In Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit, Thorin, the leader of the dwarves, was wounded in the Battle of Five Armies, and before he dies he wants to make amends with the hobbit Bilbo for some things he said earlier. He apologizes on his deathbed. And then he says this:
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit, ch. 18, “The Return Journey”
I read this scene to my kids last night. I had forgotten these words from Thorin, which I think are especially important every December. You might almost think that Tolkien had the elder Scrooge in mind when he wrote these words for Thorin.
We could probably dig into the concept a little more. Perhaps we would say that “food and cheer and song” are not the most important things in life, that there are things superior even to these. There are times for tough decisions, for hardship, for taking up a cross. And yet, there are also times, thank God, for food and cheer and song, for enjoying God’s blessings. One wonders if there is ever a good time for valuing hoarded gold.
Of course, we often get these values exactly backwards.
The cartoon version of The Hobbit (above) represents the scene fairly faithfully to Tolkien’s vision, whereas the more recent Peter Jackson movie changes it around quite a bit, but both films have versions of Thorin’s final words to Bilbo which Tolkien wrote. Personally, though, I like Tolkien’s actual words best.