“Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom.”-Charlie Parker. Throughout The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, music and singing are extremely abundant, during the joyous times and the bad. It often hints at
a character’s personality, and is a flawless way to introduce them. Tolkien uses quotes to his advantage by utilizing them to hint at us the characteristics of the 13 dwarves, the elves, and the goblins at their first appearance in the novel.
After the thirteen dwarves are introduced to Bilbo by Gandalf, they almost immediately break into song. They laugh and dance and reveal their inconsiderate and ill-mannered side to the reader as well. In one of their songs, they sing, “Chip the glasses and crack the plates!! Blunt the knives and bend the forks! That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates- Smash the bottles and burn the corks!” (Tolkien 12). After hearing these lyrics, the reader is certainly able to infer that the dwarves may sometimes be impolite and discourteous. After this the dwarves also reveal that they are just having harmless fun, when they sing: “That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates! So, carefully, carefully with the plates!”(Tolkien 12). Throughout the rest of the novel, Bilbo is taken care of by the dwarves perfectly, sometimes even being carried on their back. This proves the reader’s inference he made so early on in the novel true, that the dwarves may occasionally be
rude and impolite, although they also have the ability to be extremely supportive and caring towards Bilbo.
Not only do the dwarves’ first impressions remain true throughout the Hobbit, the goblins’ first appearance trough song puts a firm impression in the reader’s mind about their personality. Together they chant: “Clap! Snap! The black crack! Grip, Grab! Pinch, nab! And down down to Goblin-town you go, my lad! Clash, crash! Crush, smash! Hammer and tons! Knocker and gongs! Pound, pound, far underground!” (Tolkien 60). From this small portion of song, we already have a huge insight into the goblin’s personality in the book as vile and violent creatures, probably the antagonists of the story. The way they sing, with simple, one-word sentences, makes the reader also infer that they are not the brightest of creatures. The dwarves, on the contrary, sing more with full sentences, showing that they are probably not nearly as dim-witted and violent as the goblins.
The complete opposite of the goblins, the elves are majestic and extremely welcoming creatures. Their first appearance in the book is also through song: “O! What are you doing, and where are you going? Your ponies need shoeing! The river is flowing O! Tra-la-la-lally here down in the valley” (Tolkien 48). There lyrics reveal that they are hospitable creatures, by having them demand that their ponies need shoeing. This inference is proven true as they even let the dwarves stay in their town, even though their races are somewhat of enemies. They also are shown as joyous creatures, singing enthusiastically, tra-la-la-lally and remaining positive: “The River is flowing”. This is
also true as the reader can later on see why they are so joyous, as they live in a beautiful and prosperous valley, harmoniously.
As the readers analyze the occurrences of songs throughout the book, they will realize that they are not only there to entertain, but they serve a much higher purpose. One of the most important ones is to make sure that the reader has a strong understanding of the main character’s personality and how it affects their decisions which can change the course of the novel. J.R.R Tolkien masterfully uses song and music to show the personalities of his dwarves, goblins, and elves. All great fantasy writers can learn from his writing, absorbing how to flawlessly incorporate song and music into their writing, so it can serve a far greater purpose.