The Hobbit: Or There And Back Again

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Paperback, 2001

Status

Available

Local notes

PB Tol

Publication

Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (2001), Edition: First Edition

Description

Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to take part in an adventure from which he may never return.

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

1937-09-21

Physical description

8.25 inches

ISBN

0618260307 / 9780618260300

Barcode

1729

Media reviews

The Times
A flawless masterpiece
2 more
The Observer
A finely written saga of dwarves and elves, fearsome goblins and trolls ... an exciting epic of travel and magical adventure, all working up to a devastating climax
El hobbit
Mucho menos pesado que el resto de libros del Señor de los Anillos, más facil de leer. Culmina las tres grandes obras del Señor de los anillos de Tolkien.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Cecrow
I read The Hobbit when I was nine years old and never since, but thought I remembered it pretty well. My six year old was interested enough this year to accept having it read to him a few pages at a time each night. In the course of doing so, I felt the contrasts between my first impression and now. As a child I was awestruck by the depths of the Misty Mountains and the dreaded Mirkwood forest; the entire story had a vast tone of menace to it, filled with dangers and fear. Conversely, as an adult I now find the book fairly light in tone. As a child I was thrilled by the characters but my memories of the dwarves were vague, and now I can see why. We know that Thorin is their leader, Bombur is overweight, Balin is probably the bravest, Fili and Kili are the youngest, but not a whole lot else. Most of the dwarves we scarcely know besides their names.

Obviously my son wasn't making these observations. There was always something foreshadowed to keep him engaged. The trolls, the goblins, Gollum's riddles, the wolves; then the eagles, Beorn, and the dark path through Mirkwood ... all the way to the battle of the Five Armies, the next encounter or bit of action was always on the horizon. Even the advanced language didn't dissuade him, and I didn't try to simplify it - though I did summarize what had happened as I closed the book each time, to ensure he'd grasped it all. We laughed together over the foolish trolls, the introductions at Beorn's house, and Bombur's slumber. Often we'd speculate over what might happen next.

I was privately astonished how frequently - and for what prolonged duration - Bilbo made use of his magic ring. I recognized Elrond, and the Moria references. The Gandalf presented here is reminiscent of LOTR's opening passages - not much less bumbling in appearance than the dwarves, even when danger threatens. He seems to view the entire Hobbit adventure as a lark; and so must I, in anticipation of the deeper darker story I know is to come. This was a fun trip down memory lane for me, and a satisfying series of evenings for my son who can one day make his own return visit to Laketown and the Lonely Mountain.
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LibraryThing member jseger9000
Bilbo Baggins is a quiet little fellow living a quiet little life until a visit from Gandalf, the wandering wizard changes everything. Before he knows it, he's been shanghaied into helping thirteen dwarves recover their loot and their kingdom from the dread dragon Smaug.

The Hobbit is my favorite book. One I reread every couple of years and have since childhood. Originally I read it for thrill of seeing Bilbo outwit trolls, riddle for his life and battle giant spiders. Now I enjoy seeing him change and mature over the course of the novel (though I still love watching Bilbo get out of various scrapes and situations).

Written with young readers in mind, Tolkien’s narration is delightful. He has a good time telling his story, occasionally speaking directly to the reader or acknowledging that he is getting ahead of himself as he tells his tale. The Hobbit is the tap-root of most modern fantasy, but so much of it is missing the whimsical nature of this book (including Tolkien’s own Lord of the Rings which I don’t like nearly as much).

I’m sure there are faults with the book that I’m just not seeing because it is too close to my heart. But I do think it is a book that is perfect for childhood, yet one that will stand up to a reread in later years. It is short, exciting and funny and has some depth. And there is magic pressed between its covers.
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LibraryThing member atimco
J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is a classic children's story and a landmark in the realm of fantasy literature. The plot is well known: stolid, fussy Bilbo Baggins falls in, quite unwillingly, with Dwarves and dragons and wizards, and is brought along on their adventure as a professional burglar. For of course, when a dragon has taken over your mountain home and sleeps on your hoards of treasure, the best method of getting the treasure back is to hire someone else to do it!

The Hobbit's story of publication is famous: after various friends of Tolkien's had read the manuscript, it eventually made its way to the desk of Stanley Unwin of the publishers Allen & Unwin. Unwin asked his son Rayner to read it, and when Rayner came back with rave reviews, his father decided to publish the story. Rayner was onto a good thing—The Hobbit has never been out of print since its publication in 1937, and its widespread popularity led Unwin to request a sequel from the Oxford professor. That sequel became The Lord of the Rings, that massive epic that set a standard for fantasy literature that (in my humble opinion) has never been superseded.

It's rather startling to think how much we owe the ten-year-old Rayner Unwin, isn't it?

Though adults enjoy The Hobbit, it is primarily a children's story. In this book, Tolkien most closely approaches the style of his friend C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. The tone is grandfatherly, with the author's little asides and humorous observations keeping the narrative personal and fun. Characters trick one another constantly, there are poems and songs (both humorous and serious), and everything happens pretty comfortably at Bilbo's level. Bilbo is clearly the character with whom most readers identify, as he stumbles around in fantasyland and stolidly refuses to be anything but businesslike and sensible in his dealings with folk of more magic than he. And yet within him there is buried ("often deeply, it is true") a seed of heroism that eventually sprouts, in spite of all Bilbo's common sense. Perhaps children aren't the only readers who identify with Bilbo...

As in The Lord of the Rings, the possession of a valuable object is a crucial plot point. But unlike the Ring, the Arkenstone is not intrinsically evil. The evil comes from the characters' own greed, not from the coveted object. Interestingly, the Ring itself was not originally an agent of evil either, just a useful and desirable magical object. Tolkien made several revisions to The Hobbit after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, most notably in the chapter "Riddles in the Dark," to bring it more in line with the Ring mythology of the later story. I didn't know this, but apparently Tolkien also started rewriting The Hobbit at one point to bring its tone closer to that of The Lord of the Rings—but gave it up after three chapters because it simply wasn't The Hobbit anymore.

But what Tolkien didn't do, it seems others are willing to do for him. Rereading this time with the upcoming film in mind, I couldn't help but consider how The Hobbit's lighthearted tone is going to be lost onscreen, as PJ and company are opting for a much darker take on Tolkien's story for children. As much as I will probably enjoy the film version, all the additional characters and storylines we've been hearing about are giving me the impression that the end result will be somewhat closer to glorified fanfiction than actual adaptation. The purist in me is dissatisfied; the fantasy-movie lover is cautiously excited but reserving judgment so as not to offend the purist (before it's necessary). I may end up like Gollum eventually, arguing with my Slinker (purist) and Stinker (movie fan) personalities!

I love Gandalf's summation of the story's broader themes, underscoring Bilbo's contributions while also reminding him of his own relative unimportance in the grand scheme of things:

"And why not? Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies just because you helped them come about. You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck? Just for your sole benefit? You're a very fine person, Mr Baggins, and I'm quite fond of you. But you are really just a little fellow, in a wide world after all."
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
The first time I read The Hobbit I was in fourth grade and my family was taking a road trip to the east coast. I remember a few things about that trip, but mainly I was lost in the dark paths of Mirkwood forest and the rocky ledges of the Misty Mountains. I re-read the book when I was in high school and loved it just as much. So I felt a bit of trepidation about re-reading it as an adult. I was worried it would seem childish and the magic would be gone from its pages, but I quickly discovered I had nothing to worry about.

The book was just as wonderful this time around. It’s such a great adventure. Tolkein created an entire world, filled with hobbits, dwarves, elves and trolls, which was completely foreign to anything I knew. When Gandalf and 13 dwarves (Thorin, Dori, Nori, Dwalin, Balin, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Kili, Fili, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur) show up in the Shire, everything changes for Bilbo and for the readers.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is that our hero is a complete anti-hero. Bilbo doesn’t want to go on an adventure. He has no desire to leave his home, but somehow he is swept up along on the journey and he discovers that a tiny corner of him has always longed for a quest.

“‘We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,’ said our Mr. Baggins.”

Gandalf flits in and out of the story, but he always appears when he’s needed the most. He’s always been one of my favorite characters in literature. He can be cryptic and mysterious, but he’s also a true friend, a wise leader and a warrior. He never gives up and his hope gives hope to others.

The dwarves are so different from the hobbits. Their driving force is a love of money. They aren’t bad, but they have an interesting moral code. Thorin, the group’s leader, puts them all in danger because of his obsession with the precious stone Arkenstone. They aren’t too dissimilar from Smaug, the dragon who stole their wealth, except that the dwarves only want what they see as rightfully theirs.

“There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.”

Gollum is, in my opinion, the most interesting character in the book. We know almost nothing about him, but we are at once enthralled and horrified by him. Bilbo has a similar reaction. It’s important to note that he feels pity for Gollum, which foreshadows the events in Lord of the Rings.

“A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering.”

A few things I'd forgotten about the book:

1) Beorn, the bear man., somehow I completely forgot this character!

2) Bilbo was more than 50 years old when the adventure began.

3) His mom’s name was Belladonna and his Dad’s was Bungo, how fantastic is that!

4) The dwarves love and value music and each one had an instrument that they played.

5) The thrush is really the unsung hero of the novel. Without the help of that bird, the dwarves could have been stranded in the mountain with no hope of defeating Smaug.

While some people find the Lord of the Rings hard to get through and overwhelmed with descriptions and details, The Hobbit is a quick read. It was targeted at a younger audience and so it’s much more accessible. If you’ve ever been curious about Tolkein’s world, this is the place to start.
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LibraryThing member ncgraham
Though not the first tale Tolkien wrote about Middle-Earth, The Hobbit was the first to be published, and so the words “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit” served as most people’s introduction to the author’s mythopoeia. It is, of course, the story of Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who dwells in that hole. With both respectable Baggins blood and more adventurous, unpredictable Took blood running through his veins, he has lived a quiet fifty years in his hole under the Hill but when adventure comes quite literally knocking on his door, he finds himself unexpectedly taking it. It comes in the form of the wise old wizard Gandalf and thirteen hardy dwarves (led by the august and most loquacious Thorin Oakenshield) who seek to reclaim their treasure from the dragon Smaug. A long journey lies between them and the Lonely Mountain, however, and along the way Bilbo finds his way in and out of many escapades, while encountering elves, goblins, trolls, men, eagles, skin-changers, a strange creature named Gollum, and finally the dragon himself.

This was one of my favorite books when I was a child, and perhaps that has some bearing on why I still love it so much today. However, I still think that much of the criticism surrounding its “kiddiness” is completely off the mark. Of course it is juvenile! It is a children’s book, after all, written by the author to tell his own sons and daughters at bed-time; moreover, it is, as W. H. Auden so wonderfully put it, “One of the best children’s stories of the century.” I have always felt sorry for those who cannot recognize that tales written for younger audiences are not necessarily inferior, and hope that maybe one day they will, to quote C. S. Lewis, “be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

I will say that because of the book’s relative simplicity, it is best read when one does not have The Silmarillion or The Lord of the Rings fresh in one’s mind. It can be rather aggravating to see Sauron referred to as “the Necromancer,” or Valinor “Faerië.” On the other hand, it is interesting to see how the originally whimsical tone changes and develops over the course of the book; the narrator seems to grow up right alongside Bilbo. Of the characters, he is the best developed, changing over the course of the narrative from a rather reluctant adventurer who forgets his pocket-handkerchiefs at home to a resourceful hero, although he always maintains his sense of humor and lovably “squeaky” voice. Aside from Thorin, Balin, Fili, Kili, and Bombur, the dwarves are rather interchangeable, and Gandalf is much more vague and mysterious here than he is in LotR. The cameos, on the other hand, are quite fascinating. Chapter V, “Riddles in the Dark” may be one of my favorite chapters in all literature, introducing as it does the unforgettable Gollum and his “precious” Ring; this, of all the episodes in the book, would have the most impact on the rest of Tolkien’s writings, and it features not only excitement and suspense but also a jolly good riddle game. Smaug, of course, is literature’s quintessential dragon, and Bard, in spite of his dourness (or perhaps because of it), makes for an enigmatic and fascinating Hero.

Magical, exciting, and thoroughly charming, The Hobbit is a fantasy adventure to warm the coldest hearts.
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LibraryThing member katy89williams
I may be crucified for this statement, but I have always preferred "The Hobbit" over "Lord of the Rings." "Lord of the Rings" is very good literature, but "The Hobbit" has always been able to keep my attention much longer. If you want a book to analyze and take your time reading, I would recommend "Lord of the Rings." If you want an easier read, but still just as enjoyable, "The Hobbit" is your best bet.… (more)
LibraryThing member phoebesmum
A few weeks ago I was looking for something not-too-strenuous to read when I made the unexpected discovery that I don't have a copy of 'The Hobbit'.

I'm not about to get into a debate concerning the virtues or otherwise of 'The Hobbit', or whether it should or should not be required reading, or anything else contentious: (a) I'm not that interested and (b) I can't be arsed. Come to think of it, (a) and (b) may be exactly the same point, just stated slightly differently. But what I am saying is that, in a house like ours, going to the shelf and not finding a copy of 'The Hobbit' is the literary equivalent of going to the chest of drawers and finding you have no knickers.

I've read it, obviously; there was a copy at my parents' house, which I had thought was mine but might have been my mother's, or even my unspeakable younger brother's. Either way, clearly I didn't take it with me when I left. And it isn't as though we didn't have a copy anywhere in the house. The housemate has what is best described as a much-loved paperback edition and also, for reasons best known to herself, a copy in French. ('Le Hobbit'.) But, having become aware of its absence - after some forty-odd years of jogging along perfectly happily without it - not having a copy was irritating. All the more so since, if I'd realised this eighteen months ago, when my mother died, I could've nicked hers.

So I was very happy to find an excellent copy in one of our local charity shops this afternoon: cloth, fine condition, slight browning to the pages but almost no bumping or rubbing, commensurate dustwrapper - in fact, it looks as though it's never been read at all, and still has the original receipt tucked inside (£14.99 from the Book House in Thame, August 1999). I'm betting it was an unwanted pressie - so, thank you very much, ungrateful child from Thame. Your loss is my gain. And not bad at all for £1.00.

That being done, I can now put it on the shelf - first LibraryThinging it, of course - and then probably not give it another thought for the rest of my life.
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LibraryThing member Jrenaud
Joe Renaud
Mrs. Clark Evans
American Literature
September 27th, 2007

The Hobbit
By: J.R.R. Tolken

I have read The Lord of the Rings series but I have not read The Hobbit before. It was an very exciting read not only due to the action that was put into it, but also the jump of surprise every time I read something that reminded me of something in Lord of the Rings. It is amazing to read about this extensive world that Tolken built; with every plot there is another side plot that could turn into a whole other story. In the beginning you get a fantastic description of Hobbits and there simple lives; than Gandalf suddenly bursts into the scene and it is as annoying to the reader as it is for Bilbo. The story picks right along you hear about Dwarves and Dragons then poor Bilbo and the mess Gandalf has gotten him into. Bilbo dose go on his adventure; which not as long and exciting as the one Frodo took in The Lord of the Rings, however it had its own moments. In The Hobbit you learn a lot more about Dwarves and some of the lore that normal people in Middle Earth were experiencing during these times. Tolken did not make The Hobbit talk about the larger world like he did in The Lord of the Rings, this is great however because it makes you put yourself in Bilbos shoes (A Hobbit is not privy to the going ons in the larger world).
Later in the book you start meeting familiar characters like Gollum and the men of Dale. You even get to see how Bilbo gets his hands on the Ring, and if you read closely you hear about Gandalf and his council fighting the Necromancer which is Suaron. Running though beautiful settings such as Mirkwood and the Elf mountain palace you continue to follow Bilbos journey. The Dragon and Lonely Mountain are the start of the ending and greatest part of the story. The Battle of Four armies is an incredible battle that you don’t know what id going happen, at times I wasn’t even sure the good guys would win. All in all The Hobbit was better than I thought it would be and the only regret I have is that I did not read it before The Lord of the Rings.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Like many others I first read The Hobbit years ago as a young person. Now older and wiser, I return to the story of my youth and wonder if Middle Earth still holds the same magic. The myths Tolkien created has so saturated our culture it's difficult to see the forest for the trees, to see The Hobbit as a simply a 1930's children's story, and not one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Still, it's possible to suspend belief and let the story carry along down the road from one little adventure to next, marveling at how innocently Bilbo finds the Ring that would create such consequence, in fantasy and reality.

Why is Tolkien so popular? It's easy to find: Biblo and the hobbits represent the middle-class with all its values and fears and hopes. The middle-class, by definintion, face two forces: the proletariat or working class from below as represented by the various dark creatures such as the trolls and goblins; and the ceiling above, the rich elite such as the wood elves (landed gentry) and the dragon who hordes wealth obtained illictly (robber baron). It is the middle class dream, sandwiched between these opposing forces, to obtain safety and security and comfort (Bilbo so loves his comfort in his hobbit hole) by keeping down the grubbing lower class and taking a share from the immoral upper class. In the end this is exactly what happens when the goblins/dragon are defeated and the treasure is fairly distributed.

That Bilbo is portrayed as a thief is curious, but it fits the model. He didn't steal the ring from Gollum but won it by out smarting him - the bourgeois value of education rewards in the end. Bilbo's thieving is always done in the name of good, like Robin Hood, not out of greed or malice. So The Hobbit is no more than a fairy tale for children, it is a bourgeois guidebook. It's the perfect story for facing the fears, uncertainties and joys on the journey of becoming (and remaining) self-sufficient members of a democratic society. In a democracy everyone is ideally seen as equal, at least in opportunity to get ahead, and thus a small inconsequential hobbit Bilbo can obtain great success, which re-enforces the bourgeois notion that with a little pluck and work anything is possible. This lesson seems odd in a world of monarchy, where birth determines status and fortune, but that is part of the fantasy: bumbling kings and heroic nobodies.

Others have tried to copy Tolkien such as Brooks, Jordan and Martin but Tolkien remains the most beloved. I think Tolkien was still close enough to the 19th century that his style of Naturalism and Romanticism were least corrupted by Modernism and post-modernism. This corruption later manifested in darker and more cynical works, which are appealing in their way, but miss something of the magical child-like wonderment and optimism of Tolkien's Hobbit.
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LibraryThing member ed.pendragon
I must have spent my childhood and adolescence skim-reading most of the literature I was introduced to, gaining impressionist pictures of those works but missing much of the subtlety of language, characterisation and narrative. Having taken it on myself to begin re-reading those books with more attentiveness, 'The Hobbit' is one of those I've chanced on.

The first insight I got is that Tolkien's prose changes from whimsical to saga-like over the course Bilbo's journey there and back again. Despite the revisions he made to two subsequent editions (I read the most common 1966 third edition), the avuncular approach he takes at the opening, very reminiscent of the tone of the posthumously published 'The Father Christmas Letters', sits ill at ease with descriptions of casualities in battle and the more serious and earnest language at the end; revisions clearly haven't reconciled the two approaches.

The next insight was a reminder from studies I'd previously read of how 'The Hobbit' could be viewed retrospectively as a practice run for 'The Lord of the Rings'. The plot and narrative elements are similar, among them being the hobbit on a quest, fellowship, troll glade, Rivendell, mountain tunnels, Gollum, Gandalf's disappearance, wood elves, spiders, beseiged habitations, climactic battle near a desolate mountain, intervention by eagles, and the giving up of a precious object. There are numerous differences, of course, but by the time Tolkien came to the trilogy he was clearly determined to make the secondary world he'd created more coherent and more fleshed out without simply retelling 'The Hobbit'. But he clearly didn't want to jettison the arc of the storyline that had pleased him in the earlier tale, which means that the inherent conflicts in storytelling style of 'The Hobbit' are made even more obvious. The rather perfunctory ending contrasts with the solemn and more satisfying conclusion of 'The Lord of the Rings' describing the Scouring of the Shire and the Ringbearers' final journey.

This edition features Tolkien's own rather quaint illustrations. While no-one would claim that there was huge artistry involved (the line drawings in particular are not well finished) their stylisation and frequent symmetry add to the otherworldly character of the tale and help inform us of Tolkien's creative intentions in structuring the narrative.

We come now to the songs with which Tolkien peppers the text. There is much to admire in his cunning alliterations, rhymes and use of metre, modelled on Middle and Old English examplars, and I don't want to deny the artistry involved. But, like his drawings, their formality is, for me at least, a barrier to really liking them, and I am perplexed by his suggestions that elves, dwarves and goblins were able to improvise such crafted songs on the spur of the moment. However, these songs would benefit from being set to modal melodies in a folk or medieval style; I am not a fan of the Donald Swann settings but, as Tolkien likes to appeal to the senses, including sympathetically composed melodic counterparts to the verses could add immeasurably to this reader's enjoyment.

'The Hobbit' is certainly not a masterpiece. A pioneering work, yes, that broke the mould for children's literature and created a template for much post-war fantasy writing; and though flawed definitely a thrilling adventure story that flies once it gets off the ground.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
The Hobbit is a pretty special book to me (and I will by all means acknowledge that I may be the biased one and there may be some validity in the many criticisms written of it by everybody from Michael Moorcock to the current crop of Peter Jackson–haters rabid with disgust that a slowish, clunkily plotted children's story is getting made into not one, not two, but three epic films). It was the first "grown-up book" I read myself--as I thought of it then, the summer of 1988 in Weitensfeld in the Misty Alps with thunder rolling out of the goblin-filled hills, perhaps not a grown-up book per se but more grown than Choose Your Own Adventures or Treasure Island or, you know, The Da Vinci Code. It was an adventure that wasn't about kids like me, that forced me to leave home in a much more profound way and enter the biggest and deepest of all fantasy worlds--and I confess to a continued fascination with the fact that even Tolkien, as he sowed the seeds of future revelations of ancient lore, didn't know how big and deep Arda was.

Coming back to it now, for probably the dozenth time but only the second or so since becoming an adult, I find that certainly my relationship with the story, my ability to be swept up and away, has become attenuated as I’ve become a soberer man. I’m happy, as I read, but it’s less the ensorcelled happiness of the child than the dulled or dimmed response of the grown-up, distracted but happy at the, like, charming antics. Often you want to pat Bilbo, the dwarves, and even Gandalf on the head and say “that’s nice, dear.” The story calls, but it’s less a call to adventure these days than a call to adventurousness—a nagging reminder that you were once the kind of person who could hear the bells ringing in the Dale. (Or, in my case, who sang the dwarves’ song to his elementary school on Talent Day or whatever it was, in a tremulous but I think not displeasing soprano.)

It sure ain’t a “grown-up book.” It’s not the kind that can perform that funny contradictory operation, that immersive kindling, in someone who has thought and fought and hurt for no reason. It’s not and it doesn’t need to be, because while Tolkien’s world may be conservative in the Faerie way, it is not High Tory conservative, not by any means—Moorcock stoops low when he says that. Tolkien places faith in the regular folk and the old ways and blah blah, sure—and there’s a reactionariness in that—but at the risk of seeming like I’m indulging my own reactionary dudgeon, how dare Moorcock suggest that regular people—even the petty bourgeoisie—not have anything good in them? He’s preaching to the party where the radical daydreamers live in the land of the righteous, as opposed to the comfort-lovers who dream while they sleep. Tolkien certainly belongs to the first party, but both have been responsible for evils and boons and Moorcock is an us-and-them type and an instigator and enough of him.

Because this is a book for children. Coming back to it I was hoping it wouldn’t be, but it is, and that’s actually okay, because I think I’m probably a kinder, more sensitive, and see-below more imaginative person, with a better ear for magic and eye for treasure, from having had Bilbo (and Frodo, Aragorn, Fëanor, Ælfwine, et al.—please, stand here while I list them all) be such a big part of my childhood. And in that sense Tolkien takes on the role of mighty ringgiver, and it makes revisiting these childhood pastures the best of pleasures, even if the new pleasures to be gleaned here are more on the subtle level of “oh! The Elvenking d*cks out on the dwarves because he is Thranduil from Doriath and was there when they killed Thingol over the Nauglamír, and that makes the necklace that Bilbo gives him at the end so much more resonant…” or “The Sackville Bagginses are the Sackville-Wests! TAKE THAT VITA.”

This book knows where kids are at developmentally, not only morally but in terms of their ability to imagine (I always remember Anthony Burgess saying kids aren’t actually imaginative—their stories and pictures are derivative as f*ck and they need scaffolding to get them up to the heady draughts of grown-up art); Tolkien, who besides writer and linguist and conservative and Catholic and ringgiver I think can also be said to be an archetype of a certain kind of dad, knew what kids can handle, in crypto-Piagetian terms, and gave them a world in which he greatest adventure is what lies ahead; today and tomorrow are yet to be said; the chances, the changes are all yours to make; and the mold of your life is in your hands to break. And you are NOT taking that away from my children.
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LibraryThing member mrtall
Attempting to critique The Hobbit is like reviewing Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house. The subject is so familiar, so beloved, that trying to maintain critical disinterestedness is pointless.

I will therefore refrain from insulting Grandma, and will tell you just three reasons I think you and your children should read this classic story.

First, The Hobbit is a delightful tale. Bilbo the Hobbit’s placid life is upturned in an afternoon, as he finds himself tromping down the road with a wizard and a pack of dwarves, facing adventure – and danger – he never dreamed of. It’s a beautifully-written, exciting quest story that can be enjoyed by readers young and old, and that may be even better read aloud.

Second, as you might have heard, there’s a brace of high-budget, highly-anticipated films coming out rather soon, and they’re based on this book. It’s usually a good idea to read the book before you see the film, and although I don’t think that’s crucial in this case, it’s still recommended.

Third, The Hobbit is a gateway into J R R Tolkien’s marvelous world of Middle Earth. There are few great authors so considerate as to provide a brief, easily-accessible book that also happens to be the perfect place to begin reading their works. But that is just the case here. Tolkien is famous for inventing not just great characters and stories, but whole civilizations complete with languages, histories and cultures. Reading Tolkien’s works, including The Hobbit, is like looking down into a perfectly limpid pool of water. Your first glance catches only the pretty surface, but then your gaze is pulled down into the marvelous depths . . . .

I will close by adding a recommendation to my final point. My own exploration of Tolkien's world has been significantly enriched by the work of the ‘Tolkien Professor’, Corey Olsen. Prof. Olsen has a book on The Hobbit coming out later this year, but it’s his prolific work posting lectures and podcasts that I’ve found most helpful. In particular, he’s completed a series of polished, light-hearted lectures on The Hobbit that I guarantee will increase your understanding of the book, and very likely your enjoyment of it as well. All of this material is available at Prof. Olsen’s website.
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LibraryThing member jimrgill
I have a vague memory of having read The Hobbit many years ago, when I was much younger—so vague, in fact, that I chose to reread it. I recalled the basic plot elements and the overall premise of the story. And, because I’m breathing, I know that it’s the prequel to the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. And, since it’s considered a classic, my expectations were high.

I’m wondering, however, why I feel so underwhelmed by this novel. It contains all the elements of a classic, mythic heroic quest. It’s not unnecessarily lengthy or bloated (a mere 255 pages in the edition that I read), and the episodic narrative moves along at a smart pace. Tolkien has indeed created one of the great fantasy worlds in all of literature—Middle Earth.

Perhaps it’s the skimpy character development that bugs me. Bilbo and Gandalf and Thorin are quite memorable (especially Gandalf, who figures prominently in the ensuing LOTR novels), but Tolkien provides minimal characterization. Each is rather two-dimensional, and, as a reader, I found it quite difficult to empathize with any of them. I also found Tolkien’s narrative voice to be decidedly uneven—at times the narrator sounded charming and colloquial only to veer into bombast and melodrama, and the narrative tone fluctuated from self-deprecating to self-important. And a few of the major events in the story lack detail. For example, we are told rather little about the climactic Battle of Five Armies, and, of Bilbo’s return home, the narrator simply states, “He had many hardships and adventures before he got back”—yet he describes none of them. Perhaps I’m quibbling—and I know many of the Tolkien faithful will accuse me of sacrilege—but I expect more substance and narrative depth from a classic of fantasy literature.
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LibraryThing member wirkman
Looking over the many reviews of this book on LibraryThing, I write mainly to remind people that this is a CHILDREN'S BOOK. "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was an attempt to write adult-level fantasy, so its prose is more complex, its characterizataions deeper, its attention to detail more thorough-going.

But this book was written to be told to his sons, spoken out loud, and it is very much a different kind of thing. Fantasy, still; but closer both to fairy tale and boys' adventure. One should not expect to read a novel when one opens its covers. It is not a novel, not really.

Yes, I tag it as a novel, but "novel" remains the best word we have for book-length prose fiction: "romance" would not really properly apply to this yarn, either.

Yes, "yarn" works pretty well!

Or: fantasy epic in prose. Read "The Iliad" or "Gilgamesh," and you won't get the same "novelistic" feel, either. That's because the form is quite distinct.
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LibraryThing member Cait86
I have not read The Hobbit in a few years, and my Dad and I were talking about it yesterday, so I decided to give it a quick re-read. I am a big Lord of the Rings fan, and read it frequently, but I had forgotten how different The Hobbit is from its sequel.

The Hobbit tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a perfectly normal hobbit who, like all of his kin, hates adventures. Unfortunately for Bilbo, Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, had decided that Bilbo is just the person to go on an adventure. Along with a group of thirteen dwarves led by Thonin Oakenshield, Bilbo journeys to the Lonely Mountain on a mission to kill Smaug, a dragon who has stolen the dwarves' gold. This journey is, of course, fraught with danger, and quiet little Bilbo is forced to do a lot of things he never thought possible - and returns home a very different sort of hobbit.

The Hobbit is much more juvenile than The Lord of the Rings - kind of like a younger sibling to an adult novel. The narrator changes right along with Bilbo. By the end of the book, the tone is quite serious, though the story is still told in simple terms. The beginning, however, was actually really funny - sort of sarcastic. For example:

"The Bagginses have lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is the story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbour' respect, but he gained - well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end" (10).

Not laugh-out-loud funny, but amusing just the same.

I first read The Hobbit when I was really young, about 8, so that may be why I enjoy it so much - it was one of the first quasi-adult books that I ever read. It definitely does not have the complexity of The Lord of the Rings, but it is an enjoyable tale that is well-written, and it is a great introduction to the world of Middle-Earth.
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LibraryThing member AnnieHidalgo
I find that each time I reread The Hobbit, I like it more. Tolkien's fantasy world was never easy-access, at least not to someone who was weaned on sneak peeks of her dad's TSR gaming handbooks. The Silmarillion, especially, reads more like Herodotus than Robert Jordan. Which is not at all a bad thing - but it does mean that like almost anything else worthwhile, Tolkien improves with further acquaintance, and the more informed you come to him, the more you get out of any of his novels or stories. The Hobbit has a more straightforward story than his other works, and as such, is the most likely to be labeled a children's book. And after all, he wrote it for his children, and my own daughter loved it when I read it to her at the age of 5. The Hobbit is an excellent piece of foreshadowing, but also stands very well on its own merits. And I love the part where they get to the door, and the secret word turns out to be something that Gandalf can't beat, just because as a highly educated person, he completely overlooks the obvious answer. As a tangential side note - I think it's a shame they're remaking the Hobbit movie. I loved the '70s cartoon. Apparently it was the first movie I ever saw, though I don't remember that original viewing, having been only a month old, or so. But Gollum will always look to me, in the cave, like cartoon Gollum. They did a fine job making him more accurate in the Peter Jackson movies, but I still feel that he SHOULD look like cartoon Gollum, green and slimy and froglike. Everyone who has even a passing interest in fantasy should read The Hobbit. It is a wonderful story. It makes you want to read fantasy more, and it makes you want to learn about history, mythology and languages, also. Tolkien's work, more than any other fantasy series, makes you aware that real legends aren't just thought up - they come from somewhere - and he makes you want to find out where they came from.… (more)
LibraryThing member quigui
It's been more than 10 years since I first read The Hobbit. I was young, amazed from just finishing The Lord of the Rings, and quite inexperienced when it came to reading in English. But read I did, because I needed more (MORE!!!!). And now, with the movie being shot somewhere in New Zealand (2012 why don't you come?), I decided it was time for a re-read.

So, there I was, back again in the hole where a hobbit lived, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. It was easy to immerse myself in the world of Middle Earth, my image of them now very much influenced by The Lord of the Rings movies.

But back to the story. Mr. Bilbo Baggins, a decent sort of hobbit, much fond of good food, and blowing smoke rings on his pipe, and not at all prone to adventure, finds himself in just that: an adventure. To blame is Gandalf, who brought to his step 13 dwarves: Thorin, Balin, Kili and Fili, Dori, Nori and Ori, Oin and Gloin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur (yes, I had to look them up, I could only remember 11). The dwarves are in need of a burglar for their expedition, and Gandalf thinks Bilbo is just the man for the job (although he has never done any burglary before). The Dwarves are going to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their rightful treasure from Smaug, the dragon (and get rid of him, but it's mostly the treasure part). And Bilbo finds himself agreeing to this. And off they go to have adventures, with trolls and elves and goblins and wargs and all kinds of magical creatures (and all the while Bilbo wishes he had never left his cosy hobbit hole).

The Hobbit is great fun – there is a tone to the entire things that just makes you smile and chuckle. Also, there is something in the writing that just makes you leave the pages and go to Middle Earth. I knew I loved this book, I had the first time, and I was sure I would love it now as well.

There were, of course some differences, I found it easier to read now, and was a bit shocked at the amount of death in the book – a book I regard as young adult and/or children's literature. But I think I ended up loving it more (I wasn't sure it was possible). I think I was reminded that I not only loved the story, but also the way it was told, its puns and twists of language, the songs (The songs! The part that I least liked in Lord of the Rings but that I loved in The Hobbit!), and the complaining and bickering of dwarves and hobbit.

The parts that I recalled with fondness were still there, and I found myself loving them more still. The riddles in the dark, the entrance of Beorn's House, the escape from the Elf King... I looked forward to those scenes and they didn't disappoint.

I can't wait to see the adaptation in the big screen, The Hobbit is a favourite of mine. Worth reading, even if the world of Lord of the Rings seems too daunting. And totally worth re-reading it!

Also at Spoilers and Nuts
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LibraryThing member deslni01
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again follows Bilbo Baggins as he is thrust from his lazy life across the continent to the Lonely Mountain with a band of dwarves (and for a while, an old wizard). Naturally, Bilbo is not fond of travel or adventure - very few hobbits are! - and going up against orcs, trolls and goblins - let alone a dragon! - hardly seems like something he would prefer to do. But he does it, and in his adventure he finds many things - especially a magical ring - and he helps the dwarves re-take the Lonely Mountain (and learns a little something about himself, as well).

This is a childrens, or young-adults novel written quite a long time ago. However, for many reasons it has become and remained a very popular and fond book. Tolkien's universe is spectacular, with strong ties to Norse and Germanic mythology. He creates interesting creatures, folk and customs to flesh out his world. At the same time, he sets the reader up for one of the most well-known adventures ever - the Lord of the Rings. All of this and more combine to form a wonderfully quick and light read full of adventure (and treasure!).
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LibraryThing member FolkeB
It is by no accident that J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is one of the best-selling books of all time. It is a beautifully written tale, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is even mildly interested in the fantasy genre. The world Tolkien creates within the pages of The Hobbit is wildly imaginative, yet somehow believable at the same time. By the end of the story I found myself rooting for the characters (which include creatures such as elves, dwarves, and hobbits) as if they were real, thanks to a very descriptive writing style. That being said, the vivid picture comes at a price. The one drawback of this book for me, personally, was the tendency of Tolkien to get a little bit too into his descriptions. The Hobbit is wordy, which slows the story in some places. Thankfully, these instances are relatively few and far between, and the majority of the book moves right along at a quick pace.

The story revolves around a group of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their lost homeland and the treasure that lies there. However, the treasure is guarded by a ruthless dragon and the journey is long, with no shortage of perilous adventure along the way. The dwarves are joined by a hobbit, which is basically a very small person, who they seek out to aid them on their quest. This hobbit serves as the main character in the story, and through all of his struggles and triumphs he is sure to become one of your favorite fictional characters.

As mentioned before, the lengthy journey moves along at a fairly quick pace, making The Hobbit an exciting read from cover to cover. In addition, there are bits of witty humor mixed in throughout, which help to maintain the lighthearted nature of the story and of the characters themselves. Whether you are looking for an uplifting story of courage and bravery or simply wish to get lost in a magnificent fantasy world, The Hobbit is surely a must-read.

Isaac T.
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LibraryThing member melodyaw
Summary

Bilbo Baggins is comfortable in his snug, happy hobbit-hole in the side of a hill where he has lived all his life. One morning after a hearty breakfast, the wizard Gandalf arrives, and that’s when the trouble begins. Gandalf ends up inviting a flummoxing total of twelve dwarves over for tea the next day. The dwarves are on a mission to reclaim the glory and riches once held by their forefathers, but they need a “burglar” to help, and hobbits are small, stealthy creatures.

Bilbo joins their party on a whim after being teased by the dwarves and praised by Gandalf for his yet-unknown abilities. He soon regrets his decision when the rolling fields past his home turn into a dark, foreign country, and he doubts that he has what it takes to carry out an adventure of this magnitude.

As Bilbo meets (and is captured by) trolls, goblins, wolves, spiders, and wood-elves, he begins to use his practicality to his advantage; when engaged in riddles with Gollum under the mountain, for instance, his wit saves him from a very unfortunate end. And he puts his riddling skill to use with Smaug the Dragon as well, using their conversation as a chance to scope out the dragon’s weakness.

Happy scenes are interspersed throughout the tale to keep Bilbo from despairing entirely; they rest at the Last Homely House as the guest of a friendly elf, the noble eagles of the mountain come to their rescue more than once; they find a faithful friend in Beorn, who is usually gruff and wary of visitors; and the men of Lake-town herald their arrival to oust Smaug the Dragon from the dwarves’ ancestral mountain.

But more often than not—and certainly more than he would like!—it is small, hearth-loving Bilbo who ends up saving the day, when he and his friends are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Bilbo grows from a homebody to a hero with “a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck.”

Analysis

The Hobbit is one of the best books I’ve read all year.

I know. I know! People have told me all my life that I need to read The Hobbit. But I always protested, claiming that I didn’t like fantasy because there wasn’t enough reality in it to “connect” to. Where I got this idea, I don’t know—possibly from my brothers’ fantastical explanations of Tolkien’s books, which sounded far too removed from me to be interesting.

As it turns out, The Hobbit is so widely regarded by readers of all stripes because of its humanity, its down-to-earth humor, and its realism. Who would’ve thought? (Everyone but me, I suppose.)

As Michael D.C. Drout explains in The Modern Scholar: Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature, applying Marxist theory to the story helps to understand its appeal: Bilbo represents the bourgeoisie, the trolls are members of the Cockney-accented working class, and Smaug the Dragon is the ruling class, literally rolling in riches. Tolkien himself was certainly no stranger to literature and theory, with a history of Anglo-Saxon epic poem translation under his belt. He incorporates themes common to Middle Age conquests while also sprinkling the book with a healthy dose of modern-day humor.

Bilbo is an unexpected hero, the everyman who saves the day more than once. Though often he seems primarily occupied with eating breakfast, maintaining a tidy appearance, and yearning for his soft bed far from these dangerous adventures, he keeps a cool head when he and the dwarves seemed faced with certain doom. In fact, Bilbo’s practical considerations are often what save them; while the dwarves stubbornly refuse to tell the Elf-King the purpose of their quest, which leads to their imprisonment, Bilbo cleverly rescues them, though his unorthodox methods produce more than a few grumbles among the dwarves.

Bilbo is an incredibly likeable character with whom I can closely identify; who doesn’t love a second breakfast? On a deeper level, Bilbo’s moral ambiguity makes him a realistic hero; when he is bargaining with the men and the elves that are preparing to battle against the dwarves, who have become offensively greedy, he begins by complaining that the entire matter has made him uncomfortable and cranky, and he offers goods stolen from the dwarves to appease the other side.

The Hobbit originated as a story Tolkien told his children, and the excellent narrative style and the thrilling twists and turns took me back to the days when my parents would read me bedtime stories. I felt like running from the hulking, humped figures of the goblins, and I shivered at the enormous hairy spiders of Milkwood Forest.

Because of its intensely imaginative plot and Tolkien’s masterful literary execution, The Hobbit is one of those few books that are equally attractive to kids and adults alike. But you probably already knew that!
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LibraryThing member villytrebuchet
Although I may be biased, this being the book that, as a child, first initiated my love of reading, I have to say that this is the best book I have ever read. It reads so light-heartedly, that it is ageless. It's inspired - a brightly imaginative piece of work, with a quick pace and magical settings. Yet, it still has underlying complexity, with careful attention to detail, such as the rune alphabet and maps. Truly an excellent work.… (more)
LibraryThing member extrajoker
first line: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

From the first sentence, I'm interested.

second line: "Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

And from the second sentence, I'm transported.

This is one of my favorite books. Bilbo Baggins is a sort of hapless Everyman...but that he's not a man, of course. He's a little figure with a big part to play in an even bigger story that he doesn't know or understand; all the same, he wants to enjoy his life, take care of his own, and try to do the right thing.

I really like The Lord of the Rings, but The Hobbit has always held more magic for me. What can I say: I'm a sap!
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LibraryThing member Jannes
I wont even try to strive for any kind of objectivity here. This book is probably the one single book that had the biggest impact on me as a child, and the ripples of that impact are still felt in my life today. In short: I am what I am today in large part due to the fact that my father read me the Hobbit when I was six. Without it I wouldn't have become a fantasy geek, and later a book and literature geek. I wouldn't have made the choices I made, and I would probably not have ended up in the profession I have today.

This is an astoundingly good book. One of my favourites and one of the best boks around, for children or adult. It's funny, scary, exciting, beutiful, lyrical... it's microcosm of almost everything you could ever wish for in a book.

You can probably nit-pick certain aspects of it, but I wont. It's amazing, and the lucky few that haven't read it already should do so immediatly - you're in for a treat. The rest of us should re-read it: it's just as good the second, third, ord nth time.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
My first experience with this short prologue to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings epic was having it read aloud to me by my father, chapter by chapter, at bedtime every night. We always remember fondly the books we loved as children, but unlike many of them, The Hobbit withstands the test of growing up. Neither as long or as politically complex as LotR, The Hobbit is still a gripping adventure story filled with trolls, orcs, elves, giant spiders, battles and near escapes. Illustrated by Tolkien himself with detailed maps, it is a wonderful introduction to the world of Middle-Earth, to the fascinating characters of Bilbo, Gandalf and Gollum, and to the timeless realm of fantasy and adventure that we all need to continue to visit, even when we are no longer children.… (more)
LibraryThing member Leonor.Ner
OH MY GOD!!!
What I’ve been missing all this time. I cannot believe I’ve never read Tolkien before in my life being a good fan of “The Lord of the Rings” movies.

“The Hobbit” came as a surprisingly good reading for me. It has such a nice story, filled with fantasy and magic, is so easy to fall in love with the main plot and get lost within Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Bilbo Baggins was, undoubtedly, the best character in the whole book (for me, at least) and his development and characterization nothing to do with I’ve seen in the movies by Peter Jackson. My idea of Bilbo after reading this book altered considerably. He changes greatly throughout the book, transforming into this adventurous, tell-story and heroic hobbit you just want to sit down and spend the rest of your life hearing him tell his journeys. Absolutely amazing I dare say.

I wasn’t expecting the death of a certain character. I was shocked when I read that dwarf died (I don’t wish to spoil… much). I believe that knowing the actors for the movie made me hopeful about this particular character; and the fact that I actually liked him. He was a brave and honourable dwarf, I have to acknowledge it.

I have to be honest and admit that I was surprised with how Bilbo truly found the ring. I’ve been sort of spoiled by “The Lord of the Rings”, the movie giving us an idea slightly different from the true story. The riddles and the desperation of Gollum in that particular chapter made me realise how clever Tolkien was and how thoughtless a person like me can be. The enigmas were so interesting I wouldn’t read the answer until I’d try.

I thought this book was going to be extremely hard and difficult to read. However, I found it easy and a pure delight. Reading it in the original was a good idea since it can prepare to the upcoming event I’ve been waiting my entire life (okay, since 2001); read “The Lord of the Rings”. People tell me how the trilogy is hard, tricky and complicated to read and I thought “The Hobbit” was also going to be one of those books I would understand only 50%, leaving the rest to my imagination. And, after knowing that the book was written for Tolkien’s children, I was amazed and enchanted. I felt like a child reading a bed-time story.

I can say this book is a pure and a true master-piece and, if you haven’t read it yet, you ought to do so and soon, whether you’re an adult, adolescence or a child; this is a MUST READ BOOK!!! It’s timeless and precious.
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Rating

(19488 ratings; 4.3)
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