I last read THE HOBBIT way back in 8th grade, and I love the movies so much that I’ve been really wanting to read the book again.
I reread this book in three days (March 31st-April 1st). Not going to lie, I mostly picked it up as a change of pace from my current read, which I’m immensely enjoying but incapable of reading faster than a snail’s pace. I wanted to read something I knew I’d enjoy and that I’ve been meaning to reread for years anyway.
Like I said, I love the movies, particularly AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. In college I went through a period of a few months when I was watching it on average once a day. (Which is a fun fact that left the TA for my film class giving me odd looks for a while).
But I hadn’t read the book since it was assigned in middle school, and I knew there were a lot of details I’d forgotten and that weren’t the same as the movies. So I was excited to get to experience the story all over again in a new way. I loved this reread, and was reading during nearly every free second I had, but, as much as I loved it, there were a few things that disappointed me.
These disappointments were entirely the fault of how much I love the movies and how well I know that version of the story. Not a fault of the book but rather a fault of personal preference. Movie Bilbo saves the day multiple times and acts with purpose and a deep involvement and concern for the outcome of the quest.
Book Bilbo as a main character is very passive and essentially just reacting to the plot and Gandalf’s prompting. Multiple times he thinks “I wish Gandalf was here to handle this”. Many of the moments where Bilbo truly shines and helps the rest of the company during the movie aren’t events he plays a role in for the book. He’s there relaying the information and what happened, but he was just a bystander as someone else saved the day.
I, as a writer, have read and studied a lot of craft that talks about making sure your main character is being active. Obviously JRR Tolkien wasn’t writing based on the advice of current craft books, but it’s a personal preference of mine to have the MC actively involved in how the story plays out rather than just relaying some other character’s story.
The movies gave Bilbo a lot more purpose and he actively affected the course of events much more. I still love THE HOBBIT and my preference for the movies doesn’t mean I didn’t love this reread, but that was a large distinction that I kept noticing throughout the reread. I loved the book though, and I know that if I hadn’t seen the movies so many times and automatically compared the two, I wouldn’t have probably noticed the lack of involvement on Bilbo’s part.
This is because Bilbo does still affect the story ultimately, and becomes a lot more active in the second half of the book. Honestly, it makes sense that he wasn’t for the first part, as he hadn’t really wanted to be on the journey in the first place and was therefore understandably reactive to all the events of the first half.
And don’t let my talk of not being active fool you, the major events of the story are still affected by Bilbo, and he still saves the dwarves plenty of times and earns their respect along the way. And ultimately, that’s the purpose of Bilbo’s character in the movies and book, to quietly show how the course of events can be affected by the ones not wielding swords and running into battle.