Friday, July 23, 2010

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (audio)


After our year-long audio experience with the Harry Potter series, the kids and I decided our next journey would be through the world of J.R.R Tolkien (stopping only for audio emergencies, like the upcoming Mockingjay). Personally I was thrilled. I have foggy memories of starting to read The Hobbit in grade school, but probably got distracted by Judy Blume and V.C. Andrews. We have watched the LOTR trilogy movies at least a dozen times (for a little dose of Viggo, yes?), and are excited for the release of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, if MGM and New Line can get their financial troubles sorted out.

So we meet the affable Bilbo Baggins, a happy Hobbit soul who lives peacefully in his Hobbit Hole. Until Gandalf, the great wizard comes to visit him, and invites him to come on an adventure with thirteen dwarfs. You see, long ago, a large amount of gold treasures belonged to the dwarfs' forefathers, but were stolen and kept deep inside a mountain guarded by a fierce dragon named Smaug. They simply mean to get back what is theirs, and they need Bilbo's help as a clever and stealthy thief. Bilbo thinks this sounds like fun, so off they go.

On their adventure, they encounter friends and foes of all kinds...goblins, elves, eagles, a bear-man, wolves, and village men. And of course, Gollum. Let's not forget about him! When Bilbo gets lost in a cave, he stumbles upon this creature, and takes his ring (THE ring) which allows Bilbo to become invisible. With the help of the ring, Bilbo is able to indeed become a clever and stealthy thief, and saves the dwarfs numerous times from ill fate. The adventure reaches it's climax with the defeat of Smaug and a brutal war named The Battle of the Five Armies.

Bilbo remains the center figure throughout the story, and it is pleasurable to watch him mature from a simple Hobbit to one who becomes a brave and shrewd problem-solver. The prose is enchanting, and dear, which is the best word I can find for it. Despite the horrors encountered by these endearing characters, the words still feel sweet and fairy-taleish.

I was surprised by a couple of things, this being my first time "reading" The Hobbit. One was the small role played by Gollum. He is such a huge force in the later movies, that I got the impression that his history could be found in this first installment. Apparently not! He was like the wind - here and gone. Secondly, I had the impression that the ring transformed its owner into a tortured soul, but this did not happen to Bilbo. I'm now intrigued how this piece of metal becomes an instrument of the devil for Frodo later!

A special comment must be made about the narrator, Robert Inglis. After listening to the truly brilliant Jim Dale for a year, our first impression of Inglis was "meh". My daughter was grumbling in the back seat, and I was afraid she would ultimately black-ball the audio (she has been known to do this). My BFF said she abandoned the audio because of his voice. I couldn't put my finger on the exact reason for our discontent. His voice is very stiff and formal, I guess, and very old British with the trilling of his tongue. But he had an incredible range of mimicry, including quite a bit of decent singing. There's nothing wrong with the guy - he comes with respectable cred...acting with the Royal Shakespeare and Royal Court Theatre companies, and even performed The Hobbit on stage by himself. We would not be denied however, and we persisted, and the man began to grow on us. Jim Dale and Simon Vance he is not, but I would recommend vigilance for the sake of the story (and yes, he does narrate the rest of the series).

Now we journey into known territory with The Fellowship of the Ring, and the land of Middle-Earth and Mordor.

Have you read the series? Have you listened to the audios? What did you think?

4 out of 5 stars



20 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I listened to this a few years ago and enjoyed it. I'm not a big fan of The Lord of the Rings, but found The Hobbit much easier to get through. I tried to read The Lord of the Rings and gave up after the Fellowship. I hope that you have better luck with the audio - or more patience than me :-)

Julie P. said...

I haven't read THE HOBBIT since middle school, and I admit that I don't have the fondest of memories. I should probably revisit it as an adult.

JoAnn said...

I read both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy in high school. Loved The Hobbit, but ran out of steam midway through the trilogy and forced myself to finish. I'd consider revisiting at least The Hobbit in audio.

Molly said...

Well as you know, my experience with audio books is quite limited, but I did listen to this one before I started the Harry Potter series, and I think that made all the difference for me. I actually loved the narrator because, I think, he sounded very much like I would expect Hobbits to sound (rather stiff since they are not fond of adventures). Glad you persevered with the tape.

Even though I have read/listened to the Hobbit about 5 times now (for school), I have yet to be brave enough to try the LOTR series. Someday....someday....

bermudaonion said...

My son and nephew love these books, but I don't think they're for me. I'm just not one for much fantasy. I'm glad you and your kids are enjoying them.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think it's so great that you go through these series with your kids. And it's a great idea for audiobooks generally, to pick these nice long series. I still have yet to try fiction on audio though!

Zibilee said...

I have never read any of the books in this series because they intimidate me a little bit. I have seen the movies though, so I'm not a total rube when it comes to the story, but my husband insists that I need to read these books. I am glad that you and your kids enjoyed them, though I am sorry to hear that it took a lot to get used to the narrator.

The Bumbles said...

I read this when I was probably about 10. And I loved it and all things fantasy. I have no recollection of the plot and your summary here didn't trigger any memories either! As I have gone back and re-read favorites from my childhood I have learned that my brain was like a sieve back then - I was all about consuming the stories instead of being consumed by them. Nothing stuck except that urge to read!r

Trisha said...

The Hobbit is so amazingly different from Lord of the Rings. They are both great books in their own right, but LotR is so much more mature and complex. I have a total geek-crush on LotR and Tolkien; such a fantabulous world.

Jeane said...

The Hobbit has always been my favorite. It's so much more friendly than LotR. I don't know how I'd like listening to it, though. I always have my own voice in my head!

ds said...

I love all of those books. First read them in high school & loved Bilbo for his innocence, and Gandalf for his...Gandalfness. "Dear" is a great word to describe this book; it is not as dark as the trilogy to come. The ring is just a trinket, Smaug is just a dragon, and Gollum remains at the bottom of the mines, mourning his "Precious."
I doubt anyone can come up to the standard set by both Jim Dale and Simon Vance, but hope you have no reason to be upset with the trilogy!

Alyce said...

How silly is it that I hadn't though of trying Tolkien's books on audio. I think I'll probably give LOTR a try first though, just because I had a bad experience with The Hobbit as a kid. I watched the cartoon at a very young age and it completely freaked me out - I haven't gone near it since.

Iliana said...

I never got into the Tolkien books when I was a kid - I definitely got sidetracked by the Blume books too :)

Have fun as you enter middle-earth!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I haven't read these at all since The Hobbit pushes some of my buttons on reading about humanoid creatures. But you make it sound worth checking out.

Melissa M said...

I've never read Tolkien since I don't do fantany but the Hobbit is one I'd like to try.

heidenkind said...

I've never read a single Tolkien book, although my mother's made admirable attempts to get me to.

Beth F said...

I love, love love these books. Read them a zillion times and listened to them twice.

I'm thinking you may have made a mistake to go straight from modern HP to traditional LOTR. I'm afraid you're going to dislike them by comparison. sob.

Kathleen said...

This is one of the reasons why I struggle with audio books. If the narrator is "wrong", it ruins the whole book for me. Plus in all honesty my mind just wanders too much.

Anna said...

The narrator's voice always makes or breaks audio books for me.

I must admit that I haven't seen any of the LOTR movies nor read any of the books. It seems that I might be missing out on something.

Alice Teh said...

I ought to try audiobooks one day. I did many moons ago but stopped my subscription. I have read this and I loved it. My friend said there's a chance that it'll be turned into a movie. I hope that comes through. :D