A reader writes:
So I guess Gandalf decapitating the goblin chief in the Misty Mountains doesn't happen in Berlatsky's copy of the book? Or Beorn killing a goblin and warg scout team, skinning the wolf and nailing the skin and goblin's head to his door (hmm, there seem to be a lot of decapitations in the book). Or mention of Gollum liking a nice, tasty goblin when he can get them. Or Gandalf, again, burning wolves to death with flaming pine cones. Or Smaug laying waste to Laketown. Or Bilbo slaying numerous Mirkwood spiders when rescuing the dwarves from their webs. Or the body count at the end of the Battle of Five Armies. Or maybe Berlatsky just hasn't read the book in a long while and has rose-colored memories. Because there is absolutely an awful lot of violence and death in Tolkien's "kid's" book.
I did find the juxtaposition of that post and one on what kids should be told about Newtown very interesting, however. Kids, and childhood in general, have always been less sheltered than adults seem willing to admit.
Another is on the same page:
Having just finished re-reading The Hobbit a couple hours before reading your post, I have to wonder if Berlatsky read the same book I did.
The book obviously doesn't relish violence, but it certainly doesn't spend much time dwelling on the importance of mercy either. Goblins and orcs are dispatched by the hundreds and thousands, and descriptions of their bloody corpses lying in piles after a battle are relatively graphic for a fantasy story. Beyond that, Gandalf's killing of the Goblin-king is treated as little more than a casual affair, and even after the goblin army is crushed, the noble men hunt the hapless and scattered goblins throughout the region, slaughtering them and bringing peace to the land.
In fact, the violence is in some ways the point. It is not the mercy present in the overarching story, nor in most of the characters, that we should pay attention to, but rather the mercy of Bilbo (and Frodo, later). It provides a welcome counterpoint to the violence, but the violence is still ever-present. All Jackson seems to be doing is taking the many scenes of violence that are given relatively little space in the book and creating fully-formed action sequences. This is exactly what he did in the LOTR trilogy as well.
Bilbo's non-violence is part of the Christianity of the story and also part of the reluctant hero archetype – an innocent is introduced, against his will, to the harsh reality of the world outside his hobbit hole and somehow manages to maintain his integrity.