02 December 2012

What to learn more about The Hobbit?

This morning I finished reading Corey Olsen's Explore J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), a book he hopes will engage his readers in a conversation that will help them learn more about the world of Middle-earth.

Olsen summarizes the book thus:
This book brings together the lessons I've learned int he classroom, experiences I've had through my podcast, and the love I've always had for Tolkein's work.  There is nothing I enjoy more than walking slowly through a great book with a group of people, taking the time to notice important details and keep track of themes that often slip by when you read on your own.  I hope that you too will enjoy the journey (4).
I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the journey and felt quite at home and engaged in the classroom of this book.

One by one, Olsen walks us through all nineteen chapters of The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again, not as though taking us by the hand as one would a small child unfamiliar with Middle-earth, but as a companion and friend.

The style of his writing very much feels like a conversation, a dialogue, to which one listens with bent and eager ear.

Of particular interest to me was Olsen's fifth chapter, titled "The Turning Point", in which he explores with a most insightful analysis of the riddle game played between Gollum and Bilbo.  I do not wish to spoil the surprise for you; suffice it to say that he has opened before me an entirely new way of reading the riddles as if opening a window or door onto a wide horizon.

Through his observations, Olsen shows the interior unity of The Hobbit, a unity that might otherwise be overlooked.  His insights easily lead to a deepening appreciation of the beauty and the brilliance of Tolkien's achievement.

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