I haven’t read The Hobbit since junior high school, but I remembered that Bilbo Baggins doesn’t initially want to go on his journey. He was a hesitant little hobbit, and I remembered feeling a little bit like him (minus the toe hairs and wooden pipe).
So I picked up the novel and found this passage near the beginning. The dwarves have told Bilbo that there is a sign on his door, indicating that his house was the one they were to meet. Bilbo protests:
“I have no sign on my door–it was painted a week ago–, and I am quite sure you have come to the wrong house.”
(. . .)
A dwarf replies: “I was talking about you. And I assure you there is a mark on this door–the usual one in the trade, or used to be. Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward, that’s how it is usually read. You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like. Some of them do. It’s all the same to us. Gandalf told us that there was a man of the sort in these parts looking for a Job at once, and that he had arranged for a meeting here this Wednesday tea-time.”
“Of course there is a mark,” said Gandalf. “I put it there myself. For very good reasons. You asked me to find the fourteenth man for your expedition, and I chose Mr. Baggins. Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal. (. . .)
Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes.”
–-The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein
What I love here is that Bilbo does not feel chosen. He doesn’t even know that there is a sign on his door, declaring that he has been chosen for this special expedition. Gandalf has chosen him. Gandalf has put the mark on his door. Gandalf calls him a burglar, and so he is a burglar, whether or not he feels like one.
Gandalf’s authority trumps Bilbo Baggins’ feelings about himself.
Have you ever felt like Bilbo Baggins?