• Seeing Christ in The Hobbit


    I’ve seen The Hobbit. It was wonderful. However, after reading Matthew Dickerson’s piece in the Huffington Post, I may have missed something.

    Where is Christ in The Hobbit?

    This question might have caused author J. R. R. Tolkien to have fits, given his notorious distaste for allegory. Yet, some background on the celebrated creator of hobbits and the bestselling Middle-earth books suggests that there is at least some legitimacy in posing the question.

    This reminds me of when Sam Harris took a random cookbook recipe and “discovered a yet undiscovered mystical treatise.”

    So the broader question of whether Tolkien’s writings should be considered “Christian works” is complex. As I point out in “A Hobbit Journey,” there is no easy answer, and, depending on what one means by the question, there are some good reasons for answering yes and some for answering no. Given the fundamental — we might even say crucial — centrality of Christ and the Incarnation to the Christian faith, in many ways the question does come down to whether we can find Christ in Middle-earth.

    So where, indeed, is Christ in “The Hobbit”? If by that you mean some sort of allegorical Christ-figure — like Aslan in C. S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” — then the answer is, nowhere. It is more appropriate to look for the medieval hero Beowulf in one form or another in Tolkien’s books than it is to try to find some allegorical Christ.

    So, if the answer is “nowhere,” why did the dude write this nonsense article and why did HuffPo publish it?

    But what if we look for Christ in a different way? What if we look for Christ in “The Hobbit” in the same way we look for Christ in the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: not as an allegory but as a reflection. Whenever we see somebody living out love for their neighbor by being a good mother, father, husband or wife, feeding the poor, eschewing exploitation, or taking care of God’s created world, we see Christ. When any of us imitate Christ, Christ can be seen in us.

    Oooh. I know a couple people who may not “find christ” in mother Theresa…

    Yes, one could say that Bilbo acquires the Ring and thus gains some extraordinary power. And he uses it to defeat the spiders and rescue his friends. But he does not rush in and overwhelm the dragon Smaug by sheer might. Nor does he save the day at the Battle of Five Armies. He does, however, choose to give up his claim to the cakes in his pantry in order to show hospitality to guests. And later, on a grander scale, he humbly lays aside his own share of treasure in order to bring peace. In the Battle of Five Armies, he is essentially irrelevant. He is not a superhero. Yet he is Tolkien’s hero.

    Guy’s grasping at straws. He seems to have forgotten an elementary rule of writing: if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.

    Perhaps most important of all the ways in which Bilbo Baggins is heroic is this: in a very quiet moment, he lays aside the advantage he could have had over Gollum and, at great personal risk, chooses instead to show mercy. And by that act of mercy, the world is later saved. In that model of heroism, we can indeed see Christ in “The Hobbit.”

    Yup. Still grasping at straws. I sure wish he would have left that glorious story alone.


    Category: What?!?


    Article by: Beth Erickson

    I'm Beth Ann Erickson, a freelance writer, publisher, and skeptic. I live in Central Minnesota with my husband, son, and two rescue pups. Life is flippin' good. :)