The Hobbit and Psychology

I have always been a fan of psychology. Though, for me it’s more of the theory behind it and not the scientific part or even the memorization of terms or anything. Since I write fantasy and enjoy writing for villains the most, I feel like it’s fascinating to figure out how and why a villain (or hero for that matter) does what they do. This is why my favorite part of character development is getting inside the head of the character. 

Since psychoanalytic theory focuses on Freudian psychology, I am going to use an example from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I think an interesting way to look at it is through different races and the character of Gandalf to show the ID, Ego, and Superego. 

Dwarves as the Id

As a fan of the elven race, rather than the dwarf, (sorry dwarves!) I feel as though the race of Dwarves could be used to show the Id of the story. They are naturally brash, and intake a lot of food and wine. This is shown in the very first chapter where the entire band of Dwarves come to poor Bilbo’s home and take their fill of food and wine. They also have a nasty temper.

In chapter 17 specifically, “The Clouds Burst”, Thorin becomes greedy and insists that he take the Arkenstone for himself. When he finds out that Bilbo had given the stone to Bard, Thorin lunged at him with anger that could be seen as animalistic.

Hobbits as the Ego

For the race of hobbits, I feel like they can be described as the Ego of the story. Hobbits are very social creatures and always care about what others think.

“This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in a neighborhood of The Hill for a time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because they were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him,” (Tolkien 3).

This passage could explain what the hobbit society deems socially acceptable. In this case, society favors those who are not only rich, but keep to their community and never do anything out of the ordinary or spontaneous. 

Gandalf as the Superego

I feel as though in some ways Gandalf the Grey can be seen as the Superego. Throughout this story and that of The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is used to guide the company throughout their adventures and at times acts as a conscience. However, when he goes his own way is usually when things go wrong.

A scene when they arrive at the edge of an Elvish village of Mirkwood is an example of Gandalf trying to guide the dwarf King Thorin before he takes off to leave them on their own for a little while. “The dwarves were inclined to grumble at this, but the wizard told them they were fools. ‘Beorn is not as far off as you seem to think, and you had better keep your promises anyway, for he is a bad enemy. Mr. Baggins’ eyes are sharper than yours, if you have not seen each night after dark a great bear is going with us or sitting far off in the moon watching our camps. Not only to guard you and guide you, but to keep an eye on the ponies too. Beorn may be your friend, but he loves his animals and his children. You do not guess what kindness he has shown you in letting dwarves ride them so far and so fast, nor what would happen to you, if you tried to take them into the forest,’” (Tolkien 124-125).

Gandalf can be seen as the Superego or conscience trying to talk sense into Thorin by warning him that there will be consequences to actions if he is not careful. Perhaps this could be a foreshadow of how Thorin becomes later on.

Psychology and Middle Earth

I could honestly make an entire paper or blog article on using the Id, Ego, and Superego throughout the Hobbit. I think the advantages of using this theory is that not only can you use it to see beyond the surface of characters or races, but also to flesh out different parts of the story and what the author might be thinking with each. I think there are so many things you can do with literature in writing or reading, especially with the theories behind psychology. that it is very flexible for anyone to use for any type of literary work or other stories.


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