The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

Many years ago I read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and loved the story, so much so that over the years I’ve re-read the books several times. Somehow I’ve ignored The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, maybe thinking that because it’s a children’s book it was too late for me to appreciate it. So even though I’ve had a copy for years it’s only now that I’ve got round to reading it, spurred on by seeing the film this year. (I read the enhanced version on Kindle.) How wrong I was not to have read it before – The Hobbit is a book that all ages can enjoy.

It’s an adventure story of a quest set in a fantasy world, so beautifully written that it seems completely believable. Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, is recruited through Gandalf, the wizard, to accompany a party of thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin, on their quest to recover the dwarves’ treasure stolen by Smaug the dragon and regain possession of the Lonely Mountain. Along the way Bilbo grows in confidence and becomes a hero, meeting elves, outwitting trolls, fighting goblins, and above all gaining possession of the ring from Gollum.

The enhanced version has a foreword by Christopher Tolkien, complete with illustrations including manuscript pages and unused drawings, in which he describes how and why his father came to write The Hobbit: he would stand in front of the fire in his study and tell stories to Christopher (then aged between four and five years old) and his brothers. One story, this story, he said, was a long story about a small being with furry feet, which he thought he would call a “Hobbit”. This was in about 1929. The book was eventually published in 1937, written whilst Tolkien was engrossed in writing the myths and legends told in The Silmarillion. He hadn’t intended The Hobbit to be connected to the mythology, but his tale gradually became larger and more heroic as he wrote it.

The Hobbit sold very quickly and people asked for a sequel. At first Tolkien thought that writing more details about Gandalf and the Necromancer (Sauron) would be too dark and that many parents “may be afraid that certain parts of it would be terrifying for bedtime reading.” He also wrote:

Mr Baggins began as a comic tale among conventional and inconsistent Grimm’s fairy-tale dwarves, and got drawn into the edge of it – so that even Sauron the terrible peeped over the edge. And what more can hobbits do? They can be comic, but their comedy is suburban unless it is set against things more elemental. (location 339)

Three days after writing those words he wrote:

I have written the first chapter of a new story about Hobbits – “A long expected party.”

That was the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings. (location 339)

It also includes recently discovered audio recordings of J.R.R. Tolkien reading excerpts from The Hobbit, including the dwarves’ party song, the account of their capture by the three trolls, and Bilbo Baggins’s creepy encounter with Gollum.

The Hobbit is an excellent first book for Carl’s Once Upon a Time VII.

16 thoughts on “The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien”

  1. Great review Margaret! The Hobbit was the book that set me on “fantasy reading” for the rest of my life. (about 1978 before I read it). there was a badly made movie from it and a cartoon movie which wasn’t too bad actually and then Peter Jackson came along! I am thilled with part one of the movie and glad Jackson is even picking out minor things in the writing and bringing them to the silver screen! I am glad you enjoyed this book and hope you enjoy it again someday!

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  2. Oddly, I actually think I prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings and I’m not sure why. I’ve read it several times, the first as a teen the most recent about 3 years ago. Each time I like it more. I’ve preordered the film as I haven’t seen it and really can’t wait for it to arrive next week. Perfect choice for your first book for the OUaT challenge!

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  3. Margaret, I’m so pleased you enjoyed The Hobbit – it’s always nice when other people appreciate one of my own favourites! A teacher read this to us when I was about 10, and I’ve loved it ever since, but I won’t see the film (or the LOTR movies) because I want my vision of the characters and landscapes to remain intact.

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  4. Well, as you know, we live in The Shire and so ‘The Hobbit’ is required reading round here. The Bears are waiting avidly for the DVD to come out next week because I wouldn’t take them with me to see the film at the Cinema. I’m glad you’ve finally got round to, and enjoyed, the book.

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  5. So glad you enjoyed this when you finally read it! ‘The Hobbit’ is one of my all-time favourite comfort reads. It’s got so many memories attached to it for me. It’s such a lovely story and, like deslily, it’s the book that made me start reading fantasy. And… I wish we had a whole recording of Tolkien reading The Hobbit. The recordings I’ve heard give me goosebumps (in a good way!) ❤

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  6. Years ago a lovely friend in her 80s insisted that I read her collection of the Tolkien books about the Hobbits. I never read fantasy but I really got into this series. I never again doubted a reading recommendation from her.

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  7. I’ve read The Hobbit 3-4 times in the course of my life, starting at about age 13, but LotR only once. I still prefer the story of The Hobbit over the longer, more complex story of LotR. I’ve been wanting to watch the movie and want to reread the book again, and now you’ve inspired me to do so sooner rather than later.

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  8. It’s a great book and I particularly like that it reads like the type of story that you could read out loud and really enjoy.
    Lynn 😀

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