I read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien in March with The Magic Book Club, and I’ve finally decided to review it. That’s not the first time I read it, however: it was already one of my all-time favourite books. This reread refreshed my memory and reminded me why I love this book so much.
This review contains minor spoilers. I’ve marked the place where I start mentioning things that aren’t on the blurb below, but if you want to go into this story completely unspoiled, I can’t really say more than that it’s an amazing book with a variety of interesting characters, a lot of adventuring, and a reluctant hero.
Goodreads synopsis: Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
My rating: 5 stars.
I’ve already told you this is one of my favourite books. I first heard the story when my father read it to me and my brother (and made me sing all the songs), and I read it in English for the first time (and used it for a school assignment) when I was 13 or so. What I loved about it then is what I still love about it now – Bilbo’s reluctance and awkwardness regarding adventuring, the language, the songs, the dwarves, the wizard and last but not least, the dragon!
Bilbo is such a relatable hero – I’m realising that now more than when I was a child. Sure, he goes along with the adventure. He’s drawn to it, and he does have a knack for heroics. If only adventuring weren’t so darn uncomfortable! Complaining about food and cold and sleeping rough, while still being brave and clever when it comes down to it – yes, I can imagine myself that way. He’s also one of those heroes that doesn’t use force (much), but rather cleverness and cunning to get himself and his friends out of trouble.
In the end, Bilbo doesn’t care much for the dwarves’ plight – he helps them because he wants to prove himself, initially, and later because they have become his friends. All for the better. As Thorin says, near the end of the book:
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Now on to the next point: the language and the songs. There’s probably a lot to the language of The Hobbit that I haven’t noticed. Tolkien was a linguist, after all, and even though I don’t know much more about the English language than what I’ve learned in secondary school and gathered from reading books, I can tell his love for language has played a big role in his writing. Bilbo’s speech is different from Gandalf’s, which is different from Thorin’s, which is different from Smaug’s, etcetera. Just look at the contrast in this conversation between Bilbo and Smaug:
“Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!” he gloated. “My armour is like a tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”
“I have always understood,” said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, “that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the – er – chest; but doubtless one so fortified has thought of that.”
On a side note, the conversations between Bilbo and Smaug are one of the best, if not the best, parts of the book.
From this point on the review contains minor spoilers!
Some more of my favourite parts in The Hobbit are: the first chapter, which is full of amusing and even rather ridiculous moments (Biblo’s conversation with Gandalf; the dwarves coming in one by one and then in groups so that it’s impossible to tell them apart; the fact that they actually brought musical instruments to Bilbo’s house to accompany their songs), Bilbo’s riddle contest with Gollum, Bilbo tricking the giant spiders in Mirkwood, and this altercation between Thorin and the Elf King:
The king looked sternly on Thorin, when he was brought before him, and asked him many questions. But Thorin would only say that he was starving.
“Why did you and your folk three times try to attack my people at their merrymaking?” asked the king.
“We did not attack them,” answered Thorin; “we came to beg, because we were starving.”
“Where are your friends now, and what are they doing?”
“I don’t know, but I expect starving in the forest.”
“What were you doing in the forest?”
“Looking for food and drink, because we were starving.”
All in all, The Hobbit a great children’s book that adults will love just as much, with characters you’ll love (and hate) and one of my favourite heroes of all time, Bilbo Baggins. I leave you now with the first paragraph, in the hopes you’ll be so drawn in you’ll pick up the book immediately. (Just kidding. Read it whenever you like, even if that’s ‘never’. I’m not the boss of you.)
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, an that means comfort.