I first read The Hobbit many years ago when I was a student, encouraged by my boyfriend (now my hubby) and then re-read it before going to see the films - this was not a good idea as the films are very different from the book! I am certainly enjoying reading The Hobbit again although I must admit that I now imagine some of the characters as they appeared in the film!
The copy I am reading is a very old paperback edition which contains some lovely illustrations by the author which I have reproduced here.
The story starts in Hobbiton where Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, lives a very quiet life enjoying good food and company. One day he gets a visit from the wizard Gandalf, followed shortly after by a group of dwarves. They want him to accompany them on an adventure to reclaim some stolen treasure from the dragon, Smaug who lives in the Lonely Mountain. For some reason they believe Bilbo to be an excellent burglar.
Although this is a children's book it is beautifully written. It is also a very good adventure story which keeps the reader's attention throughout. During the course of the tale Bilbo develops becoming braver and more clever justifying Gandalf's faith in him although he is reminded by Gandalf at the end of the story that "he is only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!" To which Bilbo replies, "Thank goodness!"
As I am currently doing a course on the Vikings, I enjoyed working out what the runes said and also looking for other influences which Tolkien borrowed from Old Norse.