I can never forget the first time I picked up a Tolkien novel - never. I was only thirteen, but I read through the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, a...moreI can never forget the first time I picked up a Tolkien novel - never. I was only thirteen, but I read through the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, appendixes included, in just eight days. Yes, eight days. As you can imagine, I did nothing but read those books, for they kept me utterly riveted to the page. The Hobbit, on the other hand, took me over eight weeks to read. In fact, it felt like a solid eight months. Sure, I have more work now that I did when I was thirteen and less free time to read, but for a novel as short as The Hobbit is, eight weeks (or more!) is a looong time. Needless to say, I never thought I could be disappointed by a Tolkien novel, but I was wrong.
You should, straight up, that I worship the very ground Tolkien walks on. I've read nearly all his books, from The Lord of the Rings, to The Silmarillion, to The Children of Hurin. Thus, for me to say that The Hobbit was disappointingly boring, believe me, it was boring. In fact, if you plan to read a Tolkien novel, do not start with The Hobbit. Instead, start with Lord of the Rings. I say this for a few reasons, most notable because The Hobbit was written for children - and this, I suspect, is the root cause of my disappointment with it.
The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy filled with darkness, with desperation, with fierce hope, and courage, and strength. It is masterful, it is genius, and it is a legendary timepiece of literature at its finest. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is a rather comical, bumbling tale of Bilbo Baggins who finds himself accompanying a group of dwarves on their quest to retrieve their treasure that is currently being hoarded by the dragon Smaug. On their journey, they meet a variety of creatures and obstacles and, as usual, Tolkien excels in his imagination. It never ceases to amaze me the depth of creativity that he uses in his stories and his writing quite literally transports you to Middle Earth - the only reason I am giving this novel three stars.
Nevertheless, in terms of character-building, this novel suffers. Although it has fewer characters than the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I felt this one lacked more of everything. First we have the dwarves, the majority of whom we can forget for their names only appear again in passing and as individuals, they possess no character. Gandalf, while remaining to be the enigmatic wizard we knew and loved from The Lord of the Rings, seems to only exist to save everyone from doom. Bilbo, as a hobbit, only dreams of food and warm fires, until, of course, Gandalf leaves and he suddenly becomes the savior of all the dwarves. Needless to say, there is a severe lack of growth which I found disappointing - the book is, after all, called The Hobbit! We barely get a glimpse into the actual hobbit's growth or impact of this journey on him.
In many ways, The Hobbit serves as a means to better The Lord of the Rings. Certain scenes, such as Bilbo's meeting with Gollum and his ultimate possession of The Ring was very interesting while others, such as his meeting with the dragon Smaug, felt all too hyped-up and anti-climactic. Thus, while The Hobbit is a must-read for all fans of Tolkien, or just all nit-picky readers who refuse to watch the movie before reading the book, I wouldn't recommend it as the starting point for any fantasy lover. It was a relatively slow, boring, and forgettable tale that I know I won't be returning to in the future. I fear that this will be one of the few moments in life where I will find myself admitting that the movie is far, FAR better than the book. I can't see how it can't be, especially since more time is spent developing the characters themselves. While The Hobbit was a disappointing read for sure, I still reveled in being back in Middle Earth and if there's any reason to read this, then it's that. Truly, there is no place that feels quite as home as Middle Earth does - for me, at least.
P.S. - I absolutely LOVED the movie, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." You can check out my review of it HERE.
I can still remember the first time I held a Harry Potter book in my hands. In fact, the cover of my paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's...moreI can still remember the first time I held a Harry Potter book in my hands. In fact, the cover of my paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has a small crease on it from the time I flipped it open in too much of a rush to read it. It has my favorite quotes underlined, witty passages starred, and is covered with post-it notes on nearly every page from the amount of times I've re-read it. Now, reading it again so many years later, I am taken back to all that magic, all that wonder, and all that amazement that I first had when I laid my eyes on these books.
In all honesty, this is a series that needs no review - avid fans will re-read it without hesitation, new book lovers will pick it up without even consulting a friend for approval, and it will live on in our world as a classic. Yet, as one for whom Harry Potter was a life-changing experience, I feel the need to justify, or at least explain, what this book has done for me and why it stands the test of time as a remarkable story, even today.
I am not the first one to begin analyzing the Harry Potter Series. Since the release of Deathly Hallows, there have been numerous authors who have attempted to make sense of a greater meaning within Rowling's work. Some have even claimed that there are Biblical references of Christianity within her pages, but not being a Christian, I have never found them. Still others, like me, prefer to keep this book out of the scope for analytical reading and simply enjoy the story within its pages. I, by no means, think that J.K. Rowling is a brilliant writer. If anything, I think her writing is slow in some parts, lacks figurative language, and contains a dearth of descriptive passages. To me, good writers are people like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, J.R.R. Tolkien - or even more recently - Laini Taylor, Megan Whalen Turner, Cath Crowley, Melina Marchetta, and John Green. These are people whose ever word, every phrase, and every sentence is a beauty to behold and read. Rowling's work is not like that, but what makes her stand out from all others is her imagination, creativity, and her art of storytelling. No one else can quite tell a story like Rowling can and she does a splendid job tying up all the loose ends and fitting together every small clue to make a bigger puzzle piece. In fact, I was astonished yet again while reading The Sorcerer's Stone this past weekend for seeing names such as "Sirius Black" "Peter Pettigrew" and "Grindlewald" come up even in the first installment of this series. It is clear that Rowling not only puts forth a lot of thought into her writing and plot outlining, but her manner of telling a story and uncovering the small pieces is unrivaled.
Rowling's talent aside, what strikes me the most about the series is the fact that I am able to glean something new from it every time. When I was younger and first read this, I learned that it is okay to be smart and intelligent and a know-it-all, but it is even better to be brave and courageous and strong. The second time I re-read this while waiting for Order of the Phoenix to release I took strength from the fact that if Harry could survive without his parents for so long, even I could spend a summer without them in India. Much later while waiting for Deathly Hallows to release I began to realize how truly dark and forbidding even this first installment of the series was. I was struck by the horror of the Forbidden Forest and found myself thinking long and deep about what it meant to live a cursed life. I also finally found myself appreciating Dumbledore's cleverness in using the Mirror of Erised to ensure that only one who wishes to find the stone and not possess it would be the one to come in possession of it.
Over the years, my parents have become resigned to the fact that this is a series that I will eventually be forced to re-buy at some point in my life because eventually, the spine will break from over-use. Yet, while they have become resigned to this fact, I have come to marvel at the magic within its pages even more for every time I re-read this series, not only am I transported into happiness, joy, and the feelings of wonder I felt when I first read this, I am also able to glean something new from it every single time. That, in my opinion, is the true reason that the Harry Potter Series will live on forever. It isn't something you can ever get tired of reading, of living, of breathing. Furthermore, Rowling is able to integrate larger themes within younger novels with such ease that even the wisest of us can have it in ourselves to learn something from her books, her characters, and their experiences.
Thus, having read this book again this year for what seems to be the umpteenth time, I find myself once again stumped by the great and wise Albus Dumbledore. What I took from the series this time around is that Dumbledore is a liar. Now knowing about Dumbledore's less-than-honorable past, it is safe to say that Dumbledore most certainly did not see himself holding a pair of socks in the Mirror of Erised. If anything, he saw his family, just like Harry did. So, despite being ten years older, ten years wiser, and ten years more mature than when I first started these books, I have learned once again that even the noblest amongst us lie and although falsehood is not condoned, sometimes it is necessary in our lives. It is times like now that I find myself in awe of Rowling and wish to thank her for all she has ever given me, because no matter what is taken away from the world in war, famine, and poverty, magic and imagination are two things that can never be taken away from us.