There’s beauty in simplicity.
In my lifetime I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books, from dense classics like The Iliad to every Dr. Seuss classic under the sun, and I am constantly struck by the fact that a children’s story can often be as poignant, if not more so, than any work written for scholars and the like. Maybe it’s because I’m a child at heart, or perhaps it’s just because I had great parents who read to me constantly when I was too young to read myself. Either way, my love of Children’s literature has long run deep, and when it comes to that sort of thing, as in most things, I’m loyal to a fault.
But there is a peculiar magic in the way in which Tolkien tells a tale, however long said tale might have grown in the telling. He weaves words together with a precision and skill I could never hope to match, and there’s no contesting that he’s the father of modern fantasy. But one of the things I love best about Tolkien is that he wrote a children’s story that can be fascinate even the most ardent adult.
It’s common knowledge that Tolkien intended to go back to The Hobbit and rewrite it in the style he used for The Lord of the Rings. He wasn’t happy with it’s being labeled a “children’s book” because the story is, of course, much deeper than that. But honestly, I’m glad he never had the chance. The magic of Bilbo Baggins’ tale is that it’s a quiet and simple one. It may not have the grand air of the epic adventures found in Tolkien’s later works, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’ve heard many who had trouble getting into Fellowship claim that they had no trouble at all with The Hobbit, because it’s written plain as day for any who care to read it.
Of course, when I set out to re-read this book last week, I was excited to find myself back in the shire with Bilbo, as it’s one of my favorite places to be. After all, this blog was named for his story, and I feel a kinship with our unlikely little hero. I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed.
The Hobbit never stops amazing me.
Who but Tolkien could write a story in such a way as this? He narrates beautifully, speaking in such an honest way that it’s easy to forget that the tidings of Middle Earth are fiction and not history. The cleverness never stops – one minute he’s discussing quests and dwarves and far flung places you’ve never heard of and the next he’s telling you how a hobbit invented the game of golf, quite by accident, during a goblin battle many centuries ago. And by the end of the story I always feel as though Middle Earth and all her histories are true, and I long to be there, walking the great paths from the shire to the great house of Elrond and on through Mirkwood until I too am standing at the edge of the Lonely Mountain.
I could write for days about how incredible Tolkien’s prose is and, indeed, I would if I had the time. But the true beauty of Bilbo’s tale lies in it’s simple nature. At it’s heart this is a story about bravery, even in the face of fear; sticking together through adventures, even when they turn grim instead of grand; friendship, even when hope seems lost. This is a warning of the dangerous of greed, and a word to the wise about remembering the important things in life. It’s not as complicated as other stories, but it’s got a infinitely greater sense of purpose, and oh so much heart. In the end, it’s a reminder that even the smallest among us can do great things.
There’s so much to love about that.
And, before I leave you, I have to mention that this story is rife with quotes worthy of any parlay pro. My favorites being, “Never laugh at live dragons!” and “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
I certainly wouldn’t even attempt to argue with that.
If you haven’t read this book, you really shouldn’t wait a moment more. Go, buy it (preferably an edition with Tolkien’s own artwork included), and tuck yourself away for a day or two to read. You won’t regret it.
Rating: N/A. TOLKIEN IS ABOVE ANY RATING SYSTEM KNOWN TO MAN.
Overall Reaction: LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE (Tolkien evokes the caps lock button in my inner thoughts).