I first read The Hobbit when I was twelve. At the time, I was just starting to get into fantasy literature, and The Hobbit was everything I could have hoped for in a book. It opened up a whole new world for me: a world of interesting creatures, a history far more interesting than our own (so I thought at the time), and epic quests.
In the years since, I’ve had ups and downs with fantasy. I started reading some other series of books but grew weary when they seemed too obviously similar to Tolkien and his Middle Earth. I read more of Tolkien’s work (including The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Children of Húrin), read up on the languages of Middle Earth, and watched the Lord of the Rings movies many, many times.
But I never revisited The Hobbit until a few months ago.
I’d always wanted to reread The Hobbit, and with Peter Jackson’s first of three film adaptations in due December, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the book this past fall. What happened was not what I was expecting.
The story of The Hobbit is a great one, and Tolkein’s world building blows many other fantasy series out of the water. Of course, it’s nowhere near the level of detail found in The Lord of the Rings, but it doesn’t need to be. The Hobbit is the simple tale of a hobbit who goes on an adventure with a group of dwarves – and ends up coming home with much more than he bargained for.
But for the vast majority of the time, I was bored with The Hobbit. I had gotten so used to Tolkien’s more academic style in his later books that the writing of The Hobbit seemed, well, simple. I realize that Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for children, but I couldn’t get myself back into the right mindset to enjoy it.
This is not to discount The Hobbit on a literary level. As I delved further into the book, I found myself able to admire it. I thought about the characters more than I did when I was twelve. I wanted to know more about each of the dwarves. I wondered if Bilbo’s actions in “Riddles in the Dark” were ethical or warranted (feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comments).
If rereading The Hobbit taught me one thing, it’s that I need to regain my sense of wonder while reading. Lately, most of the reading I’ve done has been scholarly articles and chapters of academic books for my coursework. While the Classics Club has helped me ensure that I’m keeping some leisure reading, it’s clearly not enough. I want to be able to enjoy works like The Hobbit again.
I think it might be time for me to dip back into fantasy literature.
What do you make of The Hobbit? If you’ve read it more than once, did you find that your perception of it changed?
This was Book #9 off my Classics Club list. To view the rest of it, click here.