Like many people, I have FEELINGS about The Hobbit. FEELINGS that make it impossible for me to review this book without bias. FEELINGS so inexorably linked to childhood, happiness, and nostalgia that every time I read this book I fear that something will be lost or missing. Luckily, nothing ever is; reading this book again is like curling up in a familiar bed with a huge cup of hot cocoa after coming in from the cold. This book is comforting from cover to cover.
In the first chapter, we meet Bilbo Baggins. A curmudgeonly little fellow who loves nothing more than tending to his garden, eating good food, and blowing smoke rings from his pipe. He is a hobbit: a 3 foot tall, pointy eared, furry-footed creature who has no desire for any adventures of any kind. His life is interrupted by Gandalf the Grey, who invites a merry gathering of dwarves into Bilbo’s home. Dwarves are a short, stout, stubborn mining people. The dwarves that visit Bilbo once lived richly inside the Lonely Mountain until it was ambushed by Smaug the dragon, and their home and gold was lost. Small and light on his feet, Bilbo is asked to join their quest as their burglar, and so he does.
Their quest takes them over hill and under hill. They face trolls, goblins, wild wolves, giant spiders, and, of course, a dragon. They meet good elves, wicked elves, lake-men, a shapeshifter, a race of giant eagles, and an ancient race of ravens. The hobbit is often funny, sometimes sad, but always epic. It is a joy to read, and at under 300 pages you could probably read it faster than you could watch Peter Jackson’s first film installment (which was enjoyable in its own right, but this is not that review).
There’s a lot to take away from The Hobbit. There’s the idea that simple folk can do great things, that there are values far more important than any measure of gold, or that petty feuds should be put aside for loftier goals. Truth be told, you don’t have to take away anything at all. The Hobbit is a fun read and it doesn’t need to be anything more than that. It’s a great book to read to a child, as it was read to me many years ago. It’s also a great book to read on the beach, or on the bus, or on a lazy Sunday.
Each chapter reads like a mini-adventure. There is often the introduction of a character (be they bad or good), followed by a conflict and resolution, and then the party moves onto their next mini-adventure. This keeps the story moving. Chapters are often interspersed with sweet little songs (or in the case of the goblins, not-so-sweet songs) that read like poetry. There is also the occasional illustration by Tolkien himself, which gives some insight into Middle Earth as he visualized it. All readers, young or old, who are looking for a beautifully crafted tale of adventure would do well to choose The Hobbit.