Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist of The Hobbit, is one of a race of creatures about half the size of humans, beardless and with hairy feet. He lives in an unspecified time that is at once ancient and also very like the Victorian age, with its cozy domestic routines. Like most hobbits, Bilbo is fond of the comforts of home and hearth: He loves good, simple food in abundance, and he loves his pipe and well-furnished hobbit-hole. The book opens, in fact, with Bilbo's smoking a pipe one morning just outside his home; shortly afterward, he finds himself serving high tea — including coffee, cakes, scones, jam, tart, and pies — to thirteen dwarves. Memories of this kind of plain English food follow Bilbo throughout his hardships on his journey, when he is often hungry, and represent what home means to him. Bilbo is also fastidious: He does not like the mess the dwarves create in his home and, although he has been invited by Gandalf to join a dramatic adventure, in Chapter 2 he almost returns home because he has forgotten his handkerchiefs and his pipe.
Bilbo is called upon to do more than he imagines himself capable of. He does not like to travel, preferring the safety of his hobbit-hole, but he has inherited a streak of adventurousness from his mother's side, the Tooks. His adventurous Took side and his comfort-loving Baggins side are in conflict throughout much of the story. For the first half of the book, he is often hapless and rather cowardly. He begins by falling into a fit when he feels prevailed upon to join Gandalf and the dwarves, and later he must be carried by Dori when they are escaping the Goblins. In the face of difficulties, he is often afraid and constantly daydreams of bacon and eggs and wishes himself back home. In Chapter 2, he is caught trying to pickpocket the trolls.
And yet Bilbo soon shows signs of ingenuity. He picks up the key to the trolls' secret cave, thereby providing himself with a sword from the cache inside the cave. Although Gandalf must rescue him and the dwarves from the Goblins in Chapter 4, in the very next chapter, Bilbo finds the ring of invisibility and proves the equal of Gollum in the exchange of riddles. It is important to note that Bilbo resists the impulse to kill Gollum in Chapter 5 because he thinks it would be unfair: Gollum is unarmed, while Bilbo is invisible and armed. Bilbo is thus depicted as not only clever, but ethical. This is reflected in the dwarves' growing respect for him in Chapter 6.
In Chapter 8, when Bilbo uses his sword to free himself from the spider web, he is described as feeling differently about himself, an indication that he is growing in self-awareness. At this point, he names his sword, as many legendary heroes have done, and it is clear that he is developing qualities of heroism and leadership. In Chapter 9, he displays both bravery and intelligence in devising a plan for the escape of the dwarves to Esgaroth; Gandalf has departed and their fate is in Bilbo's hands. Finally, in Chapter 12, it is Bilbo alone who descends into Smaug the dragon's lair — having first been the one to discover how to use Thorin's key to open the door to the Lonely Mountain — and steals a cup and the Arkenstone from the hoard. He exhibits extreme bravery because he really does not want to confront Smaug, but he goes anyway. He also discerns Smaug's vulnerable spot, where he will eventually be shot by Bard's arrow.
After the Battle of Five Armies, however, Bilbo returns to his hobbit hole and to a life very much like the one he left — with some important differences. He has more money, having been given a share of Smaug's hoard, and his life after he returns home is rather more eccentric than before, a much more Tookish life.