The Tolkien Reader: Part 118 Oct 2012
Whenever people think of J.R.R. Tolkien, the first thing most of them remember is the Lord of the Rings and now, with a couple of movies based on the Hobbit on the way, the Hobbit as well. While Lord of the Rings is still the most popular book he ever wrote, it's not his only work. As you explore his works you begin to see the genius Tolkien was. I have read quite a few books Tolkien wrote, this is just my tribute to one of the greatest fantasy fiction author to have walked the Earth.
It's amazing how many people don't know about this book and yet they are really big fans of the Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit serves as the precursor to the Lord of the Rings (LOTR from here on) yet there is no direct relation between them that requires the reader to read Hobbit before LOTR. That probably is one of the biggest reasons this book hasn't picked up that well.
Hobbit is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a young hobbit (read the book, it starts with an explanation of what a hobbit is – in short they are short, fun loving, food lovers who want to live in peace) who was recruited by a Wizard and 13 dwarves to steal the treasure (which is rightfully theirs) back from a Dragon, Smaug. The book is an adventure of these 15 people through middle earth overcoming many hurdles. The book is full of excitement and there are no boring patches as in LOTR. The book was intended for children but even adults will find it an interesting read. There are giant spiders, trolls, goblins, a creature that can turn into anyone or anything, wood elves, dragons, normal humans (dull), wine and songs and sonnets and ale - pipe-weed and smoke rings. It's all there, the formula for a great book.
When I say it hasn't picked up that well I mean it when compared with LOTR. Hobbit, according to estimations, has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and has been translated in over 25 languages. That's a huge figure when you compare that the last Harry Potter book sold less than 50 million copies. LOTR sits above the combined figures of these 2 at around 150 million copies sold. Even with these figures, I see around and I see people I know – most of them haven't even heard of the Hobbit. They haven't read the book and have no clue what it is about. It's a book you must read if you are interested in Tolkien's work in general. It's also a very goof starting point for anyone new to his works and also the fantasy fiction genre in general.
The Children of Húrin
If there is a book I would like to see in action on the big screen, it's this one. Another gem from Tolkien mostly overlooked by many, Children of Hurin is a tragic story of Túrin Turambar, and his sister Niënor Níniel. The timeline of the story is 6500 years before the war of the ring after which comes LOTR. You know who Sauron (the badass guy from LOTR who's just an eye) was in this time? A mere servant of the then dark lord Morgoth.
The story revolves around the life of Túrin and Niënor. There's a war brewing between Morgoth and the elves. Hurin is swept into the war and captured by Morgoth and forced to see all evil that happens around him. His wife is unaware of the whereabouts of Túrin who, with help of others like him, has been living in exile. Morgoth has sent a dragon, Glaurung to take care of Túrin. Túrin's sister, Niënor doesn't know about all this. Their paths clash and they weave together. The sibling duo is now fighting Glaurung. This is a story of brutal conquest and flight, of forest hiding-places and pursuit, of resistance with lessening hope, of tragic love with shocking consequences. The Dark Lord and the Dragon enter in direly articulate form. Glaurung almost succeeds in doing his master's bidding.
If you have read the Unfinished Tales, another good book by Mr. Tolkien, then you already know the abstract of this story but don't let that fool you. This book is much more than what is explored in the limited novella in Unfinished Tales. Christopher Tolkien has edited the original manuscripts of JRR and published this book. He's a bit weird at times but it's still a brilliant piece of work. The book starts off with a plethora of names that are impossible to keep track of and most readers will turn away from the book in the first 50 pages. That's just a little hardship that you need to go through before the cream comes out. The rest of the book is easy on the number of characters and grows better like an old wine. The ending of the book is what really excited me. I was imagining it being shown on a big screen. I could almost see something as magnificent as the shower of arrows from 300. We'll just have to wait and see of Peter Jackson feels the same way or not. The Second Part
I am cutting the article short at this point. I can go on about this for a long time but then I realized that these short summaries don't really do justice to any books. I would, when I get time, be writing full length reviews (without spoilers). Until them, please pick up a copy of Hobbit if you haven't already and start reading.