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An Appreciation for The Hobbit

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Nebuchadnezzar, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. Nebuchadnezzar

    Nebuchadnezzar Troubadour

    The book, not the movie (which I haven't seen). A few things struck me as I was considering The Hobbit the other day. It was a major contributor to the creation of the fantasy genre, but so many of the books that followed it seem to disregard some of its major themes. To whit:

    1. The hero is an Everyman, well over his head, and to the extent he succeeds it is through luck, bravery and perseverance rather than epic skillz, raw talent or superhuman powers. For that matter, the hero doesn't even defeat the Big Bad (Bard does that), though he is responsible for identifying its weakness. So many fantasy novels have abandoned this idea in favor of making their MC essentially a comic book superhero/long lost royalty/the greatest wizard of the age.

    2. The book is far from over after the quest succeeds. Instead, the success of the quest triggers a near war among "the good guys" as they squabble over the spoils. When was the last time a quest novel played this card? And this was a concept introduced at the genre's popular birth...

    The orcs, elves, dwarves, dragons, etc. were a wonderful element of The Hobbit (and heavily copied) but in my mind they are just stage setting for the story of a regular man who does the best he can in difficult circumstances. The quest story is wonderful (and heavily copied) but the last part of the book exploring the consequences of the quest is even better and in modern fantasy seems to be seldom repeated.

    Your thoughts?
  2. Phietadix

    Phietadix Archmage

    I assume you mean people copied from Tolkien, not the other way around. I heard that all of these (Aside from the Dragons) are basicly his inventions. They may have originaily been from mythology, but Tolkien made them into what we know today.
  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Very good points, Neb. ^^ The hero of my vampire novel is pretty much the #1-type everyman, just a normal guy thrust into circumstances he neither wanted nor can easily control. Although he does end up defeating the bad guy in the end, he has no special powers, and not a lot of raw talent either -- basically just enough to stay (un-)alive. The one magical advantage he does get turns out to be not so useful, especially when compared to the villain's similar, but not identical magical advantage.

    I don't think #2 has been completely disregarded in this day and age -- it plays a large role in my Fae stories, such that thinking about the consequences of one book spawned an entire sequel, making a stand-alone into a duology.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    What I appreciate about The Hobbit is that while it was [I believe] written for children; it is not childish. It is written simply and cleanly.
    And I love that the end isn't getting the gold... the book is subtitled "there and back again", the story ends with BB back safe and sound at home. JRRT wasn't afraid of the cosy ending...
    What I would love to know is if JRRT was already working on LOTR; if so then BB finding the [One] ring is one of the most subtle set-ups I've ever read.
  5. kayd_mon

    kayd_mon Sage

    Your points illustrate some of the reasons that Tolkien was such a fantastic author. I love the fact that even though there is magic and fantasy in the book, it still feels real. The characters can't cast all-powerful spells to get them out of trouble, they have to rely on wit, bravery, and their companions. I have read The Hobbit more times than any other book, and I love the way you expressed its unique qualities.
  6. Phietadix

    Phietadix Archmage

    Well Ganfalf could, But he wasn't there the whole time.
  7. Alexandra

    Alexandra Troubadour

    Quite the contrary; the fantastic creatures in Tolkien's books were heavily influenced, or outright based upon, northern European mythologies, with influences from other early fantasy writers. The orcs may be the closest we have to an original Tolkien creature but that too might be a stretch.

    Exactly. What made Tolkien such an important writer (in my opinion) is what he did with the elves, dwarves, hobbits, and Smaug) in his books, not whether he created them.
  8. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I think the only creatures in his books that are completely his own are the hobbits.
  9. Fae

    Fae Dreamer

    I actually just finished reading The Hobbit again this morning and I have to say that book is refreshing if nothing else. The adventures remind me of something from Enid Blyton's series though of course this is much more grown up. I admire the style in which the book was written which I seldom see in any novel these days and above all else, its originality.
  10. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    If I remember well he hadn't a clear idea of what was the ring when he wrote the first version of The Hobbit. I'm not really sure.
  11. MrChristopher

    MrChristopher Acolyte

    Going by memory here but Im fairly certain in the Foreword section Tolkien mentions that his original pitch for a "sequel" was a text on the language of elves in Middle Earth. Then he tried to sell the publisher an early draft of The Silmarilion. Only then did he move onto what we now know as LOTR some years later.

    So in short - Im 99% sure Tolkien had no idea he was going to take the story in that direction when he wrote the Hobbit. The Necromancer was just an evil wizard at that point, not Sauron. And the ring was just an invisibility ring.

    ...and wolves could talk. :)
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