I first encountered J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) when I was a child and my father would read me chapters of the book in instalments. I was thrilled by this tale of dwarves, hobbits, dragons and elves and the fantasy world of Middle Earth.
As the first of Peter Jackson's films of this novel is due out later this year I thought it was time to revisit this book and see whether it would still hold my childhood sense of wonder.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit - a creature who delights in good food and drink and making merry and staying within the confines of his community of the Shire. His wizard friend Gandalf arranges for Bilbo to partake on an adventure with a group of dwarves lead by Thorin Oakenshield. The dwarves are seeking to regain their treasure stolen by the dreaded dragon Smaug. Gandalf has assured the skeptical dwarves that Bilbo is a burglar and will be of great assistance in their quest.
Bilbo would much rather be home and he reluctantly travels with the group through mines, forests and tunnels towards the Lonely Mountain to meet with Smaug. Along the way they battle goblins, wargs and giant spiders. Bilbo becomes separated from the group, encounters Gollum and finds himself in possession of a most precious and powerful ring.
My memories of the book were of the battles and adventure. Reading this book again as an adult allowed me an opportunity to see more of the evolution of Bilbo from reluctant participant to unlikely hero. As he finds himself alone, he must draw on his strengths and become resilient. He finds creative solutions to problems, takes a leadership role because he has to and, in doing so, earns the respect and admiration of those around him.
Of course this is a children's book and as such some of the parts I enjoyed as a child (like the dwarves' songs) I did not enjoy so much this time around as I was eager for the story to move on to the action.
As I read I kept trying to imagine how this would translate into film and, while I have no doubt about Jackson's genius (the Lord of the Rings films were brilliant), I am not sure how he will stretch this novel into three films. But I cannot wait to see them all and experience The Hobbit all over again.