Happy weekend, my friends!
It seems to me that as soon as I catch up on reviews, I am back in a hole needing to write several. And that’s again where I find myself! April has been good to me with more reading and finishing books. But I’m playing catch up on reviews.
I’m excited to share some thoughts on a recent reread of mine that always surprises me: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Every time I read this book, I remember how good it is. The Hobbit deserves more attention. It’s a great fantasy adventure story!
- This is a great book to read out loud. I would love to do that when my kids are older. The writing and the adventure are perfect for reading out loud, especially with kids.
- The movie adaptations get this book so wrong! First of all, this is a short book! It isn’t complicated or extended like LOTR. The story is simple and straightforward, but full of adventure. It did not need to be three movies long. And because there are so many movies, I think the movies loses so much of what makes The Hobbit memorable.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is an adventure story. Goodreads summarizes, “Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey ‘there and back again’. They have a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon.”
“It was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.”
“We are plain quiet folk, and I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.”
There is something to be said for the simple story line of this book. I love it. The classic adventure story is engaging and easy to follow. I will admit that Tolkien’s writing is not as easy to get into as C. S. Lewis’ Narnia for me. But the way he creates worlds and adventures within those worlds is unparalleled. I enjoyed all the action in the book from the first encounters in Bilbo’s hobbit hole to the drama in the goblin tunnels, the eagles rescue to Beorn’s home, and the interactions with Smaug at the Lonely Mountain. But we don’t deviate much from the protagonist, Bilbo. While other characters like Gandalf have adventures away from the group, the simplicity of the novel is maintained by not explaining the specifics of his journey. In contrast, I remember The Lord of the Rings being much more complex and intricate. However, this novel has a clear story arch–with rising action, a climax, and falling action. It feels safe, familiar, and exciting.
While the story is fairly simple, the journeys the characters go on are more intriguing. Bilbo is, of course, a favorite character. I also love Gandalf and the complexities of Thorin. In some ways, Bilbo is the ultimate unlikely hero. He doesn’t want to even go on a journey at first, but he becomes central to the success of the mission. But what I love even more about Bilbo is he isn’t perfect. He makes mistakes. He keeps secrets. And he betrays those closest to him. Gandalf is fascinating because he seems to know more than he lets on, even in this first installment in Middle Earth. He is mysterious, wise, and always a step ahead of everyone else. I feel safer on the journey just having him along. Thorin is intriguing because of his complexities. On the one hand, he wants to regain the throne of his family as King Under the Mountain. He is proud, stubborn and nearly obsessed with his mission. On the other hand, he is fiercely loyal and willing to sacrifice to keep the company together. He is a true leader.
Many characters in The Hobbit are vibrant and engaging but the novel focuses more on the plot than the characters. We get to know a few characters very well, but more of them are minor, supporting characters. While we don’t get the same about of background on each one, we do cheer for the whole company of dwarves (I especially enjoyed Fili, Kili, and Bombur), despise the goblins, and hope the men will survive the attack of Smaug. One character I wish we learned more about was Bard. He is clearly a hero (he killed a dragon after all!) but is also humble and uncannily wise. I would have liked to know more about him. This isn’t LOTR thought, so the details are more limited.
“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
I hadn’t noticed before how much The Hobbit sets the stage for what is to come in LOTR. We have the obvious things like Bilbo meeting Gollum and finding the ring. Then we have interactions with Elrond and Gandalf that allude to a more complex battle to come. But there are also more subtle details like the spreading of evil in the mountains, the rise of men and their power, and even the importance of Gandalf choosing a hobbit to help on their journey. I’m looking forward to rereading LOTR later this year!
Overall, I loved the journey that this novel takes readers on. The writing is clever, the action is exciting, and the characters are relatable. You will laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cheer on our unlikely hobbit hero through the end. If you’ve never read anything by Tolkien, I would start here.
What do you think of The Hobbit?
Do you prefer The Hobbit or LOTR? Why?