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The Hobbit


: J. R. R. Tolkien

Summary: Set  in the fictional Shire of Middle Earth, a hobbit named Bilbo sets off on an adventure with thirteen dwarves and Gandalf the wizard. Their quest is to recover the treasure of the Dwarvish people from the dragon, Smaug, who seized it many years before. The adventure ends in their triumph, and Bilbo returns with the ring of great power which sets the stage for Tolkien's larger and more popular work, The Lord of the Rings.

Reading Level: ages 9-12

Reviewed by: Amy and Bill Smith

Our Angle
Our Angle

It is difficult to speak of The Hobbit without comparing it to Tolkien's later and more popular work, The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is a precursor to the Rings trilogy. If, having worked through the controversial issues relative to the trilogy, you decide to make The Hobbit part of your family's reading experience, you will find it light-hearted in comparison. Where the Rings trilogy quickly dives into a history changing struggle between good and evil, The Hobbit only whispers of that struggle to come, although the whisper seems louder after reading The Lord of the Rings.

See Our Angle on The Lord of the Rings to understand our thinking about the considerable child-exposure issues present in both books, including magic and wizardry. Also like the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit contains considerable violence and scary incidents we find too intense for young readers and listeners. 

Unlike the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit fails to make bold moral statements. In fact, while many of the characters are amusing, there are but few acts of true nobility and self-sacrifice.

Nonetheless, we find The Hobbit fun reading, and Tolkien's trademark descriptive language is a treat to the ears. If you decide to make The Lord of the Rings a fixture in your home, then definitely get a head start on the complex world of that tale by first reading The Hobbit.

Read our take on the controversy over witches, magic, wizards, fantasy and raising children, in 3 parts.

Part one: Witches, Wizards and Magic
Part two: The Fantasy Issue
Part three: Getting Beyond

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A book with much to scrutinize:
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