He is the fantasy fan in our relationship. I made it through junior high and high school just fine without reading “Harry Potter.”
Also, I am suspicious of books that contain maps. If the universe you have created is so bizarre that you need a diagram to help me understand it, then I’m going to assume that your map is the beginning of 300 pages of boring.
“The Hobbit” opens with two maps, a major cause for concern.
Still, it’s not fair to judge a book by its cover, and I tried to begin this journey with an open mind.
When it came to an end this week, a part of me wasn’t ready to say good-bye to little Bilbo. This hobbit and I are so much alike that it is slightly unsettling.
First, we both love the Shire, the rural area of Middle Earth where hobbits live.
It seemed like such a peaceful place filled with food, friendly faces and comfortable housing built into the sides of hills.
Several chapters into the book, I asked Zac why silly hobbits are always leaving the Shire. Bilbo makes this mistake in “The Hobbit,” and Frodo follows suit in “The Lord of the Rings.”
J.R.R. Tolkien devoted one chapter at the beginning of the book and a few paragraphs at the end to the Shire. I wanted more.
“But nobody would read a book set in the Shire,” Zac said.
I guess life in the Shire wouldn’t be as interesting as recovering stolen treasure, staring down dragons and whatnot, but the predictability of it is what makes it so appealing to me.
I tend to agree with the first opinion Bilbo states about adventures: “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”
As unexpected events in my life began to dovetail with the many misfortunes of Bilbo and crew, my longing for the Shire intensified.
Zac eventually burst my bubble of escapism by informing me that even the Shire is not safe.
A dragon attacks it at the end of “The Lord of the Rings” book trilogy (but not in the movies).
I was also reminded by a friend that maturity doesn’t occur by sitting at home all the time eating teacake. It is only by facing the dragon that we grow and become wiser, stronger, braver.
Since Bilbo had 13 companions with him, I assumed that they would confront the dragon together.
As Bilbo crept down to the dark lair by himself, one paragraph gave me chills: “It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”
I underestimated the craftiness of the dragon. His most potent weapon was not his claws or the fire he breathed but the tricks he played on Bilbo’s mind as he attempted to convince the hobbit that his friends intended to betray him.
Since Tolkien was Catholic, it makes sense that the conversation bears a resemblance to the serpent’s dialogue with Eve in the third chapter of Genesis.
We fear that the enemy will harm us physically, and while he intends to in the end, his first attack always comes hidden in a seed of doubt. If it takes root, we start to self-destruct, and he doesn’t have nearly as much work to do to finish us off.
With this religious imagery in mind, it seems all the more appropriate that Bilbo did not have to kill the dragon.
A mysterious man named Bard intervened while Bilbo trembled in the Lonely Mountain awaiting the return of a dragon that was already dead.
The personal growth of Bilbo is an undeniable theme of “The Hobbit,” but I think the lesson I am meant to take away from it is that my schemes to slay the source of my worst fears are not necessary.
The deed is done; the dragon is dead.
However, that does not eliminate the many miles that lead back to the Shire.
Bilbo himself still had to make it through the Battle of the Five Armies, which sounded even more terrifying than the wrath of the dragon.
But when all dangers had passed and Bilbo and one of his friends turned their ponies toward home, Tolkien noted, “Their hearts looked forward after winter to a spring of joy.”
Sometimes winter seems to go on forever, but whether you’re a hobbit or a human, there is always the hope of a coming spring.