Written By: J.R.R. Tolkien
Final Overall Rating: 7.6/10
First of all, this review is purely derived from my own personal opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments; I am always up for a good discussion or to answer questions.
(Spoilers Below – Read at your own peril!)
Recommend Yes or No:
Yes. Absolutely yes. This book may not be a 10/10 in my opinion, but anyone who enjoys fantasy should read Tolkien.
Writing Style: 10/10
Tolkien is a master of writing and language – this is without a doubt fact. The Hobbit is told from an omniscient third person point of view and is written in past tense. Tolkien had a unique ability to intertwine narrative, dialogue and poetry/song. It is no wonder over 100 million copies of The Hobbit have been sold.
Imagine sitting around a fire and a boisterous storyteller delivers a fantastical narrative of adventure. The person telling the campfire tale has different voices for each character and invokes the use of wild hand gestures to depict their story. In this same style is how The Hobbit’s narrator echoed in my mind. It was active and suspenseful and altogether a delightful way to read a book. This was largely in part to Tolkien’s use of similes, short dialogue (which imitates active events and speech), and verb choices, which made the book read with a ‘sitting at the edge of your seat’ urgency.
What Tolkien did well: Tolkien effectively captured the state of adventure. Bilbo’s escapades lacked neither in spirit nor muchiness. There was humor and sarcasm spliced into the mishaps and many kidnappings Bilbo faced. And, there was never a dull moment. There was always movement forward, and Tolkien’s chapters never stagnated. I especially enjoyed watching as Bilbo morphed from a skittish Baggins to a snarky, resourceful Took. Bilbo’s character evolution was definitely one of my favorite things about the book – because I believe there is a little Baggins and Took in us all.
Where Tolkien struggled: For me, Tolkien’s ability to climax a story was a major problem. For the majority of the book, audiences hear about the mighty Smaug in snippets of dialogue and song/poetry. However, to my sincere disappointment, Smaug only lives, breathes and dies in three chapters (12-14). THIS ENTIRE BOOK WAS BUILT AROUND A DRAGON GAURDING TREASURE AN WE ONLY GOT TO SEE THE DRAGON FOR THREE CHAPTERS! Can you tell I’m a little salty? I was so excited for the dragon’s grandiose appearance but felt let down by the brevity of Smaug’s existence in the novel. Similarly, the Battle of Five Armies only lasted a few pages, and it left out almost all of the written grace the rest of the novel had attained. Simply put, the climax felt rushed. I was really hoping for a more ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of climax.
On another note, I was frustrated with the amount of repetition in the journey to the Mountain. The trolls were the first to try and capture and eat Bilbo and his crew. Then the goblins. Then Golem. Then the Wargs. Then the spiders…. You get my point. Things wanted to eat Bilbo and his party. I think this story would have benefited from some diversity of trials. Like, the party was CONSTANTLY hungry, so why couldn’t there have been a funny scene about them trying to catch and eat some fireflies, who turn out to be fairies, who then in turn tease and taunt the party with little misfortunes. I just feel that by only having monsters try and eat Bilbo and his party a vast number of other scenarios were tragically bypassed.
Character Development: 6/10
So, for Bilbo’s character I give a 10/10. The audience knows who Bilbo is, what his thoughts are, what he likes and dislikes, and his quirks. He is a funny, sincere, kind, and charming fellow. Bilbo is dynamic and full of complexity. However, the character development for EVERYONE ELSE drastically falls short, and I feel that the lack of character development hurt the novel’s depth and breadth. By not elaborating on the “Unexpected Party’s” characteristics, the audience cannot truly piece together Bilbo’s companions, which detracts from the adventure and from Bilbo’s interactions with other characters. Now, I understand that character building for thirteen dwarves would have been too much, but character building for Thorin and maybe three other dwarves would have helped to define the traveling group and provided more complexity to the story. Finally, when some of the dwarves die in the Battle of Five Armies (I won’t say who), I did not feel any sympathy towards the dwarves since I did not become attached to the dwarves over the course of the novel. I felt like Tolkien wanted me to be sad, but I found myself simply more annoyed.
Fun Facts about Tolkien:
- Tolkien was a professor at Oxford University from 1925-1959 (Gottesman)
- Tolkien was a veteran of World War I and lost many of his friends in the war (Doughan).
- Tolkien was obsessed with language and created many of his own languages for fun (some of which he used in his books). The two most notable of Tolkien’s languages are Quenya and Sindarin (Gottesman).
- Many authors of the past never got to see their works become famous, and they died relatively unknown. Tolkien however was witness to his work’s growth and popularity. Though in honesty he did not think his fans truly understood his work (Gottesman).
- Tolkien married his childhood sweetheart (look up their story… it is quite romantic) (Gottesman).
Favorite Quote from The Hobbit:
“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended tin measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold it would be a merrier world” (312). – Thorin
Be courageous, chase cheer rather than treasure, and know the value of a good meal.
Doughan, David. “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biographical Sketch.” The Tolkien Society. https://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/biography/.
Gottesman, Brian. “10 Surprising Facts About J.R.R. Tolkien.” Mental Floss. Updated 3 January 2020. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59736/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-jrr-tolkien.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. 1937. Reprint. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. Print.