Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Hobbit 
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien 
Series: Prequel to Lord of the Rings
Pages: 365
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Date Published: First Published 1937
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
Source: The Library 

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
~~~My Thoughts~~~
The Hobbit movies have been dominating at the box offices lately, and I do love me some Orlando Bloom, and Martin Freeman.  As a dedicated Lord of the Rings fan (the movies, not the books...) It was really only a matter of time before I got around to this little beauty, and since it fits the qualifications of both the TBR challenge on Bookish, and the Back to the Classics challenge on Books and Chocolate, I decided that the time was nigh to begin a great fantasy work of art. There is a reason that Tolkien is one of the most renown authors in all of Epic fantasy. He has the hero's journey down to a T, and knows how to make characters that fascinate, and that are very easy to relate to.

Bilbo Baggins is NOT your typical hero. At his full-grown hobbit height, he very nearly reaches the height of a dwarve's chin. (Yes, in Tolkien-esk, that is spelled correctly). He is very comfortable in his little Hobbit-hole, until one day he sees Gandalf coming down the road. In the spirit of being polite, he says hello to the old wizard, promptly sending him on a journey that he would never expect, and would change his life forever. With the addition of a dozen dwarves, Bilbo sets out as the burglar on an expedition to free the king under the mountain of gold. Basically, he's going to help the dwarves reclaim their throne from an evil nasty dragon. It was REALLY cool to see Bilbo change over the course of this book. He starts off meek, fearful, and a little bit snotty to tell you the truth. He really grows into his own and learns who he is and how to be okay with going against your friends as well as your enemies.

What I loved most about this story is that it deals in the qualities of the brave, such as courage, chivalry, honor, and justice. There are good guys who can be part bad, and bad guys who are sort of good, and all of the above can be honorable or cruel by the turn of a hat. The Hobbit also explores the bond of friendship as Bilbo and the dwarves learn to depend on each other and on Gandalf to get out of tricky situations with elves, goblins, giant spiders, and all sorts of other obstacles along the way. Intelligence is also a key characteristic that plays into the story, because while Bilbo may not be particularly agile or brave, he uses his wits, his advantage, and his luck to achieve his goals and defeat his enemies.

The Hobbit is a MUCH easier read than the other Lord of the Rings books, which makes sense, considering that he wrote it as an adventure story for his children. While it took me about 1 month to get through The Fellowship of the Rings, and then I didn't make it through The Two Towers, I felt that the Hobbit was just entertaining enough without losing me in the names and the "Hebor, son of Habormir, son of Hobas" that really lost me in the sequels. The writing style is somewhat childish, without dumbing down the language at all. It's not a watered down version of the Lord of the Rings, it's just an easier way of reading the same kind of epic fantasy story. I would definitely read this to my kids before bed, or it could also be used as an excellent "growth" book for middle schoolers to read on their own to challenge themselves.
I give The Hobbit 4 out of 5 Keys! It's really a great book and I can understand why it persists in the memories of others. This one is right up there with the Chronicles of Narnia, and with Harry Potter for fun and amazing children's bedtime stories. I will say that at the end, there is this massive awesome battle scene that also culminates in the big bad eagle guys from the Lord of the Rings movies showing up to save the day. My thought is, the next time any kind of threat or quest happens in Middle Earth, just call up the eagles beforehand and get the job done in like, two days as opposed to years.

1 comment:

  1. I read The Hobbit a long time ago and remember that it seemed easier than the LOTR series. Good to know my memory isn't faulty. I haven't seen the movies or reread the book, so maybe I will reread it with fresh eyes. I enjoyed your review. Thanks for sharing!