Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.
Middle Earth Midrash: A Jewish Exploration of The Hobbit
Last year I wrote “Middle-Earth Midrash,” a four-piece essay on Jewish themes in The Hobbit (the book, with some reference to the movie) — not just “OMG the Dwarves are Jews” (which they are), but exploring more deeply what we might learn as Jews from The Hobbit. Thought I would repost it here now that the third movie’s out. Enjoy!
Part One: the Dwarves and the Jews “Doesn’t the quest to reclaim the ancestral Dwarvish homeland remind you of something? A once-proud people wandering as exiles across a hostile diaspora? And how about their Hebrew-sounding language?… Note: I am not suggesting that The Hobbit is *meant* to convey this or that Jewish idea; rather, in reading The Hobbit I am reminded of such and such an idea and thus apply the lessons to my understanding of the world.”
Part Two: Greed, Goodness, and Learning to Grow “This theme runs throughout Tolkien’s writing: a warning not to be led astray by our desire for personal gain, and not to value wealth over relationships — a trap not only for Dwarves, but dragons, goblins, Men, and even Elves… We cannot save ourselves with money or possessions; neither gold nor jewels will protect us from hurt. But the community we build around us, and the courageous steps we take in reaching out to those different than us, can indeed show us the way to a better world.”
Part Three: Valour, Victory, and the Great Battle “The epic battle that one might expect to be the climax of the narrative, the great Battle of the Five Armies, is summarized in a mere five pages; the story of The Hobbit is ultimately about a different kind of fight… Tolkien knew, as we’re reminded by the old author of Qohelet [Ecclesiastes 9:11], that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” We achieve heroic status by our self-liberation from circumstance, by our victories not on the fields of war but against our own selves.”
Part Four: Smallness, Significance, and Finding Balance “Throughout Tolkien, great deliverance often comes from characters who seem (or are perceived to be) small and insignificant… The ending of The Hobbit thus carries a simple and crucial message: we can make a better world — in fact, in every moment and every choice we have the opportunity to move a little closer.”
“They walked in silence for a while, passing like grey and green shadows under the old trees, their feet making no sound; above them many birds sang, and the sun glistened on the polished roof of dark leaves in the evergreen woods of Ithilien.”
“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!”
-The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
theschnark asked: “Could you please make a post of what is written on each ‘Cards against Arda’ card when you are finished with it? Thank you for reading.”
I’m done with all the blank white cards I have available so I will post those now, and the black prompt ones when I finish (I’ve borrowed liberally from this source but added a few custom ones of my own. If I acquire more blank cards I’ll try to include more):
- Hanging around on a mountain - Possibly racist fantasy descriptions - Words you can’t pronounce - Family drama - A Kinslaying or two - Angbang - The Forest of Dubious Consent - A baby balrog - “They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard!” - Accidentally sleeping with your sister - Swearing a terrible oath - Fëanor’s family jewels - Celebrimbor banner - The House of Bëor - A Tolkien scholar - The survival rate of High Kings of the Noldor - Slamming the door in the face of the Dark Lord - The Valar’s noninterference policy - Beleg’s strongbow - Setting ships on fire - Yavanna is a hippie - Where the fuck did hobbits come from? - Murdered for your jewelry - Killing your best friend on accident - Túrin: the boyfriend from hell. - Hubris - Lúthien’s Rapunzel complex - Tauriel getting eaten by giant spiders - Canon inconsistencies - Selling your house to the Sackville-Bagginses - Saruman of many colours - Terrible things happening to twins - Barrel-riding - The full list of Aragorn’s lineage - Trying to take the Ring - Whether balrogs have wings - Aggressive shippers - Bringing only a harp to rescue your cousin from Morgoth - Galadriel’s hair - Sold my soul to Melkor - Looking into a palantir - Blowing the Horn of Gondor - Fuck the Valar - Not giving a shit about the race of Men - Varda drawing dicks in the sky - Being turned into a Ringwraith - Realizing you’re related - Free armor at Nevrast - Phallic towers. - Dying because you didn’t listen to Elrond - Losing the Entwives - Fëanor’s libido - Blatant violations of canon - Being rescued by eagles - Stephen Colbert - Morgoth interfereing with your family’s well being - Dwarves delving too greedily and too deep - “Meat’s back on the menu, boys!” - “The hills are alive, WITH THE SOUND OF YELLING” - Morgoth never using boats - Thangorodrim - Choosing mortality - Celestial objects with benefits - Morgoth’s experiments on elves - Amputees - Marrying your cousin for the throne - 900 mile road trip with Gollum - Multiplying after the manner of the children of Ilúvatar - Pro-Eöl arguments - Giant motherfucking spiders - The Silmarillion according to TV Tropes - The Not-So-Hidden City - Being a dick to trees - Elven names that begin with 'F’ - Needing an index to read the book - Manwë sneezing - Fëanor making shit - Eru sinking your island - Poorly timed Aqualondë jokes - Being thrust through the Door of Night
Indeed in dire straits or desperate defence, the nissi fought valiantly, and there was less difference in strength and speed between elven-men and elven-women that had not borne child than is seen among mortals.