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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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Tolkien uses a variety of styles in his works. The Hobbit is
mostly written in relatively simple, friendly language: "With
that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside his round green door,
and shut it as quickly as he dared, not to seem rude." Tolkien's
use of this kind of style makes sense when you realize that the
book was originally published as a children's book.

The Lord of the Rings, which had been begun as a sequel to
The Hobbit, starts out in similar style. But Tolkien soon
realized that it would be a book of much wider scope than The
Hobbit, and, accordingly, not far into the story he introduces a
more serious tone. Sometimes he uses simple, conversational
speech: "When Frodo came to himself he was still clutching
the Ring desperately." At other times he uses a very formal
style, reminiscent of the language of both ancient epics and the
Bible: "And there came Gandalf on foot and with him one
cloaked in grey; and they met before the doors of the Houses of

You will find many songs or poems scattered throughout
Tolkien's books. You may be tempted to skip over these songs,
but take a look at them anyway. They serve important
purposes. They help characterize the people singing them.
They also add humor or set the mood in some scenes. In
addition, Tolkien's characters at times use songs in the ancient
tradition of telling tales through song, as the minstrels of
medieval Europe did. Keep in mind that Tolkien did not try to
write polished poetry. Instead, he tried to make his songs sound
like something that his characters would make up themselves.

As a scholar of language, Tolkien has a good ear for the ways
different people talk. His characters and their different races
have distinctive styles of speech that reveal a lot about their
personalities. Look at this exchange, for example, between
Bilbo and one of the dwarves in The Hobbit:

"Good-bye and good luck, wherever you fare!" said Balin at
last. "If ever you visit us again, when our halls are made fair
once more, then the feast shall indeed be splendid!"

"If ever you are passing my way," said Bilbo, "don't wait to
knock! Tea is at four, but any of you are welcome at any time!"

As you can see, the main characteristic of Tolkien's style is to
use language in a variety of ways. He even invented languages
for his different races, such as the elves and the dwarves. You
may find it interesting to choose a scene that you especially
like and read it closely, noting the various ways that Tolkien
uses words.

Tolkien also used other techniques of style, such as
personification, metaphor, and imagery. These are discussed at
various points in The Story section of this guide.

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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