Blogs at Amazon

« NYT BESTSELLER NEAL STEPHENSON’S “R | Main | Media Monday - Welcome to Fall »

Concerning Hobbits: "We don't want any adventures here, thank you!"

Writersdontcry Hobbits are very concerned about the idea of adventure. As Bilbo said, adventures are "Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!" And I can't say I much disagree! You have to be a little bit cracked to want to go on an adventure. Think about it. If you had the choice between a comfortable life where you have all the jammy muffins and frosted scones you could wish for, a warm home filled with creature comforts, a strong community--and sleeping outside on the rocky ground in the cold rain eating what sour berries you come across (and perhaps a mangy squirrel if you're lucky), risking life, limb, and happiness to accomplish some goal you think is for the greater good, which would you choose?

"Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning!"Reluctant hero

 But somehow, something "Tookish" wakes in us, and we wish to see great mountains, hear pine trees and waterfalls, explore caves, and trade our walking sticks for swords. And more than that, we actually do it. Drawn into adventure--into risking it all--against our better judgment. So what drives us reluctant heroes to abandon elevensies in favor of hard tack?

1. It Wasn't Really All That: Humble Hobbits

When the fate of the world hangs in the balance, the hero technically has a choice--but it isn't much of one, because with the way the world's going, you're all going to die if the hero doesn't fix whatever problem drives them to action. Frodo is a hero of this kind. Where Bilbo could have sat comfortably in his hole and lived out his days without ever seeing Lonely Mountain, Frodo knows that if someone doesn't destroy the one ring, there won't be a Shire anymore. In Delirium, it's similar, only in Delirium, the metaphorical apocalypse has already happened, so protagonist Lena Haloway has the choice to return to the ruined life she had lived, or try for something better.  

These heroes have one foot in the world of necessity and one foot in the world of conviction. These characters get to be idealistic, wanting to help save the world and believing they can do it, without suffering from excessive pride (believing they are chosen, and that they alone can save the world). Their lives are such that they may not have much of a choice, when the call to adventure presents itself, but there is a choice. And so they get to be both heroic and humble, in contrast to the cowardly man who would not go on the adventure and the brash man who was not called but, motivated by pride, would steal the adventure for himself.

2. It Wasn’t Their Choice: Special Hobbits

Some heroes have no choice about the matter. Like birds flying south for the winter, they will go on their adventure or they will die. Arthur, in The Keys to the Kingdom, is literally chased by dog-faced Fetchers into his adventure. Harry Potter and Garion were marked the day they were born as the target of their enemies, and even if the world would be fine without them, they must pursue their fates through adventure or die rather sooner. And in Maze Runner, Thomas is dropped in a maze where he must be canny enough to escape--or he will die.

These heroes are often "chosen" for their path. They are unlucky enough to have a destiny--or else just very unlucky in general. Their quests are very personal, driven by their own needs, and arise less out of idealism and conviction than out of a survival and necessity. They are the center of the plot, and the action of the book comes to them, giving them more range, as they don't personally have to move the story forward. Heroes by necessity are easy to relate to, because it makes adventure something that could happen to anyone, and it's great for the disempowered--be they children or office workers--who could use some magic in their life. After all, you'd have to be crazy to wish a more dangerous, exciting, magical life... right? Having it forced upon you makes it okay to enjoy the dream of being special and being thrust into a different life. It makes it okay to enjoy having something different--because you really have no choice.

3. It Wasn’t Their Idea: Romantic Hobbits

What fantasy reader hasn't daydreamed about finding a magical doorway to another world, drinking tea with elves and making conversation with dragons? Who hasn't wanted to ride on the back of a griffin or to catch a glimpse of a reclusive Ent? Who wouldn't want to have saved the day with a bit of bravery, living to collect the accolades and songs of heroism? Romantic notions of adventure, to be sure, emphasis on the past tense. But we can all be infected with them, and they make potent calls to adventure for the more reluctant heroes, who are not born with such desires.

Bilbo is one such hobbit. He begins with no misconceptions about adventure, and but over the course of the night, as the dwarves sing of their lost homeland in the far-off mountains and of the love of beautiful, magical, cunningly made things, something "Tookish" awakens in him, and he becomes infected with romantic notions. These notions drive him to adventure. I think this is part of what makes him so relatable. We are easily taken by romantic notions as well, and the first awakening to magic--be it Santa or the tooth fairy or garbage men--is an inspiring, infectious experience. Instead of being desperate or prideful, the reluctant hero convinced by romantic notions is as curious and enraptured by the story as we are, making it easy for us to slip right into his shoes. Or lack of shoes, in the case of hobbits.

Quiz: What Kind of Hobbit Are You?

1. Is it better to:
        a. Believe in your cause but doubt yourself
        b. Believe in yourself but doubt your cause
        c. To have a sense of wonder

2. How would others describe you?
        a. You are good and humble
        b. You are special and wanted
        c. You are curious and brave when you need to be

3. On vacation, you would choose:
        a. A staycation enjoying the peaceful beauty all around you
        b. A vacation in a remote hut far away on the top of a mountain no one's been to.
        c. A trip to all the most exotic places in the world

4. The best gift for you is:
        a. A good book
        b. A picture of your best friends
        c. Plane tickets

5. Worst-case scenario, you die because of:
        a. The world ends before you or anyone else can save it
        b. Your arch nemesis kills you
        c. Too much curiosity

6. Ideally, life is filled with:
        a. Happiness
        b. Excitement
        c. Magic

7. You like your ice cream:
        a. Vanilla
        b. Chocolate
        c. Covered in sprinkles

8. The perfect day is:
        a. Sunny without a cloud in the sky, with the smell of freshly shorn grass on the light breeze
        b. Stormy purple skies, with strong winds and pelting rain and lightning that splits the sky
        c. Clear, the better to see the sunsets and sunrises and the stars at night, with the smell of salt in the air.

9. Your favorite magical creatures are:
        a. Unicorns
        b. Dragons
        c. Phoenixes

10. You like to listen mostly to:
        a. Classic Rock Station
        b. Epic Guitar Solos
        c. ‘80s ballads

Mostly As: You are a humble hobbit! Mostly Bs: You are a special hobbit! Mostly Cs: You are a romantic hobbit!


Happy Writing!

Read more Writers Don't Cry
Follow me on Twitter @susanjmorris


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

strong winds and pelting rain and lightning that splits the sky
c. Clear, the better to see the sunse

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

January 2015

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31