Today we are just over halfway through the first month of the Lord of the Rings readalong, and it’s time for an update. Eva, our host for this month, has posted some discussion questions and a Mr. Linky. Go check out her post to see what others have to say about The Hobbit and to add your own updates. Of course, you’re free to read at your own pace, but, for the benefit of first-time readers, we ask everyone to focus on the first eight chapters or to include spoiler warnings for material that comes later in the book. I’m just going to use Eva’s questions for my update.
Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your memories? What’s surprising or familiar?
I’m a little over halfway through the book, just getting ready to start chapter 10. I’ve realized that I haven’t read The Hobbit as many times as I thought. This is at least my third read, but I believe I’ve read the main trilogy a few times without reading The Hobbit, so the paths don’t feel as well-trodden as I expected.
The biggest surprise for me was the elves. In Lord of the Rings, the elves are more important and more serious, and I’ve gotten used to seeing them that way. The Rivendell of The Hobbit just feels like a minor pit stop, and the elves are much jollier than I expected. I commented about that on Twitter earlier this month, and several of us speculated that the events in between the books might be weighing them down in the later books.
I had also forgotten how many offhand references there are to places that are very important in the later trilogy. For example, Moria comes up again and again.
Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
Not so far. I haven’t gotten to read as much as I ordinarily might because I’ve had lunch meetings, and that’s when I do my rereading. If my memory is correct, though, the second half is the part that has bored me in the past.
Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?
I used to just skim the songs, but I’ve grown to appreciate them, and I read some of them multiple times, especially if they’re telling a story. It’s the songs that reveal how deep this world is because that’s where we see the history and myth that extends beyond the story.
What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
Well, it’s altogether different from the more familiar voice from the main trilogy. It’s obviously written for children and is at times a teensy bit condescending, but I’ve mostly found it charming. I like when he assumes I’m clever enough to figure out the riddles and when he makes amusing jokes. The little asides and explanations just crack me up. I had forgotten how funny the voice is.
Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?
My edition is a beautiful hardcover edition that I received as a gift from my stepsister years ago. The cover has the title in runes (see the cover image to the right), and there are several full-color illustrations by Tolkien himself. Unfortunately, my copy is at the office so I can’t take any photos to show just how beautiful it is.
I have referred a few times to the map in the front of the book, but not until after the group got through the Misty Mountains. Thanks to the Lord of the Rings, I’m familiar with the geography west of the mountains. I do like to know where the locations are in relation to each other and how much progress the characters have made, so if I don’t know, I check.
Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character? Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)? What’s your favourite scene? Do you have a favourite quote to share?
I really like Bilbo. I love that he gets miserable about the same things that would make me miserable and worries about the same things that would worry me. There’s a great line near the beginning when Bilbo realizes that he won’t have enough cakes to give the dwarves and still have a share for himself. Wouldn’t you feel that way if a bunch of strangers barged into your house? But the thing is, Bilbo does come through when he’s in a pinch. He serves those cakes, even though he doesn’t want to, and he saves the dwarves again and again.
And I love Gandalf for his mysterious ways. As epic as this story may seem, you can tell that for Gandalf it’s just one of several happenings that interest him. I always wonder what he’s up to when he goes away. (I have figured out the reason for one absence—when he goes to the south after the Misty Mountains.)
Other favorites are the trolls and Gollum. The troll scene is just hysterical, and Gollum is as creepy as can be. In fact, the riddle scene with Gollum is probably my favorite in the book (and I believe that was true on my first reading, without the knowledge of what comes later).
My favorite line so far: “Trolls simply detest the very sight of dwarves (uncooked).”
For more on The Hobbit, check out Eva’s post at A Striped Armchair. And tune in again at the end of the month for a proper review of The Hobbit.