“What we see about Bilbo is that he has this beautiful hobbit hole, this very comfortable existence. And he completely takes it for granted — he doesn’t really appreciate very much at all about his life. What happens with Bilbo is he comes to recognize and appreciate (his life at home) much more as time goes on, so that when he returns to it his eyes are really open to it.”
Throughout “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” religious themes and values abound. However, whereas Tolkien’s contemporary and close friend C.S. Lewis chose to infuse a more overt Christianity into the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, Tolkien opted instead for a subtler literary embrace of Judeo-Christian values.
For instance, when Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellen, reprising his iconic role from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) entrusts Bilbo with a special sword, he sternly admonishes the hobbit, “True courage isn’t knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one.” Those words weigh heavy with Bilbo as he has the chance to kill Gollum after their riddle game, but instead chooses to spare the life of the sad, woebegone creature.
Another example of religious themes in "Unexpected Journey" is the ever-present question of whether miraculous circumstances and last-minute rescues are the fruits of luck or providence.
“In terms of moral truths and worldview, the faith of Lewis and Tolkien does not differ because they share a similar Christianity,” Brown said. “The way it’s embedded is different: Tolkien’s Christianity was much more fundamental, much more below the surface; Lewis’ was more direct.
“Lewis had an interesting word for it: He called Tolkien’s Christianity more ‘latent’ than his, which is a good way to describe it.”
Highlighting this distinction for adolescents and teenagers could potentially open their eyes to the myriad ways faith themes play out as subtext across all sorts of movies, television and stage plays.
Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-236-6051.
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