LOTR and the Hobbit

Maybe this is IMHO, but should I read the Hobbit before LOTR?

Allow me to be the first, and perhaps the only one, to say (IMHO) - it doesn’t matter. While The Hobbit has many of the same characters as LOTR, and is set in Middle Earth (just like LOTR), the two books are so completely different that LOTR is a stand-alone piece, not really a sequel to The Hobbit.
I’ve read The Hobbit, LOTR, and the Silmarillion (nothing like either LOTR or The Hobbit). For me, each book adds an enormous amount of depth and richness to the other two (not to say that any are shallow and impoverished, even by themselves).
But I wouldn’t suggest that anybody start with The Silmarillion. If the two books about hobbits are like a bachelor’s degree, Silmarillion is part of getting a master’s.

And HOMES, of course, is the Ph.D material!

I agree with Engywook. In fact, I’m glad I read LOTR before Hobbit.

I was going to say no, but in the midst of writing, I changed my answer to Yes.

I think it might be important to experience the Ring as being a rather unimportant trinket, they way Bilbo, Frodo, and even Gandalf regard it at the very beginning of LOTR.

That said, it’s more of a child’s adventure story and lacks the scope of LOTR. I’ve never re-read it since the 5th grade, while I’ve re-read LOTR many times.

I agree with Engywook and Qad’. It doesn’t really matter, but it’s probably better to read LOTR first. Tolkein tells you the bits from The Hobbit which you need to understand LOTR.

I’m glad I read The Hobbit before I read LOTR.

It certainly isn’t a necessity–someone reading LOTR without having read The Hobbit won’t be lost. But The Hobbit is a nice introduction to Tolkien’s world and to characters like Gandalf and Gollum (and of course, Bilbo) who play big roles in LOTR. Knowing the full story about how Bilbo came to own the one ring is nice, too. Of all the scenes in the four books, the riddle contest in Gollum’s lair has always been the most vivid to me.

Anyways it doesn’t matter too much, but there are some details in LOTR that are better understood and perhaps better appreciated having read The Hobbit. Like how Bilbo obtained the mythril and his sword, Sting, that are passed on to Frodo in LOTR.

Actually–and I am prepared to be branded a heretic by other Tolkien fans–I like The Hobbit more than LOTR. It is a complete adventure in itself. I realize LOTR should be thought of as one big story, but as such it drags in many places. Also, I’ve always thought Bilbo is a better-drawn character than Frodo.

I know there are obstacles, but I pray that Peter Jackson one day will make a movie of The Hobbit. It is a great adventure story that would lend itself well to the big screen and special effects. The spiders in the forest! The trolls! Smaug!

I think you should read them in the order they were written. I always do that, if I can, with multiple books by the same author, even if they are not related in subject. To this day I tell people to read the Chronicles of Narnia in the original order, not the strictly chronological order presented in modern printings.

The Hobbit is the lesser of the two works. But it is a work intended to stand on its own, and it gives you a home, in the Shire, when others are just visitors. You care more about it, when it is threatened, if you see it through Bilbo’s eyes. And you can understand how great the power of the ring is, when it manages to become more important to Frodo that the Shire itself. Now that is evil.


“In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty dirty wet hole, filled with the ends of worms, and an oozing smell, nor yet . . .” ~ J. R. R. Tolkien ~

While I will agree that it doesn’t make a world of difference which you read first since LotR contains more than enough exposition, I’d like to recommend reading The Hobbit first for two reasons. First is the backstory which makes some of the things that occur in LotR have more impact. Second, and perhaps more importantly, a good portion of the start of LotR is in a style reminiscent of The Hobbit. There’s a transition period where we go from the lighthearted wanderings to the dark and terrible things. People who don’t care for or haven’t read The Hobbit often comment on those parts being silly or goofy, but going from The Hobbit to LotR will give you an interesting and smooth transition. You’ll be less likely to bounce off the book that way.

Anyway, like I said, it doesn’t make a world of difference, I just think it’s more enjoyable to read The Hobbit first. :slight_smile: