Friday, December 26, 2014

Identity Redistribution: Idris Elba, Rush Limbaugh & the Next Bond

As you probably know, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh reacted to one of the supposed Sony leaked emails which claimed to discuss who the next actor would be to portray James Bond, currently being portrayed by Daniel Craig (who has a contract for one more Bond film after Spectre, currently in filming). Was Rush right to say this?
Yes, he was.
But not for the reason everyone is claiming.
I will say this: not knowing any more of the details of who made the suggestion, who the email was sent to, the depth of the discussion on Mr. Elba--or ANY other actor post-Daniel Craig--as Bond has not been released, just a rumor about someone at Sony sending an email mentioning Idris Elba as Bond; we MIGHT say that Rush spoke on a topic too soon and should have kept his mouth shut. The host with 20 million listeners, however, was right to confront the snake of leftist politics as soon as it started slithering out of its dark cave because--as always--Rush could tell this wasn't just a Hollywood casting decision, but a silent coup taking place against Americans who value the role of Bond in our culture. IF Sony really wanted to empower minorities, they could do so in two ways: first, increase the number of minority leading roles in minority oriented value films or, secondly, completely wipe the slate clean of any and all role models, such as Bond, who are appreciated by Americans that Sony wants to isolate (such as the Tea Party, Christians, heterosexuals and those who refuse to identify themselves as minorities). Sony isn't doing either of these things, is it? Because, again, this isn't about minorities, this is about helping the government take control and establish power as a propaganda machine to destroy their enemies in this country.
We have seen entities such as Marvel comics turn Thor into a woman, and will turn Captain America from a Caucasian into a black man; why? It's being done in the name of "multiculturalism." Supposedly, whites have too many heroes and too many role models, so some of them have to be taken away from whites, and given to minorities so things will be even and fair. Does this sound like another liberal argument we've heard recently? Yes, it's wealth redistribution, or government-sanctioned theft of private property, and regardless of whether the suggestion of Mr. Elba actually taking the role of Bond is serious and possible, or there is a just a leftist backlash against Limbaugh for the sake of a leftist backlash against Limbaugh, is irrelevant; these are the patterns manifesting themselves in our culture and there is a reason for it.
Power.
Mr. Idris Elba is a highly talented actor who has played an increasing number of roles in big and critical films of the last year; his talent is not the central issue, either on Sony's side or Rush's side, rather, changing the cultural identity of a cultural icon is the issue, and it's an issue because it's been happening with other icons, so it's not an isolated incident, rather, one more incident in what is becoming a pattern of conquest.
No, not self-empowerment for minorities--but that's what the left wants you to think--it's power for the government. There are examples from history when a government, such as King Edward I of England and the Nazis, would complete their subjugation of a people--like the Welsh, Scots or Jews--by eradicating their art, culture and customs in order to eradicate their identity and force them to conform (or, in the case of the Jews, be completely eliminated from history all together). THIS is what is happening to Americans today; not just white Americans, but anyone who identifies themselves as "American," rather than with a specific ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or by their genitals.
During last year's 86th Academy Awards, American Hustle and Gravity tied for ten nominations each; neither film has any, ANY minority actors in them. The show was hosted by lesbian Ellen DeGeneres, rather than by Idris Elba or Morgan Freeman or Oprah or Queen Latifah, etc., and instead of giving the Oscar to Barkhad Abdi for Captain Philipps, it went to Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club portraying a cross-dresser (Elba's Long Walk To Freedom wasn't nominated). 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture, but director Steve McQueen didn't win for Best Director, nor did lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor (it went to Matthew McConnaughey). So, if Hollywood is so concerned about multiculturalism, then it should take the Oscars awarded to the straight, white elite and distribute them to members of the black community. Of course, that's never going to happen.
We quickly arrive at the problem: "Get your own role models" means that, either the minorities complaining would have to admit that they, too, value what Thor or Bond symbolize, they just want him to be black (and, therefore, they are themselves exhibiting reverse racism) or that they want role models who are always the victim, such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Those making the loudest noises don't admire Martin Luther King Jr for his courage and talents, but because of his skin color; those complaining don't admire Jackie Robinson because of his talents and courage, but because of his skin color. In other words, those complaining (those on the left) don't see people, they only see skin color, as we know, and nothing is going to satisfy them, so we might as well fight for our identity because they aren't going to do anything to protect us, the left wants to destroy all whites, all conservatives and all Americans.
The Lone Ranger TV series was iconic in the 1950s-60s, and the film's hatred of The Lone Ranger did everything it could to subvert and destroy the icon good guy who embodied and championed the values Americans hold dear. 42, the Jackie Robinson story, had a great opening and so did Ride Along with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. Denzel Washington's The Equalizer had a solid opening, as did Elba's No Good Deed. Black actors are doing well, if you don't consider Tyler Perry, who was signed to replace Elba as Alex Cross in the box-office doomed franchise. 
To target a people's art is to target their very identity. The creation of art is a celebration of one's cultural identity and belonging; the left fails in creating self-affirming art because they are too busy trying to destroy anyone they deem their enemy which is why no one goes to see their films. Rush was right to fight this suggestion--not because Mr. Elba is black, or doesn't have the necessary talent--but because the left has gotten ahead in its attacks and--with the exception of Rush Limbaugh--we haven't started fighting back.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you!
I'm sure you have been at least as busy as I have, so I apologize for not posting more often, but it's a symptom of the season. I saw The Hobbit: The Battle Of the Five Armies and it was epic. It's two and a half hours, but seemed to have lasted only an hour, it went so fast. I plan to see some movies tomorrow, but family time is up in the air. My first priority is to see Into the Woods because that's the one I think is mostly likely to go pro-socialist but I am not sure, that's a guess; I also plan to see Unbroken and The Imitation Game. As you know, none of these are the films being talked about, are they?
What exactly happened with this? It's not just a question of who hacked into Sony, but of their response to the hackers' threats and the White House's lack of a response to the threats.  Personally, and I don't think this is a popular position, I side with North Korea: I don't think they hacked into Sony, I thin the White House did it, or an American agency on orders from the White House; why? Back in the old days, Mary, Queen of Scots, had sanctioned an assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth I; Elizabeth, paranoid that Mary/her supporters, would take her thrown debated about having her executed. It was the a dilemma because no monarch had ever had another monarch put to death and, if the English rose up against Elizabeth, they might put her to death if Elizabeth established a precedent. Elizabeth buckled and had Mary beheaded. I think Obama is worried that, a film sanctioning the assassination of a socialist dictator will give the American people ideas about assassinating our own socialist dictator, and he doesn't want to do that, so Obama had Sony hacked and leveled a threat about shwoing the film then blamed it on North Korea. Given all the lies, and the total lack of justice coming out of the White House, they have zero credibility, and North Korea actually has more; if North Korea did it, I am confident they would have owned to it. The White House, on the other hand, is nothing but denial about everything. No one has less credibility than the White House and there are precedents for them doing this: the NSA scandals, the hacking of the phones of the press and computers of journalists. When do we know of North Korea doing any of that? Regardless of whether or not I am correct, these events demonstrate the political dimensions of films and the repercussions--real or perceived--they can have upon countries and the whole world.
Due to the threats of 9/11 style violence, most theaters bowed and cowed and vowed they wouldn't show The InterviewAccording to this article, Sony intends on making the film available online to viewers after a limited release in theaters Christmas Day. Some other important news: director Justin Lin (Fast and Furious 6) will be helming Star Trek 3, now set for release in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the series' debut. Lin is also responsible for Universal Pictures' The Wolf Man.
I don't know anything about The Man From UNCLE, so these deductions about costuming are quite general and vague. First, the girl. She has a mark on her upper arm, suggesting she has been through a lot of damage in her life, but it has made her stronger (arms symbolize strength). I can't tell if the large bracelet she wears on her right arm is black or silver, but it's there to emphasize she's strong and capable. Her double-rimmed glasses also emphasize she's able to "see" or "understand" far better than most people and her hair is in the style of both Katniss Everdeen The Hunger Games and Elsa from Frozen. Either she's full of faith or she completely lacks faith, which is why her dress and glasses are white. Napoleon Solo (Cavill) takes everything seriously (why he's dressed in business attire opposed to Hammer's more casual dress). Solo isn't a typical, generic "men in black," he has his own identity, a reputation and list of accomplishments setting him apart from others in his field. It appears that there is a portion of his strength that he's keeping "hidden" or to himself, signaled by his hand being in his pocket. His forehead, which is exposed by his hairstyle, suggests he tends to say what is on his mind, but he's got a bruise on his head which suggests his thinking on something was wrong and had to be corrected. Hammer's KGB character wears glasses covering his eyes, because the KGB wanted to appear non-human so as to frighten the people of Russia and control them with fear; we'll have to see if that plays into his character. The brown jacket either means he is humble as dirt or just dirty and might be willing to "bend" rules when it's expedient. His body language of having one foot up on the stone step indicates he thinks of himself as being a step "above" the others.
Guy Ritchie's latest project, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a major TV hit series from the 60s, has released its first image with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. The Cold War-era film partners Cavill as an American CIA agent with Hammer's KGB spy against an international crime ring dabbling in science to control the world. That's it for the moment, other than I hope all of you will have a most blessed holiday and get lots of rest and watch lots of movies! One guess as to what my family gets me for Christmas,...
Merry Christmas!
The Fine Art Diner

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On My Way,...

On my way to catch a late showing of The Hobbit the Battle Of the Five Armies in 3D IMAX. I was trying to finish The Desolation Of Smaug and kept writing, "We will have to see what happens in BOFA," so I thought, just go see it now.
So I am.
Will tweet what I think of it!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Pale Orc & the One Ring: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is full of meaning, symbols and literary devices meant to maximize the potency of the narrative. From the meaning of the riddle game to the real identity of the Pale Orc, this post examines the consistent utilization of traditional heroes and villains to communicate to the audience about the most important topic that exists: our selves. This post builds off my post analyzing JRR Tolkien's original text which can be found at this link.
This is really a masterful poster. Landscapes play an important role in art, sometimes even to the point of becoming a character (an extreme example of this is when the mountains "come alive" and the Stone Giants start throwing rocks at each other). In this image, the map blends into Bilbo's person, as if he's emerging from it, and--in a very real way--he is, because of the trials and challenges he faces in this journey, symbolized by the map, Bilbo becomes an embodiment of Middle Earth.
As I demonstrate in my post Symbols & the Soul: JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit & Restitutum, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is not the main hero of the work, rather, it's the human of Lake Town, Bard (Luke Evans). All the characters in the narrative are psychoanalytic doubles of Bard, divided by the temporal self (represented by Bilbo) and his eternal self (represented by Gandalf), depicting his good and bad qualities and how each "double" (such as Bilbo and Gandalf) must make good choices so Bard will be strengthened in virtue so he can slay the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) which is the greatest purpose of the narrative. The Necromancer? We will mostly deal with him in the third film, The Battle Of the Five Armies so we have all his motivation and history at our disposal; please remember, however, that Benedict Cumberbatch portrays both Smaug and the Necromancer/Sauron, so, just as Bilbo/Gandalf and all the other characters are "doubles" for Bard, Smaug and the Necromancer are also doubles the film makers want us to correlate together, hence, why they had the same actor portray both. Likewise, Luke Evans plays both Bard, and Bard's ancestor (grandfather?) Girion, so we are supposed to take the two of them as being one character, which leads us to our next point.
It's my theory that, in the book and the three films, Bard (Luke Evans) is the main character, with Bilbo and Gandalf being split characters of his human self (the way Gollum divides himself between being Precious and Gollum). Each character, then, is a good or bad decision on some level that effects the growth of virtue in Bard. Why Bard? I go into it in further depth while discussing Tolkien's book, but it's because Bard slays the dragon and the dragon is the symbol of the devil for mankind. As Bard faces Smaug, so Bilbo faces Gollum and Gandalf faces Sauron, each of the three great enemies equivalent to the other two (for example, at the end of An Unexpected Journey, we see Smaug open his eye and his pupil looks like the figure of the Necromancer that Radagast saw at Dol Guldur). In order for Bard to be able to slay the dragon, both his temporal self (Bilbo) and his eternal self (Gandalf) must achieve maximum virtue so Bard will be morally strong and courageous enough to do what only he can.
Why start with the story of Thror?
Thorin's grandfather, the King under the Mountain, could be said to be the cause of the entire story: as Bilbo writes in his memoir, where there is sickness, bad things follow, and Thror's greed for gold had started to consume him. What this does, is begin this long tale by demonstrating that our sins are public. We think that falling into a sin--in this case, greed--is just our own issue, but the entire kingdom was devastated (and the city of Dale) because Thror had become obsessed with gold (and we will see this played out again in BOFA with Thorin). But, when a entire population can suffer the consequences of one person's sin, an entire population can also benefit from one person's virtue, in this case, Bard's. Thror and Thorin mirror the relationship between Girion and Bard: in other words, the film starts out talking about the prosperity of Dale, because Erebor is a metaphor for Dale and Girion, as Thorin is a character double for Bard and what he has to overcome within himself so he doesn't turn out the way Thorin does.
This meeting with Gandalf and Bilbo, and the importance of the mark on the door, has all ready been discussed at length in my post on Tolkien's book, What I would like to discuss, for the moment, is pipe smoking. Numerous characters smoke pipes, why? The taking in of the tobacco mimics a form of meditation, to take something in, to savor it, and then release it back into the world. Why do Bilbo and Gandalf blow smoke rings? It demonstrates the way it's released back into the world. The circle of the smoke ring is a sign of infinite, and the way they form their mouth to make the smoke into a ring demonstrates they are charming and diplomatic, whereas not everyone in the story is. Smoke is ephemeral, but the ring--the form the smoke takes--is infinite, so the nature of what these characters think and do is, itself, lasting only for a moment, but there is also an everlasting quality to it. Bilbo, for example, will only be sitting on his porch bench for a moment, and yet that's all he wants to do every morning of his life; in this sense, we all have smoke rings in our lives, something we savor, like love, that only lasts a few minutes each day, perhaps, but goes on over a longer period of time. The events of the narrative which are about to be revealed to us are filled with momentary actions that had lasting effects on the characters and all Middle-Earth.
The "dinner party" Bilbo unexpectedly has for the dwarfs is meant as a homage, if you will, to Alice In Wonderland, Britain's most famous tea party ever, to emphasize the disparities between Bilbo and the dwarfs, as between Alice and the Mad Hatter. Why does this unexpected party happen (don't forget, it coincides with the party that Bilbo, sixty years later, is having on that same day and has received replies for in the mail)? For at least two reasons.
"If I say Bilbo Baggins is a burglar, then a burglar he is" Gandalf tells the company. We have heard this kind of "logic of identity" when Gandalf was re-introducing himself to Bilbo at the start: I am Gandalf and Gandalf means me. It's because Bilbo had the door painted just last week that it can have a mark on it, a new fresh coat of green paint means hope and re-birth, so Bilbo is in the market to take an adventure, even if he doesn't know it. Now here is a big question: why is the scent of hobbit unknown to Smaug? Because hobbits don't amass gold or treasure; they don't have greed or lust growing in their souls, so Smaug can't pick up the scent of sin to follow it to The Shire (or wherever else hobbits might be living) to take over that part of Middle-Earth as Smaug did with the Lonely Mountain. Hobbits, in other words, basically have the innocence of children, and children don't commit the kind of sins adults do. Sin rots our soul, so the "smell of dwarf" Smaug knows, because he knows what that "rotted Dwarf soul" smell is like because it's so common, but not so for hobbits.
First, it demonstrates how "long-suffering" Bilbo can be, what his limitations are and what he expects; secondly, it demonstrates how mundane and passive his life has been, and, therefore, exactly why Gandalf knows the adventure would be "good" for Bilbo to take. If Bilbo doesn't take this adventure, he will, ultimately, end up as his arch-enemy Gollum: eating, alone and nothing else, in darkness (spiritual darkness) for the rest of his days. Case in point,...
There is also an element of "sanctity" that is lent to the business of the adventure by this meal, as in The Last Supper, before they go along their chosen path and suffer for the redemption of their people. Another aspect of Bilbo that the dinner illustrates is all the food Bilbo has, and I don't mean the kind of food they are eating. When we do something good for someone, we are literally "feeding" their faith with love, and all the food that comes out during this feast illustrates all the spiritual "food" Bilbo has that is going to waste, that isn't feeding anyone; likewise, this scene illustrates how "starved" the dwarfs are for love; why? Dwarfs, as Tolkien tells us, recognize the value of money, but--as we can deduce--understand the value of little else, especially love. This is validated by what Bilbo wears when he joins the dwarfs on their adventure, a deep-red coat (more on that below). The disparity between what Bilbo articulates as "good manners," like knowing his visitors before they come visiting, and the dwarfs making themselves at home, illuminates another disparity, making Bilbo's acceptance of their invitation to the adventure all that more miraculous: for Bilbo, you show respect to your host and your guests by being formal; for the dwarfs, you show respect for your host by making yourself at home and acting the way you would if you were within your own house with your own family. Neither is right and neither is wrong, there are cultures espousing both roles, but this dramatic clash demonstrates the severely stunted experiences Bilbo has which effects his outlook hence, his ability to fulfill what he should be able to in being "a good person." 
As the dwarfs go about collecting furniture and other items from about the house for their dinner, Bilbo doesn't want them using "that chair" because it's an antique, or not using the book as a coaster, or not taking his map as a place mat; Kili not scrapping his feet on Bilbo's mother's glory chest. What does this do? It shows that Bilbo's affections are "mis-placed." I like my antiques and books, even more so than Bilbo, so from personal experience, I know this can be a problem. What this creates is the disparity in "economy," the dwarfs finding a "use" for everything, and Bilbo believing that decoration is a use of something. We know that this is an issue that gets "corrected" in Bilbo because he has Frodo put a sign on the gate that says, "No admittance except on party business," and "party" and "business" are usually at odds with each other; Bilbo has, however, learned that "having a good time" is the business of people, and the business of people should be to have a good time, not just be about business.
Something of which must be taken to note is how much bigger Gandalf is than all of them., and how much bigger Gandalf is than Bilbo's house. When they are discussing their plans, Kili says that Gandalf has surely killed "hundreds of dragons," to which Gandalf coughs, and Dori asks Gandalf to "give us a number" of the dragons he has killed and Gandalf does not; why not? Gandalf, as we explore in the post on Tolkien's book, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, inviting us on to do things we desire, while keeping us "blind" to the price that will have to be paid for the fulfillment of that desire. What price? Fighting the dragon which, metaphorically, lies within the soul of each of us, guarding over the great treasure horde of virtue, courage and holiness we might achieve as the fulfillment of our destiny. Gandalf, then, hasn't ever slain a dragon, because the Holy Spirit needs dragons to send up against us, to test us, to press us onto the conquering of what is rightfully ours.
Of the things that happen, there are two things surprising that don't happen compared with the book, which indicates a conscious decision on the part of the film makers, so we should examine it. First, Thorin originally arrives with several other dwarfs and they fall in through Bilbo's door, with Thorin on the bottom, rather than Thorin arriving by himself, late. Secondly, Thorin doesn't play the harp as he does in the book when they sing of the Misty Mountains. In the book, Thorin falling with dwarfs landing on top of him illustrates the "burden" Thorin has taken on himself to restore his kingdom for his people, and restore their homeland; not having this happen in the film removes Thorin from his people and dramatizes at this early stage his acting on his own interest, this is validated by the film makers inserting that Thorin gets lost, twice,...
Why do the dishes and things get put away the way they do? Bilbo wants to put everything away himself because he's worried, as the song suggests, that a plate will chip, a cup will crack, but, in spite of the unorthodox means the dwarfs have of cleaning and putting away, nothing gets broken, and nothing is damaged. Why? This foreshadows that, regardless of how out of control the upcoming adventure is going to make Bilbo feel, everything will be fine in the end, nothing is going to be lost (that wasn't all ready lost to begin with, such as Thorin). Even though there appears to be no order and only chaos, there is an order, even if it's one Bilbo can't as of yet grasp; this is one of the many reasons why Bilbo will be "a different hobbit" if he does come back from the adventure, because he will have a far greater understanding of how the world is and operates apart from how he organizes his housekeeping at Bag's End. Just as his mother's hundred year old West Farthing crockery is much stronger than Bilbo's dainty use of it suggests, the pottery--like the vessel Bilbo himself is--is much stronger and can take greater wear than he ever imagined. These concepts are a spiritual existentialism that is the real purpose of Bilbo taking the adventure, to discover who he really is, what he is really capable of and how much benefit he can be to the world at large.
"Getting lost" is a serious artistic device, and we could say that Thorin not being able to find Gandalf's "meeting place" for their adventure business is a foreshadowing of how Thorin will "get lost" on the journey, and I don't mean them losing the path in Mirkwood Forest. When we see Thorin exiled, working as a blacksmith for men, Bilbo writes that Thorin never forgave and he never forgot the elves not helping the dwarfs the day of Smaug's arrival ("never forgives, never forgets" is something also said of The Woman In Black). We could say that Thorin first "gets lost" when he and Thranduil meet and Thranduil offers to aide Thorin and Thorin gets angry instead. The second time Thorin "gets lost" may be in BOFA when Bard tries to reason with Thorin about keeping his promise to the people of Lake Town to share in his gold, and Thorin reneges on his promise.
If we saw how limited poor Bilbo's experience of the world is with all the dwarfs in his dining room, we now witness how shallow Thorin's is in meeting Bilbo and asking him about his weapon of choice. Thorin's lack of ability to "discern" is apparent in this outrageous statement: "He looks more like a grocer than a burglar." What need does a burglar have for a weapon? Those who know how to use weapons are "warriors," like Oakenshield himself (a point Bilbo brings up when he has stolen the two-handed cup from Smaug in the book); Thorin disparaging the role of "grocer" is not one Bilbo will forget, but--as a provider of food--a grocer obviously has an important role for this bunch as we see in the caption above with the ability to provide food.
Why does Thorin not play the harp when they sing? Thorin not using an instrument is a way of saying that Thorin doesn't believe himself to be an instrument, that is, he is not the instrument of Gandalf or the universe, rather, he is of himself even though he will use Bilbo as his instrument (his burglar) to regain the Arkenstone. Does Gandalf "use" Bilbo as we will see Thorin "use" Bilbo in The Desolation Of Smaug?
No.
This is my favorite part of the movie; why? In the book, Bilbo isn't given a "contract" or any indication of what he is going to face, which makes it "easier" for him to go; knowing, graphically, as Bifur articulates the danger, what might happen makes it all that much more miraculous that Bilbo does go. Why does Bilbo faint? Because fainting, in art, is a "mini-death," so he has undergone a "good death" just from thinking about the possibilities of what him going on an adventure could mean, and so, when we see him in the next scene, drinking a cup of tea, he is all ready a stronger Bilbo, even though he hasn't done anything really then read the contract. But experiencing a "mini-death" isn't enough for Gandalf: "You've been sitting quietly for far too long," he angrily tells Bilbo. Why does Gandalf care? Again, because if Bilbo fails to make the most of his abilities (and Gandalf believes they are considerable) then Bilbo will slowly turn into Gollum. On the much larger scale, Bilbo symbolizes the "good deeds which must be done everyday, in every way," because this is the part of Bard that Bilbo symbolizes, and if Bilbo fails to fully capitalize on every ounce of virtue he can acquire, Bard won't be strong enough, nor brave enough, to stand and face Smaug and destroy him. This is how The Hobbit is a lesson to us: our soul is our true identity, and the virtues are our muscles; by flexing and working-out our soul's muscles, we grow and become worthy of the inheritance awaiting us in heaven.
When Gandalf speaks to Bilbo in Bilbo's drawing room, Gandalf tells Bilbo, the world is not in your books and maps, it's out there, and points to a window, showing the deep blue of the passing night; Bilbo responds, I can't go running out into the blue, I am a Baggins of Bag-end. "End" is where Bilbo all ready is, if he doesn't get on with the adventure, which means exactly "running into the blue," because, as we know, "blue" symbolizes both wisdom and sadness/depression, because the path of wisdom is often through the course of much sadness and loss, and--since he has his mother's dishes and doilies--his material possessions are sufficient for him, he doesn't feel he requires the greatest possession of all: wisdom.
This scene, when Bilbo wakes up the morning after the dwarf party and doesn't find any of them there, is imperative: this scene foreshadows Bilbo's entrance into the great hall where Smaug sleeps: "Hello?" his actions and manners are exactly alike; why? These gestures link up the two scenes so we can compare Bilbo's growth from this scene--where he is afraid of running into a dwarf in his house--to the next film, when he risks running into a dragon in "its own home." There is a change in this spot, too, the film makes from the book. In the book, a note is left on Bilbo's dusty mantle piece to find the next day; why? The dusty mantle piece symbolizes the "inner-fire" that Bilbo has never "dusted off and took for a spin," and the note, telling Bilbo where and when to meet them, would be the remedy for "the dust" that had settled over Bilbo's inner-fire, smothering it out. In the film, however, the contract is left on the very chair Bilbo had sat in the night before and said "no." In this sense, we can see how Gandalf is offering Bilbo a chance to "go back in time" to the night before and take back that no and exchange it with a yes, which is what Bilbo does.
We can't be too hard on Bilbo for passing up the invitation after Gandalf's "pep talk." As Christ said, which of the two sons did the will of the father, the one who said no, but then went and did the work, or the one who said yes but did not go to do the work? Bilbo's initial no shows he fully reflected on himself and the situation and found himself looking only at the definites of what he did know; he wasn't considering the the possibilities of what he doesn't know, including that he would be supplied with the courage and bravery he would need, when he needed it.
Why does Bilbo Baggins go on "this adventure?" His clothing tells us why. Most noticeably is his outer jacket he wears, the burgundy, the deep red that has a touch of purple to it. Red is the color of blood: either we love some one so much we are willing to spill our red blood for them, or we hate them so much, we are willing to spill their red blood for ourselves. Does Bilbo love himself, and that's why he's going? He wants "a tale or two to tell" when he returns? Or does he go because the dwarfs don't have a home, as he tells the dwarfs later on? Love is a cycle. True love, genuine love, comes from loving ourselves in the proper way, so we can love others in the proper way, and when we love others in the proper way, we love ourselves even more in the proper way, so it's a mutually self-"feeding" cycle of genuine love. 
Let's not underestimate the importance of Bilbo forgetting his pocket handkerchief: Bilbo unconsciously knew he wouldn't need a handkerchief, otherwise, he would have thought to stick one in his pocket on his way out; it was in a moment of reflection that he wished he had one, when the necessity arose, which gives rise to Gandalf saying, there are a great many things you will have to do without, the world is ahead of you. No one can plan to have every single thing they will need when they leave home, for whatever purpose, and that resourcefulness of either doing without or managing with what you have is part of what builds the character up int he preparation for what is still to come.
We do not learn Thorin Oakenshield's history in The Hobbit (the book), not until the appendix of The Lord Of the Rings. It's just a basic truth about art that, whatever villain or enemy a character is fighting, they are fighting because that is actually a part of that character struggling against the good in that character, trying to take them over, like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. How can we say that the Pale Orc, Azog the Defiler, is anything like Thorin? Back at Bilbo's, when Bilbo had said he wouldn't join them, Balin told Thorin he didn't have to make this choice, they didn't have to go to the Lonely Mountain, and Thorin said he valued the loyalty and courage of those who answered him when he called them; he proves to be wrong on this count when it comes to Bilbo, because every change Thorin gets, he runs Bilbo down, until, finally, he starts trusting and respecting Bilbo (that, of course, ceases when Bilbo goes after the Arkenstone). This is how Azog treats those under him. We'll be revisiting this point.
There is an interesting conversation that takes place on the road, in the rain, when Gandalf discusses the other wizards: there are two blue wizards, he says, and I've quite forgotten their names; why? The "blue wizards" are seeking after wisdom, that is what the color blue symbolizes, but their path is lonely and sad; Radagast the Brown is so named because brown is the color of the earth: either one is a "humble and lowly as dirt" or one is "dirty" and no good. Radagast, then, is humble. When Gandalf mentions Radagast, Bilbo asks, is he a great wizard or more like you? This is an interesting turn of events because, when Gandalf first showed up at Bilbo's door step, all Bilbo could remember of him were the fireworks, now, Bilbo doesn't even remember that; how things change.
Why does Radagast go to such lengths to save the little hedge hog Sebastian? Because Sebastian is a living being. Witchcraft, and those who employ it, care not for life, but those who are humble do, understanding the great cycle of life and nature, they don't use artificial means to manipulate it and control it. When we discussed the red jacket Bilbo wears at the start of his journey above, we discussed the cycle of love and having genuine love for others and genuine love for yourself; in his desperation to save Sebastian, we see how great his love is for the littlest animal under his protection and know how great his wisdom for all life must be.
Radagast the Brown, the simple, the humble, is the first to realize that "witchcraft" has returned, the dark, powerful magic the other, more wizardly wizards were confident could not possibly be resurrected (Saruman, the White, is arrogant compared to Radagast's humility and simplicity, and we know what happens to Saruman, don't we?). When Radagast saves Sebastian with the blue stone (again, blue is the color of wisdom, so this stone symbolizes the wisdom Radagast has accumulated about what witchcraft does) he is literally sucking out the witchcraft--the black vapor--that is poisoning Sebastian. The question Radagast seeks to answer is, where did that vapor come from, and it finds out.
Just on the threshold of these scene taking place, Bifur gives Bilbo two bowls of stew to take to Fili and Kili, and that's when they realize two ponies are missing. Bilbo taking food to the dwarfs foreshadows how Bilbo will offer the dwarfs some of the "spiritual food" that he has to offer the whole world, was he first fed them from his larder at his house when they all first met. So, who do these trolls symbolize? The other dwarfs. You wouldn't have caught the conversation if you didn't have the subtitles turned on, but if you did, you would have heard Bofur and Bombur complaining about the stew, and Dori chiming in, exactly as the three trolls are doing. Bilbo then, in seemingly bizarre fashion, carrying the bowls of stew with him all the way up to the hearth of the trolls, is actually "serving us" with a literary device in showing how the stew is connecting the two scenes together. When Fili and Kili tell Bilbo that mountain trolls are big, slow and dumb, they (being from the mountain themselves) are revealing how they are: big (bigger than Bilbo at least), slow and dumb; how long does it take them to catch on that Bilbo is telling the trolls things about skinning and parasites to keep them from eating the dwarfs? Why does poor Bilbo get to be the recipient of the nose-blowing? Tom (I think that's the one) grabbing for his handkerchief was the same gestures we saw Bofur using to tear off a piece of cloth to toss to Bilbo for a handkerchief earlier for Bilbo to use for blowing his nose. So, is Bilbo to get used to not having a handkerchief, or are the dwarfs supposed to be sensitive to those who prefer to use a handkerchief to their sleeve? Both. One sin, as we have seen, can be the downfall of an entire population, so we all have to be the "means of betterment" for each other. The dwarfs are used to acting like animals, and they shouldn't, because then they would allow their animal passions to get the better of them (like gold lust) instead of making the highest ideal of conduct their standard. Of all the things Bilbo could have said, why does he say that Bombur has "worms?" Because of the "great worm," Smaug: each of them has a touch of what Smaug is, greedy, and that means that they have parasites because they have a "little Smaug" in them just as the great Smaug is in their home. Just as the sun light turns the trolls to stone, so the "light" of revelation about how clever Bilbo can be in a tight spot also turns them to stone, as in rock-solid supporters of Bilbo being in their company. How does the scene with the trolls prove Bilbo to be a burglar? Bilbo "steals" the glory for himself away from the warriors who were going to try and free him by using their weapons rather than their wits.
Now, there is a problem when they come to the farm house: as usual, Thorin is quick to lay blame on others, in this case, the elves of Rivendell, for not coming to help them when Smaug attacked; Thorin takes no responsibility, whatsoever, for his grandfather's greed bringing the dragon to the Lonely Mountain to begin with, and this is Thorin's modus operandi. This fault of Thorin's is validated by what happens next: even though Gandalf suggests finding another place to camp for the night, Thorin wants to stay there, and it's there they run into the trolls and nearly all get eaten.
"True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one." 
The swords from the troll horde are important because it highlights what we should know about the last scene. When an enemy is successfully overcome, the hero(es) get rewarded with some strength, virtue or aide, in this case, the swords. Gandalf gets a sword because he came back and thought to break the rock and use the light to defeat the trolls; Thorin gets a sword (even though he's reluctant about it, which is why he looses it to Legolas) because, when the trolls threatened to tear Bilbo from limb-to-limb, he put down his sword, instead of letting them kill Bilbo. Bilbo gets a sword, of course, because he was humble and saved the lot of them. Note, that the bringing out of three elvish blades is done at the same time as Radagast shows Gandalf the blade of One of the Nine that is, "not from the land of the living." It will take the three elvish blades to fight off the blades at the service of the Necromancer.
"Thieves! Fire! Murder!" Radagast screams as he breaks through the trees to where Gandalf is. Why? That's what is the cause of the witchcraft he found in the old fortress. It's important to note that, according to Tolkien, Gandalf and Radagast are cousins, meaning that they are related, but not just according to blood, but in deed and thought. Radagast's courage should not be questioned, given his bravery in going to Dol Guldur alone and being able to defend himself against One of the Nine; his simple goodness was so abhorrent to the Necromancer, that even he revealed himself to Radagast and said Radagast's name, as in cursing him, probably because he knew something of how Radagast saved little Sebastian from the Necromancer's dark poison. Now, the appearance of the Necromancer, and his summoning of the dead, as Radagast puts it to Gandalf, requires a political interpretation because these are issues NOT in The Hobbit, but which the film makers decides to include in the film for a reason, specifically because they say something about our day and age, when there is a Necromancer at work, causing things not to grow and summoning those we thought were long dead, those who are preparing a war to wage on the rest of the world. We will save this discussion, however, for BOFA when the full intent is revealed.
What do elves symbolize?
The interior life.
Dwarfs mine the earth (go deep within ourselves to pull out the gems and gold of meditation on self-reflection), but elves symbolize the devotion to the religious life, to the realm of higher being and ideals because, as the dwarfs go into the ground, there is life there where one would not expect it. Even the Mirkwood elves hold all light as sacred, because it is illumination; when Kili calls star light cold and distant, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) answers that it is the light of memory, so even the not-so-wise-as-Rivendell elves of Mirkwood know and understand the mysteries of light, which prove they are part of the "religious life" symbol. But just as the greater good and lesser good symbols operate throughout the novel, so, too here: Rivendell elves are a higher good, intellect and being than the less-wise Mirkwood elves, Elrond being a better and wiser king than Thranduil.
At the porch of Rivendell, Thorin is showing his ugly side: he dislikes the elves so much, he calls them "our enemy." Why? Because Thorin claims they didn't help when Smaug attacked; the elves are helping now, when the orcs are attacking, but Thorin, taking the elvish arrow out of the orc's dead body acts like he would rather the orc still be living than have been killed by an elf. This is the "parasite" in Thorin and what is eating him alive: revenge and his refusal to forgive. This one sin of Thorin's will make it possible for other sins to grow and he will cause his own downfall and the downfall of those he loves.
The entire atmosphere of Rivendell is "elevated" from that which the dwarfs are used to, including the food: the dwarfs, used to meat, don't know how to "digest" that which the elves consist on because this is a more nutritious (read: spiritual/metaphysical) food than they can desire for themselves, wanting "chips" instead. Even the music is more peaceful, the playing of harps promoting tranquility and reflection. The advancement of the elves (generally speaking) is not only demonstrated in their hospitality towards the oafish dwarfs, but their learning and culture (expressed in their architecture and art). Elrond's knowledge of their swords, the Goblin-Cleaver, further illustrates their spiritual advancement: dwarfs prefer axes and swords, but the elves know specific foes require specific weapons for assured victory, that is why they make the very best weapons.
Here is yet another inconsistency the film makers have artfully woven into the plot (and yes, they did this intentionally to show ourselves to us because these are the kind of things we do). When Gandalf first gave the small sword to Bilbo, he had to practically beg Bilbo to take it, Bilbo not wanting to have a sword; then, as Elrond talked about Thorin's and Gandalf's, Bilbo looked at his, wondering if he should ask Elrond about it, and Balin advised him not to. "Are you saying my sword hasn't seen battle?" Bilbo asks, when earlier, he didn't even want to carry a sword at all, and now he wants a famous sword that has a name,... Balin compares Bilbo's sword to a "letter-opener," and  that might be accurate: if you will consider the prophecy of the Lonely Mountain being reclaimed as a "letter to the future," then the role Bilbo's sword will play, in protecting him and those he is with, it does become a "letter-opener" in helping to open the lines of the prophecy to the plot and events taking place. 
When it comes to having Elrond read his map, Thorin once more shows how small and petty he is, and Elrond once more shows how generous and wise he is. "Your pride will be your downfall," Gandalf tells him, and we know Gandalf knows the truth. What we don't know, as of yet at this point in the trilogy, is why Gandalf insists on staying with the dwarfs and helping them; surely for as wise as Gandalf is, he would have known about the "stubbornness of dwarfs" plaguing him, so why, we might ask, is Gandalf helping (we discover this at the start of The Desolation of Smaug)?
"Fate is with you, Thorin Oakenshield, it seems you were meant to come to Rivendell." Earlier, we discussed why the film makers didn't have Thorin playing an instrument, because their Thorin wouldn't believe that he himself was an instrument to be played, by the universe or anyone else, such as Gandalf or his elf friends, even though Thorin would use Bilbo as his instrument in obtaining the Arkenstone. Now, in this scene, Elrond, the educated, hospitable, wise and gracious, has mentioned "Fate," and Thorin doesn't seem particularly pleased; why not? Maybe it's just me, bu the background music playing during this scene reminds me of Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of the Lost Ark, (as in, "lost Arkenstone") when the Nazis are about to open the Ark of the Covenant, and Indy tells Marian to close their eyes and not look. Why would this music be used? The information being conveyed by the moon runes will lead to the opening of the mountain, like the opening of the Ark, unleashing a great destructive force in Smaug and the attacks of Sauron, just like the destruction unleashed by the opening of the Ark. It might just be coincidence, but Hugo Weaving, playing Lord Elrond, was also in the 2011 Captain America the First Avenger as Red Skull and mentioned Hitler searching for the Ark, which is the plot of the Indiana Jones film.In the image above, the table is a quartz crystal, used for reflecting and refracting light, which is the source of all illumination; because Elrond probably frequents the place often, he himself has become a master of illumination, whereas the dwarfs prefer darkness.
The incredible pettiness and hardness of heart we have witnessed in Thorin during these several scenes is now climaxing in the revealing of the White Orc, Azog. When Azog the Defiler talks about the dwarf scum, he is really only mirroring the way Thorin talks about the elves and even Bilbo.
Seeing the wizard who we know will side with Sauron during the events of The Lord Of the Rings is a really sickening feeling, it's like being forced to be nice to the enemy; "Do not speak to me of Radagast the Brown," Saruman says, "He's a foolish fellow," and Saruman seeks to dismiss what has become fact. This is an important scene that we need to be mindful of going into The Battle Of the Five Armies, because this doesn't exist in any of Tolkien's writings, it was created by the film makers for their own purpose. 
After the council meeting, we see the dwarfs getting ready to stop over the Edge of the Wild, and Bilbo looking back longingly at Rivendell; then Lady Galadriel speaks to Gandalf and asks him, "Why the Halfling?" Her reference to the "halfling" might sound derogatory--one who is only half the size of the rest of us--but in this case, I think it's a compliment in Lady Galadriel's wisdom: he who is half an adult, which makes him more child-like. Children, as we know, don't know doubt, because they haven't experienced disappointment in life, so they have only reason to hope and believe that things will work out for them, like Bilbo, never having really been out in the world to know of all the things that could make their self the enemy of Bilbo Baggins from The Shire. Bilbo, then, is child-like but in the innocence of his lack of worldliness, he has a pure heart for things that are themselves pure, and a disdain for those things that are not, which is why he looks back at the beautiful Rivendell, with all it's waterfalls: he knows that it's pure there and wants to stay and be a part of it so it can become a part of him. This is what makes Bilbo such a valuable member of the company, his purity.
As the company of Thorin march on into the wilderness, they come to the mountains and start crossing, coming into what they think is a thunderstorm, until Balin realizes it's a "thunder-battle" between stone giants:
What on earth does this mean? This is a metaphor for the Council meeting that we just saw between Galadriel, Gandalf and Saruman. They are giants, each of them, and each one set in their own belief of what is happening in Middle-Earth and the dwarfs, and Bilbo, caught in it as the three of them slug it out with words and plans of their own.  What happens next, however, is perhaps even more violent than the stone giants' fight: Bilbo, hanging on the edge of the cliff, is nearly lost until Thorin jumps down and pulls him up, then Thorin is nearly lost. One of the dwarfs comments, "We nearly lost our burglar," to which Thorin meanly replies, "He's been lost since we started. He should never have come. He has no place amongst us." Now, let's consider, in the scene above with Lady Galadriel, what Gandalf said about it being the small, everyday things that keeps evil at bay: it's also the small, everyday things, like Thorin constantly criticizing Bilbo, that allows evil to enter and grow. Thorin, you will recall, got lost twice just trying to find Bilbo's house, and--as we speculated--Thorin getting lost foreshadowed a much greater "lost" in taking the wrong turns in dealing with others and himself. So, Thorin comes down really hard on Bilbo, but only because no one is there to come down on Thorin, except the Goblin King, and treat Thorin the way Thorin has treated others.
Bofur, at Bilbo's house, was the most articulate about the dangers awaiting them on their adventure: "Think furnace with wings," as he told Bilbo and caused him to faint, the "mini-death." Now, however, keeping watch, it's Bofur using his imagination to put himself in Bilbo's place and consider why Bilbo would not want to continue being one of them. "You're homesick, I understand," he tells Bilbo. In this poster for Bofur, he holds his flute/pipe, and--as we have discussed--it's because Bofur possesses the humility to be an instrument, good things can and do happen through him, like him seeing Bilbo's sword glowing blue so they had some small warning that they were about to be attacked. 
How is it that Bilbo is able to kneel down and not be missed by the goblins as they march the dwarfs off to their king? When Bilbo was talking to Bofur about going back to Rivendell, Bilbo wasn't be bitter or angry, he was being humble; he didn't mention, I was the one who saved you all from being eaten by trolls, he was just making, what to him, was a fair assessment of his performance on the journey with Thorin's observations as his basis. This is what allows Bilbo to be humble, or "lowly," as the phrase is in the spiritual life, so that he can, literally, be "low" and go unnoticed, which is the act of being low, not being noticed by anyone for anything. In this sense, Bilbo all ready has The Ring because he is all ready exercising that virtue. Thorin, as we shall see, has been noticed, and it's because of his pride, as Gandalf diagnosed at Rivendell.
Let us make a quick note about Bilbo's sword. A sword is only as great as the warrior yielding it, and in the scene in the cave, before they are trapped by the goblins, the sword glows blue, insuring that it is, indeed, truly an ancient elfish blade. Why blue, to indicate the orcs and goblins? Orcs and goblins symbolize a particular kind of spiritual problem, self-hatred and hatred of others. Bilbo is going through a case of "self-hatred," not severe, but he is down on himself because he feels that he has failed in the quest, which is why Bilbo has to fight the goblin on the bridge, he's fighting himself, and that bridge is the symbol of what he has to "cross" before he continue on in the adventure. That is why the elfish blade turns blue: there is wisdom to be gained in this spiritual trial Bilbo is going up against. The fall Bilbo and the goblin take demonstrates what happens int he spiritual life during, literally our spiritual battle (the "battle" with the goblin is akin to our battles with the demons). The "great fall" that Bilbo takes is just that: the symbol of The Great Fall. Even though the "painted door" on Bilbo's house, and his child-like nature suggests Bilbo isn't effected by the results of Original Sin, all of us can take a fall. This is, in Bilbo's case, a good thing, however, because he's getting to the very root of his problems quickly, and that root is called Gollum.
Thorin is brought before the Goblin King for two reasons: as we said, unlike Bilbo who is lowly and can go unnoticed, Thorin's pride makes him noticeable, and there is a price on his head, like an animal. Secondly, the Goblin King foreshadows the Master (Stephen Fry) of Lake Town and Alfred in The Desolation Of Smaug. Thorin, in his criticisms of Bilbo (and in front of all the others) has proven himself a bad leader, and now we see the level to which Thorin's soul has sunk. Note that when the Goblin King steps off his throne, he steps onto the backs of goblins, his subjects, just as Thorin stepped on Bilbo, his companion.
The Goblin King's ridiculing of who Thorin isn't, because he doesn't have a mountain, so he's a nobody, mirrors the harsh treatment Thorin meted out to Bilbo and, in the ugliness and deformity of the Goblin King, we see a picture of what Thorin's soul is becoming, just as if Thorin were The Portrait Of Dorian Grey.  Thorin's insistence that Azog was destroyed in battle long ago is a terrible denial coming up to the surface: in essence, Thorin doesn't believe he can become as bad as his grandfather, Thror, who brought the misery of the dragon upon them, and who lost his head to the Pale Orc, but the Pale Orc still being alive reveals that Thorin is getting closer and closer to becoming him.
Bilbo wakes up and doesn't know what he sees but watches anyway. The question to be asked, as Gollum makes his appearance is: given that The Ring was in his presence for so long, why has it suddenly left Gollum? The Ring does, afterall, have a kind of personality all its own, that much concentrated power. In and of itself, The Ring is neither good nor bad, but--again--because there is so much concentrated power, it starts to wear the wearer down to the marrow of their bones, as it does to Bilbo as he advances in age. We might deduce that The Ring leaves Gollum because Gollum is in the act of murdering someone, the goblin, just as he murdered his companion when he found The Ring. We have all ready mostly covered the scene with Gollum and the finding of The Ring, but there are some differences with the film, so we will take a moment.
This is important: just as Gollum is divided into two, so every character is divided--at least--into two, a good and a bad. Like the Pale Orc and Bolg (who comes in for the next film) Gollum has the deathly white pale skin and red markings on his body, and pale, unearthly eyes, aligning him to the other two big orcs. Please notice Gollum's back, it's like he's becoming what he eats, the fish, and developing a scale along his spine.
It's by the blue light of his elven blade that Bilbo sees and examines The Ring, and this is important. Why? It demonstrates the dual nature of Bilbo, because Gollum is his "arch nemesis," and what is Gollum talking about when we first meet him? Eating. And that's what Bilbo wants to do, go back home and eat his nice dinner, then eat breakfast the next day, then eat second breakfast, and so on.
Bilbo's first riddle to Gollum, and then Gollum's second riddle for Bilbo both mention teeth; why? Teeth are the primary means of eating, and as we have noted, Bilbo's greatest vice for becoming like Gollum is his love of eating, and also the desire to not give out the spiritual food he has to others, but keep it hidden, as Gollum keeps himself hidden. The second riddle Bilbo tells Gollum, about the "golden treasure inside is hid," the egg, is a symbol of new life, and reveals that, unconsciously, Bilbo hopes for a "new life" for himself because he's gaining confidence that he can win the riddle game and secure passage out of the tunnels. When Gollum asks about time, that's a topic Gollum's uneventful life is familiar with, but Bilbo's eventful life isn't, he isn't used to thinking about time, so it's not an obvious answer to him. Why does Gollum suddenly say, "Ask us a question," instead of, "Ask us a riddle?" Because playing the riddle game was just a way for "Precious" (what Gollum calls himself, not The Ring) to socialize with someone; when you socialize, you ask the other person questions to get to know them. Precious wants Bilbo to want to know him, that's why he said, "Ask us a question," because--for the socially inept Precious--the game was a means of talking to someone other than himself. Remember, when Bilbo says, "You lost," and Gollum replies, "Lost? You're lost." The play on words mirros the larger sense of "play" taking place in the narrative with doubles besides Bilbo and Gollum "playing" the riddle game. Why, when Bilbo is running away from Gollum, do his buttons get stuck? This is, perhaps, the last part of the test: does Bilbo value his life, or his waistcoat more? Rightly, Bilbo values his life and so manages to escape and then, The Ring introduces itself to him.
In a big way, all art is a riddle game, but when a riddle is specifically introduced into art, it's an act of self-awareness, begging a greater answer and interpretation from the audience, and so we have it here with the riddle-game between Bilbo and Gollum. The stakes of the game are this: if Bilbo wins, Gollum shows him the way out; if he loses, Gollum "eats him whole." This is actually the state of events, because, as his arch-nemesis, if Bilbo can't figure out that he's about to become Gollum (by going back home, rather than sticking it out with Thorin and company, exactly as Thorin accuses Bilbo of doing when they stop and realize Bilbo isn't with them) then the evil that has consumed Gollum is also going to eat Bilbo Baggins whole. It's not a coincidence, dear reader, that Gollum has only nine teeth and Sauron has summoned his Nine Nazgul; the meaning being, that as Sauron will eat Middle Earth whole, Bilbo faces the same fate as an individual to be eaten by Gollum whole.
Did Bilbo steal The Ring from Gollum?
We're not talking about "finders, keepers," rather, how--if at all--does this go into Bilbo being understood as a "burglar." The film itself provides the answer. Just as Gollum starts running after Bilbo, up yonder, in the Goblin Kingdom, the company is in a bad way, and Gandalf appears. What Bilbo has in his pocket, and how Gandalf managed to get there just in time is Fate, just as Thorin managed to be in Rivendell on the night of the right moon. This isn't stretching the narrative, this is a philosophy that is being explained throughout the three films. "Fate" had decided that it was time for Bilbo to have The Ring, just as "Fate" decided it was not time for Thorin to die. Some of us believe this same "Fate" (or God) is active in our own lives and some do not, but the book and film offers us reason to think about what we do believe and why.
When the dwarfs are all together, and Bilbo reveals himself, Thorin tells Bilbo he wants to know why he came back instead of going home. This is the moment of triumph for Bilbo, this is the moment he reveals what wisdom is and how, just like The Ring, nothing in and of itself is bad, it's what we do with it. Knowing how much he values his home, he wants to help them get their home back, and he vows to do what he can. That is wisdom and that is a triumph, but Bilbo doesn't stop there.
The scars Azog has all over him mirror the scars Thorin has, from his family dying to the grudges he has held against everyone for what happened to the Lonely Mountain. When the dwarfs are up in the tree, and Thorin comes out to fight Azog, what happens? Why on earth does Thorin do that? There is so much hatred in Thorin, so much bitterness and so little good, that his feelings are more important than his own kin about to fall to their deaths; this makes Azog very powerful over Thorin.
Little Bilbo Baggins, of Bags-End, steps between the orc and Thorin, who practically hates him as much as he hates the Pale Orc. This tremendous act of courage by one so little, is enough to hold the Pale Orc back several seconds, buying that precious time again. As the orcs and warqs are the lowest animals in creation, the eagle, with their majesty, ability to soar and look straight into the sun, are the most noble.
The all important thrush for completing the prophecy and insuring the dwarfs get into the mountain. The thrush we see here is racking a snail shell against the gray stone of the Lonely Mountain. Why? Snails, like turtles, symbolize the meditative life, because they "withdraw into themselves," and that action is what the wise people do who reflect upon themselves and amass wisdom. The thrush (I think, we will have to see what happens in The Battle Of the Five Armies) symbolizes Bilbo and his growth he achieves throughout the narrative of The Hobbit during his struggles and experiences. All ready, at this point in the film, the depth of spiritual awareness Bilbo is achieving (for Bard, so Bard can kill the dragon and complete what his ancestor Girion started but couldn't finish) will help to end Smaug and his reign. How can we say this? The thrush will communicate from Bilbo to Bard, in a language only the men of Dale can understand, and that language is HOPE. In spite of what Dwalin and Thorin have told Bard about his ancestor failing to kill the dragon, Bard believes he can, even with just one arrow. What I think we are going to see is, something to the effect of, Bilbo speaking to Bard through the thrush and Bard using that to kill Smaug.
The eagles, are set against an even more important bird, one that will have great consequence: the thrush. Such a simple little, common bird, rather like Bilbo himself, and yet, without the thrush, the secret entrance wouldn't be found. We could even say, knowing the events of the book, that it's the thrush who brings down Samug; why? Because, as Gandalf said, it's the everyday little things that keep evil at bay.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Symbols & the Soul: JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit & Restitutum

What is a hobbit? Who is Gandalf? What does a dragon symbolize? Why do dragons guard over a treasure horde? How is an elf different from a dwarf? How can there be a world where humans co-exist with dwarfs and necromancers? JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit has been listed as one of the greatest books ever written, and it's not in spite of the fantasy element included, rather, it's because of it, and the the similarity to our own world that generations of readers continue enjoying the narrative. With much affection, gratitude and prayers, this post is dedicated to Amy B., on her own spiritual journey; may you always triumph in the Life Of Grace! (If it has been awhile since you've read the book, you might download, for free, The Hobbit Trivia Quiz (201 Questions About Middle Earth) to jog your memory).
First edition, JRR Tolkien's own illustrated cover design. If you don't know anything about Tolkien, especially if you are, like myself, a convert to Catholicism, you will find his story quite moving (I can personally recommend both Joseph Pearce's books, Literary Converts and Tolkien: Man and Myth). Tolkien's mother, widowed and with two small boys, defied her Baptist family to be received into the Catholic Church and, at her death when Tolkien was only 12, left her sons to the guardianship of Father Francis Xavier Morgan, a Catholic priest; of his mother's death, Tolkien wrote at the age of 21, "My own dear mother was a martyr indeed, and it is not to everybody that God grants so easy a way to his great gifts as he did to Hilary and myself, giving us a mother who killed herself with labour and trouble to ensure us keeping the faith." This post is rather problematic for me: I try to assume that we approach all art work (film, literature, songs, art, etc.) tabula rasa, a clean slate, that we know nothing of the artists or their background because that is how we usually do approach a work of art, without doing a lot of research or knowing anything about the artist/author. With The Hobbit, I am breaking tradition, NOT because (as many fans who are not Christians will say) I am wanting to force a Christian reading, rather, to emphasize how natural the Christian reading is because Christianity is so natural to Tolkien's life (to those for whom Christianity is unnatural, it's not that you can't understand his works without Christ, rather, Tolkien artfully demonstrates how necessary the Life of Grace is to be natural, and it's the "life of nature" [a pagan lifestyle] that is unnatural). Tolkien was a devout, active Catholic all his life and at the time of his death; in other words, The Hobbit is the story of a continuous conversion within the spiritual life and, like the elven bread sustaining Frodo and Sam in The Lord Of the Rings, so the adventures and troubles Bilbo encounters are meant to sustain our own weary souls, not only by assuring us that others have passed through this dark way before, and what is happening to us in our own trials is to be expected in the spiritual life, but also to gladden our hearts and lift our spirits, to hold up to brave souls going the Dark Way of Perfection the mirror of heroism and love we rarely get to view ourselves in during our pilgrimage on earth.
Stories don't just "grab us": there is an ability to measure greatness in art; we might not always be up to it, there might be an element of mystery retained, however, great art shows us the greatness within ourselves, so to articulate why a work of art is epic is to engage the greatness within our own self, hence, the exploration of art is absolutely essential to life. By knowing art, we come to know ourselves, and the greater knowledge we have of ourselves, the greater is our engagement with art and with the world: it's not a circle, it's a cycle, a self-nurturing cycle; those who participate in it understand its rewards. A story such as the tale told in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, first published in September of 1937, is far more than escapism into fantasy, rather, it's a perfect mirror in which we can reflect on our relationship with humanity and our singular individuality.
Please click on the image to expand for easier reading. This chart I created to explain The Hobbit was far more complex, to the point it was pointless, so I simplified it and will just verbally explain other attributes of the structure as we proceed (I did make a typo: under "Elves," Rivendell and Mirkwood should be switched to indicate that the Elves of Mirkwood are the "lesser elves" compared to those at Rivendell). At the bottom, with Gollum, Smaug and Sauron, those three villains are interchangeable with each and Gollum is to Bilbo what Smaug is to Bard, and what Sauron is to Gandalf. To begin with, the main character of the story is Bard the Bowman, not Bilbo Baggins, nor Thorin Oakenshield, not even Gandalf; we can say the same of the follow-up story to The Hobbit, The Lord Of the Rings, wherein Aragorn is the main character of that tale. Why? Because both Bard and Aragorn are men, to begin with, so we humans are meant to be taught what it really means to be human through metaphors of our own being split and characterized through non-human beings. For example: Bard is the main character, and Bilbo and Gandalf are just aspects of Bard's human nature, condensed into his temporal essence--symbolized by the hearth-loving hobbit--and his eternal destiny, the full capacity of his soul, symbolized by the wise wizard Gandalf who embodies Bard's share of the Holy Spirit. This is true of every single one of us, each of us has a temporal, worldly spirit and each of us has an eternal spirit, longing to return to heaven. Just as Bard seeks the "inheritance" of the town of Dale, and Aragorn his inheritance of Arnor and Gondor, so we, too, should be seeking our inheritance and our throne: when the angels revolted against God, and they were cast out of heaven, they left their thrones vacant, and each of us is destined to occupy one of those thrones for eternity if we follow God's law instead of the ways of the world; each devil is set against letting us claim the throne he lost, however, and that's part of what makes the battle and journey so difficult. We know Bard is the main character because he is the one who slays the dragon, he completes the "great work" of the adventure, so he is the hero we are all meant to become, slaying the dragon within our own soul just as Bard does because, in reality, The Hobbit is the same story as Saint George and the Dragon (with Bard in the role of St George, who is, after all, the patron saint of England). If Aragorn is the main character of TLOR, as Bard is of The Hobbit, why write the same story twice? For this reason: Bard is a day-to-day man, an "everyman," the kind of person I am, for example, who has their daily battles, and a good amount of virtuous destiny to achieve, but who probably won't become a "important instrument" in the events of the world, which is what Aragorn is: Aragorn has a significantly longer, and more difficult trail of purification which he must endure, because his destiny of virtue is greater, and we know his capacity to achieve virtue is greater because he is used as an instrument in important events and never fails in any of his trials (but this is a different story, I digress only for comparison, but I am done now). Now, just as Bard is "distilled" into his essence of temporal (Bilbo) and eternal (Gandalf), so each of the two representations are distilled into other characters of the story, because as Bilbo and Gandalf face choices, choosing either a higher or lesser good, they either strengthen themselves (and, ultimately, Bard, so he can kill the dragon) or they are weakening themselves and Bard, too, so he won't be able to kill the dragon. For example: Bilbo, being a sign of Bard's temporal self, is a "lesser good" than Gandalf, but Bilbo is still good because he meets all the challenges with the greatest good possible for that situation (Gandalf is like the Eagles in the story, whereas Bilbo is like the little thrush). An argument against this perspective that Bard is really the main character, is that Bilbo and Gandalf both continue living after Bard supposedly passes, so how could the "parts" exist longer than the "whole?" This is, however, an accurate reflection of reality: there are parts of us all which go on living after we have passed. Bilbo symbolizes that part of Bard who still exists temporally (the tale of Bard slaying the dragon, for example) while Gandalf is that part of Bard that continues eternally, into heaven, with the Creator God. Bilbo, too, is divided in his essence, between Bilbo's "lower self," the dwarfs, or Bilbo's "higher self," the Elves. The dwarfs, are divided into two groups: Balin is the highest good, the wisest of the dwarfs, whereas Thorin sadly makes bad decisions and ends up being the bad dwarf (we are going to wait to go in-depth on Thorin and the other dwarfs until we do the films). Bilbo identifies himself with Balin, rather than with Thorin. On the other hand, the elves are Bilbo's "higher essence," his more mystical self even as he is Bard's temporal symbol; but between the elves, there are the "higher elves" we find in Rivendell, and the lower elves we see in the Mirkwood elves (we will discuss the elves at greater lengths in the post on the films as well; Gandalf we will discuss in greater detail below). At the bottom of the chart above, Gollum, Smaug and Sauron are all three basically the same enemy, but the same enemy on a different scale, the same enemy which Bard, Bard's lower self (Bilbo) and Bard's higher self (Gandalf) must overcome (Gandalf's struggle, because it is of the highest and purest element, namely, the soul itself, can't be confined to just The Hobbit, it also continues into the adventure in The Lord Of the Ring so, if you are unfamiliar with TLOR, you might not understand some of the references in the chart above; please take a moment to read over the numerous characteristics and history of Gandalf the Grey, because this will help clarify our discussion below. We will discuss Smaug in this post and again later, but for the moment, Smaug is the devil, Satan, as are all dragons; why?  For two reasons: first, dragons are the most unnatural of creatures and, secondly, because dragons are "king of the reptiles," and Satan took the form of a reptile, the serpent (whatever that really is, possibly a snake, but possibly something closer to what we think of as a dragon) is always likened to a lizard/snake, of which a dragon could be both/either. Dragons are unnatural in their size, longevity, isolation from others and the amount of destruction they cause wherever they go. Gollum, we can say, is also the devil, but--like Smaug--a temporal manifestation of the eternal being the devil; Sauron, on the other hand, is the eternal manifestation of the devil, the eternal equivalent of what both Gollum and Smaug symbolize. If this isn't making sense right now, don't fret, we will discuss this below, this is just an introduction to these ideas. There are three objects which are gained by this quest: the Ring, the treasure and the dwarfs' home. A ring is a sign of a covenant, in the case of the One Ring, as it is called in Tolkien writings, that covenant is a covenant of power between all the rings forged. We, the readers, can identify with the Ring because each of us have a covenant with God regarding our destiny, which leads us to the treasure horde over which Smaug stands guard. We'll talk about the treasure and the idea of "desolation" more in the post on Jackson's second film, The Desolation Of Smaug, but for now, let's just say the treasure is the fullness of the soul's capacity for virtue and good (symbolized by the jewels and gold in the treasure, whereas the "idea" of treasure is the capacity of the soul). "Destiny" is not so much doing a great deed--doing a great deed, such as slaying a dragon, is a result of destiny, but not "destiny" itself--as the ability of the soul to completely fulfill all its potential to gain virtue and wisdom which has been pre-determined by God. Lastly, the purpose of the covenant and the advancing in virtue is to arrive at our heavenly home, the place where we belong and where we long to be. These three objectives of the quest in The Hobbit are intricately linked together to create personal fulfillment, and is, therefore, the quest each and everyone of us is on, whether we realize it or not. 
To see our own greatness Tolkien wanted to bring to our distracted attentions, he chose characters with which we could identify with, even though we wouldn't see in our own selves, which is the mysterious nature of art. Let's focus on Gandalf choosing Bilbo because he would make a good burglar, and the relationship of that to the dragon Smaug and the treasure over which he guards, as well as the idea of "journey," and the symbolism of mountains. (There are things which it may seem that I am "skipping," but only because it will be a richer, deeper discussion in Peter Jackson's films, so if there is something--such as the character of Beorn--which I am not covering in this discussion, it's because I am saving it for the discussion on the films).
Whereas the story of Bilbo in The Hobbit is of taking something (the Ring and the treasure of  Smaug), in The Lord Of the Rings, the story is about Frodo giving something up (the Ring); why? Some of us are called to take, others to give, and it's our destiny and individuality to know which we are called to do. The reason the story ascends to those great accolades "timeless" and "classic" is because each of us is chosen to do something in this life, be it great or small, the duty is ours and ours alone and, like Bilbo, we have free will to do or not to do. For some, the duty comes at a young age, and maybe in a big way (like Saint Bernadette in Lourdes) or it comes late in life, and quietly, like so many non-celebrated saints who remain unknown, and perhaps we ourselves do not know what our calling is, or the moment when we made the biggest difference, and won't know until we stand in Judgment before God; that's why every single moment we must strive to fulfill the very greatest standard of LOVE and GOOD that can possibly exist, in other words, in every single moment, we must act as God Himself would act and reflect the largess of God's perfect love, patience and wisdom.
Let's begin with the concept of a "burglar."
Bilbo Baggins, of Bag's End, in the Shire, is the character who's journey, actions and hardships we are asked to identify with as we follow the story; why would Tolkien ask us to identify ourselves with a criminal (a thief, the taker of property not belonging to him)? Because he doesn't ask us to identify ourselves with a thief, but with a hero. The best way to understand Bilbo the Hobbit as a hero is to examine the invitation which Gandalf the wizard extends to him (while Gandalf is known to Bilbo, they don't know each other in the familiar sense); please consider this passage when Bilbo first sees Gandalf:

All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning  was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.
"Good morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.
"What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"

What is Gandalf doing? He's deconstructing Bilbo's statement.
Frank Frazetta's illustration for Gandalf from TLOR. How does one come to be an individual? How does one come to their unique journey in life, their destiny? The Holy Spirit, which is what Gandalf symbolizes, extends to us an invitation. How do we know Gandlaf symbolizes the Holy Spirit? By the way he dresses. That Gandalf is an "old man" and his beard goes below his waist (and by all the people he knows, long dead) Gandalf, like God, is ancient, existing before time; his staff, like a shepherd, like Moses, gives support (because the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, the comforter who supports us in our trials) and the "tall pointed blue hat" conveys to us Gandalf's thoughts: hair symbolizes our thoughts, but a hat--because it's worn on the head--can do the same; the "point" means Gandalf's thoughts are directed to the things above the earth, the things of heaven, unlike Bilbo who always thinks of food and being comfortable. That Gandlaf's hat is blue reveals his wisdom because blue is the color of wisdom. The long grey cloak Gandalf wears denotes that he is a pilgrim (someone making a religious journey for spiritual reasons): gray is the color of ash worn by pilgrims when taking off the old man and putting on the new man (the old man of sin is burned away by the Fire of the Holy Spirit, and the new man of charity and wisdom takes its place; remember, in The Lord Of the Rings, Gandalf battles the Balrog, kills it and dies of his own wounds but is sent back as Gandalf the White); it's not that Gandalf as the Spirit is on a pilgrimage, but Gandalf symbolizes the Spirit of Pilgrimage coming to Bilbo to invite him to take the pilgrimage; that the cloak is long literally means he is entirely covered in his purpose of being a pilgrim (helping Bilbo on the pilgrimage) and there is no doubt within him as to what he needs to do. (When Gandalf formally introduces himself to Bilbo, he says, "I do know your name, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don't remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!" Just as Gandalf's identity is synonymous with his name, so is our identity, and the idea of making a name for one's self is an absolute good in Tolkien's world: remember, in The Lord Of the Rings, Sam and Frodo both encourage each other on towards Mordor with the stories that will be told of their adventure because this is the journey that "makes them" who they are, and will serve as inspiration for others to find who they are themselves). But "Gandalf means me" also emphasizes that there is no other Gandalf anywhere except the Gandalf Bilbo is looking upon at that moment, and that singularity of identity is the purpose of every person--because God never duplicates Creation--but we fail to achieve that individuality if we fail to complete the task put before us. Because his cloak entirely covers him, there is also the air of mystery about him, as there is of the intentions of the Holy Spirit: in the book, Bilbo has no idea of what is going to happen on the journey, or how long and difficult it will be, because if we did know what God would put us through, we would not do as Mary did and say yes, we would say no. This is handled well by Jackson in An Unexpected Journey when Bilbo is given a list of all the terrible things that can happen to him, and--in spite of the list--he still agrees to go. I know I wouldn't have. This is why Gandalf wears "immense black boots," because our feet symbolize our will, and shoes indicate what kind of will we have (because, just as our feet take us to where we want to go, so our will takes us where we want to go in life). They are boots (not dress shoes, or slippers) because they are meant for hard travel and work; they are black because Gandalf's will is not set on any earthly thing but--as his pointy hat indicates--only higher ideals and not self advancement.  But wait, you might say, Gandalf wears a silver scarf around his neck, and the neck symbolizes what leads us in life (like a collar and leash on a dog), so he's guided by material gain, he wants his part of the treasure from the Lonely Mountain and, you may continue, when they come to the troll cave, Gandalf takes one of the elven swords. Those are both good points, however, they do not match Gandalf's actions throughout the rest of the story or TLOR. As we know, in Hebrew, the word for "Word" sounds like "silver," and it's the "word" of the prophecy (the dwarfs reclaiming their homeland) that is guiding Gandalf in his decisions. Gandalf takes the sword from the troll horde because, after an enemy is defeated in the spiritual life, you gain new weapons, you are stronger and wiser, so you will have to face tougher enemies next time so you can continue growing, hence, the need for better (spiritual) weapons which Gandalf has earned by virtue of the defeat of the trolls. What about Gandalf's beard? Generally, a beard symbolizes that a man is uncivilized--to be clean shaved is the sign of a man participating in society, putting his own "appetites" (the hair growing on his jawline indicates animal passions or appetites, just as the mouth does) but, in the case of a "holy figure" it means wisdom, because the man has shun society in favor of the wisdom that comes from meditation and solitude. That Gandalf's beard extends past his waist is probably a statement of his chastity, that Gandalf is not married nor does he seek to be, putting his wisdom beyond the needs of the body. Lastly, Gandalf's eyebrows extend beyond the brim of his hat. Eyebrows are extensions of the eyes, so, as the eyes are "the windows of the soul," we can say the same for eyebrows: as Gandalf's eyebrows are extending out, so, too, is Gandalf's soul, appealing to Bilbo's own soul with his own.
Deconstruction is a strategy showing how meaning is unstable (what exactly does Bilbo mean by "Good morning?") and even the most basic, innocent greeting between strangers must be interpreted because meaning can not be taken for granted. This is also the very first thing we hear Gandalf say, so his response to Bilbo itself being an exploration into meaning is his entire purpose and role in the story; in other words, Gandalf invites the reader on an adventure of discernment (what the story means and who the characters are) just as he invites Bilbo on a journey of adventure. It's additionally important that Gandalf approaches Bilbo in the morning: it's not just morning, it's the dawning of a new day for Bilbo because this is his destiny that will forever separate the "new" Bilbo from the old one.
But Bilbo does what most of us do: he declines.
There are a number of issues taking shape in this retort where, as Bilbo puts it, he puts his foot in it and this seals the deal for him to go on the "adventure." Thorin and Bilbo are opposites in that Thorin, a warrior, was an instrument prior to him developing real virtue (which he never does, or he would make it out of the story alive); Bilbo, on the other hand, develops and strengthens his virtue along the way, and along the way becomes the instrument for his measure of virtue which destiny has allotted him: as Gandalf tells the company of dwarfs in Bilbo's house, "I have chosen Mr Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself" ("Burglar" is capitalized in the original text). This is the point of an adventure, be it great or small, for all of us: to find out what we have inside of us, to fail and become stronger, to win and advance to the next level, to learn our ignorance and gain wisdom. What we have between Bilbo and Thorin is essentially two different modes of masculinity within Bard the Bowman: is he a warrior, or a grocer, as one dwarf refers to Bilbo? By highlighting Bilbo's advancement in virtue, especially when Thorin insults him or complains about him, Bilbo demonstrates what real dignity and integrity is, and hence, what real masculinity is. It's not that men aren't warriors, but the question is, what kind of man makes the best warrior? Bilbo Baggins has the heart ("The spirit is willing") to walk to the East of East, and he has the dignity to fight the "Were-worms in the Last Desert," but he doesn't have what it takes to do it and succeed at the start of the journey. Now, when Gandalf insists that Bilbo Baggins is "a Burglar," we could say that we have just seen Bilbo's theft in action. Gloin was mocking Bilbo, and Bilbo came out to "reclaim" his dignity, that which inherently belongs to Bilbo, the way, I am arguing, that Bilbo will "steal" the treasure that all ready belongs to Bilbo and all humanity: the fullness of the virtuous soul freed from Original Sin and the devil's control.
Bilbo does not want to accept the date with destiny and settles for a cup of tea instead. How many of us treat God in exactly the same manner when God calls us to a destiny as great as the greatest saints, yet we respond, politely, with, "Thank you, no, I would rather stay here and enjoy a cup of tea," and the feebleness of that "exchange"--what God offers us and what we offer God--is the exact mis-proportion of what characterizes the lives of most of us. After all, as Tolkien points out when introducing Gandalf, "The sun was shining and the grass was very green." When life is peaceful and happy, why should we want to go and jeopardize our contentment and security? There is no reason (the shining sun and green grass) for Bilbo to wander from where he is (the opposite of what life is like for the dwarfs, being nomads and far from home).
How can I say this?
Because of Bilbo's house.
J.R.R. Tolkien's original illustration for The Hobbit with Bilbo. In the famous opening lines, Tolkien writes, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. 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." Again, the house symbolizes the soul, so Tolkien is making an important theological statement with this opening description: the hobbit home is in the earth because it's from  the earth we were made (God created Adam from the earth) and the comfort level describes how we ourselves seek out comfort, not adversity, not adventure or trouble. Likewise, and given these are the opening lines, if we can take Bilbo's hobbit hole to be a symbol for the soul (the part of Bard's soul Bilbo symbolizes, the temporal part), it counters what Lutheran theology says about the soul and grace, that the soul is rotted and decayed, with just a thin layer of redeeming grace covering it (as one of my philosophy professors put it, Luther saw the soul as a dung heap with only a thin layer of snow covering it and blotting out all the ugly). So Tolkien says that the human soul has problems--we are grounded to the earth which makes us reluctant to follow the Holy Spirit--but our souls are pleasant because they are inviting (remember, Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me"). The most striking feature of Tolkien's illustration is that Bilbo is so much smaller than his house: if the home symbolizes the soul, then the soul is far greater than what Bilbo is living out, in other words, Bilbo is only living out a fraction of his/Bard's potential, and so it is with most of us. A person's destiny is fulfilling the soul's capacity for virtue but never is virtue acquired in comfort and ease, but only during strife and adversity, what Tolkien optimistically describes as "an adventure." In order for Bard to fulfill his destiny, so he can be strong enough to slay the dragon, Bilbo and Gandalf must both fulfill their virtues so as to strengthen Bard to their utmost ability.
As long-time readers know, the house symbolizes the soul, because the house houses the body just as the body houses the soul. Please note in the illustration just above, how large the hobbit hole is compared to Bilbo's small stature; why? That's how it is with the soul: it's far more vast than what our own meager bodies would suggest, than what we think the soul is.
This conversation is the very ending of the book but, even if you have only seen the films so far, you know that "luck" plays a large role in Bilbo's adventure and so, too, does "the prophecy." So, what exactly is "luck" and what exactly is "prophecy?" Prophecy is deep wisdom: it's not being able to predict the future, so much as to know what will necessarily happen because of how and what everything is in its essence, in its most basic identity, and because of what something or someone is, thereby, what they will do. For example, it's not that the prophecy could see into the future and could see--as in a crystal ball or something--Thorin and his company making their way to the Lonely Mountain, rather, the one who made the prophecy had the wisdom to know that at some point, Thorin would rise up in his stubbornness and pride, and go back to the Lonely Mountain and challenge Smaug; knowing the nature of dragons, the prophet knew the dragon would be difficult to kill, and knowing dwarfs, knew the kinds of lengths they would go to in order to insure they were successful and what would happen as a result of the promises they were willing to make but not willing to keep. So, what about "luck?" When Gandalf asks, "Why should they not prove true?" he is basically saying, "Did you think I, Gandlaf, would be wrong?" because the knowledge of the essence of people and things comes from the Holy Spirit; it wasn't "luck" that Gandalf asked Bilbo to join them, it was part of Bilbo's destiny; Bilbo doesn't have "luck" anymore than Thorin "doesn't have luck." What Bilbo has, however, is his dignity, his honor and a desire to always do the right thing or, in other words, the Gifts of the Spirit which, because he always uses them for the greatest possible good, increase and strengthen within Bilbo each time they are used (again, this is actually a part of Bard's soul we are discussing, and he is the one being built up so he can slay the dragon). So, the events of The Hobbit are not "mere luck," or the contriving of Tolkien to save his character and make him heroic, rather, as in all of our daily lives, we can see that events unfold for our own good (regardless of how we feel about them at the time and regardless of how bad they might seem) and it is then our burden to use it for good, just like the Ring Bilbo carries. But Gandalf comparing how little Bilbo is to the vastness of the world is meant to illustrate dramatically how much good can be released by even the smallest and most insignificant of us.
Tolkien writes, "The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden" and, readers will remember again that windows symbolize our ability to reflect/meditate (windows are the "eyes" of the house the way the eyes are the "window of the soul" in our body) and the reflections/meditations themselves; that they are "deep-set" means the reflections of Bilbo are deep-set (or he's capable of depth) and that they are round suggests the infinite, the lofty and greater ideals in life. The garden, of course (for anyone who has read the Song Of Songs), is the garden of the soul's virtue, each flower symbolizing a different virtue of the soul, each food growing symbolizing a different form of spiritual nourishment.
So here is the problem: if I am correct, why does Gandalf think of Bilbo as a 'burglar?'
Why does Gandalf make a sign on Bilbo's front door, and what is the sign? Second question first. We can't know what the "secret mark" (as Tolkien describes it) is because that is the kind of thing known only to the Holy Spirit, the name by which we are called that no one else knows, the stirrings of the heart that only God can direct. Ultimately, we can say that the secret mark means "This is the one who will join us, even though he says he will not, and he will be a blessing to us, as the adventure will be a blessing to him." We can say, further, that this reminds us of the Tenth Plague God sent upon Egypt when the Israelites were called to make a mark upon their doors so the Angel of Death would pass them by and they could leave Egypt peacefully. That mark was, of course, the lamb's blood on the beams to foreshadow Christ's Blood flowing on the Cross to deliver us from Eternal Death. Likewise, Bilbo will "die" if he doesn't accept the mark on his door because Bilbo will fail to achieve all he was meant to and instead rot in his comfortable home. Now, why on earth does Bilbo remember Gandalf's fireworks? It's possible, I don't know exactly, that fireworks are a way of saying "miracles," the "big events" that were spectacular and signaled important events, like the feeding of the fishes and loaves to the five thousand, or the healing of the ten lepers; the dramatic, supernatural (fireworks go high in the air towards heaven, so they are "above nature" that is rooted on the earth) experiences and events that are impressive. Like Gandalf, when we think of God, most of us probably think about the "fireworks" God has worked: the parting of the Red Sea, the Resurrection, the victories of King David, etc., not the small, intimate moments in our lives when we chose to tell the truth rather than risk a lie, or to not hold a grudge even though we could have. Now, in the placard above, the most important word is "arranging," because this is how the Holy Spirit works: He arranges the trials we need in order to become the individual we need to become, and--as Gandalf confides--it's difficult to find someone to share in an adventure because that means no green grass or sun shining, no pipe to smoke or good food to eat, soft bed to sleep in or friends to visit. 
There are at least two reasons.
First, Gandalf reminds Bilbo of his ancestral line, the Tooks. "Took," of course, is a form of "take," and denotes that Bilbo comes from those who "took" something of importance, like Adam and Eve who "took" the apple in the Garden of Eden (with whom all of us can identify; this is imperative to remember because Smaug, like all dragons, symbolize the devil, who took the form of a serpent in the Garden of Eden and tempted Eve, separating man from God and introducing sin into our souls; consider also that, at the end of the book, Bard has returned to his native Dale and rules, just as Adam and Eve might have hoped to return to Eden to rule the Garden once more). Before we explore the second reason, let us consider that Gandalf wants Bilbo to "share" an adventure with him, but to "take" the treasure from the dragon Smaug. Gandalf and Bilbo sharing the adventure makes them equals in social standing but also in equally responsible in seeing the adventure to its end and getting the treasure and equally sharing the dangers and hardships of this adventure. So, what is the second reason for Bilbo being a "burglar?"
Bilbo is taking back what belongs to him.
(Tolkien's detail of Bilbo Baggins). So, if Gandalf is the Holy Spirit, what, then, is a hobbit? We know that dragons--even though they can smell everything--cannot smell a hobbit, and that hobbits can pass unseen when they want, and they are courageous and generous and they love to have fun, to sing and dance and--besides their "halfling" stature--the next most obvious trait of a hobbit is their big feet. Given these characteristics, my estimation of a hobbit is "the child within each of us" (in this case Bard). As a halfling, the short stature refers to a child rather than an adult, and the hobbit's big heart is like the trusting child. A hobbit's big feet (because feet symbolize the will, taking us where we want to go in life) illustrates for us their big will, that when they commit to something they commit to it completely (even though Bilbo could get out of going on the adventure, he decides to go and then does not return home half-way through but sees it through to the end). The problem with a hobbit's will, however, illustrates what we discussed above: their feet have hair on them and leathery soles on the bottom, which denotes the "animal tendencies" of hobbits for the "creature comforts" of the hearth, that is, their wills are directed towards things like breakfast and second breakfast, tea time and comfortable beds, as opposed to "adventures," which is why no self-respecting hobbit ever goes on one as we are told in the first pages of the book. But these characteristics seem at odd with what Bilbo actually does, staying at home, eating and smoking his pipe. In the distinction between Bilbo's inner-potential and his outer-habits, we see the typical struggle of humanity expressed in the phrase, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." This struggle in Bilbo is illustrated by the elves and the dwarfs which we will discuss at greater length below.
This is where the theory of restitutum comes in. In Latin, restitutum means to restore something as it was in the original, or originally. The plan Thorin and Gandalf present is to take back their home and their treasure that belonged to them before Smaug's attack and their displacement, so this is, obviously, a case of restitutum; so, does this mean that Bilbo isn't a thief at all, rather, an agent of restitutum? No: the Lonely Mountain and treasure belong to the dwarfs, but Smaug (as a symbol of the devil) has stolen humanity's hope and dignity (which is why hobbits generally wear green and yellow: yellow, the color of gold, symbolizes kingship, courage and dignity, while green is the color of spring and rebirth, so it also symbolizes hope; traits well appointed to the child-like hobbits) and it's his hope and dignity Bilbo will reclaim as his own when he faces Smaug.
This is a difficult phrase, because there is a clashing of the temporal (the freshly painted door) and the eternal (the dwarfs thinking Bilbo is "no good"). The green door is the door to Bilbo's heart. Hobbits could be compared to the "child within" us because they are "halflings," like children who are half the stature of adults, and they are simple and easy to please. The door having been freshly painted, then, refers to the original creation of hobbits, that is, they have been unmarred by sin, the way others in Middle Earth have. Without the stain of original sin, hobbits can be trusted to act on the greatest good, rather than what is good for them personally, therefore, they make "excellent burglar material" because the only thing worth stealing, as we learn from Saint Dismas, the thief on the Cross beside Jesus, heaven itself, which Saint Dismas did by repenting of his sins and professing that Jesus is Lord, and Christ promising Dismas that they would be in heaven that day. Why does Bilbo take such offense that the dwarfs--none of whom he knows or respects--think him "no good?" Because it's not true. Bilbo is good, and to think him no good is to be wrong about his very nature, and to Bilbo, the dwarfs "stealing" his goodness is on par with Smaug having stolen their home which is why Bilbo is willing to go to such dramatic lengths to prove he is good, just as the dwarfs are willing to go to dramatic lengths to get their home back.
If Gandalf is the Holy Spirit (Bard's share or inheritance of the Holy Spirit)--and I firmly believe that's the most fruitful way of understanding Gandalf's role in the story--then the Holy Spirit (Gandalf) is leading Bilbo along the path of his destiny to reclaim what Original Sin has destroyed and wounded within Bard's soul (Bilbo wanting to stay in the comfort of his home can be taken as a sign of Original Sin because the "Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," because the flesh wants to stay in comfort and ease; more on this below with Gollum). The Hobbit, then, is the tale of Bilbo being a burglar to "reclaim" what is his by first answering the call of the Holy Spirit and then doing battle with himself and then against the dragon (i.e., the devil); so when does Bilbo battle himself?
When he meets Gollum.
Map of Bilbo's journey through the Mirkwood to the Lonely Mountain. The soul is always being prepared for something, even if that "something" is rest and consolation. Landscapes are very much a part of a story, and even some features become "characters" in the story, having such a big role in the narrative. Mirkwood, for example, takes on the character of a villain by being dark and difficult to navigate, because, before a great light (the Arkenstone) there is great darkness. The "Wilderland" should also be compared to the Wilderness the Israelites wandered for forty years, being purged and prepared by God to enter the Promised Land. Just as the Israelites had once occupied Canaan, and then left and were enslaved in Egypt and hoped to go back, so the dwarfs became exiled from the Lonely Mountain, were "enslaved" in occupations not meeting their skills and craft, and then were trying to get back through a long and treacherous journey. 
But more on that in a moment.
Just as a fighter has to train for a fight, so we have to train in stages for the spiritual life, and everything Bilbo experiences up to his encounter with Gollum is his preparation to see Gollum and overcome him in the riddle game. How is this accomplished? Bilbo overcomes his inner-darkness with inner-light. That darkness is revealed with how Gollum abuses love: Gollum thinks his love, and he does love, The Ring, just as Bilbo loves his home, pipe, bed, food and more food; left unchecked, Bilbo's "simple pleasures" would turn him into Gollum because Bilbo would put them before things that really mattered, like others, and indeed, Bilbo does so (in the book) being quite happy that the dwarfs have left without him, but it's Gandalf who shows up and (probably puts a bit of a spell on Bilbo to) gets him out the door and on the road to the adventure that will save Bilbo's soul. If, however, Bilbo isn't effected by original sin (as we discussed above in the symbol of the green door) then can Bilbo lose his soul? Yes, if he abuses his free will, he will end up like Gollum, and Gandalf makes sure that doesn't happen.
Why play a game for the prize? Gollum obviously has the upper-hand, but Bilbo can offer Gollum something that Gollum doesn't have and can't get: companionship. Gollum is so lonely, he talks to himself, and his self-conversing is "precious." Bilbo is desirable as a meal, for sure, but even more so, Gollum misses having someone else to talk to. So, why play a game of riddles? There are two reasons. For Gollum, he misses having someone else, as said, but Bilbo knows he has developed an "other self" to Gollum's "Precious," and that Bilbo needs the assistance of that other self: his wisdom to get him out of this dilemma. Riddles are equal share prophecy and poetry, and one must be both a prophet and poet to engage a riddle, which is why the game is sacred: as we said above, prophecy is "deep wisdom," the ability to know something intimately, and knowledge itself is sacred, but unless one has a chance to use one's knowledge, one doesn't really discover what one does or does not know, which is why Gollum is willing to play a game of riddles with Bilbo: the game is worth more than a meal to Gollum because the game will feed what is left of his mind and soul and the hunger there is stronger than the hunger just in his stomach. 
Great art does one thing nothing else can do: it shows us ourselves, it reveals our deepest mystery, our greatest glory, our most intimate shame and even our cowardice. To accomplish this, art (especially literature) gives us a hero (in this case, Bilbo) and invests the hero with virtue; this allows the audience to positively identify with the narrative and enter into the story and see the best in ourselves. But here is the catch: all the other characters in the story are also a part of us, our very self, and usually, the worst of our vices characters are meant to convey to us, the more encoded that character is. In the case of The Hobbit, all the characters "come" from Bard, they are all a part of him as they are of us, and the two characters closest to Bar--Bilbo and Gandalf--must resist becoming like the other characters (such as the goblins or the Necromancer) or aspire to become like them (Gandalf and the elves) or overcome what is all ready part of himself (Gollum).
The big difference between the elves of Rivendell and those of Mirkwood can be understood by the locales in which they abide. There is order and harmony in Rivendell, because the elves there live in the sunlight and enjoy the fresh air. The elves of Mirkwood, however, live in the dark forest and don't receive as much light as their cousins, and so they have neither the quality of intelligence, nor the quality of emotions. Now, this is important, because it's symbolic of the spiritual journey. We all have bright happy places, the "Rivendells" of our spiritual journeys, but we all also have the "Mirkwoods," the dark passages in which we are apt to be attacked and get lost/lose our sense of purpose. As the elves symbolize a "higher" temporal state, both of those states exist in the good and bad parts of our spiritual journey. It's easier to be loyal to God and praise Him, however, when we are experiencing abundance and prosperity (Rivendell) rather than praise and worship when we are in the dark forest of doubt and uncertainty (Mirkwood); but that is the time when, confused, we need to worship the most. The rest of the differences between the two sets of elves we will discuss in the posts on the films. 
Who is Gollum?
We don't mean—by this question--the young man who, fishing one day, saw The Ring at the bottom of the river bed and murdered his companion to keep The Ring for himself, rather, we mean what attributed symbols has Gollum been invested with that alerts us to who he is? Precious. If you haven't read The Hobbit, you might think that “Precious” is what Gollum calls The Ring and that's who he talks to when he splits his personality to talk to himself. Tolkien, on the other hand, reveals that "when he said gollum he made a horrible swallowing noise in his throat. That is how he got his name, though he always called himself 'my precious.'"  The sound he makes swallowing is him, as when Gandalf says, "I am Gandalf and Gandalf is me." In other words, Gandalf is known for the great things he does, Gollum is known for the things he swallows and what it makes him do. So what is it that Gollum swallows? Foul things.
"Three rings for the elven kings under the sky,
Seven for the dwarf lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for mortal men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the lands of Mordor, where the shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
The inscription on The Ring is in bold, the lines having been uttered while Sauron cast the spell over the One Ring. To each character who comes into contact with The Ring, it means and does something different, because The Ring--in its power--knows how to test each character and make The Ring the master over that character. Why, or how, does The Ring make the one wearing it, invisible? The invisibility acts as a metaphor for what we "hide" from others. For example, Gollum, in his horrible state of existence, was "invisible" to everyone because he hid himself on the rock island in the middle of a dark, underground lake; but Bilbo "saw" him and in all his pitiful nature (as when Bilbo could have killed Gollum to escape, but jumped over him instead). Bilbo "hides" how good he is, his humility, his courage and compassion for others, and this is a virtue, so that's why he can become invisible, because (as we discuss above with the dwarfs thinking Bilbo is "no good") he keeps his complaints and abilities to himself, so he is always hidden anyway. We will discuss this further on the posts for the films, as we will have more examples for discussion. 
A goblin-imp, cold, raw fish, frogs, whatever he can get his bony hands on, things that one shouldn't eat; but it wasn't always that way, and that's the tragedy of the story; Gollum choose to become this "thing." Remember, when Gandalf comes to invite Bilbo on the adventure, it's morning, because it's the "dawning" of a new day in Bilbo's life that will bring great light into Bilbo's soul; Gollum calls The Ring "my birthday present," because when he found it, the day was his birthday, but it was the falling of perpetual, unnatural darkness in Gollum's life, and he accepted it with his free will; and yet, he still remembers that he is precious. Looking at Gollum, listening to Gollum and watching Gollum, there is nothing to commend him as "Precious," and that is Tolkien's point: regardless of how far we fall into sin and darkness, there is still the image of God within us, shining and precious beyond all count, even beyond the great treasure over which Smaug guards. Even Gollum knows that. In defeating Gollum, Bilbo (again, a "double" for Bard) overcomes that own part of him that would become like Gollum and that's why Bilbo proves--at least, at this point--to be worthy of The Ring--because, like Gandalf, no darkness is going to overcome Bilbo in his "smallness." So what happens to "change" Thorin?
What does this passage say? Thorin would not do for Bilbo, what Bilbo is doing for him. In other words, had the situation been reversed, and it was Bilbo and hobbits who had lost their homeland, and they sought out the help of Thorin and the others to help them, the dwarfs would not have helped. Why is this important? Because it shows they know they value of money, but of  nothing else. Additionally, Tolkien warns "don't expect too much" of dwarfs, which, translated, means they don't have a capacity for generosity or great virtue, so they generally aren't willing or aren't capable of achieving the kind of greatness Bilbo is and does achieve. As we have said before, a character doesn't die unless they are all ready "dead" in some way; Thorin dies in the Battle Of the Five Armies, and it's because--throughout the entire journey--he has made the wrong decisions and valued the wrong things/not given proper value to things he should have, especially Bilbo. 
Thorin, like Bilbo, is split, but differently: there is "Thorin," and there is "Oakenshield." "Oakenshield" (the history of which is not disclosed in The Hobbit, but in the Appendix of The Return Of the King) is a warrior and leader; "Thorin" is a dwarf, and, as such, susceptible to greed like the rest of them; but Thorin is also the heir to the throne. Now, this is the part where Bilbo and Thorin can be compared, because Bilbo going into the mountain to face Smaug is Bilbo's enthronement  (yes, becoming a "king") because what does Bilbo do? He overcomes his fear, he completely "masters" himself, and so he becomes the king of his own kingdom, which each and everyone of us is called to do. Thorin, on the other hand, releases the dragon from under the mountain into his own heart: the worm, as they call Smaug, acts just like a worm burrowing in Thorin's heart and eating him with greed. This leads us to the "other heart," the Arkenstone.
So what do dwarfs symbolize? Since they choose to live within the earth, they depict our attachment to things of this earth, but, as they are also miners, they symbolize the potential for deep meditation (as miners dig into the earth looking for jewels, so those who are spiritually advanced go deep within themselves looking for the jewels and rewards of meditation). Balin is, without doubt, the best of the dwarfs; Oakenshield could have been, but the desire for the throne and the treasure horde was too great for Thorin, who ransomed the good within himself for power and treasure and so lost it all. The hardships of the quest made Bilbo a better hobbit, refining his all ready good qualities and revealing what he never knew he had in him. The quest, on the other hand, hardened Thorin and all the years in exile caused him to be bitter; rather than being grateful and happy that they had regained their homeland, Thorin sought revenge and became the meal of the worm Smaug as Gollum wanted to make a meal of Bilbo. 
The Arkenstone is known as the "Heart of the Mountain," because it was mined from deep, deep within the Lonely Mountain (which itself is a sign of meditation, the retreat from others and into one's self to do the work of the soul). Far from supposing to be a source of temptation for the dwarfs, it was meant to be a source of deliverance from their greedy ways: "ark" is part of the name, and not by accident, so the stone is comparable to Noah's Ark. But what else can we say of such a legendary gem? Here is what Tolkien writes:

It was the Arkenstone, the Heart of the Mountain. So Bilbo guessed from Thorin's description; but indeed there could not be two such gems, even in so marvelous a hoard, even in all the world. Ever as he climbed, the same white gleam had shone before him and drawn his feet towards it. Slowly it grew to a little globe of pallid light. Now as he came near, it was tinged with a flickering sparkle of many colours at the surface, reflected and splintered from the wavering light of his torch. At last he looked down upon it, and he caught his breath. The great jewel shone before his feet of its own inner light, and yet, cut and fashioned by the dwarfs, who had dug it from the heart of the mountain long ago, it took all light that fell upon it and changed it into ten thousand sparks of white radiance shot with flints of the rainbow. 

The Arkenstone draws Bilbo's feet towards it, and it has an inner-light all its own. Hobbits "wear no shoes because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly)." Feet, we know, symbolize the will, because they take us where we want to go; the hair on their feet is the same as the curly hair on their head, so there is a continuity between the thoughts they have (symbolized by the hair on their head) and their feet (which symbolizes the will); in other words, hobbits naturally have a united will and mind, unlike humans who (because of Original Sin) usually want to do one thing, but end up doing something else altogether. Bilbo, then, finds the Arkenstone because his feet (will) is drawn to it, all throughout the journey, even though he didn't know it. So why is this a big deal?
The "hidden manna" might refer to Exodus 16:33, when the Lord commanded Aaron and Moses to take an measure of the manna they had eaten in the desert and put it aside for future generations. That manna symbolizes the spiritual food of wisdom given by God to those making the pilgrimage through the wilderness of the soul and going through purgation (this is even more evident in TLOR when Frodo and Sam eat the elven bread that sustains them on their trip to Mordor).  The Arkenstone is like the white stone spoken of: after one has eaten the spiritual food (like the food Bilbo eats in the Mirkwood elves' hall) one desires only the things of the soul and to advance in the ways of holiness, which leads to the purification of the soul, the "white stone," because Christ called us to become "living stones" and the Christian definition of "living" is to be alive in faith, innocence and purity, all three symbolized by the color white. So, the Arkenstone, then, is the stone upon which  Bilbo's "new name" was written that only he knew what it was. What? Bilbo becomes celebrated for his heroism during the journey and especially the Battle, so he is no longer Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, but a hero and warrior, a sage and leader. No one knows the name but he who receives the stone because we and God are the only ones who know the desires of our hearts. God knows our desires because He puts them in our hearts so we will desire the things He wants to give us, like Gandalf giving Bilbo--at different times during his "tea party"--a desire to go and hear waterfalls and explore caves, and then Gandalf fulfilled it by sending Bilbo on the adventure. Bilbo would have slowly died had he stayed in the Shire, but he becomes one of the living stones since he goes on the adventure and eats the "hidden manna," and so finds the white stone (the Arkenstone) and, therefore, finds his own soul, his own great and inestimable dignity. Again, this is what all of us are called to do.
Most clearly, the Arkenstone is a metaphor for the soul itself. Light is the ultimate symbol for illumination, purity and faith. The "flickering sparkle of many colors" invokes the story of Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, which was a prefigurement of Christ (each of the colors representing a virtue of Joesph's and since the coat had so many colors, he himself had so many virtues). The many colors of the stone and its own inner light present for us a tangible concept of how rich and glorious our soul is, and precious beyond all worth.
The Arkenstone has rendered by one artist. It might be called a "treasure chest" because our treasure is in our bodily chest, our heart, because if our heart is poor and corrupt, we are poor indeed, with nothing to commend us; if our heart is rich in mercy, love and wisdom, we are indeed rich, for those are the greatest qualities a person can have. While Bilbo Baggins learns this, Thorin doesn't. 
It may seem that I am off, since so little is said of Bard, but that he has a grim face and voice. He appears (in the book), however, at the climax--when he is most needed--and when his destiny is ready to be fulfilled. He could not have received the news the thrush brings him about the exposed spot of Smaug's under belly, or hit it, unless--like Bilbo--his mind and will were united and he had fulfilled his level of virtue so that he could do what needed to be done. He could have saved himself, or--after the dragon is killed--he could have accepted the invitation to become king; but he doesn't. If he had, it would have been a sign that the Thorin within him had won, and he would have become just as bad of a ruler as the Master; but it's the Oakenshield in Bard that comes out, so he can help in the Battle of the Five Armies and return at last to Dale and take up his inheritance there, as Aragorn does in TLOR. Why does Tolkien's books have such similar endings? To emphasize, once again, that we ourselves are in line for a heavenly inheritance and are meant to return to our heavenly kingdoms, if, like Bilbo, we so choose and fight the little battles of each day to strengthen and build ourselves up. (Again, if there is something I have failed to cover, I am saving it for our next reviews of Peter Jackson's films).
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner