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The Hobbit’s Conservative Message

The 3-D version of Director Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, the “prequel” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is visually and technically stunning and for those reasons many will find it worth the ticket price.

The HobbitHowever, I found The Hobbit’s most compelling attributes to be the film’s conservative message that evil must be confronted at every level and its celebration of the traditional Anglo-Saxon values of loyalty, self-sacrifice and love of country, home and hearth.

Author J.R.R. Tolkien regularly rejected suggestions that his Hobbit novels had any political intent, yet it is impossible to separate the artist from the political and cultural milieu in which he creates. Tolkien’s premise that evil starts small and grows and spreads mirrors the erosion of Western cultural values and the rise of the evil Nazi and Communist dictatorships that were spreading over Europe as he wrote the four parts of the Hobbit novels.

The key philosophical point in the story of The Hobbit -- which in some measure sets the foundation for the entire Lord of the Rings tale -- occurs well into the movie during a meeting of the "White Counsel" when the wizard Gandalf (played by Sir Ian McKellen) tells the elven queen Galadriel (played by Cate Blanchett) that what is needed to defeat evil may not be great might or great leaders or champions. What is required to defeat evil, says Gandalf, “ the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk, that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”

What Tolkien is advocating is a cultural version of the “broken window” strategy against crime – and he’s right.

Each of us has the opportunity to confront and defeat evil and the erosion of traditional values in the small things we do – or don’t do – every day.

The Hobbit has long been considered Tolkien’s most “kid friendly” work. However, Jackson’s addition or expansion of several battles and chases and their loud sound effects and fast pace may cause some parents concern.

It is also worth noting that some Christian parents may be troubled by the supernatural elements of Tolkien’s work in general, finding magic, goblins, wizards, trolls and various other supernatural creatures to be contrary to Biblical teaching and thus confusing to their children.

Of course Tolkien, a devout Christian and friend of C.S. Lewis, did not claim the supernatural actually existed. He was merely using a fantasy about it to illustrate points otherwise consistent with Christian cultural principles, and for this reason, Christians may accept Tolkien's work in much the same way Christians celebrate the Christian themes in such pagan literature as Beowulf and Plato’s writings about Socrates.

If you haven’t yet seen The Hobbit, I recommend you see it while it is still in theaters and you can enjoy it in 3-D on the big screen. And then on your way home, please stop and do one small thing to keep the darkness at bay.

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