Bilbo: the anti-hero hero

Saturday is Biblo’s birthday. It also happens to be the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit. This week, hobbit parties are happening all over the country, including one that I’m planning myself. I honestly couldn’t be more excited. It’s like throwing the birthday party that I always wanted.

I’ve been a fanatic for Tolkien’s work since my early teens. Clearly, I’m not the only one. Seeing the activities people are planning has gotten me thinking about Tolkien’s work and why it holds such attractive power to so many fans. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for me.

In a way, Bilbo kind of feels like the first major anti-hero protagonist. He’s totally ordinary, close to fifty, not even interested in adventures, and slightly dull (albeit adorable) when we first meet him in the beginning of The Hobbit. His life is comfortable and exactly how he likes it. He has no reason to change. He’s very much like the average person.  He’s exactly like me.

But he starts on this journey, more on a whim than common sense, and finds himself leading a bunch of bumbling dwarves, outsmarting all sorts of creatures, and facing some of his deepest fears. He’s brave, but it’s not his bravery I love. It’s the unexpectedness of his bravery.

I love it because I can relate to it.

I’m not the type of person that desires change and seeks out adventure. I like my life to be predictable. I like to feel safe and know where I’m going and what’s going to happen and what I’ll need to do and what others are going to do and . . . well, if my life were a book, I would have peaked ahead to the last chapter by now.

I like to think that my fears aren’t things I’ll meet on the street, that they’re more myth than anything. I don’t want to have to face a dragon or wonder how I’m going to get home. I don’t want to start on a journey that I don’t even know if I can complete.

But every once in a while, I find myself chasing after some crazy adventure, some unpredictable change, and I think I can understand why Bilbo did. Deep down, despite the aversion to change, there is something in everyone that is just a little bit hero-like. Even the most ordinary, unimaginative person has a brave soul buried inside them somewhere. And I, for one, am desperate to hear that. I desperately need that.

The “heroes” of our world can’t do it all. No matter how much I admire them or rely on them, there are some things I know they can’t tackle, some internal dragons they can’t slay. But if I decide to be my own hero, I start out on a quest that absolutely changes me. I find a courage I didn’t know I had. I find out my skills are greater than I thought, and I find the imagination to solve my own problems.

I doubt any of us ever truly feels like a hero. When faced with danger, I bet we all wish we were back in our cozy homes, drinking a cup of tea on a warm summer evening, eating a plentiful meal. I do. Sometimes the only thing I can think when facing a stressful situation is, “I want to go home!”

While I may have to make a change in my life . . .  While I may do courageous things . . .  While I may dare to face down the monsters in the hidden crevices of life . . .  I never never never want to.

I want to hide away in a hole!

The heroes in fairy tales are often inaccessible because I am not like them.

But Bilbo—yeah, he’s totally believable and accessible. He’s everything I am and everything I long to be at the same time. He’s a living testament to the magic and richness I can find by daring to step out of my comfort zone and walk down the road that my heart tells me to follow while my brain is saying, “You’ve really put your foot in it this time, you fool.” He’s the hero that helps me realize I can be one too.

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