Some Love for the Hobbit

Well if you’ve been around here a while, you will probably know that the Hobbit is one of my favourite books (if not- welcome! I’m the Orangutan Librarian and I’m a fan of the Hobbit). Hold tight everyone, because I’m about to do some serious *gushing* over this book… But first, I have a little bit more background to share before I get into the nitty gritty of why this book is so awesome.

The-Hobbit

You see, I used to reread this book every spring, but spent a good few years apart from this here unassuming copy and was only reacquainted with it recently… so naturally I cracked it open the first chance I got. And man, it was just as good as I remembered.

Straight off the bat, I could see why it didn’t make a good film. It’s not just that it’s masterfully told (and hence the old adage “good books make bad movies”) but it’s also tonally lighter and funnier than most fantasies– including its successor Lord of the Rings. At times, it even seems to be sending itself up in a way I could only describe as being Pratchetesque (you can see the lineage right here, at the source of all modern fantasy). It’s composed in a way that’s meant to be read aloud and all the deep, dark themes are done in a light-hearted way. It is the Epicurean sweet pill that is easier to swallow than the bitter one of its interpretation.

The heart of this story is an adventure. Being part of Tolkein’s universe, it is stuffed with fantastical creatures and tropes– but every single one of them is authentic and done so well. Yes, there’s a reluctant hero, some world building woven into the plot, elves, orcs and a mothereffing dragon- yet unlike so many of the copycats that came after, there’s no chance you’ll be rolling your eyes at it.

For, while the spine of this story may be the “hero goes to face the dragon and is rewarded” narrative, it’s no simple feat to achieve this because of how complex the characters are. Even if one allows for Prof J B Peterson’s explanation that one has to grow teeth in order to defeat the monster, hence Bilbo becoming a thief, the ending of the story, where chaos breaks in despite the hero’s best efforts, left me with many unanswered questions. Who was right? Were any of them heroes in the end? One thing is for certain, even as we stumble around in this morally grey area, this book teaches that there is more than one way to be a hero and sometimes the right choices are not always clear.

There are so many other lessons wrapped up in this tale. Part of the story’s complexity comes from it being rooted in the mythological and fairy tale structure. In fact, reading it through again, I was struck by how often the individual adventures contain a multiplicity of messages. For instance, when the party fails to see the end of the forest, despite being so near the edge, one is delivered a message to keep faith– even when there is no sign of hope- for when they leave the path they therefore undergo unnecessary suffering. Consequently, needless suffering is the question being asked of the individual’s inner strength, while the eagles, as a symbol of divine intervention, is often the answer.

Still one message in particular comes up again and again: go out into the world and find yourself. This is a book about growing up, learning, becoming someone new. True enough, it is a tradition in many classic fairy tales or in folklore for there to be an element of going into nature to explore the psyche and Bilbo does this more than once- leaving his hobbit hole, entering Mirkwood and even riddling with Gollum.

This literal quest for answers taught me another fundamental truth. It struck me this time round how quickly Bilbo answered the riddle about darkness and how telling that was. It tells us that even a creature of light and comfort, like a hobbit, can know hardship. Outside our peripheral vision, beyond the safe havens we construct for ourselves, there’s always a bit of danger. Difficulties will come knocking whether you want them to or not– so it is far better to leave the comfort of your hobbit hole and confront them sooner rather than later.

So yes, there are endless and vital lessons to be learnt here. But the real moral of the story is that some books are just meant to be read over and over again.

(Incidentally this wasn’t the first copy I ever picked up- that one was a relic of an aunt and had the last two pages missing… needless to say part of my reading experience was a very frantic trip to the bookshop!)

As you might have guessed, my rating is easily…

5/5 bananas

 hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

So I’m not even gonna ask if you like or loathe this book- cos what I really want to know today is what book from your childhood has left a profound impression? Let me know in the comments!

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103 thoughts on “Some Love for the Hobbit

  1. A Pretty Lil Book Blog says:

    Definitely Harry Potter for me, it opened a whole new world, and I’ve had so many amazing experiences visiting places relating to the series ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nel says:

    You know… I tried so hard to read this book. I really did. Maybe because I was a teenager trying to read it so I should probably give it another go especially since I love anything fantastical. Don’t hate me for this either but I actually enjoyed the Hobbit movies. My husband did too and he never gets into that kind of stuff. My favorite classic is The Three Musketeers. I could seriously read that book over and over and over again. P.S. that is a mighty fine book cover! America doesn’t get the cool covers!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Briana says:

    Honestly, I think it could have been a good film, but it was never going to be a good three films. 😉 Though, yes, it’s lighter than LotR and the movie-makers seems ambivalent about that. I actually thought they struck a decent balance between humorous and epic in movie one, and then they just went nuts with the whole thing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Krysta says:

      I agree it could have been made into a film. However, Jackson didn’t seem to have as good a grasp on the material as the Orangutan Librarian clearly does. 😉 He tried to make it dark and epic like LotR when it’s not, he tried to make it have a clear heroic battle at the end when indeed the point of the book is that war is a waste, and he stuffed in too much extraneous material. Two films split when Bilbo defeats the spiders in the forest would have been perfect.

      I think it could have been a good film because the parts closest to the book were the best part. Riddles in the Dark was a masterful scene. But Jackson seems to think he’s a better writer than Tolkien and the ridiculousness he added ruined the story. That chase/battle scene in the goblin caves? Don’t even get me started.

      Liked by 3 people

      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        hehe yes I’m sorry it came across that I was arguing that it should never have been a film. That wasn’t really my intention. haha but thank you. Yes so true!! I think there’s so much more nuance in the book that’s just lost among all the other stuff they added in- it’s almost like they forgot the original story :/
        I do think there was some really lovely imagery in parts. So so true. The killer thing for me was making Thorin’s transformation as a character *magic* and when he had to get rid of it… also *magic*. He took Tolkein’s metaphor and just ran with it. It was so annoying.
        Hehe and I hope you both don’t mind me ranting about this- the way I feel about the Hobbit movies is the way a lot of Star Wars fans feel about the prequels (pretty much: “no- whyyyyy!!!”)

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Oh, don’t worry. All my annoyance is directed at Peter Jackson’s creation. 😉 I will concede that the first film is not truly terrible (I think because it is closest to the spirit of the book) and I do think the actors are wonderful. But in general I like to forget the films exist.

          Yes, Thorin’s magical transformation bothered me as well. It suggested that Thorin’s choices were not his own and essentially removed the entire message about greed and where it leads. So there wasn’t much point to the films once the message was removed.

          Rant away. I can’t stand the films but usually have to stay silent because I have friends who somehow love them. 😉

          Liked by 3 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      True, I was excited when it first got announced- and then I went from a little nervous when they said 2 movies to utterly perplexed when they announced 3. I was more trying to point out how it would be harder to make this a good movie or faithful to the book. Plus while there were good parts to the first one (and I’ll admit I enjoyed the first one more than the others- I definitely felt it went downhill) it went from funny to goofy a lot of the time. I don’t think they got what is essentially very dry British humour right at all. I think movie 1 was fun… but it’s more made up of some Hobbit elements instead of actually being the Hobbit. Annnd by the time it gets to film 3… yeesh.

      Like

  4. Joelendil says:

    Great review! I love The Hobbit (and LOTR)! It’s one of the first “chapter books” I remember reading, and together with LOTR, it was largely responsible for forming my conception of what makes someone truly heroic: doing what you believe to be right even if you don’t see any hope of it ending well.

    As an adult, after accumulating some life experience I have also come to love The Silmarillion with it’s themes of how beauty, glory, and love can flourish in spite of (and sometimes because of) tragedy, struggle, and loss.

    Liked by 4 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you!! Ahh it’s amazing!! Yes- that’s one of the many, many reasons I love LOTR and the Hobbit 😀

      Yes- I’ve only recently been able to read that the whole way through, but there is so much in there to unpack- I look forward to rereading it in the future!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. R.K. Lander says:

    Tolkien, ah.such an inspiration to me, one that led to me writing my own book. Not for everyone, admittedly, but some, or few of us, read under the lines, into them, understand the emotions behind them.
    I am one of those readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. alexankarr1 says:

    I’m fond of the Hobbit in a way I can’t manage with the rest of the saga, and I think it’s the sense of humour that does it. But I prefer the Narnian chronicles myself, maybe because of their piecemeal patchwork nature, how Lewis bodges them together and creates sense and feeling and poetry out of it.

    Like

  7. bruceonthefringe says:

    As a young moose I went to Sunday School at our local Methodist church. Each October as we moved up between classes we received a prize, the only one I can actually recall is The Silver Chair in the Narnia series by C.S.Lewis, inside the front cover was a beautifully inscribed label that I was part of the Sunday School. I still have it and a few of the others in the series, and have found it good to throw off grown-up cynicism and re-read it from time to time. No film of it yet, but I did thoroughly enjoy the Film of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Will Poulter was perfect as obnoxious cousin Eustace. I’m afraid the hobbit films really didn’t impress me half as much, but the book itself is definitely a must-be-read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      That’s so lovely!! I only started reading Narnia as an adult (and haven’t finished the series yet) but it’s incredible!! I have mixed feelings about the films, but they are fun (I still think I prefer the old cartoon version of Lion the witch and the wardrobe though). Yeah I felt the same way about the hobbit films :/

      Like

  8. wingedcynic says:

    Wow that is SO WEIRD. I just re-read The Hobbit yesterday for the first time in a decade, and I’m mentioning it in my next next review! Seriously, the coincidence…

    But yes, it’s a fantastic adventure book, one of my favorites. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. daleydowning says:

    I struggled with Tolkien’s writing style on the whole, but I definitely saw a difference between The Hobbit and LOTR. And I definitely understood that while the themes presented in The Hobbit were very serious, the approach made it less dense and at times dark than LOTR indeed. Also, it’s clear that while Bilbo’s tale is aimed at a younger audience, it does not talk down to that target audience. Bilbo may be a small person who likes a quiet life, but he is certainly not naive — “Riddles in the Dark” shows that for sure. As well as how Bilbo behaves with Smaug.

    There were parts of the movies that I really didn’t like. I thought most of the first one was fun and struck the right balance between serious and lighthearted (especially the opening scene when all the dwarves first arrive at Bagend). But by the time they established the forbidden dwarf-elf love (just to give Legolas a reason to hate his dad, apparently?!), they were rapidly losing me.

    “The Last Unicorn” was probably the most influential story of my childhood.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yes for sure. It’s definitely better for younger people. And I always think it’s better not to talk down to younger people in books.

      Yeah I definitely preferred the first one. But what on earth was up with the dwarf-elf love thing- it was so lame and unnecessary!! Seriously every time I think of those movies or discuss them something else that was terrible about them comes up!!

      And that’s cool- I’ve never actually heard of that before- I will check it out 😀

      Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yes!!! Thank you so much!! hehe I love how much love the cover is getting- cos it’s just the general paperback- but I have all my Tolkien books in that version, just cos that was the one on sale at the time. And even though it’s a lot less glamorous than some of the editions out there, I really love it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Never Not Reading says:

    I think the Hobbit didn’t translate to film for 3 reasons.
    1. It didn’t need three films. It isn’t that long.
    2. The tone is so lighthearted, even silly! But Peter Jackson & co. went even darker than LOTR. A lighter tone film (I’m thinking more Hitchhiker’s Guide…) would have totally worked.
    3. It’s a kids’ book. It wasn’t a kids’ movie.
    Which was all a huge bummer for me because the Hobbit is one of my first real literature loves, and I also loved the LOTR films. I was so disappointed with the direction they went. I’m hopeful that maybe one day in my lifetime someone will do a movie version that is more aligned with the spirit and tone of the book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Never Not Reading says:

      Great post, btw! I loved loved LOVED the bit about the Eagles being like divine intervention. Like, I guess I knew that, but I never thought about it in that way before. It’s easy to forget that even as early as the Hobbit Tolkien was writing Christian themes and was inspired by his religion.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Joelendil says:

        Yes! I love how Tolkien’s Christian worldview is woven fairly subtly/naturally into the story (unlike C. S. Lewis whom I also greatly enjoy but who beats you over the head with it). Tolkien takes the grim Norse warrior code and infuses it with Christian divine providence (and throws in a “greater good” theodicy in The Silmarillion). I first made the connection of eagles as divine intervention after reading The Silmarillion where Tolkien very directly ties the eagles to Manwë (Iluvatar/God’s main regent on earth).

        Liked by 2 people

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Ah yes I agree!! Although I do like Lewis too- for different reasons. I can’t for the life of me remember where I heard it first otherwise I’d have credited it- but I think strangely enough, it was down to someone commenting on the “How it should have ended” youtube video about how Lord of the Rings should have ended with the eagles just taking them the whole way to Mordor… (yes I know, random).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Joelendil says:

            Yeah, I saw the HISHE video and laughed too. I think the fact that eagle/divine intervention only ever comes at the last minute fits with Tolkien’s “do the right thing even if it looks hopeless” worldview… God/Iluvatar will make sure evil is defeated in the end, but normally uses the actions of faithful people to bring it about

            Liked by 1 person

            • theorangutanlibrarian says:

              haha I know it was so funny! Yes, definitely- and there wouldn’t be much of a story if the eagles always got involved. Plus the Hobbit does give reasons why they can’t just always jump out of their nests to save the day

              Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yes!!! You are so right!!! I have no idea why they split it into three films- they spent so long trying to make it justifiable that it was three films that they totally ruined it. And yes, they made it unnecessarily dark (at the same time as missing out a lot of the messages, for fear of being too dark I presume). And yeah, it really wasn’t for children- which was a shame :/
      Me too!!! I *love* the LOTR movies, so when I heard Jackson was doing the Hobbit with such an amazing cast I couldn’t have been more excited, such a shame it didn’t work out… *sigh*. Yes, totally agree!!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Vijayalakshmi Harish says:

    Your love certainly shines through! I have to confess though, I’ve never read The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. You do make me want to. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    What a great review of a classic! Bilbo is a rather morally ambiguous character while still being a totally good one at the same time. I loved that you put the moral of the story at the end (as you talked about in your discussion about retellings!)

    A book that affected me growing up was Enchanter by Robin Wayne Bailey. My parents had bought it as long time fantasy fans. It was the first adult book I ever read outside school and I loved it! When I gave my book report the class cheered because I finally finished and sat down, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hayley at RatherTooFondofBooks says:

    Great post! I didn’t read The Hobbit until I was 16 when someone bought me it for my birthday but I adored it. When I finished reading it I immediately read it a second time, and then went out and bought The Lord of the Rings! I think the book that had the biggest impact on me in childhood was The Diary of Anne Frank, which I read during the summer when I was 8. The book I loved most was The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, I still think of it fondly. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you!! Ah it’s amazing- and I definitely think anyone can enjoy it at any age 😀 Ah that’s brilliant. Wow, that’s young to read that- very impressive- but yes, of course it would have a massive impact!! And I really enjoyed Enid Blyton as a child- though I haven’t read that series yet- maybe someday!

      Like

  14. Mystery Date with a Book says:

    Oh I love this book so much! And this is such an indepth review that I’m almost ashamed of my amateur-looking ones. But in answer to your question, a book from my childhood that left an impression on me was probably The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker (back when I was a fan of his). The world building in those books was epic!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. LizScanlon says:

    That does it… I’m going to order a super awesome looking copy and I’m going to read this! 😀
    I had this ancient copy back at home and I remember opening the first page to read it… but I think I was about 13 and not fully able to grasp the awesomeness! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nicola @ Thoughts on Fantasy says:

    What a great review! Always nice to see one for a favourite like this. You’ve reminded me that I really need to read The Hobbit again, it’s been far too long, and as you said, it’s the kind of book that should be enjoyed multiple times.

    I know this is cliché, but the series from my childhood that made the strongest impression on me was probably Harry Potter. I became obsessed and reread them over and over! It’s been years since I’ve read them though and I feel like it might be time for a reread soon, particularly after watching those ‘lost in adaptation’ videos you mentioned. I realise the movie versions of scenes have started to replace some of the book versions in my memory, and that’s not good!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much!! Yes it really is 😀

      Ahh that’s not cliche- I must have read that series a gazillion times! I haven’t reread them in forever though, so definitely time for a reread (probably 😉 ) It’s a hugely influential series. Ohh yes, I definitely want to reread it. (hehe and glad you checked that out 😉 ) Yeah I think the same thing has happened to me, even though I think the most I’ve ever watched the films through is twice (as opposed to the gazillion book rereads)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nicola @ Thoughts on Fantasy says:

        Yes thanks for sharing the link, I had fun watching those videos, even if I’m not quite as pedantic as he is about adaptation! (Btw you’ve also sent me down a YouTube spiral of Ylvis videos 😀 ). And yeah, I think I’ve also only watched the films through about twice and they still manage to override parts of the books, which I’ve read umpteen times!! Weird. Oh well, I hope another reread will change that.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Anna @MyBookishDream says:

    I adore The Hobbit as well! It’s such a wonderful story, it’s one of my favourites as well. 🙂
    A book from my childhood that left a big impression? That definitely has to be The Chronicles of Narnia. They are the books that actually got me into reading and the first ones that I remember reading on my own.
    Great post! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

    Absolutely beautiful review!!! I’d definitely put this at the top of the top of Orangutan reviews. This review alone puts me to shame for not having read this yet. Thank you so much for sharing your love for this!! I’m going to have to fix my… Tolkien virginity ASAP. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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