There are few things more enjoyable than a good read and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, is a remarkably good read! Though written for children, it is also an appropriate book for adults. The Misfits recommend it as an exciting tale of adventure or for anyone who has not read Tolkien.
The story opens with a look into the habitation of a hobbit: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." Misfit McGrath sent this link to a website that shows a recreated Hobbit Hole: http://www.zdnet.com/photos/a-handmade-hobbit-hole-photos/422986?tag=mantle_skin;content
In the story, Tolkien creates an entire world called, Wilderland. This magical world is populated by dwarfs, goblins (orcs) elves, hobbits, and men. Tolkien later employs the geography and spiritual world he created for The Hobbit in The Lord of the Rings trilogy which continues the saga of Bilbo Baggins and the creatures that inhabit Wilderland.
We learn early in the The Hobbit that our hobbit hero, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, will have to leave his life of comfort behind and go on a long adventure with thirteen dwarves and one wizard. This is a real challenge for Bilbo as hobbits live lives devoted to, well, being comfortable. Bilbo describes Hobbits as "plain, quiet creatures." They try to avoid all adventures as they "make one late for dinner." In the story, Bilbo will miss many dinners and endure great discomforts before he is able to return to his hobbit hole home.
Bilbo's adventure starts with a visit from the Gray Wizard, Gandalf, and thirteen dwarfs. They ask Bilbo to accompany them on an expedition to kill the dragon, Smaug, and reclaim the treasure Smaug had stolen from the dwarfs. On the journey to kill the dragon, our reluctant hero and the dwarfs meet giant spiders, hostile elves, ravening wolves, and a fearsome subterranean creature named Gollum. It is from Gollum that Bilbo comes to win a magical ring in a riddling contest. The Lord of the Rings eventually develops, in part, from this life and death game in the depths of Gollum's cave.
Misfit Brad Lindberg brought some CD’s with recordings of Tolkien reading passages from The Hobbit. Listening to Tolkien read from The Hobbit demonstrates that this is a story that “tells” well and is especially enjoyable to listen to. Hint, hint…read it to your children and/or grandchildren.
Now on to the future:
For June, 2010, we will read one of Tolstoy’s great short novels, The Death of Ivan Ilych. This work is a masterpiece of short fiction and appears in any anthology of short stories or novellas. It is a story that is often painful to read. As described by Tolstoy, the chief desire of Ivan Ilych and his aristocratic class is to live a pleasant and regular life. Unfortunately, death intrudes and Ivan is forced to undergo the primal experience of a very painful death. We will have much to discuss after reading this moving, often terrifying portrayal of a man’s final hours of mortality. The Death of Ivan Ilych, can be found in The Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy (Harper Perennial Modern Classics). It is available from Amazon for $12.47.
In July, 2010, we will continue our exploration of great short story collections by reading Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground. This classic can be found in Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky (Perennial Classics). The book is available from Amazon for $12.47.
Read on, read on.