Monday, June 1, 2009

75. The Hobbitt – J.R. Tolkein

August 2007
History: It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic children's book.
Plot: Gandalf tricks Bilbo into hosting a party for Thorin's band of dwarves, who sing of reclaiming the Lonely Mountain and its vast treasure from the Dragon Smaug. When the music ends, Gandalf unveils a map showing a secret door into the Mountain and proposes that the dumbfounded Bilbo serve as the expedition's "burglar". The dwarves ridicule the idea, but Bilbo, indignant, joins despite himself.
The group travel into the wild, where Gandalf saves the company from trolls and leads them to Rivendell. While there, Elrond reveals more secrets from the map. Passing over the Misty Mountains, they are caught by goblins and driven deep underground. Although Gandalf rescues them, Bilbo gets separated from the others as they flee the goblin tunnels. Lost and disoriented, he stumbles across a mysterious ring and then encounters Gollum, who engages him in a game of riddles with deadly stakes. With the help of the ring, which confers invisibility, Bilbo escapes and rejoins the dwarves, raising his reputation with them. The goblins and Wargs give chase and the company are saved by eagles before resting in the house of Beorn, the skin-changer.
The company enter the black forest of Mirkwood without Gandalf. In Mirkwood, Bilbo first saves the dwarves from Giant Spiders and then from the dungeons of the Wood-elves. Nearing the Lonely Mountain, the travellers are welcomed by the human inhabitants of Lake-town, who hope the dwarves will fulfil prophecies of Smaug's demise. The expedition travel to the Mountain and find the secret door; Bilbo scouts the dragon's lair, stealing a great cup and learning of a weakness in Smaug's armour. The enraged dragon, deducing that Lake-town has aided the intruder, sets out to destroy the town. A noble thrush who overheard Bilbo's report of Smaug's vulnerability reports it to Bard the Bowman, who slays the Dragon.
When the dwarves take possession of the mountain, Bilbo finds the Arkenstone, an heirloom of Thorin's dynasty, and steals it. The Wood-elves and Lake-men besiege the Mountain and request compensation for their aid, reparations for Lake-town's destruction, and settlement of old claims on the treasure. Thorin refuses and, having summoned his kin from the north, reinforces his position. Bilbo tries to ransom the Arkenstone to head off a war, but Thorin is intransigent. He banishes Bilbo, and battle seems inevitable.
Gandalf reappears to warn all of an approaching army of goblins and Wargs. The dwarves, men, and elves band together, but only with the timely arrival of the eagles and Beorn do they win the climactic Battle of Five Armies. Thorin, mortally wounded, lives long enough to part from Bilbo as a friend. The treasure is divided fairly, but, having no need or desire for it, Bilbo refuses most of his contracted share. Nevertheless, he returns home wealthy.
Review: This is an all time classic fantasy novel and precedes the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s much less grand in scope, and not really about good versus evil. This is an adventure yarn about a simple hobbit going off on an adventure with some dwarves to recover their gold from a dragon. Along the way, he finds himself to be far more resourceful and capable than he ever dreamed.
Opening Line: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
Closing Line: “"Thank goodness!" said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.”
Quotes: "Never laugh at live dragons."
Rating: Okay.

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