In my last post, I wrote of how Jesus might have been a halfling given how central a place food had in his life and work (See Was Jesus a Hobbit?). As one would expect, Jesus would have been a good hobbit. But not every hobbit is virtuous. If you and I were hobbits, what kind of hobbits might we be? Would we be good hobbits, like Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, or less than noble halflings like Lotho Sackville-Baggins?
Many of us are familiar with Bilbo and Frodo, but not Lotho. Lotho was the son of Otho and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. Like them, he was greedy. He coveted wealth and power; such greed would lead eventually to his demise, and would wreak havoc on his fellow hobbits and the Shire.
Lotho owned the family pipe-weed plantation, which made him a great deal of money, as the weed was popular among hobbits. He wanted more, and so he exported the product and industrialized his operations to produce more and more. His greed opened the door for Saruman, the evil wizard, to gain a foothold and eventually total control. As a result of his wicked schemes, ruthless outsiders overran the once idyllic countryside, polluting the waters, taking most of the food and drink, and making life miserable for the halflings, including Lotho himself (Refer to the following link for more information on Lotho).
Speaking of industrialization and pollution in Tolkien’s work and surrounding context, here is what National Geographic has to say:
The industrial revolution, a period of rapid change beginning in Britain around 1750 and lasting well into the 1800s, transformed the cultural and physical landscape of England.
Handmade products crafted in small-town shops gave way to urban factories and mechanized production. Textiles, shipbuilding, iron, and steel emerged as important industries, and the country’s population increasingly migrated to urban areas to work in the factories. Coal fueled these industries, polluting the air with black smoke and dotting the countryside with mining spoil.
Although born well after the industrial revolution, Tolkien witnessed the lasting effects of industry on the environment, first as a child in Birmingham and later as an adult in Oxford.
Tolkien’s concern for nature echoes throughout The Lord of the Rings. Evil beings of Middle-earth dominate nature and abuse it to bolster their own power. For example, Saruman, the corrupt wizard, devastates an ancient forest as he builds his army.The Elves, in contrast, live in harmony with nature, appreciating its beauty and power, and reflecting a sense of enchantment and wonder in their artful songs.
Like the elves, I believe hobbits such as Bilbo and Frodo live in harmony with nature rather than seek to dominate it for the sake of gaining power. Unlike the Sackville-Baggins family, they share the elves’ sense of wonder. It is important that we approach nature, including what we consume, from the vantage point of harmony and a sense of wonder and gratitude. Those hobbit-like folk who steward well the environment, including food and drink, do not seize and devour the earth’s produce, but receive it and share it with others.
In the last post, mention was made of the Lord’s Prayer. Frodo-like people look to God to give them their daily bread and realize that everything they receive is a gift from God. Not only do they give, but also they seek forgiveness and forgive their enemies when they are greedy and fail to live communally. In view of the hobbit Lord’s prayer that God’s kingdom would come and that God would deliver us from evil (See Matthew 6:9-13), how are we to go about restoring order to the Shire?
In response, I would note that there is certainly no time to sit back and smoke pipe-weed nonstop! While Jesus has defeated the likes of Sauron and the forces of evil at the cross, work still needs to be done to restore and heal places like the Shire as we await Jesus’ kingdom’s fullness. After all, as noted in the previous post, we are still on the way to the Promised Land. In view of virtuous Frodo and his companions who led a rebellion against Sarumon and his henchmen upon their return from the great battle with Sauron, how might we rebel against the forces of greed and power in our day that destroy nature, the land’s bounty, and community? This will be the subject of our final post in this trilogy.
There’s more to follow on this subject in days to come, as we make our way to Saturday April 18th’s conference, “Food Fight: A Civil Dialogue over Our Daily Bread.”