07 April 2014

Guest Post: 'What Hobbits Teach Us, Part 1'

WHAT HOBBITS TEACH US, PART 1
by Anne Marie Gazzolo

Hobbits appear unlikely heroes, but God uses improbable people at times to fulfill a role that He specially designed for them. As is said of David in the Bible, “the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7, NRSV). This fits the five hobbit heroes we encounter in the Red Book. I wish to explore in this essay the lessons we can learn from the “chosen and selected” Bilbo (Hobbit 21).

Bilbo has to overcome the fears of his Baggins side in order to embrace the adventure that awaits him. As I spoke of in my previous post “Tookish Dreams,” sometimes we have the same struggle he does. The Took in us wants to pursue dreams, and the Baggins part wants to stay safe and conventional. Too often we heed the negative thinking that convinces us that we do not have the time, money, energy, or opportunity to make our desires come true. We must not abandon our true responsibilities, of course, but would it not be better if we could fulfill them in a way that fed our soul and not just our pocketbook and got us excited about going to work rather than dreading the drudgery?

Just as Bilbo was chosen, God has also selected us for a particular task. We can discern this by the interests, talents, and abilities that He gave us. He did not bestow these graces upon anyone else in exactly the same way. Though lost for the most part amid the cacophony that invades our daily life, we hear at times snatches of the particular notes in the Great Music that our soul especially hearkens to, and we long for the day we can truly sing our heart out. Unfortunately, we learn to stifle such things, just as Bilbo has whenever he heard the adventurous melodies that stirred him since childhood. Nonetheless, we must still be ready for the special day that God calls us.

On some level, Bilbo is aware of this. In “The Quest of Erebor,” Gandalf offers his hypothesis of why the hobbit made the highly unusual choice not to marry: “I guessed that he wanted to remain ‘unattached’ for some reason deep down which he did not understand himself – or would not acknowledge, for it alarmed him. He wanted, all the same, to be free to go when the chance came, or he had made up his courage” (Unfinished Tales 331).

Bilbo learns much on his journey about the strengths he did not even know he had. His growth and endurance bolsters our own. God already knows that we can be heroes if the right circumstances come. We have to find this out in the thick of things. Bilbo would not have discovered the seeds of greatness that lay within him if he had continued his sheltered life in the Shire. Neither can we.

As Bilbo continues his adventure and overcomes one fear after another, his courage increases. At the end of his chase after Gollum, the Ring-finder fights within himself one of the most important battles ever waged in Middle-earth. He finds that his would-be murderer has unintentionally brought him close to the exit, then stops there, blocking his way. In Bilbo’s desperation to escape with his life, he faces the temptation to kill Gollum. Luckily, Bilbo still has the presence of mind to heed the presence of God. The impulse to kill Gollum disappears as fast as it comes. Though not speaking specifically of the hobbit, Richard Mathews notes, “Time and time again the spiritual decisions of the most consequence are faced by individuals alone” (Lightning 32). Bilbo intuitively understands the terrible darkness Gollum lives in, not just physically but spiritually. This realization turns the creature from a feared enemy into a fellow human being with a tormented heart and soul. We need to be watchful for such moments in our own life and give mercy if possible and not punish someone for a crime they have not yet committed. Bilbo has no idea what impact his actions and choices will have on his world. Neither do we with our decisions.

Bilbo reveals his inherent decency once more after he decides that he must re-enter the tunnels and search for his missing companions. Katharyn Crabbe notes in a parallel between Bilbo and Christ the great love that is ready to lay itself down to save its friends (J. R. R. Tolkien 41-42). Bilbo’s choices to aid the dwarves puts his life in peril again and again: in Mirkwood battling the monstrous spiders, in escaping the Elven-king’s palace, and in entering Smaug’s lair, just to name a few. He is also the one who has hope when the dwarves are in near despair. In surrendering the Arkenstone to Bard and the Elven-king and returning back to his friends to sleep peacefully, he demonstrates his enduring faithfulness to his friends, as well as showing that the cure for dragon-sickness is to give your treasure away willingly. The contented sleep he has shows the spiritual treasure he gains in letting go of material goods.

These are just a few of the vital things our esteemed burglar and hero teach us. It would be well for us to heed the wisdom of his heart which dictate his actions and which should dictate ours in order to this indeed a merrier world.

Works Cited

  • Crabbe, Katharyn. J. R. R. Tolkien. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981.
  • Mathews, Richard. Lightning from a Clear Sky. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1978.
  • New Revised Standard Version Bible. Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
  • ———. Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth. Edited by Christopher Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.

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Anne Marie Gazzolo is the author of Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings (WestBow Press, 2012), which also includes a chapter on The Hobbit. For more details and to order the book, please visit http://ow.ly/ez2dT. Sign up for her mailing list at www.annemariegazzolo.com and get a free copy of her ebook, Pathways Through Middle-earth: A Guide for Heart, about applying to your life the lessons taught by Hobbits, Wizards, Elves, Men, and Dwarves. Find her also at www.facebook.com/annemariegazzolo and www.pinterest.com/authorannemarie.

16 March 2014

Guest Post: 'Tookish Dreams'


TOOKISH DREAMS
by Anne Marie Gazzolo

The first time we meet Bilbo he is in a rut. He has long abandoned his previous dreams of adventure for the safety of a mundane life. His Baggins side has overcome his Tookish bent for excitement. But after Gandalf and the dwarves upset his ordered life, his Tookish side gains more control. He begins to live, not merely to exist.

Are you in a rut too? Has your Baggins side taken over, but you have a Took inside that is dying to express itself? Do you realize that your dreams have risen in you because you are just as “chosen and selected,” as Gandalf says of Bilbo? Without abandoning your true responsibilities, what steps can you take to get out of your rut and embrace your dreams? Before you think that you do not have the time, money, energy, or whatever, to bring your life to life, let me tell you do. There are so many ways you can find time, and your energy level will rise as you pursue your passions and not just a paycheck. Do not pay attention to any internal or external critic that says you cannot do what you always wanted to. These voices come from what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance, a malevolent force that will do anything it takes to stop you. Read or listen to his marvelous books, The War of Art, Do the Work, and Turning Pro, in order to help you recognize and defeat this force against you. There are myriad weapons at its disposal. Many of its favorites may be already well known to you: fear of change and risk, procrastination, the self-delusion that ‘Oh, I’ll just look at Facebook/Twitter/whatever for a couple minutes’, phones that have you jumping to pay immediate attention to each ding that announces a new piece of spam has arrived, and voices that say ‘Get real! You can’t possibly be thinking you are or ever will be good enough/smart enough/rich enough to do that!’

Even if Bilbo and the heroes who followed him did not have to contend with Resistance’s more modern weapons, they certainly did encounter it in having to overcome their terror of stepping out to fulfill their callings and continuing on as the Road grew harder and darker. Follow their example! Start making baby steps now if that is all you can do to pursue your dreams that were once so vibrantly alive inside you. Get up early. Stay up late. Bring lunch from home. Do not go out for dinner. Stop watching TV and surfing the web for hours. Turn off your cell phone. There is so much time you can snatch away and put to better use! But you must make the conscious choice to do so, and become as determined to defeat Resistance as it is determined to defeat you. Fortunately, Pressfield notes there is Assistance as well, which are powerful forces ready to aid you in your struggle. Frodo and Sam especially discover this, and Gandalf, Aragorn, the Elves, and Faramir are already aware of this.

To help get you started out the door, as unfortunately Gandalf left for the West ages ago and the dwarves are also long gone, read Put Your Dream to the Test by John Maxwell and/or Michael Hyatt’s ebook, Creating Your Personal Life Plan and use them to write down specific dreams and set goals to achieve them. Gary Ryan Blair’s 100 Day Challenge is also another wonderful way to start.

Pressfield notes in Do the Work that even huge dreams can be broken down into several broad steps. Whatever it is, write it out in specific time-bound terms that are realistic and achievable. For example, I will complete the first draft of my book by…., I will lose … pounds by …., I will pay off my mortgage by…., I will save $…. each month to go on that trip to …. that I have always wanted to.  Then write down the specific steps you will take each day to achieve this dream that will become reality due to your determination, self-discipline, and focus. For example, I will write … words or pages per day, I will stop snacking between meals/I will cook or take smaller portions/I will skip the bread basket and dessert, I will pay $… extra per month toward principal and interest, I will cancel my cable/newspaper/magazine subscriptions/I will stop going out for lunch/dinner/latte/whatever, to save money for my trip. One dream can help another. Cutting down on the amount of food you eat will not only help you lose weight but free up money you can save for paying off your mortgage or saving for that trip you want to take or that business you want to start.

Do not let fear stop you, as it nearly stops Bilbo more than once. The song of the dwarves stirs up his Tookishness, but then he sees a fire being lit and his Baggins side imagines it to be a dragon. He hears Thorin speak of the possibility of death on the adventure, and he completely freaks out. Your dream must be big enough to frighten your Baggins side but excite your Tookish side enough to give you the determination to see you through the fear. Let Bilbo and the heroes of the War of the Ring show you how to accomplish great things despite the fear they felt inside. Rather than collapsing in terror, you will soon find yourself revive as your dreams revive. You will gain courage, strength, and confidence as you surmount each challenge, just as Bilbo did.

If you need a Gandalf to get you out the door on the way to your great adventure, who can be that for you? The authors of the books I recommend certainly could, or you may know others. Make sure you also have a conspiracy of friends who will follow you through thick and thin. Choose carefully! Not everyone is ready or willing to eagerly encourage and nurture you and your dreams and may try to stop you. Select only those who will support you, then make yourself ready for that nudge out the door, or push yourself out. Use well the days! Adventure awaits!


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Anne Marie Gazzolo is the author of Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings (WestBow Press, 2012), which also includes a chapter on The Hobbit. For more details and to order the book, please visit http://ow.ly/ez2dT. Sign up for her mailing list at www.annemariegazzolo.com and get a free copy of her ebook, Pathways Through Middle-earth: A Guide for Heart, about applying to your life the lessons taught by Hobbits, Wizards, Elves, Men, and Dwarves. Find her also at www.facebook.com/annemariegazzolo and www.pinterest.com/authorannemarie.


04 March 2014

Tolkien Reading Day 2014 – List of Events

March 25, aka Tolkien Reading Day, is fast approaching! Held on the symbolic date of the Downfall of Sauron, TRD celebrates the writings of Professor Tolkien and encourages people to read more of his work. This year's topic, as suggested by the Tolkien Society, is "hope".


How should I celebrate Tolkien Reading Day?

Simple – grab your favourite Tolkien book, or perhaps one you haven't read before, and dive in! Gather your friends, students, classmates, book club, etc. for readings!


Who is celebrating Tolkien Reading Day this year?

AUSTRALIA

Brisbane – Join the Brisbane Tolkien Fellowship on Saturday, March 22nd at Logan North Library from 11-1 and enjoy readings, poems, music, and songs.


DENMARK *

Copenhague – Join Bri – Tolkienselskabet i København at Faraos Cigarer as they celebrate Tolkien Reading Day. More info.


GERMANY

Hannover – The Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft will be hosting Tolkien Reading Day activities at Buchhandlung Hugendubel at 3pm on March 25. For more information, visit the DTG website.

Oberhausen – The Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft will be hosting Tolkien Reading Day activities at Buchhandlung Zweitbuch at 4pm on March 25. For more information, visit the DTG website.

Worms – The Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft will be hosting Tolkien Reading Day activities at Stadtbibliothek at 3pm on March 25. For more information, visit the DTG website.


HUNGARY *

Magyar Tolkien Társaság is hosting a celebration on March 25. More info on Facebook.


PERU *

The  Sociedad Tolkien Peruana will be hosting a Tolkien Reading Day celebration on March 23. Visit their Facebook event page for more information.


UNITED STATES

Phoenix, AZ – The Serendipity Center for Informal Learning will be hosting a Tolkien Reading Day celebration on March 25 from 10-11pm. Visit the Facebook event page for more information.

Los Angeles, CATolkien Forever has been hosting a Reading Day since 2006. This year, they'll be meeting at The Last Bookstore on Saturday, March 22; visit their Facebook event page for more information.

Longmont, CO - Join the Grey Havens Group on March 22 as they celebrate Tolkien Reading Day at the La Vita Bella coffee shop. For more information, check out the event page on Facebook.

Forest Park, IL – From 7-9 pm on March 25, Defiant Comics will be hosting a celebration with Bulbo Wunkins (aka The Wobbit). Join them for book signings, costumes, prizes, singalongs, and more.

Albuquerque, NM  – The University of New Mexico's Hobbit Society will be hosting a Tolkien Reading Day celebration on March 25. Visit the Facebook event page for more details.


WORLDWIDE

The Middle-earth News will be celebrating Tolkien Reading Day via contests and  giveaways throughout the month of March. For a full schedule of events, visit the Middle-earth News' webpage.


Are you hosting a Tolkien Reading Day celebration, or know of any event(s) I've missed? Please leave a comment below so I can update this post!


* Many thanks to Marcel (The Tolkienist) for these listings; be sure to visit his webpage for more international listings, all of which are on a convenient Google Calendar, which you can print or download for easy viewing. 

01 March 2014

Calling New England Area Tolkien Fans!

One of my dreams has always been to start my own Tolkien group or Smial. After doing some research, I was saddened to find there doesn't seem to be an active Tolkien society in the New Hampshire area.

So I've decided to take matters into my own hands and start one up myself! It is my hope that there will be enough fans in the area who will want to participate in whatever way(s) – be it online discussions/debates, local meetups, convention attendances, movie gatherings, etc.

Before Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, I always felt isolated as a Tolkien fan. All I had were my books and myself. Now we can more easily find and connect with others who share our interests, and I want to seize this opportunity and try to serve the Tolkien community as much as I am able.

I know there are plenty of fans out there, but they are not always easy to find. If you're a Tolkien fan in the New England area (or even just beyond; all are welcome), please consider taking a look at the following links:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nhtolkiensoc
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/granitestatetolkiensociety
Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/658740734162983/
Blog: http://granitestatetolkien.blogspot.com

Best wishes to you all,
Britta