There are 19 chapters, one for each chapter in The Hobbit, as well as an Introduction which talks about the revision made in one chapter after publication of The Lord of the Rings, as well as cultures making up the peoples of Middle Earth that Bilbo meets during his most excellent adventure: Dwarves, Trolls, Goblins, Eagles, Elves and Big People (men).
Much is made of the poetry and songs. Olson is a huge fan of Tolkien’s poetry, and even the “tra la la lally” song begins to make sense when he reminds us of who is singing it and why. Olsen also points out the ways in which Tolkien both protects young sensibilities from the worst of Bilbo’s adventures by using humor – we laugh at the trolls even as they contemplate having dwarf for dinner – and does not spare them when it comes to real life consequences of greed, whether it be that of a dragon or a king.
If you have not read The Hobbit, what can I say? Except maybe do yourself a favor and rush right out and get a copy. Settle down in a cozy nook with a cup of tea, perhaps a small cake or two, and hie thee to Middle Earth. You can pick up Dr. Olson’s Exploration later, when you embark on a second reading. But first. Leave your pocket handkerchief in an upstairs drawer, open the book and go on an adventure into lands where the folk speak strangely and sing songs you’ve never heard before. It could change your life.