‘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.’J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Are you a hobbit? Sometimes I think I am (although I’m sure some people would raise objections on the basis of my especial dislike for mushrooms!). I love peaceful gardens and steaming hot tea and good books, and deep inside there lies a Tookish yearning for adventure. One of the reasons why J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories have spoken to me so deeply is that far from simply being epic stories of fantasy and adventure, they have a way of helping to put into words my own experiences of life in a broken world. There are so many life lessons that could be taken from the pages of his writings, but today being Hobbit Day (the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, for anyone who doesn’t know:), I think I’m going to write about Hobbits!
Tolkien epitomized so much of the human experience in his creation of Hobbits; their desire for comfort and peace, their fierce loyalty, their ordinary heroism, and so, so much more.
“My dear Frodo!’ exclaimed Gandalf. ‘Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
When the wizard Gandalf shows up on Bilbo Baggins’ doorstep, the quiet Hobbit merely wants to be left alone in peace, but almost against his will something inside of him starts to awaken. Somehow, despite his misgivings, he embarks on a journey that ends up leading him so far from his cozy little hobbit hole that he ends up in the doorway of a dragon’s lair.
“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.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
The battle that Bilbo fought in his mind as he stood there on Smaug’s doorstep is something that I think we can all relate to. So often in our lives, we find ourselves in situations that require more courage than we believe we possess. It is often in those situations that we find out that we are really so much braver than we think we are. The actual actions we take in those situations are usually less than half the battle, the struggle is in our minds, fighting with our anxiety and fear. We may be fully equipped for the situation or we may be fully unequipped, but much like Bilbo, our success often lies in whether or not we can silence our own minds long enough to try. Bilbo didn’t know the full extent of the danger he was getting into, but he knew enough to be terrified. He also knew that the success of the adventure was resting on him. Our quests might not be as dramatic, we’re not likely going to have to face an actual live dragon or restore generations of treasure to their rightful owners, but our courage still has the power to change our own lives and the lives of others.
Bilbo didn’t want to go on an adventure, but that adventure ended up growing him in ways he could never have expected. Aren’t we much the same? We want comfortable, easy lives, but life is anything but easy. Whether we like it or not, we have been placed on this journey called life. We may not think of it like a journey, but the truth is that every single breath we take is a step forward on the path of our lives. Every moment we have a choice, to give in to our fear and stay in the cozy hobbit holes of our comfort zone, or to make the courageous yet terrifying choice to follow God’s calling.
Imagine just how much the world would change if we all had the courage to face our fears!