Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and See The Trailer for The Battle of the Five Armies!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell [1949], p. 23.

     Joseph Campbell described the "Hero's Journey" in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell explains how this journey has captured the minds and hearts of everyone who learns of it. The Hero's Journey is so ingrained into the human psyche as to be found in virtually every culture that has ever been. People never weary of the story of a person who sets out on a journey where he or she encounters obstacles and faces temptations, all to obtain the magic elixir, or sword, or talisman in order to save his family or his people. 

     One of the most captivating stories about the hero's journey is from the pen of J.R.R. Tolkien, entitled, The Hobbit. All of Tolkien's stories have had long-lasting appeal; indeed, even his story of The Hobbit has been reprinted in a 75th anniversary edition. In fact, the story is so popular that movie-makers have made a series of movies based on the book, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Battle of the Five Armies (Set for release on December 17, 2014). Even though many people already know the story of The Hobbit, let's take a quick look at the synopsis.

     Gandalf and a party of Dwarves entice a reluctant Bilbo to join their quest to help recover Dwarf lands (The Lonely Mountain) and treasures from the dragon, Smaug, in return for a share of the treasure. The group begins their journey, facing a series of challenges and trials to get to the Lonely Mountain. The first is a group of trolls where Bilbo buys time by keeping the trolls talking about cooking--at dawn Gandalf appears and saves the day. After a stop at Rivendell to get help understanding their map, Elrond reveals some secrets that the map held. 

     Moving on, they travel over the Misty Mountains and The Valley of the Stone Giants, only to be caught by goblins. They are taken into the bowels of the earth, where Bilbo sneaks away, only to get lost in other dark tunnels. While Gandalf rescues the Dwarves, Bilbo finds a magic ring.  He then encounters Gollum and they engage in a riddle contest--if Bilbo loses, he loses his life. Bilbo wins but can't get Gollum to lead him out of the tunnels. Eventually Bilbo, with the help of the magic ring, escapes. The Dwarves and Bilbo find each other and flee from the Goblins and Wargs who chase them; cornered, the party climbs up some trees and are only saved from death by the giant Eagles who come to rescue them.

     The group next encounters Beorn, a bear skinchanger. Beorn feeds them and gives them advice before they set out for the black forest of Mirkwood. After even more life-threatening encounters, the Dwarves eventually get to the Lonely Mountain and use the key to open the secret door. Bilbo enters first and encounters the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo steals a golden cup and reports back about Smaug's weakness. The dragon deduces that the people of Lake-town helped the Dwarves and goes to destroy the town--but Bard, kills Smaug with an arrow to a vulnerable location--Smaug's Achilles' heel. Meanwhile, Bilbo has found and hidden the Arkenstone. Quickly, men from Lake-town and the Wood-elves come and demand compensation for their help--Thorin refuses to deal with an armed force. Bilbo, trying to head off a clash of armies, gives the Arkenstone to Bard so he can ransome it. Unhappily for Bilbo, after he admits to taking the stone, he is banished by Thorin.

Here, Gandalf is meeting with Beorn,
the bear skinchanger, in his bear form.
     It is at this low point when Gandalf reappears and warns everyone that an immense army of Goblins and Wargs is approaching. Quickly, the Dwarves, men and elves join forces in time to battle the Goblin army. On the threshold of losing the war, Beorn arrives as a bear to do battle and he is joined by the magnificent giant eagles, to save the day. Even so, Thorin is fatally wounded. He sends for Bilbo and reconciles with him before he dies. Sadly, Fili and Kili are also killed in the battle. Bilbo takes a small share and goes home a wealthier and wiser hobbit.

'Farewell, King under the Mountain!' he said. 'This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils--that has been more than any Baggins deserves. (p. 290)
     I chose this beautiful quote, Bilbo's final farewell to Thorin Oakenshield, not only because it is sentimental and poignant, but also because Bilbo shows that he has grown enough to make amends with a friend--instead of throwing it back in his face for Thorin's banishing him from the group. Here, Bilbo shows remarkable maturity and grace.

     Even more importantly, I chose it because Bilbo acknowledges the gratitude in his heart for the great grace of being able to accompany Thorin on his journey. This simple acknowledgement tells Thorin that Bilbo feels he has gained more from the journey than wealth can buy. In this regard, Thorin then says, "No!...There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly west. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." (p.290) Thorin acknowledges Bilbo's attitude towards life and the realization that while gold may be important, valuing the good things and people in life is far more important. It is, basically, the order in which Bilbo sets the value of things in his life. Moreover, in doing so, Thorin has acknowledged Bilbo's value and that Thorin, too, has learned to value Bilbo above the Gold.

     Well, I know that I have already tipped my hand about what I think about the book, given my opening remarks about The Hero's Journey. I love the book. Others are not quite so generous because they tend to compare The Hobbit to the epic Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series, also by J.R.R. Tolkien. I've heard disparaging remarks mostly from die hard LOTR fans. Hey, not to disparage LOTR fans, because I'm one of them, it's just that that's where I hear most of the criticisms.

          One of the things I like most about The Hobbit, aside from my favorite quote, above, is that this wonderful story is the story about adventure and wonder, and "fabulous forces," encountered on a journey of discovery. The journey of a quest. Such a journey is known as a monomyth, or The Hero's Journey.

     Joseph Campbell showed the world that seventeen steps comprised The Hero's Journey. Today, we're going to condense it down to the three primary stages. They are (1) The Departure: in which the Hero/Heroine leaves their familiar and safe world behind; (2) Initiation: Our Hero learns to make his way through the unfamiliar territory of Adventure; and (3) The Return: where our Hero returns to his or her familiar world from which they started. Here is a graphic with the three primary stages shown on the inside of the bubble and the 17 stages listed on the outside to show you just what I mean:

     The story opens with Bilbo peacefully living in his "Hobbit Hole," when Gandalf comes up and tells him he'd like Bilbo to come with him for an "Adventure." Bilbo says, "Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today." (p.6) After a night of eating, singing, and drinking with the Darves, Bilbo gets up to an empty house. Gandalf comes in and tells him he has ten minutes to get to the group. He does nudge Bilbo out the door, but Bilbo chooses to go. This is the whole of THE DEPARTURE stage--check the chart and fit the pieces. When Bilbo goes out his front door, he has crossed the First Threshold!

 Next comes THE INITIATION stage. This is where the hero is tested, his road of trials:

    • Bilbo and the Dwarves meet the trolls. Bilbo has his first attempt at theft. Bilbo is challenged to use his ability to speak in order to delay the trolls from killing any one of them. Notice that Gandalf is always away when the hero is tested.
    • The road over the Misty Mountains and the Valley of the Stone Giants is a physical challenge of strength, tenacity and endurance--this is where the group is captured by the Goblins.
    • Taken into the deep recesses of the earth, Bilbo is separated from his party. He must, by himself, face this challenge. Through the dark, Bilbo finds the One Ring--his talisman--and pockets it; soon after, Bilbo bets his life on a game of wits with Gollum --the riddle contest. (Both parties escape the Goblins and meet up outside the Goblin's warren.)
    • Bilbo and the Dwarves are chased by the Goblins and their Wargs. Bilbo must keep his fear under control and not panic, as the group runs to a bluff where they are trapped. They all climb the trees, Gandalf throws fireballs at the group and everything goes up in flames. Outside help comes in the form of the giant Eagles who pick up and carry away the group members.
    • Regrouping, Bilbo and the Dwarves meet an important character: Beorn, the bear skinchanger.
      Bilbo learns that good can come from unexpected places.
    • Onward, the party presses through the black forest of Mirkwood. There they leave the path and must face three trials: (1) Crossing the magic stream; (2) Fighting the spiders (and Bilbo names his sword, "Sting"); and (3) Capture by the Wood-elves. With the help of the ring, Bilbo eludes capture. Bilbo must use patience, cunning, and planning to help break out his Dwarf friends from the Wood-elves dungeon cells. They next go to Lake town and on to the Lonely Mountain.
         Bilbo's final two great challenges are (1) Bilbo must face himself in a test of loyalties--does he choose his Dwarf friends, or his new friend, Bard (who kills the dragon)? (2) Bilbo must face the dragon. This is the hardest test in the book for Bilbo. 

    After all the long quest, The Arkenstone
    is buried with Thorin. [12]
         In the final stage, THE RETURN, Bilbo attempts to stop the war by giving the Arkenstone to Bard to ransom. The attempt fails and Bilbo is exiled. Then, Gandalf comes and warns of the Goblin Army approaching. 

         A great battle is fought, Thorin is mortally wounded, but dies making amends to Bilbo. Bilbo only takes a small amount of treasure and goes home. There, he finds that his property is being sold because he was presumed dead. He recovers most of his things and leads a quiet life having grown and having learned the lessons of his journey with the Dwarves.

        The "fabulous forces" working upon Bilbo changed him. As Gandalf says, he is no longer the same Hobbit. When Bilbo left his home and crossed the threshold for the first time, he complained of not having his pocket handkerchief. I think that Bilbo learned that at every awakening, every threshold something is lost, "your shoe, your watch, your favorite negligee." For Bilbo, symbolically, it was his pocket handkerchief. Now Bilbo knows that was yesterday. Yesterday he needed those things, but today "the Universe teaches [him] that [he didn't]" need them at all. [13]

         While The Hobbit may be considered for younger readers, adults can gain from reading the beautiful story. Look at what Joseph Campbell said, you step from the common every day world into one of "supernatural wonder"!

         FABULOUS FORCES are encountered! What is not to love about that? All you have to do is let yourself go and enjoy the story. Get into it and allow yourself to experience the wonder of the encounters the way young people do. Let any jadedness go. Just let the child in you enjoy, rejoice, and be excited! Is it any wonder I love this book? If you let yourself, you will, too. Let the "Fabulous Forces" be with you!

         Have you realized, yet, that the Hero With a Thousand Faces is you? That's right. Campbell tells us that we are ALL on a hero's journey encountering fabulous forces, being tested and facing formidable obstacles and brilliant ecstasy. Where are you on your hero's journey?

         Before I leave you, today, I thought you might enjoy seeing the trailer of  the movie being released on December 17th. If you think you might enjoy it, take a look (I loved this trailer!):

         A HUGE cast of stars are in the movie, including, but not limited to: Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug/Necromancer, Lee Pace as Thranduil, Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, Luke Evans as Bard, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Manu Bennett as Azog, Aidan Turner as Kili, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Dean O'Gorman as Fili, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and many others. Directing the picture is Peter Jackson, with writing credits going to J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh (screenplay). [16]  

         The movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images. [14] MPAA also states that no sex or nudity is in the movie and not bad language; some scenes with smoking do occur. The book, however, is--obviously--less frightening to the reader. Since graphic images give a sense of immediacy that a book does not, I would permit most grade school students to read the book--if they are interested.

         I would definitely downgrade the PG-13 movie rating to, maybe PG. All parents should know what their children read since they know how sensitive their children are and how much the material would be influential to the child. To all others, especially you adults, I would highly recommend this wonderful, fun-filled novel of adventure. [17]


         Given my love for the book, stated above, it was very easy for me to rate this book. I give the book 5 stars out of 5. Good reading to all of you.

         Thank you all for joining me this week as we got to review The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Please join me next week as we look at another exciting new title.

    Until next time...
    This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [19]

    ...many happy pages of reading!

    All my love,


    [1] "The Hobbit or There and Back Again." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [2]"The Hobbit Movie." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [3] "What is the meaning of writing on ring...?" Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [4] "The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [5] "DoS: Major Editorial Changes?" Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [6] "Chapter 18: The Return Journey." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [7] "The Tiny Seed." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [8] "Hero's Journey." Retrieved 12-09-14.
    [9] "In the Hobbit." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [10] "Movie Review: 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' (2012)." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [11] "Beorn." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [12] "The Arkenstone." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [13] "5 Signs You're on the Hero's Journey." [by Allison Nappi] Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [14] "I Am Luke Skywalker." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [15] "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies--Official Main Trailer [HD]." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [16] "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [17] "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." [MPAA Rating] Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [18] "Rating 5 Out of 5." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [19] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [20] "The Hobbit or There and Back Again." Retrieved 12-10-14.
    [*] "Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien [3 January 1892-2 September 1973]." Retrieved 12-02-14.