Dwarves from the first film of "The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey"

The Hobbit and Searching for Ropens

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How does the fiction about Bilbo relate to the nonfiction adventures of searching for ropens? The third movie, The Hobbit – There and Back Again, should be released late this year; the third edition of the book that is retitled Searching for Ropens and Finding God should be published in February [Update: The fourth edition was published some time later]. But resemblances are much more striking than that. For the following comparisons, we use “Hobbit” for the story by Tolkien (including the movie) and “Ropen” for the true adventures involving searching for living pterosaurs (including my nonfiction Searching for Ropens and Finding God).

Dwarves from the first film of "The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey"

Hobbit: A few little men, strange-looking to big people, embark on a long journey of adventure. Intellectuals with pointed ears think they’re foolish.

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Jonathan Whitcomb, David Woetzel, Paul Nation, Garth Guessman, Jim Blume---each one, at least once, searched for a living pterosaur in PNG

Ropen: A few apparently insignificant men, strange-looking to apparently important people, embark on a long journey of adventure. Intellectuals with pointed opinions think they’re foolish.

More Comparisons

The objective:

  • Hobbit: They seek a mountain and hope the dragon is not there.
  • Ropen: They seek mountains and hope dragons are there.

Local customs:

  • Hobbit: Local people who live near the mountain keep away from the glowing dragon.
  • Ropen: Local people who live near the mountains keep away from the glowing dragon.

Who gets the reward?

  • Hobbit: You may get a fortune inside the biggest mountain, because the dragon might not be there.
  • Ropen: You may pay a fortune to get to the top of the biggest mountain (Mt. Bel), because the dragon might be there.

Spiders in the forest:

  • Hobbit: They’re hindered by forests in which spiders lurk everywhere except on the trail.
  • Ropen: They’re hindered by forests in which spiders sit on webs in the middle of the trail.

Beware of Monsters:

  • Hobbit: They’re attacked by incredible monsters that are thought to be descended from higher forms of life.
  • Ropen: They’re credibility is attacked by critics who believe they are descended from lower forms of life.

Strangest of the strange:

Hobbit: One differs a bit from the rest (a hobbit), but has the same general objective. He later writes much about their adventures.

Ropen: One differs a bit from the rest (an LDS-Mormon), but has the same general objective. He later writes much about their adventures.

Where do you put your faith?

  • Hobbit: They have faith in an intelligent wizard who puts them in the right way.
  • Ropen: They have faith in an intelligent God who puts them in the right way.

By the way, most of the dwarves (and the hobbit) returned home in good health, and most of those who traveled to Papua New Guinea to search for living pterosaurs returned home in good health.

So how do these two stories differ? The Hobbit is fiction; the ropen adventure is nonfiction.

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More about the new book on living pterodactyls

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pre-publication version of the front cover of this nonfiction book

Searching for Ropens and Finding God – 360 pages at 6×9 inches – “The Bible of modern pterosaurs”

From page 15 of this nonfiction book (third edition):

Fantasizing about faraway places faded into the background, except when I told stories to my daughters, including tales of dragons or monsters, as in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I also invented fantasy stories for my three children. But Peter Pan appeared to have flown far away forever. I had grown up, in almost every way . . . or so we thought.