J.R.R. Tolkien discussion

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The Hobbit > The Hobbit: Should I read it before LoTR?

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message 1: by Nelle (new)

Nelle (rhinoghost) Okay, so I'm planning on reading "The Lord of the rings" series. I have had it read it to me, I just don't remember it, well I remember a really long epilouge, and long songs and poetry, I've decided to try to read the whole entire series, by starting over. I've been told sevral times to start with "The Hobbit", and I'm wondering why. Thank you so much for your help! :D


message 2: by Michael (last edited Jan 15, 2012 08:00AM) (new)

Michael | 447 comments Mod
You can read J.R.R. Tolkien's LOTR without reading The Hobbit, but I think you would get more enjoyment if you do.

The Hobbit is a classic in its own right, as well as being an introduction to Middle-earth. You will learn more about the nature of Hobbits and dwarves, wizards and elves, you will understand more about Gollum and why Bilbo's meeting with him was so important to the events of LOTR.

Most importantly, you will get to enjoy an incredibly good book. I'm jealous at the thought of you experiencing it for the first time!

I first read The Hobbit nearly 40 years ago when I was 8 and have read it dozens of times since, the last time just a couple of months ago. Each time it's like a visit from an old friend, and I still find little things that I hadn't noticed, or had forgotten.

It's a relatively quick, and definitely rewarding, read. Do it, Nelle: you know it makes sense :-D


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, Nelle, it would do well to read The Hobbit. Like Michael, I read it first when I was quite young (about six years old, I think), and it is an extraordinarily complex and mature work of children's fiction, at least compared to most around these days. But not just the story and the fun of The Hobbit are worth exploring; the book comes out of a very different context from The Lord of the Rings, and the two are strikingly different. Tolkien was writing essentially a short novel in his own financial interests when he wrote The Hobbit; but by the time he was commissioned to write the sequel, his intentions and ideas had changed substantially: The Lord of the Rings is a work of serious, mature epic prose that draws on all of Tolkien's mythology and language and personal themes and morals.

Not only is The Hobbit fun, but the difference and similarity between it and its sequel help one understand both Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings better.

I know I'm dragging on here, but a good example of this is found in the character of Gollum. Tolkien's Gollum in The Hobbit was very different in the first edition, and Tolkien changed his motives and character dramatically for the second edition after he began writing The Lord of the Rings. If you can find a copy of that scene (the chapter 'Riddles in the Dark') from the first edition, I would encourage it. I once heard a Tolkien-scholar describe him while writing as 'flying blind': his ideas were so multitudinous and complex that he wasn't sure how to turn them into commercial fiction.

AND (ha ha!! sorry for taking so much space) if you want to understand The Hobbit a little better, read the novella Roverandom, a children's story about a toy dog his son had lost at the beach. The Hobbit, I think, is a very good median between the feel and aim of Roverandom, which was done essentially for the Hell of it (to be glib), and the very serious feel of The Lord of the Rings, by which time Tolkien realised that people wanted to see and hear more of his invented mythology and his vast fictional world.

OK, I'm done. Have fun with it!


message 4: by Nelle (new)

Nelle (rhinoghost) Thank you Logan and Michael, the other people who told me to read "The Hobbit" first, gave no explanation. Your opinions have helped alot. I will start reading "The Hobbit" as soon as possible! (I have other reading projects I need to finish first). I will also check out the "Roverandom" book as soon as possible! Thank you so much for your help it is greatly appreciated! :D


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael | 447 comments Mod
Roverandom is a great kids book, but lots of humorous bits for adults to appreciate, too.


message 6: by Sidhe (new)

Sidhe Prankster (sidheprankster) | 28 comments I may be a bot late to the party, but I will comment any way. :) The Lord of the Rings was originally supposed to be a sequel to the Hobbit, although it grew into an epic all its own. They essentially follow the same story, and that it one reason to read the Hobbit first. Another reason is because Tolkien wrote in a style that is a bit more formal and more intellectual than most modern fiction writers. If you do not often read historical or mythological works, you may find his elevated writing tone and archaic wording a little tough at first. Because the Hobbit was originally intended as a children's book, the style is a little more playful and less heightened. Therefore it may be better for some to read it first, and gradually adapt to Tolkien's more intellectual style. :) Also, if you find yourself struggling with the Lord of the Rings, I urge you to rent or stream the audio book while you read. I used that technique with my younger sister, and successfully turned her into an avid Ringer. ;)


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Good advice.


message 8: by Nelle (new)

Nelle (rhinoghost) @ Sidhe. Thanks I'll try the audio book idea! I tried reading The Lord of the Rings first, and I had alot of trouble keeping track, so hopefully reading "The Hobbit" first will help. Thanks for your help!


message 9: by Connor (new)

Connor (connork) | 38 comments Also, (nobody slap me please) if you can't get through the prologue in LOTR, skip it. I've never read it. I've started it, but it is very........... not entertaining. ;)


message 10: by Michael (new)

Michael | 447 comments Mod
Connor wrote: "Also, (nobody slap me please) if you can't get through the prologue in LOTR, skip it. I've never read it. I've started it, but it is very........... not entertaining. ;)"

Why, you little....! ;-)


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

The prologue is largely superfluous to the plot, but it does enhance the reality of Tolkien's world, which, of course, is essential to Fantasy (far more than it is in fiction that deals with the real world).


message 12: by Connor (new)

Connor (connork) | 38 comments Michael wrote: "Connor wrote: "Also, (nobody slap me please) if you can't get through the prologue in LOTR, skip it. I've never read it. I've started it, but it is very........... not entertaining. ;)"

Why, you l..."


At least you didn't slap me. ;)


message 13: by Dena (new)

Dena (auntiedena72) True, you can read Lord of the Rings without reading The Hobbit. Lord of the Rings can stand alone. But when I read the series, I decided to start with The Hobbit because the events in it takes place 60 years before the events in the Lord of the Rings. And there are a few referances to The Hobbit in the Lord of the Rings that you would understand better if you read The Hobbit first.


message 14: by Stefan (new)

Stefan Yates (stefan31) | 127 comments Mod
You COULD read The Lord of the Rings without reading The Hobbit, but why would anybody want to?? What's the point in reading over 1000 pages of something after you've skipped the first 300 or so pages of the storyline? ;)


message 15: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 24 comments I too feel the same way as Dena and Stefan above me. I read "The Hobbit" after reading "Lord of the Rings" and I had no trouble enjoying both to the fullest.

The finding the ring is not really a major event in "The Hobbit" it's a subplot or something. Other than that it depends on the readers age. As others have explained here.


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael | 447 comments Mod
But A Long-Expected Party (first chapter of LoTR) is rather light-hearted and leads gently into the more serious tone of the longer work.

I would agree that it doesn't really matter which you read first, but if you haven't read either it's just kind of logical to start with the earlier of the two. Plus LoTR contains some "spoilers" for The Hobbit if you haven't read that already.

Suffice to say, you'll likely enjoy them both regardless of the order you read them in.


message 17: by Stefan (new)

Stefan Yates (stefan31) | 127 comments Mod
I would also think that Bilbo wouldn't be as important to the reader in The Lord of the Rings without first getting to know him in The Hobbit. Without that background, his motivations might be taken WAY out of context.


message 18: by L (new)

L | 132 comments I did read 'the lord of the rings' long before the hobbit, hence i would recomend that you read the hobbit first as it does help to set the scene, before one is introduced to Bilbo and Frodo. Knowing the history between Bilbo and Gandalf first is helpful and i think that you would enjoy LOTR more if you read them in this order (not that there is a set order).


message 19: by Sean (new)

Sean (carcosa) | 16 comments Actually not only would I read the Hobbit first, but I would also read the Silmarillion and Lost Tales first to give you a feel for the history of Middle earth before you get into LOTR. Then again maybe you should just save those before you reread LOTR like I'm doing now.

Definitely read the Hobbit first though.


message 20: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Marks I read LotR before The Hobbit and I didn't feel it made any difference in my eventual enjoyment of the latter (I sandwiched The Silmarillion between the two). I'd say go with whatever seems more interesting first, though if you plan on see The Hobbit movie in December, you might want to get that one finished, first and LotR is decidedly more time consuming.


message 21: by Helena (new)

Helena Greenfield | 3 comments I read The Hobbit first, but I think it doesn't make that much of a difference which one you read first or second. I'd personally read Hobbit first, but eitherway round is fine.


message 22: by John (new)

John Karr (karr) | 4 comments The Hobbit should definitely be read first for continuity sake. It is there we are first introduced the darkly seductive power of The Ring, and the creatures of Middle Earth, including Bilbo.


message 23: by L (new)

L | 132 comments John wrote: "The Hobbit should definitely be read first for continuity sake. It is there we are first introduced the darkly seductive power of The Ring, and the creatures of Middle Earth, including Bilbo."

I do agree.


The Peregrine Shepherd | 8 comments Reading The Hobbit first would serve well if you wanted to 'introduce' yourself to Middle Earth. However, I personally read LOTR first, which gave The Hobbit that extra dimension, knowing everything that was to come.

In the end though, it doesn't really matter that much.


message 25: by Alex (new)

Alex Yes do read The Hobbit first. Just because it was released first and introduces Gandalf and Bilbo and just because it's a easy way to get into Tolkien and how he writes and all.


message 26: by Tara (new)

Tara (pinlynne) | 4 comments Reading "The Hobbit" is not crucial to understanding "The Lord of the Rings", but it would give you an understanding of Middle Earth. I read LOTR first and then read the Hobbit. I read all at least once a year! Enjoy!


message 27: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 10 comments Like if you can't wait for the Hobbit to come out this December!


message 28: by Gianluca (new)

Gianluca (gianlucag) | 3 comments Both LotR and The Hobbit are stand-alone novels and don't need each other to be properly understood. However, The Hobbit is a great book and a perfect introduction to Middle-earth and its main characters.
I recommend reading it before The Lord of the Rings.


message 29: by Joanne (new)

Joanne | 79 comments hey, Nelle, i read the Hobbit when i took I class in Children's Lit at U.Ç.Riverside and didn't much care for it, BUT my teacher recommended LOTR (this was in 1964 before any fame or fortune had come to Tolkien). So I just picked up "The Fellowship of the Ring" at the Pomona Library. I couldn't put it down (even tho I had Four Children to care for. I have been a fan ever since. I regret I never wrote to TRR before he died. My husband once played Gandalf on stage and did a great job---LOTR is like being inside all the great fairy stories, I read them when I feel depressed and need to be lifted. I read The Hobbit after and only then loved it.


message 30: by Samuel (last edited Sep 29, 2012 05:46AM) (new)

Samuel Medina | 5 comments I'd go for the Hobbit first, just to get your feet wet in the world of middle earth. You don't have to, but it will enhance the reading of LOTR in a big way.


message 31: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Dyer | 3 comments There And Back Again will give you a little more of the backstory that might help you to understand what's going on in the trilogy. A few of the characters appear in both works. I would hesitate to say that it's mandatory to read it first, but it would certainly make LoTR better.


message 32: by Dakota (new)

Dakota | 1 comments So happy i found this discussion! I have been wanting to read LotR and didn't know if i should read the Hobbit first. I will defiantly be picking up the Hobbit monday morning when the library opens.:) I feel like I have been living under a rock, I have not even watched the movies and I am a Junior in high school!


message 33: by Kevis (last edited Dec 01, 2012 07:07PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) | 20 comments I'm one of those readers who missed out on reading Tolkien as a child (even though I saw the Cartoons). When I finally got around to reading the books, I had a hard time getting my hands on the professor's books from the library, as they were always--and I do mean--always rented out. I got tired of waiting to read the books in literary order, so I decided to grab the only book that was available to me and that was The Silmarillion. Fortunately, I'm a fan of mythology and classic literature, so it made my introduction to Tolkien much easier than the average reader. I dived right into 'Rings" after that and actually stopped after reading The Two Towers so I could read The Hobbit. Only afterwards, did I go on to read The Return of the King.

Having read the books in this haphazard order, I highly recommend readers to start with The Hobbit. As others have mentioned, it's the most reader-friendly of the Middle-Earth books and will set up the storyline for "Rings" for you. If you read Rings first, you'll miss some of the references to The Hobbit and lose some of the impact of the cyclic nature of the tales.


message 34: by Reyna (new)

Reyna Shruti (aiedail49) | 2 comments If you want to start right at the very beginning then you should read The Silmarillion. That way you'll know how Middle Earth was created and all but its a long complicated history. The Hobbit is a lot easier to read and its more fun too. It would be better to read it before reading LOTR because that way you'd understand Hobbits and Dwarves better and it provides the perfect back story to the trilogy.


message 35: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan The Hobbit has always been a fun read for me. I started to reread over Thanksgiving and I know I am farther along than the first movie. Read it now before the movie put images in your head.


message 36: by Stefan (new)

Stefan Yates (stefan31) | 127 comments Mod
Kevis wrote: "I got tired of waiting to read the books in literary order, so I decided to grab the only book that was available to me and that was The Silmarillion. Fortunately, I'm a fan of mythology and classic literature, so it made my introduction to Tolkien much easier than the average reader."

I have to give you kudos on reading The Silmarillion first and getting through it then continuing on to LOTR and The Hobbit. I thoroughly enjoyed The Silmarillion, but having already read the other books and loved them, helped my in navigating my way through The Silmarillion tremendously. It's a great book, but I would never suggest that someone new to Tolkien read it before getting comfortable with his world and style.

That said, The Hobbit is really the best place to start. It eases the reader in to Middle Earth in a fun way and gives a lot of good background to prepare the reader for LOTR.


message 37: by Kevis (last edited Dec 03, 2012 06:41PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) | 20 comments Stefan wrote: "I have to give you kudos on reading The Silmarillion first and getting through it then continuing on to LOTR and The Hobbit. I thoroughly enjoyed The Silmarillion, but having already read the other books and loved them, helped my in navigating my way through The Silmarillion tremendously. It's a great book, but I would never suggest that someone new to Tolkien read it before getting comfortable with his world and style."

I agree, Stefan. The Silmarillion is my all-time favorite book, but I wouldn't dare recommend anyone to start their education of Tolkien with it. Aside from the sheer size of the book, its contents would scare away most readers who aren't familiar with mythic tales. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is the perfect way to familiarize oneself with Middle Earth. In fact, if the new movie lives up to its billing (and I have no reason to think it won't), I'd recommend movie goers to start there before watching The Lord of Rings too.


message 38: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (penny73lane) I agree with everyone that you'll want to read The Hobbit first. I had read half of it a few years before I read The Lord of the Rings and as soon as I finished LOTR I went back to read The Hobbit. You can read the LOTR firsts but you will want to read The Hobbit when your done so you might as well start with it!!


message 39: by Misty (new)

Misty Karen (mistykaren) | 2 comments a friend told me that if i want to read the series in a chronological manner I should start with The Silmarillion. However when I read it, it was a little bit too much in my first try of Tolkien's works. So, now I just decided to read The Hobbit first instead. :)


message 40: by Dena (new)

Dena (auntiedena72) I read The Hobbit before I read LOTR because I heard there was some referances in LOTR that happened in the Hobbit. And the Hobbit takes palce 60 years before the events in LOTR so to me it just made sense to read The Hobbit first.


message 41: by Pippalotrfan (new)

Pippalotrfan | 2 comments Yes, it was written first therefore Tolkien intended for it to be read first :)


message 42: by Mae (last edited May 25, 2013 02:58PM) (new)

Mae (pitzpalu) | 2 comments I agree with the general consensus in here and advise reading The Hobbit first.
My husband went straight to LOTR and he just doesn`t have the same love for Bilbo as I have.
I read The Hobbit as a teenager and went straight to LOTR. I`ve been re-reading every couple of years since.

I also love Roverandom, it is pure Tolkien, enchanting and very sweet.


message 43: by Brooke (new)

Brooke | 8 comments I am reading The Hobbit right now. I just checked it out from the library. Fun read.


message 44: by Erin (new)

Erin Kahn | 36 comments Brooke wrote: "I am reading The Hobbit right now. I just checked it out from the library. Fun read."

Enjoy! It's pretty awesome.


message 45: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Brooke wrote: "I am reading The Hobbit right now. I just checked it out from the library. Fun read."

Enjoy! It's pretty awesome."


And the book is much better than the movie in my opinion.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 46: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Clark (lit_queen) | 1 comments I'd definitely say read it because it familiarizes you with the world and some of he creatures and locations mentioned in The Lord of the rings trilogy, not to mention there is a lot of referencing in the first part of the fellowship which might get you lost and confused. Personally it does make the whole story more enjoyable and easier to understand since you met almost half the cast or relations to them at least beforehand.


message 47: by Steve (new)

Steve Finegan | 5 comments Yes.


message 48: by John (new)

John Rosegrant | 51 comments Haha! An answer that is short and sweet and correct.


message 49: by Lleonora (new)

Lleonora I've honestly read it after The Lord of the Rings, just because I've met the latter first. I cannot say I regret that, since has been rather sweet to know better Bilbo and his story knowing already the struggles he had to endure in his last years and the story of the Ring itself.
So, what I can tell you is this: Should you read it before The Lord of the Rings? It depends. For me, it has been better this way, reading it after, because I couldn't have been able to appreciated it and it could have put me off Tolkien altogether. So, knowing what you now know about them and about how different they are from each other, you can make a choice based on your tastes.
(I hope I didn't explain myself too poorly, English is not my first language!)


message 50: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Eleonora wrote: "I've honestly read it after The Lord of the Rings, just because I've met the latter first. I cannot say I regret that, since has been rather sweet to know better Bilbo and his story knowing already..."

You did great, Eleanora - if you hadn't said so, I wouldn't even have known English was not your first. :)

I read The Hobbit after LOTR as well and enjoyed it in that order as well.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


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