J. R. R. Tolkien
HarperCollins, 1999 (1937)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, Audio
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
begins with an introduction to Bilbo comfortably smoking a pipe in his hobbit hole. Hobbits are '
a little people, smaller than dwarves. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colors and wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair
.' Along comes the wizard Gandalf and a troop of dwarves in search of a burglar for an expedition to reclaim a dragon's stolen treasure horde. Somewhat against his natural lazy inclinations, Bilbo goes with them.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To claim our long-forgotten gold
he dwarves wonder what use a hobbit will be to them, but Bilbo steadily acquires confidence and discovers resources he didn't know he had as he copes with: trolls who want to '
mince 'em fine and boil 'em
'; elves who explain moon-letters; stone-giants hurling rocks around the mountainside; goblins ready to '
Slash them! Beat them! Bite them! Gnash them!
'; Gollum and his perilous riddle contest; wild Wargs and Eagles who scoop them from disaster; Beorn the skin-changer; giant spiders and wood elves; and eventually the evil dragon Smaug himself.
hey win the treasure, though Tolkien is realistic enough to leave the dragon slaying to a more heroic figure than a hobbit. But this is not the end of the adventure. The dwarves, though decent as dwarves go, are greedy for gold and ready to fight men and elves to keep all of the treasure. Bilbo comes into conflict with his former companions when he takes a brave action, which temporarily staves off disaster and allows the squabbling good guys to get together for long enough to fight their true enemies in the Battle of Five Armies.
his has always been the power of Tolkien's writing, that he does not trivialize the side of right by making its characters two dimensional ... they are lazy and weak, greedy and selfish, cowardly and prone to lying. In fact they are all very human, despite their fantastic origins. And the most human and most endearing of all is the Hobbit himself. Bilbo grows into his strength through the book, but is delighted to lay aside his adventures at the end for his comfortable hole at Bag-End ... and of course he brings home the Ring, setting the scene for the trilogy and his nephew Frodo's more extensive adventures.
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.
ilbo enjoys the long and peaceful life that he deserves.
provides an excellent introduction to
Lord of the Rings
, in that it describes the world, its races, and some of its dangers. It's an easier read with less depths than the trilogy, but it also stands on its own as an excellent classic fantasy for young and old, that has set a high standard for its successors.
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