Archive for the ‘The Psychology of Middle Earth’ Category

The Psychology of Hobbits

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

The tale of Bilbo Baggins, central character of The Hobbit, is the tale of how a conservative, comfortable, respectable and timid suburban dweller sets out on adventure and finds himself braver and wiser as a result.

The Hobbit is a morality tale of self-discovery and self-knowledge. Despite his comfort, satisfaction, creature comforts and smugness, Bilbo Baggins in his middle age, finds himself uncharacteristically rising to the romance, lure and challenge of the unknown, and begins his journey of self-discovery doing what few hobbits before him have ever done: having an adventure.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit, now recently brought to the screen by New Zealand’s Peter Jackson, was written in the 1930’s in the context of an English audience, who would have easily seen themselves gently parodied in the suburban mildness of the timid hobbits (just as New Zealanders are probably now doing with the release of the movie), and is often interpreted as Tolkien’s warning against the menacing gathering “darkness” of World War II.

Whether the looming war influenced Tolkien’s thinking and writing, or not, The Hobbit taps into quite deep human psychological themes and archetypes. The hobbits, with their meek and comfort-loving spirit, represent the ordinary, suburban dwellers in most of us, who, by choosing safety and comfort above all else, sacrifice adventure, challenge and wisdom. The Trolls represent thick-headed stupidity, the Goblins evil and depravity, the Dwarves stoic solidity and doggedness, and the Elves the higher, lighter, more shining spiritual and philosophical side of ourselves.

By tapping into these deep psychological archetypes that appear in his writing as well as in the mythology and legends of most human cultures, Tolkien was able to weave a spell of simply and engagingly told adventure, while at the same time teaching us much about ourselves.

And Bilbo Baggins is the Everyman character in this particular morality tale. He is the character most of us can empathise and associate ourselves with, and we will do well to do so.

Bilbo left his comfortable life for an adventure full of risk, danger, but much reward, and the adventure changed him permanently. Along the way, he found himself. Bilbo lost his innocence, naivety and softness, but he gained wisdom, confidence and bravery. Bilbo learnt to face his fears. He learnt that for higher wisdom, self-knowledge and bravery, there was a price to pay, but that the price was well worth it. Bilbo Baggins became a hero, and his adventure became legend in Middle Earth.

With the recent release of The Hobbit in time for the 2013 New Year, and with our own modern psyche so closely tied up with the sweeping challenges of financial uncertainty across the world in recent years, it’s a perfect time to take stock of ourselves and the lessons The Hobbit has to teach us. We can look beyond the confines of Middle Earth.

In business and in life do we want to be hobbits – comfortable and safe, but scared and timid, closed in, small-minded and vulnerable, frightened of development, change and adventure? Or do we want to be open minded, open hearted, spirited and up for challenge in the wider world?

We can all learn from Bilbo Baggins.

We can hide in our safe suburban and small worlds where we are protected behind our round hobbit doors, or we can go out into the wider world and find adventure and new horizons and the courage to face up to challenges. We have choice, and if we choose adventure, we choose knowledge, wisdom and great reward, as Bilbo did.

View Trailer: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey


Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

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