The quest is an old, but beloved theme and Tolkien has tapped into this, in particular by imitation of the older textual documents his academic life was concentrated upon at the time of writing both The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings. The protagonist (Bilbo) must leave his, often-comfortable, home in search of an important artefact, or as part of a company desiring to bring about a grand change in their lives. Bilbo experiences the highs and lows of travel, deals with evil, discovers treasure, escapes with his life (on several occasions), develops deep and abiding friendships, helps take back that which was taken, and returns home rich in adventure. Bilbo experiences a coming of age during the fulfillment of the quest, and changes from a homebody, to someone who has experienced the world, both the good and the dangerous parts, and survived to return home. Bilbo develops into a person who is able to survive any adventure through the course of the quest, and no longer needs to be rescued by someone bigger or older than himself. The turning-point for this is rather clear when Bilbo escapes from the goblin's domain under the Misty Mountains, outsmarting Gollum and escaping with his most prized possession, and all under his own steam, with no help from anyone else.
The theme of greed is symbolised by the gold and material wealth that is highly sought after by most of the characters in The Hobbit. Thorin is the worst culprit, when he closes off the dwarves from anything and anyone after they have successfully regained control of the Lonely Mountain (including their mountains of gold). Ultimately this is the underlying cause of the Battle of the Five Armies, and causes Thorin's death. The greed of the Dwarves is also clearly illustrated in the first song they sing. There are several verses dedicated to gold, and getting their gold back (all cleverly missing from the movie version). The lyrics can be found here, as they are a bit long for this blog.
The elves and men that are involved in the battle are also drawn to the mountain to demand gold from Thorin, under various guises of repayment. The greed of all three species is illustrated, and is clearly shown to have no good outcome.
Perhaps the worst offender of greediness is Smaug himself. He attacks and destroys the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor because of his desire to control the immense gold that the dwarves held there. Although dragons are stereotypically used as symbols of greed, Smaug is no better than many of his kindred (sprinkled throughout literature), and will fight to the death to protect the physical manifestations of his greed.
|Mt Aspiring, and Mt Earnslaw in New Zealand; these were used for the mines of Moria scenery.|