Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Hobbit

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, a creature with a notable lack of tendency for adventure. But, Bilbo Baggins is distantly related to the Took hobbits, who do have a tendency for adventure. So when Bilbo finds himself invited to be the thief on an adventure with 13 dwarves (Bilbo makes the 14th member of the party so as to avoid any misfortune from an unlucky number), he hesitates, sleeps late, then finds himself in the middle of adventures he never could have imagined. Throughout the story, Bilbo survives encounters with trolls, elves, goblins, eagles, and a dragon. His luck and ingenuity drags the entire group of dwarves through all kinds of sticky situations, and along the way he picks some pockets, pinches food, and finds treasure as only a thief can.

“The Hobbit” is the prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” epic and makes for a nice tale itself. We hardly get an introduction to Bilbo’s comfortable life in the Shire before the adventures begin, and the entire book moves along quickly. Despite the large cast of characters (14 in the treasure hunting party, plus occasional appearances from Gandalf, then all the others friends and enemies they run into), the story still makes sense even if you gloss over most of the details and kind of let the characters blend together (as I did). The narration gets a bit confusing at times because he often refers to directions (heading east towards the mountain, disembarking on the west riverbank), but I found that the story was also simplified if I glossed over those parts. The story is written from the perspective of the narrator, but the narrator makes occasional comments addressed directly to the reader about his own observations and comments. It gives the book a light and friendly tone, which is also enhanced through an unapologetic yet effective use of clichés.

I really enjoyed reading “The Hobbit,” though I wasn’t fully expecting to. I read “The Lord of the Rings” when I was in 8th grade, and all I can remember from the books are long lists of genealogies and some episode with Tom Bombadil that didn’t make it into the movies (the movies, by the way, cleared up a lot for me about the story). I was expecting something similar with “The Hobbit,” but it was a much easier, more enjoyable and entertaining read. And I remember more about the overall story. I’m going to say that has more to do with more developed reading skills and a longer attention span on my part than different writing styles on behalf of the author. But this is really a great book. Well written, entertaining, and understandable. You should definitely read it.

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