You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rereading The Hobbit

There are very few books that I ever reread. I guess there are just so many new books to read out there that a book has to be very special for me to reread it. I have read J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy several times, most recently as the movies were released. And while I read The Hobbit then too, I knew it would be exciting to read it to my children in anticipation of the first Hobbit movie being released this winter.

I won't go into a synopsis here since the story is very popular and there are summaries elsewhere. Instead I will go with my biggest impressions and things that I noticed this time around.

The most interesting facet is the character of Gandalf. The wizard serves several purposes. His first task is of bringing together Bilbo and the dwarves. Gandalf sees something in Bilbo that he thinks would make him a good adventurer (a Tookish element). After fulfilling his role as instigator, he then becomes the helper, showing the party the way and helping them out of sticky situations like with the trolls. Gandalf is absent when the troll encounter begins, allowing the party to get into trouble, but arrives just in time to save everyone. Later he serves as an intermediary between the dwarves and Elrond, and later with Beorn. He helps the dwarves get out of trouble with the goblins, but only uses a small amount of magic: enough to kill the goblin chief but not enough to completely remove the threat.

Gandalf's importance becomes most evident with his absence. When he leaves the party at the entrance to Mirkwood, Bilbo is enabled to step up and help the dwarves out of trouble. This is a common element in myths and legends. The special helper character must step away from the story and stop helping the hero to allow the hero to find his potential. (I am also reminded of Curious George, who was always separated from the man with the yellow hat in order to get in trouble.) In Mirkwood Bilbo's character arc goes way up and he start to see himself not only as a solid member of the party but as their savior.

Bilbo's importance reaches its peak when they reach the Lonely Mountain and he sneaks inside and talks to Smaug. Once he enters the mountain, the plot follows directly via a cause and effect chain. The final events of the story leading up to the death of Smaug and the final battle are plotted very neatly. My kids enjoyed the parts with the dragon and enjoyed following Bilbo through his adventures. My favorite part is still Mirkwood, especially the time when the dwarves are imprisoned and Bilbo must help them escape. I'm not sure whether this is my favorite because of Bilbo's ascendance as I described above, or because Mirkwood is dark and dangerous and the escape from the elves so ingenious. Still, as a whole the story is just a good on the third or fourth reading, through a child's eyes or through an adult's eyes. A

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