure hoard to steal the Arkenstone.
By the conclusion of the story and Bilbo’s adventure, it is made clear to the reader that it was only by daring to take the on the risks of setting out on his journey and being ostracized by his community that Bilbo achieved true fulfillment as a character. He retakes his home from the Sackville-Baggines and returns to his peaceful life at Bag-End as a hobbit who realizes that peaceful contentment is wonderful but also that for a life to be fully experienced, a person must take risks. This is the wonderful lesson that the parable of The Hobbit delivers to its readers.