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The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien, written and released successfully in 1937, faces the difficult task of measuring up against one of the best-selling and well-loved novels ever written, it’s sequel, The Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s introductory attempt, a shallow depth of plot and hollow characters, due in part to it’s place in the children’s literature genre, keep the novel from achieving the substance and maturity of its successor. On the other hand, its strengths come from the seedlings of great character and story development and the sparks of imagination and creativity, which leave the adult reader ready for more. The Hobbit is a good fantasy tale, popularized and enjoyed due to its own merits, but also supplemented by The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien creates a captivating fantasy ripe with fantastical characters, settings, and adventure, which has the ability to capture the attentions of readers of all age groups, while also preparing them for future, more advanced stories. The Hobbit introduces a world of wizards, hobbits, elves and dwarves; the reader is entertained and amused envisioning another world, Middle Earth, different creatures, and how they live and interact together. Although the story’s messages and universal themes about good versus evil are interpretable and relatable for readers of all ages, which makes it less eventful and mature than The Lord of the Rings, it isn’t necessarily simple or one-dimensional. Those approaching the text on the surface, enjoy an exciting fairytale; still, others who analyze and critique characters, plot, and setting find deeper meaning and pleasure. Tolkien’s text satisfies all in different ways, because each reader can take as much or as little from the story as he or she prefers.

The reader notices with delight, that The Hobbit begins an extended process of maturation among the characters and storylines, which continues throughout the series. Tolkien uses caution when divulging information about characters, only sharing  information in the present, which builds suspense and keeps each character in a state of constant development along with the story. The chapter, “Riddles in the Dark,” is telling of the novel as a whole, because the reader begins to understand Bilbo’s importance, and it contains the origins of the next novel. Presented as a slowly escalating series of moments, riddles, and answers, the scene is essential to the advancement of the story. Bilbo finds a ring in the mountains and hides it in his pocket. Tolkien writes, “It was the turning point of his career, though he did not know it yet.” (68)  The novel continues and ends without much more explanation for the ring, its power, or purpose. Still, a shift occurs, because before, Bilbo and the reader have no knowledge of Gollum or the ring, and after he and the reader start uncovering secrets and learning background information, which are important as the novel progresses.

The author builds a world of fantasy and adventure combined with characters who grow in dimension and complexity as the story evolves, so the reader wants to know what will happen in the next line, on the next page, in the next book. There is something compelling and relaxing about a book that a child adores and adult appreciates. There are moments of greatness in The Hobbit to be shared by readers of all kinds.

Final Rating 3 out 5 Stars

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The Hobbit