One of my favourite books is the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Inspired by the fan-girlish excitement that came to me upon seeing the new trailer for the Hobbit, I decided to read it again, blatantly ignoring the fact that there are a million other things I should be doing or reading.
Every time I open the Hobbit, I am astounded by the sheer amount of time and effort put into this book, not to mention the Lord of the Rings and all the other works Tolkien wrote about Middle Earth. The very first page (of actual writing, let’s not even get into the maps that he himself drew of his made up land) in my copy is an explanation of the different languages used in Middle Earth. The man spent time making up runes and languages for his world. He even made two different versions of Elvish, Quenya and Sindarin, because apparently just making one didn’t take enough effort.
I actually have two copies of the Hobbit. The first, while technically belonging to my parents, was the first copy of the book I read. Actually, on the first page there’s a sticker that tells me in no uncertain terms exactly who it belongs to and states: “Please return it to them when you are finished with it.” Oops. My bad. In my opinion it’s about a thousand years old as on the back it says it costs £1.50. £1.50! Oh, how I wish I lived in a time when real, physical books cost so little. It also has pretty much no pages still attached to the binding, and I’m not convinced that they’re all in the right order. This may be my fault, but I’m pretty sure it was falling apart when my father first gave it to me to read.
There came a time when it became quite impossible to actually read our (fine, their) original copy of the book, so it became my responsibility to buy a new one. Yes, this one is actually mine. I bought it from a charity shop for about the same amount as the other copy was sold for, I expect. And it’s a bit shabby, but all the pages are intact and I’m more comfortable with a shabby book than a pristine book anyway. And it still has the wonderful old book smell that I love so much.
What I like most about this copy is that on the inside of the front cover is someone else’s name. It is my book, but I like the fact that it belonged to someone else before me. Why someone would give away a copy of the Hobbit is beyond me, but I’m sure they had their reasons. The idea that it’s been passed down through the years, from random person to random person appeals to me. I’ve always thought of books as a bit of an escape from reality. By reading, you get to experience someone else’s life and have a break from your own, but JRR Tolkien, like a lot of other authors I know of, takes it one step further. I think that’s what makes it so timeless. It’s been 75 years since the book was released, but it’s still relatively popular, somewhat due to the films, but I think the books are still loved without them. Tolkien creates a whole new world for us to escape to, a world of magic and hobbits and dragons. Of the smallest of creatures doing the biggest of things.
That right there is a message that I don’t want to go away. My generation is being bombarded with ideas that it is more important to have friends and a boyfriend than to have morals. It makes me glad that we still have a story that tells us that we do have the ability have an impact, an immense one, no matter how young or small, or even how insignificant we feel. That’s a message that I want the next generation to hear, and generations after that.
75 years and it’s still going strong? As I look at the first copy of the Hobbit I ever saw, and I see the sticker that my parents stuck on a long time ago, I think to myself, you know what? I should still have this book, according to the instructions that came with it. Because I’ll never, ever be finished with it.