| (1 Aug 2011)|
|Having vague recollections from this novel as a child, with wispy mental images of little hobbit holes with little round, green doors, I was looking forward to getting stuck into it as an adult. Given its awesome reputation, the amount I had heard about it and what little I remembered, it could only be an exciting journey through Tolkien’s world. It is a fantasy novel, with wizards and dwarves and elves and many other weird and wonderful creatures. The book follows one Mr Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit on a journey to retrieve some lost treasure with a party of 13 dwarves and the magnificent wizard, Gandalf. The novel details the trials and tribulations upon which they stumble and is littered with action, suspense and many ‘edge of your seat’ moments. |
The story itself is a typical children’s action-adventure tale with battles and bravery, dragons and dungeons and ultimately, a happy ending. Their journey consists of enough misfortune to keep the reader excited and interested while at the same time, having plenty of lighter moments – laughter, friendship and achievement – to stop the story becoming relentless and depressing. The world that Tolkien has created is well structured and clearly well thought out. There seems to be little in the way of contradictions or flaws in the way in which his world works or the development of a variety of races. This fantasy is so succinct, in fact, that the book even comes with maps and pictures, languages and songs so that the reader is sure that he is imaging the world as Tolkien had intended. Tolkien’s imagination was clearly an awe-striking and wonderful place, a place in which – if it were to exist in reality – I would love to spend days wandering around, gawping at his magnificent creations and ideas. And, most probably, running in fear for the predominant time I was there.
When I was a child, this book was read aloud to me, by my year 6 teacher Mrs Najar. We did a project on it, I remember drawing a round, green door as my front cover but I’ll admit, I remember little else. Except an underlying feeling of fondness toward the book. As an adult, I myself read it aloud – to my partner. It was a different experience but an equally enjoyable one. This book is definitely good for reading aloud. The narration flows well, the dialogue makes sense without having to see the grammar (a problem which I have found with other books when reading aloud) and the characters have such distinct voices that it is fun to give them different tones, accents and expressions. I imagine that reading this book to a child or group of children would be a lot of fun – making them laugh as you act the grumpy dwarf, become a powerful Elvenking or have the husky voice of the raven Roäc. I would even go so far as to say that for reading aloud, this book is close to perfect. It has everything for the reader to understand and enjoy and even more for the listener to revel in. The only problem I experienced in reading this aloud was the odd missing comma here and there, which meant that a sentence had to be read a couple of times before I could make sense of it. That said, these occasions were few and far between and hardly detracted from our enjoyment at all.
Being a children’s novel, The Hobbit is, of course, layered with meanings, teachings and morals. Throughout, it is littered with small philosophies on life – such as Gandalf’s contemplation of the saying ‘good morning’ and the over-abundance of people saying things they do not mean, or of Bombur’s being overweight and hence, less able to escape trouble. On a larger scale, however, Tolkien gives his thoughts on heroics – the fact that heroes are in fact, just normal folk who have done heroic things and that even you, the reader, an ‘average joe’, could turn out to be a hero too. That you, the reader, could also do magnificent things and have exciting adventures and that these things are not always things that happens to other people. Tolkien contemplates the need for intelligence and bravery, for forethought and planning in order to get yourself out of sticky situations. He ponders the ideas of generosity and fairness as values by which to live your life, as values by which to keep peace. He deliberates the concepts of sharing and reviles demonstrations of greed. Not only has he created a world complete with it’s own places, races and language but he has offered a view on ethics, philosophy and a template by which to live your life.
Even today, given that I only finished the book yesterday, I am
remembering it with a strange sense of nostalgia, a certain feeling of affection and an almost over-whelming desire to visit Bilbo and gang again. Thus, this book comes highly recommended – not only by me but also by the thousands who have read it already and, no doubt, the thousands who will read it in the future. So read it. Read it to your children, to your partner or just to yourself. But read it today, read it aloud and read it with pleasure.