Saturday, December 14, 2013

There and Back Again

The Hobbit or There and Back Again
J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the fourth time I’ve read The Hobbit. Or the fifth; I can’t remember. I’m not exaggerating or embellishing—that’s just the truth. For me, The Hobbit was one of those books I grew up with and have no problem reading repeatedly. That book, the one that has been so well loved that the cover is falling off, is probably different for you. This is the book that you fell asleep to, that you could imagine in vivid detail. It might be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or The Golden Compass.  It might be about Peter Rabbit, Harry Potter, or Wild Things. 

Even though I can’t remember how many times I’ve gone back, I will never forget the first time I read The Hobbit. Or, rather, when my father first read it to me. Being a theatre and English teacher at the time, he didn’t just read the book, he put on a show. He sang all the songs and did all the voices. I can still hear the tune to the dwarves’ song, which is uncannily similar to the one recently featured in the new film. Curious. So with these vivid childhood memories, I was ready to crack the cover again and see if The Hobbit held as much magic as I remember.

It holds so much more. Just like I couldn’t comprehend the blatant religious undertones in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe upon reading it for the first time, at ten, I had never fully grasped the grandness of the world Tolkien created. Being about ten times shorter than The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit is not nearly as detailed (and by that I mean containing minute descriptions of the specific variety of pipe-weed that is preferred among Hobbits – Old Toby in case you were wondering) even though the journey is quite as spectacular.

The fantastic thing about The Hobbit is that it was specifically constructed with children in mind—indeed Tolkien’s own children—where each chapter is a short adventure story, self-contained and satisfying. You might read about an encounter with three trolls in the moonlight, or a whole army of goblins hidden inside a mountain. Tolkien’s writing is so masterful that it can content both the child listening, the parent narrating, and the twenty-something cracking the cover for the umpteenth time. For the more mature reader, there are larger plot arcs and subtle connections to the sequel, The Fellowship of the Ring, where readers are rewarded for their attention to detail. So upon my latest reading of The Hobbit, I was contented to experience a healthy dose of nostalgia, a rejuvenation of childhood wonder, and a smug sense of “oh, that’s what that means.” 

Enjoyable, there and back again.

-Michelle Hunniford

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