THE PLOT: ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R Tolkein is a children’s fantasy novel set in Middle Earth. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit; a small, mild-mannered creature who lives a quiet life in the shire. But when a meddlesome wizard called Gandalf comes along, Bilbo finds himself caught up in an adventure. At Gandalf’s insistence, Bilbo becomes a burglar for a band of dwarves looking to reclaim their stolen treasure from a dragon. During the long quest, Bilbo must prove his worth and show everyone that though hobbits may be small, they are mighty.
RATING: Let’s be honest, I’m not qualified to give a star rating to one of the most famous fantasy books in the Western Canon. But, if I have to fit the format of my blog, I’d give this novel four stars. As a lover of the Lord of the Rings films, I thought it was high-time I read the books (especially because my boyfriend gave me a beautiful set last Christmas). I’m glad to report that I loved it; the book was incredibly easy to read and compelling and brought Middle Earth to life beyond the films I know and love. My only criticisms are that it became a tad repetitive and the death of the dragon felt anti-climactic. However, this is a brilliant novel and I’d love to read it to my children one day.
GOOD BITS: Tolkein’s world-building has inspired generations of fantasy authors and I was completely drawn into the magic of Middle Earth. Going beyond the films and getting more detail about the history of hobbits, dwarves and elves was fascinating. Additionally, I loved how Tolkein’s third person narrator had lots of asides and foreshadowing in a comic voice. I could imagine this being read aloud to children and, because the voice is something that can’t be replicated in the films, it was a joy to experience.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: After steaming through the first half of the book, the pattern of escapades with Bilbo and the dwarves became a bit repetitive and formulaic, which made me lose interest in the run-up to the dragon’s death. Compounding this problem, I was shocked that the dwarves and Bilbo played no part in the slaying of the dragon, which should have been the apex of their story. The dragon’s death felt too easy and disconnected from the main story arc. However, I enjoyed the war of the five armies at the end and my interest was renewed.
OVERALL: I’d encourage all fantasy-lovers and writers to read this acclaimed novel. Not just because it’s so famous but also because it’s a great lesson in story-telling and world-building. As a lover of the films, it was a joy to experience the book and get all of the details and writing style that isn’t able to be shown in a film script.
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