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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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It is in their darkest moments that Tolkien's characters seem to
rise above themselves and become truly heroic. Their heroism
does not come from great strength or cunning, but from the
indomitable will to continue as long as there is a means to
resist. This is a kind of heroism that even the physically weak
can achieve, as shown by Tolkien's hobbits.


In Middle-earth, power is a dangerous thing that can turn
against those who wield it. The forces of good in Middle-earth,
such as Elrond and Gandalf, recognize this danger and are very
careful how they use their power. They know that no matter
how good their intention, they will find their purpose perverted
if they resort to force. The best example of this is their refusal
to use the Ring. The Ring gives the power to dominate others,
and with it they could overthrow Sauron. But the Ring also
dominates the will of whoever wears it. Even if Gandalf used
the Ring only out of the worthy desire to help others, he'd fall
under its influence and turn into another Dark Lord like

Although the forces of good will not use the power to dominate
others, they do have other powers available to them-the power
to heal, the power to understand, and the power to create
beauty. But these seem pitifully small in the face of Sauron's
power, and the temptation to "fight fire with fire" is strong.


Tolkien believed in the power of common people. This can be
seen most clearly in the hobbits. They are weak and often
foolish, yet capable of great acts of heroism that amaze even
the very wise and the very strong.

The opposite point of view, elitism, is also apparent in
Tolkien's works. His heroes seem to be a select few, chosen for
the task of saving the world from evil. The ordinary people,
such as the men of Lake-town and the hobbits of the Shire, are
often depicted as simple and complacent. Some people see
elitism as a bad thing. Others don't: People aren't all equal, they
say, and it is the responsibility of the strong to help the weak.
Which view do you favor? Why?


It is not lofty principles but love for land and friends that gives
Tolkien's characters the strength to make the right choices in
the difficult decisions they face. The evil characters, who lack
this capacity for friendship, hurt their own efforts by fighting
among themselves. Tolkien goes further to show that
friendship should not be given just within a closed circle but
should be extended to all people.


In The Hobbit the evils of possessiveness can be easily seen.
The dwarves are corrupted by their desire for treasure, and
their greed almost leads to war with men and elves. But
possessiveness can also be the root of the desire to dominate
others that leads to the evil in The Lord of the Rings. Do you
know what it's like to have another person feel possessive
toward you? Such people can't seem to allow you your own
identity-your own free will-and are unhappy if you aren't
exactly what they want you to be. Now imagine if someone felt
that way about the world, wanting to make everything go his
way and having the power to accomplish this. He'd hate
anything that had a will of its own and would want to dominate
it. He might try to enslave all mankind. If he wasn't able to
force nature to his will, he might even attempt to destroy it.
This is exactly what Sauron tries to do in Middle-earth; he
reduces countryside to wasteland, enslaves others through the
lesser Rings of power, and attempts to rule all of Middle-earth.


Nature plays an important role in Tolkien's works. Through
characters like Tom Bombadil and the Ents, Tolkien seems to
be saying that nature is an entity separate from ourselves,
something to be respected, not dominated. His good characters
have a great respect and love for nature, while the evil ones
destroy nature. Furthermore, those who live close to nature,
such as the hobbits and the elves of Lorien, seem to draw great
power for good from it.


This is related to the previous theme, for Tolkien saw
technology as something that destroys nature. Middle-earth is
for the most part a pretechnological world. The only
technology that exists is introduced by the forces of evil and is
used in destructive ways. To Tolkien, technology represents the
evils of the modern world: ugliness, depersonalization, and the
separation of man from nature.

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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