A novel by by J.R.R. Tolkien
(1991, Harper Collins [original copyright: 1937, George Allen &
An unwilling adventurer goes in search of a dragon's gold, rescuing his
Dwarven friends and getting his hands on a magic ring along the way.
Read September 21st to
October 24th, 2014 for the 4th time
The book is a classic, and has a lot of
amazing elements. It introduced us to Hobbits and Middle-Earth, grew
into something so much better than it was. Unfortunately, the book
suffers from condescension of an adult talking down to a child so often
that it is distracting to the point of being annoying.
It would be easy
to be biased toward this book, because weeks after reading it all the elements
that made it annoying while reading it disappear into the background, and I only really
remember the good parts, the heroism of Bilbo, the mysteries that are
Gandalf, Gollum, elves and everything that are new to the reader, and
which set the stage for The Lord of the Rings, and its connection to
I reread this book after seeing the first two
movies of the trilogy. I was amazed to see how much of the stuff I
thought was filler in the first movie was actually directly translated
from the book! Oops. In general, I think the movie improved on some of
the book, left alone what was already good, but didn't quite remove
enough of the other stuff.
When Bilbo gets recruited by Gandalf
and the dwarves, I've always disliked the intrusion, even though it
ended up being good for him. It is bullying, but typical of these kinds
of stories, and I think there would be other ways to get him up and out
of the world. But they certainly wouldn't make for as good a story!
It was actually kind of fun to explain things to my young listener
about the history of Middle-Earth, since I know so much more about it
than the book lets on, and to see his eyes absorb everything in wonder.
The spider scenes were among the most memorable (strangely shortened to
almost non-existence in the movies), and he laughed a lot during the
introduction to Beorn.
I often wonder if Tolkien would have
rewritten the tale differently if he could have, after The Lord of the
Rings was published. By then it was way too late, of course, but would
he have removed the rock giants doing battle, the coincidence of the
dwarves arriving on Durin's Day (in the book nobody knows when that
might be, and it never bothers them) or arriving in Rivendell at the
right time to read the invisible runes, or the thrush that could talk to
Since the book is written almost entirely from Bilbo's
point of view, it is not surprising that we get almost nothing of the
Battle of Five Armies, as he is knocked out, but Tolkien could have
spent more time on it as he did in Laketown, to which Bilbo was not an
observer, either. As with the death of Boromir in The Fellowship of the
Ring, the movie does justice to the deaths of Thorin, Fili and Kili,
where the book barely touches on them.
Regardless of its faults, there is a lot of
magic in this book, and not all by the wizard. I mean that it manages to
surpass all the small parts and become something bigger. No wonder
people wanted to hear more about Hobbits after reading this. After
everything, despite what the movie says about the Ring at the end, Bilbo
returns home changed for the better, and I don't think the Ring had a
hold on him at that time.
Read August 9th to 13th, 1993 for the
illustrated by David Wenzel, and
adapted by Charles Dixon, with Sean Deming
Read July 21st to 23rd, 2001 for the second time
An excellent rendition of the novel, with outstanding artwork. But the
condescending nature of the novel should have been written out of this
adaptation, and there is way too much description, where the sketches could
have stood on their own.
The artwork was truly spectacular. I wonder if it is the effect of
aging, but the artwork seems to be a little dull in terms of its
coloring. I seem to remember it being quite vibrant. But it also
looks to me like the author chose the colors I am seeing with
care. In any case, the attention to detail was astounding, considering
how many text call-outs there were. The edges of each page had a frayed
border, as did the description boxes. Vistas were not as well done, as
the little things were barely drawn, but that is natural for most comic
artists. But the inside of Bilbo's house, and Smaug's treasure, were
only a few of the great pages that I could have stared at for a long time,
just soaking in the details. If there is anything to praise about this
book, it is the artwork.
The thing that always bothered me about The Hobbit was its condescending
nature. It was written for children, but you don't have to be
condescending to speak to that age group. And in a comic book, that tone
can mean that a comic is never looked at again. Instead of correcting it
(by leaving out phrases like "...as you shall soon see..." and
others), the authors keep it in, taking up valuable space that could have been
given to telling artwork.
The authors who adapted this from Tolkien's novel also didn't seem to edit
much of it out. The scene where Bilbo climbs up a short tree in a much
taller forest to see if they were at the edge was noticeably missing, and I am
sure there was much more that had been cut, as would be expected from a
graphic adaptation such as this one. But I do not expect to read a novel
when I pick up a comic. Most of the call-outs contain a narrative, which
uses tones that I am sure I would see directly in the novel (very British, but
also cluttered with words and words...). I think the pictures should
have been left to tell the story on its own, with only a little narrative for
clarification, and lots more, revised, dialog. Most of the dialog comes
directly out of the book, which means the characters are quite
long-winded. Difficult to do in a comic.
Having said that, the story was told terrifically. The narrative was
used in good form in many cases, such as when they became lost in Mirkwood,
and especially when Bilbo met up with Gollum and exchanged riddles in the
Anyway, this is a form of the book that I can pick up at any time and
browse through, as the entire story is there, without having to read most of
it to find out what happens. I had forgotten lots of this story, such as
the spider attack, Bilbo's taking the Arkenstone from Thorin, the way he
sweet-talked the dragon, and the very funny episode with the trolls
("what's a burrahobbit?" refering to Bilbo's slip of the tongue,
about to say he's a burglar). There were many parts that I was looking
forward to, though, as I remembered the nicely drawn rescue of the dwarves by
the eagles, and the destruction of Laketown, and, of course, the dwarves
hiding in the barrels! I was not disappointed there.
So it is worth looking at, I think, even if it is not quite as good as the
novel. Because the artwork is wonderful, and the story is one that
doesn't get old. Plus, it is a great prelude to the Lord of the Rings
movies, due out in less than six months, now!