The story of Bilbo Baggins, his unexpected party, then journey, with Gandalf the wizard and thirteen dwarves, to slay a dragon and seize it’s plunder, can give us new gifts whenever we come back to it.
If you’ve only ever seen the movies (that despite some voices are not all bad) you owe it to yourselves in this magical, compact piece of story telling enchantment.
It is a fantasy quest where not one word, not one action, is superfluous or wasted (this is why many took so vehemently against the films and their stretching the tale to three epic movies).
It’s funny, charming, thrilling and profound. There are worlds of enchantment, and always we sense behind events the massive, coherent universe, with it’s own myths, languages and histories, that Tolkien built, exploring further in his Legendarium (including the Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings).
It’s not as whimsical as you may suspect or remember. There is real tragedy here, real horror and character development and complexities (as in Thorin’ journey and his corruption by dragon gold) and the final siege speaks to us of how our own affairs between nations can become so intangibly fixated on our own interests, sometimes noble and right (Bard) and sometimes corrupted by greed and paranoias about entitlement and ancient grudges (elves and dwarves).
For these reasons and more it is the archetypal book written for children and beloved by adults.
The audio-book version read by Rob Inglis is perfect. He breathes his love for the tale (I suspect) into his reading. He has rich style that balances gravitas with a lightness of touch that keeps us listening keenly. His renderings of the different characters is superb, communicating perfectly the home-bird reticence of Bilbo and his growing courage, Gandalf’s wisdom and authority, the dwarves distinct characteristics including blustering pomposity as well as courage and quick temper, and the ultimate menace of Smaug. The songs are wonderfully performed, and I could quite happily listen to them all repeatedly. There’s also a main instrumental theme that is entirely appropriate, that opens and closes the tale. Other than that, any effect other than the narrator’s voice does not intrude.