By James Stuart Bell
Bethany House, $13.99, 238 pages
The Spiritual World of the Hobbit by James Stuart Bell, a Christian Publishing veteran, provides a fascinating examination of The Hobbit, one of the most famous children’s book in history. As advertised “Bell takes readers on a step-by-step walk alongside Bilbo, uncovering powerful and ever-relevant themes of good versus evil, mercy, courage, and the guiding hand of God’s providence.” One should also read The Hobbit to fully appreciate this and other interpretations.
“Once again, and most important, each chapter will help you keep a finger on the spiritual pulse of Tolkien’s story-the theological themes that make The Hobbit a thoroughly Christian work of literature.”
One can read The Hobbit as a reflection on the history of English folklore with Bilbo being a contemporary character that has adventured in such olden times territory. Others could argue that it rightfully belongs in the history of epic fantasy. The book is multifaceted and Bell is adept at making his argument and sharing insights. He clearly knows that one must also read The Silmarilion to understand Tolkien, a survivor of World War I, who had many influences. Some of the influences were publisher demands, the strictures of his religion, the obligations to family, and his need for an adventure himself. Though Bilbo is diminutive like a child, he was also in his fifties before he went out to explore this Perilous Realm. As pointed out here, he is changed as a result.
Reviewed by Ryder Miller