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Stephen Colbert Is Right: You Don’t Need The Hobbit to Enjoy The Lord of the Rings

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I have a confession which I’m sure will have some people crying out for the immediate return of my nerd card: I’ve never finished The Hobbit. Neither the book nor the film trilogy. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy some of what I got to, I just didn’t feel compelled to finish, in part because I knew there was a much bigger (and yes, in some way, better) story about that mysterious ring out there.

This might seem wrong to some, but none other than Tolkien nerd extraordinaire Stephen Colbert agrees, as we see in a recent sit down with fellow nerd Patton Oswalt. Oswalt just finished—as documented in a very sweet video—reading the entirety of the Harry Potter series to his daughter. Oswalt is looking for a new series to read and Colbert, of course, suggested Lord of the Rings, but gave The Hobbit a solid “eh.”

“It just doesn’t have the high style and the language,” Colbert explained to Oswalt’s shock. “I just don’t think it’s as good a book as the Lord of the Rings.” This is … completely true. You don’t need The Hobbit to enjoy Lord of the Rings. You can totally skip it if you want!

The Hobbit is a book intended for much younger readers than The Lord of the Rings. Comparing the two is basically like comparing Saturday Morning Avengers cartoon to Infinity War. They’re very different.

The Lord of the Rings is a story to which The Hobbit functions as a sort of sweet little prequel, and while the events end up pretty epic (though five armies seems excessive for a battle, don’t you think?) it’s not the same kind of existential showdown as we see in Lord of the Rings, and it certainly doesn’t compare in depth and breadth.

This isn’t to say The Hobbit is bad—it’s charming and fun—but everything in it, especially concerning Hobbits, is there in the first chapters of The Lord of the Rings. This is why Peter Jackson was able to make a perfect trilogy of movie out of that series without having made a Hobbit film before … and also why making The Hobbit in the same tone and scope as Lord of the Rings didn’t work.

Especially since Patton and his daughter just finished The Deathly Hallows, Colbert is on the money suggesting they skip to the Good Stuff with Lord of the Rings. She’s ready. But there are other options as well. They could check out The Alanna Books, or anything by Tamora Pierce, the Earthsea series or The Prydian chronicles—all of which i remember loving when I was around that age. Or they could go for the book my mom read me when I was ten: Jurassic Park.

What really matters here isn’t what’s best or essential: it’s what books mean to us when they’re shared with someone we love. Whether it’s Harry Potter or Jurassic Park, sharing a book with your kid or parent is one of the best things … ever. I can’t wait until I can read The Hobbit to my own kid when she’s a bit older—and show her The Lord of the Rings movies without The Hobbit trilogy.

(via The AV Club)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.