Tomorrow, my brother and I are finally going to go see The Hobbit. Yes, we might be the only two people on earth not to have seen it, but I wanted to see it with him and juggling schedules has been a challenge, to stay the least. But then, as Bilbo learns, nothing worth while doing is ever easy. To prepare for this treat, I thought it would be a good idea to reread The Hobbit.
I read it when I was in my early teens, someone gave me a copy because I loved fantasy and they thought I should start off with the “best that there was”.
I really did enjoy it. I remember that. But I haven’t read it since, though I did read its younger brothers;The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, and The Return of the King more recently.
The things that struck me (as I was reading on break at work tonight and trying NOT to get salad dressing on the pages of my copy) were that 1.) I was delighted that I had to buy my copy to read before seeing the movie (my library has copies but the wait for one is now at three months) due to the demand for the book, 2.) it’s funny that a book written in 1937 still resonates with readers and 3.) this story really isn’t for kids.
On the surface, it’s a coming of age story about a little insignificant man who is tricked into an adventure and finds out that he’s more courageous, more daring, and more fierce than even he knows.
Scratch the veneer of that away, and a complex wheels-within-wheels story of archetypes and ideas comes into view, working like clock work with several ghosts in the machine. Middle Earth is a moral world with absolute rights and wrongs. Decision made that are nearly right, or mostly right, lead to nearly or mostly dead characters. Tolkien’s world stands on a sharp pivot point and one protagonist leaning too far into the darkness, even for the right reasons, throws the whole thing into topsy-turvy turmoil. But then a man might lean the other way, and pull with himself, his companions out of the chaos of a fallen realm. There are so many amazing lessons, most of which Bilbo learns by doing the wrong thing. He fails his very first test with the trolls. But thinking back to that moment, later, Bilbo doesn’t fail. He makes the painful, costly, right decision and suffers for it as he didn’t suffer at the hands of the trolls.
In this wonderful clockwork land where a villain might have been a prince at one time, and a prince might have been a villain, there are seconds of redemption and minutes of hope among its dark hour-long stretches of evil. And that’s exactly why it’s endured for over 75 years.
We readers still want to see the hope and redemption of our world and our neighbors in the dark hours we face. I take solace in the fact that if an ordinary little fellow like Bilbo might grow into an elf-friend and adventurer, then I might one day to grow beyond my safe shell and when my world needs me the most, do the right and costly thing to take my place beside the heroes of my age.
What about The Hobbit intrigues you? Or infuriates you? It’s not a book for everyone, I know that. Don’t compare it to the movie, just tell me what you like or don’t about the book itself.