I have read and reread Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit many times. It is a fantastic story and a wonderful introduction into Tolkien’s Middle Earth. A few years ago I discovered the podcast of The Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen. I have listened to many of his podcasts since then and it feels as if you are getting a graduate seminar in Tolkien as you listen. After rereading The Hobbit again in the fall I decided to finally read Olsen’s analysis of it.
It should be noted that this book was not written to piggyback off the success of the movies, Olsen was working on this book prior to the movies coming out. There are many books, or at least there were on the Lord of the Rings in the early 2000s, that purport to share lessons from the stories. The majority of these books are written with good intentions, almost as Christian devotionals, but are shallow and instantly forgotten. Olsen’s book is not such a book, it is fantastic work by a true Tolkien scholar.
Further, the spirit of Olsen’s book somewhat reminds me of the spirit of Tolkien. Tolkien was a Christian but his books were not meant as allegory. There are truths and lessons in there if you look for them, but they are not as blatant as Lewis’ Narnia stories where Aslan = Jesus. In analyzing Tolkien’s book there were a number of places where Olsen could have gone the sermonizing route but did not. That
step is left to the reader. I greatly appreciate that, as, like Tolkien’s work, it demands a bit of thought by the reader. In other words, any lessons here are not spoon-fed.
If you are a fan of the Hobbit, then check this one out. You may want to read the Hobbit as you read this, because Olsen does not explain the story in detail. For example, when Gandalf leaves on his errand, Olsen makes no mention of this, assuming you know at what point in the story that happens. So at least have the Hobbit story fresh in your memory. And enjoy!