We watched the Hobbit movie last night. This is our third time to see it. I realized that my son—probably like most all boys his age—is a lot like Bilbo Baggins. There is a part of him that is quite comfortable where he is in life. And why not?—in one respect! He has very little responsibility. For the most part he is able to play and have fun doing the things he enjoys doing. The truth be told, there is a part of me that would love being there again. However, with all the fun of being free—like Bilbo—there is another part of him—the inward part—that knows that there is something more, some adventure to embark on. I think I would be accurate to say that in our modern culture we have embraced that adventure as some external excitement like doing daredevil feats. Even though the adrenaline rush of cheating death can be hugely exciting, it will never replace the rites of passage into manhood. There were two other things I noticed in last nights viewing of the movie. Once Bilbo signed the contract and in excitement went running after the dwarfs, it wasn’t long before he longed for the comforts of the familiar. On several occasions he either wanted to return or attempted to return to them. Oddly enough, seeing this has helped prepare me for those moments in my son’s journey. I will need to listen to his pleas while offering him encouragement as to why the journey is so vitally important, to not only himself, but the lives of those he loves. There is one scene where the dwarf prince—Thorin—berates Bilbo accusing him of seeing his chance and running away. Bilbo hears this while wearing the ring and unseen by them. His response to Thorin once he removes the ring brought much hope to my heart. Bilbo replies that he came back because he wanted to help the dwarf’s return to their home. It is the first time he was able catch a glimpse of the bigger picture as to why he was on the journey. It gives me hope that at some point in this venture, my son too will get a glimpse of the bigger picture of manhood—it isn’t about me, but about helping those around me.
The second thing I saw is wrapped around Gandalf’s definition of courage to Bilbo. As the company leaves the Troll cave, Gandalf steps on something. He finds that it is a small sword. At the mouth of the cave as the dwarf’s are leaving, he stops Bilbo and presents it to him. At first Bilbo refuses stating that he has never killed anything, to which Gandalf replies, “And lets hope you never have to.” Gandalf then defines courage to the young hobbit. This isn’t a quote, simply the essence of what was said: True courage isn’t knowing when to take a life, but when to spare it. I trust that there will be times when I am able to wield such nuggets of truth to my son. I trust that those nuggets will find their way into his heart. I trust those times will become bonding times between the two of us!