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Review: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Return to Middle Earth: The Hobbit

Believe it or not, Peter Jackson's latest film is only indirectly responsible for my decision to re-read The Hobbit (again). The proximal cause was Tor.com's (no-doubt entirely commercial) decision to ask the redoubtable Kate Nepveu to lead a weekly, chapter-by-chapter "re-read" of the novel in conjunction with the release of the first (of three!) movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 300 page children's story.

My intention had been to follow along at Nepveu's chapter-a-week pace and, perhaps, to contribute to the ongoing conversation she was (and is!) sure to inspire, but Tolkien's deceptively simple prose and thematically complex fairy story swept me away (as it has a number of times before). I finished the book in a couple of days.

The short version is that The Hobbit remains a delightful adventure story and fairy tale, even if it is the work of a writer who has yet to reach the full extent of his creative powers.

That said, it also a very strange book, that strays very far indeed from a typical heroic path in favour of wandering the fields of moral complexity and (relatively) complex characterizations. The protagonists are far from perfect and even the villains show surprising signs of humanity.

A lovely book to read aloud to a child, there is every chance that you will have to read it twice, since you'll likely treat yourself to the whole thing before you sit down for Chapter Two with said youngster.

The long version lives on my site. (As usual, there are spoilers.)

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Comments

To repeat myself ...

(Sorry, I really should have visited your journal before posting a reply here; or vice-versa. Apologies for repeating myself.)

I liked the switch, because it revealed what I thought was a much more interesting ending than the one we expected — the big fight with the dragon. What we got instead was Bilbo's moral struggle about whether to "betray" the Dwarves and the tension of what was (almost) a completely pointless war between people who should have been friends, or at least allies.

If anything was cheap about the climax, I'd say it was solving the diplomatic problem that Tolkien set up by way of the attack of the Goblin army, which forced the Elves and Dwarves and Men into an alliance.
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January 2013

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