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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.
Add more enjoyment to your copy of J.R.R. Tolkien& The HobbitLiterary Reader's Guide at its online companion page. Susannah has prepared these recommended resources to accompany J.R.R. Tolkien& The Hobbit.
Featured image credit- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit. Martin Freeman in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/
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