It was on this day in 1937 – 70 years ago – that J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit, his first novel. Though I was not able to get into the Lord of the Rings trilogy until I was an adult, The Hobbit has been one of my very favorite books for as long as I can remember. I learned to read very early and read everything I could get my hands on, so my parents practically had to start hiding anything with inappropriate subject matter. This included my mother’s medical books, the reading of which convinced me that I was dying of a number of horrible and rare diseases despite all evidence to the contrary.
But Mom had a paperback copy of The Hobbit, and I was allowed to read that one. I don’t have a clue how old I was when I first read it, but I remember exactly where it was kept on the tall bookshelf in our house in Colorado. I read that book literally dozens of times – so many times, in fact, that the front cover and a few of the beginning pages disintegrated years ago.
I was never able to get into The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, and even when I forced myself to read them as an adult, I could never see what all the fuss was about. And I never got into the stupid cheesy cartoon they released. I knew exactly how everything looked and sounded and smelled based on my time with that crumbling paperback, and it was all I needed. The Hobbit was to me what The Chronicles of Narnia were for many children my age. It nurtured a vivid imagination and love of fantasy that I still have today. It was a book I loved like a security blanket, that I went back to again and again and lost myself in every time. It made a profound impact on the person I am today.
At some point in the last few years, I swiped that old tattered copy of the book from my mom’s bookshelf, and I’ve had it with me ever since. (Sorry, Mom, and no, I’m not giving it back.) Just like I remember where it was on that old tall dark bookshelf in Colorado, I can picture where it is on my bookshelf at home this very minute. I might not go back to it as often as I used to, but I take some comfort in knowing it’s there whenever I need it.