Universal Stories;  Universal Archetypes

Bilbo Baggins, Loss of Innocence

by Elros-(Valar)-ex
Oct. 20, 2000


    J.R.R. Tolkien has written many books.  His books have been critically acclaimed and loved by millions of people.  In fact, most archetypes that exist are symbolized in his book.  For example, the mentor would be symbolized by Gandalf, while the hero can be symbolized by Frodo.  One of his most popular characters is the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.  Bilbo himself symbolizes many archetypes in the children's book, The Hobbit .  However, one of the most noticeable archetypes that he can represent is the initiate.
    Bilbo starts off as a very sheltered person.  He has never left his small country and doesn't like anything adventurous.  He is unknowingly submitted into a group of treasure hunting dwarves as a professional burglar by the traveling wizard Gandalf.  The dwarves are not sure he is good enough to be in their party and would not have accepted him if it weren't for Gandalf's reassurance.  Bilbo is very angry and annoyed at first but as the story goes on he gradually proves his worth time and time again.  The dwarves eventually accept him as a friend and companion.
    Bilbo's role as the initiate takes on a slightly different form in this book.  The quest is to retake the Lonely Mountain and his ceremony or tasks are more in the form of a long journey.  This journey goes over hill, under dale, and through wood to its end and is a very well written piece of literature.  Many tasks are performed by Bilbo that raise him up in the dwarves' eyes.
    Bilbo himself is a very sheltered and innocent person.  He has had the same life for a long time and he does everything on schedule and never has had or wants an adventure.  In the beginning of the journey the dwarves think he is good-for-nothing and worthless.  However, when they get captured by three trolls, Bilbo tricks the trolls into arguing long enough for the sun to come up.  The trolls turn to stone and the dwarves are saved.
  When the party travels through Mirkwood, the dwarves get attacked by giant spiders and are tied up in cocoons.  Bilbo evades capture because his magic
ring makes him invisible.  He taunts the spiders and throws rocks at them.  The spiders get angry and chase the noises.  Using his sword "Sting" he frees the dwarves and kills many of the spiders.  Bilbo has lost much of his old innocence at this point and can't remember when he lived in Hobbiton.
    Traveling on, the dwarves anger the Elven King and are placed in his jail.  Bilbo hides the dwarves in barrels and they escape down the river.  Next,
Bilbo confronts Smaug and tricks him into thinking he is a fierce warrior.  Smaug is angered and attacks the Lake Town where he is killed by the archer,
Bard.  Finally, Bilbo steals the Arkenstone from Thorin so that he does not start a war with the Elves and Men.
    Throughout his journey Bilbo proves his worth to the dwarves.  This is very much like the initiate of other stories.  The initiate has to pass some sort
of test to prove his worth and eventually saves the day.  The same happens to Bilbo except he proves his worth many many times.  The fact that Bilbo is
the initiate in this story makes a tremendous difference.  His character on the inside and outside slowly transforms throughout the whole book.  If he
did not go on the journey, the dwarves would have probably failed their mission.  Many alternate characters exist as initiates.  Examples of
initiates would be Daniel in the "Karate Kid",  Eldrahere in The Book of Knights, and Sabriel in Sabriel.
        The initiate archetype is very important to society today.  It forms the backbone of many stories, poems, and movies.  It explains to people that they can do anything if they practice and set goals.  The initiate can also take the form of a college student.  The student needs to pass through the arduous tasks of college to get to his goal of the degree.  People themselves should care about archetypes for a few reasons.  One, they allow for easy comparison among similar characters.  Two,  they provide a base on which to create a character.  And three, they can be a new or different way to describe a character.
        Bilbo Baggins is a perfect example of an initiate archetype. Many archetypes are part of society today and the initiate is just one of them.  Archetypes are necessary to provide form and function for many different characters and conflicts.