One of my favorite book series turned movies growing up was J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, Lord of The Rings. I haven’t read the books in well over a decade, but after listening to Dan Carlin’s series on World War I I have been wanting to revisit the books. Carlin explained how Tolkien was a veteran of the first world war, and how much of the imagery and themes from the book were influenced during his time in the war.
With this in mind I have been looking to reread the series, not just to be entertained, but also with a more critical eye on what lessons Tolkien is sharing with his readers. This blog series will start with “The Hobbit” through the full trilogy. I hope you enjoy it.
Take The High Road, Or The High Road Will Take You
As I approached the end of “The Hobbit” there was something that stood out to me, and that was the lesson that we get from observing how Thorin leads his people after the dragon has been killed. Bilbo had gained a certain amount of social capital with the dwarves and became the informal leader of the group as he was the daring one who went into the dragon’s lair. However, after the dragon was killed Thorin was back in charge with his positional power, as the rightful king under the mountain. Thorin, though he is heir, has never actually led people before as king. Once he assumed this position he took absolute control and did not listen to his people at all, assuming that his opinion is always the best. Of course, greed & power is a terrible combination which led to the mini-rebellion Bilbo had made.
It became clear that Thorin was not going to be a leader striving for peace and cooperation with his neighbors, which, if you know the story, was clearly the wrong thing to do. He was not taking the high road. What Thorin forgets is that he is leading people who have a say in the outcome as well. He was not leading robots. Bilbo saw that Thorin would not take the high-road, so he took the high-road himself by sneaking out of their camp at night to begin negotiations while the rest of his group was sleeping.
Bilbo, being the hero of the story, has now been able to face challenges both physical, mental, and social. Overcoming all of them and earning the respect of himself and his peers along the way. With his newfound confidence he was empowered to uphold the harder right over the easier wrong, because he knows at the end of the day he has to answer to himself when he looks in the mirror.