Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
(1991, Harper Collins)
[original copyright: 1937, George Allen & Unwin]

A reluctant adventurer goes in search of a dragon's gold, rescuing his Dwarven friends and getting his hands on a magic ring along the way.


-- 5th reading (hardcover)
July 17th to August 24th, 2019


Once again, I was reading this book out loud to a young listener, as my kids come of age for this sort of story. Despite the breaking of the fourth wall, it’s great as an introduction to fantasy, as its point of reference is an innocent character who gets dragged into an uncomfortable situation. By the time we get to the battle with the dragon and the goblins at the end, the reader has had a lot of experience with events getting less comfortable and more dangerous. Not only that, but Bilbo goes from being completely out of place and a burden to the hero, several times. His annoyance at the lack of gratitude by the dwarves, or the finicky nature of it, was hilarious.


+ -- 4th reading (hardcover)
September 21st to October 24th, 2014


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.

Spoiler review:

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 The Silmarillion.

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 Bard?

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.


-- 3rd reading (hardcover)
August 9th to 13th, 1993


No review available.



illustrated by David Wenzel, and adapted by Charles Dixon, with Sean Deming
(1989, Ballantine Books)

-- Second reading (trade paperback)
July 21st to 23rd, 2001


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 dark.  

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!


-- First reading (trade paperback)
April 27th to 30th, 1992


No review available.


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