Thoughts on “The Hobbit”

After finishing up “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, I was inspired to re-read “The Lord of the Rings”.  But in digging out my copies of the books I saw my copy of “The Hobbit”, and decided to try to read it as well.  The thing is, I had bought it quite some time ago  and had started reading it, but couldn’t get through it.  I didn’t care for it at all and didn’t get all that far (on the re-read, I think I got as far as the trolls before abandoning it).  That’s not all that far into a book that’s not all that long itself.  So when I set out to read it this time, I was curious to see if I’d find it more tolerable this time or if I’d still dislike it.

I liked it a lot more this time around than the first time I tried to read it.

The reason, I think, was mostly due to my mood.  “The Hobbit”, as a children’s book, is rather silly, well, most of the time.  But it isn’t primarily a comedic fantasy like the “Myth” books or “Jason Cosmo” or “A Bad Spell in Yurt”.  “The Hobbit” is light, but not a comedy, so it inhabits a bit of a weird space.  If you were looking for a solid fantasy in the vein of “Lord of the Rings”, it won’t provide that, but if you were looking for more of a pure comedy, it won’t provide that either.  So you have to at least be willing to read a light adventure with a bunch of history in it, and I think that at the time I wasn’t really interested in that.  This time, taking it on more as something that I was going to read and get through but having no other purpose than doing that, I was able to accept it for what it was instead of what it wasn’t, which I think is why I enjoyed it a lot more than I did the first time.  I was able to accept the silliness as is without thinking that it ruined the fantasy but without wishing it would just be more funny.

Still, it does have it flaws.  First, as a light adventure it really is just the dwarves and Bilbo bouncing from terrible misadventure to terrible misadventure with almost no let-up.  For such a light and often silly work, that actually makes it a bit depressing, especially since the ending is a lot more serious all around.  Second, the dwarves bugged me quite a bit where they would go from tanking Bilbo for saving them to complaining bitterly about the situation that rescue left them in.  They came across as more ungrateful than as people that Bilbo became fast friends with.  The sad thing is that by the narrative they actually had a better way to make that work, presenting it less as them being fickle and more as them moving from the heights of joy from their rescue to, over time, being worn down by circumstances into a depression over their hardships.  So their complaints to Bilbo were less complaints about him and more complaints in general that they sometimes directed at him.  To be fair, that is an undercurrent throughout the entire book, but the quick pace doesn’t leave time for us to really grasp that they’re now depressed because their adventure seems to be turning into a disaster … again.

Still, it remains as light fun and Bilbo, in general, is a sympathetic enough protagonist that we at least want to see him win through and get some sort of reward.  So I’ve gone from not be able to finish it to considering re-reading it at some point.

One Response to “Thoughts on “The Hobbit””

  1. Accomplishments Update | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] are also working pretty well.  I finished “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, and then read “The Hobbit”, re-read “Lord of the Rings”, re-read “Dracula”, and then read some Bram […]

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