I´m reading the Hobbit for the first time in English, so I was actually curious how the German translation would hold its ground compared to the original language in which the book is written in. And it is as I suspected: the translation sucks. And it isn´t the fact, that they translate the names (Baggins becomes Beutlin in German) but the mere fact, that the magic of Tolkiens writing somehow gets lost (this applies especially to the songs, which are dreadful in German. I skipped them all). I think the reason for this is that the German language at times sounds harsh and isn´t capable of drawing me fully into the story (at least when it comes to translations of books). So I´m actually really glad to be reading Tolkiens work in English.
As a member of the Danish minority I´m familiar with the way of living that the Danish call "hyggelig". A direct translation to English would be cozy, but cozy and hyggelig isn´t the same thing. Hyggelig is a state of mind, delving into good food, nice company, a lot of beverages and other drinks (coffee) and absolutely no stress at all. While reading the first chapter of the Hobbit this word has set itself on my mind: hyggelig. I just love the cozy fell of Bilbos Hobbit house in the ground and the way he is living his life and I´m actually wondering if we all should be more of a Hobbit once in while.
Anyway, back to the book. I haven´t had the time to read some additional sources concerning the Hobbit, so I´m just writing about some things that came to my mind while reading this chapter:
The first chapter of the Hobbit is just a wonderful one. Tolkien manages to introduce all of the key figures and the quest, that is going to ensue, in a highly entertaining way and I really felt the urge to read the next chapter right away. He takes his time to give a proper introduction to the hobbits and Bilbo Baggins in particular. Hobbits are a utterly sociable bunch, they like to have guest over and they like to eat and drink. I actually smiled at this utterance by Bilbo:
And what would you do, if an univited dwarf came and hung his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?
I would kick him out of the house, but a Hobbit surely wouldn´t do that.
And then there are Gandalf, the wizard and the dwarfes. Gandalf is the catalyst of the story, setting the dwarfes on their adventure towards the misty mountain. I like the way that Tolkien introduces the character of Gandalf, being kind of goofy in the beginning (the "good-morning"-introduction) and showing his earnesty when it comes to his desicions concerning the adventure. And there is seemingly a depth to Gandalf, which is getting explored throughout the Hobbit (and even more so in the Lord of the Rings).
We learn a lot about the history of the dwarves, but not so much about their personality traits. The most prominently featured dwarf throughout the first chapter is Thorin, the leader of the illustrious group. He comes across as a stern person, but he surely does know how to be friendly towards other people (although I don´t know what to think of toe reference):
Gandalf, dwarves and Mr. Baggins! We are met together in the House of our friend and fellow conspirator, this most excellent and audacious hobbit - may the hair on his toes never fall out! all praise to his wine and ale!-
And there seems to be an animosity between and Gandalf and Thorin, which promises a fair amount of tension throughout the story (and I have forgotten if this tension gets adressed at some point).
And I have forgotten how fun this book can be, this making me laugh whilst reading it:
... Old Took´s great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields and knocked their king Golfimbul´s head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.