The Hobbit: How A Bored Professor Created A Fantasy Classic

By Jacob Shelton
British writer John Ronald Reul Tolkien (1892-1973), sitting in his study at Merton College, Oxford, where he is a Fellow. Source: (Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Getty Images)

JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and his adventurous tale of Bilbo Baggins set a new standard for the fantasy fiction genre and created a book and movie empire that spans eight decades. In addition to penning a best-selling book with The Hobbit, Tolkien developed an entire fantasy world, with its own geography, customs, and language. The details, descriptions, and connections Tolkien established for his Hobbit world are complex and sophisticated, so it may surprise people to learn that he developed this fantasy world as a way to escape the boring, mind-numbing drudgery of grading his students’ essays. Yes, The Hobbit sprang from the active imagination of a bored professor who should have been working at the time.