Empathy is one of the great mysteries of life. Why do people feel empathy? Do others deserve empathy? Is feeling empathy a strength or weakness? These questions may forever go unanswered, or they may not even have an answer. Even if they are answered, they may only be speculation. One author shows his take on the matter with one of his books. In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien uses Gollum and Thorin to show that people do deserve empathy, no matter how horrible they may be.
The first way that Tolkien shows that empathy is important is through Gollum. Gollum was really nasty towards Bilbo, he may even have killed Bilbo if he had the chance. Then the roles were reversed, and Bilbo was the hunter and Gollum was the hunted. Bilbo was invisible and had a sword to Gollum’s throat, though Gollum did not even know it. But instead of killing him, Bilbo simply walked away. He wasn’t being a coward, he no doubt would have killed Gollum if he needed to, but he did not need to. He had a sudden burst of pity on Gollum, and did not want to kill him unnecessarily.
He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put it’s eye out, kill it. It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. (Tolkien 81)
Gollum also deserved pity because it wasn’t even his fault that he was in that whole situation. In the video of Gollum (then Smeagol) finding the ring, it wasn’t his fault that he killed Deagol, he was j...
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... he wasn’t even close to getting it yet. He could have just made a deal with the elves and split the treasure with them in exchange for their help, but he wouldn’t even do that. Instead, he kept it a secret and stayed in prison with the small hope they could get the treasure in addition to the small chance that Bilbo could help them escape, which he eventually did do.
In conclusion, J.R.R. Tolkien uses The Hobbit to show that people do deserve empathy. Though there will always be Thorins in the world who will be ruthless in all that they do, it is more important that there will be more Bilbos and Bards and Thranduils to keep the Thorins in check. Without the good, the evil will take over, and it will be an every-man-for-himself world. So while empathy may forever remain a mystery, people can rest assured knowing that someone out there will always do the right thing.
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