This compilation of essays closely studies the classic staple of children's literature by examining some of its themes-such as maturation and overcoming greed-exploring the world of Middle-earth, and comparing/contrasting the text with its popular sequel, The Lord of the Rings. In experience, the contributors span the entire history of Tolkien scholarship, from one who learned firsthand from J.R.R. Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis to young scholars just beginning their quests into the wild lands of literary critique.
J.R.R. Tolkien's novel was met with international acclaim upon its publication in 1937, given its adventurous plot, elements of high fantasy, and lovable protagonist, Bilbo Baggins.
This volume will provide an overview of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit-in fact, several overviews from several different perspectives. It is a guidebook to not only a classic children's novel but to Tolkien's first journey into his fantastic otherworld: Middle-earth. It is The Hobbit after all, that first brought to life Tolkien's elves and dwarves; the wizard Gandalf; the creature Gollum; and, above all, the hobbits themselves - especially those unlikely, surprisingly heroic Bagginses. Essay topics include Tolkien's influences, critical reception, Medieval Germanic motifs, fairy-stories, and Tolkien's illustrations.
Each Critical Insights is divided into four sections:
The introductory essay approaches The Hobbit as children’s story, fairy tale, and entry point for Tolkien’s work as a whole.
in the “Context” section offer background and a framework for approaching the novel. Kelly R. Orazi investigates “J. R. R. Tolkien’s World: Literary, Cultural, and Historical Influences on Middle-earth’s Subcreator,” focusing on the elements that shaped Tolkien’s career; his fantasy world, Middle-earth; and the narratives set therein. Alicia Fox-Lenz surveys the critical reaction to the novel from first reviews in the late 1930s to the growth of formal Tolkien scholarship following the publication of The Lord of the Rings. John Fisher elaborates on the many medieval and Germanic elements in the novel; not surprisingly, for one as engaged in his scholarly field as Tolkien, The Hobbit borrows elements from Anglo-Saxon classics like Beowulf and from the Old Norse Eddas, as well as from a number of other medieval sources. Finally, John Rosegrant compares Tolkien with another popular fantasist, J. K. Rowling, in “Bilbo Baggins, Harry Potter, and the Fate of Enchantment.”
The remainder of this volume encompasses a range of other topics and critical perspectives, beginning with a set of essays that look at Tolkien’s influences and borrowings in more detail. Hannah Parry returns to the mythic tradition that most captured Tolkien’s imagination as both scholar and author, that of Germanic northern Europe. Jared Lobdell debates the nature of Tolkien’s version of the “fairy-story” in “‘Witness Those Rings and Roundelays’: The Hobbit as Fairy-Story.” Kris Swank turns to “Fairy-Stories That Fueled The Hobbit,” tracing in greater detail the children’s stories and fantasies that Tolkien grew up on or shared with his children.
Josh Brown brings a poet’s sensibility to “The Poems of The Hobbit.” Sara Waldorf places this novel in relationship to the larger works that followed: The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.
The next trio of essays considers the psychological and philosophical value of reading The Hobbit. Jelena Borojević explores the elusive topic of “mythopoeia” or “mythopoeic thought.” Kayla Shaw looks at the mythopoeic as a psychological tool and a medium for the self-realization of children and, by extension, all of us. Aurélie Brémont suggests
why we identify with Bilbo Baggins, what we can learn from his quest and growth, and how Tolkien’s view of the hero has lessons for all of us.
M. Lee Alexander traces the history of illustrations for the novel, beginning with Tolkien’s own paintings, which were intended for the first edition. In sum, this volume will provide an overview of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit—in fact, several overviews from several different perspectives.
Each essay is 2,500-5,000 words in length and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes.
- Chronology of Tolkien's Life
- Works by J.R.R. Tolkien
- About the Editor