The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known by its abbreviated title The Hobbit, is a fantasy novel and children’s book by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children’s literature.
Set in a time “Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men”, The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo’s journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into darker, deeper territory. The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien’s Wilderland. By accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey and adventurous side of his nature (the “Tookish” side) and applying his wits and common sense, Bilbo develops a new level of maturity, competence and wisdom. The story reaches its climax in the Battle of Five Armies, where many of the characters and creatures from earlier chapters re-emerge to engage in conflict.
Themes of personal growth and forms of heroism figure in the story. Along with conflict, these themes lead critics to cite Tolkien’s own experiences, and those of other writers who fought in World War I, as instrumental in shaping the story. The author’s scholarly knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature and interest in fairy tales are also often noted as influences.
Due to the book’s critical and financial success, Tolkien’s publishers requested a sequel. As work on The Lord of the Rings progressed, Tolkien made retrospective accommodations for it in one chapter of The Hobbit. These few but significant changes were integrated into the second edition. Further editions followed with minor emendations, including those reflecting Tolkien’s changing concept of the world into which Bilbo stumbled.
The work has never been out of print since the paper shortages of the Second World War. Its ongoing legacy encompasses many adaptations for stage, screen, radio, and gaming, both board and video games. Some of these adaptations have received critical recognition of their own, including a video game that won the Golden Joystick Award, a scenario of a war game that won an Origins Award, and an animated picture nominated for a Hugo Award.