J.R.R. TOLKIEN’S CLASSIC WORK of fantasy literature The Hobbit has been enjoyed by millions of readers as a definitive story of escape. The book is equally cherished for the introduction of hobbits, an endearing variation on humanity. But the novel is much more psychologically profound and redolent with sexual symbolism than has been acknowledged by reviewers and Tolkien’s biographers. The distinctly homoerotic yearnings of Bilbo Baggins and the psychosexual pathology of Gollum were not discussed by reviewers in 1937 when the book was first published and hailed as a children’s classic on both sides of the Atlantic. But in the 21st century, Tolkien’s monumental fan base has elevated his works to legendary status, with every character and plot strand dissected with the utmost seriousness. Homosexuality, however, remains the final frontier in the journey toward full appreciation of Tolkien’s vividly original characters.
The origin of The Hobbit was bedtime stories invented by Tolkien for the entertainment of his four children in the late 1920s. Tolkien began writing the manuscript version of The Hobbit in his spare time as professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford in around 1930. The story of Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who joins thirteen dwarves on their quest to reclaim a hoard of treasure from the dragon Smaug, gradually assumed a grander and more complex form as his writing progressed and the story gripped his imagination. The final version, while retaining some of the children’s story elements, is rich with erotic imagery and existential darkness. Bilbo Baggins and the creature Gollum are autobiographical, representing opposite corners of the author’s psyche.