Marking the anniversary of The Hobbit’s ‘birth’

English literature lecturer Alaric Hall with a first edition of Tolkien's book The Hobbit.
English literature lecturer Alaric Hall with a first edition of Tolkien's book The Hobbit.

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the best selling book which tells the tale of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his amazing journey through the lands of Middle Earth.

The story, and subsequent trilogy, The Lord Of The Rings, has become a literary classic, and all four books have since been turned into blockbuster movies.

Like many other people, I discovered the joys of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings thanks to the recommendations of a classmate, when I was a fresh-face teenager at school (more on him later).

I remember, having read The Hobbit, I hot-footed (should that be hairy-footed) it to the local branch library (do you remember them?) to ask if they had a copy of The Fellowship of The Rings, the first book in the trilogy.

Despite having three copies, all three were out, and I had a bit of a wait for one of them to be returned. Thankfully, getting hold of the other two books proved easier.

Just months later, for Christmas, I was given a deluxe version of the trilogy, which I re-read, again and again.

Now that brings me back to that school pal who, being a keen reader, used to spend every minute of break-times, with his nose buried in a book.

As I mentioned, he put me on to The Hobbit. However, I certainly didn’t take his lead when it came to reading the trilogy – for he didn’t read them in the correct order.

To this day, I can’t imagine how he did it, but having been told by his local library that the first book was unavailable, he decided to read the second instalment (The Two Towers) first.

A day or so later, he appeared in school with the third book (The Return Of The King) before finally managing to get hold of the first book.

How he made sense of the jumbling-up of the plot and the characters I’ll never know.

What are your memories of first discovering Tolkein’s famous work? And if the tales from Middle Earth were not to your taste, what was your favourite book as you discovered the wonderful world of literature?