Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Hobbit: A Children's Story

We have discussed now several times the fact that The Hobbit was aimed primarily at children. After discussing the themes in detail over the past week, it is apparent that he included lessons for kids among the adventure. However, I remember first reading it my freshman year of high school, and it didn't strike me as a children's book. The songs did seem odd during the first read, but I figured that it was simply Tolkien's style. I know that I didn't fully appreciate his artistry the first time around, but it didn't seem similar to the children's stories that I've grown up with. I'm curious to know if anyone caught that it was aimed at children during their first read if they didn't already know, and if so, why? Secondly, do you think that your opinion of the book was affected after knowing that it's aimed at kids?


Nessa said...

I first read this book in third grade; it was the first book I had ever read by Tolkien, and I loved it--not least because I thought it was an "adult book". I didn't think of it as a children's book at the time because I knew so many adults who still read and loved it, but I do remember it appealing more to me than the Lord of the Rings books which I read the following year. I think that the fact that it is written for kids doesn't make it less literary or less beautiful. It changes the content more than anything. However, knowing that it was written for children makes me analyze it differently. Someone can say the exact same sentence to an adult and a child, and its meaning will change entirely.

Aulë said...

I agree with Nessa that, as a child, I looked at The Hobbit as more of an "adult" book. My father read it to my sisters and I as a bed-time story when we were little because it was one of his favorite books, and we loved the story, but it wasn't a "normal" bed-time tale. We had to listen to this one chapter by chapter, and there weren't pictures on every page! That meant that we had to think about the story and remember what was happening the next night, and we had to really listen to understand it, but I remember being intrigued by the dwarves, elves, and dragon and feeling like a "big kid" for being able to follow along.
Reading it now, I can see how it is a children's book but it still doesn't really feel like one, and I think that is on purpose. It strikes me that childhood meant a lot to Tolkien; he disagreed with the idea that children are too stupid or delicate to handle certain things in stories, as we saw in "On Fairy Stories," when he says it is better to wait until a child is old enough for a story if it is scary or intense, rather than to water it down to make it palatable. I think Tolkien believed that kids are much smarter than people give them credit for, and even though The Hobbit was a children's story, that didn't mean it was going to pander to children as infants.

Ossë said...

I had a similar experience to all of you. I think I was in sixth grade when I first read The Hobbit, but I also thought it was a book more for adults (and felt very sophisticated and accomplished when I finished the book). When I read LOTR next, I realized that The Hobbit was easier to read and understand, but I never thought it was simplistic or childish. Even though The Hobbit is considered a children's book, it doesn't really seem like one (unless you compare the book to LOTR). For me, this is similar to how I feel about the Harry Potter series. I love both HP and The Hobbit, and even though they're both written for younger audiences, I've never stopped loving them. These are the kinds of stories that people enjoy no matter their age.