I found my copy of The Hobbit in a local charity shop. I grabbed it and told myself I would read it and see if it was suitable for my children (yes; it is). Only after reading the preface, I realised that J. R. R. Tolkien actually wrote this famous book with children in mind!
My family and I have seen all the Middle Earth movies. The kids started their journey with The Hobbit, and following its HUGE success, we let them watch The Lord of the Rings 1, 2, and 3. It's safe to say that the boys now enjoy pretending to be invisible and getting into mischief when they put on a "golden" ring.
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The Hobbit is a story of adventure, friendship, self-discovery, and ultimately, of getting out of one's comfort zone. From dwarves, goblins, humans, wizards, talking wolves, eagles, trolls, and hobbits to Gollem, a scary cave creature, Middle Earth is a diverse world in which everyone is, mostly, accepted for who they are – pointy ears and hairy feet included.
Many know of Bilbo Baggins because of the successful film trilogy from Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. However, for those who have not yet seen the movies, Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist in The Hobbit and this Hobbit's personal growth will inspire many a reader. Described as a little person, just big enough to ride a pony, that enjoys the comforts of his own home (he's a proper introvert). In fact, he is so content with being home that he has never even left his village! One day, a wizard walks past Bilbo's house and strikes up a conversation that will change his life forever. He joins a group of dwarves to reclaim the gold in the Lonely Mountains, a treasure that was taken by a dragon long ago. The long and dangerous journey that follows transforms Bilbo from the scared and looked down on "burglar" to a much sought after adventure advisor.
Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath. (p. 144)
Tolkien has a wonderful imagination; The Hobbit is (to me) a fantasy novel mixed with a dash of fairy-tale, as you can see from the extract below. As I mentioned before, there is a healthy dose of adventure present which may keep the really little ones awake at night, but there is no bad language present and whilst goblins get slain, I cannot remember Tolkien sharing gory details.
Beorn said something to them in a queer language like animal noises turned into talk. They went out again and soon came back carrying torches in their mouths [...]. The dogs could stand on their hind-legs when they wished, and carry things with their fore-feet. [...] others bore on their broad backs trays with bowls and platters and knives and wooden spoons, which the dogs took and quickly laid on the trestle-tables. (p. 117)
I enjoyed reading The Hobbit. It was often exciting and funny, but also real in the sense that a journey, mostly done by foot, of that distance, takes a long time to complete and Tolkien did not rush the scenes. For example, in the rare cases when the company of travellers came across friends that were willing to house and feed them, they stayed a few days and gained their strength before continuing their journey. Also, when they went without food for a few days, they all experienced a range of emotions (hangry, anyone?) that were only reversed by fresh water to drink or a bite to eat.
I think many people will gladly throw themselves and their children into Middle Earth; it is a classic after all!
I've already seen the movie, do I really need to read the book?
From experience, I know that books and movies are nothing alike. I normally try to read the book prior to watching the movie, though in this case, I was unsuccessful. I thus started reading The Hobbit with certain expectations, and I can tell you now the novel and movie are even less alike than I thought! Right from the beginning, you will notice certain characteristics that will surprise you, and as the story develops, more and more dissimilarities will jump out at you. However, do not let this withhold you or your kids from reading and experiencing The Hobbit as Tolkien intended it.