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Review: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien [Dec. 29th, 2012|02:55 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Return to Middle Earth: The Hobbit

Believe it or not, Peter Jackson's latest film is only indirectly responsible for my decision to re-read The Hobbit (again). The proximal cause was Tor.com's (no-doubt entirely commercial) decision to ask the redoubtable Kate Nepveu to lead a weekly, chapter-by-chapter "re-read" of the novel in conjunction with the release of the first (of three!) movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 300 page children's story.

My intention had been to follow along at Nepveu's chapter-a-week pace and, perhaps, to contribute to the ongoing conversation she was (and is!) sure to inspire, but Tolkien's deceptively simple prose and thematically complex fairy story swept me away (as it has a number of times before). I finished the book in a couple of days.

The short version is that The Hobbit remains a delightful adventure story and fairy tale, even if it is the work of a writer who has yet to reach the full extent of his creative powers.

That said, it also a very strange book, that strays very far indeed from a typical heroic path in favour of wandering the fields of moral complexity and (relatively) complex characterizations. The protagonists are far from perfect and even the villains show surprising signs of humanity.

A lovely book to read aloud to a child, there is every chance that you will have to read it twice, since you'll likely treat yourself to the whole thing before you sit down for Chapter Two with said youngster.

The long version lives on my site. (As usual, there are spoilers.)



This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/248158.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.


[User Picture]From: houseboatonstyx
2012-12-29 10:05 pm (UTC)
If I may comment here on your long version....

Tolkien never took a creative writing course, and it shows.
[....] The Lord of the Rings is most striking in the fact that its ostensible hero ultimately fails in his Quest, falling victim to temptation at the last minute.
Though its hero succeeds, in a way The Hobbit is even more unusual in its dénouement. The novel has not one but several climaxes, the most stereotypically dramatic of which (the battle with the maguffin, the great dragon Smaug) occurs essentially off-stage.

As for Frodo failing to produce the good outcome himself, that criticism has been made of Raiders of the Lost Arc and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. The movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tried to correct a similar lack of heroics, also, and Rilstone analyzed the difference well.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2012-12-29 10:15 pm (UTC)

Not a bad thing!

As for Frodo failing to produce the good outcome himself, that criticism ...

I didn't mean that as a criticism so much as an observation (and one — he hastens to add — that has been made by others). In fact, I believe that Frodo's failure has a great deal to do with the emotional impact of The Lord of the Rings.
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[User Picture]From: houseboatonstyx
2012-12-29 10:21 pm (UTC)
I agree! And imo it made the impact of the Jones movies, LWW, and there was a similar factor in E.T.

As for The Hobbit's several climaxes and off-stage battle, etc --overall, was your "and it shows" a dig at creative writing courses?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2012-12-29 10:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Not a bad thing!

As for The Hobbit's several climaxes and off-stage battle, etc --overall, was your "and it shows" a dig at creative writing courses?

Hmm ... I'm don't think I meant it as a dig at creative writing courses, but more to emphasize Tolkien's willingness to do the "wrong" thing.

That said, now that you've pointed it out, I do have a prejudice against (some) forms of "literary" fiction, which I suspect are encouraged by said courses.
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[User Picture]From: tigerinvaseline
2012-12-29 11:16 pm (UTC)
I am very much looking forward to reading it again as an adult.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2012-12-29 11:57 pm (UTC)

Don't forget ...

... to post your reactions!
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