Document Type

Unpublished Paper

Publication Date

Fall 2015


Throughout The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien establishes a variety of races that range on a diverse scale of good and evil. Within this spectrum, Goblins are portrayed as being the most evil in comparison to every other race on Middle Earth. Tolkien utilizes a variety of literary devices -from a repeated symbolic association with fire to their physical intolerance to environmental elements such as sunlight- to establish the complete disconnection between the Goblins and the natural world. This detachment allows their race as an entirety to become the embodiment of evil, which functions as a plot device throughout the narrative. Goblins play a vital role within The Hobbit, as their race is ultimately degraded to being a mere symbol for evil. This serves as a reference for the goodness of other races. Additionally, the initial portrayal of the Goblins in The Hobbit is significant because throughout Tolkien’s legendarium, “orcs are, in both quality and literal reference, interchangeable with “goblins” in folklore and Victorian fairy-telling” (Tyellas 5). The Hobbit’s illustration of the Goblin race acts as the most fundamentally primitive representation of a race that is later referenced as Orcs throughout The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Therefore, the Goblins play a unique and noteworthy role within the narrative of The Hobbit; the race itself is dehumanized into a representation of evil, which serves as a standard for defining goodness within the entire racial context of Middle Earth. This is a major source of Tolkien’s plot development throughout the novel. Additionally, there is a significant contrast between Tolkien’s literary depiction and Peter Jackson’s modern day cinematic portrayal of the Goblins in the film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The evolution seen in the film is reflective of modern society’s discomfort with using race to classify the inherent qualities of an entire group of people.


A paper completed for English 4610.