There and Back Again
(A Book Review of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit)
There and back again.
Such words and none other perfectly describe my intense love affair for J.R.R. Tolkien’s books; why, in each endeavor of reading his works is always a call to be delighted and dazzled once more; why, even if I had already read his books countless of times, the plot and its characters made known to me like the creases on my palm, it is as if I’m still reading it for the first time, enthralled page after page; why, throughout the years I kept coming back to it again and in such moment of repeated perusal my admiration for it multiplies a hundred fold.
It is no wonder the above statement holds water even now when I reread The Hobbit — whose fitting subtitle was apparently the source of this blog post’s title — for the monthly book discussion of The Filipino Group and as the featured Author of the Month by yours truly.
Indeed, it is just as evocative and wonderful as I remember it when I first read it during my high school years on the sole recommendation by our librarian; even years after when Tolkien scrawled the word “hobbit” on a dull exam paper he was correcting that 74 years later (the book was first published in 1937) it is still received with enthusiasm by long and first time readers alike.
An avowed classic children’s book, The Hobbit follows the tale of Bilbo Baggins, the titular hobbit — characterized as benevolent, furry-footed creatures, fond of bright colors, tobacco and a many great helpings of meal — who went on an adventure with a company of thirteen dwarves and a powerful wizard to steal back a pile of treasure on a far away land. However, there’s a catch: a wily dragon sits on top of this mound and so it’s up to the Bilbo, the supposed “thief,” to outsmart and find a way to reclaim it for the dwarves and possibly, while he’s at it, the kingdom they once lost.
But that’s not all.
In a few pages that sure do packs up a punch, we meet elves who, though are outwardly jovial folks, possess profound wisdom about them, an enchanted map with arcane runes, a grizzly man who can change into a bear and chance on gigantic eagles on their unreachable eyries atop mighty mountains; run into hungry yet gullible trolls, get chased by fierce wolves, go across caves infested with nasty goblins, get to play riddles in the dark, make daring escapes and, who knows, might accidentally stumble upon a magical ring — which quite frankly are hard to run into these days!
It is said that a good piece of music is the one that begs to be heard again and again. I think the same can be said of good books: it’s best to read it again and again because truly there is no way around to treat a good book than by rereading it. By it you’ll not just understand it on a deeper level but also feel its cadence and depth. Rereading The Hobbit gave me awareness in some of the things I overlooked when I previously read it — and to tell you honestly it’s still an engaging story. For instance, Tolkien’s playful and friendly tone, like that of a grown up unraveling the story for a child, caught me off guard at times when find that I’m reading it aloud to myself. Aside from that, I also spotted different character nuances particularly that of Gandalf who, before long I thought of as a towering figure of power, can also act childish, getting cranky during a rainstorm, or annoyed when someone beat him up at solving a puzzle. But more than all of those, it bolstered my love for Bilbo and hobbits in general; that though seemingly small and weak has the potential strength to be heroic, fighting for the things in he holds dear: a peaceful ordered life, frequent meals, and his pipe. It is because of these that make him all the more ordinary, laughable, and at best likable.
Eight or so years after reading The Hobbit I think the feeling remains the same and more…
It remains an interactive reading experience as I trace my finger on the maps in the book, following the path that Bilbo, Thorin and the company took on their way to the Lonely Mountain. At times, in waking dreams, and as odd as it might sound, I sometimes feel like an inhabitant of Middle Earth, walking along with Tolkien’s sundry creatures. It is truly an experience that goes well beyond the pages. Whether you’re a fan or not of Tolkien all you have to do is read and see for yourself that you are also a part of the story and in your own way Gentle Reader be a part of a simple fact: there and back again.
I open the book, the great wind blows, the Quest begins and I follow…
There and back again.
It’s falling in love once again.
Book #1 for 2011
Published by Houghton Mifflin
(Hardcover, 70th Anniversary Edition)
Started: January 3, 2011
Finished: January 9, 2011