So, I did a review of “The Children of Hurin” a few weeks ago and in that book I made the comment that I did not believe the book could be accurately described as having been authored by J.R.R. Tolkien because it was so monumentally boring and dreary. I pointed out that even The Silmarillion, which is notoriously dull and boring, had a lot of fun and clever parts to it, and felt like a work of Tolkien.
Sunday I just happened to pick up “The Hobbit” while looking for something else, and decided to put it on my desk for a “light read” just to prime myself for my annual reread of “The Lord of The Rings.” I hadn’t read “The Hobbit” in a long time. It’s always been a book that I remember very fondly, but it always takes a back seat to LOTR because reading LOTR is an endeavor in itself.
But I thought I’d read it again anyway as a light appetizer for the main course. So yesterday I read the first half of it (up to the part where Gandalf leaves Bilbo and the dwarves at the entrance to Mirkwood). (Hmm… is it grammatically correct to use “dwarves” here since that is how Tolkien refers to them in the book, or should I use the more literally correct “dwarfs” since I’m referring to them myself instead of quoting them? Somehow “dwarves” seems right in this context.) Last night I went through the forest road, the battle with spiders, the Elf-King’s cave-palace, the barrels to Esgaroth, etc…
“The Hobbit” remains one of the most enchanting and pleasurable reads I have ever encountered. It just puts you in a good mood. The pacing of the book is near-perfect. The story is as fanciful as any fairy tale. The characters are compelling and the dialog is downright charming. It is just plain fun. I feel badly for having neglected this book for so long. Had Tolkien never written LOTR and ended his literary career with “The Hobbit” he still would have to be given considerable credit for creating one of the most enjoyable stories ever told.
In re-reading The Hobbit, I again feel like LOTR is really a separate universe from The Hobbit, despite the fact that The Hobbit is supposed to be a prequel to LOTR. It is hard to understand how Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves could encounter Storm Giants playing with boulders in the mountains, and have them described as real, not metaphorical, beings. Gandalf at one point even suggest that he will have to find a “more or less decent” giant to block up the goblin tunnel, so the giants are completely real in The Hobbit. As are dragons. Dragons are described as “common” upon the “Withered Heath” to the North and East of the Lonely Mountain.
I suppose Tolkien felt that storm giants and dragons were far too powerful to be part of LOTR, and so were left out, but it still seems strange for such a major discrepancy to exist between the two stories. Especially since he does such a good job describing them, particularly in the case of Smaug. The exchange between Bilbo and Smaug in the treasure room where Bilbo is nearly overwhelmed by the sheer magical aura that Smaug exudes is simply one of the best fantasy scenes in the history of literature. Smaug not only has a personality, but that personality is presented in such a way that you can imagine how such an evil, destructive beast could credibly exchange dialog and sway the opinion of a tiny Hobbit. Smaug simply oozes a sort of dark, slimy charm, but charm nonetheless.
If you have never read “The Hobbit” I highly recommend that you do so now. If you have read it, but have not read it in years, I recommend you reread it. The best word to describe the book that I can think of is “enchanting.” It truly casts a spell on the reader.