Note: This post is more of a reflection than a review, and it contains mild SPOILERS for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. These are my thoughts on the second half of The Hobbit, you can read my review of the first eight chapters here.
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.
In the second half of The Hobbit, Bilbo becomes more proactive, instead of just tagging along. After helping the dwarves out a few times, he becomes aware of his abilities, he realises he is more resilient than he thought, and consequently he gains a lot of self-confidence. Instead of depending on others, he becomes self-reliant.
The Ring certainly plays a part in it with its powers. It is true that the Ring corrupts people. But, as we see it in LOTR (for example, in Boromir's case) it does that through initially enhancing a person's inherent traits which it twists to its own purpose.
However, as Bilbo is essentially a good person, the Ring's power does not corrupt him as it would if he was not. Hence, Bilbo is not enslaved by the Ring's power. On the contrary, all the things that Bilbo does have only little to do with the Ring's power, only as much as it helps Bilbo reveal and put to good use the best of his features: courage, adventurousness, intelligence (common sense), and the wish to help others. Thus the Ring is 'degraded' into a sort of a placebo device – just as some people take a placebo and stop feeling pain because they think the pill helped, Bilbo, having the Ring, stops being afraid and passive, because he thinks he has the Ring to back him up (although not really).
Even though at this point, the true nature and power of the Ring remain hidden (to Bilbo and co., as well as to a first-time reader), I really like how Bilbo manages to avoid being corrupted by it. In spite of the fame and wealth he acquires, he remains modest and is happy to return to living a simple hobbit life in the Shire.
Anyway, I should stop this one-person discussion, although when I start on the concepts of good and evil and Tolkien I could go on for days.
In the end, the final outcome of The Hobbit is remarkably beneficial for the subsequent events in LOTR. Thus, The Hobbit is much more than a prequel to LOTR or a children's book. It is a vital part of Tolkien's world, perfectly incorporated into the whole.
Let me finish with some inspiring, funny, or otherwise interesting quotes I like:
“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
“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”
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
“I may be a burglar...but I'm an honest one, I hope, more or less.”
“Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
RECOMMENDATION: The Hobbit makes me feel good every time I read it. It is entertaining and suspenseful, and it makes me laugh (but not cry, though parts of it are touching). If you like fantasy, this beautifully written door into Tolkien's universe is a must-read.