Written by Joe Pranevich
|Smaug looms large in the Hobbit.|
“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” With those words in 1937, J. R. R. Tolkien launched a fantasy series that arguably changed the face of genre fiction for all time. Bilbo Baggins, the titular “hobbit” (or halfling) is joined by a wizard and some dwarves to travel across the land, through caves and forests, to defeat a dragon and claim its treasure. Along the way he meets the sage elf Elrond and his hidden valley, lunches with a were-bear named Beorn, catches a ride on some eagles, and plays a riddle game on a hidden lakeshore deep underground. It’s a fantastic book, one of the first novels that I can remember falling in love with as a child. Tolkien followed up his children’s novel with a more mature and intricate sequel trilogy, The Lord of the Rings
, between 1954 and 1955. In the years after his death, the Tolkien estate have released two further novels, The Silmarillion
(1977) and The Children of Húrin
(2007), short stories and poetry, as well as drafts and unfinished portions of yet more stories. The Hobbit
itself was adapted into an animated film in 1977 and then, against all common-sense, made into a trilogy of films by Peter Jackson between 2012 and 2014. While some might argue that you should not transform a 293-page children’s novel into nearly eight hours of film, the movies collected nearly three billion dollars at the box office. How can you argue with that? Even if you believe that modern fantasy would exist even without Tolkien, you have to admit one thing: he changed the plural of dwarf from “dwarfs” to “dwarves”. No kidding.