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There And Back Again, A Hobbit's Holiday
on July 22, 2012
"The Hobbit or There and Back Again" by J. R. R. Tolkien was published on September 21st of 1937. It is the success of this book that paved the way for "The Lord of the Rings". "The Hobbit" is definitely geared towards younger readers, and it received favorable reviews from papers in the U.K. and the U.S., and it was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, as well as the New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival Award in 1938.
"The Hobbit" is often over-shadowed by "The Lord of the Rings", and this is especially true when one treats "The Hobbit" as the prequel to "The Lord of the Rings". To consider it as such is both fair and unfair. It is fair, because clearly the events in "The Hobbit" took place prior to, and are key to the "The Lord of the Rings", and of course there are common characters in both stories. However, it is also not fair in that "The Hobbit" clearly was written for a younger audience, and even when reading one of the revised editions, where some passages were altered to better fit with "The Lord of the Rings", the overall tone of the work is much lighter. There was a brief attempt by Tolkien to rewrite "The Hobbit" in the same style, but he soon gave it up because it destroyed what was so good about the original. As a result, it would be better to consider "The Hobbit" as the children's telling of the events which took place prior to "The Lord of the Rings" and not attempt to hold it to the same standard.
Another thing that people have noted about the two stories is that at a high-level outline the two stories are very similar. The adventures both start in the Shire and are initiated by Gandolf, they travel to Rivendell, they go through caves and have to deal with the goblins/orcs therein, they meet elves on the other side, there is a huge war between numerous armies, and of course they return to the Shire to find things changed that they have to put right. Of course, that is an overly simple way to look at either of the two novels, especially "The Lord of the Rings", even though it is true on the surface, but it is an interesting observation.
As beings that are roughly half the height of a man, Hobbits make an ideal hero for a children's story, as it gives them a hero with whom they can identify. The story has a fair amount of humor in it, and a light-hearted feel through most of it, though certainly as an adventure there is a fair amount of peril, whether from the trolls, worgs (wolves), goblins, spiders, and even the wood elves, not to mention the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent. Despite being accessible to younger readers, older readers can still enjoy "The Hobbit" as well.