J R R Tolkein
‘The Hobbit’ is an epic fantasy novel. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who likes the luxury and comfort of being at home with nice things and nice food around him. At the start of the novel Bilbo is badgered into going on an adventure, with fourteen dwarves, by Gandalf the wizard, to reclaim the dwarves fortune that is currently protected on a mountain by the dragon Smaug.
I first read this book at school when I was about 8 years old. It was a well read favourite of mine for a few years after that. I picked this up again recently for two reasons. One, its been about 10 years since I last read it and many details had become a little hazy. Two, I do plan on going to see the new movie adaptation and I wanted to refresh my memory of the story with the book first.
‘The Hobbit’ is still one of my favourite fantasy novels. I feel that the book offers a lot to readers of all ages. Yes, it is a children’s adventure (and I read and followed the story with ease as an 8 year old) but it also offers enough adventure, action and language that is not oversimplified, so that it is easy for adults to enjoy it also.
One of my personal favourite aspects of this book is all the different creatures Bilbo and the dwarves encounter on their journey. I particularly loved the ‘Skin Changer’, and of course ‘Gollem’. I have always been rather taken by Gollem despite the fact that he wants to actually eat Bilbo. I also like that a lot happens in the book – lots of creatures, settings and challenges for them to face. As a child this fast paced ride of adventures was enough to keep me completely engrossed and attentive to the book. Reading this as an adult, I did feel that there was a few parts that could have been a little more detailed (the final battle scene, for example).
I love that Tolkein interspersed the narrative text of the story with song, verse and poetry. I particularly like the song that begins with…
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
to seek the pale enchanted gold
I think that Bilbo Baggins is a wonderful hero for a book. He doesn’t have the traditional characteristics you expect from heroes. He is not longing for adventure, he doesn’t think himself brave, has little confidence in himself and his abilities, and he constantly longs to return home. Bilbo’s character develops a lot through the book. He surprises himself and the readers with how he reacts and overcomes the challenges they meet on the journey. However, at the same time, he doesn’t who he truly is. He remains Bilbo Baggins at heart even at the end of the novel, albeit slightly braver, richer and definitely more confident !
I think my only real criticism of this novel is the characters of the dwarves. Bilbo is a deep and developed character, but you don’t get that with the dwarves. Thorin and Bombur are probably the most individual of the dwarves – Thorin because he is the leader, and Bombur because he is the largest and slowest! I felt at times like all of the others were just named and shoved into the story for no real purpose. I think that giving all of the dwarves more depth and individuality could have added a lot more to the story.
As you may be able to tell, ‘The Hobbit’ is a book that holds a lovely childhood sentimentality for me. It is also a story that I have thoroughly enjoyed as an adult reader.
I cannot wait to see the movie, and hope to write about my thoughts on its translation from page to screen!