The Hobbit; or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
The Hobbit is a tale of adventure when it is sprung upon the unsuspecting. It takes a quiet, settled hobbit on a trip to faraway lands with 12 dwarves and one wizard to reclaim ancient dwarf treasure from an evil dragon named Smaug. They survive encounters with wood-elves, spiders, wargs (wolf-like creatures), being stuffed in barrels, and fighting an epic battle against goblins. Theirs is a tale of greed, deep-rooted family pride, friendship, magic, and merriment. Bilbo Baggins, our protagonist, finds a spirit in himself he never knew he had, and as you may or may not be lucky enough to know, this is not his only adventure.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here
I know my plot summary was a bit thin, but it's practically a novella and if you haven't already (or haven't in a long time) you really should pick up the book yourself. It's practically a tea-time snack.
I loved reading this book. I love the trilogy, but when I first got into them, it took me some time to get completely pulled into the story. From the first page of The Hobbit, I was entranced. I could practically hear Bilbo's kettle boiling on the stove, and his hobbit-hole would appear when my eyes closed.
I remember reading this in 6th grade, with Mr. Bricker? Brickstein? Brickle? (I think that last one is a computer game from the 90's.) Anyway, I distinctly remember being asked to draw the door to Bilbo's hobbit-hole, and I also distinctly remember getting a C on my drawing. (Art never was my strong suit.) I think I painted the door blue, and it was supposed to be green, with a yellow knob. Something like that. It's strange the things we remember.
In terms of overall thoughts, I think what struck me most was that Bilbo and the dwarves are on a completely voluntary adventure here. They decide to just pick up and go, and while the dwarves have their whole "we need to win back our hard-earned gold from the dragon" thing going on, Bilbo really is just along for the ride. Of course, he discovers some wonderful (and not so wonderful) traits about himself along the way, but it definitely makes him question his own motives more than Frodo is able to. Frodo is basically in for an epic battle between good and evil, and everyone takes a side, whereas here, things are a bit more grey. I actually got quite mad at the dwarves toward the end, because before they end up joining forces with the elves and the men to fight the goblins, the dwarves were going to wage war with the elves and men over the treasure and they are acting downright nasty, even though - and here's the kicker and I Totally forgot this part - THEY DON'T EVEN KILL THE DRAGON. There's all this buildup and Bilbo goes down several times to see the dragon, but he ends up getting shot by some man from the nearby town named Bard. Kind of anticlimactic, if you ask me. And pretty petty of the dwarves to withhold "their" gold when the dragon was sleeping on it all these years and they didn't even kill him. Also, is dwarves not the correct plural form of dwarf? My computer's autocorrect has underlined the word every time I've written it. Amusingly enough, it also does not choose to recognize the word autocorrect. Ironic much?
Anyway, here are the rest of my thoughts, in no particular order:
(And yes, I am aware what time it is, mother. And no, I'm not pregnant. INSIDE FAMILY JOKE!)
-Gandalf is responsible for getting Bilbo involved with the adventure (of course; Gandalf is always involved in the "I have an ulterior motive but it's in everyone's best interest" kind of mind games) and Bilbo is having NONE of it at the beginning. "We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!" He's almost gotten Gandalf to leave and he says, "Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today."
[But sneaky Gandalf puts a mark on his door that says BURGLAR LIVES HERE LOOKING FOR AN ADVENTURE (okay, I looked it up and it's actually "Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable reward - close enough!) - only some compact, runish form of that phrase - and the adventure comes looking for Bilbo anyway.]
-When Bilbo decides to join the adventure, Tolkien calls it his "Tookish side", implying that his ancestors, the Tooks, were more adventuresome than the average hobbit family. I just love the sound of the word - maybe because it rhymes with bookish. ;)
-At one point, Bilbo says it smells like elves. I wonder what elves smell like? I imagine something appropriately woodsy. Perhaps like pine.
-Just before Bilbo encounters Gollum in the tunnels, he says to himself, "Go back? No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" It reminded me of the book, "We're going on a bear hunt" where they say, "Can't go OVER it! Can't go UNDER it! We'll have to go THROUGH it!" (swish swish swish)
-When Gollum and Bilbo are playing riddle games, Bilbo tricks Gollum by asking him to guess what is in his pocket. (It is, in fact, the ring; as in Lord of the...) Gollum is frantic, because he can't think of what it is. He has three guesses, so first he guesses, "Handses!" When that's wrong, he thinks of what he keeps in his own pockets -- "fish-bones, goblins' teeth, wet shells, a bit of bat-wing, a sharp stone to sharpen his fangs on". I laughed so hard at the thought of little Gollum thinking about his own pockets and the disgusting things he keeps in there. Bat-wing? Hilarious.
-I like that Gollum calls Bilbo "the nasty noser". I'm going to start calling people "nasty nosers." You nasty noser, you!
-Gandalf tricks Beorn, a man-bear who befriends them in the midst of their adventure (yes. I said man-bear. get over it.) into thinking it's just him and Bilbo at first, then he lets the rest of the dwarves trickle in two-by-two. Beorn is too interested in the story to notice that he has 14 guests when he rarely suffers any at all (according to Gandalf). Gandalf is so Tricksy!
-I started taking notes of the trials the group faced, so pg. 108 of my copy has the following list:
I kept it going for a bit, but lagged at the end - I could also have included war with the men, impending doom, WAR WITH GOBLINS, THE END. but I didn't.
-Bilbo is CLUTCH in several situations. (Gretchen, stop trying to make FETCH happen!) He saves the dwarves from the spiders, he uses the ring to stay hidden and frees the dwarves from their imprisonment by the wood-elves by stuffing them in barrels and sending them off to Laketown, and he steals the first cup from Smaug and discovers his weak spot. He gets a bad rap from the dwarves in the beginning ("more of a grocer than a burglar!") but he shines in the end.
-The dwarves are TOTAL cowards for most of this book. I mean, I love Gimli in the trilogy. He is SO badass! So I was all, great, the dwarves will be so cool, and IMAGINE MY SURPRISE when they did things like when they finally got to the mountain and found the door and then said, "Okay, Bilbo, go on in and meet the dragon!" Seriously? Seriously. Ugh. Dwarves.
-The title of this post comes from a riddle-speak conversation between Bilbo and Smaug, the dragon. I adore the line. And Bilbo is also partly chosen because the dwarves refuse to set out on the adventure with 13 total (12 dwarves plus Gandalf), making Bilbo the lucky fourteen.
-Tolkien follows some fairly familiar territory in this story, but he has such flair. Smaug is a riddler and a trickster, and Tolkien says he has an "overwhelming personality." Sassy dragon!
-As mentioned previously (ahem. as I Ranted about previously) Smaug's death is quite anticlimactic. After it happened, I was like, OK, got it. And then everyone thought he was dead but REALLY HE JUMPED UP AND FLEW INTO THE AIR AND THE WHOLE VILLAGE WAS IN FLAMES but no. That is not what happened. OF course, stupid me, it's a GOBLIN WAR. Why didn't I think of the inevitable post-dragon GOBLIN WAR?
-So, Bilbo steals what is basically the most prized gem in all the treasure - it's called the Arkenstone - and at first I was like, ACK, Bilbo, you have to give it back! The greedy dwarves will have your head! But then he uses it to try to create peace between the wood-elves/men and the dwarves. The goblin war ends up bringing everyone together (nothing unites people like a common hatred of GOBLINS, duh!) but Bilbo is the real peace-maker here. Dummypants dwarves are blinded by treasure.
-Bilbo rats himself out about stealing the Arkenstone and giving it to the other side, and Thorin (the lead dwarf) is FURIOUS. He basically threatens to throw Bilbo on the rocks (SOME GRATITUDE if you ask me) but Gandalf steps in, saying "If you don't like my Burglar, please don't damage him." Adorable.
-As Bilbo and Gandalf get weary on the journey back, they stop at one point and Gandalf says, "There is a long road yet." And Bilbo replies, "But it is the last road."
I leave you with those parting words, and another Tolkien reminder that not all who wander are lost.
I'm off to fly kites in a war-torn land not too far from where our world began.
Good afternoon, good evening, and good night. (And good morning, to you, mommy!)