Sunday, April 24, 2016

Debate: The Hobbit Lifestyle

Greetings, fellow lembas lovers! Today you’re in for a special treat--my sister Emily and I are going to debate one of the burning questions among LOTR fans: Is the hobbit lifestyle negative, (focused on sensory pleasure and isolationism) or positive (focused on appreciating nature and the little things in life)?

For the purposes of this debate, Emily will be taking the positive stance and I will be taking the negative stance. Please note this does not necessarily represent our position on the issue.

Emily’s comments will be in green and mine will be in black.

Before we start, I just want to mention that I started this document a while ago and Emily and I were discussing the questions we might choose. Emily just yesterday suggested a question that shocked me:

Is this one of the Rings of Power or Emily’s engagement ring?


That’s right, Emily is engaged and just told my family yesterday via a sneaky debate question! Isn’t her ring gorgeous? Maybe it really is an elven ring...

Also, funny story.

I’ve always said that one day I would end up reading so much my vision would blur...and sure enough, 400 pages into War and Peace, I ended up in an optometrist's chair getting a prescription for glasses. Right now my eyes are super dilated and I can barely see the screen, but we’ll see what happens.

Without further ado, let’s go right into opening statements. Emily, you go first since you are positive.

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Positive Opening Statement
Hello! Hobbits, the peace-loving halflings from the Shire, are undoubtedly one of the most content species in all Middle-earth. Their lives revolve around simple pleasures and living without the worries that occupy the minds of Men, Elves, and Orcs. By maintaining simple lifestyles, the Hobbits are able to live happy, productive lives whilst avoiding the conflict and turmoil most other species endure. In short, the lifestyle of the Hobbit race is extremely beneficial.




Negative Opening Statement
Hobbits may live a peaceful life, but it is not necessarily to their benefit. Often, Hobbits become apathetic towards the plight of others and worry more about their own problems rather than helping out. The Hobbits are “blissfully ignorant” of the problems of the real world--and, while that might seem perfect for them, it is unhelpful to the world at large. As Frodo said, “I should like to save the Shire, if I could — though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them.” (The Fellowship of the Ring 71)


Positive Point #1
While we all know those exceptional Hobbits; Bilbo, Frodo and Company, Bandobras Took, and the other rare characters who exhibit affinity for adventure, most Hobbits are really not suited for military duty, politics, or exploration. Given their small stature and demanding eating schedule, it is simply inherent that Hobbits are not fit for the enterprising activity at which the other species excel. While some may claim the Hobbits are standoffish to the events of the world outside the Shire, the truth is that their presence in great wars or missions of exploration is simply not necessary. There is no great army hiding in the Shire and no great leaders refusing to help the rest of Middle Earth, instead, there is a civilization of simple creatures who, if they were to inject themselves into conflict or debate with the larger races, would simply be rebuked and sent back to the Shire.

Rebuttal #1
The argument that Hobbits are unnecessary and unhelpful, falls flat when you consider it in conjunction with the remarkable feats achieved by just two little Hobbits, namely Frodo and Sam. If two Hobbits can do that much, imagine what a whole gang of them could do! True, Hobbits may not have a strong military presence, but their concept of self-sacrifice and duty would make them helpful counselors and teachers.

Redirect
I concede that Frodo and Sam were an exceptional pair of characters, but we must consider the entire Hobbit race. I also concede Hobbits would make wonderful teachers and counselors.


Positive Point #2
While Hobbits do not contribute significant military presence to the turbulent environment in Middle-earth, they do contribute other things which many races appreciate. The Hobbits, as gifted farmers and brewers, grow some of the best tobacco and brew some of the best beer available. Consider Bree, a small town where Hobbits and Men cross paths and share stories and trade products. While it may be true that Hobbits do not make extraordinary efforts to become an economic power, their relaxed approach to business results in quality products and an enjoyable lifestyle that allows them to treat work as a hobby.

Rebuttal #2
It is true that Hobbits help Men in certain ways by sharing reservedly, however they are capable of so much more. Hobbits clearly have economic and farming skills which they could pass on to others. The Mountain Men, for instance “scratch a living off rocks”, but with the help of Hobbits, they could learn to cultivate their own food and have a more prosperous society. The Hobbits prefer to stay in their own land and ignore the troubles of others instead of aiding them.

Redirect
The statement “scratch a living off rocks,” was uttered not by a hard-working, impoverished Man seeking help from the Hobbits, but by Saruman, in an effort to goad the Mountain Men into war. One would be hard pressed to portray the Mountain Men as a people that desire help from the Hobbits. Rather, they are themselves a law-breaking, selfish sect that are only treated as outcasts because they have collectively preyed on the weak around them.

Positive Point #3
From a storyline standpoint, it’s important that the Hobbits embody a peace-loving, slow-moving lifestyle. Frodo and Sam’s respective character arcs center around their ability to grow and overcome fears. From the very beginning, our two favorite Hobbits were chosen to take the Ring to Mordor because of their inherent lack of ambition and love for peace. If the Hobbit race valued ambition like Men or Elves, there would be no reason to send Frodo as Ring-bearer. Rather, watching the docile Hobbits develop into brave, steadfast heroes is a central theme in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; the Shire lifestyle then is vital is establishing the character arcs of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and, for that matter, Bilbo.


Rebuttal #3
The Hobbits may be peace-loving, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to others. The Dunedain of the North have to put their lives on the line every day in order to protect the Hobbits. If the Hobbits could put forth their own effort to protect their own land, it would be more fair. I think the Hobbits would be more worldly and wiser if they began to look around themselves instead of being turned in on and focusing only on themselves.

Redirect I maintain that the Hobbits, no matter how willing, are not physically capable of the same actions as Men, or Elves for that matter. And again, if Hobbits were as bodily capable as other races, the story of Frodo and Sam’s epic journey would lose its significance as an underdog story.
 

Negative Point #1
Because Hobbits have such an ignorant view of the world, they are often unable to recognize evil when they see it. Think of the Ringwraiths riding into the Shire asking around for “Baggins”--and the neighborhood Hobbits just let them in and lead them straight to Bag End. Their lack of knowledge could have easily led to the Ring being reclaimed by Sauron and the destruction of all they--and others--hold dear, if it were not for the vigilance and wisdom of Gandalf.

Rebuttal #1
I personally cannot blame the Hobbits for releasing Frodo’s location to the Ringwraiths; it is hard to imagine any other race reacting any differently. Certainly the Hobbits were frightened and had no way to defend themselves, and I believe they reacted in the manner of any race when confronted with such a threatening presence.

Redirect
I am not so sure it is true that any race would react this way--Aragorn fights the Ringwraiths head on, as does Glorfindel and the Men of Gondor at Osgiliath. The Hobbits did not necessarily have to combat the Wraiths directly, but they could have merely told them the wrong location, led them astray, or done practically anything besides pointing the menacing villains in the direction of one of their vulnerable neighbors.


Negative Point #2
The isolation from the rest of the world dulls the Hobbit’s senses so much. “‘Well here we are, just the four of us that started out together,’ said Merry. ‘We have left all the rest behind, one after another. It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded.'  ‘Not to me,’ said Frodo. ‘To me it feels more like falling asleep again.’” (LOTR 997). Frodo emphasizes in this passage that the Shire is an insensitive and “blissfully unaware” place where important things are often abandoned in favor of good food and drink.

Rebuttal #2
There is no denying that Shire life revolves around food and drink, but this is definitely not detrimental to the Hobbits. By finding joy in the little things, they are able to avoid the capitalistic stresses, violent squabbles, and hateful disputes that the other races endure. Rather, the Hobbits live simple, fulfilling lives without the waste and violence associated with more aggressive societies.


Redirect
I concede that the Hobbits do show a large capacity for appreciation and relaxation. But everything in moderation! Too much relaxation is just sloth in disguise. The Hobbits need to wake up and smell the coffee, so to speak. They need to realize there is more to the world than their own pleasures and desires.


Negative Point #3
The Hobbit lifestyle is borderline gluttonous. The definition of gluttony from Thomas Aquinas is “an immoderate or unreasonable pleasure in food or drink”. Certainly the Hobbits can fall into this trap often, what with their demanding eating schedule and preference of food over people. Upon witnessing Bilbo’s disappearance at his birthday party, Rory Brandybuck clearly displays more concern for the food than the Hobbit who just vanished before his very eyes, saying, “‘There’s something fishy in this, my dear! I believe that mad Baggins is off again. Silly old fool. But why worry? He hasn’t taken the vittles with him.’ He called loudly to Frodo to send the wine round again.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, A Long Expected Party)

Rebuttal #3
Certainly, Hobbits love food. There can be no dispute there. But their affinity for food motivates them in being productive and busy beings who harm no one in their efforts to fill their happy little laughing bellies and farm the beautiful land of which they take such good care.

Redirect
My point is simply that Hobbits overemphasize their own pleasure with little to no care for the others around them.
8 Piece of Carrot on Brown Chopping Board

Positive Closing Argument
In the end, the simple, slow-moving lives of Hobbits are a fresh take on life compared to the hustle and bustle of the other races in Middle Earth. The Hobbits, while unable to compete or contribute to the rest of the world in military terms, live quiet lives and trade peacefully with their immediate neighbors. While they do not strive to build a large economic empire or explore the far reaches of the world, with exception, of course, their love of the little joys serve them well and do not harm any other parties. The Hobbits, in short, are not selfish isolationists, but rather they are content with their lot and happy to live within their means.

Negative Closing Argument
St. Augustine described sin as incurvatus in se, meaning “caved in around oneself”. This perfectly describes the Hobbit’s lifestyle of self-centeredness and disregard for others. The Hobbits are of course not doing this to be malicious, but it is rather a lack of attentiveness which led to their isolationist ways. It would benefit not only Hobbits themselves if they went out into the world (as we can see clearly through the growth demonstrated in Merry, Pippin, Frodo and Sam) but also the rest of Middle-earth at large to gain from their skills in farming and in appreciating little things. All in all, Hobbits would benefit immensely from looking outside themselves and their society.

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Thank you so much to Emily for debating with me!  It was really fun!

Let me know if you would like more debates or if you have any more questions to debate over.  Some questions I've come up with are:
  • Do Balrog’s have wings?
  • Movies or books?
  • Was it a good idea for the Valar to bring the elves to Valinor?
  • Was destiny or bad choices more to blame in the story of Turin Turambar?
  • Is Sauron or Melkor the “better” bad guy?
  • Who is the best character?
  • Was Sam or Frodo right about the way they handled Gollum?
  • Was the quest for the treasure in The Hobbit more beneficial for the dwarves or for Bilbo?
  • Is the hobbit lifestyle negative (focused on sensory pleasure and isolationism) or positive (appreciating nature and the little things in life)?
  • Was Gandalf’s idea to send the hobbits without knowledge of Mordor prudent or misleading?
  • Is Thorin Oakenshield a hero or a repentant trespasser?
  • Should more female characters have been included in The Hobbit?
  • Does Gandalf always do the right thing?
  • Is Bard or Thorin Oakenshield right in the argument about the distribution of treasure?
  • Are the Teleri or the Noldor right about their access to land (Teleri claim the land of Middle-earth is theirs, the Noldor claim that they deserve it since they fought the orcs off for the Teleri)?
  • Should The Silmarillion be made into a movie?
  • Who was more to blame in the country flick over the Nauglamir, Thingol or the dwarves?

What are your thoughts on this topic?

My friend and I will be debating about the merits of The Hobbit movies soon, so keep checking back for that.  Let me know if you're interested in having a debate--I'm always up for collaboration posts!

Navaer!

12 comments:

  1. Nice work! I enjoyed it. :D I have never read a debate in this way, so this has been interesting for me.

    Here are the debate topics I like best-

    "Is Sauron or Melkor the better bad guy?"
    "Was destiny or bad choices more to blame in the story of Turin Turambar?"
    "Who was More to blame in the country flick over the Nauglamir, Thingol or the dwarves?"

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  2. This was really cool! Well done!

    I've considered this issue myself, but not reached a definite conclusion and this helped me understand the Neg. a little better.

    So, for future debate topics:

    "Was Sam or Frodo right about the way they handled Gollum?", "Should more female characters have been included in The Hobbit?", and "Should The Silmarillion be made into a movie?" sound intriguing. I've pondered over all of them a little. :)

    You're reading War and Peace? Is it good? I'm planning to read it this summer.(And I hope your eyes are better soon!)

    Congratulations to your sister, and I look forward to the debate over the Hobbit movies! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      Thank you for your suggestions--it's going to be hard to choose one of them! I would love to debate them all :D

      Everyone told me War and Peace would be boring and dry, but I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. I would definitively recommend it at this point. Haha, thank you!

      I will pass that on to my sister and the Hobbit debate should be ready soon :)

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  3. Welcome to the club! About the glasses I mean ;)

    Tell your sister congratulations for me! And that was a clever way to tell your family XD

    I really liked the debate! It was very well done so congrats to the both of you!

    Hmm, I don't really like to pick favorites but "Is Sauron or Melkor the better bad guy?" sounds like a good one...

    This is a fantastic addition to your blog! I'm looking forward to seeing more!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks ;)

      Will do--it was pretty sneaky!

      I appreciate that :)

      Ooh, okay seems like that is a pretty popular topic, so I think I may debate that one next.

      Thanks again :D

      Delete
  4. I'm intersted in the Hobbit movie debate. I personally am not too fond of them at all... except the first... its' acceptable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't really enjoy them very much either. I'm going to be on the negative side and my friend (who likes movie making but doesn't know much about the books) is going to be on the positive side. Should be up soon!

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  5. Well I don't have time to read the whole thing right now, but Congratulations to Emily and that it a gorgeous ring!! love the way she told you all too!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will pass on your congratulations to her :)

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