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I'm mildly shocked I can't find this question on this site through my many searches...

Simply put, if I'm interested in reading the LotR trilogy, should I read the Hobbit before reading the trilogy? Is the Hobbit a necesarry part, or is reading the trilogy sufficient? Will I miss a lot of background information from The Hobbit crucial to my enjoyment of the Trilogy? Or is the Hobbit just a tasty side nugget bonus feature?

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    What finally got me to read (and enjoy!) the books was to see the movies. Before the movies gave a face to all those names ("why give a character one name when three will do?"), I would get bogged down along with Sam & Frodo somewhere in the middle of Two Towers. After seeing the movies and knowing what happens, I could read the books and appreciate the language and poetry, and politely skip the pages I wasn't interested in slogging through. – Martha Mar 11 '12 at 4:27
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    Agreed. I tried to read the books long ago, but I couldn’t get past the first few pages (it’s surprisingly boring at the beginning). Only after I watched the third movie, I had the motivation to retry it, and I finally managed to read it completely – and it was really good (after you get past the first ~50 pages). I did read the Hobbit before (before watching the LotR movies actually), but I wouldn’t say it’s necessary at all for LotR. – poke Mar 12 '12 at 10:48
  • Call it a nitpick if you feel the need but technically it's not a trilogy. Tolkien talked about this but it's also in the second edition onward it states it directly. It's one tale consisting of six 'books' in three different parts due to material and costs just after the war. The 50th anniversary edition is in fact one book only. Consider it one long story rather than three separate stories because really that's what it is - a long story that had to be split up into three volumes. – Pryftan Jan 5 '18 at 1:15
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The Hobbit was specifically written with children in mind (although not in any sense dumbed down, just more focused on story). The Lord of the Rings by contrast is a more difficult read, and takes some perseverance to get though. Reading the Hobbit is therefore a good way to work out whether you are likely to enjoy the full LoTR experience. If you don't enjoy the Hobbit, you probably aren't going to like LoTR much.

The events in the Hobbit occur prior to LoTR, being the tale of how Bilbo acquired the One Ring in the first place. The two stories are, however, pretty much independent, and you won't miss anything essential by skipping the Hobbit.

Under no circumstances should you attempt a full chronological read of all the books set in the Lord of the Rings universe on a first reading. The Silmarillion is not recommended unless you really REALLY like Tolkien, and already love the setting sufficiently that you want to know more about the world background. Approached outside of the context of the Lord of the Rings, it is likely to seem quite dry.

So, in chronology The Hobbit comes first, but you will not lose out by starting with LoTR if, for example, what you are interested in is revisiting the story of the films.

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    "Prologue" is the word I've typically seen applied to The Hobbit. – Plutor Mar 11 '12 at 17:22
  • What is the right age to start reading the series to a child? And in what order? link me to the right question if this is what I have done. – BozoJoe Mar 18 '14 at 23:43
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    Definitely The Hobbit first for a child, as it's the one book explicitly aimed at children. As to whether LotR is suitable will depend heavily on what you regard as suitable. I read the Hobbit myself at about 12, and LotR at about 15, and didn't find either problematic, but your mileage may vary. I personally can't recall anything in the Hobbit that is going to be problematic for a 10 year old, but I don't have kids, so may not be the best person to answer. I'm not aware of anyone having asked this question, so you may want to ask it separately, after having searched for duplicates. – Christi Mar 19 '14 at 16:14
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The Hobbit is a good introduction to the world of Middle-Earth. You spend a lot more time with Bilbo being Hobbity and get to appreaciate the dwarves more than you would by simply reading The Lord of the Rings (and you get a better glimpse into some of the animus between them and the elves). Perhaps more importantly, though, the story of The Hobbit is lighter and seems less pressing, so once you've finished the epic arc of the trilogy, you might find the prologue story less interesting. Or you may not, who knows.

The Hobbit is by no means crucial to your enjoyment of the trilogy. The parts of it that matter to rest of the story are more than adequately summarized later on.

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The Hobbit is not a "bonus feature" of the Lord of the Rings. It's a separated — but still related — story. For example, it tells about how Bilbo Baggins came into possession of the One Ring, and other things that will have consequences/will explain events in the Lord of the Rings story.

About your question if reading the Lord of the Rings is sufficient... that depends. If you want to just read LoTR, yes, then it's sufficient. But reading The Hobbit will give you some knowledge about the start of LoTR, like I said above.

I think whether one wants to read it before or not is up to everyone, but if you haven't started reading anything yet, why not proceeding in a chronological manner? Start from The hobbit and then proceed reading The Lord of the Rings.

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    But if you follow that last logic you might as well start with The Silmarillion too. I get what you mean though - just adding that caveat. And I also happen to agree. The Hobbit sort of sets the stage for it all. The Silmarillion, the Unfinished Tales and everything else comes later if you want to get more into Tolkien. But The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is more for everyone. – Pryftan Jan 5 '18 at 1:11
  • @Pryftan Yeah. I think I didn't mention the others simply because the question was just about those two. – Alenanno Jan 5 '18 at 17:33
  • Fair enough. And it's arguable that they wouldn't know about it anyway. Just wanted to point it out to any future reader of your answer who might think of reading earlier works still. Those works are for us Tolkienists (and even I have some work yet to do in that regard - as it is I have yet to get Beren and Lúthien although I will sooner than later; I loved The Silmarillion so I know it'll be good). – Pryftan Jan 5 '18 at 23:00
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You don't say how old you are. I read the Hobbit first because I was 12 and it was easier to read. I didn't manage the Lord of the Rings trilogy until I was 16.

The Hobbit used to be described as a children's book, though I suspect it would fall into the "young adult" category these days, but much like the Harry Potter books it's a fun read for adults as well. It gives you a feel for Tolkien's world which I think makes the LOTR trilogy easier and more enjoyable to read. So I'd say read The Hobbit first.

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The tale of The Hobbit holds the first part of The Ring story.

You don't necessarily have to read it first in order to enjoy LOTR, but it holds some key elements that only continue the story in LOTR.

If you read LOTR first, and then go back and read The Hobbit, you will already know everything that happens to Bilbo Baggins (the main character of The Hobbit), Gandalf, the dwarfs, etc. and will know all the characters fates – you would have reached the end of the story, just to start from the beginning.

However, if you read The Hobbit first, you will have a better understanding of some parts that happen in LOTR while they happen, instead of posting here and asking about them while you are reading.

Keep in mind that The Hobbit, is truly one of the best fantasy books ever written (IMHO).

I hope this answer helps you in making a decision. :)

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