Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from the Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion!
The Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue & A Long-Expected Party (Book Club Week One)
- What is one aspect of Hobbit culture that you identify with and why? Which element of their culture was the most surprising or interesting? What is one element of Hobbit culture that you would benefit from adopting into your own lifestyle?
A Long-Expected Party
- Notice Bilbo's behavior as he is discussing leaving the Ring behind with Gandalf, particularly when he becomes angry and accuses Gandalf of wanting the ring for himself. As we begin to recognize the Ring as an object of sin, how can we relate to or learn from Bilbo's reactions?
- A Question of Morality: Would it have been loving for Gandalf to encourage Bilbo to keep the Ring, regardless of its corrupting power? Reflect on this question in light of the Christian definition of love (“willing the good of another”) versus the secular understanding ("do what makes you happy", "I accept and celebrate every choice you make", etc.). How would keeping the ring have changed the course of Bilbo’s life, and in a larger way, Middle-Earth history?
Book Club Musings
A lot of the group resonated with the familiar lifestyle of hobbits - the large families, the crowded parties, and all of the quirks that come with them. Hobbit culture is very reminiscent, to us Americans, of life in the rural Midwest. We also loved how hobbits aren't really adults until they're 33 and agreed that society would probably function a little better if this were true. :)
Reflecting on the Ring as the manifestation of sin was a common thread for our group this week. When Bilbo remarked that he felt "thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread," I initially identified with him. Often times, I've blamed certain elements of my life (the demands of mothering my darling children, my husband's busy schedule, my disorganized life... etc.) but as I began to see the Ring as an illustration of sin, I took a step back. Bilbo doesn't feel this way because of his annoying relatives or his day-to-day obligations, rather he feels this way because of the way the Ring is slowly beginning to possess him. So then if I turn and look at my life in this light, I have to ask myself, "What sinful habit or lifestyle am I allowing to possess me?" A few others mentioned that this was a great way to start the conversation about sin with family members.
We also noticed how little the Ring was able to influence Bilbo in comparison to other characters who have carried the Ring. Molly pointed out, "He hangs on to this thing for years without it fully corrupting him..... it corrupts men and Smeagol almost instantly and even Frodo almost falls to it within a year, Gandalf can't even touch it. How good must Bilbo (and Sam I think too) be?!" I think it had a lot to do with the manner in which he received the Ring and how he reacted towards Gollum afterwards. Rather than killing him, Bilbo had pity and instead acted mercifully towards him.
The last point that we chatted about was the way that Gandalf seemed to be acting in a parental way with Bilbo as he encouraged him to leave the Ring behind. It was incredibly important for him to let it go of his own free will, to leave it to Frodo on his own. For those of us who are parents, it felt like a beautiful example of how to lovingly guide our children towards making the right decision without forcing them.
A thank-you to the wonderful members of our community who participated in this week's discussion: Jen Olsen of Fiore Design Studio, Kimberly Ewalt, Molly Walter of The Merrier World, Rosanna Torrisi, Liz Schriver, Kira Bridges of Joy Pursued, Sarah Tamiian, and Rebecca Solomon. If you shared your thoughts on our group discussion thread and I missed you, please let me know & I'll add you to the list. :)