The Hobbit

Star summary: 

Full marks on all counts; this is aimed at a younger audience than its sequels in The Lord of the Rings, and as such is appropriately simpler and more playful.

A very ordinary hobbit finds himself in an utterly unlooked-for adventure, thanks to the meddling of Gandalf the Wizard. He never wanted to cross distant lands to get dwarven treasure back from a dragon! Or did he? Perhaps the Took side of the family was stronger in him than he knew? Regardless, he finds himself as the 14th member of an expedition to reclaim the gold rightfully belonging to Thorin Oakenshield- once King under the Lonely Mountain. Despite the lack of proper meals and lodgings, Bilbo begins to enjoy his adventure, despite encountering trolls, Beorn the wild bear-man, wood-elves, goblins, Wargs, a wretched Gollum creature, and one very greedy dragon (Smaug). Whatever would their company have done without Gandalf? They surely would have been eaten by trolls or goblins or both! Bilbo finally does prove his worth as company burglar when he escapes from the goblins all on his own, and helps free his companions first from giant spiders then the dungeons of the wild wood-elves. (Perhaps he had a little help from a magic ring, which was another unexpected turn of events.) In the end, he manages to steal into Smaug's lair, leading to the dragon's demise as well as a victory at the Battle of the Five Armies. He returns home a changed (and very wealthy) hobbit.

Cautions? There is wartime violence portrayed in the Battle of the Five Armies, as well as many dangers (listed above), however it isn't gratuitous or unedifying.

Themes: The unpredictability of adventures; like Mr. Bilbo, we often don't get to choose them, may not even want them, yet they befall us, and leave us indelibly changed. The value of adventure;it changes hobbits (and people) into something better than what they were, by bringing them (and us) into a story greater than ourselves. The folly of prejudice contrasted with the value of camaraderie & teamwork--this is especially seen in the final show-down.

Bottom line?Unasked-for, unexpected adventures can befall even the most "respectable" hobbit, changing him into a courageous traveler full of knowledge, experience, joy, and wealth.

Talking points:
- Discuss this description of Gandalf: "Not until then did they notice that Gandalf was missing. So far he had come all the way with them, never saying if he was in the adventure or merely keeping them company for a while. He had eaten most, talked most, and laughed most."
- Perhaps the reason stories with battles in them appeal to us is that we know instinctively that our lives are full of spiritual battles. What battles or trials have you had/are you having?
- Who is your favorite character and why?
- What are we to make of Beorn?
- Sum up the dwarves as a people; what do they love, what do they hate, etc. (You may want to refer back to this: "As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves.")
- Contrast the dwarves with Beorn. What does Boern love? What does he think of gems & precious metals?
- The people of Laketown had almost stopped believing in the old stories of the Kings Under the Mountain, who would one day return. The younger generation had even begun to doubt the existence of the dragon Smaug. Compare this to faith in what the Scriptures teach- things we cannot now see and could find easy to doubt. How are the people of Laketown like the Jews of Jesus' time (such as Herod & his men, as opposed to the believing Wise Men, shepherds of Bethlehem, Simeon & Anna the prophetess)
- Can you identify with Mr. Bilbo's opposing desires-- on the one hand to have adventure and become great, and on the other to be safe and comfortable? "Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walkingstick. He looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up—probably somebody lighting a wood-fire-and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again. "

Appropriate audience: Fourth grade and up. Adults will find much to ponder and to treasure. Children as young as 4 or 5 could enjoy listening to this read aloud.

Stars: 5
Characters & Setting- while the dwarves are less developed than Bilbo & Gandalf, they are still each present and knowable. Even characters only met briefly such as Beorn, Smaug, the Wood-Elves and the Eagles have a depth to them. Every setting is imaginative and rich. Full star.
Plot-- Rollicking good fun, with good old Mr. Bilbo's hobbit love of comfort to help us feel as though we belong. Full star.
Writing-- wonderful. Quotes to ponder abound; so much resounds deep within the soul as "True!" Aimed at a younger audience than its sequels in The Lord of the Rings, it is appropriately simpler and more playful, at times sounding like the author's dear friend C. S. Lewis.
Character-building/Eternal perspective --Though not as developed as his later Lord of the Rings saga, the allegories of Reality can be found here, with good and evil clearly defined, and many lessons learned. Full star.
Wow factor -- as the book which revolutionized "fantasy" it certainly has wowed many!

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