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.

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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

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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!

My Top Ten Fantasy Books

I’m very excited about today’s post! A couple of days ago, I mentioned how Red Sister had the power of reminding me about why I had fallen in love with fantasy. And as I was doing the post, I realised I have never done a post about my favourite fantasy books.

Ever since being obsessed with Peter Pan as a child, I have always loved escaping to other worlds in books. And since these are *my* personal favourites, this post is about to get super nostalgic up in here 😉

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1. The Hobbit– although I will give an honorary mention to LOTR, this one was always my favourite of Tolkein’s work. More than that, it was my gateway drug for fantasy and the main reason why I love dragons #TeamSmaug

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2. His Dark Materials– this is another one I remember from childhood and it’s stayed with me over the years as one of the best series I have ever read.

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3. The Abhorsen Trilogy– ahh I cannot say how much I loved this book- I was obsessed with it in my teens and used to take it out the library over and over to reread it back to back. To my mind it’s the *perfect* dark fantasy and the best story about necromancy I have ever read.

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4. Black Magicians Trilogy– so this is a funny one to include, because I didn’t initially like this series. I felt letdown by the first book and only continued because the last part picked up enough to have me intrigued about where it was going. I was so glad I con tinued though, because by the end of this series I had fallen in love with the characters and became so invested in the series that I was *wrecked* when it was all over. So yeah, definitely top ten material.

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5. Seven Realms Series– I can’t actually think of another series with characters I’ve loved more. This series is nothing totally original, but man, does it get you with the *feels*.

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6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy– this is one of the very rare series I’ve rated 5* across the board- and for good reason! Call me a sucker for a good romance, this series had love interests I was actually routing for the whole way through. Add an incredibly clever storyline and utterly unique world-building and, *bobs your uncle*, you get one of the best series I’ve ever read.

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7. Carry On– I absolutely adored this book. I wrote a post titled “ten reasons to read Carry On”- but to be honest, I could probably think of ten more! Not least because it is such a fun book that for a change doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love how it subtly pokes fun at the genre, whilst also delivering some the most emotional and interesting storylines to date! And speaking of funny books…

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8. Anansi Boys– oh man do I love this book!! Yeah, I’m a Gaiman fan- and proud of it! This one is easily my favourite (though I won’t say no to anything he’s written to be honest)

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9. Discworld Series– come on- did anyone not see this coming? And for the record, my favourite to date is Mort.

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10. Neverending Story– this is the most recently read book on this list, but it *easily* made it onto this favourites list. One of the best books I read last year, it is self-aware, smart and very imaginative. Plus, it’s a book about books- and you know how much I adore those!

So I like to think there will be others to add to my list of fantasy favourites one day- and I can already think of some candidates from series I’ve not finished yet… but for now…

that's all folks

(actually can’t believe that I’ve never used that joke before)

How about you? What are your favourite fantasy books? Let me know in the comments!

Quote Challenge- Day 2: The Funny Ones

Hello again! Welcome to day two of my quote challenge! Today I’ve decided to do some of my favourite funny quotes- enjoy!

The rules are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post a Quote for 3 consecutive days
  3. Nominate 3 bloggers each day

Thanks again to:

Louise Loves Books

Percy Reads

Book Adventures

Cinderzena

emdoesbookreviews

They’re all great- so you should check them out if you haven’t already!

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I tag:

Life and Other Disasters

Accidental hipster mum

Keira

Hope you enjoyed that- I’ll be back tomorrow with more!