Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”

In case you didn’t know, this week is Tolkien Week around the world. Each year fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings observe the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins on September 22.

In 2012, an added incentive to celebrate is the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, the book that introduced the world to Middle Earth. If you have never read The Hobbit, shame on you! Click this link right now and get a copy of it for yourself and for your kids (if you have any). I first read this story at the age of 6; my two oldest sons read it at ages 6 and 7, respectively. Son #2 finished it a couple of weeks ago and has been talking about it ever since.

I want to stress, though, that The Hobbit is not only a story for kids. In fact, my friend and colleague Corey Olsen, AKA The Tolkien Professor, has a new book hitting the stores this week titled Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” that shows the grown-up side of this classic.

Having listened to the lectures on which the book is based, and having spent around 100 hours (at last count) talking Tolkien with Dr. Olsen, I feel pretty confident in saying that this is a book any Tolkien fan would enjoy and learn from. It is organized as a reader’s companion to the novel, proceeding chapter by chapter and giving great insights every step of the way. For example, Olsen demonstrates that the The Hobbit presents a sophisticated treatment of complex themes, such as the tension between fate and free will. Also, Olsen stresses the value of paying attention to the songs and poems sprinkled throughout the novel (I confess, I used to skip over them) because they tell you important things about the characters and events in the story.

I know what you’re thinking: a work of serious literary criticism on The Hobbit must be incomparably dull, right? Not so! Olsen’s writing style is very engaging and direct. There’s no jargon or condescending attitude. Olsen’s goal from the beginning of his work as a podcaster has been to bring serious scholarship to the masses, and he does it well. Everyone is recognizing his talent, as exemplified by his being quoted in this week’s USA Today article on the Tolkien anniversary.

So head on over to Amazon.com and get your copy of a book that will enrich your understanding of one of the 20th century’s greatest authors. It will probably even enhance your enjoyment of the upcoming Hobbit film by Peter Jackson!

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About Dr. J

I am an Associate Professor and head of the Department of Humanities at Faulkner University. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy.
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2 Responses to Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”

  1. Matt says:

    My 13 yo son finished this book in two days. He has also read the Simarilion several times and listened to all the Tolkien Professor’s podcasts. Can’t wait to top all this off with the movie in December.

  2. Pingback: Tolkien Professor on NPR | The Western Tradition

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