The Hobbit: Discovering Grace and Providence in Bilbo's Adventures
By: Joseph Pearce
Publisher: Saint Benedict Press, LLC
Imprint: Catholic Courses
Publication Date: 2012
In this companion course to The Hidden Meaning of The Lord of the Rings, Professor Joseph Pearce highlights the "fundamentally religious and Catholic" nature of Tolkien's famous novel, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.
In this course, Joseph Pearce shows that Tolkien's own words about The Lord of the Rings being a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work" also apply to The Hobbit. Some readers mistakenly believe that J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, The Hobbit, is just a simple children's story. Tolkien might have written the book for his children's entertainment, but the best children's literature always has a deep level of meaning, and The Hobbit is no exception.
Professor Pearce gives you three keys to a true understanding of The Hobbit's applicability to everyday life:
Bilbo grows in maturity, wisdom, compassion, self-sacrifice, and heroism over the course of his journey to the Lonely Mountain. At the end of the novel, Gandalf proclaims that Bilbo is no longer the hobbit he was; and we know that he is changed for the better. The meaning of life is to grow in virtue and holiness by learning the lessons of our adventures so that we can return "home" to God in Heaven.
In The Hobbit, Bilbo is time and again protected and rewarded by "luck" or "good fortune." The "luck" present in The Hobbit is nothing other than the hand of providence and grace. In order to survive our life's journey like Bilbo, we need the supernatural assistance of grace and providence.
Over and over again in the book, Tolkien presents characters who have fallen prey to dragon-sickness: pride and the lust for gold and material possessions. The Hobbit serves as a cautionary meditation on Matthew 6:21: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Bilbo Baggins of Bag End and his adventures can serve as a mirror for our journey through life. Even though we won't find ourselves travelling through goblin-infested mountains, chased by spiders, or threatened by trolls, we can see that virtue is only attained through grace by slaying the monsters and demons which try to prevent our passage into eternal glory. Tolkien's profoundly Catholic worldview allows us to transcend the literal meaning of the story and apply its theological lessons to our own lives.
Joseph Pearce is Writer in Residence and Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH. He is a renowned biographer whose books include Candles in the Dark: The Authorized Biography of Fr. Ho Lung, Missionaries of the Poor (Saint Benedict Press, 2012); Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays (Ignatius Press, 2010); and Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life (HarperCollins, 1998). He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Higher Education from Thomas More College for the Liberal Arts and the Pollock Award for Christian Biography. He is co-editor of the St. Austin Review, editor-in-Chief of Ignatius Press Critical Editions, and editor-in-Chief of Sapientia Press.
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