Luke Skywalker and Bilbo Baggins: A Kindred Spirit
All hero stories that have ever been told have multiple underlying principles and themes that tie them all together. We see these phases and concepts in Joseph Campbell’s work, The Power of Myth. There are two characters; however, that we can pluck out of the pool of heroes we know and love and be able to compare them. These two characters are: Luke Skywalker from George Lucas’s acclaimed film, Star Wars: A New Hope and the loveable Mr. Bilbo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s first adventure epic, The Hobbit. These two leading men have many things in common as well as many differences; no I am not counting hobbit feet as one of the variations between them. The world can learn a lot from these two and their personal journeys to becoming heroes.
In The Hobbit, we catch up with Bilbo well on into his adult years. The first time we meet Luke he is working and living with his Aunt and Uncle desperately trying to find a way to get out of there and make a life of his own. Bilbo and Luke both come from peaceful places that do not see a lot of adventurous activities. However, Luke longs to see action and know all there is about the Rebel Alliance, but still has some apprehension to leaving his Uncle’s crops. Bilbo is perfectly content with his mundane life at his hobbit hole in The Hill. Be that as it may, they both have a similar heritage. Bilbo comes from a diverse family because his father, Bungo, was the average hobbit who did not care for adventure and preferred his life as it was; his mother on the other hand was Belladonna Took. The Tooks were not very hobbit-like because they were the ones that always got wrapped up in adventures. As of Star Wars: A New Hope, we have not found out that the evil Darth Vader is Luke’s biological father. The only information that has been given to this point is that Luke’s father had been part of the Jedi Knights. This is important to the storyline because it shows that Luke has adventurous blood in his body. Bilbo has this trait as well even though he only has half the adventurous blood that Luke possesses. They both have never left their home and so the view of the outside world is simply a daydream or a nightmare that they have conjured up in their minds.
As a second similarity between the two, there is the example that they are both most likely only children. Later we find out that Princess Leia is indeed Luke’s sister but at this point we are unaware of this; as were the writers seeing that their relationship was written in after this installment of the saga. Even if we would have known about their kinship, it does not change the fact that Luke grew up an only child. Bilbo may have had siblings but they are never mentioned. Even if he did, he was living alone at The Hill at the time of the story and relied on himself constantly and not on his family. It could be speculated that due to the self-independence that they were bred to endure, led to having very internal personalities. This seems to be a common trait between hero stories. Although there are exceptions, it overall seems to be the rule. Children without siblings think for themselves and keep their emotions inside because they never had a sibling to squabble with and they easily develop to be internal people. On the flip side, it also harmed Bilbo and Luke because without sibling rivalries they are not used to coming up against adversaries; it takes a little more to push them to adventure than most. However once they are pushed to that place, they have the most levelheaded personalities to complete the task at hand.
Luke had to keep a steady hand while going for his final attack on the Death Star; so he channeled the Force; which guided him to the exact spot to fire. Obi-Wan Kenobi described the Force the best, “Let us say simply that the Force is something a Jedi must deal with.” (Lucas 83). Luke could not escape his destiny as a Jedi Knight and had to deal with the responsibilities that went along with that. Bilbo was guided by the wisdom of Gandalf and the confidence that Gandalf bestowed up him; which affected Bilbo much like the Force had affected Luke. Both of these elements began to affect them when they both accepted the fact that they were real and a part of their personal destiny. When Luke practices with his blind-fold it is not until he puts full faith in the power of the Force that it begins to work for him. Bilbo’s confidence is not valid until he has to face a trial alone. This happens for him when he slays the attacking spiders with his trusty sword, Sting. “Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.” (Tolkien 156).
Both Bilbo and Luke are painstakingly loyal to their cause and to their comrades. This quality they have always had embedded in them but it is not until Gandalf and Obi-Wan; who coincidently are both older and have beards; guide them to their full potential. When Bilbo faces trials such as getting stuck in the Goblin’s mountain lair; he easily could return home with the protection of the ring and completely leave the adventure. However, he seeks out his fellow adventurers and is there until the original goal is fully accomplished. Luke exudes this similar quality in that when everyone is running to Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon he stays behind to fight the good fight he has come to face. Bilbo’s final destination is the destruction of the dragon, Smaug. Luke’s finals destination is to destroy the Galactic Empire by blowing up their headquarters, The Death Star. Also coincidently, both Bilbo and Luke’s weapons of choice both turned blue when they are faced with evil; Luke’s lightsaber and Bilbo’s sword, Sting. The types of villains and adversaries they both come across could easily be related to each other. The trolls that Bilbo first went up against are much like the shady characters in the club that have hard dealings with Hans Solo. The Storm Troopers are much like the Goblins seeing that there are plenty of both of these groups to go around and wanted nothing but the bitter end of these characters.
Heroes such as Luke and Bilbo are unique in that they do not rise to the occasion until they absolutely need to. Their shy and slow to warm up personalities make them everything except the prime candidate for adventures like the ones that they embark on. However, that is the funny thing about fate you never know who it will choose to save the day. Supporting characters such as Han Solo and Thorin Oakenshield are not the stars for a reason. They both have an arrogance about them that both help and harm them. They tend to jump too soon and do not see the whole picture; just the situation that they currently have to deal with at hand. However, if this were a hairiest character contest, Thorin would be a better comparison to Han Solo’s sidekick, Chewbaca. Luke and Bilbo on the other hand, have a much milder temper and are able to choose their battles wisely because of this trait. They rise to the occasion when they feel like it is morally right to do so. They rarely act on a whim but purely on logic and human compassion. Luke goes on this adventure seeking to find Princess Leia knowing that she is in grave danger and needs a hero. Luke has never met the Princess before, but out of the kindness of his heart he knows what any good human being should do and he acts upon that. Bilbo exhibits this same quality. The entire journey is based upon finding the dragon, Smaug, and slaying him for the treasure he had stolen from Thorin’s ancestors. Bilbo could easily dismiss the adventure because the wrongdoings of the dragon did not directly affect him or his ancestors, but this is not the case at all. Bilbo stands up for his new found friends and their justice became his justice. Bilbo does not always do the “right” thing since he was the burglar of the group and all, but his intentions are always spot on. He wants the Oakenshield family to find their justice and reclaim the glory in their name. Bilbo seeks nothing but happiness for his new friends and fellow adventurers so he does whatever he can do to accomplish that for them. They choose their battles and do so wisely, because the battles they choose to embark on make them timeless hero legends.
Luke Skywalker and Bilbo Baggins play out great adventures that hold valuable life lessons for everyone. We can learn from Luke’s human compassion and doing something for the greater good of society and we can look to Bilbo for courage and having faith in yourself even when you are clearly the underdog. These characters have great qualities in common than one might initially realize. They both feel small and come from sheltered worlds, but once they are on the path of the hero we see so many internal qualities that link these two men together.