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 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?