Read: 24 September, 2012
The hobbit Bilbo Baggins is rather surprised to receive thirteen dwarves and a wizard in his sitting room, though he reluctantly agrees to accompany them on a grand adventure.
The greatest thing that struck me about The Hobbit is the writing. Tolkien is a true storyteller, employing many of the conventions of oral tradition (such as directly addressing the audience), while at the same time deftly transferring it to the written form. It made the book very enjoyable to read and I look forward to reading it aloud to the kiddo.
Since George R.R. Martin often gets called “the American Tolkien,” it seems appropriate to make a brief comparison. I noted when reading the Song of Ice and Fire series that the world felt populated. In that series, it was the characters that gave that impression – both in their number and in their description. In The Hobbit, I also felt like it’s a full and populated world, but it’s the history and the extra detail of character movements outside of the story that gave me that impression (such as when Gandalf leaves the party to fight a necromancer). So while the setting didn’t have the believability of Westeros, it at least had a sort of fullness.
That being said, the descriptions of the dwarves did make me feel rather uncomfortable. Their culture and history was clearly inspired by Jewish history and culture, which would be fine if it were not for Tolkien’s frequent mentions of the dwarves’ large noses and his relentless references to Thorin’s gold lust (causing him to rather start a war and possibly die than part with even a small portion of his treasure – even when he acknowledges that the portion rightfully belongs to someone else).
But that aside, it was a lovely and well-told story, and I am looking forward to reading it to the kiddo. Even the Jewish business wasn’t so overtly hateful that I’d not want to read the story, but rather provides a good “teachable moment” to talk about the more subtle – and insidious – forms of bigotry.
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