I have a bit of a long history with The Hobbit. I tried (and failed) many times to read it as a child, but never got out of the Shire. It was enough to make to decide that Tolkein was just not for me, but then I saw the Lord of the Rings films, loved the books on a second reading, and now I've come full circle and picked up The Hobbit again. It's the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who accidentally gets caught up with a group of dwarves off to kill the dragon who is guarding the stolen treasure of their ancestors. Along the way, Bilbo will learn a lot about himself.
The Hobbit was a surprising read for me, in that it didn't turn out in the way I expected it to at all. From the initial chapters, I had Thorin, the leader of the dwarves, pegged as the hero of the novel, and was imagining him smiting Smaug and generously sharing his treasure in the final chapters. But it wasn't like that at all, and the characterisations were surprisingly complex for a children's novel. Thorin is shown as brave, determined, and a good leader, but he is also greedy and blinded by his desire for Smaug's treasure. Similarly, the Master of one of the towns is morally ambiguous too.
Really, The Hobbit is all about Bilbo. Like most good children's books, it's main themes are centred around growing up and developing as a person. Bilbo starts the novel as reluctant to leave his home, scared of the world around him, and overly dependent on Gandalf and the other dwarves. When Gandalf leaves the group around half-way through the story, Bilbo gets a chance to come into his own. He starts making decisions, believing in himself, and in the end he emerges as one of the few characters untainted by greed for Smaug's treasure. There are a lot of opportunities for him to learn to be resolute, and to never give up, even when the going gets tough.
The other main theme of the novel is money and greed. We see good characters caught up in their desire to hoard the treasure, even when there is more than enough of it. Thorin doesn't want to give any of it away, even though there is no way he could use or transport more than a small quantity of it. The Hobbit is very much focused on friendships, personal strength and doing the right thing, as opposed to acquiring money or possessions. So it was perhaps a good read for the Christmas season!
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Hobbit, even more so than I did the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps because it is aimed at children, the adventure moves on at a brisk pace, and there is always something going on. Highly recommended.
Source: Personal copy
Score: 4.5 out of 5
The Classics Club: Book 30/72
My list of titles and reviews can be found here.
I didn't expect to love the Hobbit as much as I did too! I found Bilbo to be a surprising main character for a childrens book. He is 50 and he loves staying in his cozy home and drinking tea, not immediately things I would think of for a character in a childrens book.ReplyDelete
That's true, but I think his development is a lot like growing up in general, and learning to be independent.Delete
I, too, struggled to get into The Hobbit as a kid and wanted to like it as it was one of my dad's favorites. Will have to give it another shot. I did read the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy a few years ago and enjoyed it (I have a friend who re-reads them every holiday season).ReplyDelete
I think you should give it another go - I found it easier than Fellowship of the Ring, so you will probably enjoy it.Delete
I read this book for the first time a few years ago and liked it quite a bit. However, the LOTR books have been giving me a lot of pain. I always get stuck in one of Frodo's later chapters and then cannot go on.ReplyDelete
I was actually surprised that The Hobbit was more a children's book than an adult's. I think that was the only thing that disappointed me a bit because like you said, it was too complex to be a kid's book.
The second half of Two Towers, that is all Frodo and Sam, is a bit of a slog. I almost gave up on the first read, and it's still my least favourite part, but I have learned to appreciate it a bit. Good luck!Delete
I didn't read The Hobbit all the way through until I was an adult either. Is that the edition that you read? It looks gorgeous!ReplyDelete
Oh yes, it's a beautiful hardback and the endpapers are maps. Now I need some matching lovely LOTR editions!Delete
I am so pleased to hear you enjoyed this, The Hobbit is my favourite childhood book. I recently re-read it before seeing the final film adaptation.ReplyDelete
I love rereading childhood favourites :)Delete
I have never been able to like The Hobbit, which makes me sad. I managed to ease my way into the Lord of the Rings books after many failures in childhood (by skipping the first one! and just seeing the film! I'm the worst!), but no matter how many times I reread The Hobbit, I can't make myself love it. :(ReplyDelete
Oh, that's a shame. I found it easier than LOTR in the end, but maybe it just isn't for you.Delete
I've always wanted to read this and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (in theory), but just could never get into it. I'm a bit more inspired now to give them a second chance, though I admit it's not likely to be any time soon!ReplyDelete
I had the same problem with The Hobbit when younger, but I might revisit it some day (in its original language). I think Jan has it on the shelf in some fancy-pansy copy with illustrations.ReplyDelete