You may have already guessed what book I have just read from the title of this post. But if not, then let me say, reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was as much of an unexpected journey for me as it was for Bilbo. My sister is an avid fan of both Bilbo’s adventure and The Lord of The Rings Trilogy and has been pestering me for a long time to give them a go too. I finally did and actually surprised myself – much to her delight!
Warning: The Post Contains Potential Spoilers
Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life, with no desire to travel far from the comforts of home; then one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon.
Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again.
I was sceptical about the speed of Tolkien’s prose and initially I did find the story slow to get going. We spend a long time in Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole and you wonder if the Dwarves will ever stop talking! Spoiler alert… they don’t! However, the ancient-lands-come-olde-worlde-vibe is established early on – particularly in the songs and riddles. These cleverly add to the atmosphere of lands from long ago, adventures to be had, and create another dimension to the story telling itself.
For me, things really started to pick up once the party reached Mirkwood. Tolkien’s world building seems to come into it’s own at this point – the dark and magical forest is both atmospheric and exciting. That being said, I did especially like hearing about all the different lands and peoples they pass through during their journey. They are vividly described and all give a real sense of Tolkien’s world – I can see how the fandom has come to be. Mirkwood is also the point that our unlikely hero, Bilbo himself, begins to really prove his worth. He surprises not only his companions and the reader, but himself too. Bilbo’s growing engagement with the adventure drew me in and I found myself more invested from this point onwards. There are some fairly epic moments and I do love it when Bilbo gets clever!
The scale of the expedition becomes ever more apparent as, each time Bilbo thinks of his Hobbit Hole, we reflect on how much further away it is. He looks back towards home over the long distance they have come, before turning to face the lonely mountain on the horizon, and just keeps putting one foot in front of the other. The changing seasons mark the passing of time in a very visual way and winter itself becomes another enemy as the cold weather closes in, threatening their quest and building tension.
Since The Hobbit is a classic and incredibly familiar to almost all, I did have an awareness of what the story involved. The Dragon they encounter at their journey’s destination is pretty much common knowledge. However, I had no idea he was such a character! I loved the scenes with Smaug and Bilbo in the mountain – the conversations, sneaking around and attempts to outwit each other make for spine-tingling reading…
One does get rather fed up with Thorin Oakenshield and his obnoxiousness. All he talks of is war, wealth and glory – if one was paid for every time he bellows his flipping intro… Son of Thor, son of Thrain, King Under The Mountain etc. etc… etc. one would be rich – so irritating. But I guess it does help to symbolise ego and greed, and highlight the contrasts between the characters. I love the moment it becomes clear why Gandalf selected Bilbo for the company. He knew what Thorin was like and what selfish acts he would be capable of once he caught sight of the gold. He knew that sending Bilbo and his conscience and desire for food and peace would ultimately win out. Though Thorin does eventually come to realise this too.
There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.Thorin Oakenshield to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit
I actually really enjoyed this book and thoroughly surprised myself! Reading about all that travelling has given me itchy feet – though perhaps without a troll or dragon encounter! I still can’t believe the book was first published in 1937 – talk about pioneering fantasy fiction and a timeless classic. The return journey does make for a very satisfactory ending. I especially liked the believable passing of time – Bilbo is gone almost an entire year in his journey to the Lonely Mountain and back. On finishing the book, I too felt as if I had been gone from Hobbiton as long as Bilbo, and was looking back on the early perils as a lifetime ago.
With the books conclusion I was left with the feeling that we are all capable of brave acts – big and small – it’s all about putting one foot in front of the other. We all have resourcefulness and adventure within us – even little Bilbo Baggins. It’s the nature of a journey to encompass both highs and lows, and with an ending comes a new beginning right?
Talking of beginnings – I really am considering trying The Lord of The Rings…! Am I mad?!
If you’re a regular follower you’ll know that I have been reading The Moomin books by Tove Jansson (if not you can read my recent post here). Since then I have also discovered that Jansson illustrated a Swedish copy of The Hobbit as commissioned by Astrid Lindgren (best known as the author of the Pippi Longstocking books). I didn’t know that Lindgren was also an editor and publisher at the Stockholm publishing house Rabén & Sjögren, and it was she who approached Jansson about the project. If you want to read more about this fascinating collaboration, I have included the link at the bottom of this post.
And before you ask – yes I am watching the films. I am currently annoying my sister enormously by pointing out all the differences between book and screen. But really, all things considered, I like them both. Each has something different to offer. The films may not resemble the book in every minute detail (not always possible but annoying none-the-less) and some things may (in my opinion) have been blown right out of the realms of ‘dramatic effect’ – but they do stay true to the essence of Tolkien’s creation and have inspired another generation to experience the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. Who can argue with that?
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post – congratulations if you’re still here! Please don’t be afraid to like and comment. I love to know if you’ve enjoyed my ramblings and especially love chatting in the comments 🙂
Have a lovely weekend,
Meg Readz xx
Here’s the link as promised: