AMAZON TAKE NOTE: Because this version is so different from the book I think Amazon are wrong to lump all the reviews together and treat them as a single product. This will confuse buyers and create inaccurate ratings.
This version of The Hobbit is an audio play first broadcast by the BBC in 1968 (it is NOT an audiobook - ie someone reading the full book version out aloud). It features a whittled down version of the book in play form, with a narrator and audio actors coming together to tell the story.
For keen collectors of Tolkien, this would no doubt be a valued item. Though it was before my time, it is apparently considered a classic of sorts, and is bound to inspire nostalgia for those old enough to have heard it the first time round. The story moves along quickly (much quicker than the book) so you never get bored, although of course, far less detail can be shared in this format. It's very much of the old-fashioned BBC era - so the langauge used is quite amusing and dry in parts.
Many of the scenes had a lot of shrill background noise - for example, when the dwarves are all talking in the background, or groups of elves or goblins were around. Although this was likely done to add atmosphere, it actually makes it hard to understand what the lead characters are saying at times. Sound levels could have been adjusted better so that this wasn't a problem. I was listening via a laptop - so it's possible that better speakers would have reduced this.
Good for Tolkien collectors but if you're looking for an introduction to The Hobbit - read the book. It's much better and this version just doesn't do what is a brilliant story the full justice it deserves.
JRR Tolkien's `The Hobbit' is, of course, one of the greatest children's books to have been written in the twentieth century. Based on the stories he told to his children and originally published in 1937, it is an almost perfect blend of fantasy, magic and adventure. It follows the adventures of one Bilbo Baggins, as he sets off with thirteen dwarves and a wizard to recover a great treasure stolen from the dwarves by Smaug the dragon. Along the way they get into various scrapes with goblins, trolls, elves, shape shifters and, of course, a dragon. Through a mix of extreme good luck and his own resourcefulness Bilbo comes through all these adventures, only to find things are not as he left them at home.
It's a great story and works on many levels. For the younger reader there is the straight adventure story, which many will find thrilling. For the older reader there is the subtle growth in Bilbo's character, as he changes over the story from a passenger on the expedition to a main player and the person people look to for help. There is a study of human nature, and the effects of greed upon people. In some respects it is a morality play. But for all that, at heart, it is a great entertainment. There is a reason it is still so affectionately regarded by readers world wide of all ages. 5 stars.
on 4 November 2013
I must make it clear from the start that I will not review the story of The Hobbit, but just this (hardcover) annotated edition in particular:
Publisher: HarperCollins; Revised edition edition (7 April 2003)
It's important to note that Amazon unfortunately merges all the reviews from one story, regardless of each edition. The edition I pointed out looks similar to an American version with the same name, though I couldn't find the differences between them on the internet and I only purchased this British one.
The build quality is superb, though I can't say I was expecting less. In fact, I was quite disappointed when I saw the book for the first time. The hardcover is quite solid but the fact that it is only a plain green front was quite unexpected. The illustration we see in the Amazon item is just the paper that comes wrapping the book (dust cover?), but the front itself has no illustration or writing at all. You could not tell what the book is only by looking at its front cover.
The side of the cover is quite another story. It contains the title and some other marks you would expect in the front. It's all beautifully written in golden letters and that is the section that gives the book the "premium feel".
The quality of the paper and the font are very good, so the reading is quite comfort.
The book contains several illustrations scattered in the right places along the story. These illustrations are usually small-sized black/white drawings published in the various different editions of The Hobbit along the years. The different artists involved (including Tolkien himself) causes the book to lack an uniformity in style, but I think that is a good idea for an annotated version, because you have some sort of historical compilation of the art of The Hobbit.
My huge disappointment about the illustrations is the lack of full-page prints and also the scarceness of colored drawings. Colored drawings do exist, but they are all grouped in the center of the book, forming a section completely separate from the context. That's even dangerous for someone who is reading the story for the first time, for if you looked at these pictures when you reach the middle of the story, you would be bombarded with spoilers. The way these colored pictures are presented makes me feel that it would be better that they didn't even exist, although I would love to see some of them in full-size in the right places along the book.
I think the annotations are indeed the strength of this version, though it's important to note that they are really annotations about The Hobbit, not about Middle-Earth. You do have some notes linking to other stories such as Lord of The Rings, Silmarillion, etc, but they are not abundant. Most of the annotations are about the differences in previous editions of The Hobbit (including really small details) and also about the biographical facts behind Tolkien that must have inspired him at some parts of the tale. So I see the annotations as some sort of historical registry of the publications of The Hobbit as well as hints behind the story linking to Tolkien's reality. In that scope I feel safe to say that they are quite complete, but they must be too cold for just a casual reader that would probably prefer more notes about the mythology itself.
I was unsure whether 3 or 4 stars would be fair for this edition. In the end of the day I removed only 1 star out of 5 to summarize all the "imperfections" I noted above. I think we can only judge a book by the success it got on its own objectives, not the objectives that we have. When our objectives are not the same of the book's, it's no fault of the book, but of the information that lead us to false expectations. I think reviews are important to align the expectations to the reality of the books. That said, I recommend this edition for people already familiar to The Hobbit and that probably won't have only this edition on their shelves. Tolkien's enthusiasts and collectors must have this book, but casual readers probably should look for other editions. This is the definitive guide of The Hobbit, not the best way to present the tale.
*This review is specific to the BBC Radio adaptation of the Hobbit, broadcast 1968, released on CD 2012, ISBN-10 1445846632*
JRR Tolkein's `The Hobbit' is, of course, one of the greatest children's books to have been written in the twentieth century. Based on the stories he told to his children and originally published in 1937, it is an almost perfect blend of fantasy, magic and adventure. It follows the adventures of one Bilbo Baggins, as he sets off with thirteen dwarves and a wizard to recover a great treasure stolen from the dwarves by Smaug the dragon. Along the way they get into various scrapes with goblins, trolls, elves, shape shifters and, of course, a dragon. Through a mix of extreme good luck and his own resourcefulness Bilbo comes through all these adventures, only to find things are not as he left them at home.
It's a great story and works on many levels. For the younger reader there is the straight adventure story, which many will find thrilling. For the older reader there is the subtle growth in Bilbo's character, as he changes over the story from a passenger on the expeditin to a main player and the person people look to for help. There is a study of human nature, and the effects of greed upon people. In some respects it is a morality play. But for all that, at heart, it is a great entertainment. There is a reason it is still so affectionately regarded by readers world wide of all ages.
The 1968 radio adaptation presented here is a bit of a curate's egg. It follows the book pretty closely, but the style is very much of it's time. Actually, no, the style is very much of the time the book was published, and was out of date even when the play was produced. The very affected delivery of lines and the very plain production are quite striking. After a few minutes though you just get drawn right into the story, and the delivery actually helps at times. Though I have to say the stressed and affected pronunciation of various names by the narrator continues to grate all the way through - Gandalf becomes `Ga-andilf', Thorin `Toreen' and oddest of all Gollum `Gollooom'. It's an of it's time very formal BBC fashion (actually the production really reminded me of those BBC Shakespeare adaptations from the late seventies, with the vocalisations and the simple music)
Not much care has been taken with the sound quality - I know the series was recorded 43 years ago, but I have a lot of radio shows older than this (Goon show and Navy Lark from the fifties) and they sound a lot better. I can see that a lot of this stems from the original recording, but there are obvious flaws that could have been cured with remastering, especially an annoying crackle in the last few minutes of episode 2.
The play is in eight episodes, on four discs. The fifth disc consists of music from the play and is an interesting addition. There is no booklet or any liner notes other than a cast list and some production credits. The five discs are collected into a spindle case.
In all a great book, adapted into an OK play that is actually an entertaining listen with the occasional duff performance. A lack of attention to detail in the remastering marred the whole thing a bit for me. 3 stars.
on 16 March 2012
I read The Hobbit for the first time in many years mainly because of the upcoming film and the fact that I am a big Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fan. Having the kindle version allowed me to be able to transport it anywhere with all my other literature without the need to carry a book.
What's good about it? -The fact that it tells the story of how Bilbo Baggins came to possess the great ring of power and sets the back story for the Lord of the Rings. It tells the story simply in an easy to understand fashion.
What's not so good? - The story is told in a childish and simpistic fashion and does not have the sophisticated story telling of LOTR. However that probably reflects the time that Tolkien wrote it (perhaps for his young son?) and I so looking forward to Peter Jackson's telling of the story.
My main concern with the kindle version is the fact that beautiful drawings and maps cannot be enlarged and are not easy to see in detail. Hence the 3 stars - one less for the storytelling and one less for the kindle problems.
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.