Skip to comments.Hobbit has ring of a darker journey
Posted on 12/19/2012 7:09:06 PM PST by BlackVeil
JRR Tolkiens debut prose fiction The Hobbit (1937) may at first glance appear simple, particularly when compared with the epic grandeur and gravity of what was to follow in The Lord of the Rings (published in three volumes between 1954 and 1955), yet it should not be underestimated.
The Hobbit is an exciting, fast-moving and witty novel, featuring an unlikely, quintessentially English middle-class hero none too keen on adventures: Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I cant think what anybody sees in them.
...Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for his children. It defers broadly to the conventional fairy tale and the familiar theme of a quest in the form of a hazardous adventure: the reclaiming of a treasure guarded by a dragon. The landscape is as expected, composed of forests and mountains and home to trolls, goblins, wolves, nasty spiders and so on. Equally standard in Gandalf is an astute wizard with obligatory magical powers. Also present are talking eagles and other birds as well as, crucially, an enchanted ring.
The Lord of the Rings, more successor than sequel, does appear to take up the story begun with Bilbos thrilling odyssey, but it is far darker and more formal. Aside from differences in scale, there is a heightened heroic intent. The narrative voice is solemn; this is a tale laden with history and consequence. Honour and moral order in the full medieval sense prevail, as does the rich influence of Tolkiens scholarship; he was a university professor and an international authority on Old and Middle English literature.
... In concept as well as scale The Hobbit is far closer to Kenneth Grahames The Wind in the Willows (1908), ...
(Excerpt) Read more at irishtimes.com ...
I have the 1977 Rankin/Bass cartoon version which was pretty good on the old “CED” format. Since my Grandchildren are coming on Dec. 27th, I ordered it on DVD. It should get here on the 22nd.
I am going to watch it again on my own before showing it to them. I remember my Daughter really liked it. She told me yesterday that Gollum freaked her out.
That version has Orson Bean, Breitbart’s father-in-law, voicing Bilbo :)
It also has some pretty good music.
The billy goat yodeling, I could have done without. The rest of the soundtrack is very well done.
But that isn't the point of The Hobbit. It's supposed to be exactly what it is, a light treatment of a fellow paddling in the shallow end and only dimly aware of the dark currents underneath. And yet Tolkien is very clear that it is only Bilbo's sense of pity and compassion that saves him from being sucked under. By the time we understand what The Ring really is he has been touched by it, but only that.
For Frodo the journey will be longer and far more cruel, and he will be saved in the end not by his own virtue, great as that is, but by the final result of both Bilbo's compassion and his own, and Sam's. That is Tolkien's message. At that point we understand that compassion on the part of the very small can shake the towers of the very great. At that point we have transcended fairy tales, dragged imperceptibly, bit by bit, from one of the humblest and subtlest opening lines in English literature, "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit."
Great stuff. I do not think, as does the author of this piece, that Sauron is a Lucifer analogue, that role being more properly ascribed to Saruman, whose fall was of his own volition. Milton's conflation of Lucifer with Satan has been troublesome since he wrote it and Sauron is far more identifiable with Satan. If, however, we find ourselves squabbling with this sort of difficulty we are already conceding that Tolkien's little story is dancing with some of the finest entries in the canon of English literature. Tolkien would probably thrash me for impertinence in saying so, but it's the truth.
Of course, the little historical unpleasantness that intervened between the writing of the Hobbit from that of the LOTR may have had something to do with it.
In all reality, Morgoth would be Satan/Lucifer, Sauron more like Beezulbub.
Thank you for such a erudite and thought-provoking post. I was very pleased to post this article, which is from the Irish Times, and in Eire they still do have a quality literary culture in the general media. (For the time being, at least. Genuine literary culture is under attack by orcs.)
You give a wonderful reading here, and I think it is YOU who should be publishing articles about The Hobbit.
The natural protection which surrounds the humble is so clearly, but subtly, brought out in Tolkien’s writings. Pride, along with avarice, are means by which the most exulted fall.