NOTE: as the title of my review indicates, this is a review of the Harper Collins 2007 reprint, a beautiful hardback that makes good use of Tolkien's artwork. For some reason Amazon UK also appends this review to the recent re-release of the CD-version of the BBC Audiobook production as well. Personally I find this very annoying: when I read customer reviews I want to read about the version or edition I'm looking at/interested in buying. I've drawn Amazon's attention to this several times, but it seems to be beyond their abilities to remedy this! For my review of the BBC audiobook, see here.
I decided to treat myself to this very handsome edition of The Hobbit when I realised that, somewhere along the way, I'd lost my original much-loved paperback (so well-thumbed it was disintegrating).
One of the immediate reasons it recommends itself, apart of course from the de-luxe hardback format (oh, and let's not forget the excellent story contained within!), is the beautiful use of Tolkien's dust jacket design and illustrations. Tolkien's visual additions to his story are just wonderful (and there are whole books dedicated to his art, even specifically his Hobbit art works), and his maps and the dust jacket design are, to me, fundamentally essential parts of the proper 'full Hobbit' experience. This really is a sumptuously beautiful edition, one that can be enjoyed and admired as much for its visual aesthetics as for its literary content, or the sheer unalloyed fun of reading it and inhabiting Tolkien's imaginary world.
It's interesting when children's stories evolve naturally from a family context, as The Hobbit did, and as many children's stories do (e.g. Jim Smith's recently republished Frog Band stories). My original paperback LOTR carried a review on the back that very succinctly captured what Tolkien achieves in both the LOTR and The Hobbit, which is a fusion of the 'epic and homely'. And of Tolkien's two best known books it's this, his first, that both launched his career as a writer, and is the more childlike and homely of the two.
In the extra material included in this edition we learn, from Tolkien himself, that his time "Writing ... has been stolen, often guiltily, from time already mortgaged" (such great language even in his personal writing!), but the success of Yhe Hobbit brought with it the promise of a better life: "I begin to wonder whether duty and desire may not (perhaps) in future go more closely together." Amen brother Tolkien, amen. Don't we all wish that might be so!
Most fundamentally, especially with a modern film of The Hobbit looming, it bears repeating that the unique experience of reading Tolkien and imagining his world, it's characters, landscapes and events, for yourself, that is the best and most magical and enchanting experience Tolkien's 'legendarium' can offer. Far better, I feel, to read the book first and have that exquisite experience than to have someone else's interpretation imprinted on one's reading of the book.
In my review I've really only addressed this editions particular merits, writing as someone who knows and loves Tolkien's works. If you're someone who doesn't know the story I won't spoil it for you: whether young or old, or somewhere in between, the best thing you could do is simply buy and read this classic book, and approach it with the simplicity and innocence of childhood (and we all continue to carry something of that within us, no matter how else we might age). Tolkien wrote a miniature masterpiece in The Hobbit, and thereby embarked upon the creation of a whole imaginary world. Open the door (it's wooden, round and green), and follow Bilbo on his adventures: 'the road goes ever on and on', and you'll be so glad you did.
SAFE READING - ONLY ONE SLIGHT SPOILER
I already had the "Hobbit" in various editions but recommend the illustrated, hardcover version too; it has many lovely illustrations and, printed on good quality, glossy paper it feels and looks as Tolkien would have preferred.
Audiobook - I bought this for my grandchildren; I have a wide selection of audiobooks on my iPod and, for myself, I rarely buy abridged versions but, as I know "The Hobbit", I thought a CD keeping to the main story would be better for them as there are substantial sections of (additional but non-essential) description. The abridgement has been done sensibly and is ideal for younger readers.
I have been a fan of Martin Shaw since I saw him playing an understated Banquo In "Macbeth" and I have seen him in many productions since, most recently as Justice Deed on television. I did not know he had done readings so I was keen to listen.
Buying for the grandchildren, I usually listen first, then decide. I listened to this in the car; although I don't enjoy readers who try too hard with every voice, initially I was disappointed as the reading was a little too unadventurous, especially with such a range of weird and wonderful characters. Then I heard Gollum, "my preciousss". This slimy, devious, sinister and unctuous character is one of Tolkien's classics and Shaw brings him off the page with a voice so filled with concealed and dormant evil and, somehow (using lots of siliva?) it drips with the watery, slimy world in which he lives, I really began to fear for Bilbo.
Perhaps there was a new "Hobbit" I had not read and Bilbo ...!
When the ring is discovered to be missing, Gollum is distraught and, as the voice rose an octave, I laughed (in hysterical admiration, of course) as I felt my skin creep at the thought of all that oozing slime and that sinister character.
When the grandchildren listen to it, I feel sure Gollum may have the same effect on them. My initial disappointment forgotten, I enjoyed the rest and recommend it. It's now on my iPod too, abridged or not, just for Gollum, "my precioussss"!
PS I hope Martin Shaw's voice recovered! After all, there's "Lord of the Rings" to come.
on 17 November 2005
The respectable Mr Bilbo Baggins, was extremely content and comfortable in his cosy little hobbit hole. He really didn't want an adventure so the wizard, Gandalf, had to trick him into joining the party of dwarves and helping them to recover their kingdom and their treasure from the dragon, Smaug. It was a dark and dangerous quest that took them through the realms of elves, orcs, eagles, a skin-changer, giant spiders and men, via mountains, caves and forests. Bilbo lost his buttons and his handkerchiefs but he found an amazing ring, made some wonderful life-long friends and learned what sort of person he was - not timid after all, but brave, hardy and resourceful when in a tight spot.
It's been one of my favourite stories since I first heard it, many years ago. It was read to our class in about 1961. Since then I've read it several times, listened to the BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of it, listened to Martin Shaw's excellent abridged reading and now I've listened to this unabridged reading by Rob Inglis. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's true that this version does seem to have been read with the younger listener in mind, but I didn't find the character voices excessively exaggerated. It's a matter of personal taste, where you draw the line, of course. I will certainly listen to both the Rob Inglis (for the full story, beautifully told) and Martin Shaw (for a more adult orientated reading) audiobooks again and again. The BBC dramatisation (this is where I draw the line) is aimed squarely at the youngest audience however, and I would not want to listen to that production again. I've also listened to Rob Inglis reading the unabridged audiobook of Lord of the Rings, where he employs a more serious tone. After enjoying that enormously - and satisfied that he'd done Tolkien's great legend full justice - I knew I wanted to hear him reading The Hobbit. I was not disappointed and would have no hesitation in recommending this unabridged version to anyone who likes listening to stories.
As a previous reviewer has mentioned, it would have been good to have a map with the audiobook. I referred to the one in my copy of the book, which I can now visualise in any case after so many readings.
on 5 January 2002
I decided to invest in this classic but I wasn't sure which edition to buy; the boxed set or the one book. I love hardback books, especially slightly oversized and I'm glad I decided to buy this one. The dust cover advertises the beautiful illustrations inside. It also has embossed gold foil writing and at the top and bottom the foil backed Runes. The bottle green hardback is gold embossed on the spine, and depicts in gold the Smaug (dragon) on the front. Inside you will find at the front Thror's map and at the back a map of Wilderland, to guide you through the journey of the heroes, whilst reading the book.
The pages are generously sized, clear and beautifully illustrated with Alan Lee's drawings in pencil and full colour throughout (I wish it had the old tissue paper covering the illustrations of bygone days!). There is also a Lord of the Rings edition in the same format. It is beneficial to read the Hobbit before the Lord of the Rings.
The Hobbit describes the adventures of a friendly, roughly 3 foot 6 hobbit called Bilbo. He is volunteered into an adventure beyond the scope of most hobbit's lives by a kindly old family friend, Gandalf the wizard. His journey is also initiated and accompanied by fourteen dwarves. Bilbo's contract is to steal the treasure back for the dwarves, stolen and held by Smaug the Magnificent. Smaug is a large and very perilous dragon. Bilbo even surprises himself by becoming a hero, despite his slight size. This is an enchanting book; Tolkien has a rare gift in creating books which capture the imagination of any age. It is beautifully written, comical, imagination stretching but with the skillfulness of convincing the reader that the story is factual and passing over a great empathy, tugging at the reader's heartstrings over the adventure's endearing characters. A must read book.
I was first given a copy of The Hobbit when I was, I think, 10 years old - my father, a confirmed Lord of the Rings fan, brought me a copy. I loved it then, and I love it now ... *cough* *cough* years later.
Having read, over the years, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion many times, and having pored over the artwork, calendars and drawings available out there, I still think The Hobbit is on a slightly different wavelength to the other books. It's lighter, slightly more fanciful and less dark - even though bad things do happen, the tone of the book is that of someone telling a tale ... and that's one of its many charms. It can be read by anyone from a pre-teen to an adult, and enjoyed over the years on so many levels. It never loses its appeal.
A wonderful adventure, filled with elves, goblins, orcs, dwarves, men and many other creatures - and hobbits, of course. Bilbo Baggins is one of a kind - a hobbit with a touch of `Tookishness' in him who finds he may yet thrive on an adventure. Great stuff indeed.
on 14 November 2012
(Reviews for different versions of the Hobbit seem to be bundled together on amazon; this is a review for the BBC Radio 4 Dramatisation of the story).
I'm a huge fan of Tolkien's work and have read The Hobbit as a novel a number of times; I also own the unabridged Audio CD of the story (around 16 hours, if I recall correctly).
I found this adaptation largely entertaining, and a good reminder of the story, but unfortunately rather confusing at times. At times it really wasn't clear what was going on, the narrative being list in a babble of voices and effects. And one or two names were pronounced so far from how I'm used to hearing them that I found it distracting - particularly Gaaandaaalf. Some characters voices - such as the Eagles - have been electronically mangled.
All that said, this is still The Hobbit, and this version is true to the story and entertaining. Despite its drawbacks, real Tolkien fans shouldn't hesitate to have this in their collection.
on 11 October 2004
This is a wonderful book and so much more than a definitive text if such could exist, as it contains a wealth of information in the annotations that make it a must read for anyone interested in folklore, mythology or the origin of obscure words and phrases. Tokein fans sould already have it on their shelves. It provides a wealth of background info on Tolkeins sources as well as details of various non-english editions including many illustrations that are unlikely to be seen anywhere else.
The annotations are presented in a convenient way that does not interfere with a straight reading of the text but allows simple and straightforward reference to them without losing the flow of the text
Far from detracting, as heavy annotations can so often do, the annotations here seem to bring the story even more to life and add depth and character and perhaps explains why Tolkeins tales are so popular as new dimensions are added to myths we are all to some degree already probably familiar with.
As someone who used the phrase to 'bag off' when skipping off for an extra snack at lunchtime when younger I was delighted to discover the origin of the surname Baggins. An absolute delight.
I got this handsome set for my eldest nephew, as other reviewers have commented this is good way to introduce anyone to Tolkien's work; they are nicely bound with really classic pictorials. Like other reviewers have remarked the narrative is unique and I have never tired from re-reading this epic narrative every year, since I first read the saga. Every re-reading has been a joyful experience, and I have come away learning something new on each occasion. You can really feel the magic of Tolkien's' word on the page. This is a unique literary fantasy, borne out his affection for Anglo-Saxon folklore and heritage. I hope that my nephew has the same experience. I also got him to use a dictionary along with his reading, as some of the language, or shall we say word usage is not as common these days. So far he has really enjoyed the read and the magical world that Tolkien created.
My nephew gives this a full 5 star rating.
Once and a while a great book is matched by a wonderful full cast BBC production and this dear friend is just that.
Over 4 Hours the well loved tale is woven and performed for your ears and delight.
I use the word delight for who ever loves the story will simply love this production.
4 cassettes each of one hour contains nine episodes of the story.
And what a story it is..
Dwarfs, dragons, Gold, Eleves, a quest, Trolls, Wargs and eagles but above all a Hobbit.
This edition is packed in a handsom smart dark green box with gold lettering and it contains four smart gold innercards. It really matches the production.
A confession? I loved the Lord of the Rings BUT actually prefer the Hobbit.
It is a perfect tales, well wriiten and in this format so well performed.
100 per cent recommended.
on 3 December 2013
Very beautiful editions of my favourite series of all time, I have always wanted to own a nice edition of these books and these are very nice. Good quality of paper and great detail of Tolkien's drawings makes this a great purchase. I'll admit that I would have liked an attached ribbon to use as a bookmark but this only a small problem and obviously does not ruin the quality of the books.