In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, J. R. R. Tolkien’s unabashedly Christian worldview strikes a middle ground between whimsical myth and a hard look at reality. The Hobbit is captivating because Bilbo’s tale typifies the human condition, the constant wrestle with the desire to stretch ourselves beyond what we thought possible, to get wrapped up in a cause greater than ourselves. It is our tale, and its appeal centers around the answers to the central questions: What does it mean to live? What does it mean to be a hero?
Modern Americans have come to expect a certain set of characteristics when identifying a “hero.” He is self-sacrificing, but his heroism lies in grand gesture. He rescues the damsel in distress, avenges his father’s death, “sticks it to the man.” Physically, he is tall, clad in a skin-tight spider suit or a black body mold, with finely chiseled muscles; his allure lies in everything about him being “super” and extraordinary. Even the latest heroines — of which there have been a number of films this year, from Katniss Everdeen to Bella Swan to Merida from Brave — feature many of these same characteristics: strong, emotionally distant, steely, hardened, and wily. Their story is the age-old duel between the powerful forces of good vs. evil, a tale as old as time.
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