The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
|The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
|Summary: Bilbo, a respectable peace-loving hobbit, is somehow persuaded to embark on a dangerous venture with thirteen dwarfs and a wizard.
|Date: March 2001
|Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
A Times Educational Supplement Teachers' Top 100 Book
I've read The Hobbit at least three or four times. The first time was when I was about ten; the most recent (until now) was when I read it aloud to my sons - and that was probably twelve years ago. So it was definitely time for a re-read. Of course JRR Tolkien is now widely known due to the enormous appeal of the film versions of Lord of the Rings, but there are people who still don't realise that the classic book The Hobbit was the precursor to that incredible trilogy. It was actually intended for children, but is one of those crossover books that is equally enjoyable to teenagers or adults.
Bilbo Baggins is the hero of the story: a quiet, unassuming and respectable hobbit who enjoys peace, comfort and good food. His mother was from a rather dubious family, albeit very wealthy, but his father was the epitome of respectability, and Bilbo hasn't any thought of leaving his pleasant home at Bag End.
A hobbit (for anyone who hasn't seen the Lord of the Rings films) is a human-like species, but rather shorter than most people and with huge hairy feet. Hobbits also live rather longer than the average human. Bilbo, at fifty, is a young adult hobbit. He is sitting outside his home after breakfast one morning, smoking his pipe and relaxing, when Gandalf appears quite unexpectedly.
We're not told exactly who or what Gandalf is, but any self-respecting child reading his description ('a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white bears hung down below his waist...') would instantly recognise a wizard. They have not seen each other for many years, but Bilbo has happy memories of Gandalf's amazing firework displays when he was a very young hobbit, so he invites him to tea the next day.
To his horror, he finds that Gandalf has invited several other guests. Thirteen dwarfs arrive on his doorstep the following afternoon. Worse, they are all under the impression that Bilbo is going to help them travel on a perilous journey to kill a dragon and retrieve large quantities of treasure. The thought fills Bilbo's mind with horror, and the dwarfs aren't very impressed by what they see of him, either. But Gandalf knows what he's doing, and unsurprisingly, Bilbo ends up accompanying them.
Thus begins a series of thrilling adventures, in classic style: they are trapped by various enemies along the way, and imprisoned in several unpleasant places. Early in the book, Gandalf plays a large part in their rescues but gradually Bilbo takes a greater role, proving himself resourceful, intelligent, and courageous. So part of the story is related to Bilbo's growing confidence and maturity, and his companions' increased respect of him.
It's a classic good versus evil plot, with the baddies - goblins, spiders, wolves and so on - being extremely nasty. But the good guys are shown realistically, with plenty of faults, and it takes a crisis towards the end before the sides are finally drawn, and a major battle takes place.
I think it's a wonderful book, and I'm not usually a fan of fantasy. The writing is fluid and clear; simple enough that (at least in my experience) children as young as seven or eight can enjoy listening to it, even though they wouldn't necessarily understand everything, yet there's plenty in it to appeal to teenagers and adults too. It's ideal, too, for more confident readers wanting something beyond Harry Potter.
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien is in the Bookbag's Fantasy Picks.
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Lucy Beadle said:
I loved all of Tolkien's great works, he's definitely the godfather of fantasy the genre owes sooo much to him for creating an amazing world with all the races in it. Elves, sorcery and the very theme of evil versus good in this literary form does seem to spring from his seed. I can't wait for the movie adaption of the Hobbit, if its as good as LOTR it'll make my year lol! One thing I don't agree with is that this is necessarily a book to be enjoyed by young teens, great to be read to by someone else, great to watch as an anime the big problem is Tolkien's style of writing. Its kind of heavy going and he has a potential to over describe details, I think this was necessay back in the day as it was the first book of its kind, the description was needed to breath life into his world for an audience who hadn't read anything like it. However todays kids, teens and YA's are so much more advanced we've lived a world of fantasy and sci fi and brilliant tv and movie adaptions, Tolkien's heavy writing style doesn't flow or grip readers as say for example J K Rowling's style. Harry Potter is a book for the kids of the 90's and 00's whereas Tolkien wrote for adults waaaay back in the day and it is for this reason that I think some younger readers might get put off when they find what they've sunk there teeth into lol!!
Of course the Hobbit is a brilliant, brilliant read and for this it should always be remembered.
I'd give the Hobbit 4 stars of 5 for the classic story and remove the fifth star for the outdated writing style.
Cheers Book Bag, you still rock,