Diary of a Media Priest

Daily observations and tips for anyone who wants to reach out and change the world.


What a Hobbit can teach us about Lent

diary of a media priest Feb 15, 2024

J.R.R. Tolkien took his Catholic faith very seriously. But did you know that he didn't like the time of Lent?

Just like the Hobbits in his books, Tolkien loved good food, and fasting wasn't his thing. He once wrote to his son Christopher, "going without food kills my brain, and that is the only part of me that is much use. So I have always disliked Lent."

Think about the beginning of Bilbo Baggins's adventure – it seems to reflect how Tolkien felt about the start of Lent. Check it out:

  • In "The Hobbit," the adventure kicks off with a festive dinner at Bilbo Baggins's house. Dwarves and a wizard show up uninvited, eating all the food.
    It's a bit like Shrove Tuesday: a last feast before the tough journey begins.
  • Then they talk about the goal of the journey: Bilbo is asked to join the dwarves to steal back their treasure from the dragon Smaug.
    In a similar way, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday with an invitation to go on a journey. The destination is Easter, celebrating the resurrection.
  • The fasting during Lent is similar to Bilbo leaving behind food, safety, and comfort in the Shire.
  • And, Bilbo can only get the treasure if he beats the dragon – Easter only happens after Jesus conquers suffering and death.

No wonder Bilbo isn't excited at first to leave his comfy life for this uncertain adventure. But the next morning, he decides to listen to Gandalf, help the dwarves, and leave everything behind.

Maybe his brave decision can inspire us to take part in Lent this year. What do you want to leave behind? Who do you want to help? Can you find time to listen to God?

Tolkien eventually changed his mind about Lent. He confesses to his son Christopher that he used to think people who observed Lent "were morbid, or pessimistic, or at any rate did not trust enough to the goodness of God. But I see now that I was wrong."

"Lent is not really a time of sorrow, though it brings sorrow to mind. It is a time of joy, a growing joy. It is the joy of spring, and the joy of Easter."

"It is the time when we remember that God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us. And that Son loves us so much that He was willing to die for us. And that death is not the end, but the beginning of life. Life everlasting, life in union with God."

Wishing you a joyful Lent!

Fr. Roderick Vonhögen

PS: My new illustrated book 'Lent for Little Folk' in which I connect the journey to Easter with Frodo's journey in The Lord of the Rings is now available for free! Get it here: mediapriest.com/lent

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