Sunday, October 05, 2008

Book Review: "The Hobbit"

I couldn't remember how long it'd been since I last reread The Hobbit in its entirety, so I picked up one of my copies the other day and dived back into Middle Earth. The book is much as I remembered it from my previous reads, although I had quite forgotten how often narrator-Tolkien jumps into the narrative, as if he really were telling the story out loud before bedtime ("now you can understand why ...", "I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two of the songs that they heard in that house, " &c.). I think those asides add something to the tale, creating a subtle intimacy between author and reader that is very rarely carried off so well.

Tolkien's gifts with language and phrases are well-known, of course, but I recognized them more clearly this time than I have before. His descriptions of the spiders' lair in Mirkwood, "like a patch of midnight that had never been cleared away" and of Smaug when Bilbo first makes the dragon's acquaintance are unforgettable. And if Gollum fails to give you a chill, check your pulse. His warm humor (oh, the laments about pocket handkerchiefs!) and sense of drama, too, are what make this book the classic it is.

Thorin's deathbed speech to Bilbo about the nature of war remained so seared into my memory that I when I reached it I could almost recite the whole thing from memory, but still felt myself tearing up at the end.

A wonderful book, no matter how many times you've read it. And perhaps one of the only cases where the movie does its source justice (and, I've just discovered, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube, which is awfully exciting).

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