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The Hobbit
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message 1: by Bri, Wielder of Trolljnir (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bri (mythbri) | 26 comments Mod
It's the moment you've all been waiting for, my preciouses. This is the official discussion thread for J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, which has been my favorite book for about eighteen years.

Now, while this is a discussion of the book as a whole, the conversation will undoubtedly range over comparisons to the first installment of Peter Jackson's Hobbit Trilogy, An Unexpected Journey. So for those of you who have not seen the film, please be aware that this is a possible SPOILER zone. The rest of you, if you could take the time to announce any possible film spoilers, it would probably be much appreciated.

Where to begin? Well, in a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins is a delightful main character. I remember when I finished The Hobbit and began to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I thought that it needed more Bilbo. LOTR has a much different flavor than The Hobbit. It is more epic in scale and less cheery, slower-paced, and sad.

Although The Hobbit has its share of sad moments, to be sure. People who have been first introduced to this story by An Unexpected Journey will be surprised to learn of Thorin's eventual fate.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I want to leave some room for discussion, here, so I'm going to focus on my favorite-FAVORITE moments from The Hobbit:

Riddles in the Dark

This is a critical chapter - THE critical chapter - simply because the events therein set the stage for everything that happens in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bilbo finds the One Ring, seemingly by chance, although we don't learn of its significance until later. Upon first reading, the ring is simply a plot device, allowing Bilbo to accomplish is burglaring with a great deal more ease than would have been possible, otherwise. But Bilbo also meets Gollum, and has a game of riddles with him - with a steep price for losing. Tolkien's descriptions of the total darkness, save for two glowing pinpricks that are Gollum's eyes, is chilling. It's easy to feel Bilbo's terror as Gollum gets closer with every riddle. The contrasts and similiarities between the two of them, given what we find out about Gollum's history, are startling. Gollum had trouble with the riddle about the egg, while poor Bilbo was nearly stumped by the riddle about the fish. And it's all a matter of perspective. Several hundred years of living underground, with no company but a malevolent magical artifact and your split personality leaves one with a very unique perspective.

But it was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand, and that is what made all the difference.

Inside Information

This is definitely one of my favorite chapters, because I love the interaction between Bilbo and Smaug. Smaug the Terrible, who displaced the dwarves of Erebor and caused such Desolation. He is a wicked old Worm, clever and powerful. But I think that he sat upon Thror's gold for too long. A type of sickness, peculiar to that gold and that place, seems to have its effect on many, and I don't think that Smaug was immune - although I believe he enhanced it. Although how much of Thorin's ensuing obsession can be ascribed to the gold-sickness, and how much to his own weakness of character? He is not a displaced King the way that Aragorn is a displaced King in LOTR. Thorin's motivation for his quest was hardly more noble than simply reclaiming his family's wealth.

But then, we only have Bilbo's account on that score. Who's to say it isn't a little biased?

The Clouds Burst

This is literally when the shit hits the fan. Thorin discovers, in one devastating revelation, that Bilbo has betrayed him. Bilbo had taken and hidden the Arkenstone, even though Thorin had called dibs. Bilbo had given it to Thorin's enemies to use as a bargaining chip, knowing that he could not refuse anything for want of the Arkenstone. Bilbo had seen which way the wind was blowing, however, and his betrayal was not out of malice toward Thorin, but rather desperation. He could see the effect that the vast wealth of his grandfather had on the new King Under the Mountain, and he couldn't bear it. Bilbo could see the legitimacy of the claims by the elves of Mirkwood and the people of Lake Town. And of course, Thorin casts the Hobbit out of his company after nearly hurling him off a cliff. By this time, however, the stubbornness of dwarves is the least of everyone's worries - the goblins have amassed their armies, and stand poised to take Erebor, and the wealth within. Thus begins the Battle of Five Armies, and Thorin's opportunity for redemption, though it came at a costly price. That Bilbo had the opportunity to reconcile with the dwarf king upon his deathbed, though, was bittersweet, and probably the saddest part of the book. Additional sadness comes later, when in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Fellowship passes through the Mines of Moria, thinking that they would be welcomed by Balin, only to find Balin's tomb.

I think that's enough to go on. What say you all?

(And please remember to mark film spoilers if you can.)

message 2: by Jamie (new)

Jamie | 5 comments So much to say about "The Hobbit". I actually reread this book in early June and then the LotR trilogy. What struck me as I read the story in June was how much younger the tone was throughout the book. It was the first time reading it where I really thought to myself that the book was intended to be a YA novel. This probably explains why my nine-year-old self inhaled "The Hobbit", opened "Fellowship of the Ring" with such anticipation, and then put it down after 15 pages with intense boredom.

I reread the book at the beginning of December (aloud to Charlotte) and had a much more intense experience with the book. I felt the story flow in a way I never had before. I was able to let go of the animated movie in my head and focus on the language of each page.

Bri, what you said about "Riddles in the Dark" was spot on. (As an aside, this, to me, was the most necessary and anticipated scene of the movie, and holy crow did Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis not disappoint!)

I will have more later, but that's what I had to express right away.

message 3: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth | 1 comments So this was fun to read as a grown up. Last time I read The Hobbit was in elementary school. This book really is episodic; each chapter like a separate little adventure of its own. I had totally forgotten about characters like Beorn the skin walker and Bard at the end there. Bilbo's brave moments are much fewer than in the film, and have more of an impact as a result. Also, seems like Bilbo is the only one with any real character development, as the dwarves are all pretty static with unremarkable traits. I think this makes Bilbo stand out in a way he wouldn't otherwise, however. But really the deaths of the dwarves never had any impact on me in the book because they are a clump of interchangeable background characters with superficial differences.

I think Bilbo's story ends after he confronts the dragon and finds his weak spot. I liked Bilbo's adventures in Mirkwood and how his riddles with Gollum sort of prepared him for the larger confrontation with Smaug. Also I thought it was funny how the Mirkwood elves are kind of the lower class hillbilly set compared with the other immortal fancy pants elves like Elrond.

There are times when I don't like the episodic style of this book and wish it would just stick with the main characters and story. I couldn't care less about that Bard guy and it seemed really clumsy to introduce him at the very end and automatically expect the reader to accept him as this worthy hero. I was disappointed that he killed Smaug, because Bilbo's story seemed to be adding up to this moment for him. I hope the movie changes this part. I think at this stage as a writer, Tolkein was much better writing small scale action and conflict as opposed to massive battles with a whole bunch of crap going on.

The ending of this book just doesn't stick in my head the way some of the earlier scenes do. And now that I'm older and have read many other books, I've learned to expect a decent ending.

Also Gandalf has a tendency to come in and save everything at the last minute. Typical Gandalf style, I guess!

message 4: by Laura (last edited Dec 29, 2012 09:22PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura (ratatosk) | 8 comments (to quote my goodreads review) What is there left to say about The Hobbit? 25 years since I read it last, and there are bits I know like I read them last year. Smeagol. Smaug. The Ring. The Spiders in the Trees. The me-alienating lack of women. And there are bits of which I have no recollection. The man we meet an instant before he draws back the bow and kills the dragon. Beorn the bear. The cognitive dissonance of having the wolves be the bad guys. All these scenes of exclusion and essentialism Terry Pratchett gently, lovingly, and devastatingly critiques in the later Discworld books.

I cannot say that I love Tolkien, though I wish I did. I do love what the humanist English fantasy writers have done with Tolkien.

A seminal text. Slightly bittersweet to re-read, but well worth the time.

(end my earlier review)

My husband is a huge fan of Tolkien. We've slowly been listening to The Tolkien Professor podcasts,, which are generally a lot of fun. It's funny, as much as I'm not a huge fan of Tolkien, I found myself bristling reading Laura Miller's Skeptic's Adventure in Narnia, and getting irate when she compared Tolkien unfavorably to Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Crime and Punishment.

message 5: by Bri, Wielder of Trolljnir (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bri (mythbri) | 26 comments Mod
Jamie wrote: "So much to say about "The Hobbit". I actually reread this book in early June and then the LotR trilogy. What struck me as I read the story in June was how much younger the tone was throughout the b..."

Jamie, Tolkien did originally write The Hobbit for children, and I can't think of a better book to read aloud to kids (even if they haven't been born yet). Honestly, The Lord of the Rings trilogy pales in comparison, and isn't nearly as entertaining. LOTR is important, don't get me wrong - it established a lot of the conventions upon which many other fantasy authors built their own works, and for that alone we can thank Tolkien. But it can't be denied that he can be very dry. I actually read LOTR with a lot more enjoyment now, after Peter Jackson's films were released, than I did when I first read them as a kid.

message 6: by Bri, Wielder of Trolljnir (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bri (mythbri) | 26 comments Mod
Liz, I've read this book every year since I was ten, and I always feel like I've learned something new each time.

I completely agree that the introduction of Bard was clumsy. To place the destruction of Smaug in the hands of someone who wasn't even part of the original Company seems...strange. The people of Lake Town would have had a legitimate claim to some of Thorin's treasure even if Bard hadn't killed the dragon, because Smaug still burned down their village, and Thorin and Company did take advantage of their hospitality before going off to piss off a ten-ton fire-breathing monster.

I think that the film An Unexpected Journey does a good job of making Bilbo seem like an unlikely hero, but I disagree that Bilbo wasn't as heroic in the book. Not in the same way, certainly, but there were plenty of things that he did that took a lot of courage. Saving the dwarves from the spiders of Mirkwood comes to mind - and just because the narrator is explicit about Bilbo being terrified as he did it doesn't make it less heroic. Bravery, after all, is doing something in spite of your fear. Bilbo has always been a favorite of mine, though, so I will concede the bias on my part. ;)

message 7: by Bri, Wielder of Trolljnir (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bri (mythbri) | 26 comments Mod
Laura, Tolkien can be hard to love. His conspicuous lack of involved female characters didn't bother me when I first read The Hobbit, and I loved Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But other than she and Galadriel, there aren't many female characters that ere even named, let alone present or with dialogue.

It's much more troubling reading it as an adult, but it didn't alienate me as a kid.

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