To define the world of “The Hobbit” is, of course, impossible, because it is new.You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone. The author’s admirable illustrations and maps of Mirkwood and Goblingate and Esgaroth give one an inkling – and so do the names of dwarf and dragon that catch our eyes as we first ruffle the pages.But there are dwarfs and dwarfs, and no common recipe for children’s stories will give you creatures so rooted in their own soil and history as those of Professor Tolkien – who obviously knows much more about them than he needs for this tale. Still less will the common recipe prepare us for the curious shift from the matter-of-fact beginnings of his story (“hobbits are small people, smaller than dwarfs – and they have no beards – but very much larger than Lilliputians”) to the saga-like tone of the later chapters (“It is in my mind to ask what share of their inheritance you would have paid had you found the hoard unguarded”). You must read for yourself to find out how inevitable the change is and how it keeps pace with the hero’s journey. Though all is marvellous, nothing is arbitrary: all the inhabitants of Wilderland seem to have the same unquestionable right to their existence as those of our own world, though the fortunate child who meets them will have no notion – and his unlearned elders not much more – of the deep sources in our blood and tradition from which they spring.
C.S. Lewis, The Times Literary Supplement, October 2, 1937 and republished TLS, June 28, 2013.This was posted on Ken Symes' Mere C.S. Lewis blog.
The artwork is that of Pervandr on DeviantArt where you can find much more of his excellent work.