B is for — Bilbo Baggins and Belle — from The Hobbit and Disney’s animated film, Beauty and the Beast.
Bilbo Baggins, the unlikely hero from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, has always been one of my all-time favorite characters. The way he goes from timid, complacent stick-in-the-mud to spider-slaying, dragon-braving adventurer inspires those (like me) who hesitate, and encourages us to go forth out our doors and into the wild.
Many times I watched the 1977 Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit, living Bilbo’s journey with him, persevering even though I’m arachnophobic and not nearly as good with riddles. One of my favorite moments from this movie is when the Dwarves are singing — “Far over misty mountains cold…” — and Gandalf and Bilbo speak:
Gandalf: “There’s a magic in that music.”
Bilbo: “And it moves through me.”
Gandalf: “You feel the love of beautiful things.”
Bilbo: “To go and see the great mountains and hear the pine trees and waterfalls.”
Gandalf: “To wear a sword instead of a walking stick.”
Bilbo: “Just once…”
Another favorite moment is when Bilbo climbs the tall tree in the middle of Mirkwood and sees all the butterflies fluttering in the sunshine and feels the breeze on his face. He doesn’t speak, but shares his thoughts: “There are moments which can change a person for all time, and I suddenly wondered if I would ever see my snug hobbit hole again. I wondered if I actually wanted to.”
Those moments always stir in me a yearning to take that step out my door and go.
Belle, from Walt Disney’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, is another such inspiration. The “odd” girl with her nose in a book could so be me. I admire her spunk, her courage, and her cleverness. She’s not afraid to stand against the crowd.
When I first saw this movie when it came out in 1991, I was entranced. Everything about it was magical — the exquisite colors in the opening sequence, the engaging heroine, the wonderfully quirky denizens of the enchanted castle, the rousing and romantic songs, and the Beast — a cursed prince who needed someone to find enough good in him to love. Add to that the scary scenes with the wolves, a frighteningly charismatic antagonist in Gaston, and the hilarious battle between the ensorcelled castle servants and the villagers and you get a movie that immediately became my #1 favorite Disney movie, ever. It still reigns today. Not even the excellent Tangled or Frozen could knock Beauty and the Beast from its pedestal.