The Hobbit

Culture, Literature, Personal


I mentioned awhile ago that I’d been meaning to go back to Tolkein and give him a re-read. Shamus‘ web-comic has been a constant dose of exposure, and it’s made me really want to revisit that world.

So the past week or so I’ve been spending my downtime going through The Hobbit. I’m about halfway through right now and enjoying it, though I’m struck by a couple of things.

1. How self-conscious the writing is. Well, perhaps self-conscious isn’t the right term for it, as it strikes me at once as self-conscious, but also naturalistic. The style seems to be that you’d encounter from an oral storyteller, interjecting himself, observations, and references to the world outside of the story into the tale.
2. How episodic a structure the story has. It kind of makes me want to start drafting up my own plot outlines, given the easiness which Tolkein seems to display in filling out a segment of the plot, then moving on to the next event. This is kind of expected, as reading something good always makes me want to write. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to pick up more writing these days.
3. Style. These days I can’t help but notice style, though I suppose this dovetails with #1. It’s odd to me to see sentence fragments, internal dialogue, and all sorts of things. In my own writing I’m constantly analyzing whether I want to use these techniques (and usually saying no, for the prototypical writer’s advice being “Show, don’t tell”). A lot of people have criticised Tolkein’s writing for being stodgy, but I really don’t see any of that here.
4. Prevalence of magic. Trolls turning to stone at sunlight, Gandalf’s voices, magical swords, … It’s a lot more prevalent than I remember. Of course, half of what we see is only apparent magic. Gandalf fries some goblins and wolves with, presumably, magic… But one could make a convincing argument that he was using chemical fires as well. The character of the Elves in Rivendell in particular, was very much “faerie” elf and not what I expect from Tolkein Elves. I’m not a Tolkein-ologist, so I can’t say how developed Middle Earth was at the time he wrote The Hobbit, but it seems like he altered much by the time he sat down to write the Lord of the Rings.
5. Characters. The only real characters in the book so far seem to be Bilbo, and maybe Gandalf. Since the thought of a Peter Jackson Hobbit movie is lingering in the back of my mind, I wonder how a film would handle a travelling party as big as Thorin & Company, most of whom are Dwarves and probably indistinguishable except for clothing. Tolkein hasn’t really given any of the Dwarves a big part yet, they’re pretty much along for the ride acting as foils to show Bilbo’s growth in courage and confidence.

More later, probably. I’m just barely getting into the meat of it.

2 Responses

  1. Its looking much more likely that Sam Raimi will be making The Hobbit movie rather than Peter Jackson. Not such a bad thing in my humble opinion…

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