December 4, 2014

Review: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

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(Let me preface this by saying I may get a little longwinded. I have lots of thoughts to share!) (Plus I'll probably spoil some plot points.) (But no more than the narrator does! ;) I've been wanting to read Tolkien's work ever since I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy actually. But when I looked at that series of books, I got a little intimidated. It seemed clear based on just a little skimming through that Tolkien is a very intelligent writer (true!) and would require me to think a great deal while reading his stories (I assumed). When I mentioned this fact to a few friends, I got told more than once that I should definitely start with The Hobbit. It would give me a good taste for his writing and be a pretty quick and easy read. I finally picked up my own copy and when I found the audiobook at the library, I snatched it up as well and proceeded to have loads of fun during my driving time!

Because that's what this story is. A very fun adventure. From the very first sentence we get taken along as Bilbo gets swept into the most incredible adventure of his life. One in which he is unsure whether he'll even come back alive. (Spoiler: he does. But it's what happens between leaving and coming home that makes for a wonderful read.) That first chapter is completely what sold me. The narrator of the story is hilarious! I wasn't expecting to laugh my way through this book at all. But that's exactly what I did! By using a narrator, the reader is privy to loads of little asides and comments and foreshadowing, all told by a sometimes snarky and always fantastic storyteller. The fellow made me grin quite often. I think that was one of my favorite aspects of the story, the narrator and his humor.

Now then, let's talk Bilbo. He's a little hobbit who has lived a good life and is quite happy to settle for just that. A good life. But he has no idea of the huge potential within himself to become something amazing. And that's what made me love him. The fact that he's got such courage and bravery inside and doesn't even realize it until it's forced out of him. I like that he's so clueless, yet never once hesitates to step up and do the brave and right thing every single time. He surprises himself!  He's far from perfect though. He complains a lot and wishes multitudes of times that he'd stayed home. Yet I don't think he truly feels like that, for all the times he mentions it. I kept getting the sense that his inherent fondness for adventure (buried though it was), the Took side of him, was actually his true self. And that every time he was forced to step up and make a deciding choice, his inner self was built up and through this unlooked-for adventure, he became who he was truly meant to be. If that makes any sense at all. His complaining is really just a habit that he created because, wouldn't anyone? If they were so constantly looked down upon by the people they spend their time with (i.e. the dwarves)? Plus he had become quite settled into his boring little life before. ;)

Speaking of the dwarves, they certainly deserve a mention. From Thorin down to Bombur, they all make very interesting traveling companions. I loved how Bilbo kept surprising them! I also loved how they grew to respect and care for him. Especially Balin. (He was my favorite!) They make plenty of mistakes for sure. But when push comes to shove, once they trust Bilbo, their loyalty knows no bounds. One particular moment I enjoyed is just after they get out of the barrels and are feeling all battered and bruised. Thorin makes the statement "And I suppose we ought to thank our stars and Mr. Baggins. I am sure he has a right to expect it...No doubt we shall feel properly grateful, when we are fed and recovered." Proof of how much their initial judgment of Bilbo had been changed. Even in a moment when they're feeling quite put out, they do realize exactly how grateful they are to have Bilbo along after all. It's a nice little bit. And even when other mistakes are made later (particularly by Thorin), it was so good to see their regret as respect for Bilbo once again rears its head. The dwarves have as much to learn as Bilbo does. Plus they tend to add a bit of humor to certain situations. :D

This world that Tolkien has built is magnificent in it's grandeur! Each place the group traveled to was richly described and I could picture every moment and every spot. I am, without a doubt, in awe of his ability to create an entire world that feels incredibly real. Every stop in the journey felt as if those living there had been there forever. And that they are still there, even after we left them, just living their lives and their own adventures. Much of the actual traveling time is quickly spoken about with just a few sentences, yet I could easily picture the days and miles between each geographical area. It all feels huge! Exactly like Tolkien wished, I'm sure.

With trolls and goblins and elves and men and magical rings and spiders and dragons and eagles and wolves and even a skin-changer, there isn't much that Tolkien leaves out of his story! (I confess to skimming quickly through the spider part, as I'm not a fan of even fictional ones. I was just glad when Bilbo once again stepped up to the plate and played the hero. :) I ended the story with just the feeling that a friend told me I would have. I'm now anxious to try The Lord of the Rings! Bilbo's adventure has only whetted my appetite for more of Middle Earth. :)

And I also must mention that Rob Inglis read for the audiobook and he was perfect! With his British accent and low, kind of gravely voice, it felt sort of like Tolkien himself was reading to me. I'm thinking I need my own copy of this particular audiobook. He was wonderful!

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.


6 comments:

  1. I was out of town for work when I saw this post and I was so excited, but didn't want to rush through it, so I'm so glad I waited to read it on the weekend, because I LOVE YOUR REVIEW!! It makes my heart so happy and everything you loved, I loved too! I can't get over how much of a genius Tolkien was! So welcome to the club of all things Middle Earth, glad to have you :) :)

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    1. And I love your comment, Jamie! It made me grin. :)

      Thank you for reading this one in your Inklings Series. I am SO glad I finally picked it up and found out how amazing Tolkien is. Definitely ready to read more of his writing!

      Also I just think it'll be an awesome club to be a part of. I mean, all the coolest people are members! ;)

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    1. Thank you, thank you! I'm sure I shall like it here indeed. :D

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  3. Hurrah! So glad you dug it :-) I infinitely prefer LOTR, but the last time I read thru The Hobbit I enjoyed it a lot more than I had before.

    And yeah, just skimming thru it, LOTR is really daunting.

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    1. Me too, Hamlette! I was so curious what I would think of it, so it was a happy surprise how much I loved it. :) A friend of mine keeps asking when I'm going to read LOTR now, so I suppose I better get on the ball. He's like you, The Hobbit is good, but LOTR is way better. It's still a bit daunting, but I'm determined to get to it. And you know I'll probably have lots to say! ;)

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