Thank you...

... for taking the time to stop by. I hope some of these ponderings will resonate with you.

Leave a comment if you want to - your contributions are more than welcome.

(Unless stated otherwise, all text & pictures are © Lee Labuschagne, all rights reserved.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1+1+1 for 365, day 22: Away from the shire and back again

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."

- J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again)

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, to give the book its full title, Tolkien's second most famous work and first published on 21 September in 1937 - and this date is the reason why I chose it for today's post.

I was given my copy of  by a poetic boyfriend a long time ago.  He thought (quite rightly) that my education would not be complete without having read Tolkien and he said best to start with The Hobbit before I get round to The Lord of the Rings.  I was in a phase where I read completely different things and at first I could not relate to its fantasy world. But the boyfriend patiently introduced me to the magic of hobbits and many other things relating to Tolkien. Maybe the many cups of coffee and glasses of sherry helped, but in order to ensure that I would actually read the book, my romantic suitor stopped reading from poetry books for me for a while, and proceeded to read from it out loud while holding my hand during long cold winter's evenings in my small flat.

Looking back, that was one of the nicest and most touching things that anyone has done for me.  The sweet man wanted to marry me, but like Bilbo Baggins, I felt the need for my own adventures and left to work overseas for a while. By the time I got back, we had both moved on - but part of the nice memories of that boy will always be the fact that he introduced me to Tolkien and some other writers that I had not given much attention to before that, including the poetry of Afrikaans poet and author Antjie Krog, whom he had known personally.

The Hobbit  was an instant success among readers and the public. Apart from a period during World War II when there were paper shortages, has never been out of print since it first appeared. In addition to being widely published as literary critic and also as writer of short children stories, Tolkien's other best-known works were The Silmarillion (only published in its complete and final form in 1977, four years after Tolkien's death) and of course that towering achievement, the  Lord of the Rings (originally published as three books in 1955-54). 

Many detailed, scholarly interpretations and discussions have been written about things such as the mythology, religious themes, the influences of other authors and of the two World Wars, and the remarkable artificial languages that Tolkien had created and used in his fiction.  I am not even going to attempt to summarise any of that, because I cannot do justice to those themes in a short blog post. 

But one thing has always struck me:  Tolkien's books are excellent examples of the work of a highly educated man. He was a linguist (or philologist to be more exact), scholar of literature and classic mythology and history, whose academic background as professor of English literature and as scholar translator of Anglo Saxon and Middle English texts made it possible for him to create fictional worlds of enormous depth and substance.  Although The Hobbit was originally aimed at children, it became one of those books, as JK Rowling's Harry Potter books have become in recent times, that are for everyone. 

In case you have not managed to get around to The Hobbit, it is the one where we get introduced to characters like Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Gollum, Elrond and the dragon Smaug.  There are elves, goblins, trolls, and a range of other creatures and magical animals.  There is a quest, battles, heroics and friendship.  There is a very large battle.   It is great.

As most of those people who have been battling with withdrawal symptoms since the last Lord of the Rings movie would know, The Hobbit is currently being made into two films, and I can hardly wait.  But before I go and see the first one, I first have to reread the book...


"I will not say, Do not weep, for not all tears are an evil." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Just as one falls in love even those of Tolkien's characters that are physically
unattractive, I fell in love with this wooden statue in a guest house at Sutherland.
She (for she is indeed female as the thumbnail of the
complete statue will attest) is utterly charming.
I don't know who the artist is, but am still trying to find out.

Picture & text: © Lee Labuschagne - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


  1. Love the book. And the picture.

  2. Twas my first exposure to Tolkein's work, also, Lee. back in the mid-70's I took my boys to see the animated movie version of The Hobbit, and then proceeded to read the book soon after. As a kiwi from the North Island of N.Z. I can appreciate the green rolling hills of the Shire as it was shown in the LOTR movie trilogy, and as it had been described in Tolkein's words.

  3. I love "The Hobbit" too and still reread it and reccomend it to anyone to read before the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien seemed to see right into the souls of country folk and made his charachters come alive in his stories. Who could not like Bilbo? Kim A

  4. Love, love The Hobbit!
    I still remember my brother giving it and the Lord of the Rings trilogy to me when I was about 12, and saying that he was so envious of me because discovering Tolkien's world is something so precious. (no reference to Gollum intended)


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