There and Back Again: JRR Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit by Mark Atherton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book offers probably the most in depth look at the writing of “The Hobbit “ and “Lord of the Rings” Instead of offering the reader another biography of Tolkien, the author goes way behind the scene and offers us a view of what really inspired Tolkien’s writing. Such influences would include literary influences, life time experiences and his interest in philology or the study of languages.
The first two parts of the book kept me glued but the third and final part had me reading on in pain. Way too scholarly at the end, something that perhaps only a linguistic major would appreciate.
To begin with “The Hobbit was first meant to be told a children’s tale. “Roverandon was a tale he came up with in order to comfort a child after losing a toy dog. He would grade papers at Leeds and in his boredom he would draw upon the paper and hence the idea of the Hobbit. The shire of Hobbit’s home was originally inspired by the village in which Tolkien grew up in Sarehol which is near Warwickshire. There are several literary influences for “The Hobbit” Kenneth Grahm’s “Wind in the Willow” provides an inspiration about a Ground hog who lives like Bilbo, in a hole in the ground. “Babbit” is another story of escape where in a man who works in a futuristic boring factory town escapes away with a faery princess and comes back changed. “ The Merry Land of the Snergs” features Hobbit like creatures who are sort of bungling and one of them must save two human being. Besides literatue Tolkien also drew from Norse Literature especially the idea of the ring, the dwarf list came from a work called Volupsa.
Bilbo is put in on chance adventure one which he did not ask for. The dangers takes to Rivendel where there are dragon and elves and sorts of danger. Yet Tolkien has created a world that us unique. It is a well ordered world that believes in faery like beings that could come into a story and change everything around. Tolkien offered forward a definition of a faery story. It was a story in which a man or woman would travel into the world of faery and interact. It was not the same as an animal fable or a travel story. Tolkien considered it a faery story yet it had elements of a travelogue and an animal story. Obviously Bilbo is traveling but in Tolkien’s mythos there are talking animals especially in the History of the Middle Earth Series. You have Tevildo, a talking cat,Huor a speaking hound who fights against Morgoth. Beorn who appears as a shape shifter appears in the Hobbit and he communicates with his animal servants. Beorn could be based on a Norse legend called Bothvi who was a bear warrior that struch up an uneasy alliance with a Norse Kings.
“Not green, great dragons” scolded Mabel Suffield “rather great, green dragons” a correction in grammar but never a challenge as to whether or not dragon existed. Tolkien had a great desire for dragons. Yet he did not want one in his neck of the woods. Tolkien had red and gold dragon in his works but never green ones. Tolkien oft times considerd himself a Hobbit and in the “The Hobbit” Bilbo had a similar longing for dwarves. Tolkien’s main inspiration for dragon came from Norse Mythology and The Red Fairy Book. Dragon were oft to mean green as they always horded their gold
The review can get rather exhaustive so I shall closeout and advise reading the book. I give 4 stars out of 5.
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