There and Back Again
The Hobbit Is Here
The second installment of Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit hits theaters today, but the final film won't be released until later next year. While you're waiting for part three of this delightful fantasy epic, why not read the book first?
J.R.R Tolkein published his first edition of The Hobbit in 1937, but he rewrote it and had it published again after he had started work on The Fellowship of the Ring, and turned Bilbo's ring from just a simple invisibility trick to a great symbol of power. You can learn more about the edits Tolkein made in Corey Olsen's brilliant book, Exploring J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit. Many readers view The Hobbit as a sillier, less literary cousin to Tolkein's other works, but Olsen argues that The Hobbit operates as a serious piece of literature, with thematic elements that rival The Lord of the Rings in their complexity.
Other Books for Hobbit Lovers
Interested in branching out a little? Why not try one of these lesser known fanatsy epics? If your favorite part of Tolkein's works are the grand battles and sword play, try Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint, the first book in a trilogy about a courtly fantasy world where the rich hire sword fighters to duel to the death to settle both petty grievances and serious political intrigue alike.
If you loved the songs and mythology in The Hobbit, or the creepy giant spiders, check out Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, which tells the story of young boy Kvothe who studies powerful magic and music as he looks for any information about the magical creatures that killed his family. Giant, demonic spiders are just one type of monster Kvothe meets in this hero's quest.
Finally, if a giant, complex world is what you dig most about Tolkein's work, try Titus Groan, the first novel in the Gormenghast series, written by one of Tolkein's contemporaries, Mervin Peake. The Gormenghast novels bring the world of Gormenghast castle to life in intricate detail. Prince Titus Groan is born into a tiny kingdom with an uneasy social structure, and upstart kitchen boy Steerpike might bring down the little prince before he's even out of diapers! Peake was unable to finish the last book in the series, Titus Alone, but don't let that dissuade you from giving them a shot. This most literary of fantasy series is worth the unsettling lack of an ending.
Chelsey always wears sensible shoes, just in case she gets swept up into a fantasy-land adventure.