There and back again

This past weekend I watched the first two parts of Peter Jackson’s film production of The Hobbit, which was 6 hours I probably could have just spent re-reading the book, but whatever I needed a recovery day and I feel fine about it. The movie is way too long, but amid the endless battle scenes and drawn-out elf conversations J.R.R. Tolkien’s words kept hitting me right in the gut.

At it’s heart, The Hobbit is a story about adventure. One small creature decides to leave all the considerable comforts of his home to journey out into the wide world, knowing he might never come back, and knowing that even if he does, he will be changed forever. But he’s drawn towards the unknown anyway, in ways that are powerful and incomprehensible even to himself.

As part of our project we’re learning about the books people remember from their childhood, the stories that stayed with them into adulthood. The Hobbit is one of those books for me: my dad used to read it out loud every night to me and my brother, and I’m starting to wonder whether early exposure to Bilbo’s adventurous spirit somehow sparked my own. The most beautiful part of the book to me (or top three, anyway) is when Bilbo returns to the Shire to find his beloved home just the same as it always was. The only thing that has changed is himself – and although he is now infinitely stranger and more mysterious than his neighbors, he is also more interesting, wiser – and happier.

Stepping out into the yawning unknown is intimidating, but the adrenaline rush that accompanies it is the best feeling I know of being alive. Bilbo Baggins: my new 24000Miles spirit guide.

“Indeed Bilbo found he had lost more than spoons – he had lost his reputation. It is true that for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way; but he was no longer quite respectable. He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighbourhood to be “queer” – except by his nephews and nieces on the Took side, but even they were not encouraged in their friendship by their elders.

I am sorry to say he did not mind. He was quite content; and the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected Party.”