Something about the author…

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on the 3. January 1892, he was an English writer, a philologist, a poet and a university professor.

He became one of the closest friends of C.S. Lewis, they were members of an informal literary group called “Inklings”,

On 28 March 1972, Tolkien was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

As a child, he lost his father because of rheumatic fever in Africa. His mother brought him and his brother to England. Where, at the age of four, Tolkien could write fluently and read many books. In 1904, when J.R.R. Tolkien was only 12, his mother died of diabetes, she was 34 years old. After the death of his mother, Tolkien was assigned to Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan and grew up as a good Catholic.

In October 1911, after a long trip in Switzerland, Tolkien began studying at Exeter College, Oxford. He started studying Classics but changed his course in 1913 to English Language and Literature. He graduated with first-class honours in 1915.

On 22 March 1916, Tolkien married Edith Bratt, a friend since he was 16 years old. Tolkien admired his wife, who decided to marry a man with no job, little money and that could be killed during the Great War.

When the UK entered the First World War, in fact, Tolkien decided to fight for his Nation. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and trained with the 13th Battalion. On 2. June 1916, he was sent to Somme, where he arrived in early July.

He had escaped death because he was several times ill and stayed at camp-hospitals.

When he returned to England, he started working for the Oxford English Dictionary, then, in 1920, became a reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, he was the youngest professor there.

In January 1939, he was asked to enter in the cryptographic department of the Foreign Office, he accepted, on March he took part in a course, but in October he was informed that his service would not be required.

In 1945, Tolkien moved to Merton College in Oxford, where he worked as a Professor of English Language and Literature. He remained there until his retirement (1959).

During his life in retirement (1959 – 1973) Tolkien became very famous, so popular that he had to take his phone number out of the public directory and, with Edith, he moved to Bournemouth.

Edith Tolkien died on 29 November 1971, at the age of 82.

J.R.R. Tolkien died 21 months later, on 2 September 1973, at the age of 81.

The couple was buried in the same grave at Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford.

The Tolkiens had four children: John Francis (1917 – 2003), Michael Hilary (1920 – 1984), Christopher John (born 21 November 1924) and Priscilla Mary Anne (born 18 June 1929).

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THE HOBBIT

This book was awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction and it is recognized as a classic in children’s literature.

The central themes of this story are heroism and personal growth.

Some dates:

First publication: 21 September 1937

Illustration of my book by: Alan Lee

Number of pages: 387

Publishing house: Harper Collins Publishers

Chapter 1:”An unexpected party” (pages 3-36)

This is a story of how the hobbit Bilbo Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected.

The hobbits are a sedentary folk, they don’t have use for adventures. They are inclined to be fat, they dress in bright colours, wear no shoes, laugh deep.

They live in holes in the ground in the area of The Hill. Bilbo’s house has a perfectly round door, Hobbits don’t have stairs: the best rooms are on the left, because there are the windows.

It was April when Gandalf, with his tall pointed blue hat, the white beard and the black boots, came in Bilbo´s house. Gandalf was a very famous wizard in The Hill for his tales and his excellent fireworks, but that day he was there to invite Bilbo to participate in an adventure. Bilbo was not that happy, but he was a really polite hobbit and invited Gandalf to tea on the following day.

The following day Gandalf came, but not alone…with him, slowly, arrived other 13 dwarves: Dwalin, Balin, Kili and Fili (the youngest), Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and the leader Thorin Oakenshield. They all had a mission: set free the Lonely Mountain, their house, from Old Smaug, a dragon that had killed almost all Thorin’s population and had taken place in the treasure trove.

Chapter 2:”Roast Mutton” (pages 37-57)

At the end of the report, Bilbo decided to help the dwarves and became their “burglar”, the one that had to build up planes and open doors.

Their adventure started just before May. They left on ponies, their destination: The Lonely Mountain.

One night Bilbo encountered 3 trolls who were eating near a fire. Unfortunately they managed to catch him and to catch also all the other dwarves. While the trolls were discussing about how to cook the company, a powerful light hit them and transformed them into stones. Gandalf had saved the dwarves.

After this setback, the company managed to find the troll’s cave where Thorin and Gandalf took two swords and a lot of food for their companions.

Chapter 3:”A short Rest” (pages 58-69)

After other long days, thanks to the guide of the wizard, the company reached the Misty Mountain and the Last Lonely House, where the Valley of Rivendell was placed. Here they stayed for about 14 days with the elves and their chiefs Elrond. The King Elrond gave them some help with the decodification of the map of the Lonely Mountain.

He discovered where the entry was and how they could arrive there.

Chapter 4:”Over Hill and Under Hill” (pages 70-86)

After 14 days of rest, the company greeted the elves and took to the right road. From there they found a hard, long, dangerous path. During the night they also found themselves in the middle of a stone-giants fight, so Kili and Fili were sent to find a better shelter. They found a dry cave, Gandalf explored it and said that it was safe, but it wasn’t so…after some time, Goblins came out, rubbed the ponies, Gandalf managed to escape while the others were brought to Goblin-town to the Great Goblin. Fortunately Gandalf had a big heart and decided to follow them, enter the town and kill the Great Goblin. The company began to run, but Dori and Bilbo fell. Bilbo hit his head and remained behind.

Chapter 5:”Riddles in the Dark” (pages 87-115)

When Bilbo woke up, he understood that he was alone and started to walk in search of someone. At one point he found a ring, put it in his pocket just before Gollum appeared…Gollum was a diabolic creature and suggested a riddle contest, if Bilbo had won, Gollum had to bring him to the exit. The last of Bilbo’s riddle was: “What have I got in my pocket?” Gollum failed, so he had to show Bilbo the way, but first he went to his cave and searched for his ring. Gollum was not stupid and was hungry, he wanted to put on the magic ring, that made invisible and hit Bilbo, but he didn’t find the ring…

Chapter 6:”Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire” (pages 116-142)

Hopefuly Bilbo put the ring on and managed to escape. He seemed to have the right to the other side of the Misty Mountain, right to the edge of the land beyond. He heard voices and recognized Balin, he took the ring off and went down. He didn’t talk about the ring, he just told them about Gollum. After the little report, the company continued on its way until an opening area where no trees grew. This idea wasn’t one of the most clever, just after some time, wolves came. The dwarves and Bilbo had to climb on trees and the wizard picked up a fire, but the goblins came and used the smoke against the company. Everything was saved by the Lord of the Eagles, an old friend of the wizard who scared the goblins.

Chapter 7:”Queer Lodgings” (pages 143-177)

The eagles brought the company to the Carroek, a flat space with a stone in the centre. Gandalf remembered that some miles north from there a friend of his lived, Beorn was his name. He was a skin-changer: during the day he was a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard, during the night he was transformed into a huge black bear. He was not the sort of person to ask questions, for this reason the wizard recommended to enter the house two by two.

They had dinner there and stayed for two days.

On the second day Beorn gave them ponies, horse, food, cakes, skins for carrying water and bows and arrows. They rode for two other days.

On the 4. day they reached the Dark Forest, here lived the eaves of Mirkwood, they sent back the ponies and Gandalf left. He said to them:” Good-bye! Be good, take care of yourselves and don’t leave the path!”

Chapter 8:”Flies and Spiders” (pages 178-217)

The company entered the Dark Forest in a single row. In that forest black squirrels lived, all the time it was nearly completely dark, but during the nights they saw eyes all around them.

The first day they found a river and a boat, Fili managed to hang it with a rope, but Bombur fell into the water and fell asleep for 4 days or more. In the meantime a white deer appeared, the dwarves lost their last arrows and started to despain. They didn’t know that the white deer was a sign, they weren’t that far from the end of the forest. Unfortunately they were attracted by an elvish-looking folks party. They followed them 3 times then something terrible happened… big spiders began to tie with their cobwebs Bilbo and the other, they were far from the path now. Hopefully Bilbo woke up in time, unsheathed his sword and kill the spider who was tidying him. (For this reason he called his sword: Sting.) To save the dwarves, Bilbo put on the magic ring, became invisible and began to throw stones in order to bring the spiders as far as he could and then came back to his friends. The first dwarf to be saved was Fili… there were still 5 dwarves in trap when the spiders began to return and, when all of them were set free, the battle began.

In all that confusion the company didn’t see that Thorin was missing. In fact he was carried away by the elves after he had fallen asleep near their “party-area”.

Chapter 9:”Barrels out of Bond” (pages 218-240)

Instead of looking for Thorin, Bilbo and the dwarves began to look for the path, but the wood-elves stopped them. Bilbo had the chance to put the ring on, but the other ones were brought to the cave of the King. They stayed there for about a week or two, while Bilbo looked for a way to set them free again. He managed to “borrow” the keys of the prisons and carried the dwarves to a stream that flowed to the east; there they found a lot of empty barrels and waited in them until the elves put them in the stream.

Chapter 10:”A Warm Welcome” (pages 241-256)

Bilbo sat over his barrel and looked at the landscape, until he saw the Mountain! It was late day when the barrels, and the dwarves, arrived to the Long Lake, from there flowed the Forest River and on its bank the company found a Mens-town. The town was very powerful at Dales’ time, but now it was time for the dwarves to be set free; after that, Bilbo, Fili, Kili and Thorin went to the Master of Lake-town. They managed to receive a house and all the medical care for the entire company. After a week the Master gave them three ships, ponies and food, they were ready for the last part of their route.

Chapter 11:”On the Doorstep” (pages 257-268)

After two days they arrived to the River Running, from there they could already see the Mountain. On the next day they disembarked and rode on their ponies. On the fourth day they reached the Desolation of Smaug: the area where no grass grew and no-one could survive.

It was winter when they built up the first camp on a height called Ravenhill; here Bilbo, Kili, Fili and Balin went to look for the Front Gate. They found it after days of search on the top of the cliff. A night passed by, then the group, except for Bofur and Balin who had to stay with the ponies, went up and tried to open the magical Gate. Fortunately the next day, by sunset, the lock appeared and Thorin opened the door.

Chapter 12:”Inside Information” (pages 269-296)

Bilbo, as a burglar, had to be the first to enter the cave…also Balin decided to enter, but stopped after a while and bade Bilbo “Good luck”. The hobbit, alone, put the ring on and began to follow a red light and a noise, like an animal snoring. He found himself in the dangeon-hall and saw Smaug asleep on an amount of precious things. Bilbo stole a cup and ran away back to the dwarves. After a little time, Smaug woke up: the cup was missing and this made him so angry that he came to the Gate; Bilbo, Balin, Fili and Kili escaped in the tunnel, the other went to Bombur and Bofur, who were with the ponies, and saved them.

The dragon came out, ate the ponies and began to fly around the Mountain, then he went back to his hall. Bilbo was sent there to talk with him; as usual he put the ring on and started to speak with Smaug. The dragon wasn’t stupid, he knew that there were dwarves and started to confuse Bilbo with his speeches. When the hobbit returned to the rest of the company, he was worried, he felt uncomfortable and decided to shut the door and remain in the Mountain.

They made the right decision, because only after a couple of minutes, Smaug flew upon the Mountain towards Lake-town. 

Chapter 13:”Not at Home” (pages 297-312)

The company waited in the darkness for days; they had no idea about where Smaug was, so they decided to go down to the hall. The dragon wasn’t there and they began to look for a beautiful stone, the heart of the Mountain: the Arkenstone. Bilbo found it, but he decided to keep it for himself. From the hall, Thorin showed the way to the Front Gate, from there they went to the old guard room and had a rest.

Chapter 14:”Fire and Water” (pages 313-325)

But where was Smaug??

He was gone for about 2 days…he flew to the Lake-town and attacked it. There was a terrible battle: soon everyone tried to escaped, except Bard, the descendant of Birion, Lord of Dale. He managed to kill Smaug!

After the death of Smaug, most of those who survived wanted Bard as their King, but he decided to go and rebuild Dale. Also the elves came, began to rebuild the town and went to the Mountain.

Chapter 15:”The Gathering of the Clouds” (pages 326-339)

In the meantime a raven flew to the dwarves and announced the death of the dragon. The company reinforced the main entrance and remained informed by the ravens. Bard arrived and, after a long talk and a lot of refuses, declared the Mountain besieged. The dwarves and Bilbo were in a trap!

Chapter 16:”A Thief in the Night” (pages 340-348)

Thorin called 500 dwarves from the Iron Hills, Bilbo had to stop this fight: he took the tour from Bombur, put the ring on and went down to the camp. There he took his magic ring off and talked to Bard; he gave him the Arkenstone and, on his way back, Gandalf appeared and complimented him for his work.

Chapter 17:”The Clouds Burst” (pages 349-364)

On the next day an embassy with 20 men, including Bard and the Elvenking, came to Thorin: they wanted to give him the Arkenstone and in exchange they wanted 1/14 in silver and gold. Thorin denied and the following day the other dwarves came. Battle was about to begin…This incredible battle was called: “The Battle of Five Armies”. The Goblins and the Wild Wolves against Elves, Men and Dwarves. Bilbo ran away, but saw the eagles fly upon his head and a stone hit him and he fell.

Chapter 18:”The Return Journey” (pages 365-376)

Bilbo woke up, a man found him and carried him to the camp in the valley where he met Gandalf and Thorin. Thorin was injured and died. He was buried beneath the Mountain with the Arkenstone with his sword Urcrist. Dain, son of Nain, became King under the Mountain, 10 remained with him and Bilbo discovered that also Fili and Kili had died defending Thorin. Dain gave Bilbo two small chests full of silver and gold, then the hobbit and the wizard rode behind the Elvenking to the forest. There they decided to go along the edge, round its northern end with Beorn. The three arrived at Beorn’s house by mid-winter and Bilbo and Gandalf left by spring.

Chapter 19:”The Last Stage” (pages 377-387)

They reached the Valley of Rivendell on May the First. They stayed there only a week, then they rode away. When they arrived home, Bilbo discovered that he was “Presumed Dead”, so all his furniture were being sold and he had to re-buy it.

One autumn evening Gandalf and Balin came to visit him: Bard had rebuilt Dale, the Valley had become rich again, Lake-town was found again and men, dwarves and elves lived in peace now.

COMMENT:

I started watching “The Lord of the Rings” films, when I was about 5 years old, I also read the Italian version of the books, but I’ve never had the occasion and the ability to read the English version! I really enjoyed this book, and I also found some differences from the Italian one. This summer I went to Bournemouth and I have looked for the book with the original illustration, the one by Tolkien. I found it, but it was too expensive, so I’ve only looked at it. The illustrations were beautiful, they brought me to an other world, into Tolkien’s world!

Reading this book is like stopping your life and starting to follow Bilbo’s life. It’s an adventure full of suspense and fear and the characters are never too many!

I think that I’m going to read also the other three books and I have to return to Oxford and look for Tolkien’s burial site.

I recommend this book to everyone. This is the kind of book which is perfect for girls who want to live a crazy adventure and for boys who want to feel what real fear is. This book is for everyone who has the time to imagine things, to create things, to just leave his life and live an adventurous adventure!

(c) Marta Cattani

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The Hobbit by Marta Cattani

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