The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein

Warning, there aren’t really too many spoilers in the next section, but as I mentioned in my last post, some people don’t want to know anything, so if you want to read The Hobbit, I suggest you go and do so before reading, but there are no major plot points discussed, just a few things that ‘spoil’ things.

The prequel to the epic saga (a story more than worthy of such a title) Lord of the Rings, a story that needs no introduction, was published in 1937 and paved the way for John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s rise to literary fame. The Hobbit (also known as There and Back Again)was originally a tale written for his children, as often these sort of stories are. But most luckily for us, is that it became published, and the rest is literally history. Where would we be without JRR Tolkein’s stories that produced a world unlike anything else before it (at least in my opinion, though I am not thoroughly versed in pre-Tolkein fantasy, nevertheless, Tolkein’s created world was so detailed and epic in scale, that was, and still is, unique (JK Rowling, does come close, but even that, is far))? That is a question I have no answer to, but we would be without a great tale, and many other stories would be missing that were inspired by them.

What I find amazing (as it is something that happens not nearly far enough) is that Tolkein illustrated and drew maps for his world, himself (sadly my edition was without his illustrations, but I have seen them, and they are fantastic). Of course not many people are graced with skill in writing and drawing, but Tolkein was able to provide illustrations that definitively show what a scene is supposed to look like, because it is straight from the author! Even in The Hobbit there was the beginnings of a whole new language, which is later developed in LoTR, and is so fully-fledged that whole conversations could be had in it. But the details of LoTR are for a whole different post (and in time that will happen).

I first read The Hobbit many years ago, and I have no idea how many in fact. I was young, and didn’t really understand what was happening, and I think I was bored with it. I remembered only glimpses of the story, but some of the details were blurry since I read LoTR not long after, so I couldn’t determine which plot points were for which story. I’m glad I’ve revisited the story, because now I know what was going on, and was able to enjoy the story. Plus, I know what to expect in the movie edition, which is basically out everywhere at this point, APART from Australia (and a few others), and we don’t get it till the 26th, and in my opinion is a money grabbing ploy because Boxing Day (the 26th) is traditionally one of the biggest days (if not the biggest) for the box offices, and a whole heap of new movies are released then. But apparently, it is to keep another tradition of LoTR movies being released on Boxing Day. Honestly, I don’t think people care about that tradition, after all, if they want to keep that alive, they can go and see it on Boxing Day, even if it has been out for nearly two weeks! But I shall soon get my chance to see the first of three movies (which is a contentious decision to have three movies for such a short novel, even if they are including things from the appendices of LoTR, and in another tradition, they’ll be dauntingly long!). My thoughts about the movie will come in due course.

I don’t need to do a summary of the story, you can find that anywhere. But I will say that even though the story is 300 pages, there is so much going on. And you can tell that as Tolkein’s first novel he didn’t want to be too adventurous because so many more plot points could have been developed, and the number of times Tolkein’s narrator says ‘that is a tale for another story’ or something along those lines, is unfathomable. He didn’t want to blow the story out into an epic saga, because publishers wouldn’t want to print it, since ‘children’ wouldn’t want to read a lengthy novel. Even so, Tolkein goes into exquisite detail about the sections of the tale he wants to, but the flow with sudden moments when weeks have passed and battles have been won in a matter of sentences, isn’t the best. His ‘infamous’ detail in the LoTR, making them superbly lengthy is an attempt to ‘make amends’ and to not leave out such plot points. Even so, he still makes up for this later on in appendices and his other tales (that were later published posthumously) in expanding the world a whole lot more (which is why there are three movies, as Peter Jackson uses some of these details, and takes small liberties in expanding fight scenes and their time with the elves, because you can’t have too many jumps in the time in movies, otherwise people start to get confused and trying to portray movements in time gets tired quickly.

With trolls, goblins, dwarves, hobbits, wizards, shape-shifters, eagles, talking ravens and thrushes, elves, spiders and more, this is true fantasy, which doesn’t always appeal to people. Usually fantasy is plain old good versus evil, but there is more to it than that. More often than not, it is about character growth, and seeing the protagonists develop as their journeys continue and how by the end of the story they are so different than when they began. And this provides for interesting events, as the developed character has to face new challenges, that they could never have imagined doing before they departed. And that is so the case with Bilbo Baggins, and at the end, he doesn’t care that everything has changed and (rot13-ed to not ruin the ending) uvf arvtuobhef naq snzvyl qba’g yvxr uvz nalzber orpnhfr ur vf ab ybatre n erthyne uboovg, fvapr ur unf sevraqf bs qvssrerag enprf. And he takes that in his stride, and is all the better for his adventure.

In summary, go and read The Hobbit, before you see the movie (or after because you are so amazed you want to know what happens next) and then be prepared to spend hours reading The Hobbit, then Lord of the Rings, then The Silmarillion, then The Children of Hurin and Unfinished Tales and Christopher Tolkein’s History of the Lord of the Rings. Honestly, you won’t regret it (well some people will, but they will fall well short of reading all of these), and that is what I aim to do over the coming months, and I’ll keep you posted on my adventure through Middle Earth.

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