The Hobbit and the Love of Money

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A commonly misquoted Biblical passage is that “money is the root of all evil.” The actual passage is “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

When we’re talking about money, that’s an important distinction to make. Many wealthy people give generously and live frugal, moral lives. Having money doesn’t necessarily make us evil.

And money isn’t the root of all evil either. It isn’t always at the root cause of murder, for example.

But loving money can lead to all different kinds of evil. Everything we love competes with everything else we love for the position of priority in our lives. If we love money, we can end up loving it and valuing it more than our family, more than our friends, more than our honor and morality.

That’s what happens in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.

Once Smaug, the dragon under the mountain, is killed, Thorin Oakenshield (the new dwarven king), Bilbo, and the rest of the dwarves take possession of the mountain and the treasure within it.

The treasure goes to Thorin’s head. He refuses to honor the agreement he made with the nearby city of men. They helped him, and thanks to his meddling with the dragon, their city was destroyed. The survivors are facing winter with no home. Thorin refuses to take them into the mountain or to give them the money he promised so that they can get a fresh start.

He won’t return the jewels that rightfully belong to the eleven king either, and he stands by and watches as hundreds of dwarves, elves, and humans are slaughtered by orcs. All he cares about is making sure his treasure is secure.

While I was watching the movie, the friend I was with leaned over and said “what people won’t do for money, eh?”

Her words burrowed inside, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking of them because I know someone who seems to love his money almost more than he loves anything else. To him, having wealth is a sign that someone is a “good man.” He spends hours worrying that someone is going to steal his money from him. He trusts no one. And when he gives his money away, he does it to try to earn God’s favor or to buy respect, loyalty, love, and obedience from the people around him.

It makes my heart hurt for him. You can’t buy those things. At least, when it comes to me, they’re not for sale. And money, or the lack thereof, doesn’t prove that someone is a good person or a bad person.

He reminds me so much of Thorin. Or perhaps I should say that Thorin reminded me so much of him.

At the end of The Hobbit, Thorin was redeemed, but I don’t think it’s as easy in real life. Once the love of money has hold of us, it’s much harder to see it and change.

It served as a good reminder for me of where I want my values to lie.

Has a movie ever reminded you of something important?

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The Hobbit: Where There’s Treasure, There’s Always a Dragon

Hobbit By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

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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Have You Lost Your Taste for Adventure?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien with Bilbo BagginsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

As The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens, Bilbo Baggins has no desire for adventure. The curious child he once was is gone, leaving only a hobbit who enjoys his food, and pipe, and comfortable home.

The wizard Gandalf and a pack of zealous dwarves invade his house and offer him the opportunity for riches and excitement, along with the risk of death and dismemberment, for which they, of course, won’t be held responsible.

“Can you promise that I will come back?” Bilbo asks Gandalf when Gandalf tries to convince him to help the dwarves take back their home from the dragon.

“No,” Gandalf replies. “And if you do, you will not be the same.”

The same is true of every adventure we take.

No, we won’t face fire-breathing dragons that will very likely incinerate us. We won’t face trolls who want to eat us. We won’t need to outrun orcs who want to cut off our heads.

But the real life adventures can be just as terrifying. Our emotional lives, our very selves, are at stake. And adventures, in fantasies and in real life, are never easy.

His first night on the road with the dwarves, Bilbo can’t sleep for their snoring. The rain drenches him, and he regrets coming. It would have been easy for him to turn back. In fact, Thorin (leader of the dwarves) frequently goads him to, telling him he never should have come.

If we’re brave enough to take an adventure this year, we’ve going to face tests to our resolve as well.

Marriage. Parenthood. Leaving an abusive relationship. A move across the country. A change in jobs. Launching our own business. All the things that are really worth doing. We put ourselves in danger of broken hearts, lost sleep, separation from family, financial tragedy, and humiliation.

Part way in, we’ll probably wish we could turn back. We’ll regret the adventure we’ve started. We’ll be afraid that we won’t make it, and that if we do, we won’t know the person we’ve become.

And if we only look at the risks, we probably will turn back. We need to look at the benefits instead.

Because Bilbo didn’t run away, the dwarves accepted him as one of them, and he, in turn, was ready to give his life for them. Any spouse or parent would do the same for their family. Friendship, loyalty, love, and courage are worth the risk.  

Bilbo learned his own strengths, like his intelligence. In our safety zones, we don’t always know what our strengths are. Sometimes discovering them takes risk.

What’s more, like Bilbo, we’ll prove the people wrong who said we’d never make it. We’ll learn what we’re truly capable of.

What adventure have you taken in the past that you’re glad you took? What adventure are you going to take this year?

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Related Posts:
Do You Believe in Second Chances? What Frodo and Gollum Can Teach Us About Forgiveness
What Lord of the Rings Character Are You?
Beorn’s Honey Cake