Well. What a read. I must say that, despite being a fan of Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy for a number of years, I had never actually delved into any of the books by J. R. R. Tolkien. I intended to change this upon the release of ‘The Hobbit’ (which I am yet to see) and decided I’d pick the series up with the prequel.
So, what’s it about? The Hobbit follows the adventure of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who likes nothing more than to sit on his chair outside his home in the hill at Bag End, smoking his pipe in between first and second breakfast. Little did Bilbo know that his friendly, harmless world was about to be turned upside down by the wizard Gandalf who, as he is thrust into a world of dwarves, dragons and stolen treasure. Unexpectedly that night, thirteen dwarves arrive in ones, and twos until poor Bilbo’s heads in a spin and he can’t do nothing but sit in the corner and wonder what’s going on. As it happens, the group is led by Thorin Oakenshield, heir to the throne under the mountain, and the dwarves quest is to return to the mountain and reclaim his lost treasure from the fearsome dragon Smaug (with each dwarf getting a cut of the proceeds of course). But where does Bilbo fit into this you may wonder (as he was doing himself); Gandalf had set him up as a fourteenth member of the group! He was to be the thief (of which Bilbo had never been) who would get the group into the mountain and then out again with as much treasure as possible. The morning after Bilbo thinks he is finally rid of wizards and plans, he runs after them without so much as a handkerchief, and pretty much constantly from then on thinks about how he’d rather be at home!
Trekking through Middle Earth though is no safe journey, and among the way the group would face trolls, Elven Kings, Goblins and a Goblin King not to mention the dragon Smaug, although it’s also not without its pleasant creatures, such as the shape-shifter Beorn or the eagles. Despite the dangers though, Bilbo found that the trip was especially rewarding, not just in experience, or riches, but in one little ring. This one ring, which could turn you invisible, which was taken from the creature Gollum (who Bilbo would then go on to beat in an impressive game of riddles) would change (and had already changed) the world in incredible ways.
Overall, I found it a really rather nice book. A nice story, although the decision to put so many dwarves in seemed a little unnecessary – I found that it meant several were barely mentioned other than to say they were carrying Bilbo or exasperated at their progress. And I really wish we had seen more of the cunning Smaug; the one conversation he has with Bilbo is a highlight of the book! But these are small niggles which are dwarfed (excuse the pun) by the magnificence of Tolkien’s writing. The description of Smaug’s treasure hoard and the chapter where Bilbo meets Gollum are worthy of many a literary award.
The Hobbit is the epitome of an adventure, hero quest. Bilbo is the character everyone can relate to (or at least I can). Someone who has danger thrust onto him when he would rather just be sat on his porch of his home in the hill at Bag End, smoking a pipe while waiting for Second Breakfast. Despite being targeted at around 10 year olds, this is a book for any fan of the series (or indeed, someone interested in becoming a fan). Tolkien is a master storyteller, and this story just cements the fact.
So, do I recommend you read it? Yes.
Do I rank it 10/10? It’s one of the closest books to come to it I’ve read.
Do I think Bilbo was crazy for going? Yes, indeed I do.