Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit homebody, joins a party of dwarves and their wizard companion in a series of adventures to reclaim the dwarves’ homeland from the great dragon Smaug.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. In this poem, the narrator speaks of his wish to travel the world, one day, when he is “a man.”
Introduce this poem to students after they have read chapter two of The Hobbit in order to help them to identify themes in the novel and make thematic connections across texts. Pair “Travel” with Chapter 2 and ask students to discuss the themes of journeying and adventure in both texts — would Stevenson’s poem appeal to Bilbo’s Tookish side? What convinces Bilbo to leave his home in the Shire?
In this folktale, a wise king offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to whomever can make a fool out of him.
Have students read this text after completing Chapter 5 — when Bilbo faces off with Gollum in a riddle contest — in order for them to use comparative analysis to study character. Pair “How Boots Befooled the King” with Chapter Five, and ask students to compare the characters of Boots and Bilbo — how do both characters utilize their wits to either reach their goals or get them out of trouble? Alternatively, you may choose to introduce this text after students have completed chapter twelve, when Bilbo is confronted by Smaug.
In this passage, the translation taken from the New King James Version Bible, the young and small shepherd David takes up the giant enemy warrior Goliath’s challenge for battle in a true underdog fashion.
Have students read this text after they have completed Chapter 8 of The Hobbit, in order to introduce them to the idea of “the unlikely hero” as a literary motif. Pair “The Story of David and Goliath” with Chapter Eight, and ask students to compare these two unlikely heroes, David and Bilbo, and to discuss how they are able to defeat their much larger foes. How has Bilbo been changed by his confrontation with the spiders, and why do you think this change takes place?
In "The Soldier" (1914) by Rupert Brooke, a young English soldier reveals his dying wish - to be remembered and honored. Rupert Brooke's poetry is a reflection of the mood in England leading up to WWI.
Introduce this poem after students have completed Chapter 17, following the destruction of Laketown in chapter fourteen, and the Battle of the Five Armies in chapter seventeen. This pairing will help provide insight into the character of Bilbo Baggins, as well as Tolkien’s own experiences with World War I. Pair “The Soldier” with Chapter 17, and ask students to compare Bilbo’s experiences in battle with that of the speaker in the poem — how does Bilbo’s longing for the Shire resemble the soldier’s memories of England?
Aesop was a slave and story-teller who was believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. This story, in which a man becomes greedily obsessed with a goose that lays golden eggs, is part of his collection of tales known as “Aesop’s Fables” which have influenced children’s literature and modern storytelling culture.
Introduce “The Goose with the Golden Egg” after students have read chapter seventeen of The Hobbit, in order to generate a discussion on the shared theme of greed. Ask students to analyze how the theme of greed lies at the heart of Aesop’s fable, and how it develops throughout The Hobbit. How does greed affect characters like Thorin and Smaug?
A sailor grieves the loss of his captain in this poem that symbolizes the American experience of making it through the Civil War.
Introduce the poem after finishing Chapter 18 of The Hobbit in order to have students draw thematic comparisons across genre and form. Pair “Oh Captain! My Captain!” with Chapter 18, and ask students to discuss the aftermath of the Battle of the Five Armies. How does it compare to the Whitman poem, a work inspired by the death of Abraham Lincoln?
Published in 1916, this poem is one of the most frequently cited and most misunderstood of Frost’s poems.
Introduce “The Road Not Taken” after students have finished reading The Hobbit, in order to analyze grand themes through a comparative study across genres. Ask students to discuss the idea of journeys as a theme in both texts — how do Bilbo’s choices shape his journey and, eventually, himself?
In the informational text “The Hero’s Journey,” Jessica McBirney discusses a common structure among many stories across genres.
Have students read this text after finishing the book, as insight into the structure and plot of this literary pattern. Pair “The Hero’s Journey” with The Hobbit and ask students to compare Bilbo’s journey with that of the archetypal hero – is Bilbo Baggins a hero?