6th-8th Grade

What Makes Bilbo, Bilbo?

By Eric Z.
May 2020
7th Grade
A photograph of a magical little hut surrounded by green grass.

People often debate whether personalities are determined by nature or nurture. People who believe it is nature, think it’s genetics and DNA, while people who consider nurture expect your family to determine your personality. However, people also can choose what they do, and are not just driven by their genetics and family. The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien, demonstrates that people are controlled by all three. Bilbo can control what he does in the adventure, but his personality is determined by his genetics and family.

Bilbo is just like any other hobbit because he is good natured and likes to eat, which demonstrates that genetics play a part in who we are. When Tolkien begins his story, he introduces what a hobbit is to the reader. “They dress in bright colours… have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it)” (4). This quote proves that hobbits are kind, cheerful, and love to eat. They also are easy going, and laugh deep fruity laughs. In other words, they will easily laugh at your jokes and they will make their own jokes. Later in the story, Thorin is hurt from fighting, and asks for Bilbo. Then he tells him that “if more people valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” (312). This characterization makes clear that Bilbo values home and food above riches. Thorin says this because he realizes that he was greedy and Bilbo tries to stop the war with his arkenstone plan. Like other hobbits, Bilbo values home and good times instead of gold. Not only is Bilbo a typical hobbit, but also he is a predictable offspring of his parents.

Bilbo is half Took and half Baggins because he wants to go on an adventure, but he also likes to stay home. Tolkien introduces Bilbo by first talking about his parents’ history. He says, “ The mother of this hobbit —of Bilbo Baggins, that is—was the famous Belladonna Took… Bungo, that was Bilbo’s father, had built the most luxurious hobbit-hole for her… and there they remained to the end of their days” (4). This quote demonstrates that Bilbo is half Took and half Baggins, because it talks about how Bilbo’s father, Bungo Baggins, came to be with Bilbo’s mother, Belladonna Took. Also, being a Baggins means enjoying staying home, and being a Took means wanting to go on adventures.  Halfway through his journey, Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves have to cross a forest. Right before entering, Bilbo asks Gandalf if he really has to go through. Gandalf responds as if Bilbo didn’t want to continue through the forest, although Bilbo really just asked if there was no way around, not if he could go back. This passage explains how Bilbo is Took, because it says he is fully in this adventure now, does not want to go back, and is willing to enter the demented forest. Bilbo is also part Baggins in this quote because Gandalf knows him, and assumes that he wants to go back when he asks, “ Do we really have to go through?” Bilbo is Took and Baggins because he embraces his adventure though others assume that he doesn’t. Despite Bilbo’s childhood and genetics, he still is able to make his own decisions. 

Bilbo has control over his choices during the adventure and they make a difference. Bilbo shows how he can control himself when he is in Mirkwood. In the forest he kills a giant spider, and “somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help… of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, much fiercer and bolder” (171). Killing the spider makes him feel more bold and fierce because he does it all by himself, while he usually has some support with what he does. Accomplishing something independently makes a difference and he becomes a different hobbit who is able to face danger and be brave. When Bilbo and the crew make it to the mountain, Bilbo goes through a tunnel that leads to the dragon.  “It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things he did afterwards were nothing compared to it… It is almost dark so that its vastness can only be dimly guessed, but rising from the near side of the rocky floor there is a great glow. The glow of Smaug!” (233) Bilbo choosing to go in the layer with the dragon shows how he has control, because he can turn back. This choice is harder than actually facing Smaug, because Bilbo is going into the unknown.  Bilbo is able to choose what he does, because he is able to enter the danger, despite his family telling him not to.

Overall, Bilbo is influenced by his nature, nurture, and his own thoughts. He chooses to be brave and go on with his adventure, while still retaining his missing of home and comfort. Bilbo shows how he is controlled by all three, which explains how no one is just controlled by one of three traits. They choose their decisions, while still being shaped by genetics and family.

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