Why “The Hobbit” is not just for kids – Reblog from Aleteia.org

I came across this commentary this morning and I think it’s just wonderful. While I haven’t read The Hobbit since high school, it is one of the books (along with Lord of the Rings) that I hope to introduce to my kids when they’re old enough. The author of this commentary, Tod Worner, captures, I think, the essence of why I read and what I hope my children gain from reading. I particularly love the GK Chesterton quote he includes! Please find the original piece here.

Why ‘The Hobbit’ is not just for kids



How reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s story to his 10-year-old daughter unexpectedly stirred this father’s soul.

I have a confession to make.

I am just finishing The Hobbit for the first time. And I am almost 45.

Okay, okay. So it’s not scandalous. But to those who consider themselves well-read Catholics, not having read The Hobbit and its three-volume sequel, The Lord of the Rings, is considered perplexing if not irresponsible. After all, they are essential works of the moral imagination.

For years, I have been told how good these books are. In them, tales unfold of an extraordinary quest of unlikely heroes, unimaginable creatures and unexpected twists. Ice-capped mountains and lush valleys, barren hillsides and forbidding forests serve as terrain for a motley crew of unlikely allies who strive and suffer together towards an end much larger than themselves.

And so, earlier this year, my 10-year-old daughter and I decided to embark on reading The Hobbit together nightly as she went to bed.

And it has been extraordinary.

As we walked each night with the diminutive Bilbo Baggins from his cozy home in the Shire to the perilous wide world of Middle Earth, we encountered elves and wizards, trolls and goblins, spiders and orcs. We sensed the constant thrill of the adventure ahead mixed (paradoxically) with the forlorn homesickness for what was left behind. Again and again, we agreed with Bilbo’s skepticism about himself. He is a nimble thief? He is an indispensable member of group of dwarves trekking to reclaim a mountain and its treasure from a hell-spewing dragon? He is a hero? Right. But then, time and again, Bilbo proved he was just a little bit smarter, just a touch braver, just a smidge better than either my daughter or I expected. The little hobbit was growing. And we were growing with him.

But there were no small number of times that I wondered what the devil this hobbit thought he was doing. He had a comfortable home and an easy-going life. His books were well-ordered and his larder was full. His fire was toasty and his room warmly-lit. Why leave it all? Why walk away from the known and predictable for the wild and uncertain? Night after night, just walking with Bilbo into the greater unknown made me pull the comforter a bit tighter and snuggle a bit closer to my daughter.

But, after all, that is what these tales are all about. They remind us of our smallness, but our potential for greatness. They illustrate the peril of living dangerously, but also the risk of not living at all. They re-acquaint us with eternal verities (often considered outmoded) such as duty, loyalty and honor as well as the bright line (forever at risk of being blurred) separating right from wrong and good from evil. They instill in us a devotion to each other and a greater reason for being beyond our own selfish appetites. And they do this all in the form of a parable.

The great southern Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor once observed,

“I tell a story because a statement would be in adequate.”

Quite right. In a world deaf to platitudes, J.R.R. Tolkien decided to shout with hideous orcs, an incinerating dragon and an intoxicating ring. But the tale isn’t a tale for the sake of telling a tale. Allegories are allegories for a reason. They speak to sins and virtues, temptations succumbed to and temptations resisted, damnation averted and grace received. As G.K. Chesterton once noted,

Fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.


We must remember: The dragon can be killed. The ring can be destroyed. You can endure suffering. You can return home.

Chesterton reminds us,

At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence … The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise or wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy. 

As I was lying there reading The Hobbit to my 10-year-old daughter, I smiled and once again understood.

I am alive.

And I am happy.

Thank you, Todd and Aleteia!

Stories Speak Truth, or Why I Read

Language used as a means to get power or make money goes wrong: it lies. Language used as an end in itself, to sing a poem or tell a story, goes right, goes towards the truth.”    – Ursula K. Le Guin, quoted in Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee

I just finished reading Amelia to Zora with my oldest daughter, and the quote above really jumped out at me tonight. I’ve done a lot of thinking about why it is that I love to read, and it will come as no surprise to regular readers here that a lot of it is because I love to learn. I used to consider the measure of a good book to be whether I learned from it. What I’ve realized lately, though, is that I learn from everything I read, not just the books I enjoy, or the books that are well-written — there are a few books I’ve made a point of not reviewing here because they were mostly…bad…but even those taught me something.

So really, I’ve realized I enjoy reading because, like Ms. Le Guin states in her quote, literature speaks truth. The truths can be as mundane as a written reflection of everyday life or they can be profound and meaningful. I’m not going to give examples now because so much of it is objective, but this is really what is at the heart of the reviews I write here on the blog. Each book I review speaks to me in its own unique way, the writer’s message reaching and impacting me differently than it would another reader, and I try to convey those truths when I write reviews.

I feel like there should be a nice way to tie this up, but I can’t think of it so I’ll just stop and say… that’s why I’m an editor, not a writer 🙂

My Favorite Dr. Seuss Quotes

Inspired by the season (and notwithstanding last year’s similar post – I guess I’m predictable), I thought I’d share my two favorite Dr. Seuss quotes:

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”

– How the Grinch Stole Christmas


A person’s a person, no matter how small.

– Horton Hears a Who

Oh the Places You’ll Go and The Lorax round out my top four Dr. Seuss books but I found I just couldn’t pick a favorite quote from either one – there are too many, and the books pack in so much wisdom that you really need to read them in their entirety.

That’s all for today! I’d love to hear your favorite Dr. Seuss books and/or quotes. There are still a handful I haven’t read so maybe you’ll inspire me to pick up a new one!