SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.
Note: This post is more of a reflection than a review, and it contains mild SPOILERS for The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings and The Silmarillion.
It has been a few years since I last read The Hobbit, so I decided to reread it again for the third or the fourth time or something like that. The Hobbit was the first Tolkien's book I read and I think it is a prefect introduction to the world of The Lord of the Rings.
To me, The Hobbit is a comfort read. A big reason for this is Tolkien's writing style – as eloquent and intricate as ever, but with a difference from his other works in the fact that Tolkien often directly addresses the reader. This always makes me feel as if the story was being told by a grandpa to the kids gathered around a fireplace during long cold winter evenings (of course, I'm one of the kids, ha-ha).
Bilbo is a character torn between wanting adventure on one hand and safety on the other. These are the things most people, not only children but also adults, want – to go out there and see the world and experience interesting events, but at the same time we all want to be safe and comfortable. This makes Bilbo easy to relate to.
Bilbo's adventures are scary, and funny, and astonishing. But what amazes me the most now, after numerous rereads of Tolkien's works, is that right here in The Hobbit, Tolkien already lays out all the basics of his world of Middle Earth and beyond.
As some of you might not know, The Lord of the Rings and related works initially served Tolkien 'only' as a background for the languages he invented (chiefly Elvish), and The Hobbit is a prefect evidence for it. It is all there. All the essential components, from the peoples, to lands, and history are already outlined in The Hobbit.
Let me mention just some bits of Tolkien's world I'm especially fond of and which appear in the first eight chapters of The Hobbit (here SPOILERS begin):
- the first mention of "the Necromancer" who "is an enemy far beyond the powers of all the dwarves put together"
- vivid descriptions of settings, for example of:
"…dreary hills, rising higher and higher, dark with trees. On some of them were old castles with an evil look, as if they had been built by wicked people…" where "They have seldom even heard of the king…"
See that mention of "the king"? So subtle, but so important.
- the encounter with the three trolls – no matter how many times I read it, this part always makes me laugh out loud. It is a also a crucial event on a larger scale, for it is among troll's stolen possessions where Bilbo's sword, Sting, comes from.
- Elrond and Rivendell: "The Master of the house was an elf-friend - one of those people whose fathers came into the strange stories before History, the wars of the evil goblins and the elves and the first men of the North. In those days of our tale there were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North as their ancestors, and Elrond the master of the house was their chief. He was noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all."
- all the hints at an earlier history, for instance the Battles of Beleriand, the fall of Gondolin and Doriath, the battle of Dimrill Dale, and the lineage of weapons, such as Glamdring and Orcrist
- Gollum: already in The Hobbit Tolkien reveals his complexity – one of an evil creature but with the trails of being, if not good, at lest less evil. Also, Gollum's manner of speaking is the best ever. I love, love it.
- the portrayal of Sauron's power through the depiction of Mirkwood, and the parallels between Mirkwood spiders and Shelob and the enchanted forest river and Morgulduin
- and last, but not the least important: the Ring, which promptly reveals it's treacherous nature, but, by 'helping' Bilbo seals its own and its Master's fates.
And it just gets more and more complex (and better) from here on.
All in all, Tolkien never ceases to amaze me with his craftsmanship. The way he includes all the key elements of the greater scheme of his world in The Hobbit without making it even a tiny bit confusing or boring is simply fascinating.
And so I fall in love with his genius all over again every time I read any of his works.
A side note: expect my thoughts on the second half some time next week.
If you have read The Hobbit, have you noticed all the connections to his other works? What are you favourite things from the Hobbit? And are you excited about the movie?
Update: You can read my thoughts on the second half of The Hobbit HERE.