Saturday, 13 October 2012

‘The Hobbit’ (Illustrated Edition) – J.R.R. Tolkien, Illustrated by David Wenzel & Adapted by Charles Dixon (Ballantine Books)

We all know the story of ‘The Hobbit’ so I’m not going to take up your time with some pointless blurb ;o) If you don’t know the story then there’s a film, looming on the horizon, that will take care of that for you (or you could just read the book…) and that means publishers are scrambling to find anything related that has been previously published and can be wheeled out again. Books like this illustrated edition for example (a book where the cover looks like it has been reworked to look more like the forthcoming film).

This illustrated edition was previously published by Eclipse Books and Del Rey, in the US, while Harper have published it in the UK. This book does come with six new pages of artwork though (don’t ask me which pages they are, I never read the original…) so could be worth your time if you’re looking for a new copy.

As an adaptation, this book works very well for the most part. The main elements of the plot are all covered and, in a move that I particularly appreciated, the poetry is kept to a bare minimum. I used to love reading it when I was a lot younger but, these days, I find that it gets in the way of the actual story so it was a bit of a treat not to have to deal with it. It’s also interesting to be reminded of some of the smaller details in ‘The Hobbit’ and wonder if they will make it onto the big screen. Dixon is very faithful to these details and I was left wondering if the film will show us the mountain giants (throwing rocks) like the book does.

I couldn’t help but wonder though if Dixon was perhaps a little too faithful to the detail. A lot of the panels are crammed full of descriptive passages that the illustrations convey perfectly well by themselves. This leads onto the feeling that the text and illustrations are both fighting to make themselves heard (or seen) instead of working together and getting on with it. You could say that this leads to a more engrossing work where you have to take the time to really uncover the detail. I however felt that this end result was more counterproductive despite there being an awful lot here to get your teeth into.

The illustrations are gorgeous by the way. David Wenzel really captures the look and feel of Middle Earth on paper; it’s not the film that we’re all used to but no less absorbing for all that. I’ll be keeping my copy and can see myself flicking through the pages, every now and then, and just getting lost in how lovely it all looks.

Adaptations are always a little difficult to sum up but ‘The Hobbit’ (Illustrated Edition) does the job that it has set out to do. Perhaps it’s a little too faithful to the original text, a move that doesn’t quite suit this format, but it’s a lovely book to read and I can see it whetting appetites for the film when it arrives.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

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