Tolkien's Hobbit: From Children's Story to Mythic Creation
<i>"Mr. Baggins began as a comic tale among conventional and inconsistent fairy-tale dwarves, and got drawn into the edge of it - so that even Sauron the terrible peeped over the edge."
-J.R.R Tolkien, letter to his publisher (quoted in Carpenter 1977, 182).</i>
The Hobbit started as little more than a bedtime story for Tolkien's children. Like most of his fellow academics, Tolkien viewed fantasy as limited to childhood. The result was a book written in a chatty, informal style that contrasts sharply with that of its serious successors. The narrator makes frequent patronising and intrusive asides, such as "And what would you do, if an uninvited dwarf came and hung his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?" (H, 18). The language approximates baby-talk at times (nasty, dirty wet hole oozy smell"), and modifiers ("terribly", "lots and lots") abound.
Many critics, including Tolkien himself, have viewed this as the chief weakness of the book. Although the tone does evoke the oral tradition through which myths were originally created, it detracts from the power of the book. It renders villains are more comic than truly threatening, its heroes more endearing...
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