Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Hobbit and the Hero's Journey

My friend Meg is reading The Hobbit to her son (one of Zion's good friends) and is at the very end of the story. So she asked him what he thought Bilbo had learned on his adventure. Her son's response? "That no matter what, he can't wait to be back home in his hobbit hole and have two breakfasts."

This struck me as adorable, at least partially true, and interesting. If someone asked me what I thought Bilbo had learned on his adventure, I'd say that he learned that he was smarter, braver, and more capable than he thought. That he learned that he could rely on himself, be a good a leader, do unexpected things and enrich his life by taking risks and doing things that were out of the ordinary.

Frankly, that's a pretty boring response.

So this morning I asked Zion what he thought Bilbo had learned on his adventure. Now my boy loves to hold forth on nearly any topic, but a question about The Hobbit was really thrilling. He paced around the room, speaking at an increasingly loud volume for at least 10 minutes. At that point Robert left to get coffee from the guy downstairs and Zion rushed off to join him. Here is what Zion took home from Bilbo's heroic journey.

- He learned that not all adventures end badly, and you can still go home and live in your comfortable hobbit hole.

- He learned that you can come home from adventures with a lot of treasure. For instance, Bilbo brought back a lot of gold and silver, a very nice coat of mail, and an enchanted sword. Really it was a dagger, but it was sword sized for a hobbit.

- He learned that if you go on adventures you can find new allies. Bilbo made friends with Beorn, Elrond, the king of Mirkwood, the eagles of the Misty Mountains, and Dain son of Nain. So you can make new friends on adventures.

- He learned that he was not normal. In the beginning he thought he was just a plain, normal old person. He learned that he wasn't who he thought he was. For some people he was something of a hero. He was the one who found out about Smaug's weak spot. He rescued his friends from prison.

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