Thursday, December 4, 2014

Guest Book Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Hobbit
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Publication Date: September 21, 1937
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (this edition)
Pages: 385
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In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent. The text in this 372-page paperback edition is based on that first published in Great Britain by Collins Modern Classics (1998), and includes a note on the text by Douglas A. Anderson (2001). Unforgettable!

After purchasing and watching “The Desolation of Smaug” for the first time since seeing it in theaters, I realized how much I enjoyed the movie. I then immediately came to the conclusion that I couldn’t wait till the third installment in the motion picture trilogy, “The Battle of the Five Armies,” was released this December to find out how the story resolved. The only solution was to pick up my copy of The Hobbit and attempt to read it again, a task I had not attempted since my sister first introduced the book to me in elementary school.

My attitude towards the book was influenced by my memory of being unable to finish it as a 4th or 5th grader; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved the writing style of The Hobbit. I find it amazing that J.R.R Tolkien could be so intelligent and continually work in academia, yet could still write fiction that it is enjoyable and appropriate for leisure reading.

I decided to read the book after watching the first two movies in the trilogy and was surprised at just how different the book and movies are from one another. The most notable difference was the presentation of Bilbo. In the novel, Bilbo is presented essentially as a badass who assumes the role of the leader of the fellowship of dwarfs on their journey. This is almost in total contrast to the timid Bilbo who is constantly in need of help that has been shown in the cinematic trilogy thus far. Also, as is consistent with the move of a novel from literature to the big-screen, the story of The Hobbit takes place in a much longer time frame in the novel than the movies.

As a whole, I enjoyed reading the Hobbit from the beginning to the end. If I had to criticize any aspects of the book they would be in relation to how the story is told: first, the battles in the books seemed short and uneventful; second, the resolution of Smaug’s reign was a bit weak (this wont be discussed since it is the major plot line for the upcoming movie); third, there were many pages full of verses of songs, which became more tedious than entertaining. Though all three of these aspects could be seen as negatives, in a work of literature they work in perfect harmony. I believe that without comparing the book to the movies I would have no criticism at all of The Hobbit. Peter Jackson’s movies have likely simply set the entertainment expectation at a level that is nearly unattainable without the stimulation presented through a visual format.

Reading the book gave me the satisfaction of discovering the resolution of The Hobbit before the final installment of the movie trilogy is released but I also benefited from discovering for myself what all the hype around J.R.R Tolkien’s work is truly about. I enjoyed reading The Hobbit so much I’ve began reading Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings - something that, according to Tracy, is no easy feat.

Also: Legolas. If I didn’t mention his name in a comparison of the book and movie there would likely be a public outcry.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will be released in theaters on December 17, 2014.

Michael is the brother of Tracy, founder of He is currently a student at Bridges College working on his Bachelor's Degree in Theology and hopes to start the Master's program in counseling at Wake Forest University next Fall. He loves to read if he can get any free time between classes and homework. Michael's favorite author is C.S. Lewis and he's totally obsessed with acquiring every edition of The Chronicles of Narnia ever published.

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