The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit Book Cover The Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien
Children's Fiction, Fantasy
Del Rey Books
September 21st, 1937; September 18th, 2012

When Thorin Oakenshield and his band of dwarves embark upon a dangerous quest to reclaim the hoard of gold stolen from them by the evil dragon Smaug, Gandalf the wizard suggests an unlikely accomplice: Bilbo Baggins, an unassuming Hobbit dwelling in peaceful Hobbiton.

Along the way, the company faces trolls, goblins, giant spiders, and worse. But as they journey from the wonders of Rivendell to the terrors of Mirkwood and beyond, Bilbo will find that there is more to him than anyone--himself included--ever dreamed. Unexpected qualities of courage and cunning, and a love of adventure propel Bilbo toward his great destiny...a destiny that waits in the dark caverns beneath the Misty Mountains, where a twisted creature known as Gollum jealously guards a precious magic ring.

( Summary provided by GoodReads.)

A Review of The Hobbit
Over Hill & Under Hill

I have been a fan of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien for many years. And while The Hobbit is not my favorite work of his–that would be the sprawling and often meandering Lord of The Rings–it remains one of my favorite books to read, on par with any of my others. It is a fun, lighthearted tale that gives the reader a brief glimpse into how complex Middle-Earth would become in later stories. What’s not to like about that?

Well, OK. I’ll admit I have a lot of issues with the more recent adaptation of The Hobbit, despite loving it in my own way. But I will talk about that towards the end of the review. Let’s get this show on the road!

The Plot

Tolkien was an Oxford professor of  Anglo-Saxon or Old English, and it shows to great effect in the episodic nature of the book. Do you love mythology and enjoy the almost self-contained nature of each myth, even as it feeds into a greater mythological narrative? Well, maybe not. But I sure did.

Reading this novel is much like watching a Mid-1990’s and Early 2000’s TV show where you can come in at almost any point and still be swept away, but reading/watching from the start only enhances the story. Or reading Beowulf, which Tolkien actually wrote a translation of. And enhance things reading this masterpiece of a novel from start to finish does.

The Characters

What can I say? I love them! And who doesn’t love a good reluctant hero?

I do wish some of the Dwarves were more developed, but Bilbo was perfect. He kept wishing he had never left the shire. So much so that I began what I think of as a shire mentioning count. And while it may be annoying to some, I found myself thinking ‘I don’t blame you. I would want to be in my Hobbit hole if I was you!” frequently throughout the story. Bilbo was really put through a lot and I think most of us would want our nice, warm, comfortable homes under similar circumstance. Going up against a dragon is definitely not on my bucket list.

Speaking of which, Smaug the dragon was very well-done, too. I would even go so far as to say his portrayal makes the story for me. He’s the looming evil during the various episodic adventures Bilbo and the Dwarves go on, the villain, the antagonist. If he hadn’t been well-written, the story would’ve fallen flat. But his portrayal makes the fear of Bilbo and the Dwarves very reasonable and Bilbo’s heroic acts all the more heroic.

The Prose

Writing is one of my passions. Poetry, short stories, that novel it seems like I’m never going to actually do. Though, I did finish a 16000-word novelette. Because of this, I always have to enjoy the writing itself in order to enjoy the story.

And enjoy the writing I do. It’s not just that it is Tolkien. I love Anne Rice’s writing but cannot stomach another story about Lestat, for example. But that Tolkien understood how to build a world through description of the setting. When reading The Hobbit, I felt like I was there. Sucked into Middle-Earth by the pacing, something else he understood, and the force of his descriptions.

Adaptation or No Adaptation?

We would be here for days if I went into detail, so I will try to be as concise as possible.

Yes. I love adaptations, even the current Hobbit trilogy! But and it is a Mount Everest-sized but, I really did not appreciate how they tried to make The Hobbit epic in the most recent adaptation. The Hobbit is a well-written and fairly straightforward, High Fantasy quest story with personal instead of global stakes. Because of this, it is hard to scale the story up to epic levels without losing something of the original in the transition. And let’s face it, a quest to defeat a dragon is epic enough. Not every adaptation of Tolkien’s work needs to be framed in a good vs ultimate evil way.

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