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Book Walrus Reviews The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

Book Walrus Reviews The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
The Hobbit, new illustrated edition by JRR Tolkein
Published by Harper Collins Children's on 12 September 2013
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Description

The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition. A beautiful gift edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's enchanting tale, fully illustrated by Jemima Catlin. "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." So begins one of the most beloved and delightful tales in the English language. Set in the imaginary world of Middle-earth, at once a classic myth and a modern fairy tale, The Hobbit is one of literature's most enduring and well-loved novel.



Star rating: * * * * * 5 out of 5


The Hobbit isn’t the first J.R.R. Tolkien book I read, but I wish it was. I remember reading through certain sections of the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings, and finding them utterly impenetrable. Luckily for me, a pretty girl had suggested them to me, so I had to finish them. If only I had know that The Hobbit was sitting there waiting for me.

The Hobbit was a story Tolkien wrote for his children, and you can see it in the pacing. Whenever you worry he’s about to drop into another 4 page description of the landscape or the lineage of the Dwarves, you can almost see his kids’ eyes glazing over, followed by a pause, and a “then the TROLLS appeared!” to recapture their attention.

But it works.

You get all the joy of being in Tolkien’s flawlessly constructed world, without being distracted from the adventure. You don’t need to know Elvish, or about what Bilbo has in his “pocketses” but if you ever wanted to find out, you know you could ask Tolkien, and he’d tell you.

When Tolkien says “Elvish”, it’s not something abstract. It’s a real set of languages that he made, with real words and structure, that you can really learn if so inclined. That realness seeps into his stories in a way that makes other fantasies feel false and flimsy.

Then the TROLLS appear! Trolls. Worgs. Orcs. Elves. Battles. Dwarves.Necromancers. Fires. Forests. Mountain Keeps. Dragons!

We get to go on Bilbo’s little journey in a vast adventure. What’s great about him is that whilst he isn’t a kid, Bilbo invokes all the things it means to be one, from the obvious, to the insightful. He’s small. He’s trying to find his place in the world, but has to summon up the courage to move from where he’s comfortable, in order to find it.

All in all, I love exploring in Tolkien’s world, and exploring it with my favourite Baggins all the more so. 

I give it five stars and a Troll.




Star rating: * * *  3 out of 5  (4 stars for the movie)


I have to confess I’m not a Hobbit-loving girl and this book would not make my top 5.

My mum and brother might say that is because Hobbits are not pink or sparkly, and maybe it’s a bit that, but my big problem was that it felt very long when I was reading it and it was mainly about people fighting each other. I think that might be because there aren’t enough girl characters in it to tell everyone to stop fighting.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved some bits. I like the first chapter when the dwarves come round to Bilbo Baggins house to a party that he didn’t invite them to. It is funny watching him being confused and stressed out while the dwarves are partying and singing a song about how they are going to destroy everything.

My favourite character is Gollum, because he is so strange and unusual. It made me laugh that he always said, “My preciousssss.” I think that’s a good thing to say whenever you see a ring!

I read the book before watching the movie and I am sorry but I think all the people who say ‘books are best’ are wrong about the Hobbit, because I found the movie more exciting and it did a brilliant job of making the characters come to life.


UPDATE, 2nd October 2013. Book Walrus has just spotted the new official trailer for ‘The Desolation of Smaug’. Check it out here…

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’, official trailer




  1. Like Omar, I came to The Hobbit relatively late. I read Lord of the Rings first, then struggled my teenage way through The Silmarillion before reading The Hobbit.

    When I first read it, I found it rather childish and somewhat dated. The trolls’ working-class English reminded me of the thieves in 101 Dalmations – naturally, anyone with a middle-lass accent will be OK (this continues into LOTR, though it’s a little mero subtle – consider the upper middle-class speech patterns of Frodo, Merry and Pippin, Sam’s loyal-servant rustic and Bill Sharkey’s no-good urban poor).

    But over the years it’s grown on me more. It’s a richer and deeper children’s tale than Enid Blyton. In many cases it opens up more prosaic wonders than Lord of the Rings – no ancient Ents, but Beorn the skin-changer and his honey-bees; the men of Lake-town; the Elves of Mirkwood; and, of course, the dragon Smaug.

    I recently re-read the book aloud to my six-year-old son, and this opened up a new aspect to me. The Hobbit is designed to be read aloud by an amateur. That’s why the accents are so unsubtle. Even the narrative descriptions roll off the tongue.

    Bilbo and the dwarves experience cameraderie, hardship, mistrust, friendship, and numerous perils, with moments of comedy. My son has emotionally amplified each of these – he was devastated with Thorin’s doom, and still laughs out loud, weeks later, at Fat Bombur’s antics, or as he tells his mum spiders don’t like to be called “attercop”.

    For adults, The Hobbit is a more homely, less doom-laden but no less thrilling counterpart to LOTR.

    For children, it ranks up there among the best young fantasy: it belongs in the same class as the Chronicles of Narnia (and it’s far less preachy), The Pheonix and the Carpet and Alice in Wonderland.

    • Thank you, Andy, for such detailed and thoughtful comments. Book Walrus was particularly interested in your point about The Hobbit being designed to be read aloud. It’s interesting that Jodie’s favourite bits were elements that she has been regularly repeating out loud – the dwarves’ song about smashing Bilbo’s plates and bending his forks, and the heavily accented ‘My preciousssss’. Perhaps an audio book, or a bedtime read from a willing parent such as yourself, is the ideal way for children to experience the story.

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