Saturday, April 20, 2013

Further Thoughts on "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Gandalf: You'll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.

Bilbo: ...Can you promise that I will come back?

Gandalf: No. And if you do...

you will not be the same.

This is a great exchange at the start of the film that is original to this interpretation. It is not in the book, even though it does come on the heels of the story of Bilbo’s ancestor who defeated some goblins and invented golf at the same time, which is in there.

The theme is true to Tolkien, though. He discussed the idea later in “The Fellowship of the Ring” in the third chapter as the younger hobbits set out on a new journey. Frodo remembers Bilbo’s advice:

“He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. ‘It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.’"

The poems in that same chapter “The Road goes ever on and on” and “Upon the hearth the fire is red” carry some of the same theme. I am not much of one for Tolkien’s poetry, but I do love these. (It’s April, National Poetry Month. Go pull out your copy of “The Fellowship of the Ring” and check them out. If you don’t own a copy, shame on you!)

This whole idea of adventure is something very foreign to us today. We design our entire existence around concepts like comfort and safety, predictability and planning. We are all hobbits at heart. We don’t like being reminded that life is risk and change and unforeseeable circumstances. We use things like calendars, insurance policies, and government regulations to give ourselves the false security of a life with all contingencies covered. We stay focused on ourselves and our needs and plan everything accordingly.

But all of that is a lie at best and a denial at worst. When we tell ourselves that happiness is the most important thing in life and that happiness is all about comfort and safety we lose sight of others, of the world around us, and its problems. We never discover that true happiness is found in laying our own comfort and safety aside and helping others, in making the world a better place.

We should lay aside our own pursuit of the lie of our culture and live the adventure life offers us. But beware, you start to think and live like that and it will change you. You might begin to be seen as weird to all the hobbits around you.

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