Why do we tell stories about events that never happened in reality? And why do so many people listen to such stories? If we’re serious people, why do we bother to know the lives of wizards and hobbits? Don’t we have anything better to do?
Everyone knows (even if they don’t know it explicitly) that stories clutch our attention as tight as a hawk clutching its dinner. Millions have watched the Harry Potter movies, millions more have watched Lord of The Rings. Still more millions have read at least one book of fiction, listened to at least one “make-believe” story of something that never happened in reality. The desire to hear a good story doesn’t end when one gets too old for mommy to once more tell him about the boy who cried wolf.
It’s not that we care about wizards and hobbits because we’re stupid. We do it because we’re selfish. The kinds of stories that attract our attention most are stories about characters whose problems, personalities, and pitfalls remind us of ourselves. We don’t really care about Bilbo Baggins because Bilbo Baggins doesn’t exist. It’s the psychological, spiritual, existential problems represented by Bilbo Baggins that trouble us.