Fantasy and reality in ‘The Hobbit’
“I believe, Mr. Tolkien has succeeded more completely than any previous writer in this genre in using the traditional properties of the Quest, the heroic journey, the Numinous Object, the conflict between Good and Evil while at the same time satisfying our sense of historical and social reality” (W. H. Auden, 1956). Many authors have thrived on the fantasy genre. Fantasy literature generally encompasses unreal, nonhuman creatures, unusual powers, created mythologies and imaginary settings. Tolkien’s famous work, The Hobbit does not disappoint in this arena.
However, the novel and the entire mythology surrounding it do not entirely remain in a purely imaginary realm. While The Hobbit is a novel which many critics have said helped advance the body of fantasy literature, the novel is filled with allusions and parallels to his own, very real, world and society as a whole. Tolkien’s own world revolved primarily and initially around religion, given his devout Roman Catholic upbringing. His belief “in a higher power that controlled universal outcomes in times of crisis” (The Ring of Truth) is evident in his many works.
This idea of a higher power and a universal, higher plan for people is evident in the hobbits as Gandalf, the wizard, implores Bilbo Baggins to realize his very small place in the world and the value of the older prophecies: “You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all! ” (Tolkien).
Gandalf is attempting to get Bilbo to understand the relationship between himself and the greater power, which correlates to the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. Clearly most religious philosophy revolves around the archetypal concept of good versus evil, and the Catholic Church is no exception. The Hobbit also elucidates this religious theme. The setting, Middle Earth, has become pervaded with evil. According to Tolkien critic Steven D. Graydanus, “we find evil in Middle-earth depicted as a corruption and distortion of prior and fundamental goodness.
” This correlates to the religious idea that the world of humans has fallen short of God’s plan into sin and wickedness, thus setting the stage for the age old battle between the godly good and the devilish evil. Zmirak notes that Tolkien found Judeo-Christian ethics in Norse literature and that his youthful interest in this study spilled over into his writing. “Tolkien wrote to immortalize the great synthesis of Northern heroism with Biblical morality…” (Zmirak). This interest of Tolkien’s found quite a lot of fan following because the imaginary stories could be reconciled with some bits of religious learning.
Even in making the film which has not yet been finished, director Guillermo Del Toro alludes to the spirituality in the novel. He notes the characters that represent certain human traits, especially in the areas of goodliness and sinfulness. Del Toro notes I believe “The Hobbit” is a narrative that contains characters that are very symbolic of certain human traits. Obviously, pride and greed are easily found in Smaug the Dragon. Then the humble, sort of a sturdy moral fiber that Bilbo has very much represents the idea that Tolkien had about the little English man, the average English man.
The dwarves represent other qualities, the elves represent other qualities and, like, in any fairy tale or fantasy narrative that is worth it, all these characters conform to a view of the world that is spiritual, ethical and moral. (Adler). Clearly, Tolkien’s fantasy contained some elements of his own devout upbringing, especially in the realm of good versus evil and the corruption and sinfulness of mankind, whether they be actual human beings or fantasy creatures. While in spiritual texts and much fantasy literature, the battle between good versus evil is generally embodied by beings that transcend human qualities.
However, in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the trilogy that ensued, the evil may be seen as having more tangible counterparts. This evil can be interpreted as having more than one form. First, critics have argued that the war in the novel is reminiscent of wars during which Tolkien himself lived or even participated. Tolkien critic Jonathan G. Reinhardt notes that his characters and situations resemble the historical situation of totalitarian states. In fact, Tolkien may have adopted this attitude which found its way into his novel as he was serving in the trenches of France during the first world war.
Karen Durbin specifies this analogy of the evils of Middle Earth representing actual evils of Tolkien’s world. In her discussion, Tolkien’s involvement in World War I soured him considerably toward the Germans and the Nazis. Moreover, Hitler’s denunciation of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular further piqued the author’s anger. Zmirak notes that Hitler was suppressing Catholic trade unions, movements and schools, and forming amongst Protestants a militaristic “German Christian” church that would sanction the regime’s savage anti-Semitism.
Hitler opined to Albert Speer that he wished Germany had been converted to Islam instead of Christianity, the better to suit it to ruthless warfare. This translates into Zmirak’s conclusion that “We see in Tolkien’s life, opinions, and work an enduring rebuff to the totalitarian evils of his century. ” The evil in Middle-Earth can readily be seen as this type of totalitarian evil. War is a big part of this type of evil. For example the “orc armies consist of deformed and inhuman masses lacking relations, beliefs, traditions, and interests outside the direct control of the state” (Moses).
They are unfeeling and even unthinking in their actions. Moses goes on to point to the dwarves as greedy beings in search of wealth, this time in the form of the mined mithril; they are willing to fight, even kill to control it. Thus, war plays a huge part in the novel with the climax occurring when Thorin claims the Lonely Mountain. Only by combining the forces of good with Thorin, the men and the elves can these “allies” overcome. The wealth is then divided, and peace is restored. Of course this sounds familiar to anyone who has studied history.
Indeed, the author asserts that any person old enough to remember the totalitarian states of the early to mid twentieth century “will recognize the allegorical dimension of Tolkien’s work. ” This dimension is the correlation between the imaginary, fantasy beings of The Hobbit and its literary successors and the very real beings of Tolkien’s society. Tolkien also expressed another very real concern in the pages of his fantasy novel. It was well known that the author frequently expressed a love of nature, specifically trees, and a hatred of over-industrialized society (Greydanus).
According to Foster, the hobbits themselves best express these feelings. He notes, “their [the hobbits’] lives display a basic goodness, a conservative, pastoral simplicity. Close to Nature and free from personal ambition and greed, hobbits need no government and are generally anti-technological. ” He describes The Shire as a safe haven, initially, which is desired by all peaceful creatures “whether in Middle-earth or the 20th century” (Foster). Sadly, readers find this idyllic setting ravaged by newer mills “always a-hammering and a-letting out smoke and stench” (Tolkien).
According to Moses, Tolkien takes this sentiment several steps further such that in his effort “to preserve the good life, men must relinquish their efforts to acquire power, particularly technological and economic power over nature…” and embody “a desire for political liberties and personal freedoms increasingly imperiled by the expanded authority of modern nation-states… (Moses). In this manner, Tolkien’s theme of good versus evil combines with both his fear and of totalitarian regimes which her fears will not only destroy individual, but will destroy the divinity of nature as well.
Of course, Tolkien has said himself that he was not attempting to create a social allegory or any type of dystopian novel, but merely a work of fantasy. To assume this was his sole purpose would be to belie the wishes of this fantastic author and to devalue the grip of the fantasy he has written. However, in the world of interpretive literature, many critics have noted the aforementioned similarities. In the words of Michael Skeparnides, “the problems of the world of Middle Earth are and have been the problems of our own world- and this perhaps would make a reader uneasy.
What Tolkien has given us is a world not much unlike our own, but different nonetheless. True, allegory was not perhaps the intention of Tokien in his work; but it is there nonetheless making a reader part of that world. ” Works Cited Adler, Shawn. “Guillermo Del Toro Answers ‘Hobbit’ Fans’ Questions About Returning ‘Rings’ Cast, Religion And More. ” VHI. 2 July 2008 http://www. vh1. com/movies/news/ articles/1590278/story. jhtml Durbin, Karen. “Triumph of the Hobbit? Propaganda and ‘Lord of the Rings. ” New York Times.
December 15, 2002 Foster, Robert. “J. R. R. Tolkien. ” http://www. berghuis. co. nz/abiator/unit/hobbit/tolkien. html Greydanus, Steven D. “Faith and Fantasy: Tolkien the Catholic, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson’s Film Trilogy. ” Decent Films. http://www. decentfilms. com/sections/ articles/faithandfantasy. html Moses, Michael Valdez. Back to the Future. The nostalgic yet progressive appeal of wizards, hobbits, and Jedi knights. ” July 2003 Print Edition. Reason. http://www. reason. com/ news/show/28835. html
Reinhardt, Jonathan G. “ Language by Tolkien. ” Mars Hill Audio 1-6-2003 The Ring of Truth. Vision. Winter 2004. http://www. vision. org/visionmedia/article. aspx? id=865 Skeparnides, Michael. “A Reflection on Tolkien’s World – Gender, Race & Interpreted Political, Economic, Social & Cultural Allegories. ” SFFWorld. 2002. http://www. sffworld. com/ authors/t/tolkien_jrr/articles/areflectionontolkiensworld. html Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit. Zmirak, J. P. Tolkien, Hitler, and Nordic Heroism. Front Page Magazine. December 20, 2001.Sample Essay of AssignmentExpert.com