For the past couple of weeks I read this book to my daughters before bedtime. They loved it, and I did too. Each chapter of this epic fantasy novel is an episodic story within the grand adventure.
This is the second time I've read The Hobbit, and once again I realized why I like the story so much more than the Lord of The Rings trilogy. The story is fun, engaging, fast-paced, with many twists and turns in the plot.
The characters too are fun and engaging. In Bilbo, you have an unassuming little hobbit who always manages to do something unexpected and just right to save the day for himself, his fellowship of dwarves, or even for all the men of Dale and elves of Mirkwood. By the end of the adventure, Bilbo has been deeply changed. Other hobbits do not think too highly of him and his adventures, but it doesn't matter to Bilbo, he's a legend among elves and dwarves.
The themes of courage, self-sacrifice, and heroism are clear, and provided a context to discuss such things with my daughters. Also, the themes of sovereignty and predestination are present as well. Throughout the story, many characters sing songs of old which are prophecies of what is to come. In Bilbo and his adventure with Gandalf and the dwarves, these prophecies come true.
At the end, Gandalf addresses this issue of prophecy and sovereignty in speaking with Bilbo,
"Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? ...you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!"
If you're a fan of The Lord of the Rings movies, and you plan on seeing The Hobbit when it comes out later this year, do yourself a favor and read the book first, you won't be disappointed.