Thursday, August 8, 2013

Catholic Courses: The Hobbit: Discovering Grace and Providence in Bilbo's Adventure

Today, I am reviewing the Catholic Courses' product The Hobbit - Discovering Grace and Providence in Bilbo's Adventure. If you recall, last month I reviewed The Hidden Meaning of The Lord of the Rings - The Theological Vision in Tolkien's Fiction. If you're wondering why I started with the one on "The Lord of the Rings" first, it's because it has two introductory lessons covering J.R.R. Tolkien's biography and his writing style. These are covered again in the course on "The Hobbit," but not to the same level of detail.

If you're like me and read "The Lord of the Rings" before you read "The Hobbit," you were probably a bit disappointed by "The Hobbit."  Alongside the action-packed trilogy, "The Hobbit" might seem rather lackluster by comparison. However, this tale serves as more than a precursor to the grand epic of "The Lord of the Rings." It is in-fact a coming of age story of the young Bilbo Baggins. Joseph Pearce also points out that Biblo's journey has many parallels with a person's journey throughout life. He further illustrates these points by addressing the ideas that every life is a pilgrimage and that the impossibility of growth without grace.

One topic that caught my interest in this Catholic Course was the juxtapositions Mr. Pearce made between Thorin Oakenshield and Aragorn. Both of them are kings. However, as kings they are vastly different. Aragorn is seen as a true and just king who can be seen as a Christ-figure. Thorin, on the other hand, is an easily corrupted king who values gold and treasures over people throughout his life. Another part of this course I found fascinating was the discussion on the dragon symbology, Smaug, and dragon sickness. It is no surprise that dragons represent evil, demons, and devils. This was true in early Christian iconography and can be seen clearly in the icon of St. George to your left. Mr. Pearce makes the astute observation that we all must either fight our dragons or become one.

Perhaps, the biggest lesson I took away from the course had to do with materialism. We can see this most clearly through the dragon Smaug, who had no use for gold but could tell you the exact amount in his possession, down to the ounce, and Thorin Oakenshield, who had such a great love of gold that he didn't want to share the gold with the people in Laketown whom he rightfully owed. Both Smaug and Thorin allowed their love of gold to consume them.  This underscores the message of "where your treasure is, there your heart is." While my heart doesn't value gold, I can see how some of my other possessions (my books) can be a stumbling block for me if I let them.  It is important for us as Catholics to keep our heart as close to God as possible.

If you're looking to gain a better appreciation for "The Hobbit" and the Catholic messages within it, this Catholic Course will be a good starting point. You can then follow it up with The Hidden Meaning of The Lord of the Rings - The Theological Vision in Tolkien's Fiction if you haven't studied it already. If you don't have time for an eight lecture course, Mr. Pearce also wrote a book on the subject called, Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning in The Hobbit. There are also other great courses that cover Dante's Divine Comedy or William Shakespeare if you are interested in literature, so be sure to check them out as well. For a brief introduction of the course, see the video below.