In my early teens, I never read anything that wasn’t required of me by one of the teachers in my school. I didn’t hate reading, but I wasn’t attracted to it either. One of my friends was always raving about a series of books by an author named J. R. R. Tolkien and he ultimately convinced me to read the first of the set. The book was titled The Hobbit and reading it, I fell under the spell of great literature. I’ve been an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction ever since. Throughout my teens, I read Tolkien’s books”?the Hobbit, the Fellowship of the Ring, the Two Towers, and the Return of the King”?numerous times each and never grew tired of the tale.
As the advertising hype for the major motion picture “The Fellowship of the Ring” grew to a crescendo in early December, I found that the fires within my Tolkien heart had been relit. After nearly twenty years, I dug out my old paperback copies of the four books and prepared to journey to Middle-Earth once again. The covers of my books are all cracked and torn from years of repeated use, but the pages within are filled with words that are as fresh and exciting as the first time that I read them.
The prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the Hobbit. It was written by Tolkien as a bedtime story for his own children in the 1930s and met with instant success upon its publication in Britain in 1937. It is not surprising that Tolkien could write exceptionally well, as he held multiple professorships and was recognized as one of the finest philologists in the world (philology is the study of literature). Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892 and died in 1973.
What, you might ask, is a hobbit? They are short (about 4 feet tall) creatures with large, hairy feet that dwell in Tolkien’s fantasy realm of Middle-Earth. They live in comfortable hobbit-holes, love to eat, and generally shun adventures of any kind. The Hobbit is the story of one hobbit”?Bilbo Baggins”?who is swept up into a most harrowing adventure with thirteen Dwarfs and one wizard named Gandalf. The group sets off in search of a huge treasure trove of gold and jewels that was stolen from the Dwarf’s ancestors by an evil dragon. Along the way they are accosted by trolls, goblins, wolves, giant spiders, nebulous creatures in the dark, and in the end, the dragon himself. The story tells of Bilbo’s finding of the evil ring and thus sets the stage for the trilogy “the Lord of the Rings.”
The Hobbit predates Harry Potter by seven decades and is the undisputed king of children’s literature, winning the 2000 Keith Baker Millennium Book Award for the most significant children’s book published between 1920 and 1939. Although classified as children’s literature, the Hobbit is appropriate and enjoyable for all ages. The sequel series is much more adult oriented and next week I will review the Fellowship of the Ring, compare the book to the movie, and hopefully encourage others to join the ranks of millions around the world that read, love, and relish the Tolkien novels.