An Unexpected Journey

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West.  Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure.  If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – Thorin Oakenshield in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit.

After having seen the first of the three movies in the trilogy “The Hobbit”, I determined to reread the book I’d first read in the 7th grade.  I well remember how I first came to read that book.  I was in English class, and the teacher initiated a silent reading period during which we could read any work of fiction we desired.  Whether or not it was because she had assigned an in-class assignment that some of had finished early, I cannot recall.  I finished the book I was reading, and, not wanting to immediately begin the work again, I had nothing else to do.  The teacher pointed me towards a wheeled cart full of books, and instructed me to select one, and continue reading.  As I browsed the few shelves, I passed over many library rejects and a score of thick fantastical epics that I had not yet learned to love.  With trepidation, I pulled out a small, paperback book called simply The Hobbit, which seemed somehow unlike the rest.  There were no princesses on the cover, or oddly clad warriors standing proudly on a promontory rock.  Until then I had never heard of a Hobbit.

And what is a Hobbit?

Hobbits are little people, smaller than dwarves.  They love peace and quiet, and good tilled earth.  They dislike machines, but they are handy with tools.  They are nimble but don’t like to hurry.  They have sharp ears and eyes.  They are inclined to be fat.  They wear bright colors, but seldom wear shoes.  They like to laugh and eat (six meals a day) and drink.  They like parties and they like to give and receive presents.  They inhabit a land they call The Shire, a place between the River Brandywine and the Far Downs.

The Hobbit is a story of these delightful creatures – a story complete in itself yet full of portent.  For this is the book that tells of Bilbo Baggins, the far-wandering hobbit who discovered (some say stole) the One Ring of Power and brought it back to The Shire.

And so this is the absolutely necessary beginning to the great story of the War of the Rings which  J. R. R. Tolkien completes in his epic fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

It was an odd little book that combined everything I found fascinating about folk tales with a character with whom I could easily sympathize.  It was unlike what I had come to associate with fantasy novels in general.  Mr. Baggins appealed to that part of me that loves to curl up at home with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket, that enjoys my home with guests and without, and that can find joy in a home baked loaf of bread with a nice cheese, and side of mushrooms or tomatoes.

I had not known at the time, that I was reading a very well known book.  I discovered it without any outside recommendations, and read it untainted with other’s opinions in the back of my mind.  I would not have had it any other way.  If only all children could experience this lovely work unbiased and without instruction.

But I digress.

Mr. Bilbo Baggins and the story of his great adventure into the world beyond his shire reminds me that it is possible for someone who enjoys the peace and simple joys of home to go out into the world and come back again, changed perhaps, but not badly so.  I do not have to go without trepidation or hesitation.  I only have to remember that I must take situations as they are and make the best of them, and that it is not crime to think of home with longing and pleasure – even when it seems foolish to dwell on it.

“I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the Kettle Just beginning to sing!”  It was not the last time that he wished that!

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