Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Good books are repeatable. The best books are endlessly repeatable. I don't have any idea how many times I've read The Hobbit at this point in my life but it wouldn't surprise me at all if that number was above fifty.
This time around the novel was even easier than it's always been - I raced through it and it felt like coming home. I couldn't get Middle Earth out of my head after finishing The Silmarillion and so The Hobbit was the next obvious choice (at least in the chronology of the major Middle Earth books). I can't tell if it's just that Bilbo's story is so much easier to read than the tales of the Elves, or if it really is a very simple book, or if I've just read the book so many times now that I don't really have to focus on the words to get into the story. Honestly I don't think it's any of those things - I think The Hobbit was fun and easy to read this time around because I wasn't scrutinizing it the way that I did last time. The movies are out, they're over, I've seen them all, and I don't have to watch out for things to criticize in any upcoming adaptations so I could just let Hobbiton and Mirkwood and The Lonely Mountain wash over me with nothing hovering inside my thoughts but sheer enjoyment of the story.
The book has the same minor problems that it has always had and will always have simply because it was a product of its time and place - it's not terribly representative of anything but white males - but that's no reason to ignore this wonderful story and appreciate it for what it is. It's funny, it's sweet, it's exciting, and it's full of action, adventure, and really wonderful sentiments about friendship and bravery.
The Hobbit isn't a perfect book - I don't know that perfect books really exist - but to me, at least, it will always be one of the best books, and I will always love coming home to it.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. Ballantine Books. New York: New York. 1973. (1937).