Norse Myth and Folklore in The Hobbit

The Hobbit, written by J.R.R. Tolkien, is a fantasy novel heavily influenced by the author’s interest in Norse myth and folklore. The novel is set in a mythical world called Middle-earth, where a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins goes on a journey with a group of dwarves and a wizard named Gandalf to reclaim a treasure stolen by the dragon Smaug. Norse mythology and folklore plays a significant role in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel.

One of the most striking examples of Norse mythology in The Hobbit comes in the form of the dwarf characters. The dwarves in Tolkien’s world are modeled after the dwarves of Norse myth, who are described as small and ancient beings with great strength and skill in smithing. The names of Tolkien’s dwarves are taken from the Old Norse poem Voluspa, which lists the names of 13 legendary dwarfs. The names, along with the physical characteristics and personalities of the dwarf characters, are directly inspired by the Norse mythological tradition.

Another significant reference to Norse mythology in The Hobbit is the presence of trolls, goblins, and dragons that are all staples of European fairy tales and legends, and Tolkien draws on these traditions to bring them to life in his story. In Norse mythology, dragons are powerful and cunning creatures that represent chaos and destruction. Similarly, Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit, is a fearsome and dangerous creature that terrorizes the dwarves and their allies. He is cunning and greedy, much like the dragons of Norse myth, and embodies the idea of destructive chaos that is prevalent in much of the Norse mythological tradition.

The theme of battle and war is also prevalent in Norse mythology and is reflected in the plot and themes of The Hobbit. The Norse mythological tradition is full of tales of epic battles between gods and giants, which often represent order and chaos, respectively. In The Hobbit, the dwarves and their allies must fight against the forces of the evil dragon Smaug and the goblins that inhabit the Lonely Mountain. This battle represents a struggle between order and chaos, with the dwarves representing order and the goblins and Smaug representing chaos. The theme of battle and war is further explored in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, where it plays an even more central role in the narrative.

The Norse mythological tradition also includes many tales of heroes who must embark on dangerous quests to achieve their goals. These quests often involve battles with dangerous creatures and beings, and the heroes must use their wits and skills to overcome these obstacles. Similarly, the main character in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is a reluctant hero who must embark on a dangerous quest to help the dwarves reclaim their treasure from Smaug. Bilbo’s journey is full of challenges and obstacles, and he must use his intelligence and cunning to overcome them. This theme of the hero’s journey is present throughout much of Tolkien’s work and is closely aligned with the Norse mythological tradition.

The concept of fate is also present in Norse mythology and is reflected in The Hobbit. In Norse myth, fate is considered an inescapable force that shapes the lives of gods and mortals alike. This idea is reflected in the prophecy that surrounds the dwarf’s quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain. The prophecy states that only a burglar of great skill can help the dwarves succeed in their quest, and that this burglar will be someone unexpected. This seems to suggest that Bilbo was fated to be the one to help the dwarves, regardless of his own desires or intentions.

Finally, the importance of storytelling is a central aspect of Norse mythology and is reflected in The Hobbit. In Norse myth, stories and legends serve as a way to explain the origins of the world and the behavior of the gods. Similarly, Tolkien’s works are full of stories and legends that serve to explain the history and behavior of the characters in his world. The Hobbit itself is a story that is being told by a narrator, who is recounting the adventures of Bilbo and the dwarves. This emphasis on storytelling is a significant aspect of Tolkien’s work and its ties to the Norse mythological tradition.

In conclusion, Norse mythology is a significant influence on The Hobbit and plays a critical role in shaping the characters, plot, and themes of the novel. Elements of Norse mythology can be found throughout the book, from the names of characters to the themes of chaos and order, fate, and heroic quests. These references to Norse mythology help to create a rich and compelling fantasy world that is both original and deeply rooted in tradition. The legacy of Norse mythology continues to influence modern fantasy writers, and its impact on J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is a testament to its enduring power and influence.