Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy is a very underestimated piece of film that has received less than awesome reviews in the past and it is because of quite a few reasons, one of which I will be discussing and that is the moral compasses of the characters in the series. I will be covering the characteristics of the most important characters and the ways that they represent the moral arguments that The Hobbit is trying to illustrate. Following this I will be discussing how The Hobbit trilogy portrays important moral ideals in an easily understandable way, while also hiding the apparentness of it through an interesting fantasy story. Then I will be talking about the growth that the main character goes through and how his moral compass guides him through this path. Also being discussed in this paper will be how the morals in this story are applicable to not only adventurers, but to all people in real life, children included. To conclude the paper I will be telling the reader about why their opinions of the film should be reconsidered and why The Hobbit should be rewatched to help them better grasp the moral arguments rather than just watching it for simple popcorn entertainment.
The movie trilogy starts out with a calm and simple Hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins who lives in the peaceful land of The Shire and is enlisted by a wandering wizard named Gandalf the Grey to join a company of Dwarves to go and save their homeland to the East. They travel through treacherous forests, caves, mountains, plains and cities, encountering many enemies along the way who want nothing more than to stop them on their quest and take the riches of their homeland for themselves. They make many alliances and enemies along the way that play out to help portray the important moral points of the film. Not simply because they make new friends but because of how relationships are created and ruined and how our heroes learn from them while also growing personally due to them.
Bilbo is our main character throughout this series and he has a very strong moral compass that guides him through his choices throughout the story which ultimately alters the course of their adventure. One thing that Bilbo has ingrained in his mind is that he is a very loyal friend and person to the people who he makes promises to. This shows very strongly in a scene in the first movie where he recklessly risks his life to save the leader of the Dwarven company, Thorin Oakenshield, nearly killing himself by throwing his body into the way of the sword of an orc. This may sound like something that any hero would do but he is not the most heroic person to ever be titled as such in a story. In fact, Bilbo can be argued as someone who is not very heroic at all (at least at the beginning of his venture). This theme of loyalty is often touched upon throughout the trilogy, at times when the dwarves risk their own lives to save each other by fighting through impossible hoards of enemies for just one of the thirteen members, or at a time towards the end of the third film when the dwarves from the Iron Hills come to save the company from certain destruction by the armies of Men and Elves. Loyalty is also shown in the opposite way in the film, in terms of betrayal, which mostly revolves around the sickness that has taken over Thorin. Thorin promises to share his riches with the men of Lake-town, who save their lives and help them on their adventure, but once he sees the vast amounts of gold in Erebor (the dwarven homeland) he goes back on his promises and says he will share nothing with them. Another instance of this is actually shown by Bilbo, because he takes the most sacred item of the dwarves, The Arkenstone, and gives it to the armies of Men and Elves in attempt to save the dwarves from their own stubbornness. This is seen as serious betrayal by Thorin because the Arkenstone is seen as the birthright of the Dwarves and it is just given away by some halfling who thinks he can do anything he wants.
Another important moral point of the film is gratitude, this point is somewhat hidden behind greed but really shines through in the third film. One could even argue that nobody is really grateful for anything up until the third film, simply because of the lack of situations where gratitude would be pertinent and because of the fact that the Dwarves really are just kind of selfish most of the time. Back in The Shire Bilbo has his life really made out, he has a great home, plenty of food, nice neighbors, and really no problems at all. While the dwarves on the other hand have struggled for many years after their home was stolen away by a fire drake from the North, Smaug. At first glance of the movie, gratitude isn’t really something that anyone would think about because the backstory isn’t all told at once, but through the progression of the films you learn about the struggles of the dwarves and so does our hero. In the first movie the company gets captured by goblins in an underground cave but Bilbo manages to slip away from the group and has a perfect opportunity to escape home and never have to deal with the stress and danger of this adventure ever again. The Company of course escapes the goblins and exits the cave to the realization that Bilbo has disappeared. They take up the assumption that he is gone for good, until he shows up from behind a tree and tells them that he will not abandon them because he knows what it is like to have a place to call home and he wants them to have that same opportunity. This ties into the loyalty of Bilbo as well as his gratitude because of his realization of what it must be like to not have the luxuries that he has. An important scene that shows gratitude is towards the end of the third movie when Thorin overcomes his “sickness” that clouds his judgement and makes him selfish beyond all belief. He comes to understand that his connection with his brothers is more important than all the gold in the world and this gratitude causes him to rally his men and the army of dwarves from the Iron Hills, turning the tide on the war and eventually causing them to succeed in the battle that they would have definitely lost if not for the rallying of the troops by their once again great leader Thorin, Son of Thrain.
These points are important to look at because of their hidden implications throughout the series that are a lot less obvious than one would think. They are nearly always shown inside of exciting CGI scenes, action packed moments, war, and through conversations that push the story further while ingraining these crucial moral points. Going back to the scene where Bilbo nearly gets himself killed saving Thorin in the first movie, at a quick glance this scene seems nothing more than a quick reaction of valiance from our main character, but upon further evaluation you can see how this is a prime example of Bilbo’s loyalty and dependability. There is a scene in the second movie when one of the dwarves of the company (Kili) dives through a slew of orcs to reach a lever that opens a gate which is preventing the company from an important escape, but he is shot with a poisonous arrow during the act. This is another point where, again, the scene is action packed and dramatic, but on the level of morals he is simply risking his life to save his crew, showing his loyalty to them and their cause. Similar to this, the third movie has a scene where one of the dwarves named Fili (Kili’s brother) is captured by the orcs and is about to be killed by them and, again, Kili throws himself into the fray, risking everything he has to save his brother. He sees his brother die and eventually gets impaled by an orc, but his loyalty and love for his brother drives him to an act more heroic than what is imaginable in a real life situation. The final scene I will talk about on this note is when Bard, a man from Lake-town, is essentially betrayed by everyone he knows. The humans allow the Dwarves to go and awaken Smaug (which Bard knows will cause the destruction of Lake-town) because the company of Dwarves promises the humans a share of their gold. They release the dragon, who does exactly as Bard predicted, and destroys the town. Bard still saves as many people as possible and does everything in his power to fix the damages their own greed has caused. His loyalty to his people is so clear, but not the first thing that anyone thinks of when they are watching a whole city being burned down by a monstrous dragon. These points here are very important to look at because of one point I am trying to make, being that the movie is better than it gets credit for, because while it has action scenes that may or may not meet people’s expectations, there are at least some great lessons to be learned.
Something great to look at in terms of both character development and moral lessons is by looking at our hero, Bilbo Baggins, who is overall a great guy, but at times he struggles with understanding why he is even on this adventure in the first place. At the very beginning of the series, he decides not to go on this quest, but then changes his mind the next morning and chases the Company down to join them, even though he isn’t 100 percent sure about his decision to do so. He finds himself constantly bouncing back and forth between abandoning the crew and sticking to his word. This causes some personal turmoil that he must overcome, although he eventually comes to his gratuitous realization of why he is there, to help the dwarves secure better lives for themselves. Now, at this point, he has made a concrete decision to stick with the party but he is still not very strong, not very brave, and terribly inexperienced with anything involved with the word “adventure”. Now, while he never becomes a beefy fighting machine like many of the dwarves, he can at least defend himself somewhat with a sword. That saves his life on several occasions, whether it’s almost being eaten by wolves, spiders or being sliced up by orcs. His real growth here comes in the form of his bravery, he initially would shy away from combat but by the end of the trek he is more than willing to fight and help out his brothers-in-arms. His becoming more courageous like this is extremely important to the morals of the story because it makes staying loyal to the dwarves much easier for him since he can get himself to fight for their lives as well as his own. These things don’t just happen by accident though. He is able to achieve this growth because he is so morally strong and trustworthy, he knows who he is and what he stands for, and his word means a great deal to him. This self-trust and self-knowing is really what helps propel him to become the hero that the Company needed to succeed on their mission.
These morals are of course very important to having a successful adventure in any fantasy realm, but are so crucial to the success of relationships, careers, and the everyday life of the common person. Without loyalty, nothing in this day and age would work. Loyalty is directly linked to trust, which is what you need in relationships with your spouse, your co-workers, your teachers, your children, and anyone you meet. Just as Thorin has to trust his company to risk their lives for the greater good of their cause, we have to trust our friends and family in their decisions and actions, believing that they are doing everything they can for the greater good as well. Gratitude is always important to have because of the happiness and peace it can bring to our lives. In the film, Bilbo is very at war with himself until he realizes that he needs to be grateful for what he has and that he can use that feeling to push himself and help the dwarves reach happiness. This is just like real life in relation to the everyday lives that we lead and how they seem hard until we look at people who have less than us and we are humbled at our own fortune. These are things that almost everyone struggles with at times in their lives and are great things to pass on to later generations, so have them watch The Hobbit films and they can learn how to treat their friends and families too.
Now, I know you may still be thinking about how The Lord of the Rings trilogy is better than this, and I’ll give you that, because it is pretty hard to beat what has become the best selling fantasy series of all time. But that does not mean that The Hobbit is just some shabby piece of work that never met up to the expectations set by its prior installation. It has been a little over a year since the last installation was put in and there has been time for people to see it and maybe watch it again, so at this point everyone that cares about this has their opinions of it made. A pretty decent amount of people hate on this movie, either for not being as exciting as LotR or screwing up the CGI or not taking the story seriously, but it really was not made to be the most exciting, action packed piece of work to ever be installed in cinema. Yes, the way it tells the story is a bit different than the book but so is nearly every other movie adapted from literature. It is a children’s story adapted for modern culture and the big screen, so instead of being critical of its acting and filming aspects, let’s look at the bigger picture of the morals expressed throughout the series. It teaches us how to trust our brothers and how to depend on even the most unlikely of allies or friends, it teaches us to be loyal and to stick to our word, it teaches us to be grateful for what we are so lucky to have, and it does so with an engaging story. I would say that in itself is something to be grateful for. So go and check out the films again and think about the moral applications that can be applied to your own life and you’ll at least come out of it with that appreciation, if not a deeper understanding of what Peter Jackson is really trying to get across.