How Hobbits Teach Us Courage

As was typically the case, we needed an idea for an article. These sorts of discussions are common among the Rambling Ever On staff. We brainstorm, tossing out ideas and suggestions. Some of those ideas end up as published articles while others get rejected. Ben Plunkett was our best idea guy. To be clear, not all of his ideas were good. Not even close. He made a number of suggestions that were simply too off-the-wall or too insane for the rest of us to attempt. But, he was always bringing ideas to the table at a level the rest of us simply could not match.

This article was his final suggestion for a collaborative article. As we are all Tolkien fans, we jumped on it very quickly. All of us at Rambling Ever On, and we imagine many of you, have learned a lot by reading Tolkien’s great works – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Hobbits, in particular, have taught us many valuable life lessons. We hope that a few of the lessons we have learned will be of some value to you. And once again, we will be forever grateful for Ben’s endless imagination and enthusiasm.

Art by Ted Naismith

Courage is Not the Absence of Fear

by Phill Lytle

That is an obvious statement and has been repeated many times, but its ubiquity does not make it any less true. One can be courageous or brave and still experience profound fear. A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying yet can still be faced in a courageous manner.

Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin teach this truth throughout The Lord of the Rings. At every turn, they are confronted with obstacles of such fierce horror, they would cause the bravest to give up. Yet, they don’t. They keep going. Keep fighting. Keep trying. They face down monsters, nightmares, and unfathomable evil and they are terrified. Even so, they do what is right. They find their courage in the middle of all that fear and it makes their small acts of bravery all the more powerful and memorable. We do not love them because they are too courageous to fear. We love them because they are courageous in spite of their fear.

Image by New Line Cinema

A Huge Nod The The Little Guy

by Gowdy Cannon

I remember getting weighed at school when I was in the fourth grade. I was 54 lbs, the lightest in the class. 2 pounds lighter than the scrawniest girl in the class. My teacher had a son in the first grade who outweighed me. In high school I shot up in height and became at least average in that metric for an American male. Yet I was still a string bean. I wasn’t going to win many fights either, evidenced by how often I fist fought my brothers.

Nearly all of my life I’ve been the little guy. Never the warrior. Combine this with my laidback, non-confrontational personality and it is not difficult to see why the Lord of The Rings halflings would appeal to me. Aside from the fact I never ate breakfast, much less second breakfast (or nearly as much as they did), I see myself in them. Therefore their transformation from being similar to me in my childhood to being fighters and war heroes warms my heart. It gives me courage, Not to fight necessarily because there just aren’t those kinds of opportunities in my life. At least not within reason. But to be brave in other ways. Leadership ways. Christlike ways. Ways that matter. I’m forever thankful for their courage, even if fictional.

Image by New Line Cinema

The Courage to Come Home Again

by Benjamin Plunkett

Despite the most harrowing of circumstances, they are always easily able to resume a joyful, wholesome life. Of course, all five of the main hobbits of Tolkien’s works—Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin—had their own lasting effects of their adventures, yet the effects would have been worse on other beings.

One of my favorite two scenes in the movies comes at the end of The Two Towers and the beginning of The Return of the King after Isengard has been conquered and captured by the Ents and Merry and Pippin.

In The Two Towers the two hobbits are exploring in the aftermath when to their delight they came upon a store of good food, drink, and pipeweed, the three favorite things of all hobbits. It is not long before they have returned to their normal jovial hobbit selves despite all of the great hardships that they come in the many days immediately leading up to that point.

Then at the beginning of The Return of the King when Gandalf, Gimli, and Aragorn come upon them smoking, drinking, and carrying on like hobbits, Gandalf marvels that “It never ceases to amaze me the courage of hobbits.”

And it really was unceasing for him. He had always believed in hobbits. Always. I believe it was this continual return to good, wholesome simplicity that most inspired him with courage when the future looked darkest for Middle Earth. Despite all of the naysayers through the many years, he believed for this reason they were the key to a brighter future.

Image by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. Photo by Todd Eyre

The Courage to Join in the Grand Narrative

by D.A. Speer

The overall arc of the Hobbits is one of having the courage to leave the comfort of the familiar in order to be part of something that is much bigger in scope, so that in the end, the comfort of the familiar can be preserved. If it were up to Bilbo, outside of the influence of Gandalf, he most likely would have been content to remain at Bag End for the rest of his life, enjoying his Hobbit Hole and bickering with the obnoxious Sackville-Bagginses over his estate. Little did he know that his adventure with a group of dwarves would lead to the destruction of a great evil in the end, preserving the same bucolic life that he held so dearly.

It’s right for us, too, to deeply value the simple way of things. Some of my better memories are those of summer night baseball games and snow cones, birthday parties, fireworks, and meals with family and close friends. But yet, we all have found ourselves in the middle of a great narrative. One where the beauty of the everyday is promised to extend forever with new bodies on a new Earth. And we, though small and weak like the hobbits, have been given important roles in this world-wide narrative.

Unlike the hobbits, though, we know the outcome even as we are playing our respective parts. How much greater our courage can then be.

Image by New Line Cinema

The Encouragement of a Steadfast Companion

by Nathan Patton

I do not think we can truly doubt the bravery of Frodo Baggins in his quest to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Nor is there any real debate over the flaws of this hero. A perfect hero would’ve made for a boring and unconvincing story, anyway.

It took a loyal friend to get Frodo to the journey’s end. Though not even one so loyal as Samwise Gamgee could accomplish the goal in the end. That took the work of Providence, and the same is true for us.

Let us trust in the providence of God for the accomplishment of the ultimate goal in our lives, the reconciliation of our relationship with our Creator. And, while we can take inspiration from the bravery of Frodo, which was almost fatalistic in nature, I want to focus on his steadfast companion, this most simple of the hobbits in this quest. Where did Sam find his courage?

The simple hobbit found his courage in the simple things, of course. A bit of sunlight, a drink, and some vittles.

Frodo [said,] “I’m afraid our journey is drawing to an end.”

“Maybe,” said Sam; “but where there’s life there’s hope, as my Gaffer used to say; and need of vittles, as he mostways used to add. You have a bite, Mr. Frodo, and then a bit of sleep.”

The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien (Book Four, Chapter VI)

“Come, Mr. Frodo!” he [Sam] said. “I’ve got one thing I wanted: a bit of light. Enough to help us, and yet I guess it’s dangerous too. Try a bit further, and then we’ll lie close and have a rest. But take a morsel to eat now, a bit of the Elves’ food; it may hearten you.”

Sam sprang towards it [a little falling streamlet]. “If ever I see the Lady [Galadriel] again, I will tell her!” he cried. “Light and now water!” … After that Frodo felt easier, and they went on for several miles

The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien (Book Six, Chapter II)

Have a bite to eat, a drink, and enjoy the sunshine when you can. Be encouraged and be an encouragement like Sam.

What about you? What have you learned about courage, or any other topic, by reading about hobbits, wizards, elves, and dwarves? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Phill Lytle

I love Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation, etc...

2 thoughts on “How Hobbits Teach Us Courage

  • May 8, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    The Hobbits are among my all-time favorite fictional characters. Thank you, guys, for re-telling part of their story here, and drawing out life principles for all of us.

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