Have you ever labored over Bilbo and Gollum’s riddles, refusing to read ahead until you had an answer? If so, you were enjoying the unique combination of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination and the traditions of the past, particularly from Old English and Norse cultures. The Riddles of The Hobbit is a new book by Adam Roberts that delves into the famous “Riddles in the Dark” chapter of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, but it also explores other conundrums that might puzzle a modern reader.
From Palgrave Macmillan:
Riddles have lost none of their power over us: we are as fascinated by mysteries, from sudoko to whodunnits, from jokes to philosophical conundrums. The Hobbit is a book threaded through with riddles; most obviously in its central ‘Riddles in the Dark’ chapter, but everywhere else too—what does ‘Good Morning’ mean? What is a burrahobbit? How many versions of the Hobbit are there? What is the buried secret in the nine riddles Bilbo and Gollum swap between one another? What are Ents? Dragons? Wizards? What is the magic of the magic ring? All these questions, and more, are answered in The Riddles of the Hobbit, the first critical engagement with Tolkien’s great novel to take ‘the riddle’ seriously as a key structuring principle of the novel. Riddles are more than a diverting pastime; they are expressive and beguiling rebuses that touch on larger mysteries, powerful questions and paradoxes also embodied in the Catholicism that informed so much of Tolkien’s imaginative life. Ringing widely across Tolkien’s creative life, The Riddles of the Hobbit explores the importance of riddles to the Anglo Saxon and Norse cultures that inspired him, and discusses scores of riddles offering (usually) more than one answer for each. This is a critical study of the playful aspect of a great writer that takes his playfulness seriously; it explores and embodies ingenuity; and comes to some original and—on occasion—startling new conclusions.
About the Author
Adam Roberts is Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. He is also the author of more than a dozen science fiction novels: his most recent, Jack Glass (2012) won the BSFA and Campbell awards for the year’s best science fiction novel. He has published a number of critical and academic works on science fiction, 19th-century and other topics.