Book Review: The Hobbit

4606477Title: The Hobbit or There and Back Again
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Publisher: George Allen & Unwin
Release date: September 21, 1937
Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: “Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit, is a peaceful sort who lives in a cozy hole in the Shire, a place where adventures are uncommon–and rather unwanted. So when the wizard of Gandalf whisks him away on a treasure hunting expedition with a troop of rowdy dwarves, he’s not entirely thrilled. Encountering ruthless trolls, beastly orcs, gigantic spiders, and hungry wolves, Bilbo discovers within himself astonishing strength and courage. And at the ultimate confrontation with the fearsome dragon Smaug, the hobbit will brave the dangers of dark and dragon-fire alone and unaided.” – Goodreads

If by some chance you’ve been dwelling under a rock these past eighty years, you may not be familiar with The Hobbit. In short, the story is about Bilbo, a hobbit favoring the quiet life, who is dragged off on an adventure by Gandalf and thirteen dwarves. They embark upon an extreme road trip to recover lost gold in Thorin Oakenshield’s ancestors’ ruined kingdom, besieged by a coveting dragon.

The cast was a tad too dry for me. The only character we see any true development in is Bilbo, converted from quiet homebody into somewhat of a daring hero, but have nil to show aside from him. Thorin experienced a bit of it towards the end, but regrettably it was close to his end as well, right before his death. In fact, it wasn’t just the cast that was dry for me, it was how major plot points were handled as well. Bilbo & Co. didn’t even partake in slaying Smaug! Instead, a little birdy (literally) told a guy to shoot him in the armpit. Just like that, Smaug was done for. Pretty anticlimactic if you ask me. Also, so little time was spent on Thorin’s death. While I find it touching that he was buried with the Arkenstone, I also feel it would have been nice had that been given more page space than one of the dwarves songs. The final battle didn’t do much for me either, since it seemed a tad out-of-the-blue and all seemed to blend together.

That being said, while the book itself never got to me emotionally, there was one line in the Battle of the Five Armies that did. Tolkien served in World War I, and though he explicitly stated that he never included parallels to the World Wars in his work, he did have a different perspective of war than any other common fantasy writer. The line that caught me was “Bilbo truly did not want to be there”. It’s a simple line, but one that carries an enormous amount of weight, especially when you take the writer into consideration.

One of the reasons I found The Hobbit to be so dry wasn’t even a fault of the story itself. It’s because in the 1930s, people wrote differently than they do today. A true shocker, I know, but writing styles progress with the times. Whenever people say old books are boring, they often mean the writing is boring. You can’t honestly tell me The Picture of Dorian Gray or Wuthering Heights are dull novels, no, but for certain readers who can’t get past the language it’s difficult to appreciate the book, and thus is labeled “boring”. It’s far different from what is exciting by today’s standards. The writing was a major snag for me. Thankfully I could get past part of the language, but not whenever it was paired with Tolkien’s matter-of-fact writing style of “they did this”, “it was this” or “they thought this. That’s what made it so difficult for me, atop the fact that I’m not a high-fantasy fan.

Overall, I didn’t particularly enjoy The Hobbit for the reasons listed above. So, what with all that has been said, you might be wondering why I’ve still decided to give it a three out of five. If there’s one thing I wholeheartedly appreciate about The Hobbit, it is its major contributions to the fantasy genre. Tolkien essentially gave birth to modern fantasy, defining fantasy races and rolls, creating entire languages and epic worlds and more. What Tolkien offered to the world of fiction changed the landscape of fantasy forever, which any writer or reader can appreciate, and in my book secures it as a solid three out of five.

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