I imagine a lot of people will be reading the Hobbit over the next couple of month. Peter Jackson’s movie comes out Dec 13. (I am still irritated that they are making this into a multi part release.)
One interesting feature of the Hobbit is that is has been studied academically quite well. One professor has released his academic lectures on the Hobbit online so the interested reader can listen in. (I listened to some of them.)
It is hard to remember, but I think I watched the 1977 cartoon before I read the book. So my current re-reading is probably influenced as much by my vague memories of the cartoon as much as my vague memories of the book.
I have never purchased the audiobooks of Tolkien’s books because until recently there was not an unabridged version available. I am glad that I listened to the Hobbit on audio. I have the bad habit of skimming Tolkien’s songs and verse. And the songs and verse are important to Tolkien. For all of the problems of the productions of the audiobook (lots of random blank space and poorly edited audio passages), Rob Inglis has a great voice for the book and masterfully sang all of the songs.
I assume everyone has a background in the Hobbit so I will keep the summary short. Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit. A people that are known for their lack of adventures. Gandalf, the wizard, recruits Bilbo to be a burglar for a group of 13 Dwarves. The Dwarves are trying to steal back the gold, and the mountain that has been taken by the dragon Smaug. Much of the action is simply getting to the mountain. I assume that the first movie will only cover the journey.
This is a children’s book. It is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings books, but the Lord of the Rings are books for adults or older teens. The writing and pacing are clearly not for children. The Hobbit however is one of those books that I think should be read as a child. It is long for a children’s book and listed as a 7th grade reading level. But if you read to kids, this is one that I would read to them at around 10.
Tolkien did not believe in playing down to children. People die in this book. Difficult things happen. But it also feels like a fantasy story and it is told in a way that eases at least some of the violence and suspense.
If you have not read it, or it has been a while, go back and read it before you go see the movie.
My last note is that this ia good example of a Christian working with art, not propaganda or even covert evangelism. Tolkien did not want to create the allegorical Christian stories that his friend CS Lewis was writing. Instead he wanted to create a book that would stand on its own. His Christian values do show through occasionally. But this is not a work of ‘Christian literature’. While I am fully supportive of those that do work in Christian literature or theology, I really want to celebrate those Christians that are just trying to create good art. In many ways they are more important to the idea of vocation than those of us that are ‘professional Christians.’
Note: This books is whispersync enabled. So it is possible to alternate between the audio and kindle versions of the book. If you purchase the kindle version first (currently $7.11) you can get the Audible.com version for $6.99. The normal price of the audiobook is almost $20 or 1 Audible Credit if you are a member.