Monday, January 21, 2013

The Hobbit's Guide to the Spiritual Life

My wife and I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at the movie theater yesterday. My wife is a diehard fan of Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien. Unlike CS Lewis, who was influenced by Tolkien, Tolkien's writing is more subtly imbued with deep Catholic themes pertaining to things like beauty, goodness, truth, evil, human and divine will, sin and redemption, and sacrifice and grace. Who could've expected that an author could produce novels so thoroughly Catholic yet able to also be enjoyed by generations of believers and non-believers alike? Growing up, many of my friends who were most devoted to Tolkien were also atheists. I think it's because Tolkien had a genius for telling stories by relating them to the common human experience, very similar to the way in which the ancient myths were communicated and passed down from antiquity.

Br. Patrick Mary Briscoe, OP, of the Eastern Dominican Province has written a good article exploring some of these themes in The Hobbit.
The world of The Hobbit is not a world of random chance where anything goes; in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The Hobbit tells the classic adventure story, the kind of story ordinary people naturally crave. The trademark of such a tale—a story which appeals to every person’s desire for truth, goodness, and beauty—is the dramatic difference between good and evil. In such a story good vanquishes evil, beauty conquers the repulsive, and characters rise to the challenges placed before them to fulfill their destinies. Within such a story, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins does not have to grapple with an existentialist crisis, nor carry the burden of creating his own meaning in light of the perceived absurdity of the world. Far from being an isolated and angst-ridden protagonist from Sartre’s Nausea, Bilbo joins Gandalf and the dwarves on a quest that has every appearance of being directed by providence itself.
Br. Patrick then explores the protagonist Bilbo Baggins and his heroic journey and what his character traits mean for the spiritual life. Read the whole article!

1 comment:

Brian said...

Hey, Alan. I just saw from a comment you made on Father Z's blog that you might be a parishioner at San Buenaventura Mission. I am also attend mass there (and at a few other parishes, actually), and I was wondering if we could get in touch with one another. What do you think?

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