In case you haven’t heard, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is just the first in a trilogy of films. The scripts for the three films are a composite of not only The Hobbit, but also The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth, and various appendices from the Middle-earth novels.
Of course, the primary source is The Hobbit (4.5/5 stars, Whispersync for Voice enabled, currently priced at $7.29):
A great modern classic and the prelude to THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.
“A glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible . . . All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take The Hobbit to their hearts.” – New York Times Book Review
For his film trilogy, Jackson supplements the content of The Hobbit with The Silmarillion (4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $7.59). If Jackson’s forays into these lesser-known characters and tales piques your interest, you might like to get the book. The publisher describes it as:
A number-one New York Times bestseller when it was originally published, THE SILMARILLION is the core of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imaginative writing, a work whose origins stretch back to a time long before THE HOBBIT.
Tolkien considered THE SILMARILLION his most important work, and, though it was published last and posthumously, this great collection of tales and legends clearly sets the stage for all his other writing. The story of the creation of the world and of the the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in THE LORD OF THE RINGS look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The three Silmarils were jewels created by Feanor, most gifted of the Elves. Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth. THE SILMARILLION is the history of the rebellion of Feanor and his kindred against the gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.
This second edition features a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien describing his intentions for the book, which serves as a brilliant exposition of his conception of the earlier Ages of Middle-earth.
Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth (4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $7.59) provides still more source material for the new Hobbit trilogy:
A New York Times bestseller for twenty-one weeks upon publication, UNFINISHED TALES is a collection of narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring, and further relates events as told in THE SILMARILLION and THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
The book concentrates on the lands of Middle-earth and comprises Gandalf’s lively account of how he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End, the story of the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before the eyes of Tuor on the coast of Beleriand, and an exact description of the military organization of the Riders of Rohan and the journey of the Black Riders during the hunt for the Ring.
UNFINISHED TALES also contains the only surviving story about the long ages of Númenor before its downfall, and all that is known about the Five Wizards sent to Middle-earth as emissaries of the Valar, about the Seeing Stones known as the Palantiri, and about the legend of Amroth.
Educators and reading groups might also like to download the FREE (as of this writing) Reader and Educator Guide to “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” (4/5 stars):
The Reader and Educator Guide to “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” is an enlightening and thorough, exclusively digital companion to these masterpieces of fantastical literature. Readers will get the chance to look deeper into the events and lives of the characters from these epic tales. What motivates these hobbits and men? What makes the elves tick and the dwarves sing? Educators will be guided with lesson plans that will challenge their students and give them a better understanding of why these books are so important, even over half-a-century later. The Reader and Educator Guide to “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” will shed new light on these iconic works while engaging and entertaining both teachers and their students.