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On the Similarities between Bilbo Baggins and Dr. John Watson

Updated on February 23, 2012
Martin Freeman, ladies and gentlemen! Can I hear some applause?
Martin Freeman, ladies and gentlemen! Can I hear some applause? | Source


I was reflecting the other day on how episodes of Sherlock will be slightly delayed because Martin Freeman, who plays Dr. Watson in the BBC reboot of the classic detective series, is busy filming scenes for the two Hobbit movies. I found it a bit amusing that he would be switching back and forth between two such opposite characters, unassuming hobbit and brave army doctor, and while mulling over this situation, I realized there were actually some similarities between the two. Bilbo Baggins and Dr. Watson have one very important feature in common (aside from their being portrayed by the same actor)--when the circumstances required it, they rose to the heights of heroism.

Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" | Source

Bilbo Baggins, "The Hobbit"

According to J. R. R. Tolkien, hobbits are a peace-loving people who have little to no desire to go on quests or adventures, and Bilbo fits this description perfectly when the story opens. He wishes nothing more than to live his life in peace, but Gandalf the Grey has other ideas. He recommends Bilbo to Thorin Oakenshield and his company as the ideal burglar to employ in their quest to retrieve their treasure from Smaug, and the unassuming hobbit finds himself forced into an adventure he never wanted. Interestingly enough, Bilbo is often the one the dwarves rely on to rescue them, and he begins to think maybe adventures aren't so bad after all.

Freeman as Dr. Watson with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC's popular crime drama "Sherlock"
Freeman as Dr. Watson with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC's popular crime drama "Sherlock" | Source

Dr. John Watson, "Sherlock"

In Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic mystery tales, Dr. John Watson is an army soldier who has been wounded in action and is now bored with a civilian life. Enter Sherlock Holmes, his eccentric genius of a flatmate whose presence offers Dr. Watson an escape from the dull tediousness of an ordinary life. When Sherlock gets in over his head, Dr. Watson is the one to initiate a rescue, an action that earns him Sherlock's trust not just as a colleague but also as a friend. He then officially becomes the detective's partner-in-crime-solving, which provides him with the adrenaline rush he'd missed since returning to England.

The Similarity

At first glance, these two characters might not seem very alike at all. Bilbo leads a quiet life and wishes to continue to do so in peace; Dr. Watson can't stand the thought of living a peaceful life. The hobbit embarks on an adventure because he is forced; the doctor leaps at the chance to put a bit of excitement and danger back in his life. Although their situations are different, both sets of circumstances have one thing in common--when an opportunity for heroism came along, Bilbo and John both accepted it, and their names were lauded as a result. They didn't set out to intentionally be brave and decisive, but their appropriate actions made them heroes in their own right.


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