Alighieri, Dante. The Inferno. Publisher Johann Numeister and Evangelista Angelini da Trevi. Foligno, Italy. 1472. Book.
London, Jack. Call of the Wild. Macmillan. 1903. Book.
Tolkein, JRR. The Hobbit. George Allen & Unwin (UK) 1937. Book.
I chose these three stories not only because they each deal with roads and travelling, but because they each in a way deal with the theme of ‘wilderness vs progress.’ In addition, they include the wilderness of the spirit and mind rather than solely of the physical realm. I also like all three of them because they’re exciting.
Dante’s Inferno, the first section of his three-volume epic poem ‘The Divine Comedy’, starts with the narrator lost in the woods. He’s on a path, but he knows it is not the CORRECT path. Dante is attacked by three wild animals, and eventually aided by the ghost of the Roman poet Virgil. Virgil goes on to guide Dante into and through the spiraling levels of Hell and into Purgatory.
The Call of the Wild is about a dog, Buck, taken from a somewhat civilized area to be a sled dog in Alaska. The dangers and trials he undergoes eventually culminate in him running away from mankind and ‘progress’ to live as a feral dog and pack leader.
The Hobbit is an epic road trip. From the safe cozy Shire, though Mirkwood and other lands, to Mount Doom, Bilbo Baggins faces wilderness and strangeness at every turn. He confronts fears and dangers and as a result changes from a prissy fussbudget into a hobbit of confidence and capability. Hobbit
Each story involves leaving the comfortable, whether by force or by choice. All three are journeys into wilderness and result in the gaining of experience and self-knowledge. For Dante, Hell is only the beginning and he travels on. For Buck, the wilderness is where he belongs and where he chooses to live out his life. Bilbo Baggins returns to the Shire after his long journey – a changed and wiser hobbit.
With these stories, I hope to point out that everyone is on some sort of journey. For some the journey is just beginning, for others it will never end. Sometimes we’re meant to go home and sometimes our home is in a place we haven’t found yet.