On the Road. With theology. And dwarves.

Hobbit character movie unexpected journey bilbo gandalf meal dwalves

Saw a portion of Hobbit last night– I made the command decision that for me, this will be a six-movie, not a three-movie series.  Because I just can’t manage these three hour Peter Jackson things.

But it was wonderful.  And when I read this, from Chesterton via James Schall,  (haven’t yet watched– only read it quoted here), there was– of course there was– that echo:

There is ‘a long way to travel before we get back to what Dickens meant: and the passage is along a rambling English road, a twisting road such as Mr. Pickwick traveled. But this at least is part of what he meant; that comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; but that rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure forever. The inn does not point to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn, where we shall meet Dickens and all his characters: And when we drink again it shall be from the great flagons in the tavern at the end of the world.’


4 responses to “On the Road. With theology. And dwarves.

  1. I found the movie rather troubling since they decided to play up the fact that Tolkien made the dwarves a composite of the medieval Jewish diaspora and the Norse “dark elves” while also introducing the idea that Bilbo is motivated by sympathy for the dwarves desire for a homeland. Maybe the films will end relatively true to the book with Bilbo jaded at the rather greater importance of power and wealth at any cost than a hearth to warm one’s feet at. His and Thorin’s idea of “home” are radically different, as he may discover. But as an implicit symbol for American Exceptionalism who only wishes to “help” others have a nice, stable, capitalist republic, Bilbo and the Hobbits are a complete fraud.

    • Wow… Thorin as Faisal, and Bilbo as T.E. Lawrence… or maybe Gertrude Bell! How… offensive and problematic. Or Thorin as the Shah of Iran. Which would make Gandalf Allen Dulles, which TOTALLY works. In that case Bilbo would be (I’ve just learned through some strategic googling) a fellow called Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., grandson of TR and CIA dirty trickster.

      But of course your comment would have Thorin as Ben-Gurion… Yikes. Who would Gandalf and Bilbo be then? Help me with this historical casting…

  2. Bilbo and Galdalf and Bacevitch and Chomsky? I don’t think it will work as an allegory, but if it sticks to the book it will reflect poorly on the dwarves. Thorin dies half admitting it was all folly; Gandalf and Bilbo walk through the battlefield carnage wringing their hands.

    Tolkien was an anti-anti-semite, anti-nationalist anarchist who wanted to salvage the noble aspects of pagan Europe from its tribalism, making it worthy of a Christian ecumenical, convivial, and penitential, power-renouncing vision of humanity. He was an anti-Wagner, and he wrote as his hopes were being destroyed by history. I don’t know what he thought of Israeli nationalism or Europe’s role in the middle east, but since his death the situation has grown more complicated, and it will be hard to carry his historical-cultural analogies into the present without spinning them in typical left, right or ambivalent “centrist” ways that tend to collapse in the direction of the will to power. Since the other options would be seen as extremes (ZIonist or anti-Israeli), I expect the latter — Bilbo will see the outcome as terribly regrettable and a tragic moral compromise, but the dwarves will end up with their fortress and wealth, back in the game of nations.

  3. …the annoying part for me is that there is nothing to suggest a Hobbit navy and airforce encircling the pipeweed producing nations. Tolkien’s hobbit is the old idealized English yeoman farmer, maybe even Piers Plowman himself, who spawned a American cousin in Jefferson’s own myth-making imagination. We always start from this perspective, of the innocent going into the world with good intentions and no selfish ambitions.

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