J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

I was looking forward to rereading The Hobbit after many years. I first read it when I finished Lord of the Rings,

Cover to the 1937 first edition, from a drawin...

Cover to the 1937 first edition, from a drawing by Tolkien

which sound odd but I did not have a version of the book before that and I had just seen the film adaptation of Return of the King. As a result of these films I was quite curious about this world and dearly wanted to find out more. I had to wait until my English was up to par in order to read Lord of the Rings, but it was worth it as I adored it from the start. Luckily around the same time I found a secondhand edition of The Hobbit at a book market which gave me the opportunity to read it directly after finishing Lord of the Rings.

I cannot remember clearly what I thought of The Hobbit while reading it for the first time, but I do remember being impressed by the detailed world Tolkien created for these books. I did enjoy reading The Hobbit especially after finishing the trilogy first, since it is much easier to read, it being a children’s book, and because it filled the gaps and questions I was left with after reading Lord of the RIngs.

Besides reading The Hobbit as part of my classic club reads, I wanted to revisit it because of the film trilogy appearing in cinemas over the course of three years. Having enjoyed the Lord of the Rings films immensely and the first part of the Hobbit as well, I was really eager to revisit the world of Tolkien.  Also because one of my ‘hobbies’ is screaming at a film adaptation’s inaccuracies and my younger brother expects me to be a walking encyclopaedia whenever anything remotely Tolkienish or literary is involved. ( To quote him “But you know everything”, which leads to one of my long lectures on how you can’t know everything)

Although it took my quite a long time to finish the book (due to my annoying and unabated habit of reading ten different things at once) I still had a blast reading this story again. One of the aspects I like in Tolkien’s stories are the mythological qualities all of them share. I always had a penchant for myths, legends and sagas in general and manner in which Tolkien incorporated them into the richness of Middle Earth astounds me. This was also why The Hobbit appealed to me so much. Although it appears to be a simple adventure story there is so much more hidden underneath that layer, as advice or commentary on the world Tolkien experienced.  This is best expressed through Thorin’s farewell speech to Bilbo;

 “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world”  

And I feel that this quote actually reflects the ‘message’ of the story quite well. Throughout the book all the characters who interact with each other generally enjoy each others company and food, song and cheer, until the quest of reclaiming Erebor is mentioned and the atmosphere turns hostile. Exception to this in their encounter with the Woodelves of Mirkwood and their King Thranduil, but personally I believe that their confrontation is based upon miscommunication, stubbornness, and concern for their nation rather than an unwillingness to help. It is this greed for gold which leads to the division between dwarves, men, and elves. Although the elves seem reluctant to actually engage in a battle for gold, as the King states

“Long will I tarry ere I begin this war for gold” 

This emphasises the futility of starting a war on the mere account of gaining riches. Placing the lives of his kin and people above the gold and wealth, the Elvenking demonstrates what is truly important in the world. Thorin eventually realises this as well, but unfortunately for him, on his deathbed. For me this is one of the reasons why The Hobbit has such an everlasting appeal, besides from the fantasy, adventurous side of the tale, it is the message. And this moralistic and hopeful side of the story has me returning to Tolkien’s Middle Earth time and time again. Whether it are the films or books, they remain mesmerizing.


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