A Fortunate Little Fellow: Divine Providence in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit"
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The purpose of this research is to examine the many elements that inspired Tolkien in order to identify a central theme in his Middle-earth tales: Divine Providence. Providence is defined as the protective influence of some higher power in order to bring about an eventuality. Roman Catholicism has long held Divine Providence as central to its theology; while this force is only expressly named three times in scriptures, the doctrine of Divine Providence features heavily in both the Old and New Testaments. First published in 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a high-fantasy adventure in the medievalist tradition, complete with the hallmarks of the orthodox Christian interpretation of an intangible evil and a hero protected by forces unseen. Despite Tolkien’s insistence that Middle-earth isn’t a Christian world, his Catholic influences abound, presenting an orthodox Catholic view of the battle between good and evil; yet it also contains examples of Divine Providence reminiscent of the thought of Thomas Aquinas, whose Summa Theologica would have been well known to the medievalist Tolkien. Though God is never explicitly mentioned in The Hobbit, the unseen hand of Providence is at work throughout the novel; Bilbo Baggins’s unusual lineage, the timing of the discovery of the enchanted map, Bilbo’s finding of the ring, and the discovery of the Lonely Mountain keyhole, to name a few “fortunate” events, Divine Providence is revealed to be a key element in Bilbo’s transformation from humble Hobbit to fated hero.