Saturday, November 02, 2013

Man Without Woman

Good Saturday! Hmm, the title sounds a bit like the start of a personals ad. It took a comic strip to point it out to me, but one of my favorite children's stories is kind of short on the female characters. Read The Hobbit again one of these days and count the females involved in the story. Bilbo is a bachelor, Gandalf appears to be celibate, and the dwarfs seem to have no families. Elrond, the elf king, and the master of Laketown appear to be without mates, and Smaug won't share his treasure with anyone. Beorn has his animals, but we won't even go there; it was a children's story after all. Even the evil characters only serve to show what happens to men when they are too long without women: the trolls and spiders can only talk about eating and the goblins are just evil every which way. Of course the story is set in Middle Earth, a fictional place, so maybe spiders, goblins, eagles, and dragons don't require the male-female thing to reproduce as we do. What about hobbits, wizards, and men though?

If we look deeply, Beorn has the country gentleman thing going with his fine house in the wilderness and a staff of willing and able servants. Bilbo is doing the comfortably-well-off scholar thing, and Gandalf is the traveling professor. The dwarfs are seeking sudden wealth; the master of Laketown has the elected position, and the king of the forest elves parties all the time (and locks up the competition in his dungeon). All methods men have used over the years to attract that most imaginary of situations: wedded bliss. However, the book ends without any of the usual happily-ever-after. There is only loneliness ever after; a sort-of dragon war veterans club for bachelors. How awful!

There is in the teachings of Jesus and Paul room for man without woman. But there is also mentioned that not all men can do this, and provision made for the burning lust. Man without woman is not always the best way for us to go. Most men need some sort of supervision. Tolkien's characters notwithstanding, we men simply do better at doing what we should be doing with someone to watch over us in some way. The king is responsible to God, the minister is responsible to the king, and the man of the house answers to the wife. Okay, not quite according to the Bible, but in practice having a wife or friend to hold us accountable is helpful to hold us to our mission from God.

Perhaps the real parable in The Hobbit is that of the trolls. Man without woman forms a gang with the boys, and tends to fall into the worst sorts of behavior. After a time, the 'trolls' become dangerous to all who happen by, want for nothing but to rob, pillage, and destroy, and with a little encouragement, stay out all night and turn to stone just in time for the morning chores. As dangerous and worthless should not be our defining characteristics in God's service, let us as men obey the call when it comes.


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