There are certain books that hold a special place in my heart. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of them. My dad read this book to me several times when I was younger and I recently finished reading it out loud to my wife. The language can be tough for some readers but I found the same problem when I was reading Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in high school. The solution: reading it out loud.
I don’t know what it is about this type of book but it becomes a different story when the words are projected from the pages for an audience to hear. After reading it to my wife she said, and I paraphrase: “I don’t think I would have liked it if you (me) hadn’t read it out loud.”
Now this book has received more hype with the production of the three part movie by Peter Jackson, but don’t try and compare the two. I mean really: don’t try. There isn’t much more than names and locations to compare. But this is a topic for another time. To make a long discussion shorter: read the book. It is so different and so much better than the movie. So if you want the full experience, find a way to listen to it.
Tolkien was a professor at Pembroke College when he came up with the idea that would eventually develop into this timeless classic. While grading papers he came across a blank page and wrote: “In a hole there lived a hobbit.” And the rest is history… literally. He was strongly influenced by Norse mythology for this book and all the other Middle Earth novels. For those of you who don’t know, Norse mythology includes Thor and Loki who have become more well-known in the new Marvel movies.
The reason I love this book so much is because it is an archetype for the simple fantasy adventure. Bilbo is hired as a burglar for a group of dwarves who are going to travel across the country to defeat a dragon and win back their home and fortune. Along the way they encounter various monsters and dangers and after a struggle for the riches, Bilbo will return home a new man (or hobbit).
There are some slow parts that Tolkien is known for, though most of them are important to the plot so struggle through if you have to. If you have to skip sections then you’ll probably still understand everything.
So for me this is a special book. I’m very excited about my new copy, the one I’m proudly displaying on my dining room table, and like to admire it on my bookshelf. That and I occasionally enjoy reading it as well. It contains one of my all-time favorite characters and it’s a book I can read countless times. I know not every book is for everyone, but I think everyone should read this one or The Lord of the Rings, especially if you are interested in fantasy.