J.R.R. Tolkien & ‘The Hobbit’

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the world’s favourite novels. Learn about the inspiration behind Bilbo Baggins and his adventures, find out about the hardships Tolkien endured before he became a writer, and enter the world of the Inklings and literary friendships.

Come with me on a fabulous reading journey through 2020. Together we will explore a thought-provoking selection of 19th and 20th Century classics. For each novel you will receive an illustrated monograph packed full of intriguing stories about the author behind the book, explaining its themes, tempting you with film versions to watch, and challenging you with discussion questions.

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My first experience of this novel was the best possible! My mother had had the book recommended to her by friends, so she went out and bought a copy, and one summer holiday I lay with my brother and sister on my parents’ bed, and she began to read. We were all entranced. I did not read the book again until I had children of my own. Then, they too lay across the big bed and listened to the adventures of Bilbo and the dwarves, Gandalf and the terrible Smaug.

Recently, when suffering from a bad cold, I read the novel again. As I lay on the sofa, I was once again entranced by the story. I didn’t want to put this book down!

Later, it was interesting to ponder on what I remembered most clearly and passages I had forgotten. What really struck me was the brilliance of the storytelling. Tolkien grabs reader attention with his first line, keeps up the pace all the way through, mingles fear, comfort, suspense and riches in a fabulous mixture, and gives us a story that is memorable and satisfying.

“For it must be understood that this is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. … The Hobbit … will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.”
– C. S. Lewis
Review published in the Times Literary Supplement, 2 October 1937, 714.

The Hobbit lacks what I usually look for in a book – an interesting and developing heroine, a magnetic hero, realistic dialogue about human concerns, a recognisable setting, and a satisfactory romantic conclusion. And yet, in spite of these lacks, I do really love this book and have never found the same appeal in The Lord of the Rings.

So, it’s hard to pin down the appeal of The Hobbit. It’s the tale of a strange-looking middle-aged creature with hairy feet. There’s no romance, and there are encounters with beings that do not actually exist. It was written for children, but is sophisticated enough for an adult reader. It contains deaths and violence. What do we relate to as we read it? Do we all share Bilbo’s love of an easy life at home, yet have lurking within us the desire for strange adventures? Does the book make us discover our own inner-Hobbit?

The story is a brilliant balance between the real and the unreal, the known and unknown. Tolkien mixes the mundane and the mythical, satisfying our unfulfilled wishes as he does so. What child has not longed for the power to be invisible (as J.K. Rowling so well knew when she gave Harry Potter an invisibility cloak). We are given a dragon, treasure and rivers that send you into deep sleep, yet we also have seed cake, pies, and pocket handkerchiefs.

It is also a novel that makes you appreciate ‘Home’. Reading it makes you want to go to the pantry and see what delicious things might be lurking there; it makes you want to curl up at a fireside and stay there until the tale is finished; and it makes you acknowledge the places that mean much to you. Most of us love to travel, but Bilbo so well expresses the power of home that draws us all: “I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing.

No wonder The Hobbit has become a classic.


This Literary Readers’ Guide is a real treat! In it I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. Included are 8 thought-provoking discussion points, perfect for books clubs or just to get you thinking a bit harder yourself.

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Featured image credit- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit. Martin Freeman in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/

Comments (9)

  1. Yes, I do agree with this that The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the world’s favorite novels. I read it more than 10 times yet. By the way, I appreciate the posting as mentioned above in detail. Thanks and keep it up!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Glad you enjoyed the posting and agreed with me about ‘The Hobbit’.

  2. Dominic Lehane

    Yes, I never had the chance to read Tolkien in my childhood years, but I think the stories are very ambivalent in permeating both childhood and adulthood personas, so I don’t think that I am missing out at all!

  3. Dominic Lehane

    I have read The Hobbit novel and The Lord of the Rings novel by J R R Tolkien during the last year. One may guess that my inspiration for this endeavor was the two movie trilogies by Peter Jackson, and that is absolutely true. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed both novels. I liked the blend of mythology/legend/folklore/fairy-tale because I feel that these kind of stories always have an element of the truth and reality in them, and I feel that that experience enriches me greatly. I also loved the journey and the sense of adventure and wonder which that stimulates. One could also not miss the copious detail of the world that Tolkien created which firmly embeds us in his land of fantasy.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Did you miss Tolkien as a child? I am so glad you enjoyed reading them all. Tolkien creates a fabulous sense of adventure and also survival. It’s not wonder his books have become classics and are so loved.

  4. Kevin Byrne

    Got on OK with the Hobbit-never finished Lord of The Rings and I am a dogged reader and like fantasy novels that create complete worlds-but I put Philip Pullman and George RR Martin way above…

  5. Mary-Lou Stephens

    I bought a copy of The Hobbit second hand a while ago and have never got around to reading it. February is the month.

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