Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien

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.

J.R. Tolkien


  1. Sharon,

    I too am no great fan of fantasy. I'm far more interested in SF, but there are always exceptions and Tolkien is one of them. I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings more often than any other work, and I'm slowly approaching another reading.

    Some may dismiss it as escapist literature, but beneath the dragons and wizards and elves and the evil ones there is a hard core of realism seldom found even in mundane literature.

    1. Evil is always with us and it will never be defeated for all time--just that particular brand of evil that arose at that particular moment in time, and it is different each time it appears.

    2. Frodo's comment, quoted above, has no doubt been said by many who find themselves confronting evil and who are faced with the choice of doing nothing or resisting, even when it appears to be useless.

    3. Even if evil is defeated, for this time anyway, things will never be the same. Too much has been lost forever, but something new will emerge over time.

    4. Some who have fought and survived physically may never be the same after wards. The wounds are too deep and profound. There is always a price to be paid.

    Just some thoughts floating around. Thanks for posting this and giving me an opportunity to put them down somewhere.

    Just why I like The Hobbit, I really can't say. It must touch something deep within me, or I wouldn't have read it so many times over the years.

    1. Hi Fred! I'm sure for some the fun of reading The Hobbit goes no deeper than fantasy. But I don't think that can be entirely true. I've read other fantasy and the characters are cardboard and the storyline has no moral compass. Reading those books left me feeling flat.

      The Hobbit is fun to read because while evil is real, the book shows how it can be fought and good is stronger and ultimately prevails.

      I firmly believe the promises of the book of Revelation 21:4

      "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

      Have a good week!

  2. I too love The Hobbit. I too love my Hobbit Hole.

    Indeed one does need to go out and not stay in our Hobbit hole to deal with pernicious things in our Universe,

    I would just add that I think one of the points here is that we leave our comfortable dens not just to confront evil, but to find some of the good things out there that we cannot always find at home.

    1. Hi Brian! I also agree. I find the world an exciting place. That's why I love to travel. And, of course, Bilbo left the second time not to fight evil but to see the world. Leaving the first time gave him a taste for adventure.

      It makes coming back to the Hobbit hole all the more pleasurable.

      Take care!

  3. Sharon,

    My last post was a bit negative, I fear. One point I didn't mention that there is good in the world: good people and good places. Frequently they pop up unexpectedly, someplace one would never expect and some people who prove to be sympathetic and helpful.

    1. HI there, Fred. I didn't think you were being negative. If we feel defeated by evil I suppose that's negative.

      It's a topic for many a discussion evil and it's repercussions. I believe God can use those times and the scars and hurts and use them to mold us into something greater than we would be if we hadn't suffered hardship.

      Take care!

  4. It's a dangerous business, Sharon, opening your blog to fellow Tolkien fans. They sit down to the keyboard, and if they don’t guard their words, there's no knowing where they might be swept off to.

    What a “sparkling” review you offer of one of my favorite stories of all time.

    For the greater part of your comments, I simply exclaim Bravo!

    But you raise a few points on which I am compelled to be more explicit. Why did Gandalf involve himself in this adventure at all? Isn’t a treasure hunt a bit trivial for the attention of a mighty wizard? (wizard, or more precisely Maia or lesser Ainur, or in today’s vernacular demigod.)

    Casual Tolkien readers might be confused by Gandalf’s interest with the Dwarves. More devout fans might infer his purpose, but rather vaguely. The most serious fans, students of The Silmarillion, and other works know that Gandalf, always thinking, always planning, knew great evil was lurking, biding time, gaining strength and mustering forces. Gandalf knew that Sauron would rise and Smaug, the last dragon in Middle Earth, would submit to Suaron’s call. Gandalf knew he could use the greed of the dwarves to stir the dragon and deal with one force of evil now, that would have to be dealt with eventually.

    This at least, appears deliberate on Gandalf’s part. The answers to other questions are more elusive. Why did Gandalf enlist Bilbo? I don’t think we know, as I don’t think Gandalf knew. The Ring might seem the answer. It is likely that only a humble Hobbit, or more precisely a pair of humble Hobbits, or most precisely a trio of humble Hobbits, could carry The Ring so long and so far without being overcome by its evil – but even Gandalf did not foresee that Bilbo would find The Ring.

    It just happened to work out.

    Just happened!? Of course not!

    Not even mighty Gandalf, learned Elrond, noble Aragorn, or wise Galadriel could comprehend ALL the great powers at work.

    Tolkien maintained The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were not allegorical, and I have to accept the author’s word. However, it doesn’t mean that precepts of Tolkien’s faith are not evident in his work. I am confident he held to the Christian principles that: all things work together for good to them that love God, as well as what one intends for evil, God can purpose for good.

    All in the making of a beautiful tapestry.

    My own review of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings:

    1. Wow, Joseph. I can't begin to comment on all your questions. Now I'm going to be up all night wondering. Somehow when I read The Hobbit, I felt as if Gandalf knew something he wasn't telling us, although adding LOTR into the equation it doesn't seem as if he did.
      Of course, if I got my facts straight, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for fun without considering a follow up. So that may account for some inconsistencies. The elves aren't as noble or mysterious in The Hobbit either. Probably Tolkien hadn't time to work out his myth fully.
      I agree with you that even though his books may not have been allegorical, he couldn't help but write from his own worldview which was exactly you you so well put in your last paragraph. This is, of course, what gives us hope and even joy in the midst of crises.
      I look forward to reading your review. Have a good week.

  5. This was such a great review. I loved it. When I read The Hobbit, I was just excited enough to have enjoyed fantasy for the first time, and I missed all of those important details that you brought out in your post. I am a hobbit, too! Love to be comfortable, and reluctant to face hard things. I probably need to reread it again w/ different eyes.

    1. Hi Ruth! Let's face it. We're all hobbits. And it's fun to gain vicarious thrills by reading about someone else's adventure from the comfort and safety of our own little hobbit hole. :)

  6. I am inspired. See my posting at Beyond Eastrod. I'll write more about the book in days to come. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Hi RT. I will most certainly do that! Thanks for reading my post. Take care!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.