The Hobbit



John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in South Africa. His father, Arthur Tolkien, had moved the family from England because of his job with the Bank of Africa. Arthur died in Africa when Tolkien was four years old, and Tolkien’s mother died eight years later. Tolkien was then cared for by a family friend, Father Francis Morgan, and was educated at King Edward’s School and Oxford, where he studied English language and literature. Tolkien was especially interested in Old English, Welsh and Anglo-Saxon. He was a gifted linguist at an early age, and his passion led him to create languages of his own, such as the Elvish languages that are to be found in the stories of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

After Tolkien’s graduation from Oxford, he married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Bratt, and in 1916 went to France to serve in World War I. After his service, Tolkien settled down at Oxford, where he was for many years a professor of Anglo-Saxon, and where he and Edith raised four children. The Hobbit evolved as a bedtime story which Tolkien invented for his children, and was first published in 1937.

Tolkien’s stories of Middle-Earth—which include The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion—are remarkable for their depth and complexity. Tolkien’s love of language and attention to detail breathed real life into his imaginary world, and over the years he created a rich, convincing mythology complete with its own languages, dialects, cultural histories, legends, songs, geography and maps.

In his foreword to The Lord of the Rings (to which The Hobbit is a prelude), J.R.R. Tolkien plainly states, “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations…I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.” In other words, the purpose of an allegory is to instruct the reader morally in a particular and deliberate way, whereas a history allows the reader to draw his or...

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