Yes, I’m fully aware of how many people must have already read The Hobbit but I’m writing this as a fan.
Take a wizard, a bunch of Dwarves, and a race of people never before heard of, who call themselves Hobbits. Add a quest, Elves and a dragon. Now, what happens when a very homely, unadventurous Hobbit is dragged into the quest by the scheming of the wizard? Worse, this very respectable Hobbit is reported, by the wizard, to be a professional thief whose services are of vital importance to the Dwarves and their quest!
J R R Tolkien introduces us to a world, Middle Earth, that already offers considerable depth in what is a delightful adventure story. More, it is a wonderful blend of sheer imagination, humour and surprisingly powerful characters. For many years, The Hobbit has been catalogued as a childrens story, and it is that, but so much more. It is the primer for the millions of readers who will be so captivated by its vision that they go on to the soaring epic of The Lord of the Rings, and perhaps farther still, to the other works of Tolkien that give us more of the vast history of Middle Earth.
But back to The Hobbit. The hero of the tale is one Bilbo Baggins, respectable bachelor Hobbit of The Shire. The scheming wizard is Gandalf, who has motives of his own, though we must wait for the greater work to discover these. The Dwarves are led by the famed Thorin Oakenshield, heir to the lordship of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. There being thirteen Dwarves, a quest would seem doomed from the start, being such an ill-omened number. Gandalf offers to solve the problem by finding a fourteenth member for the quest. An apparently chance encounter between Gandalf and Bilbo results in the unfortunate Hobbit becoming that fourteenth member.
The quest meets with perils that are familiar to enthusiasts of Norse mythology, such as Trolls and Goblins (Orcs). They also meet friendly Elves (Elrond and his folk) and more hostile ones (Thranduil’s Wood Elves). Strange forest-dwelling men who are shape-changers, enormous eagles and giant spiders also populate this land. Bilbo meets the sinister character of Gollum deep in the mountain fastness of the Orcs, and wins safety through a combination of a riddle game and his finding of a magic ring, which allows him to become invisible. He uses the ring at other times, to save his Dwarf companions.
Through peril, they come at last to Erebor, where Smaug, a Great Dragon, sleeps upon the heaped wealth of the Dwarves. Here, Bilbo is called upon to perform the service he has been employed for. Creeping into the dragon’s lair, wearing the ring, he sets in motion a chain of events which will lead to a climactic scene that is far beyond most ordinary adventure tales.
Tolkien weaves his tale with consummate skill. He never talks down to his audience, nor does he do more than hint at greater matters, allowing the reader to discover the many hooks to the epic that awaits in The Lord of the Rings. True, The Hobbit was written for those generations of children who had books as their greatest entertainments. Many modern children may have difficulty sticking with it, but those that do will be enthralled. It is one of those books which deserves to be read.