Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Know who's smarter than I am?
You were thinking I'd say YOU, right? While that very well may be the case, I've been thinking a lot about the genius of J.R.R Tolkien lately. Specifically, I've been thinking about his Hobbits.
Hobbits make fabulous heroes. You ever think about that? As writers, we hear much about the story arc of our characters. Our characters have to grow throughout the course of a book. They have to change somehow. Your lead, your hero, should have undergone some kind of transformation by the time the reader turns to the final page. Really, it's what makes a story a story. And yet, the tendency for many writers--especially young ones--is to start with a bright, shiny hero and try to tell a story about his heroics.
The problem, as I'm sure many of you have found, is that showing growth in a character who has it all together is a difficult thing to do. Giving your lead some deficiencies actually helps you. And in that vein, I think Tolkien is a mad genius. And the most amazing thing he did--no, it's not that whole elf language thing--is that he gave us stories about weak, cowardly, unwilling creatures who had no choice but to rise to the occasion.
Hobbits make awesome heroes because:
1. They are not at all interested in being heroes. With the exception of maybe Bilbo who has developed a taste for adventure, the other Hobbits we meet in the Lord of the Rings trilogy would rather stay close to home. They like The Shire. They like food and comfort and all the things we really like. There is no adventure to be had until Frodo realizes his beloved home will be destroyed if he doesn't destroy the One Ring. It's his drive to protect The Shire that propels him forward. Not any tendency toward heroics.
2. Conventional wisdom says they are less likely to be heroic than their companions. The Hobbits in the Fellowship of the Ring are flanked by a Wizard, a Ranger, a Warrior, a battleaxe-wielding Dwarf and an immortal Elf. All of whom would make fabulous heroes. The furry-footed Hobbit is an unlikely savior then and that makes his journey compelling. His growth is measurable and vast and important to the reader.
3. They cannot succeed unless they change. If Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin had remained who they were at the outset of the story, Middle Earth would have had a very different fate. Throughout their individual journeys, each Hobbit had to battle all sorts of personal inadequacies and in every victory--big or small--their transformations pushed them closer and closer to the kind of heroes they needed to be to complete their tasks. If they hadn't changed, they would have failed and Tolkien knew that when he penned them. He wrote their inadequacies with great intention and then he placed obstacles before them that forced them to grow.
See, I told you. Tolkien was smarter than I am. He was also brave because it takes a certain measure of courage to start with a character who is prone to failure. I want to be brave like that.
What do you guys think? Have I missed anything? How else do Hobbits make great heroes? And what other unlikely heroes linger in the books you read?