Tuesday, March 22, 2011

OFS "Children" and The Hobbit

Tolkien spends a great deal of time discussing children, and why fantasy/fairy-stories may or may not be just for children, or at least is also acceptable for adults, too.

Earlier on in the semester, we seemed to have pretty much decided, as a class, that The Hobbit was a children's novel.

After reading Tolkien's section "Children" from "On Fairy-Stories"...has anyone changed his/her mind? Why or why not?


Luthien said...

Ooh, that's an interesting question!

I've read and still read fairy-story-type "kid's books" and feel the same way Tolkien feels - that they're not just for kids, and have real use/application/validity in the adult world of literature. So now after reading OFS, I feel really hesitant to label ANY fairy story/"children's story" as a "children's story."

In the case of The Hobbit, as compared to LOTR, it's more the style of writing that makes it "child-like" and easier for younger people to understand. The actual material, as Tolkien suggested, is appropriate and relevant for both young and old. SO, long answer short, I guess I'd be hesitant to label it as a children's novel after reading OFS.

Diamond Took said...

Personally, when I talk about "children's" books/stories, I really mean stories suitable for children because of vocabulary and style (and sometimes content). For example, I would argue that Harry Potter and The Hobbit are suitable for child and adult alike. I guess the main idea here is that (good) children's books tend to be "for" everybody including children rather than exclusively for children... if that makes any sense.

Radagast said...

I would agree with both of those comments. I am also hesitant to lable anything as strictly "children's stories". I think that it's like what Tolkien said in OFS, that a child's book should allow for growth. I don't remember where exactly he made this point but that kids should be able to read stories and get something out of them, but as they grow older they can get more out of the stories. He was saying that this helps to develop the child in their reading capability and allows them to grow. So, I think the Hobbit is one of these stories where kids can get something out of it, but it allows them room to grow.

Thengel said...

When we established that The Hobbit was a children's book, we mainly did so by comparing it to The Lord of the Rings in terms of tone and narrative quality. In the end, we decided that Tolkien addressed issues of good and evil in a more childlike way in The Hobbit. The language is more playful, the adventure less weighty, and the characters more clear-cut. If both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings can be labeled "fairy-stories" according to Tolkien's definitions, then one might be called a fairy-story for children, or accessible to children, and the other just a fairy-story. This is in keeping with Tolkien's argument because it shows the spectrum of a fairy-story's potential: the story can be written with children in mind, with a tone catered to them, or can be written to captivate anyone of any age.