The Theology of Hobbits

There are relatively few passages in the Lord of the Rings like this with clear theological import. I thought this one was worth noting:

“Come on now! Longbottom Leaf it is. Fill up while I run and see about some food. And then let’s be easy for a bit. Dear me! We Tooks and Brandybucks, we can’t live long on the heights.”

“No,” said Merry. “I can’t. Not yet, at any rate. But at least, Pippin, we can now see them, and honor them. It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them, whether he knows about them or not. I am glad that I know about them, a little. But I don’t know why I am talking like this. Where is that leaf? And get my pipe out of my pack, if it isn’t broken.”

What’s interesting here is the idea, common both to Lewis and Tolkien, that worship begins with seeing the familiar in a different light, as gift. What hobbits know is Longbottom Leaf. What they haven’t known is Aragorn, the Gandalf, and the affairs of elves, men, and wizards. To them, these powers are mysterious. Yet, these higher things are precisely the cause of the hobbits little joys and little peace. And Merry has begun to know about them, a little. Can one love God through Longbottom Leaf? I suppose you must start somewhere.

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