I first read the Hobbit when I was 13. At the time, being far from the bookworm I am now... I struggled through it, and really didn't see what all the hoo-har about Tolkien was. Not surprisingly, I never got to the Rings Trilogy.
So, 22 years later I have revisited The Hobbit and what an adventure I had.
The Hobbit (written in 1937 by J. R. R. Tolkien) is the story of a Hobbit (surprise, surprise) called Bilbo Baggins, who is enjoying an uneventful life until it is interrupted by a visit from the wizard Gandalf. Gandalf invites himself to tea and arrives with a company of dwarves. They embark on a journey to recover the lost treasure of Lonely Mountain, guarded by the dragon Smaug. Their adventures include trolls, elves, goblin hordes, monstrous wolves, giant eagles, changelings, giant spiders, massive battles and so on. As you can see by my very brief synopsis (I don't want to spoil the story), it is the classic fantasy tale.
To say that The Hobbit is anything less than a masterpiece of children's literature would be to lie, so I'm not going to use this space convincing you to read it. Just do (before the movie comes out in 2011). Instead I wish to ask the question... are good wizards, using good magic appropriate in Christian fiction?
J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout catholic who also had a huge interest in pagan mythology, and Middle earth is a marriage of the two... a world full of mythological creatures and magic with vague Christian undertones.
Personally, I struggle with Tolkien's mixture... always have and probably always will. Although the Narnia Chronicles are similarly fantastical, the Christian message stands out clearly for all to see, unlike Middle earth where unless one is looking (very studiously I might add) the Christian themes are as hard to find as a Gollem in the Misty Mountains. But I digress.
My experience of the classic children's book, read as a kidult that sees more in black and white than in grey-scale when it comes to sorcery, The Hobbit is a very near masterpiece... 9 out of 10 it is.