This month we are celebrating Tolkien Week, in honor of the life and accomplishments of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. As part of the celebration, here's an article on his first work, and a perennial favorite for Summer Reading, The Hobbit.
Mr. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit following his military service in World War I, and published the book in 1937. The Hobbit, based on Tolkien's experience touring Europe and serving in the British Army, tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a bachelor of good breeding with a very nice home and a respected place in society, who has forgotten about the whimsical days of his childhood. One afternoon, the wizard Gandalf pays him a visit and enlists his reluctant aid in an adventure: join the company of Thorin Oakenshield, Prince of the Dwarves, and help reclaim the fabled treasure of the dwarves stolen by the wicked dragon Smaug.
The Hobbit proved itself to be immediately popular on numerous levels; not only is it well written and tells a relatable 'fish-out-of-water tale', it takes place in a fantasy world that is both fantastic but also familiar. Over time, Bilbo grows as a person, learning valuable lessons but also proving his mettle in various dangerous tasks, ranging from stealing from trolls and sneaking through caves infested with goblins, to rescuing his new friends from spiders, elves, and many other dangerous threats, leading up to the confrontation with Smaug.
Over the years, The Hobbit has been reprinted and republished by a variety of publishing companies and editors. The St. Tammany Parish Library has several in our system, including:
We also have it available as an ebook:
The Hobbit started out as a friendly children's story, but Tolkien had a larger vision in mind. Shortly after his first publication, he began work on a new trilogy of books, that eventually became The Lord of the Rings. We'll talk about those later though.
Over the years, The Hobbit has also inspired movies. In fact, there were two, the latter being expanded into a whole trilogy of films.
The first movie came out in 1977, under the production of Rankin-Bass and animated by Top Craft (the same team behind The Last Unicorn), the Japanese studio that eventually became Studio Ghibli. The movie covers the entire book, and is fairly accurate to the story. The team also did a follow-up movie based on the Lord of the Rings, but that is a story for another article.
More recently, Warner Brothers picked up the rights to a live-action version of the story. Peter Jackson, who originally produced and directed The Lord of the Rings movies in the mid-2000s, also produced and directed these movies. Though originally imagined as a pair and with another director at the helm, Jackson took on full responsibility and expanded it to three movies, that for the most part, cover the whole story while also fleshing out a few minor characters who were expanded on in later books.
Also a fan of The Hobbit? Did you have to work on a book report this summer, watch one of the movies, or just feel like revisiting a classic? Leave us a comment with your thoughts, and stay-tuned later this month for another article on Mr. Tolkien himself.