Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why Those That Watch The Hobbit Before Reading It May Be Disappointed

The Hobbit, the book, is a whimsical story; one in which songs and poems make up part of the narrative, and one in which the author occasionally cautions us not to be frightened. It is the perfect sort of story to be read aloud to a six or seven year old who is just opening their mind to the fantastic and strange; to the amazing power of fiction to awaken us to worlds that never existed. It wasn't written grim-dark and it was never intended to be A Serious Piece Of Dramatic Lit. Anyone looking for either of those will be disappointed. For more than a decade, I have read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series at least once a year as a way to rekindle my creative juices.

Tolkien was an expert in old and archaic words, his texts are laden with them. They provide not only an amazingly rich linguistic tapestry but also a sense of weight and age that subsequent imitators have not matched. I have read that no word is used in the Lord of The Rings which had existed in some form for less than 400 years. Whether that is true, I have been unable to verify, but professor Tolkien, steeped deeply in the knowledge of linguistics, and delighting in discovering their use and etymology, would have been the one to do it.

Much has been said about the lack of characterization in these books; that they are mere cardboard stand-ups or ghostly apparitions only pretending at true depth. This may be true; and I find myself not a very fit judge for making such a determinations as my peculiar personality comes into play. I care not for the machinations of characters, for whether I can identify with the motivations of a particular character, or for whether a particular character is "deep" or "multifaceted". I've never been particularly good at understanding other people, or talking to them for that matter. Plotting and scheming do not impress me, long soliloquies and heavy dialog I find obstacles to be overcome, rather than a source of delight or enjoyment.

If you approach The Hobbit with the mindset of the movie, one which (mostly) takes the world of Middle-Earth very seriously, I think you'll find the book to seem quaint and childish. Beneath that whimsical exterior lies a deep world described in amazing detail by an author extremely adept at his craft, but those who do not connect easily with setting description and the characterization of nature may miss this entirely. The book is written for a particular audience, and many future generations may find that it is not at all what they expect after having seen the films first.

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