Three life lessons we can learn from Tolkien’s The Hobbit


Hobbiton, the home of Bilbo Baggins

Back in 1937, there once was a man named J. R. R. Tolkien who ended up crafting one of the most timeless, cherished stories of all time; a book that encouraged readers of all ages to imagine a world unlike any other– a world with fire-breathing dragons and grumbling goblins and stubborn dwarves. It’s a highly praised children’s fantasy novel that all started with “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…”. Of course, this is The Hobbit. This particular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, lived a very comfortable and familiar life in the very peaceful Hobbiton. His average day was, well, pretty average: he drank tea with his friends, had at least seven meals a day, and kept his home in tip-top shape. Little did he know, he would soon be embarking on a rather dangerous journey with dwarves Thorin Oakenshield and company to recover their long lost treasure that had been stolen by the infamous dragon, Smaug. The wise wizard, Gandalf, pushed the dwarves to take Bilbo with them on their trek, but why? Throughout the book, we see how Bilbo underestimates his strength and cunning, and truly discovers a newfound passion for adventure. Of course, one of these adventures leads him to find the treasured magic ring guarded by the slimy Gollum. As Bilbo uncovers his innate courage and cleverness while dealing with risky confrontations with trolls and spiders and dragons, we start to reflect on our own lives to see what kind of hidden potential we hold and what kind of lessons we can learn from Bilbo’s self-discoveries. So here are the three lessons:


1)Step out of your comfort zone and experience new things! It’s as simple as this: we don’t like change. We like being comfortable and familiar in our surroundings. What fun is that? The book starts by saying, “The Bagginses had lived in the neighborhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable… because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected… This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected” (J. R. R. Tolkien 2). There is a certain thrill every individual experiences when they step out of their comfort zone. Sure, it may be painfully awkward or anxiety-inducing, but you need to get out and experience life to grow as a person and to truly discover yourself and gain self-confidence. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” This is something I try to practice religiously, and although it has brought about some of the most uncomfortable situations in my life, it has also helped me to push the boundaries of my confidence and really start to mature as a young adult. This is exactly what Bilbo experienced. Once he started breaking the mold of a typical “homebody” hobbit, he started to learn things about himself he never knew before. For example, he’s good at winning riddle battles against slimy cave creatures and slaying giant, talking spiders (if you feel bewildered by these talents, just read the book and you’ll understand). All in all, what we can learn from the hobbit is that breaking out of your comfort zone is a good thing, and it’s the only way to discover who you are and build the self-confidence and self-worth everyone desires.


2)Happiness is found when we realize how much we are really worth. After slaying one of the huge spiders that had taken the dwarves hostage, Bilbo felt a sense of worth for the first time during this treacherous journey. He claimed, “Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder…” (156). We often imagine happiness as a feeling that comes when one is at peace with oneself, and that’s the transformation Bilbo had in that moment in time. He realized that he was capable of helping himself without depending on others– it was the true epitome of self-reliance. When we feel as though we can truly be independent, it gives us that sense of strength and self-worth because we become our own rocks. It is definitely relieving to think that in order to be happy and content in life, all you really need is yourself.


3)“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to take action in the face of fear,” says author Nancy Anderson. As Bilbo entered Smaug’s territory, and advanced closer and closer to the dangerous creature, he had to overcome that recurring cloud of fear that hung over his head. When preparing to face Smaug, the hobbit reflects, “ It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait” (214-15). What we can learn from Bilbo here is that what we really need in life more than anything is the courage to overcome any challenge that comes your way. Let’s be real– life isn’t a cakewalk. It’s brutally honest; it’s unforgivingly indifferent; it’s as raw and real as it gets. So it’s up to you. When faced with hardship, you can choose to react negatively towards it (which will only slow down your progress), or you can choose to create something great out of it. Whatever life throws at you, be ready to take it on and just roll with the punches!

If you take anything out of this article, it should be this: Step out of your comfort zone and experience life. Know your worth. Conquer your fears and make courage a priority. If the hobbit can do it, you can too.