The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Heldig and The Hobbit in her basket.

Why I Read It: Participated in a great Read-Along over at Snobbery.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy buffs, classic lovers, folks with hairy feet fetishes.

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Company (1997)

Length: 256 pages

Part of me feels like this timeless classic hardly needs a review. But I am going to do it anyway. First off, say ‘Bilbo’ three times fast without snickering. Go on, I will wait over here for the giggles to subside.

I enjoy J. R. R. Tolkien’s works, but I am not a fanatic. For those of you who take him seriously, you may want to avert your eyes from this review.

I really enjoyed The Hobbit. I had not read it since the 6th grade some 20+ years ago. I found all the singing silly and clever at the same time, which I think is appropriate for a children’s book. Gandalf seemed to be a little more tricksy in this novel than in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He did put that secret mark on Bilbo’s door, marking him as a thief and burglar (just what the Dwarves ordered). The Dwarves show up unannounced, in bright, differently-colored cloaks, demanding 5-star hotel service (meal, drink, bed). In some ways, it is the Dwarves that are thieves, stealing Bilbo off to adventure with them. It’s not as simple as ‘get past the dragon that is sitting on our gold’. No! they have to actually make it to the mountain.

There are trolls, and elves, and werebears, and goblins and dark, spooky forests, and spiders of unusual size (SoUS) to over come. And once all that is done and the treasure recovered, the Dwarves have left a long list of ticked off folks and few enough friends. Hence, the War of Five Armies commences. Messy.

All in all, I greatly enjoy Tolkien’s simple plot and expert word play with character and place names. For the linguists out there, Tolkien’s works are riddled with ancient myth and cryptic language references. If you get some of these, you can sit around and feel extra superior as you read your special hardback edition at the cafe while drinking your spiffy fancy tea .

What I Liked: Hairy feet; brightly cloaked Dwarves; talking birds; dogs that can set the table; play on words; the Wargs; the singing; Smaug the dragon; Bard of Lake Town.

What I Disliked: Not a single female anywhere in the book – no female Hobbits, Elves, Wargs, Goblins, birds, ponies…. you get the point. It’s a 256 page long sausage fest.

The Hobbit Read Along Part III

The finale to The Hobbit has arrived (this last section covers chpts. 13-19). While I had remembered the basics, I was still surprised how much this last section pulled at my emotions. Perhaps I am getting to be a little more human with age.

Once again, Snobbery has a great post up with a summary of events from this section along with her entertaining commentary. And she has provided the discussion questions below. Make sure to wander over to her bit of the blogosphere to see what she is up to.

First time readers/non-fanatics:  Did you catch the bit about the Necromancer at the end, and did you figure out who he was?

Yes, I read that bit about the Necromancer. But, no, I haven’t figured it out. I would like to think it is related to the later books (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), so possibly Sauruman. Which would mean that he had gone bad years, decades really, before the whole trilogy got started. I wouldn’t guess Sauron (the big Evil Eye) because I am under the impression that this entity was tied to his power base of evil-doers. Is this referred to in The Simarilllion?

My fellow read and re-readers:  Was the Arkenstone one of the lost Silmarils?  What leads you to that belief?

Ooooo! Now that is a fantastic thought. So, in the trilogy, we get to see 2 Silmarils, both dark spheres. Unless Lady Galadriel’s looking glass is also one, which would mean that a Silmaril could be a number of items. Yet, while folks wanted the Arkenstone, no one had visions with it.

How about we launch an expedition to Middle Earth and Laketown and from there to the foot of the mountain where we can dig the pesky thing up and run some tests. We will need at least 2 Silmaril experts, in case of…..misfortune. Attach resumes and references below.

Now that we’ve finished this book, if you haven’t read Tolkien before – how are you feeling having accomplished this much?  Are you planning on continuing through the rest of the books with us?  For those of you who’ve read it countless times – how is reading this time different than the first (or even the last) time you read it?

There was so much I forgot since my first reading back in the 6th grade – Beorn, the first appearance of the Wargs, the talking Ravens, the Arkenstone, and the auction of Bilbo’s belongings. So this was great to reread it (something I had been meaning to do before the movie came out). Also, reading a book with adult eyes is quite a bit different than reading it with kid eyes. I love that this book was still exceptionally entertaining.

I have read The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the past 10 years, and with farm work in full swing, I think I will have to sit out continuing on with Tolkien for now. But I can definitely make a habit of stopping in over at Snobbery to post a snarky comment or two.

Other Tidbits:

Was there a single female character (even a pony, or eagle, or goblin) in the entire book? Sausage Fest.

In one single line, Tolkien has the word ‘guns’. I had always been under the impression that all these books were staged in a world that was pre-gun technology. So why would the characters know what one sounds like?

The War of Five Armies – was it: A) Dwarves, Goblins, Wargs, Men, Elves or B) Dwarves, Goblins + Wargs, Men, Elves, Eagles?

The Hobbit Read Along Part II

So much, and incredible amount, of stuff happened in chapters 6-12. It’s been well over a decade.. uh.. maybe 2 decades since I read this and I can’t believe some of the things I forgot about.

Snobbery once again is our wonderful host and she has a great synopsis with snarky commentary over at her place, so make sure to check that out. She has also provided the following discussion topics:

Do you think Gandalf is always this impatient with everyone, or does he subscribe to some of the prejudices against dwarves that everyone else in Middle-Earth seems to have?

I think Gandalf is eager to be off on to his ‘other business’. While Thorin is the leader, the dwarves seem to be more of a comity than a chain-of-command lot. I can see why Gandalf has to push them along at times and in some ways pull rank as the All Powerful and Wise Wizard.

For those of you reading the first time, what do you think Gandalf’s “other business” is?  What could be so important that he keeps leaving our party?

Ha! i think Gandalf is bored with the little folks and wants to go visit friends and relatives in the area. Like he mentions a necromancer (perhaps spying is considered ‘other business’) and his brother Radagast. He could also be off collecting herbs and medicinal mushrooms, or dungeon prowling. He is a wizard and part of being a wizard is maintaining a aura of mystery and importance.

Let’s talk about Bilbo’s character.  He’s come a pretty long way from his hobbit-hole and seems to be rising to the various challenges set before him fairly well.  At what point did he (in your eyes) go from being a fraidy-hobbit to the dragon-challenging character we see at the end of this section?

This actually occurred for me in Part I, when he challenged Gollum to the Riddle Battle and in the end had to put on the ring and follow Gollum and then do this brave and challenging thing by leaping over him to get away. But we see more instances of him coming out of his shell. Even simple things that being the sharpest eyes in the party put him in a role of responsibility he wasn’t use to.

Other Tidbits:

I can’t believe I forgot about the Wargs and everyone nearly burning the trees. I did remember the Eagles though.

I can see how the Little Kid Me forgot about Beorn. But I find his character interesting this time around, especially how he treats his animals well. Though having goats and dogs set the table might be a bit much.

Gandalf’s reference to finding a Giant door stopper to plug up the Goblins int he mountain had me laughing.

When the Eagles feed the dwarves and Bilbo, they bring them a small sheep, rabbits, and hares. What is the difference between rabbits and hares? Ear size? Do they taste the same?