Saturday, 8 December 2012

Fantasy Reads: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The cover of the first edition, illustrated by Tolkien

To put it simply, I haven't read a fantasy as satisfying and sumptuous as The Hobbit.In its best moments (and there are innumerable), Tolkien makes us believe that he was there, seeing it all, in another place, another time, eons ago.

First published in 1937, Tolkien wrote this fantasy tale supposedly for children, which is hard to believe. For apart from its epic scale, the book is fascinating in providing varied, delightful shades to the various creatures that inhabit it - hobbits, dwarves,wizards, dragons and humans.

Full of surprises, the book tells the tale of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who finds his peaceful, sleepy life disrupted by the arrival of the wizard Gandalf, Thorin and his band of twelve dwarves at his cosy home in the Shire. Gandalf cunningly makes Bilbo part of this treasure-hunting group. The dwarves mean to regain their treasure, stolen from them years ago by the fierce dragon Smaug, who still guards it. Suddenly, Bilbo's placid life turns into a series of adventures, he almost gets killed by trolls, and with the other dwarves - gets captured by goblins.

Then there is the significant part about Gollum, a mysterious creature who tries to trap Bilbo, as depicted in the chapter 'Riddles in the Dark'. It is here that a mysterious ring makes its first appearance, a strand expanded into epic storytelling in the writer's three-book The Lord of the Rings, published between 1953-1954.

Underneath the simplistic main plot, there are several webs of  intricacies that make The Hobbit more than a mere fairy tale. Just when you may think that the story has reached its zenith, the real fun begins. There is no morality involved here, everybody is after the treasure, some want a share of it, others won't part with it. A treat for teenagers and adults and not as intimidatingly (for some readers) spread as The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit started the fire that became the bigger, grander trilogy.

Thing is, Tolkien's writing still illuminates with immense detailing, wit and life that remains, almost eight decades later - unsurpassed. A classic.

Caution: Don't go by Peter Jackson's underwhelming movie trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit, the book is a gem. 

(Article by Snehith Kumbla) 

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