The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is his first published story, the one which introduced people everywhere to the world of Middle-earth. It tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who leads a fairly simple life, until the day that the wizard Gandalf shows up on his doorstep with a troupe of Dwarves and an invitation to become their burglar. Although somewhat unwilling, Bilbo goes along with them, meeting a whole lot of trouble along the way (including one Gollum who happens to have lost a small golden ring), before helping the Dwarves gain entry to their former mountain home, which has been taken over by a dragon named Smaug.
This year I decided to read a version of the book that I’ve not tried before. It’s one which I inherited from my Grampy, which I think came from one of the fantasy book clubs he was a member of. It’s eight years older than I am, with a lovely red cover with gold lettering (some of which has worn off now).
This copy is really beautiful. It’s got two-colour maps at the beginning and end. I’m fairly certain that I read somewhere that Tolkien wanted these maps to be done in more than one colour but that budget restraints stopped this. There are a selection of Tolkien’s illustrations through the book as well which I enjoyed. I’m fairly certain that I’ve seen all of these before (I may even have another edition which includes them) but it’s always nice to see Tolkien’s own view of the places he describes.
Another thing that I liked about this book, without sounding too weird, is that is sort of smells of my Grampy. There’s something reassuring about reading a book belonging to someone who isn’t around anymore and being reminded of them. I could imagine him sitting and reading this one.
I have a matching edition of The Lord of the Rings which seems to have very thin ‘Bible’ pages, which was part of the reason why I’ve put off reading this edition so long. I was worried about the risk of tearing the pages, or handling them with greasy fingers, and spoiling them. I needn’t have worried. Although The Lord of the Rings is very delicate, this is a far more sturdy book. The pages are wonderfully thick.
I did notice a few typos in the book. My personal favourite was the word ‘goomy’ where it should have read ‘gloomy’. I noticed a couple of others as well. I’ve noticed typos seem to be common in ‘book club’ editions of books. I suspect it’s something to do with the way that they were printed or copied from the originals. It’s not something that really detracts from the actual story though and at times it’s quite amusing (I don’t remember where the g(l)oomy typo was, but I think it was an Elf who said it, which is a really unelflike word).
I read this book in the run up to going to see the final film in the cinema (finishing it around a fortnight before we took a trip to Glasgow) so it was very exciting to read it and imagine how the final chapters might be translated onto the screen. I also noticed in my book journal that I’d started picturing scenes from the film as I was reading. I guess this is inevitable when you’re becoming familiar with a move version of a book.
In terms of the actual story, I should probably say something about my favourite bits. I have a lot of them, but I think Riddles in the Dark will probably always be my favourite chapter. I think it’s been my favourite chapter since I first read it twenty-three years ago! This time around I think I also enjoyed the battle a lot more than I would usually do as well, normally it’s one of my least favourite bits but I’m guessing it’s because of the anticipation of seeing it playing out on the big screen.
It’s going to be very strange this year, not rereading The Hobbit in anticipation of the latest film. Then again, the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies will be coming out in a few months… it couldn’t hurt to refresh my memory for it.