Written by Malachi Brown
If you’ve read or watched “The Lord of the Rings,” you’ll know that Hobbits are a unique species in J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings. They do not strive for wisdom like the elves, nor do they chase after greed like the dwarves, nor do they lust for power like the humans. Instead, they find joy in working their fields, smoking their pipes and throwing birthday parties. As a third grader, I thought hobbits were overwhelmingly lame, and I would fast forward to when the fighting started at least an hour into the movie. I would replay the battle scenes on repeat so I know Helm’s Deep and Pelennor Fields like the back of my hand. Even when I read the books in middle school and high school, I would shake my fist at the heavens hoping Tolkien would see my boredom while I read his extensive descriptions of trees and Hobbit life. Only within the last three or so years since I’ve taken an honest interest in literature do I understand what was happening.
The boring life of the Hobbit is just that — boring because everything is perfect and there’s no plot. We suspect that there must be something wrong within this utopia, the Shire, but everything wrong is brought from the outside. In other books, there is an archetype, something like “the warrior in the garden,” who lives in a peaceful place, ready to defend whenever war comes around. Tolkien flips the archetype on its head; he takes four gardeners and sends them to war. Four hobbits who know nothing but the Shire are shipped off to lands of blood and desolation.
Throughout the whole trilogy, the reader or watcher is thinking, “How on Middle-earth does this little good defeat all that evil?” or in the words of King Theoden, “What can man do against such reckless hate?” a question whose answer lies within the Hobbits: resisting temptation and being humble is enough. Here is why this makes sense: Goodness does not destroy evil in this story, instead, evil corrupts even itself. When Frodo is on the altar of Mount Doom, he does not throw the ring into the fire. He gives into it in the greatest character failing of all romantic literature. Frodo only needs to make it to the altar for Gollum’s evil to plunge them into the fire, and even when Frodo cannot make it that far, Sam carries him.
The beauty of Lord of the Rings is that the tension is not in the battles, but in Frodo’s ability to resist the temptation to take the ring for himself. That is Tolkien’s wisdom: Goodness does not prevail from winning wars or tearing down institutions, but from much more simple acts like being gentle and kind. We need only make it to the cross for Christ to protect us from our sin collapsing in on us, and when we cannot even trudge up that far, the Spirit will carry us there.