The Hobbit: Discovering Grace and Providence in Bilbo's Adventures

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In this companion course to The Hidden Meaning of The Lord of the Rings, Professor Joseph Pearce highlights the "fundamentally religious and Catholic" nature of Tolkien's famous novel, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.

In this course, Joseph Pearce shows that Tolkien's own words about The Lord of the Rings being a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work" also apply to The Hobbit. Some readers mistakenly believe that J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, The Hobbit, is just a simple children's story. Tolkien might have written the book for his children's entertainment, but the best children's literature always has a deep level of meaning, and The Hobbit is no exception.
The Three Keys to Everyday Life

Professor Pearce gives you three keys to a true understanding of The Hobbit's applicability to everyday life:

  • Bilbo grows in maturity, wisdom, compassion, self-sacrifice, and heroism over the course of his journey to the Lonely Mountain. At the end of the novel, Gandalf proclaims that Bilbo is no longer the hobbit he was; and we know that he is changed for the better. The meaning of life is to grow in virtue and holiness by learning the lessons of our adventures so that we can return "home" to God in Heaven.
  • In The Hobbit, Bilbo is time and again protected and rewarded by "luck" or "good fortune." The "luck" present in The Hobbit is nothing other than the hand of providence and grace. In order to survive our life's journey like Bilbo, we need the supernatural assistance of grace and providence.
  • Over and over again in the book, Tolkien presents characters who have fallen prey to dragon-sickness: pride and the lust for gold and material possessions. The Hobbit serves as a cautionary meditation on Matthew 6:21: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Bilbo Baggins of Bag End and his adventures can serve as a mirror for our journey through life. Even though we won't find ourselves travelling through goblin-infested mountains, chased by spiders, or threatened by trolls, we can see that virtue is only attained through grace by slaying the monsters and demons which try to prevent our passage into eternal glory. Tolkien's profoundly Catholic worldview allows us to transcend the literal meaning of the story and apply its theological lessons to our own lives.
"Overcoming the Dragon Within Us"



  1. Bilbo’s Pilgrimage
    • Bilbo's journey reflects our own journey through life, involving growing up and growing in virtue - through grace.
  2. An Unexpected Parting
    • Gandalf prompts Bilbo into an adventure, which, on the moral level, encourages growth in wisdom and virtue, through suffering and sacrifice, of Bilbo himself.
  3. Trusting in “Luck”
    • Through Bilbo's early encounters, we learn that "luck" is not merely chance, but is evidence of meaning and purpose in the cosmos.
  4. Goblins and Gollum
    • The adventure continues as goblins reflect cruelty, wickedness, and the evils of technology and Gollum shows how hatred often hurts itself.
  5. Bilbo Comes of Age
    • Gandalf leaves the party, allowing Bilbo to grow up through defeating obstacles on his own.
  6. The Return of the King
    • Thorin Oakenshield returns to Lake-town as the rightful King under the Mountain, and must vanquish the usurper, the dragon Smaug
  7. The Dragon Sickness of Pride
    • Bilbo discovers the dragon's weakness which becomes its downfall, but not before the dwarves fall prey to its sickness of greed and pride.
  8. Blessed Be the Poor in Spirit
    • As the adventure ends, a humble and grown-up Bilbo finds great contentment back at home, just as our life's pilgrimage leads us back to our home in Heaven

Lecture Sample


About the Professor

Joseph Pearce is Writer in Residence and Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH. He is also a Visiting Scholar at Mt. Royal Academy in Sunapee, NH. A popular speaker, he lectures regularly at a wide variety of events at major colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Europe, Africa, and South America.

Professor Pearce is a renowned biographer whose books include:

  • Through Shakespeare’s Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays (Ignatius Press, 2010)
  • Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life (HarperCollins, 1998)
  • Literary Giants, Literary Catholics (Ignatius Press, 2005)
  • Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius Press, 1997)
  • Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc (Ignatius Press, 2002)

His articles have been published in Lay Witness, National Review, Distributist Review, and National Catholic Register. Professor Pearce is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Higher Education from Thomas More College for the Liberal Arts and the Pollock Award for Christian Biography. He is co-editor of the St. Austin Review, editor-in-chief of Ignatius Critical Editions, and editor-in-chief of Sapientia Press.


Homeschooling Products

The Homeschooling Set includes the Streaming Video and Homeschooling Course Guide. Each Course Guide contains everything needed for a student to complete the course, including:

Lesson Plan
Final Essay 
Lecture Notes
Answer Key


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1 Review

  • 4
    Pretty good!

    Posted by MICHAEL S. on Dec 28th 2022

    Overall I liked this text, but I think it was a little limiting because Pearce narrows the conversation by only comparing The Hobbit with the LoTR. As a result, Pearce;s questions are not quite as thought provoking.