Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

July Books 32) The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

An old favourite, of course; but it must be a very long time since last I read it. I anticipated correctly that the lack of female characters would now seem an obvious gap; I had forgotten that there were so many sapient animals - the wolves, the birds, Beorn's friends. It is well-paced, and generally fair to the reader. I was surprised by how little page space Smaug gets.

Bilbo is a much more interesting character than I had remembered. His moments of heroism are not through violence but through moral strength: in particular, his attempts to prevent the Elves and Dwarves from fighting. That said, the Gollum business and the Arkenstone incident both show certain ambiguities in his heroism.

Gandalf, somewhat to my surprise, comes over as an arch-manipulator. He pulls Bilbo onto the adventure very much against his will, and the battle with Smaug and then the Goblins is almost a proxy conflict for the ongoing Cold War against Sauron/the Necromancer, the point being to consolidate the northeastern corner of the map. But it looks rather like the Battle of the Five Armies is a deliberate rehearsal for the War of the Ring, orchestrated by Gandalf.

I've been reading the edition with Tolkien's own sketches. Let's be honest: they are not very good - studies of perspective, really, with the humanoid figures barely recognisable as such. The trolls in the picture hide behind the trees, in clear contradiction to the text. Providing the author's own drawings gives some extra authenticity, but I think they could have been saved for one of the spinoff volumes.
Tags: bookblog 2009, rereads, writer: tolkien
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