Before I started this, I didn’t know how to read it. That sounds a little foolish for reading to us fortunate people is like breathing. What I mean is how should I read it, what approach is needed for me to enjoy it. These are necessary questions for me because I intend to read The Lord of the Rings books. I thought I’d appreciate the books more by reading the prequel first.
Some of my bookish friends say that it’s like a children’s book. And with that, I read it with childlike curiosity. I’m not used to this genre, but this does not mean that I am not familiar with it. Growing up playing console games allowed me to appreciate and even love this book.
So what’s it about? Just in case you are one of my kind who never really bother with facts, the book is the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. What is a hobbit? Well, hobbits are a race of creatures who inhabit the earth along with men, dwarves, and elves. I suppose they are more related to dwarves by virtue of height, but what distinguishes them from other races are their furry feet.
I think the hobbits are the author’s own. Anyway, hobbits are timid, quiet, peace-loving creatures. They may not seem to be your typical heroes (read: The Avengers) but I think they are just as courageous and noble as any adventure hero could be.
Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. he must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it. It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second. He trembled. And then quite suddenly in a another flash, as if lifted by a new strength and resolve, he leaped.
It is not unusual for books like this to have enemies to be slain and treasures to be found. For this prequel and for the rest of The Lord of the Rings books, it is The Ring, a powerful object created by a great evil to rule the world. Something like that. Bilbo Baggins, being our hero, finds it, and it is actually this first encounter with The Ring that makes this book an important reading to fully grasp the nitty-gritty details of Tolkien’s epic.
This is not to say that the prequel is merely an account of The Ring’s history. In fact, we barely know what it’s for. We just know that Bilbo becomes invisible every time he slips it on his finger. The power of invisibility allows him to save himself and his friends whenever troubles come across their way.
His friends, a dozen dwarves, come to his house one by one at the start of the book. This is at the recommendation of a wizard, saying that taking the hobbit to their westward journey will do them good. The reluctant hobbit, being disinclined to adventures as hobbits usually are, goes with this crew of fourteen.
And what is the intention of this journey? To reclaim the treasures hidden within a mountain that is guarded by a dragon. But before they come face to face with the dragon, Bilbo and the dwarves will encounter trolls, goblins, orcs, wolves, giant spiders, and one strange slimy creature. So yes, there is nothing really much here except fantastic adventure.
And is there something wrong with that? No. In fact, I suggest that if you have a kid no older than thirteen but old enough to read and appreciate a fine tale, get the kid to read the book. I think this book is a great way to introduce anyone to the world of reading. The adventures of Bilbo might seem like stuff that adults will read and enjoy to pass their free time, but to children, this book might be a world filled with wonders: action-packed traveling, suspenseful battles, marvelous creatures, legendary settings.
And oh, I think I haven’t yet mentioned that this made me look forward to the rest of The Lord of the Rings books.