The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

by Liz on August 2, 2012 · Modern Firsts

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien      As the world excitedly anticipates the completion of the long awaited for film, The Hobbit, ample credit towards the remarkable rare book whose story inspired the film is certainly due. While the book is not only a classic favorite in rare book literature, it is also significantly valuable in the rare book market, which rightfully calls even more attention to J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece.
Anyone who has read the rather ordinary sounding title knows that The Hobbit is not only extraordinary, but from the first page onwards, it renders the reader incapable of paying mind to anything else in life other than the tumultuous, suspenseful, and exciting happenings and occurrences that Bilbo Baggins and his band of dwarf friends encounter. From associations with mystical and mysterious magicians such as Gandalf, to near death experiences with blood thirsty trolls, conniving wood elves, merciless spiders, insidious dragons, and power hungry townspeople, The Hobbit or There and Back Again is a tale that is most definitely not easily forgotten, which makes the cinematic production even more enthralling to look forward to.
While some readers may argue that The Hobbit is merely a children’s book that is unworthy of significant attention or praise, the scholars who had the opportunity to analyze the book, all argue against this belief. Though Tolkien is mindful of a young audience in his work, and is therefore careful to incorporate just the right amalgamation of excitement and suspense with delight and ultimate triumph, the root of his chaotic and riveting plot actually has a much deeper and more profound meaning than what is initially understood. In fact, as the book was written in 1937, right during a time of terror and abuse inflicted by the Nazi’s, it is commonly believed that the abuse which Bilbo falls prey to from such monstrous characters as the trolls, closely emulates and represents the horrific actions which were taken against differing races by the nefarious Nazi’s during the time that the book was written. Indeed, I myself recall studying The Hobbit in English Literature class as a young college student, and learning the true meanings and symbolic interactions in the tale that are subtly interwoven with true to life regrettable and unforgiveable actions such as those performed by the Nazi army.
Besides the startling and arresting fact that Tolkien sought to bring attention to real world crises and conflicts through his tale, another reason why I believe The Hobbit has become so popular is that throughout the tale, a breathtaking and life changing personal transformation occurs in the life of Bilbo Baggins. At the beginning of the story, Bilbo is a spineless and habitual homebody who thrives on routine and the comfort of his fireside chair and many hot meals which he partakes of throughout the day. By the conclusion of the tale, however, Bilbo is a strong and fearless warrior who has not only saved the lives of his friends more than once, but has defeated the much feared dragon, Smaug, who has terrorized the townspeople for many years. While Bilbo is certainly reluctant to take part in the death defying quest which takes up most of the tale, when he is faced with immediate danger and untimely circumstances, Bilbo ultimately comes through and pushes past his fears and reservations to save those that are dear to him. This gradual and eventual emotional change is one that is extremely applicable to individuals everywhere. In the everyday hurdles and problematic encounters that are faced in day to day life, a constant personal transformation occurs in each of us as we ultimately choose to rise above our problems, and opt to become stronger and braver with everything unpleasant that is handed us, or with certain formidable tasks which we know we need to complete, as was the case many times with Bilbo Baggins.
First edition copies of The Hobbit are extremely rare. The Rare Book Sale Monitor has recorded an increasing interest from collectors during the last two years. Pricing for the first printing has almost doubled during the last two years. The fact that there is now a film version of the tale being produced certainly boosted its demand, while copies of the George Allen & Unwin, London 1937, first impression, that are in good condition and which include the dust wrapper are very scarce.
While rare book collectors are in hot pursuit of The Hobbit now, Tolkien fans are bound to increase in numbers when the film is released. For the new fan and collector, a book that is brimming with danger, excitement, trickery, violence, and good triumphing over evil, may hold the right ingredients to fuel a dedicated quest. Indeed, once The Hobbit is found, one may feel at one with Bilbo Baggins when he too reaches the end of his quest and gazes at the dragon’s hoarded treasure. “…on all sides stretching way across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light.”

About the author

Partner, rare book dealer. Sekkes Consultants.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Bender August 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm

The Hobbit was 9th grade reading material. I was never a good student, but for some reason, this story grabbed hold of me. It allowed me to take a deeper interest in my academics definitely altering the trajectory of my education. This book holds a lot of sentimental value for me.

Out of curiosity, do you know any values of different copies of The Hobbit? I have a copy from the 70s I think. It’s an anniversary edition in a gold box. Thanks


Admin August 2, 2012 at 11:35 pm

The Hobbit, 50th Anniversary Edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1977 is valued between $50 – $150 depending on condition.


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