Have you read Tolkien's "The Hobbit?" How about The Lord of the Rings? I'd like to know what your experience was like, and what your thoughts are. --- I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time in elementary school. It was a strange but charming, soft-cover copy that I haven’t been able to find since; about the size of a college history book and interspersed with beautifully drawn pictures. And I hated it. However, that was what I’d chosen for my quarterly book assignment. I can’t remember the requirements now other than having to read for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and writing something about it. I recall being bored to tears and utterly confused for most of the story. Tolkien’s genius was lost on me until a year ago when I finally bought the full set from Barnes & Noble. I loved The Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson long before I was supposedly deemed old enough to watch them (what can I say, I’m also a naughty boy) and figured it was about time I read the books that they originated from. Yet I couldn’t do that without first reading The Hobbit again. Often has it been said that The Hobbit was intended for children and, while this may be so, I’m inclined to believe there was some important information lost in translation. It was intended to be read to children, not by them. The sing-song cadence, the internal rhyme, the alliteration and assonance of the dwarven names, all begs for it to be read aloud and brought to life as a bedtime story. Those devices are as deliberate as the songs and poems Tolkien sprinkles throughout the work. The unexplained, mysterious magic, and embedding the tale in the context of a vastly rich, fictional universe with its own history, is also not by accident. It dreamily summons the same awe and wonder in the child as the real world does. More than that, The Hobbit is a call to adventure. I would know, because it inspired me to travel to Toronto alone for a weekend and attend a free speech event I’d been invited to. Leave the comfort of your hobbit-hole, go forth and slay a dragon. Face what you fear most, because that’s where the treasure is, and if you don’t confront the dragon on your own terms it will eventually awaken from its slumber and come to destroy you. Either pick the hill you want to die on, or it will be chosen for you. There’s no naive promise of success here. As Gandalf appropriately warns Bilbo, “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back… And if you do, you will not be the same.” Rather, the promise is simply that if you refuse to enter the forest at the point which looks darkest to you - like King Arthur and the knights of the round table - you will never find the Holy Grail. You won’t realize your potential, much less whatever it is that you seek; you won’t reclaim the treasure for the dwarves, elves, or men folk, and you won’t free Laketown from the evil that watches from the Lonely Mountain. Altogether, this is what makes The Hobbit the masterful classic that it is. It’s the ultimate expression of a set of archetypal themes that are an integral, undeniable part of our lives. In the same way that Bilbo passes the torch to Frodo, Tolkien says to venture into the world and slay your dragons. Live life, mature, transform and transcend. Change the world for the better. Then return, and pass on your experience and fortune to your children until they are ready to go there and back again.