The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title:  The Hobbit
Author:  J.R.R. Tolkien
Release date:  January 1938
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Pages:  320
Genre:  Young adult, childrens’ books, fantasy
Source:  Personal copy

Ah, The Hobbit –  I really, really was expecting more from you.  I hate that.  I read this book in sixth grade, and while I was scared of it because I’d never read fantasy before that time, I remember enjoying the book quite a bit.  I always assumed I’d read it again, so when the Lord of the Rings read-a-long began I decided that was the perfect opportunity.  Unfortunately, I didn’t love it as much as I was assuming I would.

Clearly, my twelve-year-old brain was a lot different from my twenty-six-year-old brain.  This time around, I found the narration of The Hobbit mildly annoying and condescending, I wished there would be more showing and much less telling, and the adventures did not have the same magic that I remembered them having when I was a kid.  I still found Bilbo charming and sort of adorable, and I somewhat enjoyed the overall experience of reading the book, but it did not have the same sense of wonder that it had years ago.

The Hobbit is the only J.R.R. Tolkien I’d previously read, and now I’m trying to decide if I want to read the rest of the LOTR books.  I’m thinking I will try the first book and see how I like it before committing to all three.  We’ll see.

Have you read these books since you were a child?  What do you think of them?  I know I’m in the minority with my dislike here, so lay it on me!  What do you love about these books and what am I missing?

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20 thoughts on “The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. I found the narration absolutely charming- since it is children’s literature, I didn’t find it condescending. I’m not quite sure what to tell you except that I loved it, and I’m sorry you don’t feel the same. Oh, well!

  2. I can see why the tone would be off-putting for an adult reader, but I think it works for a children’s book. I kept imagining an old grandpa telling the story; that’s exactly what it felt like to me. Now the tone in LOTR is completely different. The narrator does not do nearly as much commenting on the story and rarely, if ever, talks directly to the reader. They’re completely different kinds of books, and I know people who love one and don’t care for the other.

  3. Well, I think you might like the LOTR better. Personally I prefer the charm of The Hobbit, but the next three books are a lot more about the adventure and have, as Teresa said, quite a different tone.

  4. I hated The Hobbit when I was a kid, and found it rather sweet when I reread it last month. But I think Lord of the Rings is a better book, and the narration doesn’t have that same tone at all. Also, if you find yourself not liking the first book of LOTR, skip it and watch the movie, and then read the second book, which is (in my opinion) far better.

  5. I read the whole series a couple of years ago. I LOVED it! It’s funny, but my mom gave them to me to read when I was about 12 or 13, and I couldn’t get into them then. When I read them in my thirties, I couldn’t put them down! Glad to hear you’re going to give another one of the books a shot. Maybe you’ll like them better when they focus less on Bilbo and more on the other characters in the group. I agree with everyone else who says the other three books have a different tone…much more foreboding. I think that’s what totally kept me on the edge of my seat!

  6. I read the LOTR books when the movies came out. I’ve heard that the hobbit is better than LOTR, but have never gotten around to reading it. Thanks for the review!

  7. I adore The Hobbit, since my Dad read it to me as bedtime story each night, I have since then read it over 6 times myself. I’m afraid I don’t agree that it is condenscending in the least instead I think it is written in a pretty mature way considering it is for Children. That is what I loved so much when I first heard it, I didn’t feel like it was watered down just because I’m a child and wouldn’t understand. And now even as an adult the book is filled with magic, adventure, treasure, a dragon, kidnap, escape, battles, good and evil…I really couldn’t ask for more.

    It is a shame you didn’t enjoy it but then again wouldn’t do for us all to be the same, may be you will prefer The Lord of the Rings.

  8. I only ever read it as an adult, and didn’t even finish it. The description just goes on and on, (three pages about a leaf!) that I’d forget what was going on. I had no interest in the characters at all. I was disappointed, because of how people talk about Tolkien, but I know I won’t ever read LOTR. I’ll be a philistine and watch the films instead.

  9. I understand the losing the magic experience of re-reading a beloved book – that’s what happened when I re-read The Chronicles of Narnia but I forgive my adult self for the attempt. I think I was charmed by the intro to The Hobbit and how creative Tolkien was in entertaining his children.

  10. I never read The Hobbit, but I did read Fellowship of the Ring in college and loved it. Had a harder time with The Two Towers, but I would like to go back and read the whole series, Hobbit included.

  11. I haven’t read The Hobbit in a really long time, but I love this edition of it. The cover is so lovely. I also like how The Hobbit is a much lighter story than Lord of the Rings. I think in that way, it holds up really well to re-reads.

  12. I have to read the book in school now, and i think that it is awful. I can’t even focus while trying to read it because the book is so dry. I have to do all these assignment about it two, and im going to fail..=(

  13. I read The Hobbit first when I was 8 or 9 years old and I was literally entranced! I went on to read The Lord of the Rings by the time I was 10 or so, and then even went on to read The Silmarillion, which takes some serious devotion to get through. But, being young and a total geek, I was enthralled. So much so that I read them all again at least 4 more times. Let’s just say that I liked them.

    There’s an almost magical quality to the story, wrought by a true master of the craft, with so much background and scope and majesty that the reader (if they are into that sort of thing) is swept up, deposited into, even, the grandeur that is Middle-Earth.

    I agree that The Hobbit is more of a children’s story. Tolkien himself said that it originated from bedtime stories he would tell his own children, but the LOTRs is majestic beyond anything I’ve ever read.

    It was written as six books, the three that were published containing two books each. If The Hobbit was the childhood of the story, The Fellowship and the first half of The Two Towers (the first 3 books) are its adolescence. The second half of The Two Towers and The Return of the King I would consider the most mature, although a little harder to read as a result. The Silmarillion is just like reading a history textbook in tone, and a truly ancient one at that, but I consider it the best example of the tone that Tolkien was going for and a true reflection of him as a scholar of history and linguistics.

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