Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
february 15, 2012, kindle edition (original sept. 21, 1937)
Blurb via Goodreads:
Bilbo Baggins is a reasonably typical hobbit: fond of sleeping, eating, drinking, parties and presents. However, it is his destiny to travel to the dwarflands in the east, to help slay the dragon Smaug. His quest takes him through enchanted forests, spiders’ lairs, and under the Misty Mountains, where he comes across the vile Gollum, and tricks him out of his ‘Precious’ – a ring that makes its bearer invisible, and wields a terrible power of its own.
I did it, precioussss! I actually read all FIVE books I’d planned to for my own Year of the Fantasy Classic Reading Challenge! (link will take you to more links, too, of other participants) Somebody hold me back, because as we all know, after five books read for a book challenge in a whole year, I am on fire. Nothing can hold me back now. Clearly I should start a reading challenge in 2013 and go for a whole whopping seven as my goal.
So, this classic book by Tolkien, it’s pretty all right, you know? Its what’s inspired hundreds if not thousands if not more fantasy out there and some even lament it for all the elvish and wizard and “normal” high fantasy it’s spawned in its long-winded wake. Yes, I said it – it’s long-winded. But it’s still good. The meat of the book is what counts and it is tasty.
You’re likely already plenty familiar with the story, for we live in the Era of Tolkien still, what with the incredible success of its pseudo-sequels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy that was made into movies several years ago now (and which we watch probably at least a few times every month). I read The Hobbit as a kid once and enjoyed it, and much of my reading challenge this year was taken up with revisiting childhood favorites in part to see if I’d still enjoy them. I still enjoyed this one a lot, though the book does go on and on into repetitive infinity at times.
So we’re all familiar enough with the plot, right? Anyone seen the movie yet? I haven’t. But anyway, an unassuming, content-to-live-quietly hobbit (small folk about the size of a three-year-old toddler, but completely grown and full of love for the finer things in a simple life) by the name of Bilbo Baggins is minding his own business when one day his serene hole of a home is crashed by Gandalf the Grey, a wandering wizard of some fame. Hobbits like to keep to themselves – no adventures, please! But before he knows quite what’s happened, Snow White’s seven crankier dwarves plus six extra alight on his doorstep and Bilbo’s life is literally never the same again. He goes on quite the perilous adventure as the company’s burglar, though he’s never burgled anything in his life. Gandalf has a strong belief in him, though, and soon enough Bilbo has to begin burgling him and his companions out of almost every situation they find themselves in. Through the dank dangers of Mirkwood Forest, across goblin-infested mountains and to the foothills of a dragon mountain stronghold, these are the misadventures of one crazy little band of relentless tiny people.
First of all, these dwarves are rude, presumptuous, greedy and just about helpless. It’s like having thirteen miniature grandpas who’ve got no grandchildren to dote on and their wives have all hied off to the beach to escape their belly aching. If it wasn’t for Bilbo’s accidental saving of them a time or two, not to mention Gandalf’s near duex ex machina persona taking care of almost everything else, the dwarves would never have reached the Misty Mountain to reclaim their long-lost and dragon-stolen family fortune. If this wasn’t the most ill-planned adventure and treasure retrieval expedition, I don’t know of one worse. Even Gandalf, who seems much more with it in the Lord of the Rings books, makes some dumb moves a time or two.
But there’s something about the strange, grumpy little company that makes you want to see them through, to see them persevere and win in the end. But it’s a constant struggle, friends are few and far between and after a while the dangers get to be a little exhausting. Still, Bilbo saves the book, and his discovery of a certain secret Ring of Power makes the story a little more interesting at least. Tolkien is a little too long-winded in describing some scenes, and delves into repetitiveness as a result many a time (a trait that is only amplified later in the trilogy books). But again, I enjoyed this book a lot and it kind of tickled me to come upon scenes like the trolls they run into not long after leaving Bilbo’s home in the Shire. Or when the goblins open up their cave and they seem to get sucked inot the mountain. Or when Gollum and Bilbo duel with words to the death – or escape – deep in the goblin-infested mountains, where not even the nasty goblins will go for fear of a creature they can’t see. This is definitely a classic fantasy tale that stands the test of time, and I was glad to see that it still entertains after not having read it since I was a wee reader.
You do wonder how those dang dwarves ever made it anywhere alive, though.