Tolkien’s Hobbit – A hero’s journey

Why would I as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist be inclined to write about Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel “The Hobbit”?

For once it is attracting millions of viewers of all ages to cinemas around the world and secondly “The Hobbit” appeals for its association with the process of maturation.

In a nutshell Bilbo’s (the hobbit’s) story is the tale about an everyday guy who embarks on an adventure. Together with Gandalf the Wizard and 13 dwarves he sets out to reclaim their homeland and the treasure that was long ago taken from them by the dragon Smaug.

Bilbo’s adventure is a Hero’s journey (Campbell, 1971), a rite of passage in which the individual ventures forth from the familiar and returns older and wiser, with a sense of personal contribution to the world.

Bilbo is not your typical “hero”. Instead, he is a plain, ordinary, and initially timid creature, reluctant to undertake the challenge set out for him. And exactly therein lays his appeal. It feels empowering to relate to Bilbo, who is an everyday hero because it means that you do not have to possess extraordinary talents or be fearless in order to triumph against the odds. Bilbo’s heroism also tells us that succeeding is not about physical daring or aggression but about overcoming fear, self-doubt and temptation.

The hero myth enjoys widespread popularity because it is universal, can be applied to many human problems and helps us navigate through challenging times of crisis. The adventure can be an inward one of the mind, body and psyche or an outward one to an actual place. The journey is a metaphor for a “transformative crisis” that leads to growth and self-discovery. In this process of transformation old ways of thinking are altered or let go off, opening the way to a new level of awareness and a changed view on life.

Understanding life’s pattern as a journey can help us look more optimistically at our lives and accept the ups and downs as natural challenges. What’s more, the challenges reflect our fears and insecurities, and it is only by facing these fears that we can acknowledge and incorporate them. Fears and insecurities mark the threshold between the known and unknown. In the known world, we feel secure because we know the landscape and the rules. Past the threshold, however, we encounter the unknown, a world filled with challenges and dangers. And like Bilbo we have to acquire new skills to survive.

People who never venture forth from the safety and security of their familiar environment and their regular routines may never discover what they can do and accomplish. Often it is by moving out of our “comfort zones” that we experience the most satisfaction.

Bilbo’s hero’s adventure is not only a popular theme in myths across times and cultures but it is also symbolic of the therapeutic process. When embarking on a therapeutic journey, like Bilbo we are leaving the familiar and comfortable behind and are venturing into the unknown to face our fears and defences. Leaving home, means not only leaving comfort, security and order behind but also stagnation, risk-aversion, and constraint.

On our journey we are learning new resources as old coping mechanisms are no longer working. And like the “hero” we grow with every difficulty that we overcome to emerge as wiser, more open-minded beings.

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Campbell, Joseph (1971). The Hero with a Thousand Faces 2nd Edition, New York: Bollingen Series XVii Princeton University Press.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (1996). The Hobbit. 5th Edition. London: Allen & Unwin.


About Mensch - Connecting Mind Body Breath

I am committed to provide empowering information, to help you cope with painful emotions and support you towards personal growth and development. I combine my PhD in Psychology with 15 years of practical experience in counselling across clinical, corporate and community settings. Contact me on 0426 558 562 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation to talk about your needs or write me a quick email at
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2 Responses to Tolkien’s Hobbit – A hero’s journey

  1. I totally agree that it’s through moving out of your comfort zone and ‘stretching’ yourself that you can challenge yourself to grow, develop new skills and experience greater life satisfaction. Great post!

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