I think the way I feel about The Hobbit (and, frankly, Lord of the Rings) was best put by C.S. Lewis in a review he did of The Hobbit in 1937. In the review, he said “To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone.”
I have not read The Hobbit in almost four years. The last time I did read it, I believe, was for a course in university called Tolkien and Fantasy. Really though, it was one hundred per cent a Tolkien course. Yes, we talked about various fantasy theories and such, but all as they applied to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. This class was probably my absolute favourite throughout all of my university career. I would love to go back and sit in it again. I actually wrote my favourite essay in that class and, though this may sound as if I am braggin, an utterly amazing essay at that. I actually still have my marked copy. I should go through it sometime and make the edits they suggested. Maybe I will put it up here once I finish? Let me know if that would interest you!
However, let’s get back to the point.
Revisiting The Hobbit was quite relaxing. I have been reading so many books this year that lately I have been yearning for something familiar. Funny, but I found that re-reading The Hobbit (and Lord of the Rings, I expect) was like getting comfort from an old friend.
I know that The Hobbit was originally intended to be a children’s book. From my understanding, Tolkien actually wrote it for his children, which is something I find quite sweet. I am not sure about what age his children were at the time, but I can definitely tell that this book would not have been written today. The in-depth discussion on this is a story for another time, however what it boils down to is the maturity level of the book. I think that in today’s society, the shows, movies, books, et cetera directed to children seem to be much tamer. They do not include things like the big battle in The Hobbit, or things like Gollum’s threat of murder (though they would be likely to include something like the riddle game he and Bilbo play.
All the same, I do not think I would change a thing about The Hobbit. I love that the whole adventure can be broken up into little pieces, which means it is easy to understand. I wonder if Tolkien did this on purpose. I ask this because having a book with good stopping points or breaks like The Hobbit makes it much more suited for a bedtime story than one without any appropriate breaks. Due to the length of the story, The Hobbit is definitely not meant to be read in one night.
Continuing down that route, I think hobbits are great characters for children. I do not know about you, but I find that I tend to relate to characters who remind me of myself or who I admire in some way. I also find that children tend to relate to characters of similar ages or who resemble them. By that I mean, hobbits are the small ones in Middle Earth, and as such it would make sense in my mind if children attached themselves to Bilbo because of this. Besides, he is the reluctant hero in this story. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but his progression is something I think many children would find “inspiring,” so to speak. I feel like I would have at least. Frankly, I do find characters in Lord of the Rings inspiring for a few reasons, but that is something I will leave until later.
To close out this post, I would love to address a couple of things and hear your thoughts about them n the comments section.
As you are aware, The Hobbit involves a quest to retake a home (the dwarves want to retake The Lonely Mountain). When Bilbo agrees to help, he is essentially giving up his home. He is well aware that he may not return from the journey, and as such would never see Bag End, Hobbiton, and The Shire again. Apart from what might be explicit in the book (or film), why do you think he goes anyways? What is Bilbo’s quest for, if not for a home? Is it simply for an adventure?
The final thing I would like to mention is Tolkien’s use of songs and poetry in his books. They play quite a significant role in The Hobbit, even if some may seem trivial at first glance. If you were to pick a song or poem in The Hobbit as the most influential, which one would it be and why? I personally believe it is the dwarves’ song from the very beginning of the novel (“Far over the misty mountains cold”). I do have reasons why, which include insight from the Tolkien course I took, though I would love to hear your thoughts on this before I reveal and persuade people to my side. You may have different reasons for the same song, or think a different one is more important! Either way, I want to hear what you think without too much influence on my end.
Title: The Hobbit
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher: George Allen & Unwin (first)