Friday, May 18, 2012

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is undoubtedly one of the classics of the fantasy genre; it's the sort of book that adults can enjoy, but that I could very much picture myself reading to my kids before bed (if I had kids).  Yes, of course, there are battles and such (what self-respecting fantasy novel is not going to have any battles?), but I'd say it's relatively tame, and probably wouldn't traumatize your children.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit from a well-respected line, with a bit of an adventurous streak through his mother's side (the Took line).  For the most part, hobbits are very simple, quiet folk who mind their own business and keep to themselves and are quite content just sitting around eating and smoking pipes and eating and having some tea and eating and sleeping.  And eating.  Hobbits who go off on adventures of any kind are marked as deviants, because why in the world would any sane person want to go risking their life out in the world where you can't just sit around eating and drinking tea and sleeping most of the day?  

So that's why, when the wizard Gandalf shows up at Bilbo's door to recruit him for a quest, he shuts that conversation down pretty quick, though because he is a hobbit, it doesn't do to be impolite, and he ends up inviting Gandalf to come on back for tea sometime.  Gandalf accepts this invitation, but extends it to thirteen dwarfs (or rather, dwarves, and Tolkien gives an explanation for his use of the -ves plural ending).  You can imagine how surprised and irritated Bilbo was when all these strangers started showing up, and then he finds out it's because he is going to be a part of this adventure whether he likes it or not (which he doesn't).  Especially since this little quest is headed by Thorin Oakenshield, descendant of a dwarf king of old, whose mountain fortress and mounds of treasure have for some time now been in the possession of the dragon Smaug.  Bilbo is expected to come along as the group's burglar, assisting them in the reclaiming of their rightful property by traveling all the way to the Lonely Mountain (which is quite some distance beyond the Misty Mountains, which are not exactly a stone's throw away either) and slaying the dragon.

It had been a long time since I've read The Hobbit, and since I'd apparently forgotten some of the details, it was a thoroughly enjoyable re-read.  At first, I thought "wow, okay, so Gandalf is kind of a dick," what with the devious way he roped Bilbo into going on this little quest with Thorin and his kinsmen.  The dwarfs were none too pleased about it, either, because...a hobbit?  Really, Gandalf?  What the fuck good is a timid little hobbit going to be, especially when all he does is worry about his handkerchiefs and his meals-between-meals and sitting in his armchair by the fire.  But Gandalf gets all kinds of cryptic like he can see into the future or some shit, and insists that they will be pretty glad of Bilbo when all is said and done.  I guess Gandalf is usually a pretty legit kind of guy, since they want to trust his judgment on this, and they set off.

Obviously, things do not go smoothly on their way to Smaug, and yes, Bilbo saves their asses multiple times and ends up being kind of a badass, in his own way.  Sometimes Bilbo annoyed the hell out of me, but then when shit is really going down, he steps up and does what needs to be done, even though you know he would really rather just go running back home to his hobbit-hole.  I really admire that more understated kind of heroism, because he doesn't get all full of himself, thinking he is one BAMF.  Unlike the dwarfs, who are kind of full of themselves, but it's more a strong pride in their heritage, which I can get behind, because I think people should definitely be proud of where they come from.  And anyway, they definitely warm up to Bilbo more and more along the way, and I like them better for it (except for Bombur, who I kept thinking of as s Snorlax for some reason.  He really annoyed the hell out of me).  Gandalf isn't in this story the entire way, since he ditches the party to go attend to some other mysterious business.  He does show up again, though, and for those of you who are fans of The Lord of the Rings but maybe aren't familiar with The Hobbit, Smeagol the Gollum makes an appearance here, and he is as batshit crazy as ever, which makes him a joy to read and one of my favorite characters.

The whole bit with the dragon was mostly anticlimactic, even though it started off very promising, and it led to another conflict, which I hated because it turns Thorin into a huge douchebag, and that was disappointing. I don't know if this makes me an even bigger nerd than I already knew I was, but I basically cried/was teary-eyed through the last few chapters of The Hobbit, and I'm a little bummed that I'm finished with it now; it was a lot shorter than I remember it being. I do still have The Lord of the Rings trilogy to re-read, though!  Many of you have likely read this before, some of you have probably read it many times over, but I find that it's absolutely worth reading more than once.  It's a great story of adventure and fantasy, and I had almost forgotten how many little songs Tolkien has peppered throughout the story!  They were a lot of fun, and Bilbo's at the end is very sweet.  Another huge bonus for map-geeks like me (I know there are others of you out there), there are a couple of maps in this book!

The main reason I knew I needed to re-read this book is, of course, because Peter Jackson's film adaptation is coming out this year!  Sure, it's not until December, but still.  I couldn't bring myself to wait any longer to dive into it.  I'm a teensy bit skeptical, because apparently some characters are showing up in the movie who aren't in the book at all, but I am still mostly excited.  Here is a trailer, if you haven't seen that yet:

And here is my favorite song and video that is Hobbit-related:



Houghton Mifflin Company

Series Info:  What came before this book?  What's next?
The Lord of the Rings
* The Hobbit (prequel, sort of)
- The Fellowship of the Ring (Book 1)
- The Two Towers (Book 2)

Film Adaptations:
The Hobbit (1977)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

See what others are saying about it, or buy it now:
Better World Books



  1. I LOVE your header. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! totally has nothing to do with your review of The Hobbit, but I just had to mention that!

    I really need to read this book... and the entire J.R.R. Tolkien series for that matter. I've watched the movies, but I'm sure the books are so much richer. Actually my husband, who isn't much of a reader, has read all of these books! Definitely on my never ending reading pile. How great of you to re-read it! Wonderful review!

    1. Thank you! I felt really lucky to have found that map to use; it was exactly what I was looking for; finding the right font to add in my blog title took a little longer, haha. =]

      My brother isn't much of a reader, either, but he is pretty into this genre. They're great stories!

      Thanks for stopping by. :D