Taking The Inner Artist on the Hero’s Journey
You may be wondering how our hobbit, Jack, began his journey in the first place. After all, aren’t hobbits usually happiest at home?
As our friend Tolkien has shown us, hobbits can surprise even themselves. They think they’re perfectly content to spend their lives at home, repeating the same traditions and habits day in an and day out. There’s a certain beauty in honing life itself as you might a craft or skill. There’s elegance and meaning in living in the same way as your fathers before you and their fathers before them.
But for some, there may come a day when the beauty and elegance of a simple life well lived is interrupted by the last thing ever expected: a desire. And not just any desire - a desire for a different sort of beauty, that no family member or close friend or even distant acquaintance has ever tried themselves. A pioneering desire, one completely out of the blue. You can’t explain why exactly, or where it came from, you just know you are utterly compelled to try for it. You have no misunderstandings or misled notions about being qualified or having any hold on the ability to get this desire met, you just know you have to try.
In Jack’s case, it was the desire to create elf armor. Beautiful, magical, everlasting, silversmithed elf armor. He had no business wanting this sort of thing. He was a hobbit. Hobbits made flasks out of wood, sturdy family heirlooms. They brewed their own beer out of barley they grew in their own farms. They handed down family recipes for growing sourdough cultures and argued over the best way to create a crime brûlée. They did not ever think about elves, much less try to create elf armor, which was solidly in the elf traditions. Hobbits were scared of elves, truth be told. Scared and a bit snobbish of them in their own way. And by all accounts, elves didn’t think much of hobbits, either.
And yet, here he was, with an ever present dream about silver woven designs in magic metals. It had started one day when an ancient looking elf wandered into a local tavern. He was obscured mostly by a dark green cloak, but Jack had caught a glimpse of his bracelet. It was beautifully crafted, and it seemed to shine in the dim light.
Jack couldn’t help but stare from across the table. The elf, catching his gaze, laughed and removed the bracelet, tossing it to Jack so he could have a closer look. It was even more beautiful up close and he had no words for a moment.
“Try it on”, the elf said gleefully. “See what it does.”
As Jack did so, he noticed a feeling of warmth emanate from the place the bracelet occupied on his wrist. He lightly brushed the surface of it with a finger and heard a faint strain of music somewhere in the back of his mind.
Surprised, he knocked over his own flagon of ale with his other hand, towards his braceleted wrist. The flagon was knocked back by an invisible force.
“That’s a bracelet of protection, son”, said the elder elf. His piercingly bright green eyes glowed. “It pushes back on intruders. Can’t get a grip on you. Sorry, about your ale, can I get you another one?”
Jack handed the bracelet back, accepting a fresh flagon. “Where did you get it?”
The elf smiled broadly. “Oh, I made it.” He laughed at how surprised Jack seemed to be. “I have a smithy back home. I specialize in elf armor. I make all kinds of items, though.”
“ Where is home for you, Sir?”, Jack asked.
“You know the lands where elves roam?”, his companion asked in response. “On the outskirts, the farthest point from this place you can go while still being in elf territory.
I have a few Ents around me, to keep an eye on things.”
Jack had heard of Ents as a child, but had never met one himself. He always thought they sounded a bit scary and off-putting, but he didn’t say so. Instead he asked, “How did you begin your trade?”
“Like many trades, I was brought in as an apprentice when I was old enough. I knew it was what I wanted to do the first time I laid eyes on a particularly beautiful helmet - it was flawless protection and stunning to look upon. A real masterpiece.”
Jack was envisioning such a helmet, imagining the designs that could be woven into such a thing, and got a bit lost in thought. “You could come visit, if you like”, he head the elf say. This took him by surprise. “Could I?”
The elf chuckled. “Why, of course, if you’d be willing to make the journey. I could even teach you a thing or two about making your own.”
Jack was astonished. “You’d teach me, a hobbit?”
“Indeed, I would, son.”
That had happened years ago. After the elf was gone, Jack had been very close to making the trip, but he always talked himself out of it, or was talked out of it by well-meaning hobbit friends.
Then one day, he woke up with a decision made. It was time. He simply knew it was. Nothing was wrong at home, no dramatic events had occurred. It was time, and that’s all there was to it.
He packed a few things in a rucksack, locked his door and left.
And that’s how he came to be in another tavern, far away from home, having beat a troll and forded a rushing river, listening to the stories of quite a few other hobbits he’d never met, and feeling completely miserable.