Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: September 18, 2002 (first published 1937)
Edition: Paperback, 276 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling 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…
This was technically a reread for me. Although, the last time I did read it, I was still in elementary school. I generally remembered what happen, and that I did like it a lot, but the only thing I particular remember is I thought the troll scene was hilarious. Upon this reread, those both still proved correct: I definitely still enjoyed the story – and appreciate it a lot more now than I did then – and I still thought the troll scene was hilarious 😄
I think actually loved this book reading it again – for different reasons now – but I have to admit, it was a bit of a struggle at the start, and there were few aspects of the story that did bug me.
Naturally the prose style from the 1930s is going to be different from that of today, but that wasn’t really an issue at all. What at times I didn’t like about Tolkien’s writing style was how narrative heavy it is. Dialog was so far and few, and when it did come up, characters would only speak for a sentence or two, going right to the point; and for the most part, the conversation felt fairly short. At times, it seemed to be pages after pages of Tolkien telling me what is happening. I don’t necessarily prefer more dialog to narrative, but I at least like dialog heavy sections here and there; but, the reason why it here would only sometimes bother me (after an excessive amount of pages) was because Tolkien was telling me a story, not showing. I’m not using those words in the “writer’s need to be showing, not telling” rule, but what I am referring to, is that the narrative is constantly diving the plot forward. I didn’t get slogged down for pages about what Beorn’s hall looked like. But yes, Tolkien still has many lovely sentences describing certain things in the story
What I found very interesting was how I felt about the development of the characters. I thought their development was adequate, but there was a lot of space left open. (Maybe this is just because I’m comparing it to what I’m used to in modern-day fantasy?) Surprisingly, I didn’t actually notice this until almost the end of the story when I was reflecting on all the dwarves. They all have these fun and rhyming names – but I mean really, I only learned that Bombur was fat; Fili and Kili were the youngest; and others all only had one characteristic, trait, or flaw to set them apart. Even with Bilbo, the main protagonist, our hero!, who I felt was the most developed, I still though there were plenty of places to explore more about him. But it didn’t actually bother me when I was reading, because whatever that character’s one distinction was, it fit perfectly into the story for a certain moment, and made them their own. I think I never really took notice of this because the story was so fun, and all the characters were so like-able! You felt the bond between them and Bilbo grow strong as their adventure went on.
It was scenes like the Trolls (which may forever be my favorite); Bombur falling asleep; Bilbo using Sting; the escape from the Elven king; the first time we meet Smaug with the trees. These moments of laugh, excitement, awe, and fun in the journey made the story so fun, and reading it today I could see the seeds of many upon many of novels that I love today.
There are few flaws in the novel that stood out to me – such as the lack of women – but I’m not going to discuss or explore those. (There are people out there who can do a better critique of that than me). Revisiting The Hobbit, it is also striking clear how great an influence this story has had, and how much of template the fantasy genre has used it for. (But again, many other sources out there who can do a great deal better at analyzing that). The main thing I was to say is that I loved this story.
Had I remembered it better when I younger, or read it before I started reading more modern-day fantasy, I probably would have thought the story was better. Still, reading it today, I am able to better understand and see the impact that The Hobbit and Tolkien has had on fantasy. I am better able to appreciate what this novel has to offer – more than just a fantastic and amazing journey.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
Date Read: 05/30/15 - 06/03/15 Review Written: 06/04/15