“It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.” ~ The Hobbit, Chapter 12
Over the weekend I finally read The Hobbit after intending to ever since the movie came out. I am usually a stickler for reading the book before the movie, so I still haven’t seen either of the movies yet! Since the third and final film is coming out this December, I knew I was running out of time to read the book, and thus the stage was set for me to tackle my first Tolkien.
Full disclaimer that, despite my glowing review of the Narnia series, fantasy is not one of my top genres and I have tried in vain multiple times to watch the LOTR movies. With this in mind, it is no surprise that this is not my favourite Classics Club book, but there were definitely still sections I enjoyed.
One of the things that annoyed me the most was the bizarre quasi-musical vibe of the book. The characters kept breaking into song at the most inopportune times. I also found the story dragged on a little long and soon the obstacles started to blur together. At the very end, Bilbo is reminiscing about his adventure, and I didn’t even remember they had battled trolls at the beginning. It sounds silly to say I found this novel somewhat boring, but I definitely felt disengaged from the plot much of the time.
That being said, it is clear that Tolkien is a gifted writer and there were many passages of prose that made me pause and roll them over in my brain again to really enjoy their weight. Maybe it is because I went on my first big trip sans parents this summer, but I also really connected with the passages dealing with adventure, travel, and the importance of seeing the world for yourself.
The character development of Bilbo was another aspect of the novel that I appreciated. At the beginning he is reluctant to join the company of dwarfs and questions his utility and ability to contribute to the quest. Watching his self confidence and aptitude grow, demonstrated in part by his increasing sword skills, was one of my favourite parts of the book. For me this was especially evidenced by his orchestration of the dwarves’ river escape from the elves. In my opinion, the importance of believing in your own abilities and having faith in yourself was one of the key take-aways from the novel.
Ultimately, even though it wasn’t my favourite book, I am still glad I gave it a chance, because I think it was a worthwhile read and there were a number of allegorical lessons/truths that I enjoyed. If you enjoy fantasy, adventure, or travel, I would certainly recommend you consider reading The Hobbit.
“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!” ~ The Hobbit, Chapter 19