Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reader's Diary #794- J.R.R. Tolkien, adapted by Charles Dixon, illustrated by David Wenzel: The Hobbit (Revised edition)

Never having really been into fantasy books, I was always lukewarm towards J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books. I've tried plenty of other fantasy novels and they all seem to rip off Tolkien, so I can at least appreciate the legacy. But I found the books too long and too self-indulgent. However, I quite enjoyed Peter Jackson's adaptations-- one of the rare instances when I've enjoyed the movie more than the book-- and those, plus the promise of a Hobbit film later this year, made me finally get around to reading it.

Sort of. Knowing how my son loves comics, and knowing how he's also a huge Harry Potter fan, I figured a graphic novel version of the Hobbit might be a good place to start. And while he did enjoy it, it certainly wouldn't have the appeal to a child the way that Rowling's work would-- even if she did borrow a good many of her ideas from Tolkien. The Hobbit throws one into the fantasy world with no build up and doesn't have a child protagonist, even if Bilbo is childlike in many ways. Half the attraction of Rowling's books is the way the reader (or listener if you're doing a read aloud), gets to discover the magic for the first time along with Harry.

As for this adult, I was again underwhelmed by the Hobbit. I know a lot of people say they prefer the Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings, but I'd disagree. It probably sounds hypocritical seeing as I just complained about the length of the Lord of the Rings, but at least it was an epic. The Hobbit felt somewhat pointless. And maybe it's a problem with this abridged graphic novel version, but it never seems clear why Bilbo was included in the first place. Sure he proves his worth in helping the dwarves, but why Gandalf insisted on his inclusion in the adventure is never really explained.

It was mildly entertaining, and it would probably have been more so without having read or watched the Lord of Rings first. David Wenzel's illustrations are quite well done, giving the book a dark fairy tale sort of feel rather than typical comic book fare. Still Charles Dixon's adaptation is eating at me. Based on the quantity of written description-- much more than the typical graphic novel where most text is dialogue-- I'd venture to guess that little was left out. However, I still have to wonder.

Not to worry, I plan on reading the original version to my daughter later this month. Then I'll be able to not only form an opinion on Dixon's adaptation, but on The Hobbit as Tolkien intended.


Megan said...

We have just bought Michael a stack of graphic versions of great books (The Odyssey, King Lear, Beowulf, etc.). I'm impressed at the way he tears through them. He's actually interested in reading them. I'm hoping that from here, it will be a simple transition to regular books with words on paper.

Loni said...

My husband thinks that you probably didn't like the graphic novel because you haven't read the actual book yet. I don't know. Your post has made me want to go read the graphic novel (it is downstairs). I might have to make it my next book.
I really enjoyed Tolkien's novel. I found it a quicker read than Lord of the Rings, though I don't know if I'd say that I prefer it.

John Mutford said...

Megan: I read a lot of abridged classics (Illustrated Classics, Pocketbook Classics) and the like as a child and it certainly helped turn me on to some older lit. I agree though that the transition is necessary. (Not to outgrow graphic novels altogether, just abridged story). Otherwise he'd become the kind of guy who reads Reader's Digest Condensed Books and you don't what that.

Loni: If it eases your husband's mind any, I am also going to also read the actual book. I just wonder if I shouldn't have started with that.

Loni said...

I did it. I read the graphic novel. I couldn't help it after your review and the fact that I already owned it. My review is here: