(Giveaway is now closed)
The ever-increasing popularity of Middle Earth has brought a profusion of books written about both J. R.R. Tolkien and his created world. The recent Hobbit movies have focused this popularity on Tolkien’s prequel to The Lord of the Rings. Those who love to read about the unexpected journey of Bilbo Baggins will be intrigued by one recent book that examines the spiritual journey within the pages of The Hobbit.
The Spiritual World of The Hobbit, by James Stuart Bell. 2013, 234 pages. Age/interest level: 12-up
Anyone familiar with Tolkien will know of his criticism of Narnia due to allegory. Because of this, I appreciate James Stuart Bell’s clarification as he explains his purpose in writing a book on the spiritual world of The Hobbit:
[Tolkien] felt that allegories broke the enchantment he sought to create . . . Therefore, as I explore the spiritual themes within The Hobbit, I will not claim that a moment in Bilbo’s experience “symbolizes” an aspect of the Christian life. . . . Instead, I’ll point out the ways that Tolkien’s Secondary World -in this case, the story of Bilbo’s adventure -reflects the values and truths God built into the Primary World.
What follows is a thoughtful, interesting, and literary look at The Hobbit from a Christian worldview. Along the way, readers will learn more about the history of Middle Earth gleaned from The Silmarillion and other works of Tolkien. They will also see, through scriptural references, how many of the themes revealed in The Hobbit are also found in the Bible.
Bell recommends that you read The Hobbit in conjunction with this book. Therefore, after an opening three chapters that focus on Tolkien and Middle Earth, there are 19 chapters which each correspond with a chapter in The Hobbit. Readers familiar with The Hobbit do not need to follow the reading plan but will want a copy handy for reference. I certainly was flipping through mine!
If, like me, you were dissatisfied by how much the latest Hobbit movie erred from the book, then this will be a refreshing read. It stays true to The Hobbit storyline while gently delving deeper. This is a quiet book, best enjoyed curled up with a cup of tea. Though at times a trifle repetitive, the whole book is theologically sound. For Tolkien lovers both young and old who have never considered the influence of Tolkien’s faith upon Middle Earth, here is a great introduction.
See Emily’s POST with excerpts from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth for a deeper and more philosophical look at Tolkien’s work.
For a chance to win your own copy of The Spiritual World of the Hobbit, leave a comment below and tell us your favorite book by Tolkien, or which of his works you would like to read. Giveaway ends midnight, Wednesday (January 29).