Book Review: A Hobbit Journey

I'll just start off by saying that it was probably the cover of this book that first drew me in.  It's so cool and hobbit-y.  Anyway, I'm doing my second review on this book even though it was first in my "On the Stack" post for August.  Frankly, I was a bit nervous about this one – it was good, just fairly deep and I knew this review might end up being a bit lengthy.  You can go here to read a mini description of A Hobbit Journey.  

Title: A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J.R.R Tolkien's Middle-Earth

Author: Matthew Dickerson

Publisher/Price: Brazos Press/$13.82 here

Type: Nonfiction

Genre: Christianity & Culture/Literary Criticism

Number of pages: 260

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Format: This book has ten sections on topics from Treatment of Prisoners, to Moral Responsibility and Stewardship to Military Victory or Moral Victory.  Within these sections, there are 3-7 smaller subtopics further explaining facets of the topic.  The topics grow in depth and profundity through the book.

Overview: A Hobbit Journey explores the deep and often hidden Christian themes and morals that Tolkien wove throughout his stories of Middle Earth found in the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and even the Silmarillion.  This book helps readers of Tolkien from the newbie to the veteran understand and see how the principles of a book written over half a century ago about a world so unlike ours has the power to challenge and transform even its modern readers.

My thoughts: This book is not an easy read.  It may even be a dreadful read for some who aren't die-hard Tolkien fans.  Despite that fact, I really enjoyed it, at least in the way you enjoy a book that aims to make you think and teach you things you never would have learned on your own.  It's not the type of book that grips you as soon as you flip the cover and leaves you spellbound for hours, like this series, but it is certainly full of eye-opening insights into the world of Middle-Earth and I'll never think of LOTR or The Hobbit the same after reading it.

There are parts of A Hobbit Journey that get a bit long and somewhat dry, and I had to push myself to finish it, but I am glad I did.  I would say that if you have not read The Silmarillion, Tolkien's deepest and most mythological work about Middle-Earth, you won't get quite as much out of this book as if you had read that one.  I haven't read The Silmarillion, and so when the author talked really in-depth about some of the theology stuff in that book, I was a little lost.

I could tell just a few pages in that the author basically immersed himself in Tolkien so that when he sits down to write about his books, you get the sense that this guy must have had coffee with Tolkien dozens of times, or at least must have picked his brain in the full sense of the word.  This is especially apparent in the way Dickerson points things out in Tolkien's works.  Like Sarah Arthur's book on Narnia, nothing seems forced or made-up in the way he uncovers the themes of Tolkien's Christianity so heavily layered throughout his tales of Middle-Earth.

Some of the section titles include: "On Hobbits, the Treatment of Prisoners, and the Ethics of War," "Frodo and the Wisdom of the Wise," "Military Victory of Moral Victory," "Moral Responsibility and Stewardship,"The Seen and the Unseen: Salvation and Social Justice,"Ilúvatar's Theme and the Real War."  Keep in mind that he is explaining the way Christian morals influence Middle-Earth, so he describes the way the "good side" (Gandalf, the hobbits, elves, Ents, etc.) views war, for example, and the way their views line up with the Biblical view.  He explains the reason for the mercy shown to Sméagol/Gollum by Bilbo and Frodo, explores the balance between the free will of every creature in Middle-Earth and yet the divine hand that seems to work everything out for good, (just like in our world) even in the way Frodo's mission is finally accomplished at the end of The Return of the King, though not in the way anyone expected.

The most fascinating part of the book to me, was in the chapters where Dickerson explained the theology of Middle-Earth.  Unless you read The Silmarillion, or were an over-achiever when you read LOTR or The Hobbit and had to find out what every single name meant in your six-inch-thick dictionary of every word in Tolkien's works sitting beside you in your chair, you probably won't know too much about Ilúvatar, the good deity of Middle-Earth.  The author talks about him quite in-depth and I found all of that really interesting, even though it was stuck in the middle of the chapters about The Silmarillion and was slow-going.  All in all, I really enjoyed this book, and I'd recommend it, but only to a Tolkien-enthusiast because no one else would make it very far.

Yikes, I knew this would be a whopper of a review.  Thanks for reading!  Ella    

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