Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit
For those of you haven’t read Tolkien I am going to try very hard not to give away spoilers. It was a pretty easy read I think, maybe it is because it is the umpteenth time I have read it. Since I am a fan, I thought I should include a little bit of fun facts and history. Tolkien was fascinates with languages, which is what lead to him creating his own. He was a professor of Philogy, which is a branch of linguistics that studies written records. When he moved to Oxford to teach at Premboke College, the countryside inspired him to begin writing stories in which his languages would have been spoken. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings stemmed not from the story but the stories stemmed from the languages.
The Hobbit follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is a respectable bachelor who lives in his burrow Bag End . Bilbo is smoking his pipe on his front step one day when Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, stops by. Gandalf is looking for someone to join him on an adventure. Bilbo makes it clear that he does not want an adventure, but Gandalf feels differently and secretly leaves a mark on Bilbo’s door. The next day 13 dwarves arrive at Bibo’s house for tea and enlist him in a treasure hunt. The dwarves tell of the dragon Smaug that attacked the dwarves home under the Lonely Mountain, and slew most of the dwarves and claimed the treasure there for his own. Something stirs in Bilbo and to his own surprise he leaves with the dwarves on the adventure. They first are delayed by trolls, which they defeat and take some of their weapons for their own. Then they make it Rivendell and visit with the elves there. It is in Rivendell that they discover the secret door into the lonely mountain. After leaving Rivendell they are captured by Goblin’s and get separated. Bilbo finds a golden ring on the floor and puts it in his pocket without even thinking about it. Bilbo finds Gollum in the bowels of the Goblin lair, and participates in a riddle contest with him. Bilbo wins and Gollum is supposed to lead him out, but Gollum tries to trick him and Bilbo slips the ring on and becomes invisible. Gollum become outraged, because he realizes that Bilbo has the ring and in his rage he heads for the exit and Bilbo follows him out. While escaping they are treed by the Goblins and wargs (giant wolves), and are rescued by the Mighty Eagles. After leaving the Eagles, Gandalf leaves the group and the dwarves and Bilbo have to navigate the forest of Mirkwood on their own, which is disastrous. First the dwarves are captured by spiders and when Bilbo rescues them, the whole group is captured by Wood Elves. Bilbo escapes capture by slipping on his ring again. Bilbo rescues them by putting the dwarves in barrels add floating them down the river, where they are rescued by the men of Rivertown. From there they finish their journey to the Lonely Mountain, and Bilbo sneaks in and gets his first view of Smaug. It is there that he notices that there is a scale missing from his chest, right over his heart. Bilbo sends a message to Bard in the Rivertown with this information, and when Smaug attacks Rivertown in his anger over Bilbo’s visit and theft, Bard is able to slay Smaug. Afterwards the Men and Elves of Mirkwood demand treasure from the dwarves, however the dwarves do not want to share, and a war is started. The dwarves summon reinforcements from his cousin. It is during this battle that the Dwarves, Elves, and Men are attacked by Goblins and the Eagles join the battle, which becomes known as the Battle of Five Armies. The Goblins are defeated and in the spirit of the alliance the treasure was shared. Bilbo returns home with his treasure and his ring.
I think of all the books, this is my favorite because it is such an easy read and so whimsical. Hopefully, once we get into the trilogy there will be a discussion of the different tones to the stories. I feel that the trilogy defiantly shows more adult focused audience in Tolkien’s writing style, whereas the Hobbit was written for children and it reflects that. The Hobbit was originally stories told to Tolkien’s children, and it was his good friend CS Lewis that persuaded him to submit it for publication. Which I for one am very thankful for.
Hobbits are a race completely invented by Tolkien; the other races in the books were infused by Tolkien’s studies of Norse, Welsh, and other myths to form their descriptions. I love the descriptions of fat little hobbits that are fond of food and drink and smoke, but are made of much sterner stuff than they first appear. Look at how many messes Bilbo got the dwarfs out of. As Gandalf said at that first dinner in Bilbo’s home “There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to than me yet.” Which is true, Bilbo pulled the dwarfs asses out of the fire many times.
Tolkien is so descriptive, but not in a way Steinbeck or MacLean descriptive. To me at least Tolkien’s descriptions are just detailed enough to draw you in and paint the picture in your mind, without boring you. It makes me want to live in a hobbit hole, and visit Rivendell. The Mirkwood scares me, and the River town sounds like a great vacation spot. My imagination formed Middle-Earth in my mind the first time I read the hobbit in 5th or 6th grade and it hasn’t changed over the years, only become more enriched each time I read the book. I am actually quite nervous to see the movies, because middle earth is so formed in my mind, and it was one of the things that upset me about LOTR trilogy movies. Some things were better than I imagined, while others did not live up to my expectations. Although, I do admit that when the songs are sung in the book I hear them in my head the way they were sung in the1977 cartoon version.
So between every reading of the Hobbit, I forget about Beorn, so every time it is like a new discovery, I’m not sure why this section of the book is so forgettable to me, because it isn’t badly written. I just can’t seem to keep it in my brain.
It amazes me how easily Bilbo picks up the ring and puts it in his pocket. With no thoughts, it called to him, and with no chance to resist he starts the whole LOTR story in motion.
As a side note, I haven't seen the movie The Hobbit yet, but I was speaking to a friend at work and he said that the Movie incorporates parts of the Simirillion in it as well, and that is why it is three hours and three movies long....which makes sense, but makes me VERY nervous.