In college, I started working through some of the top 100 lists of best films ever. Among this list were a number of films I didn’t really appreciate at the time. Seven Samurai was an example of this, where I reached the end of the film and thought “so what?” I’d seen it all before, in cartoons and other films. There was nothing new. What I didn’t realize is this: Seven Samurai is fantastic because it is seminal. The things that are common now didn’t happen before this film. Back when I was younger I wrote this film off as boring, but now I’m excited by it.
This leads me to an embarrassing admission. I have not read The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings before. I’ve watched the animated and film versions, but that’s not really full credit.
So, reading the hobbit was interesting. I knew the rough story before, but in reading it, I realized all of the things that Tolkein introduced. Standoff wizards, dwarves, elves, fantasy stories as adventures, goblins, trolls, black birds, and various whimsy and other structure. It has a unique style of narration and a curious attention to detail. It may not be that Tolkein originated all of these ideas, but so much is in this book that it’s quite impressive to look back at it and realize all that came from it.
The book is not challenging. The story is not particularly creative in the context of all of the literature that has come after it. This is, however, essential reading and of deep importance to the genre. It’s silly that it took me this long to get around to reading it.