Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Reads: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (and my thoughts on the movie)

Thirteen years ago, I had never read the Hobbit.  I'd never had any interest in that kind of book.  But then, at the insistence of my then-fiancee, I opened it and my world was changed forever.  It was the first fantasy book I ever read and will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason.

With the release of The Hobbit movie last month, I decided it was high time I re-read it.   I have read the Lord of the Rings trilogy 13 or 14 times since I first read the Hobbit, but I had never re-read the book that started the obsession!  So strange, I know.

So, I bought the ebook for my Kobo and dove right in.   Ah, a return to the Shire and the original quest.  For those of you who have never read it (or now, not seen the movie) perhaps a short synopsis is in order:

In the Hobbit, we are introduced to a little people called Hobbits.  They live in a place called the Shire and have comfortable little homes in "hobbit holes".  They are an easygoing race who are content to spend their days relaxing, eating and smoking their pipes while enjoying a lovely ale.   They are not prone to adventures and, in fact, usually try to avoid them at all costs.  The main character in this novel is a Mr. Bilbo Baggins.  And his entire world changes the day Gandalf the wizards suggests he might be just the hobbit for an adventure.

Next thing we know, a herd of dwarves descends on his happy little hobbit hole and Bilbo is brought in as a "Thief" on their grand adventure to reclaim their ancestral home.  He is hesitant at first, but is soon quick to join the quest to the lonely mountain and the treasure that awaits under the watchful eye of the dragon Smaug.

I love this book.  So much.  I look forward to the day I can start enjoying it with my daughters (who WILL be enjoying it before the ripe old age of 23 that their mother was when she first read it).  It is undeniably a children's book, though so don't go into it expecting a writing style geared toward adults.  It was written for Tolkien's children and reads as such.   It is also a wonderful primer for Lord of the Rings in that it eases you into the world and the terminology.

And now, I know you have all been awaiting my take on the movie.  A month after first viewing it - I can tell you this - it was pretty forgettable.  It was visually stunning and remained true to the sequence of events until it cuts off.  I felt that Peter Jackson was trying a little too hard to turn it into an LOTR formula piece in how some of the characters were framed.  It was like he was trying to turn Thorin Oakenshield into Aragorn and Fili and Kili into Merry and Pippin.

I also felt as though this movie was far longer than necessary thanks to this side story line about the "Pale Orc" that just wasn't in the book at all.  I'm sure Thorin had other adventures in his life, but they were kind of unnecessarily added to the movie and didn't hold much place there.  This is a book that could have been very thoroughly covered in 2 feature length movies without missing any detail.  To make 3 - 3 hour  movies obviously shows it will have some "creative elements" that aren't really in sync.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will watch only the movies and never read the book and I think it is a travesty to the beauty of this story that it be mauled this way.  I found that when the movie strayed, I would tap my feet in boredom and roll my eyes until it aligned with the story again.

That said, the fan girl in me will be watching the other two movies as well - but I go into it forewarned that it will not be the Hobbit movie I want.  It will be the Hobbit movie that Jackson made up.

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