Review: The Hobbit

Warning: Spoilers ahead, my precious!

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” So begins one of the most popular fantasy books of all time. Until recently, I’d never finished The Hobbit, but I knew that opening sentence by heart because it’s famous and more importantly because I have tried over and over again to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. That’s right; I’m sixteen and only now read The Hobbit. Many of my friends as well as fellow bloggers apparently read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its prequel at age seven or eight or nine. If I remember correctly, I first tried to read The Fellowship of the Ring at age eight but I never got farther than a few chapters. This time it was different.

The aforementioned hobbit, Bilbo Baggins of Bag End, enjoys his quiet life in the Shire. He has vaguely thought about adventures, but doesn’t really expect to have any. One day the wizard Gandalf visits him along with thirteen dwarves: Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, and Thorin Oakenshield.. Gandalf thinks that Bilbo would be a good addition to their expedition of defeating the terrible dragon Smaug and taking his treasure. Bilbo isn’t so sure but ends up traveling with them anyway. Along the way he encounters trolls, elves, goblins known as Orcs, huge eagles, wolves known as Wargs, and a slimy creature known as Gollum. He journeys through the dark forest of Mirkwood, attempts to be a pickpocket, stays at Rivendell the Last Homely House, and finds a ring. In the end Smaug is defeated and Bilbo realizes that he loves having adventures, but most importantly he finds that ring.

What was different about reading The Hobbit this time? This time I enjoyed it. I think the last time I tried to read it was age thirteen and I only made it up to the protagonists being rescued by eagles from goblins and Wargs. Every previous time I tried to read Tolkien, I quickly became bored. This time that didn’t happen. I told myself fiercely that I was going to finish The Hobbit so that I would understand what was happening in the movie adaptation coming out in December. I wanted to read The Hobbit and the trilogy and then see the trilogy’s movies before I saw the new movie – and I wanted to do as much of that as possible before November and NaNoWriMo because I would have more time in October. I told myself to stick with it; I could finish this book if I were really motivated.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to make myself keep reading. I read The Hobbit over the course of four days and during that time I didn’t read any other book because I had to know what happened next. It hasn’t changed much with the trilogy either – in that I don’t want to read anything else, but I have to now because there’s stuff to read for school. (I am currently on the second chapter of The Two Towers, having finished The Fellowship of the Ring also in just four days.) Something clicked this time and I have fallen in love with Tolkien’s works. Yes, I admit it. I have fallen helplessly in love with the series. It’s a wonderful feeling because this hasn’t happened to me in a long time. Oh, I love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games and Kiki Strike. However, Kiki Strike is currently a series of only two books. I already knew the entire plot of the Hunger Games due to Wikipedia. I  began Harry Potter eight years ago and finished it five years ago, which is long compared to how long I’ve been alive. Here were a bunch of books that I didn’t know much about and hadn’t tried to read in a while.

What was it that I liked so much about The Hobbit? The story itself is definitely creative, but I think I like the writing more than the plot and characters. I used to find Tolkien unbearably wordy and now I don’t. Perhaps it’s because I’m older now and have a longer attention span, although surely there can’t be that much difference between thirteen and sixteen. Maybe I was just so caught up in the story that I didn’t care when Tolkien described every step taken by the expedition.

The Hobbit was unexpectedly funny. I wouldn’t categorize it as humor, but it wasn’t always serious either. Gandalf is actually quite witty and I loved the scenes where he fooled the trolls and told a story to Beorn. Christopher Paolini writes high fantasy just like Tolkien and often tries to be funny in his Inheritance Cycle, but with less-than-stellar results. I now have a better opinion of humor in high fantasy because Tolkien knows the right way to do things. In fact, reading Tolkien’s works has not only increased my opinion of Tolkien; it has also decreased my opinion of Paolini. I now adore elves and dwarves but for a long time I hated them because Paolini’s are annoying and stuck-up.

I have only a few issues with this book. The first is that whenever Tolkien says “you or I” as in “…I don’t suppose you or I would have noticed anything at all on a windy night…” it disrupts the story. I picked up The Hobbit and fell into the story; every time he wrote “you or I” I was pulled back into the modern world and out of the tale. It’s not something that I would recommend budding authors to do. Another problem with The Hobbit is that Tolkien’s fight scenes aren’t very good. Yes, Bilbo had a few scary encounters with Smaug the dragon, but he didn’t get to kill Smaug! In general Smaug’s death and the Battle of Five Armies were rather anticlimatic in my opinion. Still, at least Tolkien didn’t end the story with, “And just as the terrible dragon swooped down to incinerate the heroes with its fiery and oddly minty-fragranced breath, Thorin Oakenshield discovered an atomic bomb and detonated it, blowing up all of Middle-earth. And so our story ends, for we have neither protagonists nor antagonists left now.” I’ve written several very rushed and ridiculous endings like that, so hats off to you, Mr. Tolkien, for not doing that!

But those issues don’t matter that much, because there’s something so awesome that it nearly cancels out those things. That thing is Gollum, my favorite character. I know that he’s creepy – that’s not why I like him. Honestly, I would be terrified of him. No, what I love about him so much is his background. While Gollum and Bilbo are riddling each other, Tolkien writes, “Asking [riddles], and sometimes guessing them, had been the only game he had ever played with other funny creatures sitting in their holes in the long, long ago, before he lost all his friends and was driven away, alone, and crept down, down, into the dark under the mountains.” When Bilbo takes Gollum’s most prized possession – a small golden ring that makes the wearer invisible – Gollum loses “the only thing he ever cared for, his precious.” Gollum grieves for it and “the cry brought Bilbo’s heart to his mouth…” 

I must have noticed those parts before, because I remember reading that scene before. But I’d never really thought about it until now. Gollum used to play games. He used to have friends. He used to be not too different from Bilbo – or from us. When I learned more about his past in The Fellowship of the Ring I loved him even more, because his story is fascinating. What happened to him is not his fault; it’s that of the ring and Gollum couldn’t have avoided the ring because it will seek out certain beings as the next bearers. But let’s not get too far into that matter, because that’s for a review of another book. Bilbo and Gandalf are excellent characters, but Gollum is currently my favorite and I think he always will be. There are a number of reasons why I love Lord of the Rings and Gollum’s story is probably the most important.

I wasn’t sure how this most recent attempt to read Tolkien would go, so I was delighted to realize that I loved The Hobbit. I think that deep down all of us have a lot in common with Bilbo – we love adventures in theory, don’t like them as much when things get dangerous, and finally realize that we do love adventures once we get back. Do I wish that I’d read Tolkien’s books earlier? Honestly, no. I’ve tried to read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring several times before and could never become interested enough to actually finish them. I think all I needed was a little time; it made all the difference because now I’m enamored with Middle-earth. Now we can’t wait for the new movie, can we, my precious? Of course not, gollum! We wants to see it at midnight, we do! We will search our pocketses for money to pay for a ticket!

Rating: 4.25/5

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14 Responses to Review: The Hobbit

  1. The first time I read the Hobbit (admittedly a long time ago) I found it quite slow and boring up until the Misty Mountains, but after that I enjoyed it very much. I feel I am due for a reread soon, but with so many books I haven’t even read once, rereads are difficult…

  2. hithere298 says:

    I agree with just about every single thing here. Great minds think alike, eh? The only opinion we probably differ on is the fact that I do not like Gandalf that much, especially in the Hobbit. When Bilbo and all the dwarves were trapped by the trolls, Gandalf wasn’t there because he was “checking out the road ahead” or something. He didn’t even bother to tell anyone he left! And then he happens to come back at the perfect time to save them all, even though the whole thing could have easily been avoided had he stayed with them. Then he disappears once again when they’re attacked by goblins, and then he comes back right in time to save them again (to be honest I forgot how that part ended up, I haven’t read the book in a while). Then he leaves for good just as they’re about to enter MIRKWOOD: You know, the place filled with evil spiders and no food at all. I believe it also had a river with water that puts you into deep sleep the moment you touch it. They were also captured by elves and imprisoned for months, something that could have easily been avoided if he had come with them. I like him in the Fellowship of the Rings though, because he yells at Pippin a lot. (I hate Pippin more than I’ve ever hated Gandalf.)

    • nevillegirl says:

      Even the Gollum-love? xD

      Yes, I’m a bit conflicted about Gandalf. He’s much more witty than I expected him to be. And he’s clever. However, he DOES keep abandoning the expedition – when he’s the one who got them into the whole mess. Also, I dislike how he’s always miraculously rescuing them at the last minute. The trilogy is much better because now the other characters have to do things for themselves, especially now that Gandalf is (temporarily) gone. (Yes, I already know he comes back from the dead. ^_^) They can’t rely on him to save the day now.

      I love Pippin! Why do you hate him?

      • hithere298 says:

        I don’t really HATE him, I just dislike him. But from what I’ve read so far of the Two Towers, I’m starting to like him a lot more.
        And yes, even the Gollum-love. I like weird people.

        • nevillegirl says:

          So you’re reading the series for the first time, too? What chapter of The Two Towers are you on? It’s fun to find someone who’s reading the same thing as I am.

          I love his story and how the Ring has corrupted him. 🙂 He’s like the Snape of Lord of the Rings.

          • hithere298 says:

            Well, I managed to read five or six chapters into the Two Towers before I had to give it back to my school’s library because the school year was ending. Oddly enough, not a single library nearby me had the book. It was as if some guy just went to each library and stole each edition just to get me mad. Three months later, after reading a bunch of Stephen King books, I decided to continue reading the series, but I realized I forgot a lot of the things that happened, so I spent the last two weeks re-reading the Fellowship of the Ring. I’m now at the part where the fellowship reach Lothlórien.
            Indeed, Gollum’s story is awesome. Though I have a question: what race is he? From what I’ve seen of him in the small part of one of the LoTR movies a few years ago, he looks like an alien, and I don’t remember anyone saying what he was.

            • nevillegirl says:

              Nice; I’m on Chapter… Four? With Treebeard.

              Haha, not telling! Go back and read the part early on when Gandalf is talking about the history of the Ring and Gollum. It says there. It’s one of my favorite parts of Gollum’s story, actually, because it makes him not too different from us.

  3. Funny how time works and our tastes change. I’m in the crowd that read them young, or rather had them read to me… probably about 10 or 12… I picked them back up my senior year of college to re=read them as stress relief and discovered soemthing I clearly hadn’t noticed before.

    The hobbit is writen like, I guess a middle grade, maybe YA book. It’s a lot short and a lot less wordy than the Ring Trilogy, which is very much more an adult book.

    Gollum is indeed an intruiging character, one that can certainly be pitied and a villian who is only such due to circumstances beyond his contol. Poor thing…

    • nevillegirl says:

      I’m glad I read them later. I wouldn’t have enjoyed them as much because I’d be forcing myself to continue – that’s why I gave up so many times before.

      It is. I thought it was complex, but the trilogy is much more so.

      I wouldn’t have appreciated Gollum as much when I was younger, for sure… 😛 All I noticed before was his creepiness

      Have you seen my Fellowship review? 🙂

  4. Pingback: Review of Eragon by Christopher Paolini. What did you think? I mean seriously? | Jennifer M Eaton

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