Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Title: The Hobbit
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Genre: Epic Fantasy
First Published: 1937
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: Personal Copy
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, A to Z Challenge, 451 Challenge
306 pages




On the flap
Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest, facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo-alone and unaided-who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of an entire countryside . . .

This stirring adventure fantasy begins the tale of the hobbits that was continued by J.R.R. Tolkien in his bestselling epic The Lord of the Rings.


I read this book as part of the LOTR Read-Along, that is hosted @ A Striped Armchair, The Literary Omnivore, Shelf Love, and Just Add Books. Although The Hobbit is a classic that most of you should have read growing up, I first heard of this book and its sequel epic fantasy only much later! Talk about not enough visits to the bookstore or the library! Even when I heard of this fantasy, it was when I watched the LOTR trilogy movies. Months later, my brother garnered a copy of the trilogy and that was my first introduction to the books that inspired my favorite book-based movies of all time!

When I was reading the Lord of the Rings, I always assumed The Hobbit to be a glossary of the life of the hobbits. I guess it had to do with the book title, than anything else. Besides I didn't have access to this book so I forgot about it!

Until, last year, that is.

Borders was giving 50% off on some books plus free shipping on one grand day. I was happening to go through a LOTR fever at the time, and the copy that my brother had bought long back was at home in India. So there, one thing led to another, and before I had time to think again, the books arrived home in a nice big box that had me grinning from ear to ear, as if Christmas had come early! :-)

After years of waiting, I finally read this book, and was glad to dispel so many notions I had had earlier. (Like a glossary! How crazy of me!)

My opinion
Read about my expectations going into this book.

Read about my opinion half-way into the book.

Since I have already raved a lot about this book in the above two posts, I will keep this review short. I enjoyed The Hobbit! It was very different from what I expected, and had a very different writing style from what I remember reading in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Bilbo Baggins is just enjoying a yet another beautiful day with his pipe, when on comes Gandalf asking for his help on an adventure. Bilbo thinks it is all a joke and when he knows it is not, he just squirms away. Gandalf, of course doesn't take "No" for an answer, and invites 13 dwarves over to Bilbo's place for tea the next day when their talk first scares and later inspires Bilbo to join the treasure hunt.

I found I liked Bilbo quite a lot. His grumblings at being inconvenienced (his biggest complaint was forgetting to take a handkerchief on his adventure), were very endearing. He was in the habit of having two breakfasts each morning, and it definitely was a testing phase for him, as he tried to make-do with much less food than he would usually have. I found his character well-written, and especially enjoyed his "coming-of-age" as he transformed from the very picky hobbit that he was to someone more endeavoring as he withstood the many dire challenges on his journey with the dwarves.

Since this book is oriented towards children, the narration is a lot pleasanter, considering some of the events that do happen are treacherous - spider attack, anyone? Although I did get distracted sometimes by the narration, I didn't get bogged or disappointed by it.

There are plenty of adventures all along the book to keep the reader engrossed. Right when I thought all is well, there comes more trouble on the horizon! Of course, how boring it is to walk through the woods, without any elves to abduct you or spiders to coil you up for dinner, or even the to-be-famous Gollum to ask you riddles, while he plans how best to eat you?

And when it all ends, it does so as it should, without dragging too much and without any twists to make the plot ending ambiguous. Reading this one first, it's hard to envision the possibility of a sequel, unless Bilbo himself returns back to the wild for more adventures. That might have happened, but they are not documented. Instead Bilbo's favorite "cousin", Frodo Baggins center-stars the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I look forward to next! I remember not liking Bilbo much in the trilogy, but that was before I knew anything about Bilbo. I want to see how my opinion of Bilbo forms now that I read The Hobbit.

Title Demystified
Bilbo Baggins, the awkward, innocent, affectionate hobbit, who pines for his home-made tea and cozy fireplace, in every other page, is title-protagonist, The Hobbit! Some editions of this book also come with a sub-title "There and Back Again", succinctly summarizing Bilbo's adventures away from home and his eventual return. Looks like an older way of saying "Been there, done that!"

Cover Art Demystified
Before starting this book, I tried to guess the meaning of the cover title, and I was pretty close! Just that Bilbo wasn't really cooking up some adventure at that point! In fact, he was so Baggins-ish (who disapprove of adventures) and less Took-ish (who are the more adventurous clan), that the idea of adventures was farthest from his thoughts!

What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.

Did you like it or you didn't?

8 comments:

Sherry's Book Reviews said...

I read this when I was pregnant with Joe (about 8 years ago) and I remember enjoying it very much. Maybe more so because it would be the last book I read for the next two years. I seem to remember that I did get bored about mid-way through the book, but then it picked up again and I was glad I stuck with it.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I have always wanted to read this. Thanks for the review.

J.G. said...

You are so right when you say that the hints about Sting's history, Moria, etc. in this book are a great appetizer for LOTR. And it's a nice twist that when Bilbo talks about "finishing his book" in LOTR, we can say, "Oh, yeah, I've read that!" I find the interlocking information makes the reading even more fun.

Aths said...

Sherry, being the last book you read in two years, then, it must have made a huge impact on you! Glad that you really enjoyed it!

Juju, I hope you read it and enjoy!

J.G., I forgot about that one! About his finishing the book, and yep, you are so right! I've always wondered what he was writing about, when he keeps mentioning his book in the LOTR trilogy, I'm glad I know now! :)

Maxine said...

I first read The Hobbit for 7th grade literature class. I really enjoyed it then (in spite of all the quizzes and testing) and I've been periodically re-reading it ever since. I am waiting for my sons to get a little older so we can read it together. What a fun book to read out loud. Great review!

Aths said...

Maxine, that sounds like fun! Reading with your sons! And this book is definitely worth a re-read, it's such a feel-good book!

Amy said...

I love the beginning where he leaves without his handkerchief. As if that could be the worst thing to happen. :-) Bilbo is a great character and The Hobbit is becoming a bit of a comfort read for me.

Aths said...

Amy, I know, how funny it is when you reread it right? Knowing that he actually gets gloomy for leaving without his handkerchief. Bilbo is so adorable!