Dark And Light Imagery Within The Hobbit

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The Hobbit by J. R. R Tolkien is said to be one of the greatest children’s novels of all time.

The novel, due to its use of such characters as goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and others is in tradition, a fairy tale. The tale centers on a small hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins. It follows the journey of a band of dwarves, a wizard named Gandalf, and their robber, Bilbo on their way to retrieving treasure that had long been taken away from them. The hobbit traveled all over Middle-Earth, beginning with Bilbo’s tiny hobbit-hole in the ground, to Mirkwood forest, to finally reaching the Mountain in which the dragon Smaug lives.

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Tolkien uses a large amount of imagery in his writing which can been seen through settings in The Hobbit. The imagery is usually either dark or light, depending on Bilbo’s mood and contrast of his surroundings. J. R.

R Tolkien uses dark and light imagery in The Hobbit to effectively set an eerie and mysterious mood and to foreshadow events such as Bilbo’s journey in Mirkwood and his adventure in the Mountain. To understand Tolkien’s use of imagery, one must understand imagery as a concept.Imagery refers to words that trigger the mind of a reader to recall images, or mental pictures, that engage one of the five senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch” (Poxon). “There are two common types of images: literal and figurative” (Poxon).

A literal image represents a “literal object or sensation. Its meaning is obvious and realistic and needs no interpretation. It is what it says it is. ” Tolkien uses a larger amount of figurative language in The Hobbit than literal.

A figurative image means more than what it says it is. It suggests certain meanings that must be interpreted.Similes, metaphors, and personification are just a few examples of figurative language that Tolkien uses in his fairy tale. These forms of figurative language help the reader create a “mental picture” .

For example, when Bilbo Baggins meets Gollum, a strange, slimy creature who lives deep in the caves of Moria, he describes Gollum’s eyes as “… the light of his eyes burned with a pale flame” (92).

Gollum’ s eyes are not really “pale flames,” but because hi iris was such a bright color, in contrast to the dark, Bilbo had observed it as “pale. ” Also, his eyes were not actual “flames”.Gollum was infuriated by the lose of his ring and therefore Bilbo saw rage in his expression, his eyes were not “flames’. The majority of Tolkien’s imagery is found in nature.

In 1999, Karen Oberst concluded that Tolkien’s greatest use of nature was “when he anthropomophized it,” which means to attribute human characteristics to something that is not human. This form of imagery is an on-going pattern throughout Tolkien’s tale. Bilbo Baggins repeatedly advises human characteristics to the inanimate objects that are around him, which adds profoundness to Tolkien’s tale.For instance, Bilbo describes the west part of the Mountains on the way to Homely Home as having “no trees and no valleys and no hill to break the ground in front of them, only one vast slope going slowly up and up to meet the feet of the nearest mountain [.

.. ]”(Tolkien 52). Tolkien used this example of imagery to emphasize the bleakness of the situation.

Light imagery and dark imagery are found in two very different places in literature. Light imagery is usually found in situations in which the mood is “happy” and “peaceful” (McDaniel).For example, after descending from Misty Mountain and battling Wargs, climbing trees, and being carried off by eagles, Bilbo is understandably tired and hungry. When the fellowship arrives to see Elrond, Bilbo is very pleased.

The narrator tells the reader that the next morning, after having slept and eaten comfortably, Bilbo found it was a “midsummer’s morning as fair and fresh as could be dreamed” (Tolkien 60). Bilbo was comfortable now having had food to eat and a nice place to sleep. This made the next morning seem incredibly beautiful to him.Dark imagery is usually found in a situations were the mood is “eerie” and “mysterious” (McDaniel).

For example, when Bilbo is surrounded by darkness in Mirkwood he calls it “a patch of midnight that had never been cleared away” (Tolkien 171). To be surrounded by total and complete darkness is alarming. Bilbo is frightened and sits down to rest after frantically searching for the dwarves. This example of imagery also helps empathize the cryptic nature of Mirkwood forest.

Tolkien uses a larger amount of dark imager in The Hobbit then he does light.This is because the narrator concentrates chiefly on Bilbo’s feelings about situations and places. Bilbo isn’t very happy to be on the adventure and it considerably shows in his descriptions of people and places. Throughout the better part of the tale, he mentions his warm, hobbit-hole in the ground and wishes to be back there rather then journeying to Smaug’s mountain.

Bilbo was in situations in which he had to fend for himself. When Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves were kidnapped by the goblins, Bilbo escaped and had to survive in the Mountains by himself.He had had no companions and it had been pitch black in the tunnels. He was also in many situations in which he had to fend of his life, as well as the lives of the thirteen dwarves.

The last role that imagery plays in The Hobbit is to foreshadow events. When Bilbo was deep in the caves of Moria, it is complete and total darkness. The narrator, in one passage says, “When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered whether if he had; for it was just as dark as with them shut. No one was anywhere near him.

Just imagine is fright!He could hear nothing, see nothing, and he could feel nothing except the stone of the floor”(Tolkien 76). This quote is an example of foreshadowing because it is the first instance in which Bilbo is left to fend for himself, without Gandalf and without the dwarves. The situations are the same in both the caves of Moria and the Lonely Mountain. Later in the novel, the reader learns that Bilbo is sent into Lonely Mountain by himself to visit Smaug.

Again the tiny hobbit, who is also the Fellowship’s “robber”, has to defend himself while his friends sat outside and awaited his return.Another instance in which J. R. R.

Tolkien uses imagery in The Hobbit as a foreshadowing tool is when Bilbo and the dwarves are in Mirkwood. The narrator describes the entrance to the forest as “a sort of arch leading into a gloomy tunnel”(Tolkien 162). Mirkwood is the name of a forest that the fellowship has to pass through in order to reach Smaug. By calling the entrance of the forest “a gloomy tunnel,” imagery helped foreshadow the events of Bilbo’s adventure in Mirkwood.

Bilbo and the dwarves were told to stay on a path that, if they followed, they would not become lost (McDaniel).As days wore on and the hobbit and his friends were rendered of their food supply they became desperate. As they walked along the path through the forest, they suddenly hear the sound of laughing and celebrating and decide to investigate. Soon, all fourteen members of the adventure were lost.

After fighting off bloodthirsty spiders, Bilbo reclaims his friends from danger. Apart from battling the dangerous spiders, the fellowship was also imprisoned by the Elvenking, Tolkien later uses imagery to foreshadow the happenings within the Mountain where Smaug lives.As the dwarves approach, the narrator described the Mountain as it “lay dark and silent before them and ever high above them”(Tolkien 220). This dark form of imagery is used to strike fear into the heart of the reader.

Smaug is supposed to be an evil figure in Tolkien’s tale. He has stolen all the money from the people of the towns he burned to the ground and keeps his gold and treasures in the Mountain with him. To steal the money from the dragon, the dwarves send Bilbo Baggins after their treasure. When Bilbo decides that it is time to explore the mountain, he slips on his ring and timidly walks down the tunnel.

He described the experience by saying that the “darkness flowed out like vapor”. Tolkien uses imagery to create a picture in which the evil of the dragon and its home warp to create an atmosphere and picture of fright and suspense for the reader. When Smaug leaves the narrator described the hall as “filled with a melody that had been long silent”(Tolkien 259). At the time that the narrator had proclaimed this to the reader, Smaug had not yet returned.

This quote foreshadowed his death and leads to the War of the Five Armies. Imagery in The Hobbit plays a great part in the setting the mood of the novel.J. R.

R. Tolkien also uses this technique to drop hints to the reader and to help them foreshadow future events. Imagery in The Hobbit has a number of different purposes. Imagery is also figurative language that enhances character, setting, meaning, and theme in literature.

It paints a picture in ones mind about surroundings and situations and helps the reader relate to the main character of the novel. Imagery also heightens the reader’s senses of the novel and deepens the emotional connection between reader and character. This forces the reader to become more involved with the tale.

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Dark And Light Imagery Within The Hobbit. (2018, Feb 24). Retrieved from


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