Culture At Large

Finding Hope in Hobbit Day

Caitlin Eha

For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Sept. 22—the dual birthday of Hobbit characters Bilbo and Frodo Baggins—has become known as Hobbit Day. The Fellowship of the Ring, the first novel in Tolkien’s trilogy, begins with Bilbo hosting an elaborate birthday party to celebrate the occasion—a party complete with plenty of food, presents, and magical fireworks courtesy of the wizard Gandalf.

Hobbit Day not only conjures thoughts of this enchanting “party of special magnificence,” but also of Tolkien’s much-beloved hobbit race. The hobbits live hard-working, simple lives in the picturesque Shire, “for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth….” In our hectic, modern-day society, the notion of hobbits and their tranquil lives has a deep appeal.

In some ways, hobbits embody the kind of lifestyle Paul mentioned in his letters. As he told the Thessalonian church, “...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands…” But Paul also knew that obeying Christ often leads to seasons of darkness, trial, and hardship. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul listed the sufferings he endured for the sake of Christ: “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.” Elsewhere, Paul exhorted his readers to “remember my chains,” sharing about the trouble he endured so that they would continue to participate in his ministry through prayer and would know the ways God had been at work.

Although many hobbits enjoy idyllic lives in the Shire, both Bilbo and Frodo left their peaceful home to endure harrowing journeys. Frodo went on his quest with three other hobbits, one of whom, Samwise Gamgee, stayed by his side until the mission was finished. At great personal cost, both Bilbo and Frodo proved instrumental in saving their world from terrible dangers: Bilbo helped to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from a terrible dragon, while Frodo traveled to Mount Doom to destroy the Ring of Power, defeating the Dark Lord Sauron forever and preventing him from conquering Middle-earth.

In our hectic, modern-day society, the notion of hobbits and their tranquil lives has a deep appeal.

While Sept. 22 is the day of Bilbo and Frodo’s wonderful birthday party, it is also the day when they go to the Grey Havens at the end of the third book, The Return of the King. By that time, Bilbo has grown very old and Frodo carries a wound from his journey that cannot be fully healed. As Middle-earth enjoys its hard-won peace, Bilbo and Frodo decide to board a ship and travel across the sea with Gandalf and the elves. There lies the one place the two weary hobbits can find rest. As Frodo tells Sam, “‘It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.’”

Like Bilbo and Frodo, our lives may involve seasons of pain, as well as seasons of peace. The apostle Paul gave up much to follow Christ and spread the gospel. Yet he considered knowing Christ to be the greatest possible prize. Sometimes God calls us away from a quiet life or calls us to give up things we value in order to follow him. And just as Frodo couldn’t know how his quest would end until it was over, we may not always see how the pain in our lives fits God’s plan for us and for the world.

And yet, although peaceful seasons can be fleeting in this world, the dark days must also end. We, too, are on our way to a place where all our deepest hurts will finally be healed. In the meantime, while we are in this world, we say with Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Hobbit Day can remind us to be grateful in the peaceful times, steadfast in the hard times, and hopeful in all times because of the reward that awaits us. Although hobbits are mainly known for being small, peaceful people, Tolkien wrote of them, “Nonetheless, ease and peace had left this people still curiously tough. They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or to kill … and could survive rough handling by grief, foe, or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well…” Or, to put it in Paul’s words: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Topics: Culture At Large