I must have read it for the first time in Mexico City in the 1980s. It came at a crucial moment and is still a vast part of my mythology–that to which I have recourse in order to explain life. Unlike many other things in our world, this book enchants. Enchantment is its object, and it succeeds like very little else does. It is a star in the darkness.
It is, as well, an endorsement of romanticism and of that which is heroic. It demonstrates the good of these two things, defines them so that they can be known in their right place and as a result properly desired. I think there is always something childlike in more than admiring but also aspiring to that which is heroic, something of early life and proper beginnings, of freely accepting what is given while distinguishing good from bad, fortunate from unfortunate, peril and treasure and wonder and danger. Adventure is what befalls the hero, and we learn that no life should be without it.
I think The Hobbit is full of life and has an indescribable quality that makes it the best way to enter Middle Earth. Luck is providence, we learn, and you need a good amount of it. What other book makes this clear? It is elvishly ingenious. But the whole thing is ingenious in so many ways. The Hobbit is more than the preface to the vaster Lord of the Rings; it is a treasure on its own. If it is a star in the night sky, the shine of its wonder is unlike that of any of the other stars.