The second part of “The Hobbit” trilogy has arrived in theaters. What themes does it present? What might we talk about in relation to the latest film? Here, we’ll explore a few themes found through the film and view the movie through worldview glasses. There will be SPOILERS below.
Perhaps the strongest theme throughout the movie is that of justice. The most obvious aspect of this may be found in the quest at the heart of the story itself: the dwarves seeking to reclaim their homeland.
Yet justice also plays its part in reflection upon each ruler the film shows. Thorin, for example, seems to be consumed in part by greed. He is comfortable leaving members of his group behind so that they do not slow the quest. In fairness, when he does leave Kili, Oin, Fili, and Bofur behind, it is in a place in which they were welcomed (eventually) and so perhaps Thorin is not so cold here as he may seem.
Thranduil, on the other hand, is a clearly unjust ruler. First, he treats his subjects unjustly. When he discusses the potential feelings Legolas has for Tauriel, an elven captain, she (seemingly with some hope) mentions that she thinks he would never allow Legolas to become betrothed to a non-royal. Thranduil responds saying she is right, which is why he charges her with telling Legolas there is no hope. The injustice of the scene is both seen and felt. One cannot help but sympathize with Tauriel against Thranduil’s audacity.
Yet Thranduil’s unjust rule also extends to his entire kingdom. His concern seems to be purely with his own borders, as he prefers to keep evil out rather than confronting it at its source. His isolationism is based upon the notion that only his kingdom has “the light” and so that light must be preserved from the darkness of the surrounding world. The discussion made me think of the fact that some Christian evangelical groups withdraw from the world, because they do not wish to be part of the world or its darkness any longer. Yet as Christians, we are called to go into the world and confront the darkness rather than isolate ourselves from it. Thranduil’s comments speak to our own feelings, and his unjust ways are a call to us for action.
The Master of Laketown is also unjust in his dealings with his people. His highest aim is to preserve his own power. The thought of anyone sharing power with him–or the thought of the people having some say–is horrifying to him. Yet rather than ruling for the sake of his people, it seems his life is consumed by alcoholism and gluttony.
Light in the Darkness
The theme of light opposed to darkness is found throughout the film. Thranduil speaks of the battle between light and darkness in his own confused fashion, Beorn notices the “stench” of evil and a darkness over the woods, and Gandalf directly confronts darkness with light.
The latter instance is perhaps the most powerful, for it features Gandalf facing off against Sauron as Gandalf uses light from his staff to combat the blackness with which Sauron assaults him. Sauron’s words call out, telling Gandalf that there is not enough light in the world to combat his darkness.
For those who know how the Lord of the Rings ends, the scene is ironic. But in the moment, it rings true. It seems that darkness will indeed prevail.
Thorin, as noted, seems to be consumed by greed. Not only does he leave his fellow dwarves who would slow him behind, but he eventually confronts Bilbo regarding the Arkenstone. He uses his sword to bar Bilbo’s way and demands he hand over the Arkenstone, if he found it. The tension of the scene is only broken when Smaug attempts to destroy them both. However, the greed within Thorin seems to be growing. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the conclusion to the trilogy.
The Master of Laketown also makes his decision through greed. Although the prophecy regarding the return of the king under the mountain makes clear the notion that his own town will burn, Thorin’s appeal to the Master based upon shared wealth does not fall upon deaf ears. The Master of Laketown succumbs both to his own greed and to the mob which has formed around the debate.
One of the more interesting things for me to reflect upon in the film was the way evil was portrayed. Clearly, the unjust rulers discussed above are each, in their own way, a kind of evil. However, the orcs were the clearest portrayal of evil. Yet their evil, to me, seemed to be inherently unreasonable. There was little reason for them to act as they did apart from pure hatred. Sauron was calling out to his evil minions as well, and his motivation seems to be simply the destruction of any who are not subject to him.
Reflection upon this depiction of evil leads to an insight: evil is, at its core, irrational. There is no reason to it. It goes against what genuinely makes sense in the world. This applies not only to the fanatical lust for murder which the orcs had, but also to the injustice of the rulers mentioned above. A viewer cannot help but think that Thorin, Thranduil, and the Master are each acting in an illogical fashion. Their greed corrupted them. For the orcs, their lust for suffering has consumed them. Evil is illogical; those who practice it are chasing fantasy.
I admit I did not enjoy “The Desolation of Smaug” as much as I enjoyed “An Unexpected Journey,” though I did still like the movie. I think the themes found here are worth reflecting upon, and the way they are presented forces viewers to really sit back and think as the movie continues. In particular, the feeling of injustice throughout the movie was unexpected, but it touched upon a number of areas related to our own lives and how we live them.
There is, of course, much more which could be discussed regarding the “Desolation of Smaug,” and I turn to you, readers, to start that discussion in the comments.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- A Christian Perspective– check out my look at the first of “The Hobbit” trilogy.
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The picture featured in this discussion is an official movie poster and the property of MGM/New Line/WingNut films. I do not claim any rights to it.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Unless you’ve been living in a Hobbit-hole somewhere (forgive me!), you know that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was just released in theaters. Short, spoiler free review: It was amazing, go see it. Hereafter, I offer my thoughts on the themes present in the film from a Christian worldview perspective, followed by some links to great posts on the movie and related items. Yes, there are SPOILERS ahead.
An Unexpected Journey
Yes, there is an unexpected journey which begins in this film, believe it or not. Yet the journey was not just unexpected but also vehemently resisted. Bilbo Baggins did not want to go. He was too comfortable with his armchair, his full cabinet, and his total lack of adventure. He was comfortable in his home. He liked it there, and as long as nothing was bothering him, he’d like to stay put, thank you very much.
I can’t help but think of how so many people today are in that same position. We are too comfortable in our pleasant (or at least largely undisturbed) lives, living as though we haven’t a care in the world. We avoid those things which make us uncomfortable. We don’t want to think about them, and we’d rather not even say the words that have anything to do with these hard topics which have become our “adventures.”
For the Christian, this is especially poignant. The scene where Bilbo finally decides to go on the journey has him waking up the next morning after his refusal. He sees his hobbit-hole cleaned up and looking as though the previous night had never happened. But then he sees the contract from Thorin Oakenshield on a table. He picks it up and realizes what he has been called to do. He has to step out and live that life in the great beyond. It is as Gandalf tells him: the world is not contained in books and maps, it is “out there.” Similarly, we cannot become too comfortable in our lives. We are to be in the world, changing it through our actions and through the call to repent and believe. Yes, we can have all the books, we can pray the prayers, but what are we doing? Are we running, leaping, yelling like Bilbo to join the adventure, to spread the Gospel?
When the party comes to Rivendell, they encounter Saruman, who had summoned Galadriel. After a brief conference on whether the dwarves should continue their quest and a debate over the existence of a Necromancer, Galadriel privately confronts Gandalf. She asks him why he chose a Hobbit, Bilbo, to embark on such a dangerous quest as a burglar. Gandalf’s insight is telling. He says that “Sarumon thinks evil must be defeated with great power.” But Gandalf is not so convinced. He argues that it is the little things, the everyday choices, which can lead to the defeat of evil. When enough choices are made for good, evil cannot overcome the turning tide against it. Bilbo is weak, but he will become strong in his actions. He will be used for good, despite not having great power.
We can fight evil in that same way. The choices we make everyday have larger consequences. How will I spend my time? Will I make that nasty remark? Will I forgive? There is big evil in this world, but it can be fought, by God’s grace.
Its Reality and Our Resistance
Evil is real. There is evil everywhere in the world, and we need only to look at the headlines to see it. Gandalf is aware of the rising evil in Middle Earth as well. The evils which confront the adventurers are “big.” There are trolls, stone giants, a goblin with a grudge, and more. They are resisted at every turn.
Who can help but see how this theme ties into the last one? Christians are called into a world of big evil. We are called to go into a world which is resisting them–often violently–at every turn.
Evil seeks places to dwell. The things which are evil must be actively resisted, for any foothold evil gains, it will utilize. Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, and Radagast the Brown must all fight against evil as it seeks its foothold in their lives. Radagast is a particularly poignant example. He runs through the forest, fighting evil as much as can be done. He is eccentric and seems crazy, yet he does what he can to fight the evil which seeks to penetrate at every level into the forest. Our hearts are too often willing dwelling places for evil. We must fight it.
Courage is the strength to show mercy. Gandalf urges Bilbo to remember this as he considers the adventure. A mercy shown can have important ramifications in the future, as those who know not only the Hobbit but also the Lord of the Rings trilogy should note. By sparing Gollum, Bilbo opened the door for the defeat of a much greater evil far into the future. What mercies can we show? Certainly, we don’t often have a life-or-death situation placed at our feet, but we have the capacity to show mercy on a day-to-day basis.
Evidence and Will
Saruman was confronted by Gandalf with evidence for the existence of a great evil, a Necromancer, who had been discovered by Radagast. Saruman–perhaps already in the thrall of Sauron–seeks any avenue to redefine the evidence. He says that Radagast cannot be trusted, for he is too eccentric and perhaps crazy. Saruman says Radagast spends too much time in the forest, eating mushrooms. Even when confronted with physical evidence, a blade full of evil, he seeks to offer an alternative explanation.
This dialogue between Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf is a powerful example of how our will can change the evidence. If we do not wish something to be true, we will seek every avenue to escape its truth. Perhaps Saruman was not yet in the thrall of Sauron, perhaps he merely did not want to think evil could gain such a foothold in his world, but he nevertheless made a decision to doubt his brother wizards. If he had trusted them, he perhaps would not have trodden down the path he takes in Lord of the Rings.
Back Again- Conclusion
JRR Tolkien wrote one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time. He was also a deeply thoughtful Christian. The themes which appear throughout his novels are portrayed vividly on screen. I urge readers to see this movie. When you put on those 3-D glasses, don’t forget to put on your worldview glasses as well. What themes are occurring in this film? How do they relate to my worldview? What worldview can account for these things? The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a fantastic exploration of these themes. We are called to live in the world, we are called to adventure, no matter how much we want to resist. We are called to Christ.
The Call to Adventure– What does the call to adventure mean? Garret Johnson offers a thought-provoking look at the call to adventure in literature and how it can inform our worldview.
Tolkien Experts Talk About His Christian Themes– A video with a number of experts on Tolkien offering their thoughts on the Christian themes in his body of work. Definitely worth watching.
Big Truths from the Hobbit– An excellent post calling Christians to step out of their hobbit-holes.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.