Review: The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read The Hobbit, or There and Back Again years ago after I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time. I liked it, but I didn’t feel compelled to read it again. I reread it in June. I still don’t like it nearly as much as The Lord of the Rings, but it was worth the reread.

The Hobbit was first published in 1937. Tolkien didn’t originally plan to write a sequel and wasn’t sure whether it would fit into the stories of Middle-earth that he had been working on for decades (then the early versions that were later published as The Book of Lost Tales). I have the revised edition from 1966, in which chapter five, Riddles in the Dark, was changed to make it more consistent with The Lord of the Rings

The wizard Gandalf persuades Bilbo Baggins to join the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield and his companions, who are setting out to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug.

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

I like the dwarven songs, but the goblin songs (which come later) are kind of ridiculous; the larger problem, I guess, is that the goblins (and the trolls) are just a little too silly as antagonists. The songs of the elves are far more frivolous than either the elven songs in LotR or the dwarven songs here. It seemed weird at first, but I suppose elves can’t be serious all the time. The riddle game in chapter five is great, but apart from that, things get much more interesting in the second half (or so) the part where Bilbo and the dwarves stay with Beorn, a skin-changer who changes into a bear. From there it gets more intense as it goes on. It is not as descriptive as LotR, and the descriptions in LotR are one of my favorite things so it’s not surprising that I don’t like The Hobbit quite as much.  

After reading this I listened to the 1979 radio adaptation by The Mind’s Eye. I definitely recommend it! I thought the voice acting & songs were great.

There’s a bit of weirdness where the Elvenking of Mirkwood is implied to be the same person who was involved in the original ancient quarrel between the Elves and Dwarves:  
In ancient days they had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of stealing their treasure. It is only fair to say that the dwarves gave a different account, and said that they only took what was their due, for the elf-king had bargained with them to shape his raw gold and silver, and had afterwards refused to give them their pay.

In The Silmarillion as it was eventually published this is definitely before the Elvenking’s time, and a different character.
There is a quote from Tolkien’s letters (which I haven’t read; I am taking this from The History of Middle-earth vol 3) that says this about his discussions with his publisher after The Hobbit was published:
I then (after the publication of The Hobbit) offered them the legends of the Elder Days, but their readers turned that down. They wanted a sequel — but I wanted heroic legends and high romance. The result was The Lord of the Rings.  

Favorite quotes:

“Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

“As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

“Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known”

Published by Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts

This blog is for my thoughts on reading. A couple of my friends on GoodReads have blogs, so eventually I decided to start one myself. I hope to get involved in the book blogging community and become a better reader and writer! I am not accepting copies of new books for review, but I would be interested in new editions or new translations of classic authors. Find me on Upwork (as an editor) in the profile link. From September 2018 to October 2020 I blogged at Blogger.

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