Book Review: Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen

ExploringTheHobbit
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
March 17, 2017

The Hobbit has been one of the landmarks in epic fantasy literature for quite some time, and for great reasons.  The Hobbit served to ignite the imagination of the populace at a time where fantasy was nigh non-existent.  How the author managed to do that, through Bilbo’s character, is one of the most interesting parts in the book.  And that’s just the beginning.

Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen Ph.D. is a methodically explored breakdown of The Hobbit which sifts through countless critical details contained within the story and woven seamlessly within.  Olsen shows extreme erudition in mining gems of wisdom from the book, and those very treasures make The Hobbit vastly more enjoyable and meaningful then one would without knowing his insights.

Although some of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books tend to be a bit [or a lot more!] complex, The Hobbit isn’t one of them, which is one of the main reasons why it’s one Tolkien’s most popular ones.  It’s not that the other books within the same Tolkien Universe – the Legendarium – aren’t great, because many are.  It’s just that the latitude and precision with which Tolkien expanded the Universe is so enormous it takes a very focused individual to slog through it all.

That is also why The Hobbit shines in the opposite side of the spectrum.  Because, although, The Hobbit is part of Tolkien’s Universe, it’s self contained and is the platform from which the classic The Lord Of The Rings was launched.  It sure helped that when the book was first ruminated upon, and created, it was done for children.

In any case, some of the notable nuggets of information Olsen sifts through are important recurring themes within the book and also specific ideas that develop along the way.  Instances of these are the idea of ‘luck’ and ‘destiny’ perhaps guiding and assisting Bilbo.

What is more, a rather unique, but much appreciated thing the author does an exemplary job with is how he establishes the inner conflict Bilbo is going through in respect to his family background –  the Took side and The Baggins side.  This helps add another layer of authenticity within the Bilbo himself, and also within the story.

Arguably, what’s most impressive about what Tolkien accomplished in The Hobbit is the fact that Tolkien published the book in an era where fiction wasn’t seen as favorable.  Because of this, Tolkien took a very unique, and yet thought-out approach to how he would pull the readers of the time along gently into this new and profound universe.

Oslen notes this best in the following passage:

“Tolkien was very aware of the artistic challenge he faced in writing a work of fantasy, especially since fantasy literature was far from the literary mainstream in the early twentieth century.  He knew that when they encountered his story in The Hobbit, his readers would have to leave their mundane and comfortable world behind and invest their imaginations in a world that contains magic and unexpected marvels.  In chapter One, Tolkien gives us a model for this very process within the story itself.  We begin in our safe and predictable world, and in the first chapter, we find ourselves in a world of wizard and dwarves and dragons.  In this transition, we find ourselves coming alongside a protagonist who is struggling through the exactly the same process, a character who himself internalizes the conflict between the mundane and the marvelous   Our first introduction to this magical, grim, and dangerous world of adventure is also his introduction, and his reluctance and difficulty in adjusting to it give us time to ease past our own discomfort and reservations.  Bilbo Baggins serves as a perfect touchstone for readers, both exploring and embodying the trickier frontier between the predictable and the unexpected.”[1]

As if that were not enough, the author goes further, and proceeds on with a fine-toothed comb and breaks down the complexity of many of the songs and their inherent depth and subtle meaning.  This part gave many of the characters a lot more depth given what the author discussed.  If that were all, the book would be great.  But there’s more!

Arguably, my favorite part was how the author goes on to systematically show how Bilbo’s riddle game with Gollum showcases their diametrically opposed extremesNot only are the inner natures of Gollum and Bilbo woven within the riddles that each employ throughout, but how each character chose to retaliate with each riddle also shows a completely separate dimension that couples to their nature.  This is hands down the anchor in the whole book.

Another great part about this book is that although it’s a fantasy book, Bilbo’s story has so many relatable and believable parts that it challenges individuals to ponder not only about the book, but about life itself, and many aspects within it.

Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien reminds me of a diary, although it clearly is not. The reason for that is that central to the book are all of the changes that Bilbo goes through, how he grows, and what this means for his life.

Without this book, readers would be hard-pressed to comprehend the sheer scale of how much critical thought was put into the Hobbit and its revision.  Tolkien went above and beyond in creating a Universe that’ll stretch the bounds of imagination for generations to come, and with much daring depth as well.

For those reasons, and more, this is a great book.  Tolkien fans all over should BUY this book.  They will NOT be disappointed.

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Footnotes:

[1] Corey Olsen, Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s The Hobbit, p. 35