It wasn’t easy, but I recently got rid of all the TV-watching in my life, and I am trying to do away with the useless things I do on the web (I’m looking at you, Reddit!). To fill the newly opened slots of time in my day, I have taken up reading books and practicing music. I started to jot down a grocery list-like catalog of books to check out next time I go to the bookstore, and it quickly spiraled into a back-logged lineup that will take a while to finish, (I will include what I have so far in this Google doc, and probably update it from there.
Said list begins with none other than the magnificent J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. No true fantasy novel reader’s library would be complete with out this 1937 classic. The novel follows Bilbo Baggins, a reserved hobbit who never did anything out of the ordinary, until one day he meets the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves, who sing of reclaiming their treasure from the Lonely Mountain, which has been taken over by the dragon Smaug. Together they kindle the adventurous side of Bilbo, and embark on a journey through dark forests and raging storms, past goblins, and werewolves, and orcs. Although Bilbo starts off as little more than a burden on the others at the beginning of the story, he ends up being the possible most heroic and invaluable member of the team. It shows that there is some inner, if undeveloped, heroism that exists in everyone, whether one’s a mighty hero or even a simple hobbit.
The interesting thing about this book is that while it is a fictional fairy tale, some of the ideas and motifs it includes, such as warfare, mirror the authors life. Many believe that the Battle of Five Armies, the fight that ensued as soon as the dragon was slain– with elves, dwarves, and men on one side, and the Wargs and goblins on the other– was influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s own history as a World War I veteran.
Although it is labeled a children’s novel, one can never really grow out of it. It was extremely enjoyable to me in my first reading of it now at 15 years of age. I would suggest this to anyone who likes fantasy novels, adventure novels, fairy tales, Norse myths, or any other mythology for that matter. I would also urge anyone who liked the movie to read the book. I have not seen the movie myself, as of yet, and, unfortunately, I hear it is nowhere near as good as the book. So even if you didn’t like the movie, read the book; it’s great.