J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit is the story of a journey ‘there and back again’, in the words of one Bilbo Baggins. As many know, we return from such an adventure changed, tempered like steel by the trials and tribulations met along the way. Such a journey was undertaken by thirteen dwarves, a hobbit and a wizard (for part of the way).

At journey’s end, Gandalf cheerfully remarks to Bilbo that he is not the hobbit he was. And this is true, for Bilbo and companions bravely elected to undertake the most perilous journey of all: to go into their subconscious minds and face down their most fearful and painful memories.

With many misgivings, they agree to travel through the vast and dreaded Forest of Mirkwood. The rucksack of provisions on each of their backs represents the individual bag of past troubles that we carry around with us. We know we are entering a dead and forgotten world as soon as the companions step into the dark forest. The path is narrow and they must walk in single file, each on their own personal journey. A short distance into the woods and all light ceases to penetrate: there is just a stifling, airless silence but for the invisible scufflings of forest creatures and their luminous eyes.

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These are the fears they must confront and see for what they truly are – phantasms that have no real substance but are kept alive through our fear. As the dwarves and hobbit continue to trek warily through their subconscious minds, the fearful memories are drawn ever more urgently to them seeking release, especially when they light a fire at night. But it is not the right kind of light: only the inner light of understanding and self-forgiveness will work. Still too frightened to face their fears, they cease making fires.

As the travellers near the end of the forest path, the fears become desperate for recognition and release. They resort to luring them into the forest, off the protected pathway – the connection to the conscious mind – through lights and the vision of a feast. Finally forced to encounter their inner demons, the dwarves become paralysed with fear. Bilbo, lost in the dark silence and utterly alone also soon starts to succumb to his deepest fears. But then he finds his courage, the inner light is sparked and starts to flame brightly, as symbolised by his sword, Sting. Squarely he faces the inner demon and is no longer afraid. Ablaze with his hard-won self-knowledge, and reunited with the light within, he goes in search of his lost companions.

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They, seeing his fearlessness, take heart. Feebly at first, they begin to find their own inner light and together, in a weak, staggering huddle, as one, they confront, accept and let go of each fear until there are none left. The quest is achieved. With their rucksacks empty, they leave the forest.

The purpose of Thorin and company’s journey is to recover the dwarvish kingdom and all its gold. There is just one tiny problem: a large and fearsome dragon still inhabits their mountain kingdom and, furthermore, he has gathered in all the treasure and is sleeping soundly on his priceless couch. However, against all the odds, the dragon is killed. Then the real trouble begins because, suddenly, all thoughts of Middle Earth’s inhabitants turn to the Treasure and everyone wants a slice – dwarves of course but, also, Men, Elves and Goblins.

This is a story of greed, which naturally culminates in war and is only resolved when the Earth’s wealth is fairly shared amongst all. Beorn, the bear/man shapeshifter is untouched by greed: his reward is to have taken part in the destruction of the hated goblins who, eons ago, stole his mountain home. In particular, it is Bilbo Baggins who saves the day and, he too, is free from greed.

The Hobbit is also a story of enlightenment and the dragon symbolises our greed. Only when our hearts are pierced by the Arrow of Truth are we freed from our delusional beliefs.

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Bilbo discovers there is only one place on the dragon’s soft underbelly that is not encrusted with precious stones; it is the heart, which is later pierced by Bard’s Black Arrow. Bard is well-named as it is the Welsh bards, poets and minstrels who shared the higher understanding through word and song. Enlightenment also comes through facing our deepest fears (Black Arrow) as the ancient mystery schools knew. We then see the truth.

When the armies station themselves before the gates of the dwarvish mountain home Thorin, now king, having rightfully taken back the kingdom of old, hastily blocks off access through the main gate with a makeshift wall. But when the orcs suddenly and unexpectedly descend on dwarves, men and elves alike, Thorin prepares for battle and, clad in a suit of shining golden armour, he breaks down the wall, and rushes out to join in the battle, followed by his eleven companions.

Having found the treasure within and clothed in the golden light of our own true selves, we break out of the prison walls we have constructed around us through greed and ignorance. We have become ‘king’ of our own self and we rush out to embrace Life, free at last.

And that priceless gem, The Arkenstone – the Heart of the Mountain, is returned to its rightful owner, the Earth.  

By Cassie Martin – copyright 2015

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