Finding God in 'The Hobbit'

Scholars explore religious themes found in J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved tale “The Hobbit.”
by Carla Hinton Published: December 15, 2012
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The amiable Bilbo Baggins, the title character in “The Hobbit,” is a creature of habit caught by surprise when he is whisked away on the adventure of a lifetime.

Darrell Gwaltney, dean of the school of religion at Belmont University, said Bilbo's “unexpected journey” is not unlike that of Christians during the Advent season.

“We usually focus on Advent as a watching for the coming of Jesus, but the truth is we are on a journey, too,” Gwaltney said recently.

“While Bilbo wrestled with his longing for the comforts of home, he discovered he could do more than he ever imagined on his journey. Traveling with Bilbo on his journey can help teach us to live with more risk this Advent as we join the unexpected journey toward the hoped for Christ.”

The university dean is one of many scholars around the country who have joined in discussions about religious themes in J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved book “The Hobbit.” All the current talk about the book, which follows the adventures of Bilbo, the wizard Gandalf and a host of dwarves, is most likely due to Friday's premiere of Peter Jackson's movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Gwaltney's take on Bilbo's journey was the subject of his column, which was recently distributed by the Associated Baptist Press.

Other scholars have written books and academic papers about Tolkien's “Hobbit” as well as his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Perhaps some expect “The Hobbit” to be as chock full of religious themes as some think of the “Rings” trilogy.

However, Janet Brennan Croft, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma Libraries, said Tolkien said he did not write any of those books as Christian allegories.

“He preferred applicability — leaving the reader free to discover the things in the story that applied to his or own experiences,” Croft said.

Croft said Tolkien did say that “The Lord of the Rings” was a “fundamentally Christian work” with obvious Christian echoes in it, but she said there is not as much of this in “The Hobbit.”

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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