Also known as There and Back Again, this timeless adventure story was published in 1937, and originally written for Tolkien’s very own children. Nearly a century in the future, and that is exactly how it still sounds. Throw together a hero who is destined to make peace between good and evil with the most gentle, light-hearted narrator you will ever hear (seriously, imagine Morgan Freeman is reading this to you, thank me later) and you have the perfect bedtime story for any age. There is one of many observations in this book, where Tolkien muses that a story of a good time is often too quickly told, but a story of an evil time requires a great many words to recount the events thereof. This observation almost perfectly accounts for the difference between The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, which would become one of the most epic trilogies of all time. This book is famous for more than just its incredible ability to take us on an adventure, but because it is the prologue for so much more.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit much like any other. He enjoys days of living barefoot, blowing smoke rings, and a wholesome second breakfast. A quiet and unpretentious life.
Bilbo is living peacefully in his home at Bag End in Hobbiton when one day his small world is turned upside down by the arrival of Gandalf, a well-respected wizard who is widely known for always having his nose in an adventure, and a killer fireworks show. Gandalf arrives uninvited in Bilbo’s home along with 13 dwarves, who have chosen Bilbo to come on an adventure with them. Gandalf and the dwarves explain that they are on a quest to travel across Middle Earth to reclaim an ancient treasure from a giant, marauding dragon by the name of Smaug. On this episode of Hoarders, we visit the home of Smaug, a giant cavern under a mountain filled with treasure a dragon couldn’t possibly have any use for. Unfortunately for the band of travelers, Bilbo thinks the only good that can come of an adventure is making him late to dinner.
But Gandalf knows there is more to Bilbo than just hairy toes. You see, Bilbo has Took blood running through his veins; his mother’s side of the family, and the Tooks were notorious for their adventurous nature. Gandalf manages to exploit this weakness, and Bilbo finds himself coming along for the journey as the “burglar”- the one who will sneak in and steal the treasure from under Smaug’s snout.
“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
Along the way, Bilbo finds himself pick-pocketing a troll named William, taken prisoner by goblins, plays riddles for his life with a creature named Gollum, battles giant spiders in the dark forest (no invisible flying car to help him here), finds shelter with a vegetarian bear, and escapes an elvish prison in a wine barrel. Bilbo and his companions are constantly out of the frying pan and into the fire, as they are tossed from one bad situation to the next. The hobbit and the gang are able to make it thanks to a powerful ring that Bilbo manages to steal from Gollum, a ring that turns its wearer invisible. A ring that will go on to shape an even greater adventure in Tolkien’s writing career. After a major slump in the quality of the last few weeks of books, The Hobbit was the perfect story to come across. If you are like me and need an escape from reality for a time, I highly recommend this book. I promise it will take you there and back again.
Thank you for reading what I have to say about books! Next week’s book is just as incredible if you can believe it! Stick around for my review of a new book, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.