Rating: 4 out of 5
While many die-hard Tolkien fans are currently in line for the midnight premiere of “The Hobbit” here on the West coast, alas most of us can’t afford to watch a three-hour film and still expect to function at work on a few hours of sleep. But given that I’ve waited almost nine whole years to return to Middle-earth, I think that I can wait two more days.
And speaking of time, can you believe it’s been 75 years since The Hobbit was published? I see anniversary editions of the novel everywhere I go now, which is great, because it’s wonderful to see that the Ringer fanbase has grown over generations.
Say what you want about Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, but sometimes even the most hardcore of fans (like me) got a small nudge from the movies. I was 11 years old when “The Fellowship of the Ring” hit theaters, and while I was encouraged by a favorite teacher to pick up the series prior, it was the cinematic magic that fueled the fire.
I then immediately read LOTR, but eventually made my way to The Hobbit. This prequel, as many have pointed out, holds a much different tone than the saga. Compared to the epic battles of Rohan and Minas Tirith, Bilbo Baggins’ adventure with the dwarves seems more light-hearted–hence, why The Hobbit is often marketed as a children’s fantasy tale.
And while I would argue that LOTR also had its fair share of singing and joking (which would have been more apparent had Tom Bombadil made Jackson’s cut), The Hobbit feels more “fun” because any danger that the characters face is relatively minor.
At least that was my impression. It’s been years since I’ve read the book, and as much as I would’ve liked to re-read it, my brother has my only copy and I’m currently preoccupied with finishing my last book of the year, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.
For those who are unfamiliar with the prequel, it follows Frodo’s “uncle” Bilbo, sixty years before The Fellowship takes place. Gandalf convinces him to join a group of 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, into the Lonely Mountain to defeat the dragon Smaug and steal its treasure.
Along the way, they encounter trolls, goblins, and giant spiders. Elrond is one elf who makes an appearance, but as much as I will enjoy seeing Legolas again in the film, I know that his cameo is inaccurate. I’ll also be sure to address other changes of Jackson’s in my movie review this weekend.
Of course, the scene I’ll be looking forward to watching the most would have to be the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum. I’ve purposely avoided all the footage online because I don’t want to be spoiled, but I caught Andy Serkis on “The Colbert Report.” Talk about my precious! Andy rocks my socks! I’m positively giddy to see this origin story come to life!
And if you were looking for a more critical analysis of the novel, I apologize. Unlike other authors, about whom I have no qualms nit-picking every metaphor, I have a very biased perspective on Tolkien. Knowing how much he despised allegory and psychoanalysis, I read his work with the simplicity and innocence which I believe he intended.
The Hobbit is a wonderful coming-of-age tale about a good-hearted hobbit who’s pushed outside his comfort zone to become a reluctant hero–much like Frodo after him. Tolkien’s world-creation is unmatched, and you fall in love with his rich descriptions of setting. Perhaps the timeliness of its themes and beauty behind its purity are what make The Hobbit an everlasting favorite among readers.
But if you’re still skeptical, I hope that you see the film anyway and it inspires you like Gandalf giving you a nudge out the door. Because reading something this magical is better 75 years late than never.
Favorite Quote: “There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”