I finished The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien a couple of weeks ago and was going to review it on National Tolkien Reading Day. Perfect, right? Alas, National Tolkien Reading Day fell on a Sunday this year, and I have strong feelings about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. To me, this means no blogging that isn’t Christ-centered in some way. So instead of reviewing the book the next day, I put it off and off…and now it’s Wednesday.
I’ve watched The Hobbit (both the old animated one and the Peter Jackson three-part one) multiple times. I read Lord of the Rings before the movies came out. But I never read The Hobbit, which is weird because it’s so short and readable, especially compared to the behemoth tomes of Tolkien’s other works. In this story, Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, unexciting hobbit goes on a very unrespectable, exciting adventure with Gandalf and 13 dwarves. Their goal: reclaim Erebor, the Dwarf kingdom under the Lonely Mountain. But this is easier said then done. Trolls, goblins, a dark forest, giant spiders, wood elves, and a dragon conspire against them. After all, Erebor is home to legendary riches and the Arkenstone. Many desire the riches.
This book was action-packed, whimsical, and more tightly woven than The Lord of the Rings. That was a sprawling epic. I find that I like tightly-woven narratives and plenty of action. It makes sense to me—a little—that this book could be stretched into three movies; there was so much stuff. But then the three movies was overdoing it. Two, maybe. Anyway, the book was excellent.
What I appreciated about the characters was their humanity. None was perfect. Even Gandalf was frightened at one point. You don’t see near enough of this in the movies. For instance, Bilbo wasn’t suddenly a super-hobbit-hero. He was a burden until he started to get his adventurous feet beneath him. Balin was my favorite dwarf, the wise older one that had Bilbo’s back. Beor was another favorite, the man-bear that offered them sanctuary and then help later on. Despite the way the movie portrayed him, the king of the woodland elves was quiet kind; I was happy he wasn’t the greedy grasper that the movies made him out to be. Overall, the characters were fun and individual.
The plot was simple. As in, there weren’t three or four different plots as there are in other Tolkien books. Also, it was linear. While I enjoy a complex plot, sometimes it’s nice to have something straightforward, especially if that straightforward thing happens to have plenty of adventure and action.
The writing was amazingly personal. Tolkien wrote as if you were already familiar with the habits of hobbits. The writing’s humorous, witty, charming, and just rollicking good. I love it. I also have mounds of favorite quotes from it:
“Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
“May the hair on your toes never fall out!”
“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
“‘I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
“‘I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!'”
See what I mean? You can practically picture these quirky, funny people (be they hobbits, dwarves, or wizards).
This book was fantastic and deeply satisfying. It’s one of those stories that make you smile as you end and feel like you just came back from another world. Like you slipped a ring off your finger—or yourself out of a wardrobe—and found yourself home. I wanted to jump right back into the Shire, if just to relax on the front porch with Bilbo (sans the pipe).