The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

On Sunday, 3rd October, Gyan Adab and The Book Club, Pune hosted a presentation of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit or There and Back Again by Dr. Snober Sataravala from St. Mira’s College.

Review by Suhaile

Dr Sataravala opened the session with the inspiring line from the film Dead Poets Society, “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”  Stating that the book was a joy to teach, she asked the guest what they thought of it. Many called it mystical and magical and amazing in scale.

Beginning with a brief introduction to Tolkien’s life, Sataravala noted that his most remarkable creation would be that of the Elvin tongue, the language of the Elves. The backdrop of the world wars had a direct impact on the shaping of the story. Sataravala took everyone through Bilbo’s strange and magical adventure from the comforts of his home in the Shire to the castle of Smaug- the dragon, with Gandalf and the band of dwarves, from whom he stole the Arkenstone. The novel, classified as children’s literature appealed to adults as well; children’s literature, Sataravala stated, is never innocent. It deals with customs, taboos, and repressed issues and often connects with deeper themes of darkness, death, loss, and suffering. The journey was also one of Bilbo’s growth and maturation. The novel, as such, was a Bildungsroman.

The book demonstrated, said Sataravala, the influence of classical literature, the Bible, and the epics. It also indicated the effect of Freudian thought, especially in the character of Gollum, as Bilbo’s doppelganger, demonstrating the struggle between the Freudian id, ego, and superego and nature versus nature conflict. About the intertextuality, she noted the influence of Greek literature and themes. The marvel of the book was the different people, cultures, and ideologies captured by Tolkien, bound by fundamental concepts of fighting for one’s rights even in the face of the most debilitating choices.

Dr Sataravala deftly took the book club members through a host of views and approaches:  the themes to the structure and even the primary quest archetype. The members were mesmerised by the presentation: Indu Kulkarni appreciated the many dichotomies presented and the delineating of the characters; Veena Shivkumar appreciated the new perspectives offered. This was echoed by everyone present, with many members stating that they were now motivated to read the book.

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