The Hobbit is a story of Bilbo Baggins, a middle-aged Hobbit who loves the comforts of his very ordinary, predictable life just like any other Hobbit. But he is not like any other hobbit because he forsakes the comforts of his hobbit hole to go on an adventure with the wizard Gandalf and thirteen unruly dwarves. The goal of this adventure is to reclaim the home of the dwarves and defeat the dragon Smaug. Along the way they encounter many obstacles and creatures, some being orcs, elves, giant spiders, and a strange creature named Gollum. When he encounters Gollum, Bilbo finds a magical ring that lets the wearer turn invisible, thus allowing him to get out of some sticky situations throughout the rest of the journey. This is the story of the journey there, to the Lonely Mountain, and back again, to Bag-End. This book is also alternatively titled There and back Again, a Hobbit’s tale by Bilbo Baggins.
One of the things I loved about this story was the character of Bilbo and how Tolkien made him somewhat of an anti-hero. Not a villain, but not a hero either. He is just a fifty year old hobbit who likes comfort, much like many of us (although we aren’t quite that old). The only reason he goes on this adventure is because someone else gives him a nudge. In all the sticky situations that he falls into, he has to adapt and continue pushing himself to step up to the plate. Meanwhile, he is also relatable and real because even though he does this and grows with each new challenge, he misses home and frequently wishes he could be comfortable again. Yet that doesn’t stop him from growing into the person, or shall I say hobbit that he was always meant to be.
The world that Tolkien creates is also another aspect of his works that continues to amaze me. In The Hobbit, the world of Middle Earth is coming into being, taking shape as the reader goes on the journey to the Lonely Mountain with Thorin and company. This world becomes more concrete as the story goes on and continues in LOTR. The journey is long and that helps with immersing the reader in the world, but the journey is also long because in reality, a trek like that isn’t going to take a couple days. Tolkien’s tale is believable because his world is fleshed out, and as such it is all the more beloved.
This may sound ridiculous, but one of the things that still trips me up with Tolkien’s work is the amount of songs and poems throughout the story. I like poetry, and I like music, but I like to read a story as a story and not be interrupted time and time again with a character singing for ten stanzas. Now, this is not to say that there is no purpose for these random musical numbers, because there is and here it is- Tolkien wants the reader to know that these characters have a culture. These musical interludes help make the world of Middle Earth more real and like a country that has been lost long ago.
Another little nit-picky thing that I did not quite like about this book was the narration. This was always meant to be a children’s book, but the tone of voice, in my opinion, is a bit condescending. The narrator is so involved with, not only telling the story, but also adding commentary and talking straight to the reader that it allows the reader only one opinion of every situation.
Advice on reading this book
Most people think this is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but in reality it was meant to be a stand-alone book and was published before LOTR. I ended up reading this after watching the LOTR movies as well as the Hobbit movies (don’t judge me too harshly) and I would not recommend that. I recommend reading the book before watching the movies. I found the book dull compared to the movie, and that is because I was waiting to read about the relationships and the really cool battles, but Bilbo doesn’t do much and the relationships in the book are not as deep or explored as in the movies. This allows the reader to grasp other ideas and see other qualities in the work, but if I could do it all over again I would read the book first.
I really enjoyed this book and the story Tolkien weaves within the vivid landscape of Middle Earth. This book was originally intended for a younger audience specifically recommended for ages up to 9, but as a young adult, I loved reading about Bilbo and his journey with the rambunctious dwarves. It truly is a story that has the ability to entertain readers of all ages