Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Hobbit green cover The Hobbit
or, There and Back Again

A Classic Children's Fantasy
Set before The Lord of the Rings

2001 Ballantine Del Rey paperback
305 pages
cover art by Ted Nasmith (left)

2001 Houghton Mifflin trade paperback
330 pages
cover art by Peter Sis (right)
Hobbit 9 panels cover

From the back cover of new paperback:
Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo --- alone and unaided --- who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of the entire countryside!

From J.R.R. Tolkien's own description for the original edition:
"If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. . . . you will learn by the way (as he did) -- if you do not already know all about these things -- much about trolls, goblins, dwarves, and elves, and get some glimpses into the history and politics of a neglected but important period."

Read for group discussion on June 9, 1999

More book covers: The Hobbit
Hobbit 1960s paperback Hobbit 1974 Tolkien cover Hobbit Bilbo cover
1968 Ballantine paperback
"The Authorized Edition"
287 pages
1974 Ballantine paperback
287 pages
cover art by J.R.R. Tolkien
1990s Ballantine paperback
304 pages
cover art by Michael Herring

How we each rated this book
Dan 7 Amy 9 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 10 Barb 7
Aaron 8 Cynthia 6
Lars - Jackie 9
Kerry 9 Lindsey 7

Aaron's Commentary  J.R.R. Tolkien - The Hobbit

So how are you not going to like The Hobbit?  Tolkien's world is delightful and he writes with such wisdom and wry humor that one almost needs to read it out loud to fully appreciate it.  I had mixed feelings about the last few chapters, when the dwarves we've been rooting for greedily claim the spoils of someone else's heroism.  But Tolkien's message comes through clearly: Don't hoard your gold; be a hobbit!

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also read the following books by J.R.R. Tolkien:
-- The Fellowship of the Ring   in December 2001
-- The Two Towers   in December 2002
-- The Return of the King   in December 2003

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) was a UK writer.  He was a professor at Oxford University.  (Full name John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.)  He was born in South Africa but lived in the UK from 1895.

He became Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University in 1925, and was appointed Merton Professor of English at Oxford in 1945, a post he held until his retirement in 1959.

He was part of the Inklings, a literary group, with C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield.

Tolkien virtually invented the fantasy genre.  His masterwork is The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It's the most influential fantasy series ever written.

The Lord of the Rings (LoTR)
--The Fellowship of the Ring (1954, rev 1965 US) (FoTR)
--The Two Towers (1954, rev 1965 US) (TT)
--The Return of the King (1955, rev 1965 US) (ROTK)

The Hobbit: or There and Back Again (1937) is a young adult prequel to Lord of the Rings.

Many stories and story-fragment of his Middle-Earth mythology were published posthumously.
--The Silmarillion (1977)
--Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth (collection 1980)
--The Children of Húrin (2007)

The History of Middle-Earth series
most collections of stories, edited by Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.'s son
-- I. The Book of Lost Tales 1 (1983)
-- II. The Book of Lost Tales 2 (1984)
-- III. The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
-- IV. The Shaping of Middle-Earth (1986)
-- V. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
-- VI. The Return of the Shadow: The History of the Lord of the Rings 1 (1988)
-- VII. The Treason of Isengard: The History of the Lord of the Rings 2 (1989)
--VIII. The War of the Ring: The History of the Lord of the Rings 3 (1990)
-- IX. Sauron Defeated: The History of the Lord of the Rings 4 (1992)
-- X. Morgoth's Ring: The Later Silmarillion 1 (1993)
-- XI. The War of the Jewels: The Later Silmarillion 2 (1994)
-- XII. The Peoples of Middle-Earth (1996)

Other works
--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1925)
--Farmer Giles of Ham (1949, chapbook)
--Smith of Wootton Major (1967, chapbook) young-adult fantasy novella
--Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham (1976 US)
--The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962)
--A Tolkien Reader (1966, collection)
--Tales from the Perilous Realm (1992, reprint of Poems and Stories (1980) omnibus collection of "Farmer Giles of Ham", "Leaf by Niggle", and "Smith of Wootton Major" and "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil"
--Leaf by Niggle
--"On Fairy-Stories" 1939 lecture
--The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth
--Tree and Leaf (1964, collection) material on writing fantasy
--Sir Gawain/Pearl/Sir Orfeo (1975) collection of 3 epic poems, translated by Tolkien from mediaeval English
--The Father Christmas Letters (1976) collection of letters from Tolkien (Father Christmas) to his children, with illustrations by Tolkien
--Mr. Bliss (1982) children's story with illustrations by the author
--Finn and Hengest (1982) Tolkien's lectures and notes on the story which was the basis of Beowulf
--The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983) Non-fiction, a collection of 7 essays/lectures, edited by Christopher Tolkien
--Roverandom (1998, written in 1925) juvenile fantasy about a dog's adventures
--The Road Goes Ever On : A Song Cycle (with music by Donald Swann, 1967)
--Bilbo's Last Song  (1990) 32 page picture book illustrated by Pauline Baynes, a 24-line poem originally published in 1974 as a poster
--Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien (1979) collection of Tolkien's artwork

Our book club's page for The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Our book club's page for The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Our book club's page for The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien - Wikipedia

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This page was last updated October 20, 2008