There’s More to This Story Than It Meets the Eye

The Hobbit is a story that grows on you and makes more sense the more you read it.

JazzFeathers
Sep 10 · 4 min read
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Photo by Sarah Zama

In the summer of 2017, I started buddy reading Tolkien’s main work one chapter a day with a group of other readers. It had been a long time since last I read Tolkien and, in a sense, was like discovering him for the first time.

I republishing here my impressions of that time, which I originally posted on my personal blog.

I sure didn’t know what I was getting into. Today, I’m still buddy reading Tolkien with an awesome little group of fans and still loving every moment.

— — — — — —

The first time I read The Hobbit as a teenager, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I thought I had read better fantasy novels. And that is how this book may appear to someone who reads it without knowing Middle Earth. An enjoyable children’s story, but nothing spectacular.

Like his protagonist, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, there’s more to this story than it meets the eye, and on many levels.

Therefore, when I reread it as an adult, it caught me off guard. As I read the arrival of the Dwarves at Bag End (which is still one of my favourite parts in the book), I kept thinking: Wait! Wait! What’s this? This is not the book I read when I was a girl. This is fantastic!!!!

And this is the essence of The Hobbit to me. Like his protagonist, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, there’s more to this story than it meets the eye, and on many levels. It is in itself an enjoyable story of a person who thinks he’s a very normal, not very special guy, and who discovers in himself a strength that nobody (not even him) had ever suspected (except maybe a certain wizard).

But it’s also a story that now sits firmly inside Tolkien’s legendarium. If you catch the many hints to the larger story, you’ll start to see a broader meaning.

As I reread it this time, I enjoyed discovering these little gems, this links to the larger story, and connect not just the events but the ideas to a more universal outlook of life.

This is The Hobbit. A small story that can give you far more than you ever imagined.

Rereading The Hobbit once more

I was a Tolkien fan far before Peter Jackson filmed his trilogy. When the trilogy came out at the beginning of the 2000s, I had already read Tolkien’s main books and fell (quite happily, I should say) under his spell.

At the beginning of this year, I joined the readers’ community Litsy. There are all kinds of activities going on in any given moments, many of which are readalongs, where people read a book at the same time and then discuss it. I had mostly stayed away from that because I thought it was too demanding on my daily routine. But when someone came up with the idea of reading Tolkien’s main work, one chapter a day… well, you guessed it, I just joined and who cares of my daily routine!

I have immensely enjoyed it.

It has been several years since last I read anything by Tolkien, and honestly, I didn’t remember how much I love Middle-earth. The complexity of the world, the ideas at the heart of characters and places.

There are many funny episodes both in The Hobbit, and in a far darker story like The Lord of the Rings. As well as very deep, profound ones, very epic ones. It would be disconcerting if it didn’t make so much sense in this context.

Tolkien has informed a significant part of my understanding of writing fantasy. I learned from him the love of history and the idea that history can guide our speculative imagination, it can root it in reality even when this is not so obvious. I learned from him the importance of connecting the dots, that everything is connected to everything else and that this creates ideas and meanings that no single idea would be able to sustain alone. I learned from him to respect the reader and to give them the best I can, the most realistic, believable made-up universe I can conjure and that that’s what I should aim for.

Rereading Tolkien today is an incredible experience for me, and I wanted to share it with you.

Since that buddy read in the summer of 2017, I’ve reread The Hobbit several more times. Last time (December 2019), I decided to write a chapter-by-chapter review of the book. You can read it here.

Originally published on The Old Shelter Blog on 7th September 2017

Sarah Zama is a Tolkien nerd and proud of it. She read The Hobbit the first time as a teenager and was a Tolkien fan years before Peter Jackson’s trilogy ever hit the theatres. She’s always been involved with Tolkien groups, both online and in person. In 2004, she founded a Tolkien group in her city, Verona (Italy), which is still meeting and divulging the Professor’s work. In 2017, she started reading Tolkien’s work with a group of other nerdy readers, one chapter a day. They are still on the road together.

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JazzFeathers

Written by

Author of historical fantasy novels set in the 1920s | Dieselpunk | 1920s social history blogger | Hopeless Tolkien nerd https://theoldshelter.com/

Middle-earth Literary Gazette

Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The places and characters. The stories. Searching for their deeper meaning.

JazzFeathers

Written by

Author of historical fantasy novels set in the 1920s | Dieselpunk | 1920s social history blogger | Hopeless Tolkien nerd https://theoldshelter.com/

Middle-earth Literary Gazette

Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The places and characters. The stories. Searching for their deeper meaning.

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