Bilbo – the English Hobbit


For the second year, French pupils who follow the most literary of the three streams of the French General Baccalauréat are now specifically taught literature in a foreign language, often English.

The idea is to instill knowledge and love of literature in English rather than specialise in technical terms, even though my pupils seemed to have fun with the rhyming scheme of the Petrarchan sonnet last week.

In December we did some work on The Hobbit, focusing on the poster above for Peter Jackson’s film, the 1938 New York Times book review and the first pages of the novel.

During the holiday, the pupils were asked to write several paragraphs to answer the following questions:
– Is Bilbo adventurous?
– To what extent can we say that Bilbo is typically English?

I found their answers to the latter both interesting and amusing so I thought I’d share a selection from different essays with you. Their ideas of what English people are supposed to be like are quite sweet.

His home:

We can say that Bilbo is typically English because he has got a very comfortable, cosy and warm house.

His house is a definition of what English houses look like.

His clothes:

Bilbo also likes wearing bright colours.

He also wears bright colours which match the image of the English who wear colourful and original clothes.

His habits:

Bilbo smokes a pipe like English characters such as Sherlock Holmes.

We can say that Bilbo is typically English because he smokes a pipe. Indeed the most popular character who smoked a pipe was Sherlock Holmes, an English fictional character.

He is very fond of flowers and gardens like British people.


What is typically English is the fact that he has tea during the afternoon with visitors.

Bilbo invites Gandalf to come to tea which is a very typical thing in Britain. Tea time is at five in the afternoon and to invite someone to tea in Britain is typical.

His manners:

Bilbo Baggins looks typically English because of his way of talking. In fact he uses the words ‘dear sir’ many times to talk to Gandalf, which is a British, especially English, expression which shows a mark of respect.

Bilbo is also English because he doesn’t speak much.

Bilbo, even if he doesn’t want any adventures, is and remains polite. He uses very good and clear language, like a gentleman; something which is typically English.

One of the important things is that Bilbo is very polite. He says: ‘Good morning’ many times to Gandalf. In France people are known to be a little rude whereas English people are always polite, even to strangers.

Moreover some stereotypes say that English people are reserved concerning conversations. For instance, they rarely ask questions to the person they are talking with. That’s what we see with Bilbo and Gandalf. Indeed, the hobbit didn’t ask for Gandalf’s name; he only said ‘Good morning’.

Bilbo is a discreet character who is well educated, this is the idea we have of English people.

8 thoughts on “Bilbo – the English Hobbit

  1. Fascinating. I see how people draw their ideas from the films that they see (I’m assuming your students don’t actually spend a lot of time in England).

    • I think these students have only been on a day trip to Canterbury (apart from one or two who may have spent more time in the UK). So I reckon their ideas come from films and also books; in this particular group they enjoy reading.

  2. I adore these responses! I suddenly want to be ‘typically English’ because it all sounds rather charming (a bit like Enid Blyton boarding school stories).

    I didn’t know that we were known for wearing colourful clothing! In the alternative, one of the most polite people I know happens to be French – and I hadn’t heard that the French were known for being rude.

    This is such a lovely post…

    • I must admit that I was surprised when I read how positive all their observations were – as opposed to how the press likes to pit one country against the other. It will be interesting to ask the pupils where they got their ideas from.
      I find that, probably because you have a stricter dress code in schools and in the workplace, people tend to be more eccentric in their clothing once they’re home or at the weekend in the UK.
      As for politeness, I’d say that French people are generally and sadly more aggressive.

  3. Tea and gardens seems to be a general conception of the English the world over. I too had heard of the French as being very rude, I’m pleased to say that I found that to be utterly false.

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