Between 2005 and 2012 I read very little fiction. I’m still not entirely sure why. I like fiction, and especially love seeing the mechanics of storytelling at work. But for whatever reason, for about seven years I read virtually nothing but nonfiction material.
Until I was challenged to branch out a bit during a visit with my co-worker, Amber. Never one to back away from a challenge, I dived back into the world of fiction, reading a mix of popular contemporary and classic works. One of my favorites from my foray into fiction — and the one I’m going to recommend to you today — is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Why this book?
I know there are a bunch of you who probably read this book in middle school (or are reading it now because there’s a new movie loosely based on it in theaters now). But whether Tolkien’s story of Bilbo Baggins’ adventure is familiar or foreign, few could question the genuine pleasure one gets from reading it. For me, it’s the way Tolkien writes that I enjoy the most. I’m not sure how to explain it. There’s a richness to his writing that I really, really enjoy. For example:
“Smaug lay, with wings folded like an immeasurable bat, turned partly on one side, so that the hobbit could see his underparts and his long pale belly crusted with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed. Behind him where the walls were nearest could dimly be seen coats of mail, helms and axes, swords and spears hanging; and there in rows stood great jars and vessels filled with a wealth that could not be guessed.
“To say that Bilbo’s breath was taken away is no description at all. There are no words left to express his staggerment, since Men changed the language that they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful. Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves; and he gazed motionless, almost forgetting the frightful guardian, at the gold beyond price and count.”
Immediately, you get it. The imagination starts working and you understand the horrible magnificence of what Bilbo was seeing as the dragon laid on his ill-gotten treasure. Gloriousness mixed with terror … and then the overwhelming “enchantment” of the treasure.
This is what good fiction does — it transports us into the world the author has created and captivates us. It allows us to see a world — and sometimes our world — with a different perspective and to enjoy all the good gifts God has given us in the creativity of humanity. This is a wonderful gift no other creature has been given, and it should cause us to be glad and rejoice in our great God and Savior.
What works of fiction have you found helpful in your own faith journey? Why were they helpful?