Donnerstag, 17. Januar 2013

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

As this view outside my window suggests, winter has come back suddenly and with force. The whole country is covered in at least 30 centimetres of snow and while everyone else is enjoying the unexpected winter wonderland I have been lying in bed with the flu for the past week, unable to move because everything is hurting. I have had a lot of time to sort out my thoughts though (especially since I'm trying not to think of all I am missing at school) and so I am finally able to write something about The Hobbit apart from "It is the most wonderful book!" and "Go read it immediately if you haven't already!".
“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”

I think in a way this quote from The Hobbit sums up perfectly what my trouble with writing this review is: if I dislike a book or find it mediocre it is all too easy to dwell on its flaws and explain why I did not like it or which parts of it I found bad, but what if I completely and whole-heartedly love a book? Then there is not much to say except that it is very wise and beautiful.

Next to Tolkien's epic The Lord of the Rings the little Hobbit is almost always overlooked and underrated, but that is a grave mistake. Even though they are both set in the same world and feature partly the same characters those tales could not be more different from one another. The Hobbit possesses nothing of The Lord of the Rings's epic grandeur; it does not deal with the impending destruction of the world and conquering evil, nor are its characters heroes. It is simply the story of a little fellow's journey through a wide world. There and back again, nothing more.

However, in my opinion it would also be a mistake to dismiss it as a children's book just because it was written for Tolkien's own children. Yes, on the surface it as an adventure story (and a very good one, after all it was exciting enough to keep me reading through the whole night), but there is so much more behind that.
The book is told in a very light-hearted way with a subtle and wonderful sense of humour, but still there is a deep wisdom hidden in the apparently simple story. Tolkien must have been an admirable judge of character, for in his fantastic book are incredible realistic descriptions such as this, when the dragon Smaug notices that a little golden cup from his vast treasure has vanished:
“His rage passes description - the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted.”
And the miracle with Tolkien is that he always manages to teach you something, but never in a lecturing or patronizing way. So, whether you have liked The Lord of the Rings or not, whether you have seen the movie adaptation or not and whether you think you will enjoy reading The Hobbit or hate it, I can only recommend one thing to you: leave aside all your expectations and try it. You might find yourselves surprised.


  1. I am so glad you liked this, and you've written a superb review. It is funny how easy it is to write a review of a book you disliked rather than one you did; almost as if you're trying to give the book justice.

  2. Beautiful picture! I'm sorry you've been sick, but so glad to be able to read your newest post. That is one thing about being sick, it gives you a different space in which to contemplate. And as you said, it is so much more difficult to share the things that are most beloved and closest to our hearts.

    Reading The Lord of the Rings all the way through is definitely high on my list of things to do over the next few weeks. I've read The Hobbit and several biographies of Tolkien and other members of the Inklings, the writing group he was a part of. My brother and I started reading The Lord of the RIngs together years ago. I believe we made it about halfway through, but for some reason or another (probably a cross-country move) we were never able to finish it. My brother gave me his copy so I could finish it without him. I really need to (but it was so much more fun to read it with someone who loved it so).

    Something I have always found interesting is how Tolkien's WWI experiences and his interest in philology shaped his books.

    I think I need to stop thinking about it and just begin. :)

    Thanks for the extra nudge to read Tolkien and recover soon!

  3. First your armchair, now the view from your window. Clearly, there's only one thing I can do: I'll move in on Monday. ;)

    Amazing review! Between you and Allie, you're making me want to read The Hobbit so much. I'll definitely be picking this up on my next trip to the bookstore.

  4. I agree, The Hobbit is one of those novels that straddles the line between children's/mainstream literature. All ages are delighted by it.

    Lovely picture by the way!

  5. I'm so glad you were able to thoroughly enjoy The Hobbit! It's certainly a lovely little tale.