I started reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien during the chaotic days before Christmas and I thought that I was going to have a difficult time focusing. My anxiety was high and thoughts of an ever growing to-do list just plagued me. With tea by my side, I found that every time I came back to The Hobbit I felt a relief that I hadn’t experienced since this new covid surge began early November.
I think many already know about Bilbo Baggins and his early adventure before the Lord of the Rings, especially those of you that love fantasy. I knew most of the plot points, as I watched the animated movie as a child, but I forgot most of the story over the years. I was searching for books that showcase the hero’s journey, and as I was reading The Hobbit I couldn’t believe my luck, as this follows that path beat for beat.
Before I get into details, here’s a quick rundown: the hero’s journey starts with our protagonist getting the call to adventure and going out into the unknown world. The road is full of many tests and challenges, and through them the protagonist is transformed. The climax of the story is the culmination of this change and the hero returns home a different person than who we met at the beginning of the story.
Our hero Bilbo is content with his world and staying in his homeland, The Shire. Hobbits that leave and go on adventures are seen as odd, and Bilbo likes to be seen as respectable, especially since his mother’s side, the Tooks, are the unrespectable sort. But alas, thirteen dwarves and a wizard drop on by and away we go.
From there we are with Bilbo through a series of trials where he comes through with a higher confidence of his abilities and what he brings to the table in the dwarves’ quest. Also gaining a couple magical items doesn’t hurt either. The dwarves notice the change is Bilbo, who are honestly kind of jerks towards him, but slowly they come to depend on him.
The culmination comes not with a dragon slaying or fighting in a great battle, but a difficult choice Bilbo must make. One that will set him against the dwarves, yet knows he knows it is the right course to take. Bilbo’s final act is just as heroic as his confrontation with a dragon, because it’s not only his neck he is putting on the line but how people he’s come to care about view him. Physical acts of heroism can be thrilling, but the small choices are just as important in a hero’s journey.
The Hobbit really shows how much we love the hero’s story in fantasy, even if it falls on the predictable side. The Hobbit had some surprises but ultimately the audience knows that Bilbo will be alright in the end, we just want to take the journey with him.
In the beginning of the post I mentioned how easy this book was on a weary soul, and I believe that’s why many still come back to The Hobbit and aren’t tired of reading the hero’s journey. The comfort is the point. We are in troubled times and sometimes we just need to go into a story knowing the hero will win in the end.