Mini Book Review: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Updated: Jul 1
It’s tough to review such a beloved classic. This year was the first time I’ve read The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. Although, I’ve read most of The Lord of the Rings and seen the movies, of course. Many readers go back to this cherished tale for a yearly reread, and I’m hoping to do the same (although perhaps not quite so frequently with my never-ending TBR!).
I’m sure most of you know the story, but if not: The hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is visited by the wizard Gandalf who invites him on an adventure. Of course, the Baggins half of himself (his father’s side) immediately refuses. That evening, a group of dwarfs (and Gandalf) turn up at Bilbo’s hobbit hole. Their leader is Thorin Oakenshield, King of Durin’s Folk. They have begun a journey to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug, the dragon, and want Bilbo to be their “burglar”. Eventually, the Tookish side of himself (mother’s side) takes over, and he joins the dwarfs on their adventure. Bilbo travels further than most hobbits ever will, meeting friends and foe of all kinds, and eventually helping to decide the fate of all those in Middle Earth.
-The book is a fantastic introduction to the Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth and also as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. It introduces many characters which will be crucial later as well as being a complete adventure in itself.
- I love the old storytelling style of Tolkien. It involves the reader and author inside the world. Sometimes the storyteller gets ahead of himself and uses more than one point-of-view in a scene, but this gives the nostalgic feeling of being in front of the storyteller as he tells the story. It is also reminiscent of the styles that I read growing up and is a reminder to the reader of how loved the story continues to be.
- It is clearly one of the most significant adventure stories of all time. The quest is straightforward, and although there are complications along the way, these things don’t distract from the main storyline. It is freeing to have a simple goal, unhindered by complicated relationships or world politics (not yet, anyway).
-For readers new to the world/characters, there are many surprises along the way, right up to the last scenes. I’ll always be amused with how the folks in Hobbiton react to Bilbo’s long disappearance.
- I’ve read the first line of the book so many times in quotes and other places, so finally reading it in the actual book felt so special.
- It could be read in two ways: for the simplicity and joy of the story; or by looking into the layers where Tolkien includes truths and observations of the human experience amongst countless other things. I’m not a Tolkien scholar, but I imagine there would be so much depth there.
- Bilbo is an unlikely, but perfect hero. He is small, simple, authentic, humble and manages to save his fellow travelers more often than not. He was “chosen” by Gandalf, but not a necessity as other chosen ones are. He was not a king, an heir or anything magical. He did the best he could with what he had in helping the dwarfs win their home back. They needed someone who appreciated their home to know how much they wanted theirs.
-The Took/Baggins references were great. It helps things make more sense, especially with Pippin later.
-I’ll definitely be rereading this one to discover more that I may have missed. I can tell how so many people would be inspired to collect multiple editions of this book. It’s beautiful and simple yet powerful.
-I can’t really fault it except to say that it would be good to have more background of the characters (but there is much out there from different sources anyway). Also, the changing POV during scenes was interesting to get used to, although I didn’t dislike it.
“…things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a great deal of telling anyway.”
“There’s nothing like looking, if you want to find something…”
“’Go back? he thought. ‘No good at all! Go sideways! Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’”
“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
Read: March 2020