Michael Foster
Dr. Mark Hall
26 April 2002

High Brow and the Hobbit Hole
Damaris and Bilbo: A Comparative Analysis

Charles Williams' character, Damaris Tighe, from The Place of the Lion, and J.R.R. Tolkien's character, Bilbo Baggins, from The Hobbit, have two diversely different personalities. Damaris is a highly educated, and somewhat uptight, woman who finds safety in knowledge, while Bilbo is a simple Hobbit that enjoys the uneventful pleasures of his Hobbit hole. They are two characters that may have never been associated together in any way, but in the course of their stories, they share a common experience. Both Damaris and Bilbo are reluctantly drawn from their respective comfort zones, but ultimately, their willingness makes way for a greater good.

Bilbo Baggins is an intriguing creature that lives a quiet life of humble pleasure. Tolkien describes daily life in the Shire so seductively, that it is difficult not to wish we lived there ourselves. Tolkien opens The Hobbit with a simple yet profound sentence. "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit." He follows with a short description. "Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort" (3).

When Gandalf firsts meets Bilbo, Bilbo is enjoying an after-breakfast pipe on a beautiful day. As soon as Gandalf mentions the prospect of an adventure, Bilbo responds true to his nature. "We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them..." (Tolkien, 6).

Even later in Bilbo's adventure, we see that he continually misses the comforts of home, especially in bad situations. "He thought of himself frying bacon and eggs in his own kitchen at home - for he could feel inside that it was high time for some meal or other; but that only made him miserabler" (Tolkien, 64). Bilbo Baggins, as explained by Tolkien, was a Hobbit of habit, reluctant to change.
Like Bilbo, Damaris Tighe was also reluctant to change. She placed her security and comfort in intellectual pursuits. In fact, throughout the book, she is working on her doctoral dissertation with a vengeance. Williams explained the importance she placed in her studies. "In general, Damaris associated peace with her study, her books and her manuscripts rather than with the sky, the hills, and the country roads..." (96).

On one occasion, Anthony spoke on the uncomfortable subject of marriage, and why Damaris should marry him. "'Nobody else,' Anthony went on, 'sees you as you are. Nobody else will give you such a difficult and unpleasant time as I do. You'll never be comfortable, but you may be glorious'" (Williams, 35). Anthony understood that Damaris was anchored to her books. He knew that she was searching for happiness in the wrong place.

Bilbo and Damaris, in their respective stories, had been living their lives as they saw fit prior their divine change. Bilbo had been leading an uneventful, and therefore by Hobbit standard, a respectable life. Damaris had been content, resting her identity and relative happiness in intellectual achievement. Both, however, needed change. It eventually became necessary for each to fulfill a kind of destiny.
In Bilbo's case, Gandalf served as the catalyst that forced Bilbo from his previous life. Through persistence and a bit of trickery, Gandalf succeeded in getting Bilbo to join the adventure. Although highly uncomfortable, Bilbo continued with the treacherous journey and fulfilled his role in destiny. At the very end, Gandalf explained to Bilbo that he is "only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!" and Bilbo humorously responded, "Thank Goodness" (Tolkien, 272).

Overall, Bilbo's activities helped preserve the safety of Middle Earth, and also deeply affected his own life. Upon the end of the journey, when Gandalf and Bilbo returned to the shire, Gandalf said, "My dear Bilbo! Something is the matter with you. You are not the Hobbit that you were'" (Tolkien, 270).

Damaris' journey out of her comfort zone began in response to a supernatural Pterodactyl. The account of Damaris conversion is appropriately entitled, in chapter eleven, "The Conversion of Damaris." The shock of a big stinky prehistoric beast forces Damaris to think outside of her narrow-minded life. Anthony explained the vision of the Pterodactyl to Damaris in terms she could understand. "'You saw what you know', he said, 'and because it's the only thing you know you saw like that'" (Williams, 135). For the first time, Damaris begins to think of someone other than herself when she suggests that she should look for Quentin. This example of selflessness completes her conversion.

Bilbo Baggins and Damaris Tighe may be an odd pair of fictional characters, but they have undergone similar transformations. One was a proud Hobbit, and the other was a proud human. Both characters began deep within themselves. Their lives and their needs were at the center of their attention. Bilbo thought he was happy with his conveniences, and Damaris thought she was happy with her knowledge. At the nudging of outside forces representing providence, Gandalf and the Pterodactyl, Bilbo and Damaris are forced outside of their comfort zones. From here, a new reality, they are truly able to fulfill destiny and achieve happiness.

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