What can I say about The Hobbit that has not been said by wiser or more insightful people than I ?
Only my own individualized, fresh and sparkling take on a wonderful tale.
Ha, ha. I jest, yet it's true that this post contains my own thoughts on why The Hobbit resonates with me. I can't presume why other people like it. That in itself is an interesting topic for discussion: why do very different people love the same book? Is it for the same reasons or not? Does a cerebral software engineer enjoy the Hobbit in the same way a right-brained musician enjoys it?
Being a right-brained musician married to a cerebral software engineer, I can only say that as much as we both love the same story, we like it for very different reasons.
Having said that, I am going to focus on why I like The Hobbit, even though I am not a fan of fantasy.
I like The Hobbit because I am a hobbit. I like my little hobbit hole, filled with books and tea and coffee. I like my old comfortable furniture for visiting with friends, reading, or watching old "Columbo" episodes with my cerebral computer wonk.
I don't like evil. I don't like thinking about evil and I certainly would hate to leave the comforts of my hobbit hole to fight evil.
But sometimes that is exactly what we are called upon to do. Sometimes the evil doesn't take an obvious form like a troll or Orc.
Sometimes it's a really mean person who makes life hard at work. Sometimes it's your mother being diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Or being afflicted with our own chronic illness. Or terrorism, or war or rumors of war.
We wish these things didn't happen to us.
I wish it need not have happened in my time, said Frodo.
So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
That quote is from Lord of the Rings and not The Hobbit and, while Frodo had his adventure thrust on him, Bilbo's was voluntary, even if he was reluctant at first.
It's hard to leave our comfortable existence and venture out into the unknown on an adventure.
But on the other hand, what were we made for? Simply to exist and be comfortable?
Bilbo finds out that the Tookish part of him says, "No!" This ultimately decides him. So off he goes with Gandalf and a troop of dwarves whom he has never met and doesn't particularly like (the feeling is mutual on the dwarves' part) and goes off on an adventure with no guarantees of ever returning alive.
Why did he do it? For his share of the treasure? I doubt it. The camaraderie? Certainly not. Bilbo did not find the dwarves to be pleasant people and they had serious doubts about his usefulness.
The idea belonged to Gandalf the Wizard. Why did he persuade the dwarves they needed Bilbo and why did he persuade Bilbo that he needed to accompany the dwarves? For what purpose really? For some Treasure? Understandably, Thorin was determined to gain the rightful property and possessions of his family, but how were they going to fight a dragon for it?
I believe that Tolkien tapped into a universal truth that there are greater powers at work in our lives than we see. Because Bilbo or the dwarves could not have known it, but their adventure set off a chain of events that led ultimately to the defeat of a great and insidious evil.
As a Christian, that makes perfect sense to me. I can only see threads not the entire tapestry, yet I know the tapestry is there and an unspeakably beautiful picture is being woven.
That is why I love The Hobbit. It's a marvelous demonstration of the juxtaposition of small and large. We as individuals with our tiny lives are nevertheless working towards something truly great.
As great as learning to love unloveable people. Because Bilbo learned to love those hard-headed dwarves. And they came to love him as well. When Thorin finally repents and gives up his life for the greater good, Bilbo weeps like a child. Every time I read that section, I find it hard not to cry myself.
And it's a journey that requires hardship, even suffering. One day my cozy hobbit hole may be taken away from me. It's happened to better men than I.
I love Bilbo because as a Hobbit he so effectively exposes human nature. Placed in a fantasy setting we can more clearly see our own reality.
If there are any Hobbit lovers out there. I would love to hear your own musings about the story.