“You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
I have always wanted to go to Middle Earth. Well, I say always, but I actually came to The Hobbit a little late (and The Lord of the Rings later than that). It was required reading for freshman year English class in my high school. I was absolutely enchanted by it, especially the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter, in which we meet Gollum. I have never really outgrown my taste for children’s stories, but I was still young even in ninth grade, so this fully worked its magic on me.
The last time I read this was back in 2012 in preparation for The Hobbit movies*, and I was just as charmed by it then, and perhaps even more so now. As this year has gone on, I’ve been craving re-reads of my favorite fantasy series, so I decided to dive back into Middle Earth.
*After I finished the book, I had the extremely strong urge to finally revisit Peter Jackson’s films, none of which I’d seen since they were in the theater, and which I mostly found a disappointment at the time. My local video store has copies of the Extended Edition Blu-rays, so I didn’t have to shell out $60 in order to watch them (the going rate digitally on Prime Video, iTunes, and everywhere else).
Much to my surprise, I enjoyed them a lot more the second time around, whether it was because I had adjusted my expectations, or there’d just been enough time for me to appreciate them for what they were. I also indulged and watched allll the special features on the EE’s, which I believe is about forty hours or more of behind the scenes documentaries. It brought me back to my late teenage years, when I spent hours watching and rewatching the original trilogy, and all the special features on those EE’s, including the commentaries. Honestly, it was a joy to watch The Hobbit special features. The thought and care that went into making these movies was astounding, and I just wanted to travel back in time and go help them all create stuff.
It’s just so fun to see the origins of Middle Earth here, and Tolkien’s eventual elaborate mythology for it. And it’s really fun to experience that through the cheeky narrator. It’s most definitely written as a children’s story. It moves much faster than the LOTR trilogy does, and there is a distinct lack of the descriptive detail he goes into, along with the side trips for history/mythology lessons. They both share Tolkien’s love for songs and singing, though. (Anyone who complains about all the singing in the Hobbit movies is off their rocker — it’s all right here in the source material.)
The heart of the book, though, is of course the titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Tolkien will revisit the worth of hobbits in LOTR, but here the unexpected merits of Bilbo surprise all of his companions, and Bilbo himself (but perhaps not Gandalf). It’s Bilbo that the success of the quest rests on, and as a children’s book, the message that bravery is not always loud or arrogant is a great one. It’s hinted that some force for good is helping Bilbo and his companions along, but much of what occurs is due to the quiet steadfastness and loyalty that Bilbo brings all on his own.
CBR Bingo: I Wish (one more BINGO!)