Nerd Talk: 80 years in a hobbit-hole

Megan Roth’s bi-weekly column about pop culture and all things nerdy

It is amazing and a little hard to believe the classic novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien turned 80-years-old on Sept. 21.

The Hobbit, also known as “There and Back Again”, was originally published as a children’s or juvenile novel., and was almost instantly a success.

The story, as I’m sure many now know, is told in episodic quests as the book’s hero Bilbo Baggins ventures from the safe Shire on an adventure to defeat Smaug the Dragon and return Thorin Oakenshield to the Throne Under the Mountain.

At the time many readers and critics compared the work to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, probably because of the use of dragons, and dragon-like creatures. In The Hobbit it was Smaug in Alice in Wonderland it was a dragon-like creature known as the Jabberwocky.

I actually came to read The Hobbit as a child, a little while before the first Lord of the Rings movie came out in 2001.

It wasn’t the first book I read that would have normally been considered beyond a child’s purview. Before that I had read Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, and was looking for something a little different.

I was in Grade 4 when I started my foray into the world of fantasy and high fantasy. Though the first books to begin my introduction into this world were the Bailey School Kids Books, though those quickly became to easy to read.

It was around this time I started reading the Dragonlance novels from my local library. It was because of these books, I think I was introduced to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

The next book in the series of Dragonlance books was checked out, and I refused to continue reading the series without the missing step. Sp, I asked my librarian for a suggestion.

I should make it clear, even though I was young I was fairly well known at my librarian. By the time I graduated high school in Moose Jaw the librarians at the public library knew me by name.

This librarians suggested the Lord of the Rings to me, she actually skipped right over The Hobbit. Which made me rather distraught when I got home later that day to begin reading only to find it was a continuation of another book.

When I finally got my hands on a copy I was immediately enthralled.

“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.”

Not even Harry Potter – which I love truly and dearly – had captured me so entirely with the opening sentence.

What is a hobbit? Why does it live in a hole? Why does a hobbit-hole mean comfort?

The unique introduction caught me, and held me the entire way through.

I read all 300 pages of the book in one sitting. I don’t even remember breaking for lunch, though I had to stop for supper. I read into the night, well passed my bedtime.

But I had to know. Do they make it to the Lonely Mountain? Will Thorin and the others regain their home? Will Bilbo make it home to his hole? What on earth is a Gollum?

That last question wasn’t really answered until I made my way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

What amazing me, is I’m not the only one with experiences like this. Children and adults have been introduced to this novel and series as young adults or children and it has stick with them in many ways.

Some came to the series through media. Did you know there is an animated version of the Hobbit from the ‘70s? I didn’t until a couple of years ago.

After 80 years this story of a little hobbit taking a risk and going on an adventure has stayed with everyone.

I’m not lie when I tell you this book has made me look at almost any outing as an adventure, all because of the risk of a hobbit.

This will be a book I share for years to come. While I don’t have any children, I will hassle it with my nieces and nephews, maybe one day I will share it with my own children and grandchildren. Because the story of Bilbo, and that of his nephew Frodo, will be told for years to come.

megan.roth@sylvanlakenews.com

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