In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Bilbo Baggins and the band of dwarves continue their quest to steal the Arkenstone back from the dragon who has it (the Smaug of the title), along with all the dwarven treasure stored inside the Lonely Mountain.
Thorin Oakenshield, the dwarf who is heir to the kingdom of the Lonely Mountain, desperately wants the Arkenstone because he believes it will reunite the scattered dwarven families so they can destroy the dragon who stole their home. He wants to rule over his rightful kingdom. He wants the gold. It’s the dream that drives him.
As the band finally reaches the mountain and Bilbo heads into the depths to steal the Arkenstone, the oldest of the dwarves pulls Bilbo aside.
“If there is a dragon sleeping down there,” he says, “don’t wake it.”
The problem is that if you want the treasure, you’ll never be able to get it without waking the dragon.
It’s a truth well known to fantasy fans. It’s a truth that’s equally true in life.
The only difference is that the treasures we seek in real life aren’t piles of gold or magical stones. They’re usually less tangible—the dreams and goals we have for our lives.
And the dragons…they don’t have impenetrable scales and they don’t breath fire. But they’re no less dangerous. They’re doubts. Fears. Insecurities. Sometimes they’re even people or circumstances standing between us and the thing we most desire.
Dragons are scary things, so when we first realize they’re standing between us and our treasure, sometimes it’s easier to give up on the treasure. That’s the path the unhappy Thorin had chosen until Gandalf encouraged him to go after the Arkenstone, dragon or no dragon.
When we first try to reach the treasure, we often take the same tactic Bilbo took. We try to sneak around it, hoping it won’t wake up. Hoping it won’t see us. We try to pretend it doesn’t exist.
But dragons, in real life like in fantasy, can’t be tiptoed around. Trying only delays the inevitable.
When we wake the dragon and have to face it, many of us will try to bargain with it or trick it. I’ll only do this, if this happens. If I do this, it doesn’t really mean I’m that kind of person. I don’t have to do thus-and-so to succeed. I’ll follow my dream when a certain perfect situation occurs. I didn’t really want it anyway.
Like when Bilbo tried to flatter Smaug, dragons won’t be tricked by words and rationalizations.
And so we’re left with only one option if we want the treasure.
It won’t be easy. We’ll come out the other side a little more battered than when we went in. The costs may be higher than we ever thought.
But it’s the only way.
Because if we decide to give up on this treasure and chase another, we won’t be avoiding facing a dragon. We’ll only be changing dragons.
Where there’s treasure, there’s always a dragon. The dragon always wakes. And if you want the treasure, there’s only one way—fight the dragon and slay it.
January is the time when most of us think about where we want our year to head. What’s your treasure and your dragon? Have you managed to face it?
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