Thursday, February 21, 2019

Updated: The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again ... and Related Reading

I wrote this back in 2012 and was looking it over because my Catholic women's book club is going to read The Lord of the Rings. I've added a few new resources.

Man oh man. I reread this for an upcoming discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. The Hobbit is the flavor of the month just at present thanks to the upcoming movie, so I'm sure I'm not the only one rereading and finding new insights.

It was still really good even though this is the umpteenth time I've read this classic. I took the opportunity to get the audiobook from the library because I wanted to pay special attention to the songs and poems which were so important to Tolkien but which I always tended to skip right over. I enjoyed being forced, as it were, to listen to them line by line because each time it gave me insight into the singer (or singers, as the case may be).

And can I just mention that Bilbo's burgling career gave me courage for something that I was going to try for the first time? (Not burgling, by the way.) So it is inspirational too. No, I'm not telling. You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear that story.

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)We're not really surprised, are we, that I just finished The Hobbit and then had to hurry right on to my favorite of The Lord of the Ring trilogy? Of course we're not.

Rob Inglis' narration in The Hobbit wasn't perfect (meaning that his interpretation of various voices was not as I "heard" them in my mind's ear), however it was good enough. I'm interested to hear how he handles The Fellowship.

Key to my renewed enjoyment of Tolkien is The Tolkien Professor's 8-part series on The Hobbit and the fact that he's posted his lectures on the Lord of the Rings trilogy from his Tolkien class. He has really helped me to see below the surface of these very enjoyable stories to the Catholic worldview that anchored Tolkien and his storytelling.

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit by Corey Olsen
This is the book that Corey Olsen wrote after his Tolkien Professor classes (see above) got popular. I love this book a lot. If you want to skip the podcasts, read this.

As many others have commented, I agree that one of the great strengths of this book is that Olsen only discusses The Hobbit, not The Lord of the Rings. As well, he uses a professorial style in simply pointing out things instead of hammering home his own conclusions repeatedly. It is refreshing and thought provoking, just as the best teaching should be.

The Annotated Hobbit: The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
All right, I admit I looked through this quickly, stopping to read whenever the author was NOT giving the original text of the story in the sidebar. Although it is interesting that the original story was retooled to give it more links with The Lord of the Rings, once it became clear that Tolkien was writing something on a larger scale ... as I say, that is interesting but I don't care to read the original.

What this book did, though, was awaken my respect for Tolkien as an artist and illustrator. I had no idea that he was so good at that aspect of story telling. For example, that book cover for the Hobbit at the top of this post was done by Tolkien himself.

Lessons in Manliness: The Hobbit
I do love this blog and it often has some of the most insightful articles. This is one such which isn't long but makes good points.
When it was originally published, it was put into the children’s category and even won prizes for best juvenile fiction that year. Tolkien himself, however, said that a simple tale like The Hobbit can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, making it a great story to read with your kids. ...

There are many lessons we can glean from The Hobbit, but we’ll focus on just a few of this classic tale’s most salient takeaways.

My Tolkien resources: get 'em here!


  1. Julie, have you read Tolkien's letters, by any chance( They add so much depth to the significance of his stories, creative process, and tremendous warmth of his heart (not to mention his faith). In his letters, Tolkien frequently frets over the maps and illustrations, thinking himself a miserable artist (perhaps he was always so preoccupied with publisher's opinions, but this seemed to be his objective view). If I remember correctly, he was very particular about the placing of the plates in the book-he didn't want them inserted where the printer felt they were most convenient. Even if he thought himself a poor artist, he had a strong sense of the role of images in the cross-fertilization of story and imagination.

  2. I just became aware of them about a week ago and put them on my Amazon wish list. :-)

    I know that reading The Habit of Being made me feel as if Flannery O'Connor and I were good friends. That made me understand the power of letters.

    Our library might have it and that will be my next visit if I don't get it for Christmas. By the way, speaking of libraries, I have been checking out your blog. What a treat! I completely agree with your post about e-readers (my Kindle is handy for reading review pdfs, etc. but I like a real book best ... no recharging, etc.).

  3. Both Tolkien's letters and the biography by Humphrey Carpenter are well worth reading. Owning really, I got them from the library and wish I had them for rereading

  4. Gah, The blogger iPad bug struck and I got cut off.

    Also, I love Rob Inglis's reading. He doesn't really DO voices, and he has a marvellous voice of his own. When I have trouble sleeping, I like to flip the LotR on somewhere - I find voices reading much more soothing than music when I'm trying to sleep. It quiets the mind somehow.

    Oh, and his singing! *love* He really does the songs justice, IMO!

  5. I'm reading it now for the first time. Your sites will be helpful.

    By the way, nothing to do with Tolkein, but have you ever read My Antonia by Willa Cather? Just finished it today and wow was that a great novel. Where was that one all my life?

    1. I haven't read that but a few months ago I read Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather ... loved it! I'll add My Antonia to my list. :-)

  6. The recorded LOTR was good but the music in The Hobbit was unlistenable. It was the same lilting happy melody regardless of the lyrics. "Oh no the dragon came and killed our families and exiled us from our homes, fa la la la la" "Down we go to goblin town where we will torture you to death and eat you, fa la la la la."
    I fast forward thru it all.

  7. Actually, I'm finding that Rob Inglis is doing a much better job in The Fellowship of the Ring. He does do voices but he's changed them around a bit and the ones for this book suit my mind's ear better.

    TerentiaJ ... I can imagine how annoying that singing was for someone who was paying attention to the tune. :-)

    However, I have to admit that, since I always skipped the words themselves when reading, that I was fine with anything so long as it allowed me to force myself to listen. Which it did. :-)