Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christian Hobbit?

Martin Freeman as Bilbo
Over the years, I've had to argue in the favor of The Lord of the Rings as a Christian epic. At first, as a kid, I took it at face value and said, "Look, it's just a fun adventure story." But with the increase of spiritual maturity, I've seen plain Christian themes in the Rings books, and even in the atheist-produced movies. Re-reading the books for the first time in years, God has shown me things I missed for years - the overt themes of humility, trust, providence, love, mercy, hope, and heaven are hard to miss, but then, I always read Rings for the fantasy stuff. Dark Lords, battles, elves, and dwarves were much more interesting to my twelve-year-old, adventure-starved self even when couched in lessons on moral relativism and absolute truth. As a kid, I knew there was some sort of great moral goodness in these books I loved, but I wasn't old enough to understand it. Now, it's like reading them for the first time, and I'm savoring the experience. But I digress. When talking Tolkien, this is prone to happen.

The Hobbit films, with their increasing emphasis on "black magic" and "witchcraft" (both terms actually used by the ridiculous Radagast) are harder to defend. I've resorted to my original "Just a fun adventure movie" defense (which it is). Admittedly, The Hobbit book itself has much less opportunity for moral tales, due to its lighter tone and less mature audience. But while it lacks the overtly Harry Potter-ish elements brought into play by Radagast in the movie, does it have a positive Christian message? Professor Devin Brown says yes. In an article entitled "The Hobbit: an essentially Christian story?" posted at TheOneRing.Net, he presents a strong case for Tolkien's Christian writing. I dig it.

One of the first pics from the third movie
If in The Hobbit we find a special sense of purpose Christians can identify with, we also find a Christian sense of Providence which also can be traced to Tolkien’s view of the world. If a beginning creative writing student had handed in a story where so much seemed to depend on coincidence — Elrond’s holding up the map in just the right moonlight, Bilbo being in just the right place to find the ring, the dwarves and hobbit being at the doorstep to Lonely Mountain at just the right time for the keyhole to appear — any teacher would have written at each of these occurrences, “Too much reliance on chance!” In fact, Tolkien wants readers to come to learn, as Bilbo does, that there has been an invisible hand of Providence behind these and the many other so-called lucky coincidences in the story. Tolkien, who had a lifelong belief in a personal God who works in ways mysterious to us, has Gandalf say in his final words to Bilbo: “You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?”
That line, in the last few pages of The Hobbit, is a wonderful little reference to Tolkien's own belief. It's probably too much to hope that Peter Jackson will keep it in the movie, but I sure hope he does. Oh, and the rest of the article is well worth the reading.


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