2. The Hobbit

By J.R.R. Tolkien

I finally read it and very much enjoyed it. Written nearly two decades before The Lord of the Rings, it is in the same medieval epic style, but with a much brighter and humorous tone. In fact, I was surprised by the humor and fun (which is non-existent in LotR).

Tolkien’s world is so magnificent, so rich, and full of life and character.

But I have been interested in Tolkien’s WWI experience as a soldier, and how it manifests in his novels. They are, after all, partly about “people” in a state of total war. Tolkien, who enjoyed a very comfortable, pampered, existence found himself fighting alongside regular Joes during WWI. He was most inspired by them and their special kind of heroics in the face of atrocity and absurdity of that awful war. The regular Joes fought on, despite knowing they would meet certain death (20,000,000 deaths in four years). Tolkien witnessed first hand the battle of Somme, one of the deadliest battles of WWI in which approximately 300,000 soldiers died in a matter of weeks. His heart wrenching epic battles stem from his memory.

The Hobbit, and perhaps moreso LotR, are stories of heroes as well as of the total cost of war. Great kings fall alongside farmers. In both stories, there is joy in epic victory, and the return home, but also a strong parallel sense of loss that comes to mind when thinking on them. The pastoral nature of Hobbiton is in stark contrast to the desolation and violation of the battlefield. That kind of makes going home all that much better.

But The Hobbit is really about the adventure, not the war. That is a big difference between it and the much darker and serious LotR.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed it.