Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkein

The Hobbit

Written by: J.R.R. Tolkien

Published: 1937

Synopsis: 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.

Challenges: Made into a movie for Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge.

J. R. R. Tolkien has his faults (ugh, those songs) but my god he writes a good story. LOTR is amazing, but they're three long ass books and they're not exactly cheery material. The Hobbit on the other hand is short, sweet and manages to create a wonderful and warm story of adventure, comedy, camaraderie, dragons, barrel rides and golden rings.

This reread was brought on because of the film's release and it was looong overdue. It's probably been about 6-7 years since I last followed Bilbo on his journey, and even though I felt like I barely remembered the book at all going in, it all came flooding back as soon as I began the first chapter. It's a rather iconic story, and if you haven't read it yet, well, you probably never will. But you should, because this book is wonderfully wonderful.

So the book begins with one of my favourite introductions ever;

"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."
And from there it just keeps on getting better. Bilbo, the timid and proper Baggins of Bag End, is pushed and prodded and forced into the most uncomfortable situations all in order to help a company of dwarves reclaim the treasure of their forefathers. While Thorin and his merry band of dwarves are a big part of this story, more than anything else it is a story about Bilbo. As the group faces obstacle after obstacle, Bilbo is forced to shed his timid shell and become the thief that the group needs, and a valuable member of their crew. Much like Harry Potter, he seems to have some pretty magical luck and rescues the group from countless close calls. I always found Frodo just a little bit whiney, but Bilbo is the perfect combination of the four hobbits in LOTR, a little bit responsible, a little bit fun, a little bit adventuous and a little bit of a worry wart. He's written with such love and care on Tolkien's part that you just can't help but root for him to succeed, even if the dwarves themselves come off a little treasure-hungry and selfish at times.

It is very much a kids book, from the style of writing and description that Tolkien chooses to use, to the 'small man makes good' story but it takes a pretty dark turn at around the three-quarter mark. The fun adventures grind to a halt and the everyone-ever-is-going-to-die takes over. If you have plans to read this to your kids, maybe skip ahead and check whether you think your 7 year old is quite ready for the desolation of Smaug and the battle of the 5 armies. It's still a phenomenal story, but I wonder what made Tolkien charge at such a destructive conclusion.

Gollum is terrifying, the dragon is greedy, the elves (of Mirkwood) are assholes and Rivendell sounds like the dream location to retire too. It's the perfect fantasy story for a first-timer looking to get into the genre, and a book both parent and child will obsessively read long into the night. There really isn't a whole lot more to write without deconstructing all 300 pages (which I will totally do with you guys in the comments if you wanna) but if you haven't reread this one in awhile, you probably should get on that right now, and if you haven't read it before? Well, I don't know if we can be friends. If you promise to read it asap I guess we can, but it's a bit of a deal breaker to be honest.


  1. LOTR has always intimidated me but maybe I should give The Hobbit a go. It sounds much more manageable :)

    1. You haven't read it?! Absolutely give it a go, it's much less intense then LOTR- not so much world building, less characters to deal with, and the story is more linear. Quick read too since it's aimed at kids.

  2. I wanna read it, but since I read the first LOTR book I feel like I need to finish that trilogy first. I should probably add the 2nd one to my February TBR and get a move on that...

    1. I understand the hesitation with the LOTR - they're great books, but definitely require a lot of work to get through.

      The Hobbit might actually make a nice little taster to get you back into the rhythm of Tolkien without launching right into LOTR.



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