The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien (first published by Allen & Unwin, 1937)
Introduced by Kiel J Gibson
It is all too easy for me to gush over this book. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien was first published on the 21st of September 1937, nearly 81 years ago. Yet its impact on literature and the wider world has continued through every facet of human culture.
But to those who may not be inclined towards fantasy of any sort, you are probably wondering if this novel is worth reading. It is a children’s novel for one thing, you have only to read it’s episodic structure to see that. As an uncle of five I would be proud to read this to my niece and my nephews. It is beautifully detailed and though many of the characters do fade into the background, they nonetheless capture the imagination.
There are issues of course, for example the dwarves are quite forgettable. There are scenes within its pages that seem long-winded and there are details given which may bore some readers. If you don’t enjoy world building it can be a little testing.
But before we go any further I shall give you a brief overview. The Hobbit is the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, a creature of comfort who has up to this point, never ventured past his small community. Hobbits are a little people as Tolkien describes them, and Bilbo’s stature as compared to the vastness of Middle Earth become an important theme. One morning he speaks with Gandalf the wizard, and this sets off a series of events which leads to Bilbo joining a gang of dwarves, travelling far beyond his home in the Shire.
It is told to us in a cosy, grandfatherly manner by Tolkien. This is great because Bilbo’s adventures are introduced to us slowly and comfortably as though it was Bilbo telling us himself. This grandfatherly manner is common in fantasy fiction because many of the first stories we are told as children are folk tales, and myths from distant lands. It seems familiar to us, and before long we are swept into a world which is both recognisable, yet mysterious.
We can identify with Bilbo’s love of home, his anxiousness and that he must find his courage in order to move on. Bilbo is of course the hero of our story and his ability to be both vulnerable and brave make him a compelling protagonist. His interaction with many of Middle Earth’s strange and wonderful creatures are entertaining, and you can easily see yourself standing there with him.
Bilbo is in my opinion the best part of the novel, he represents a homely, gentle kind of Britishness which can be found in any community if you are willing to look. Bilbo’s bravery and cunning are not manufactured they are earned. He is not a born hero but someone who can be if he is called to it.
The Hobbit’s strength is that it is a journey and by the end of book you understand that much has changed. Though despite him being changed by his experiences, Bilbo returns to his home and once again settles back into his routines.
There is something joyous in knowing that even after all of his losses, that he survived, even though there were many who doubted him. Of course The Hobbit is a children’s story and if there is one thing to take away from it, it is this, even the smallest amongst us can overcome a great deal.
Its appeal to adults is that it reminds you of those times as a child, when you begin to explore your imagination. Folktales, myths and legends are as I have said, usually the first stories we hear and The Hobbit is no exception.
It has its problems but overall, it is a timeless tale of bravery, kindness and even sorrow. A must read for any fantasy fanatic, and I wager a worthwhile read, for anyone who enjoys an old fashioned adventure story.
I rate this book, 4 out of 5 stars. Should you decide to read it, I would also recommend The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Tolkien’s friend and contemporary, C S Lewis.
Kiel J Gibson is a student at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. Blind Bookworms is a project of The Story of Books.