I have another guest post over at Waging Nonviolence this week, this time about nonviolence (predictably) and one of my great passions, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Specifically The Hobbit; more specifically The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of the story of Bilbo Baggins, and its relationship to media violence in the wake of Sandy Hook. Here’s an excerpt of “Looking beyond movie violence“:
[In the book,] Bilbo’s big moment is his underground confrontation with the creature Gollum. After beating him in a game of riddles, Bilbo demands that Gollum lead him out of the caverns in which he is lost. Gollum, however, reneges on the deal and tries to murder Bilbo. The hobbit is only saved by his chance discovery of the One Ring of Lord of the Rings fame, which grants its wearer the power of invisibility and which allows him to hide from Gollum. It also gives him the chance to kill the tortured creature without being seen.
Bilbo moves in to strike. But the sight of a cringing Gollum, made wretched by centuries of enslavement to the Ring, moves him to spare the creature’s life. The moral is so clear, Jackson even puts it in the mouth of the wizard Gandalf: “Remember this: true courage is not about knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one.”
This pivotal scene makes it into Jackson’s film too, where it is powerfully realized. But it is robbed of its impact by the closing fight scene, effectively shifting the locus of heroism from the practice of mercy to the practice of violence…
We cannot run from the reality of violence, in our media or elsewhere. Not only is it unrealistic, but quite honestly, I would not want to deprive myself or my future children of a beautiful story like The Hobbit, even with its violent elements. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to engage creatively and critically with that violence.
You can read the full piece at Waging Nonviolence.