With the second part of Peter Jackson’s sprawling film adaptation in cinemas, it might surprise you to learn that The Hobbit is relatively short book. Tolkien wrote it before The Lord of the Rings, his most famous work, and, first published in 1937, it is a standalone fantasy novel filled with action, adventure and, most importantly, dragons!
The story is about a hobbit called Bilbo Baggins who just wants to be left alone to his quiet life, but when a group of dwarves and a wizard turn up for an unexpected party and press-gang him into accompanying them on a quest, his world is turned upside down. It is only a matter of time before he tangles with trolls, elves and eventually the great dragon Smaug.
Tolkien’s story is epic but the most compelling aspect of it is Bilbo’s character arc, shifting from bewildered stay-at-home hobbit to thief and adventurer. The dwarves have distinct personalities and you’ll definitely have a favourite! While the book can’t show you the stunning landscapes visually as Jackson’s film trilogy can, Tolkien has a knack for evoking a sense of wonder from the marvellous places the party travel through, from the Elven town Rivendell to mines under a mountain where goblins roam, to Lake-town, a settlement in the shadow of the great Lonely Mountain. There are daring escapes, thrilling chases and tense confrontations. In one of the most memorable sections, Bilbo has a spine-tingling encounter with the now-familiar Gollum and steals a mysterious magic ring. When The Hobbit leapt to publishing success and Tolkien’s publishers requested more from Middle Earth, Tolkien realised that this seemingly minor treasure could become the most important ring in the history of Middle-Earth in the sequel, The Lord of the Rings.
The Lord of the Rings is without doubt Tolkien’s epic masterpiece and the inspiration for the majority of the fantasy genre today, but The Hobbit is an odd little story that appeals to children and adults and tells the story of a reluctant hero who ultimately embraces adventure and does great things.
To quote Bilbo in his later appearance in The Lord of the Rings, ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door…You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
If you liked The Hobbit…
You’ll enjoy the graphic novel The Hobbit Or There and Back Again by Chuck Dixon (741.5941)
Have a look at the DVD of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation (823.91)
Try the sequel that has eclipsed its predecessor, The Lord of the Rings – Tolkien makes Middle Earth even more epic as we find out the truth about that magic ring Bilbo stole from Gollum. Start with The Fellowship of the Ring (823.91)
Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien, Myth and Modernity by Patrick Curry examines Tolkien’s world building of Middle Earth (823.91