The 80th Anniversary of ‘The Hobbit’

by Lee Cross


It’s been 80 years since The Hobbit was first published.

How do you follow a statement like that; truthfully, I don’t know, and it could be argued that every pure fantasy writer has spent the last eight decades trying to follow in the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary book (just a quick FYI: for me The Hobbit is part of the longer story known collectively as The Lord of the Rings).

I could write reams about how The Hobbit’s influence can still be felt, about the superb homages and in-references that I’ve come across, at those times when I have my Fant-Sci head on; and if Jeannie (who puts this site and my ramblings together) was to let me off the leash here, I could turn the air blue talking about horrifying rips offs

(There’s one particular series, by Terry Brooks, that infuriates me. I could not be paid to read, the sword of… whatever the flip it was, again)

Of course, now the world is a vastly different place to when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit; extreme right-wing politics is the order of day, Europe is a fractured and troubled place, and the world appears to be on the brink of a global war…

Erm, well, ok – so, all that stuff is the same BUT cinema has changed a lot.

sendak_hobbitWhen The Hobbit was first published, could the readers of that time ever have imagined a day when it would come to be made into a movie? or three of them for that matter; with a combined production budget of €675 million dollars, and apparent box office takings of nearly 3 billion (I’ve just taken those number of Wikipedia, so who knows whether they are accurate – the only answer that truly matters is, “a lot”).

And that question isn’t just me spit-balling, I’m genuinely interested; I come from a family that didn’t read obsessively, and my own Grandparents would never have read any Tolkien: could the 95 year-old book worms have ever imagined a time when their dreams would have been on the big screen? (please email / tweet me here, if you ever had those conversations – I’d truly love to hear)

tovejansson_hobbit2I don’t like the movies personally, but I can’t deny that they are visually spectacular, and have added something to the legend of J.R.R – taking it to audiences that would never have chosen to read the source material. If even 1% of those viewers picked up the novel, and fell in love with it, then I can forgive Legolas running around with a sword like a mad thing (I can’t forgive Peter Jackson however).

In my heart of hearts though, I wish that the wider story of the war of the ring was still ours, we the readers of the world, a secret we shared by word of mouth and from hand to hand; with the knowledge of what Bilbo has in his pockets, being a hard-earned rite of passage and badge of honour, one you could display only in closed session, to let your fellows know you were part of a very special club.

Eighty years has passed in the blink of a flaming eye, soon it will be a hundred, then two, and three, four and five; by which time I will have long departed into whatever truly passes for the west.

In all these times to come though, I can’t ever imagine a time when the writings of Mr Tolkien aren’t the gold standard to which all other fantasy novels are measured.


6 thoughts on “The 80th Anniversary of ‘The Hobbit’

  1. Chris White says:

    Hello. This is such a great blog. Just the sort of thing I like to read.
    Now following you with much interest. Thank you so much for following my blogs at Routine Matters and the 1951 Club. So good to meet you. Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matthew Wright says:

    The Hobbit is one of my favourite all-time books – naturally joined by LOTR! Awesome to think people have been enjoying it for 80 years. I have been a huge Tolkien fan since I was a kid & saw the Pauline Baynes maps, which inspired me. I was blown away when Peter Jackson began filming LOTR – all around where I live in Wellington, and not secretly; the sets for Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were built sequentially in a quarry off a highway leading out of Wellington, easily in public view. Wonderful stuff. But something horrible seemed to happen to The Hobbit adaptation – aiyeeee!


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