I have, in my life, attempted to read The Hobbit on three separate occasions. The fourth try was the charm because I gave in to the power of the BBC Radio Drama. As many of you know Ale is working on her thesis about the origins of fantasy, and she is my roommate. What you may not know, is that I retrieve all our library needs, since I’m there every week. My latest pick up for her was the audio version of The Hobbit, and I decided she should listen to the BBC Radio version, so that I could try it too. I figured if it was another failure on my part, no harm, she needed it anyway.
Here’s my honest take: I found The Hobbit to be merely okay. Here’s perhaps another highly unpopular opinion: I think Peter Jackson’s greatly expanded movies fill in plot points quite admirably, most of the time (I still hate the dues ex goats in the final battle in the third movie and think all the invented characters along the way are unnecessary). I do love the complexity of Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth, but I will never know for sure if I could love it just from the written word, since I was constantly referring to what I already knew of the world from Jackson’s version (and the earlier animated one) because what I was listening to felt lacking.
As befits the original intended audience, Tolkien uses an informal narrator to open his world. The reader is provided glimpses into the various realms which populate the world, and the great battles yet to come. Since Tolkien is working in these glimpses, and the lyrical devices of songs and poems, I as a reader saw the gaps and here is where the genre of high fantasy seems to leave me behind. I as a reader am looking for more explicit information. But I will say that this version has the benefit of bringing those poems and songs to life for the reader.