November 20, 2022


"The Hobbit" and Virtue (Joseph Pearce, November 13th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

A Christian believes in dragons, even if he can't see them, and knows that they are perilous and potentially deadly. They are certainly not to be courted, nor is it wise to toy with them.

"The more truly we can see life as a fairy tale," said G.K. Chesterton, "the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the dragon who is wasting fairyland."

Grace is always available to those who seek it and ask for it, biasing "fortune" in the direction of goodness; yet, on the other hand, the fallen nature of humanity means that man's natural tendency is towards concupiscence and its destructive consequences. If we don't ask for help, we are bound to fall.

It is in this choice, rooted in the gift and responsibility of free will, that the struggle with evil is won or lost. The will must willingly cooperate with grace or, in its failure to do so, must inevitably fall into evil. The struggle which all of us face is a dangerous adventure in a perilous realm.

If the interplay of Providence and free will is the means by which the dynamism of virtue and its consequences drive the narrative forward, the overarching moral of The Hobbit would appear to be a cautionary meditation on Matthew 6:21 ("Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also").

The story begins with Bilbo's desire for comfort and his unwillingness to sacrifice himself for others. His heart is essentially self-centered, surrounding itself with the treasures of his own home. His position at the outset of the story is an ironic and symbolic prefiguring of the dragon's surrounding himself with treasure in his "home" in the Lonely Mountain.

Bilbo is, therefore, afflicted with the dragon sickness. His pilgrimage to the Lonely Mountain is the means by which he will be cured of this materialist malady. It is a via dolorosa, a path of suffering, the following of which will heal him of his self-centeredness and teach him to give himself self-sacrificially to others.

The paradoxical consequence of the dragon sickness is that the things possessed possess the possessor. Thus Bilbo is a slave to his possessions at the beginning of The Hobbit and is liberated from them, or from his addiction to them, by its end.

Posted by at November 20, 2022 12:46 AM