What do you know? Life sends such unexpected blessings (and this review contains lots of spoilers). I reread The Hobbit for the first time since I was small, and didn’t want to stab anybody in the eyes.
Except for the dwarves in the beginning; and then Gandalf throughout because, frankly, who made him the king of the world? He just gets to decide that Bilbo would be good on an adventure and risk his whole life to get a couple of bags of gold? When it all works out, Gandalf nods and winks and makes wry comments about how good Bilbo was, but, dude, things could have gone another way. Bilbo pisses off Smaug rather than intriguing him, you’ve got a dead hobbit on your hands. I bet Gandalf wouldn’t have done so much wry commenting and winking if that had happened!
The Hobbit is about a little hobbit called Bilbo who mostly likes to sit at home comfortably in his hobbit-hole and drink wine and eat cheese; but he is descended from the family of Took, and the Took in him yearns for adventure. Gandalf the Wizard senses this (for my feelings on that, see above) and sends him off on an adventure with a pack of dwarves who are questing to take back Thorin the Dwarf’s ancestor’s treasure from Smaug the Dragon, who lives in the Lonely Mountain. On the way, Bilbo becomes intrepid and brave and clever, and he and the dwarves have all sorts of adventures with spiders and Wargs and Gollum.
The thing about episodic books, of which The Hobbit is one, is that each episode has to really grab you in order to keep you engaged. Many of the events of The Hobbit don’t matter to the overarching plot, killing the dragon and getting the treasure, except insofar as they all contribute to making Bilbo a little braver. I like Gollum; I like it when Bilbo cleverly helps his friends to escape the wood-elves; and I like it when Bilbo is chatting to Smaug. I am neutral on Elrond and the spiders, and on Bilbo’s handling of the Arkenstone. I do not care for the trolls, the goblin tunnels, the Warg fighting, or the fact that, dude, some random human guy shows up and gets to kill Smaug!
The best thing, to me, was definitely Bilbo himself. He grows as a character, getting braver and more sure of himself, and ultimately being considered the leader of the expedition, but whatever happens, he is always most interested in getting back to his comfy hobbit-hole. Towards the end he even kinda sells out Thorin to get himself home faster, which, you know, I understand the sentiment, but I’m not sure I applaud the action. I am curious to see how he changes between the end of The Hobbit and the start of Lord of the Rings, though. Having read Lord of the Rings a good seven to eight years after The Hobbit, I remember being confused by references to Bilbo’s backstory.
The Lord of the Rings Readalong continues apace! Loving the Lord of the Rings Readalong!