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Tolkien wrote The Hobbit to amuse his own children, and it was only by chance that an employee of Allen & Unwin saw the unfinished manuscript. Tolkien was asked to finish the book and when he sent in the completed typescript, it was handed over to Rayner Unwin, the ten-year-old son of the company's chairman; the boy was asked to judge whether the book was worth publishing. His report concluded with the words that "it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9." As a result, Allen & Unwin published The Hobbit in September 1937 as a children's book. By Christmas, the first edition was sold out, and Tolkien began to receive the attention of some critics. C. S. Lewis widened the target audience for the book by calling it the "kind of children's book which can be read and re-read by adults."
As a children's book, The Hobbit conforms to youthful requirements; the vocabulary, though challenging, is understandable and the length is not too long. Additionally, the book is crammed with action and conversation. Long passages of reflection and description are kept to a minimum. Also, the characters are not too complex, though they are not one- dimensional either. Justice triumphs in the end, and the good are rewarded and the evil vanquished. Most importantly, the Themes, though they are numerous and at various levels of complexity, do not put the book beyond the comprehension of most children, nor do they interfere with or impose themselves upon the story. A young reader can enjoy the story for the story's sake, while a more mature reader can enjoy the subtle ways Tolkien weaves his Themes into the tale.
The true transformation of The Hobbit from a children's book into something more complex occurred after the publication of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the Lord of the Rings, the ring which Bilbo casually finds and uses in The Hobbit takes on major significance, becoming the center of an epic struggle between the forces of good and evil. Indeed, The Hobbit is full of small hints and allusions to characters, peoples, Themes, and events, which are fully revealed and developed in The Lord of the Rings. As a result, when The Hobbit is read in conjunction with The Lord of the Rings, it transcends the category of children's fiction to become an imaginative work enjoyed by all readers.
A DEFINITION OF HOBBITS
Created by Tolkien, hobbits are a people who are about half the size of human beings. Tolkien describes them as fond of good, plain food and gardens or farmland; they are also fat, good- natured, cheerful, and content to lead lives that are unexciting and lacking in adventure. They have a simple sense of humor and a liking for an uncomplicated, easy-going life. Tolkien likened hobbits to the ordinary people of rural England: "the Hobbits are just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects the generally small reach of their imagination, not the small reach of their courage or latent power." As The Hobbit progresses, the reader, through Bilbo, learns just how much a hobbit can do, especially when put into tight situations. It is important to note that Bilbo Baggins is "the" hobbit, not "a" Hobbit, and as such is a representative of the entire race of hobbits.