Christian Imagery in "The Hobbit"

I have been wanting to read The Lord of the Rings for a while now because of the Catholic imagery in the work, but being a college student with little free time, I don’t have the time to read all three books, so I decided that I will try to get to The Hobbit this semester. Though I was wondering, does The Hobbit have Christian/Catholic imagery and symbolism like The Lord of the Rings does? Or did Tolkien only put that into LOTR?

Given Tolkien’s faith, I don’t think it’s possible for it not to show through in any of his work.

I think it’s definitely easier to pick out in LotR. It’a more developed and mature work. But I think it’s still there in The Hobbit.

I agree with the previous post - the Christian content is much easier to find in Lord of the Rings, a more mature and fully-developed work. The Hobbit was rather “dashed off” to please Tolkien’s children - this is not a criticism, it is a delightful book, a remarkable book even.

Just to give you some idea of the differences… in LOTR there are three characters who can be viewed as Christ figures, and they correspond roughly to the three aspects of Christ’s salvific role: priest, prophet and king.
Priest -> Frodo who takes great suffering on himself to rid the world of a terrible evil.
Prophet -> Gandalf, a figure of wisdom and a wandering sage
King -> Aragorn who is literally a king, the heir to a divinely-appointed throne (well I am stretching matters a bit to say that the Kingdom of Gondor was divinely appointed, but it derived from the realm of Numenor which was created by the Valar, the angelic powers).

Now of these characters, only Gandalf appears in The Hobbit, and he does not appear by any means as a Christ figure in that book. His personality is basically the same but he is a bit more “rascally” or at least mischievous. This is seen especially in the opening chapter, where his motives for assigning Bilbo to accompany the Dwarves on their adventure are a bit ambiguous, but he doesn’t seem to be placing a high regard on Bilbo’s safety or well-being. There is a strong element of humor in the whole thing, without which Gandalf’s behavior would seem a bit disturbing. This humor is prominent throughout the book.

There is also a lot of humor in LOTR but there it is mostly humor exhibited by the characters, not present in the narrator’s voice, as it is in The Hobbit. LOTR is much more serious in tone.

This is a rather rambling post, but I love these books so much and it is easy to go on and on when talking about them…

I love Tolkien’s work, but have never seen this question before. Perfect excuse to read The Hobbit for like the 3rd or 4th time. :stuck_out_tongue:

The Hobbit is a great book, but I never detected much Catholic imagery/symbolism. If it’s there, you definitely have to search for it, as its no Chronicles of Narnia (so far as obvious conceptuality goes) from what I remember.

First off, let it be known that I by no means like literary analysis that much, or at least not what you do in school. I do, on the other hand, enjoy any sort of excuse to reread Tolkien’s works. That said, I don’t think I can manage much more than a chapter or two of critical analysis at a time, so bear with me as I’ll only be commenting on a few chapters at a time.

For now, I’ll offer my opinion on what I remember of The Hobbit. First off, there is the battle of good versus evil. IIRC, throughout the book Gandalf disappears to work on getting Sauron out of Dol Guldur. Also, Biblo often times has to face dangers alone– examples being Gollum and the Riddle Game, rescuing Thorin and Co. from the Elves of Mirkwood, and talking to Smaug. This could probably be faith helping him face all these dangers he might not have been able to otherwise. Finally, the Battle of Five Armies is uniting, despite differences, to fight against a greater foe

Here’s a new gem revealed by its Wikipedia controversy today:

(1985 - USSR)The Hobbit

No subtitles, you’re on your own - but I have picked out “Meester Beelbo Baggins” and “Gandalf” so far!

Sure. Anyone remember the scene where Gandalf hurls himself off the burning tree to destroy the goblins, only to be caught by the eagles and flown to safety?
Crucifixion and Resurrection depiction right there.

Sorry, but I do remember that part, and one might as well say that every time a character (in any book) sacrifices his life/safety for a friend, that it is a Crucifixion/Resurrection depiction.

The eagles always symbolize the activity of “the gods”–the Valar. We only know this because of the Silmarillion, but there you are. One theme that starts in The Hobbit is “the pity of Bilbo.” After his confrontation with Gollum, Bilbo had the opportunity to kill Gollum (which is fleshed out in The Fellowship) where Gandalf tells Frodo that “the pity of Bilbo” will one day rule the fate of many. This is in reference to the fact that, in the end, Frodo is not able to destroy the ring. The Quest itself is a failure. BUT because Gollum was alive (due to the pity of Bilbo) he serendipitously destroys the ring, the source of evil.

So Tolkien’s message (arguably) is that salvation is not aquired by our labor, that we *need *to be saved; we can’t do it alone. It is that one virtuous act (pity) that in the end caused the ring to be destroyed.

Also, the death speach of Thorin is very much a statement against war. Bilbo’s actions throughtout demonstrate that “the meek shall inherit the earth” in a way.

I don’t know. I’m sleepy and thought I’d throw some stuff out there. :slight_smile:

Just looked it up. I’d interpret Thorin’s death speech more along the lines of “Blessed are the meek”

Also, since we’re discussing The Hobbit, I have a quick side question– Why do people think Bilbo’s clock is an anachronism? I have no problem with that technology in the Shire

The events in The Hobbit and LOTR are supposed to have taken place in a forgotten pre-historical period of our own world (Tolkien stated several times that Middle-Earth was not to be understood as another planet, an alternate dimension etc. as some people thought). Hence Tolkien himself later admitted that many elements of Hobbit society were anachronistic, since they did not exist before the modern era - not only Bilbo’s clock but also his waistcoat with the brass buttons; umbrellas, silver spoons etc. In fact, Hobbit society is modeled very closely on the type of rural English culture which Tolkien knew in his childhood. Take away the curly-haired feet and so forth, and the Hobbits are essentially Edwardian Englishmen.

Tom Shippey has a good discussion of this in his wonderful book The Road to Middle Earth. He points out other, more subtle, ways in which Bilbo and the hobbits are anachronistic. For one thing, the fact that they have a daily mail service - in the first chapter it refers to Bilbo reading his daily letters - something which in real history, never existed before the 19th century.

Another example, the comical conversation between Bilbo and Gandalf at the very beginning - I never understood this until I read Shippey’s book. Bilbo uses modern English conversational expressions in his speech, and Gandalf seems never to have heard them, and takes them literally, which leads to misunderstandings. Specifically the phrase “Good morning” used as a way to end a conversation (a very British thing, it has to be spoken with a particular intonation) and the expression “I beg your pardon” as a way of expressing surprise and disbelief.

Although Tolkien himself later said that the anachronisms of Hobbit life (or at least the more obvious ones) were a mistake, I think it works brilliantly. The Hobbits are easy for us to relate to because they exhibit modern feelings and attitudes. As a result, we are able to follow Bilbo and Frodo through their adventures and we can experience all the strange and wonderful things that happen in Middle-Earth through their eyes, so to speak. We understand how the hobbits feel when they encounter Dwarves, Elves, heroic Men with swords, Wizards, Orcs and so forth, because they feel the same way that we would feel in their situation.

Way cool!!! My BA is in Russian; gonna have to watch this when I’ve got time. (This is from the end of the Soviet era; wonder how much Marxism-Leninism they worked in. . .)

Mistake–or workings of The Holy Spirit? :smiley:

…] for the meek shall inherit the earth." :rolleyes:

We just started talking about this again but Sam can be seen as both Simon of Cyrene and John…

Or maybe that’s an over simplification?

The closer action to that was the Belrog seen in Fellowship.

I don’t want to be the bad guy here but I feel like I need to drag everyone down to earth here but if there’s anything people outside the faith can’t stand is us pointing at everything and assuming its a christian message by intent.

Sure it can have a good message but I have my doubts that everything is as saturated in catholic lore as you think. There are undertones granted but unless someone has something from Tolkien himself or his son its just idle speculation on our part.

Bare in mind the Elves worship the Sun Moon and the Stars. That’s not very catholic mind but notice how the catholic fans don’t bat an eye lash gloss over it then move on to the points that serve ‘catholic agenda’.

It all smells of rot to me honestly to have this double standard. These books were meant for Christopher alone to keep him sane during the great war. Any message in them were not meant for us per-say but very well were good at the core. Assuming these books to be some kind of message to the world is a stretch.

Can they be used like that?

Sure

Should we assume everything?

No

Take the time to get to know Tolkien as he was by his club meeting minutes, his not fantasy works then come back.

Ever thought he and his son just really like myths? Tolkien has written other books for his children and a wizard is always present. The book Roverandom is a perfect example of this. There’s nothing catholic about it. It was just a story he wrote to get over a lost toy.

Why? He just really likes using them as a plot device.

Yes Tolkien is Catholic but don’t put words in his mouth. His story is great without us adding something that isn’t there too it.

In Tolkien’s own words: ‘‘The Lord of the Rings is a fundamentally religious and catholic work.’’ He uses his own beliefs and subtly includes them in many of his writings and stories, but make no mistake, these books are very catholic and are intended to be so. Although, the’’ Hobbit’’ and the ‘‘Rings’’ trilogy have many catholic undertones, they are not written in a strictly allegorical sense. For example; Gandalf, Frodo and Aragorn are all written as having Christlike qualities. None of them are supposed to be Christ in the story, but at times, these characters represent his kingship, his humanity…etc. While these characters display some of the Christlike qualities, they are still just characters in a fantasy world.
I would reaallly recommend studying some of Tolkien’s work more closely. I have been watching ‘‘The Hidden Meaning of the Lord of the Rings’’ from the Catholic Courses company. It is a very fascinating subject.

That’s just fine

I made these same points on another forum… Tolkien’s work is Catholic, make no mistake about it, and the more you read it the more you discover.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.