Hey, everybody, welcome back to Tumnus’ Bookshelf: The NarniaFans Book Reviews, where we review any and all books by about and inspired by CS Lewis, The land of Narnia and The Inklings. For today’s review we will be looking at Devin Brown’s new book The Christian World of The Hobbit.
Title: The Christian World of the Hobbit
Author: Devin Brown
Publisher: Abingdon Press
From Devin Brown, author of the Inside Narnia series, comes a brand new book celebrating JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Looking at a few key “themes” central not only to The Hobbit, but to The Lord of the Rings, Devin Brown helps illustrate how Tolkien’s clearly Christian worldview shaped Middle-earth. Readers will also see how some of these themes are shared with Tolkien’s friend and fellow writer, CS Lewis and his beloved Chronicles of Narnia.
During the past five years, I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Devin Brown’s companion commentary series Inside Narnia for this site. I have found his books to be just as insightful and enjoyable as the books they are about, and as an English major, believe me, it is very hard to find books analyzing literature that are actually fun to read. Much to say, I was delighted to see that Devin Brown had written a book examining the work of CS Lewis’ good friend, JRR Tolkien, called The Christian World of the Hobbit. Since 2001, I have seen many books that look at the spiritual applications of The Lord of the Rings, but the work that started it all, The Hobbit, was sadly absent.
Devin’s book is not only a welcome addition to that avenue of Tolkien scholarship, it is probably the best. Right off the bat Brown lets his readers know that this will not be a book where he looks for hidden symbols in every character where there may not be one, for example he doesn’t point out how the thirteen dwarves are representative for the twelve disciples, plus the Apostle Paul, or how Sting is like the Sword of the Spirit, as some lesser writers may try. His main goal here is to look at the actual text of The Hobbit, as well as Tolkien’s letters, early manuscripts, and The Lord of the Rings to examine the central Christian truths to Tolkien’s mythology. More importantly, it’s to celebrate the world of Middle-earth.
Unlike Inside Narnia, this book is not a chapter by chapter commentary on The Hobbit. It is just as well, as such a book would be much too long and only get bogged down in irrelevant details. Here, Brown strips it down to the bare essentials of Middle-earth, to provide a clear and concise analysis of the major story from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. After all, the two works go hand in hand and with out each other the picture is incomplete.
The key themes Brown examines are those of Divine Providence, Purpose, and Moral Absolutes, themes that are clearly present in the stories. He also examined the conception of the world of Middle-earth and the legacy this epic story has earned. Now, some may wonder how this book has anything to do with Narnia. Surprisingly there is quite a bit about CS Lewis and Narnia in this book. Since CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were not only contemporaries, but friends he also looks at how Narnia compares and contrasts with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. While superficially they are as different as a car and a truck, deep down, once they are stripped away to the central truths that both Lewis and Tolkien held dearly and agreed upon, you see that the same heart beats beneath them.
Another feature unique to this book is that it actually features some very nice illustrations. These include Bilbo’s Riddle Game with Gollum, Gandalf, Elrond consulting with the company, and Bilbo’s Hobbit hole. These will not only please long time fans, but will no doubt be enjoyable to new fans. The only thing I wish is that he included such illustrations on the Inside Narnia books.
CS Lewis once said of Lord of the Rings that, “here are beauties that pierce like swords”; well here is one book that is going to help sharpen those beauties. For any fan of The Inklings this book is essential for any library. I couldn’t put it down! Thank you Devin Brown, for making the study of literature so much fun!
Five out of Five shields
Order the book from Amazon.com