Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - An Unexpected Party

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. (3)

My young son loves monsters - any monsters. Throw in a wild adventure and he is engaged in the greatest story of all time. It only makes sense, then, to introduce him to J. R. R. Tolkien's classic work The Hobbit to him each night. As I read the novel to him, I want to do what I have failed to do for some time and that is blog through a book.

In the first chapter we meet all of the major characters including Bilbo the "burglar" hobbit, Gandalf the wise wizard, and all the dwarves: Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin, Dori, Nori Ori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and their leader Thorin Oakenshield. Immediately the reader is introduced to what makes Tolkien's Middle Earth so rich. Unlike most authors who create a world for their characters, Tolkien creates characters for his world. The opening paragraph (quoted above) makes this evident. What is a hobbit? The answer is given by exploring the world of the Hobbits in the Shire both Over the Hill and Under the Hill.

This is what makes the characters and the story so rich. When we meet Gandalf and later the dwarves we immediately are aware that there is a collusion of worlds meeting in Bilbo's kitchen. Biblo, who at first embodies the typical hobbit, is not interested in adventures or anything out of the ordinary. To be late for dinner is most unwelcomed. Gandalf arrives to interrupt his ordered life and dwarves ensure it happens. They eat his food, they sing dark songs in his home, and enter unannounced.

In the midst of this world we discover that Bilbo is actually not an ordinary hobbit. He is a torn one. The Baggins side prefers order while the Took side is more adventurous. Throughout this first chapter, Tolkien humorously portrays Bilbo exploring both ends of his family tree. He finds it most inconvenient the dwarves and Gandolf have interrupted his life while at the same time, the more the dwarves speak of mountains, elves, and gold we see him leaning in and becoming interested.

But Bilbo is a woefully naive hobbit.
As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. He looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up - probably somebody lighting a wood-fire-and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again. He got up trembling. He had less than half a mind to fetch the lamp, and more than half a mind to pretend to, and go and hide behind the beer barrels in the cellar, and not come out again until all the dwarves had gone away. Suddenly he found that the music and the singing had stopped, and they were all looking at him with eyes shining in the dark.(15-16)
Here we see the pull between Bilbo the Took and Bilbo the Baggins. But while the Took side dominates his mind, he begins to fantasize what this adventure would include and it is woefully naive. He seems to believe that the adventure the dwarves have in mind is largely a walk-about. Has he forgotten all of the talk about the dragon? Even the reference to the sword sounds like a decorative piece as opposed to a weapon.

This torn and naive Hobbit will go on to become the hero of the story - not because he is the strongest or best wielder of a sword - but because of who he is. This naivete and hesitancy toward adventures blinds Bilbo from the besetting sin of The Hobbit: dragon sickness, (i. e., greed). By the end of the story, every major character will become consumed with gold, now horded by the giant worm, that will culminate in a great battle. Everyone, that is, except from Bilbo. He finds contentment in a quiet life without adventures. This will be a major theme moving forward.

For more:
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
Longing for Eden: Tolkien's Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
"Beyond The Movie": A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings   
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