Eric Allen's Reviews > The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
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Sep 03, 2013

really liked it
Read from November 18 to 29, 2012

The Hobbit
By J.R.R. Tolkien

A Retroview by Eric Allen

Long, long ago, in the era of big hair, terrible, low budget movies, and New Coke... The eighties, people, I'm talking about the eighties. I was a young whipper snapper who idolized his father... and Luke Skywalker... but mostly my father. My favorite time of day was when he came home from long hours working construction on several prominent buildings amongst the present day Seattle skyline, tossed his jacket into the closet without bothering to hang it up, and turned to me, timidly waiting for him to return, with a big smile, and a wink. He was home from work, and that meant it was story time. I do not remember when this began, or how long it lasted. I do not remember many of the books that he read to me in those evenings after returning home from work, but I do remember one of them. The Hobbit. It was one of my very favorites. My father would do different voices for all of the characters, and he would sing the songs to me using the tunes of popular rock songs of the day as the melody. He was a great storyteller, and the way he told it has forever pressed this book fondly into my heart and memory. His step father read this book to him when he was young as a way to break the ice between them, and it became just as important a part of his childhood as it was in mine, and he wanted to share that with me.

As I got older, and began learning to read myself, I wanted to read The Hobbit on my own, a sort of test to myself. I have always been very determined and stubborn, and I wanted to prove to myself, and to the world, that I could read a book like that, when most other people my age were struggling with picture books. When my younger siblings began to get old enough to understand, my father, unfortunately, was forced to work far more hours to provide for us than he did when I was the only child, and he returned home from work every night so exhausted that he just wasn't able to do it anymore. I took it upon myself to read this book to them, trying very hard to do as good a job as my father did, but likely falling very short of it.

In short, this book is a very large part of my childhood. I grew up to tales of Bilbo and the Dwarves adventuring with the Wizard Gandalf through Middle Earth. It's a book that is very meaningful to me for its sentimental value. And after Peter Jackson did such a wonderful job of The Lord of the Rings, I am quite excited about the forthcoming movies. As such, I've decided to pick up my old, worn copy of the book, and sit down to read it one more time.

Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit from Hobbiton, has an unexpected visitor one day. Gandalf, a Wizard, who brings along thirteen Dwarven companions looking for a burglar to join them in a quest of vengeance against the dragon who has taken their ancestral homeland from them and all of the treasures of their people. Being a good Hobbit, who never has any adventures or does anything unexpected, Bilbo first declines. But the adventurous part of his heritage soon takes over when the Dwarves insult his ability to do anything of use to them, and he agrees to come.

Across many a land, and through many a trial the companions travel, relying on Gandalf's wizardry more than once to escape peril, and upon Bilbo's magic ring of invisibility that he found in a cave while fleeing goblins. They meet many a strange and interesting people, and have many adventures on their way to the Lonely Mountain where the dragon awaits with their prize. But that prize is a very great and coveted thing, and there are many whom the brave companions have met in their travels that would seek to take it from them once the danger of the dragon is dealt with.

The Good? Tolkien has crafted a beautiful and realistic world of magic and monsters with a deep and rich history. He remains, to this day, the ONE AND ONLY author I have ever read that made good use of the Third Person Omniscient perspective. All of the different races that he has created for his books feel distinct and real. His writing is very well structured and poetic. And he basically invented the entire Fantasy genre as we know it today with this book. Whether you like his books or not, his contributions to the genre must be acknowledged for what they are. Without him pioneering the way, such popular contemporary authors as Rothfuss, Sanderson, Jordan, Goodkind, and Martin would not have the foundation of the genre within which they write today.

In addition to being very well written, and being an epic display of world building at its best, The Hobbit is a lot of fun for people of all ages. It has something for everyone... unless you're looking for a romance, then you'd best look forward to The Lord of the Rings movies instead. It's the sort of book that pretty much anyone can sit down and read, and have a good time with.

The Bad? There are only two small things that I can really complain about in this book. The first being the Dwarves. Unfortunately, there are SO MANY OF THEM that very few of them really have much of a presence or personality at all in the book. Only three or four of them really stand out amongst the others, and the rest are basically just scenery that rarely speak, or do anything of note to the plot except exist. It's a case of far too many characters and not enough for them all to be doing, so the majority of them fade into the background and only maintain a presence by having their names mentioned on occasion.

Bilbo never really does much on his own in this book. When he gets into a tight spot, typically one of two things will happen. Gandalf will come to the rescue, or Bilbo will rely on the power of the Dues Ex Machina of all Dues Ex Machinas, the One Ring, to solve all his problems for him. He never really outwits any of the antagonists, or defeats them on his own merits. Once or twice he does come up with a plan of his own, but these plans are usually heavily dependent on the Ring to succeed. I realize this is a bit of a nitpick and not much else, but I do like the characters in books I read to, you know, actually win on their own power and intelligence rather than relying heavily on plot convenience and the timely arrival of other, more powerful characters.

In conclusion, this book is very fun, very well put together and thought out, takes place in a beautiful and rich world, and is one of the foundation stones of the entire Fantasy genre as we know it today. It's a fun read for all ages, and despite having a few minor nitpicky flaws, is very enjoyable. True, I may be looking at it through nostalgia goggles, but I find it as fun a read now as it was when I was a child, listening to my father read it to me after work.

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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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Jocelyn you haven't read it yet, Eric? I'm surprised...didn't you already read the Lord of the Rings?

message 2: by Eric (last edited Nov 18, 2012 10:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Allen I've read it MANY times, actually. In fact, it was probably the first book I ever actually read on my own, far more years ago than I'd like to admit haha. I'm re-reading it again before the movie comes out. Thought I'd write a review of it to publish in the month that the movie is released.

And holy crap you're fast, I just added this two seconds ago...

message 3: by Jocelyn (last edited Nov 18, 2012 10:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jocelyn Eric wrote: "I've read it MANY times, actually. I'm re-reading it again before the movie comes out. Thought I'd write a review of it to publish in the month that the movie is released.

And holy crap you're f..."

Oh god, I cannot wait until the movie!

No, I just happened to be lucky enough to log onto Goodreads and see this on my update exactly the same moment you added this.

Chris McGrath I'm reading this for the first time after about 15 years of reading fantasy. So far I'm terribly unimpressed, though I'm always interested in hearing why people like stuff that I don't...

message 5: by Eric (last edited Nov 19, 2012 05:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Allen I think it's more the nostalgia value for me. As far as stories go, it's got its problems. The thing I most dislike about the book is that Bilbo is an incredibly weak and whiny protagonist. All he does is complain, and whenever he gets into a tight spot either Gandolf comes to the rescue, or he finds some inexplicable something-or-other that fixes everything. He never actually has to do a single thing on his own strength and abilities. He just sort of drifts with the plot, complains about everything, and finds Dues Ex Machina by the dozens.

Still though, my father read this book to me when I was very young. It's one of my earliest memories. When I began reading on my own, it was the first one I picked up to test myself with. I read it to all of my younger siblings as they grew up in my father's stead because he had to work like a dog just to support us all. It's not the book itself that I love, it's the things that it makes me remember.

message 6: by Eric (last edited Nov 19, 2012 05:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Allen Using the Lord of the Rings as an example, as it was written by the same author. Take Sam. He starts out weak and whiny kind of like Bilbo, but by the end of his journey he's learned from his travels, and he's become more than he was in the beginning. I think of him as the true hero of the Lord of the Rings. Near the end he storms a fortress alone to save Frodo, and then he practically carries him on his back across the entirety of Mordor. By the end, he's become brave, self-confident, strong, and heroic. By the end of the Hobit, Bilbo is still the whining little weakling he was at the beginning. It's fine for a character to be weak at the beginning of a book. But the entire purpose of a story is for them to overcome their weaknesses, and become better people, and Bilbo never really does.

It's not that I'm picking on the Hobbit, or calling it a horrible book. It's just that the fact that the main character doesn't develop is a bit annoying to me. I still love it for the nostalgia value that it has, despite any flaw it may also have.

Jonathan I love it too but it is weaker than The Lord of the Rings. Tokien apparently didn't love The Hobbit compared to his other books and while I like the book due to nostalgia I don't like it like I do the more developed The Lord of the Rings.

Chris McGrath I have read that tolkein considered sam to be the hero of the story as well, so your interpretation is correct :)

Geoffrey Stokker Wow, the memories that this book inspires. I think it's like that for most people. My grandfather died when I was very young and it was through this novel that I learnt more about him and how we were alike. So like Eric and how the book brings back memories of his father, this brings back memories of my grandfather (even if they have nothing to do with the Hobbit).

Jocelyn Eric wrote: "He remains, to this day, the ONE AND ONLY author I have ever read that made good use of the Third Person Omniscient perspective."

Hmm, I have to disagree. You mentioned once that you've read Ranger's Apprentice, right? I thought John Flanagan did a brilliant job with 3rd person omniscient. I'm not sure if you've read Narnia, but Lewis did pretty well with the perspective in his novels as well.

Sorry if I'm being a dick...nitpicking is one of my many talents :)

message 11: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Allen This is the only book I've ever read in my life where it didn't bother me. It bothered me in both Narnia and Ranger's Apprentice. *shrug* I just really hate it, and this is the only book I've ever read that it wasn't objectionable in.

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