“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Actually this is the second time I’ve read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. The first was when I was eighth grade which makes me fourteen or thirteen years old. Back then I used to read a lot of sci-fi books primarily because of their exceeding plethora of frenetic adventures. I would read in order to get absorbed in some fictional world that fails to pass the muster on the morality scale. That’s the main reason I picked up “The Hobbit”. I am abashed to concede that I didn’t take note of any allusions, recurrent themes, quotes – anything at all. I was in just for the thrill. Candidly, the thrill wasn’t as mind-blowing as I had anticipated. Yeah… I was quite an insinuate reader but I believe, or rather hope, that this stage is a hallmark of any reader’s childhood. And I am definitely, glad that I’ve outgrown this vapid reading habit. I see the way my peers turn the pages of books so disgracefully and disrespectfully – indignance wells up in my heart. I simply refuse to dwell on the fact that I once picked up “The Hobbit” in order to relish the action. Common! Don’t be so judgemental. We’ve all got shady pasts.

One thing I learned, though, is that science fiction resembles poetry in myriad ways. If only you would bother to look deeper! See, the profound message in poems is usually concealed behind a breath-taking description of a blooming flower, or a mid-spring drizzle, or the magnificence of an azure bay. In sci-fi books, on the other hand, the crux of the books is cloaked under dragon slaughter, pickpocketing of trolls, disturbance of goblins and the perkiness of having a good meal after a year-long journey into the wild and the unknown territories of precariousness. Unfortunately, few people (like me at the age of 13-14) neglect to peek behind the decorum.

The story which was published 76 years ago tells of a conventional reputable hobbit Bilbo Baggins whose insouciant being revolves around meals, tea, silver utensils and smoke rings until one day an unexpected party pitches up on his front porch. It consists of 13 most peculiar dwarves and a wizard, who we learn is particularly adept at fireworks. The merry gathering throws the host in a huff since they are glutton and insist that he take part in their journey to the Lonely Mountain where he must do his burglary magic and puff! kill the dragon. It’s safe to say that Mr. Baggins had never before been called a burglar and didn’t quite appreciate it. That’s when the author interferes, however, to tell us that Bilbo is a descendant of the amazing Took who was well-known for his valour and audacity. This ambiguity in Baggins’ character makes him extremely believable. He doesn’t swoop in the adventure at once; he has his qualms and misgivings during the whole novel and even the promised profits fail to dismiss them. The struggle between the Tookish in him and his love for his prosaic life first irritated me, but later on I started to sympathize with the poor little thing, and in a dozen of pages he had won me over.

I liked most of the dwarves, especially Fili and Kili, and I shed few tears in the penultimate chapter. I look up to Thorin because of his bravery to fight for his father’s land and his readiness to take back the misaddressed words and apologize for his wrong judgements despite his dragon-sickness – his boundless avarice. I also found Gandalf very benign. I saw him as the mother figure in the book who is there to look after the little hobbit, Thorin and Co. but after a while lets them go and cope on their own because this is their adventure after all, and there’s no way they could come out successful if they are always depending on somebody to hop to aid, or clean up their messes. They have to learn that sometimes the wrong things have to be done for the right outcomes and that often benevolent intentions upset the ones there were aimed for.

I admire Tolkien for his nimbleness at winding the leitmotif of the journey so skilfully into the whole plot. On whichever page you open the book, there it is staring you in the face, regardless of the hobbits’ whereabouts. I have studied a lot of literature which is entirely based on the theme of travel, but never before have I been able to take stock of it. It’s a ubiquitous symbol but nonetheless in “The Hobbit” it is indescribably profound. The author has done a marvellous job depicting the way the unbeaten track can alter you for good, how it shifts your principles and priorities. A broadened horizon can implement great changes in the way people treat you, and the way you see yourself. “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God”, as Vonnegut wrote.

Bottom line, even if you peruse the novel, you would still figure out what Tolkien has tried to convey in numerous ways. Nothing that befalls upon one, influences only one; it has a knock-on effect in the whole wide world. One petty hobbit can make a difference, can have a say in what goes on in the big picture. An amazing novel!
The writing was beautiful and witty. The poems and songs were outstanding, and I strongly recommend you give the book a second chance if the first time round you had been looking forward to the battle with the dragon.

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Mery

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