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and now, for something completely different.

The Hobbit, revisited

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien

Well, Peter Jackson is at it again, and I love reading Tolkien’s books, so I made my way through The Hobbit again.  I’ll probably read it one more time before the first movie hits theaters this winter, but it’s so much fun to read it again now (or, well, December, when I actually did it… I’m a bit behind in my online writing).

The Hobbit is the tale of… well, a hobbit.  Bilbo Baggins of Hobbiton, in The Shire.  A respectable hobbit (meaning, he never does anything unpredictable or too adventurous) who prides himself on the considerable size of his belly, as any good hobbit would do.  The story begins with Bilbo living a rather comfortable and normal life in his desirable hobbit hole, Bag End.  His quiet existence is interrupted by the appearance of a wizard named Gandalf, who volunteers Bilbo’s house to be the muster point for the beginning of a grand adventure to reclaim the lost treasure of a band of dwarves.  Gandalf also conspires to have Bilbo join in on the enterprise, to which Bilbo responds by huffily defending his quiet, normal, predictable life.

The quiet is interrupted, of course, when the dwarves start to knock on Bilbo’s door one after the other.  Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, and Ori arrive alone or in twos and threes, before their leader, Thorin Oakenshield.  Group after group, and growing ever more flustered, Bilbo invites each of them in and offers food and drink, as any respectable polite hobbit would.

When all are assembled, the purpose of the adventure is revealed.  The dwarves wish to reclaim their home, and they have a map to get it.  Very few of them remember their mines beneath the lonely mountain, indeed, some of the company were not even born when it was lost.  The dragon Smaug, wanting the riches that the prosperous mines were producing, drove out the dwarves and killed a good many of them, claiming the mountain for his own.  The dwarves want revenge, and Gandalf has promised them that the excellent thief Bilbo (theif? Me?) will help them along the way.

Bilbo steadfastly resists the overtures, but eventually ends up going there and back again, and inadvertently setting up one of the most celebrated tales of our time.  The company faces trolls, finds a shapeshifting bear, challenge the Elves of Mirkwood, among other adventures, and every single time Bilbo saves their bacon  I’ll leave it to you to follow the adventures.

The thing I enjoyed the most about this book, after reviewing it, was how indestructible Bilbo seemed.  No matter what kind of strife the party got themselves in, Bilbo could always survive by the skin of his teeth.  The amazing thing was that sometimes, it seemed that Bilbo was just kind of dragging his companions along, even though the rest of the party probably saw it the other way around.  The simple friendliness of the book, and the innocense of the adventures is such a stark contrast to the heaviness and ominous feeling the Lord of the Rings.  I think this is probably why it is considered a classic of children’s literature.  What a wonderful, whimsical tale; I can’t imagine anyone deciding that this needs to be banned for any reason (that it happened still confuses me).  If you haven’t read this, please do, you owe it to yourself and to the mastery of JRR Tolkien.

Sorry this revies is a bit substandard, it’s been a bit of time since I read it, and I’m behind in writing.  🙂

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