Saturday, 15 December 2012

Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Hardback book cover of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I just can't believe how heavily I fell in love with this book. I read it every spare second of every day and when I couldn't read it, I wanted to. I liked The Lord of the Rings, but somehow The Hobbit seems to transcend even that. I've spent the last few days deciding exactly where to get Smaug tattooed on my body; my foot seems like the best option, although at the minute my forehead isn't completely out of the question. God I love this book.

Plot summary: Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.

But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo is most reluctant to take part in this quest, but he surprise even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

I'll save my film rant for another day; suffice it to say that there is no way in the deepest pits of Hell that this needs to be three films. Part of the beauty of The Hobbit, for me, is how succinct it is and dragging it on and on and on through three horribly stretched out films almost ruins that. Alright, well, I'll save the rest of my film rant for another day, but it's true! Argh.

I got so into this book that I forgot what the fundamental point of the story was, so when Gollum and The Ring popped up I was pleasantly surprised. There are lots of references from here in the LotR books and movies - Bilbo's mithril armour, for example, or how Gandalf came by Glamdring. It's not essential, but it gave me a nice 'Ahhh!' moment every time.

Bilbo is a little irritating, but then I found Frodo just as useless in LotR. Gandalf though... ah, Gandalf. I really think he could have defeated Smaug, stolen the treasure and destroyed the Ring himself, probably without even stopping for tea. Why he feels the need to potter about sending other morons, I'll never know. It was surprisingly easy keeping twelve dwarves all straight in my head, although Thorin annoyed me to a ridiculous extent towards the end. Selfish bugger.

Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don't know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was a Gollum - as dark as darkness, except for two big pale round eyes in his thin face. He had a little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold. He paddled it with large feet dangling over the side, but never a ripple did he make. Not he.
I got so into this book that I actually squeaked while reading it in Meadowhall Bus Station. I'd got to a part where I was desperately screaming for the men of Lake-town to "FIIIIGHT!" in my head that it came out of my mouth as little "eeeeeep!" and scared the boy next to me so much he literally moved away. The point is, with The Hobbit, you get underneath the book where you care so much that it stops being just a story and starts being a piece of you, almost. Maybe that boy will read it one day and understand.

There are some great turns of phrase in this book and they're genuinely a pleasure to read. Obviously there are plenty of action and mystery scenes, but some of the best lines come from where the characters are sat around smoking a pipe. Because of this, and because there are much fewer 'walking scenes,' it's much more accessible than Lord of the Rings. This originally started out as a series of bedtime stories for Tolkien's children, and it shows.

"Good morning!" he said at last. "We don't want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water."  By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.

"What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!" said Gandalf. "Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won't be good till I move off."

"Not at all, not at all, my dear sir! Let me see, I don't think I know your name?"

"Yes, yes, my dear sir - and I do know your name, Mr Bilbo Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don't remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! To think that I should have lived to me good-morninged by Belladonna Took's son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!"
I'm actually disappointed now I've finished it - I'll never have the excitement of reading this for the first time again. And anybody who suggests 'Yeah Hanna, but at least you have the excitement of watching the films for the first time!' gets a swift knock upside the head.

Which is your favourite: The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings?


  1. I love LOTR too but haven't read this book yet - glad to see how much you loved it :)

  2. I LOVE THIS REVIEW SO MUCH I MIGHT GET A TATTOO OF IT. Just kidding. But only a bit. I first attempted to read The Hobbit when I was four years old; it was the first book my mother ever gave to me and just said "try it". I think I got about halfway through before I gave up, and for years afterwards all I really remembered was "There were singing dwarves. And something about a dragon."

    I read it PROPERLY - finally - before the first LOTR film came out, and I was in a mad rush to read The Hobbit and The Fellowship before I went to the cinema. I LOVED IT. Yet strangely, I still don't remember THAT much about it. It was while I was at school, I suppose, and I wasn't blogging or considering my reading in the same way then, so I probably just blitzed through it. TIME FOR A REREAD. :)

    There are so many brilliant (older) books being reviewed and thrown my way right now, it might have to wait in line - but reread it I shall!

    1. Haha - "I LOVE THIS REVIEW SO MUCH I MIGHT GET A TATTOO OF IT"! Please do that - it would be awesome! Although you might have to do some serious eating to expand yourself and make room...

    2. It's funny - normally I have a slightly shaky book memory, but I remember The Hobbit so very, very clearly. I think I loved it so much I hung on every word!

      There are so many books I want to reread because I read them while I was at school and didn't pay that much attention. Like The Picture of Dorian Grey - I can't remember the slightest little thing about the book. I think I was too intent on 'getting through it' at the time.

  3. I'm half with Ellie, sadly. I remember starting to read this at some time when I was much younger but I don't really remember much about the plot or the writing except for lots of songs. I have kind of been thinking about re-reading it, though, both because I want to go see the film and because last week (I think...) I was on the train to a meeting in Manchester and a man sitting near me was reading it and he barely moved the WHOLE journey, which made me think to myself that it must be better than I remember.

    I have read all of the LOTR books but I think they're the reason I've not ever gone back to The Hobbit - they're the only books which I've ever read (and seen, obviously) that I actually prefer the film adaptations of. I'd just assumed that The Hobbit would be the same and that I might as well just watch them. But nearly nine hours of film for less than 300 pages of story? Seems a bit much...BOOK IT IS! :)

    1. And my sadness at being only half with Ellie is because I've never re-read it and felt the love. Silly Sunday brain...

    2. There are lots of songs (I never really understood why even when I read LotR), but skip past them. Do reread it! I did exactly the same thing on the train, and then the hour I had to sit in Leeds station waiting for Lewis. I was genuinely disappointed when he arrived (although don't tell him!) because I had to stop reading.

      The Hobbit was originally written as bedtime stories for his children, so it's way more accessible because it's aimed at a younger audience. It's so so good Charlotte! Have I ever steered you wrong? ;)

  4. I'm really looking forward to trying The Hobbit. I just finished the 1st LOTR book though, and I feel like I need to finish that trilogy before I read this.

    I AGREE about the movie though - one not-even-long book should never be made as THREE movies. Even if I am really excited about the guy playing Bilbo. I'm boycotting the movies, at least while they're in the theaters.

    1. I don't know, maybe The Hobbit would be a good place to break off? It'll give you a break from LotR and it provides a nice bit of backstory!

      God, people are becoming aware that talking about The Hobbit near me is a bad idea unless they want to hear a twenty minute rant about how it shouldn't be three films. I just can't help myself!

  5. I'm reading this book for a read-a-long right now!


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