Truthful Teachings of Tolkien

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings have been scattered across the bookshelves of adults and children alike for many years. The truly stunning worlds which Tolkien managed to create are tantalizing to the imagination and leave the reader desperately wishing that they too had grown up in the colorful and happy hills of the Shire or had elves as neighbors.

But Tolkien did not just leave us with these wonderful worlds and interesting characters, he also taught us many life lessons that one should always keep in mind in order to live a life as full and prosperous as good old Bilbo Baggins. Here are just a few…

1. “Never judge a book by its cover.”

In The Hobbit, we meet a strong and brave character by the name of Thorin Oakenshield, heir to the fortune that lay within the halls of the lonely mountain which unfortunately at the time was being guarded by a rather large dragon called Smaug.


The story builds around the quest of Gandalf, Thorin, Bilbo Baggins and a company of dwarves as they make their way back to the mountain to claim back the gold and their ancestral home.

Here we find lesson one. When Gandalf presents Bilbo as the burglar who is going to help them steal back the mountain and rid it of Smaug the Terrible, Thorin takes one look at the short fellow with hairy feet and mocks him instantly.

However, Bilbo, in fact, saves the day on many an occasion which I will not mention in case you have not yet read the tale proving that you should never judge a book by its cover. Yes, an age old lesson, but one that never goes out of style.


2. “A problem shared is often a problem halved.”

This brings us to Gandalf, the wise old wizard who seems to know everything. However, as Tolkien teaches us in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a problem shared is often a problem halved.


We see many examples throughout the books of Gandalf trying to deal with each problem that he faces alone which, more often than not, lands him trapped in cages, facing certain death or surrounded by Orcs.

In fact, this will eventually be Gandalf’s downfall. It is true to say that Gandalf is the master behind the people of Middle Earth rising up against Sauron and fighting the darkness, yet often he takes the largest tasks upon his own shoulders and this usually ends badly for both Gandalf and others.

Throughout the saga, Tolkien proves to us that working together, such as when Gandalf calls upon the aid of Bilbo to facilitate the meeting of the dwarves and act as the chief burglar for the company when the time came, a problem becomes so much smaller and much more manageable. Lesson two, another golden oldie but a great one: A problem shared is a problem halved.

Gandalf  The White in the 1978 animated film

3. “Love thy neighbor.”

Our final key teaching of Tolkien is found in the halls of Rivendell. It appears that whenever someone, whether it be a hobbit a dwarf or otherwise, is in need of help and respite the door to the realm of the elves is always open.

Yes, it may be true that the welcome is not always warm and at times you may find yourself locked in a cell until your exact motives are known, sustenance and somewhere to lay down your head will always be offered by the elves of Rivendell. Here we find our final lesson, hospitality should always be offered to those in need or as the bible would have us phrase it “love thy neighbor”.

It may not always be possible for us to provide a map in ancient elvish which leads to buried treasure or reunite someone with their long lost uncle whom they presumed way dead, however, it is more than plausible for each of us to offer someone a kind word or a friendly smile.

Hospitality doesn’t always have to be a hot beverage, a slice of cake or the offer of child care, it can just as easily be a “how are you?” or “can I make you a cup of tea?”. There is a lot to be said for elvish manners.

What other hidden homework of the great master can you find in these wonderful books?

3 thoughts on “Truthful Teachings of Tolkien

  1. Pride goeth before the fall. The chief sin in Tolkien’s works is always pride, which causes the fall and corruption of everyone from Morgoth to Saruman.


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