Tuesday 25 June 2013

Blast From the Past: The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Originally published in 1937 by George Allen & Unwin (UK)

My edition: My mum’s battered and worn copy, published in 1975 by Unwin Paperbacks (pictured above), complete with illustrations and maps drawn by Tolkien.

What’s it about?
When the wizard Gandalf arrives on the doorstep of Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole and asks him to travel to the Lonely Mountain and raid the treasure hoard of Smaug, a very dangerous dragon, Bilbo is launched out of his comfortable life in Bag End and into the midst of treacherous journey that will change his life.

Why now?
I saw and loved the first movie when it came out last year and it pushed me to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time and I decided I’d like to read them. Now that I’ve finished uni I actually have the time to read them!

The verdict:
I’ve always thought that The Hobbit was a book that I should read, but I’d never actually wanted to read it until I saw the first part of the adaptation in December. A hankering developed then and got stronger and stronger as I watched the Lord of the Rings for the first time (I’m way behind, I know) and then my housemate read and raved about Bilbo and his epic journey. By the time I finally had the time to indulge in some non-review/non-uni reading, I dove straight in. I’m very glad I did, but I also really wish I had read this when I was around ten. It would have been pure magic.

As it was, I struggled a little at first. It felt like it took me forever to read and I wasn’t always completely with the story though this was probably more down to my strange relationship with high fantasy. It certainly wasn’t Tolkien’s gorgeous style, the charming Bilbo, strangely alluring Thorin or the epic and exquisitely described landscapes of Middle Earth; they were perfect. It just didn’t blow me away as I was reading it, and I really kind of expected it to. I think I was also a little bit disappointed about Smaug’s demise; it was a little anti-climactic for me.

My favourite element of the novel by far was the narrative voice. I loved the all-knowing, retrospective narrator who sometimes jumped ahead and then pulled you back, hinted at things and teased. I love that sense of direct contact with the storyteller. It gave the novel a friendly voice and is probably one of the reasons why children and young adults have been so thoroughly captured by The Hobbit. The growth and development of the characters felt a lot more poignant through  this form of narration as well and I love how Thorin grew to respect Bilbo and the way that Bilbo grew into his own. The way that he became brave, strong and a leader warmed my heart.

Rather strangely, I also found all of the songs and rhymes that are peppered throughout the novel rather heart-warming, even though lots of them were about war and killing. I love a good rhyme and the image of a group of dirty, bearded dwarves singing as they march through a forest just brings back Snow White and the Seven Dwarves memories that make me smile. They’re a great way to break up the journey and give a real sense of the species that is singing as there are so many that it can be a little daunting at first!

Speaking of daunting, some of the spectacular scenes in The Hobbit must have been so, so difficult to film and do justice to! There are quite a few that I’m really excited to see on the big screen as I think they’ll be gorgeous and rather epic: the Elevenking’s caves, travelling down the river in the barrels and Smaug’s treasure horde. They are going to be spectacular.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit and I’ve already promised myself that I’m going to read it aloud to my children to make sure they experience Middle Earth at the time when they’ll love it the most.

Still not convinced?
- It was nominated for the Carnegie Medal when it was released in the 30s and was awarded a prize by the New York Herald Tribune for juvenile fiction.
- The trailer for The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in The Hobbit trilogy, was released a few weeks ago and has re-started Tolkien hysteria in the build up to the movie release on December 13th.

Did the film adaptation lead you to read The Hobbit? Were you a fan before the films? Which scenes are you looking forward to seeing on the big screen?



  1. My teacher read this to us when we were about 11 or 12 (so I didn't actually read it). I remember liking it. I've been thinking about 're-reading' it but also don't quite get on with much high fantasy. Think I'll give it a go.

  2. Read this in year 5, can't remember anything apart from Biblo sneaking past the dragon - Jordan wants me to read it so much!

  3. Great blast from the past. We were assigned to read "The Hobbit" in sixth grade, but we were only given so many assignments and eventually, we just did away with reading it altogether. Will definitely look to return to it.


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