Recently, I was at the movies, and a preview came on of Peter Jackson’s upcoming film The Hobbit. Maybe it was because of the huge IMAX screen, but seeing that preview gave me chills. The Hobbit or There and Back Again (that’s its full title) is one of my most beloved reads. I first read it as a ten-year old, and I still read it nearly every year because it is truly timeless without any age limits.
You may be familiar with Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien because of the huge popularity of those wonderful films, but you may not be aware that there is a “prequel” (though it’s not really a prequel) to the story called The Hobbit. It was Tolkien’s first book, published in 1937 with Lord of the Rings following in 1954 and 1955. Some people call The Hobbit a biography of Bilbo Baggins, the main character, but I like to think of it as much more than that. Take a look at this first line:
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
Thus begins the story of Bilbo Baggins! Legend has it that Tolkien was grading papers, and wrote that sentence on the back of a student’s paper, and he didn’t do anything with that sentence for years, but it sparked an idea for a book, which eventually made literary history.
Tolkien’s book focuses on the race of hobbits which are folk that are about 3 feet high with big, hairy feet. They live an idyllic lifestyle in the village of Hobbiton in the world of Middle-Earth. Hobbits enjoy the quiet of the daytime, smoking pipes, farming, digging in the dirt in their gardens, and eating delicious and rich foods.
Bilbo Baggins, while loving the life of Hobbiton, has always had a secret yearning for adventures. He gets his wish granted ( or rather it’s forced upon him) when the wizard Gandalf The Grey stops by and gets himself invited for dinner; when Gandalf returns for dinner, he brings a gaggle of dwarves with him. Bilbo’s house is thrown in disarray when the dwarves eat everything in sight, but after the meal, they start to sing songs about reclaiming their claim to a place called “Lonely Mountain.”
After this point, the characters set out for many adventures including captures by goblins, trolls, elves, gigantic spiders, a dragon, and all manner of creatures. This book is so wonderful for the imagination for people of all ages. It’s such a magical experience, and not because it’s classified as “fantasy.” Tolkien felt that his home country of England lacked a true mythology, so he created a world that looks a lot like England, even though it’s called Middle-Earth, and created this wonderful tale that truly has mythic proportions.
If you’re interested in Lord of the Rings, but haven’t read them yet, The Hobbit is an excellent place to start, or revisit even if you’ve read the other books. While Tolkien has immense pages of details in his writing, The Hobbit doesn’t overdo it. The beginnings of Tolkien’s books are usually where we get the most dense descriptions, and some readers either jump in and swim in the details, while others may find it overwhelming, but if you can hang in there, you’re in for a rare treat. I truly cherish this book, and I hope you will too!