Facing Smaug

Written by Joanna Krawczynski, NCLN’s Western Campus Coordinator

On dealing with dragons of fear – and making it out alive.


Dear pro-life students,

It’s been a solid two weeks since we gathered in Toronto for the Symposium, and I’m back home, going through your evaluations of the weekend.

Many of you wrote that the Symposium quelled your fears, that you came with “tons of uncertainties and questions.” However, you commented that you left feeling “inspired and at peace,” and that “the NCLN Symposium took away all fears… about doing pro-life activism.”

A part of me wishes we could take the credit for your freedom from fear. And while it does take some courage to “whip and nae-nae” in front of strangers, I am sure our spectacular dance moves did not have that much of a far-reaching effect…

So, dear students,  you deserve credit. This was my first Symposium on staff, and throughout the weekend, your hearts of compassion and hands ready to take action were inspiring and motivating.

You remind me of one of my favorite furry-footed heroes (and no, this has nothing to do with the aesthetics of your feet). This past summer, I finally read Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I also watched the movies, and as much as I wanted to love them, I was disappointed, for they left out one of the best parts of the book: Bilbo’s greatest moment.

This moment has nothing to do with riddles or giant spiders. This is the moment when Bilbo is going down into the heart of a mountain through a tunnel that had mysteriously opened just moments before. The dwarves with whom Bilbo had been travelling wait at the door of the tunnel, sending him off down the dark passage alone. The only thing Bilbo and his companions know about the tunnel is that, at some point, the tunnel will end. And that at the other end lies a monster – a dragon named Smaug.

Bilbo enters the tunnel alone, then:

“A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.


It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”

The cave / La cova (Ferran)
Photo credit: Ferran Jorda


While I wish with all my heart you didn’t have to deal with this anymore, the fears alleviated during the Symposium will still come back, in one way or another.

Sometimes it may seem like you are venturing into a dragon’s lair as you step out to engage someone in a conversation, as you meet with your student union, or as you set up for Choice Chain amidst angry hollers.

In times such as these, chew through this question instead of your fingernails, a question with which our former Executive Director, Rebecca Richmond, would challenge us with: is what is holding me back more important than the message I have to share?

I am convinced that these moments in which you press on, despite your fears, are true tests of your courage. Like in Bilbo’s experience.

My challenge to you as you journey this semester: lean on each other, depend on each other, and keep each other accountable. As much as they get good screen time, we are not dwarves, waiting at the back door, expecting a club member to venture into dark, uncharted territory alone. Loneliness is fertile ground for fear. And, as you have probably already noticed, you cannot use fear to dispel fear or to dismantle lies.

So, then, go together. Go together, to share a treasure that is much brighter, much more valuable than Smaug’s mountain of gold: friendship. Go together in peace: you have what it takes to not only face Smaug and make it out alive, but to also rescue lives from out of the flames.

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