This study will provide an analysis of the romantic elements in the medieval epic poem Beowulf and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. The study will demonstrate that the romantic and heroic aspects of these two works contain both similarities and differences.
Both books are full of the sense of adventure and risk-taking which mark romantic literature. However, one great difference exists between the works with respect to the relationship of the romantic hero to his adventures, risk-taking, and romantic pursuits in the name of good against evil.
Bilbo Baggins, the eventual hero of Tolkien's book, is far from the eager hero that we see in the character of Beowulf. The hero Beowulf, in comparison to Bilbo, is a one-dimensional character with little complexity. The author of Beowulf presents his protagonist as a man who is fully a part of his society and has no thought for challenging the standards for heroic behavior which mark that society. Bilbo, on the other hand, shows nothing but reluctance and complacency in the face of the romantic challenge. Whereas Beowulf is a romantic hero, in a sense, from the moment of his birth, Bilbo is an easy-going hobbit with no taste or inclination for the heroic or the romantic. Beowulf lives a life of romantic adventure from beginning to end. Bilbo must be dragged kicking and screaming into the romantic adventures which fate has prepared for him.
As we immediately learn from Tolkien, the life of Bilbo the hobbit is a life far from that of the hard-living, hard-fighting Scandinavian warrior Beowulf. As Tolkien writes:
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort (Tolkien 1).
In Beowulf, on the other hand, we are hurled immediately into the realm of the romantic, which has little if anything...