Thoughts on The Hobbit

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The Hobbit or There and Back Again
Author:
J.R.R. Tolkien
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, children’s literature

Summary: Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who has lived his whole life in a comfortable hole in the ground, finds himself joining a band of Dwarves who, in an effort to take back what was rightfully theirs, have set off to raid dwarfish treasures guarded by the dragon Smaug. Their journey is a long and perilous one. They encounter many strange and dangerous co-inhabitants of Middle Earth — trolls, goblins, rock throwers, elves, a fellow named Gollum, and a skin-changer named Beorn — as they make their way from the Bag-End to the Lonely Mountain. This enchanting book was written by Tolkien as a prelude to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The Ring makes its first appearance here.

* * *

Yey! After living 24 years in Planet Earth, I was finally able to dive into the world of Middle Earth. Yes, I’m that lame. I call myself a bookworm but it’s only this year that I’ve allowed myself read (and finish) a Tolkien book. Well, I was only able to read the Narnia books last year, so there.

In my defense, I’ve already seen the movies (LOTR plus The Hobbit part 1). But that doesn’t really count if you’re a bookaholic. Thus, I decided to make it a point to read and finish the Tolkien books this year.

My fifth grade teacher actually read The Hobbit to my class years ago, during our free sessions. She would read it to us chapter by chapter while we drew or did whatever. Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin and the gang were no strangers to me, because of her. I also found myself reading the book hearing a gentle female Australian voice inside my head, because of her.

On to the review. Oh but who could review The Hobbit? It’s a literary masterpiece! It’s a children’s classic! It’s — it’s —

It’s an amazing, humorous, enchanting, magical book.

Really, I think it would just be better if I shared some of my favourite passages:

This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. (Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party)

“Go back?” he thought. “Not good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter. (Chapter 5: Riddles in the Dark)

Somehow killing the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath. (Chapter 8: Flies and Spiders)

Already he was a very different hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief from Bag-End long ago. (Chapter 12: Inside Information)

“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should they not prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?” (Chapter 19: The Last Stage)

I found myself greatly identifying with Bilbo Baggins. Just like him, I have embarked on a long and perilous adventure. Just like him, I’ve had my doubts along the way. But just like him, I’ll come out victorious. Ooops. Spoiler alert.

Enjoy the book. It’s a very worthy read.

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Thoughts on Les Miserables

On the last Sunday of 2012, La Familia and I hit the Midvalley Golden Screen Cinemas to watch Les Miserables. They had already seen The Hobbit (I hadn’t) so I let them choose between Life of Pi (which I didn’t mind watching again) and Les Mis (which I had wanted to watch ever since I saw it on the list of upcoming GSC movies last October).

Les Mis won, thus our final 2012 Sunday was a very musical one.

While my brother bought us snacks and refreshments, I gave my Dad fair warning. “This is going to be a musical, Pa. Expect the actors to break out into song every now and again.”

I should have done more research because it turned out that “every now and again” would equate into the length of the entire film. Which isn’t exactly bad.

For my thoughts:

  1. BE WARNED THAT THIS IS A MUSICAL. When you enter the cinema or hit play in your computer, you should already condition your mind that the whole cast will be singing and there would be no speaking. Okay, there were perhaps five or six spoken lines in the movie. But all other lines were sang out loud so don’t go holding your breath while waiting for them to cease singing. Some lines seemed to be awkwardly sung (and it would have been better if they were simply spoken out), but again, Les Mis is a MUSICAL.
  2. Mind you, the singing was SUPERB. Who would have thought Wolverine — err, Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) — could sing like that? Crowe, who plays Inspector Javert, could have put in more emotion (I felt his singing was rather flat) but Anne Hathaway (Fantine) more than made up for it with her very emotional performance.
  3. I liked how the film added a deeper dimension to the musical by giving the viewers close ups thereby magnifying the characters’ emotions. What I mean is, when you watch a show on Broadway or on any stage, you only get to see the characters from afar. Yes, you feel their voices. Yes, you are moved by their actions. But seeing their anguished faces up close — so close you can already see their nostrils flaring — WOW. This was probably one of the reasons why watching Hathaway’s “I dreamed a dream” was so chilling.
  4. The movie is deep. I read somewhere that Victor Hugo’s book was less Valjean-centric and that the other characters had more opportunities to shine, but I like how his quest was wrapped up in the end. As Hathaway sang, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
  5. And while Les Mis is a drama (what would you expect from a film with the word “miserables” in the title?) I am thankful for the comedic relief that Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier) and Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thenardier) brought into the film. I found it hilarious how the “loving father” kept messing up his precious “Colette’s” name! Fun!

So even though one of my officemates confessed that he walked out of the movie theatre after one of the more dramatic scenes played out (he grew bored) I’ll watch Les Mis again, if I could. After all, it made my parents cry. You can get insights on fathering, love, and dying for a cause there, too.

Les Miserables is next on my reading list this coming February. Let’s see how the book plays out and if the movie indeed did Hugo’s masterpiece justice. I’d like to dig deeper into the characters and see how social and religious issues are tackled in the text.

How about you? Have you seen the movie? Hated it or loved it? Share you thoughts!