Catching Up with Bilbo
Hello all of you adventurous wanderers, exploring Middle Earth by reading The Hobbit! We’re now a bit over halfway through January, so we’re halfway through our celebration of all things Bilbo-ish as the first part of the Lord of the Rings read-a-long. As always, don’t let our schedule pressure you, though; if you’ve already completed the book, or if you haven’t started it yet, just move at your own pace. :) I will say, though, to try to keep posts you link here at about the middle of the text (which is about through chapter eight)…if you talk about later events, be sure to post spoiler warnings for first-timers who haven’t reached those parts yet.
We’ve never done a read-a-long before, and they’re pretty new to the blogosphere, so in a way I’m making this up as I go along. But just to let you know, in addition to the questions/discussion topics today, I’ll be posting once more at the end of the month with more questions/prompts. The 31st is a Sunday, so I’ll post on Monday, February 1st (which will also mark the first day of The Fellowship of the Ring read-a-long, hosted by Claire). If you’ve decided to skip the middle updates, and simply review the book as a whole, that’s when you should add your review link too. Now we have a bit more structure! ;)
As I said in my first post, while I’ve provided a jumpstart for our discussions, feel free to pick and choose which questions to answer, or to completely ignore them and focus on something else in your own post. You may also add to the discussion via comments here; remember that you can subscribe to a comment feed, so if you want to make sure you don’t miss out any participants’ thoughts, just look below the text box when you’re commenting and click the small checkbox that says ‘Notify me of new posts via e-mail.’
On to topics!
- Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? What’s surprising or familiar?
- Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
- Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?
- What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
- Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?
- 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 hope that helped stimulate your own creative juices! :) Once you’ve written a post, be sure to share it in the Mr. Linky below. And don’t forget to visit the other participants to see how they’re reacting to the book so far!
I’m a touch over halfway through; I’ve finished chapter eight, entitled “Flies and Spiders.” It’s taking all my self-control to limit myself to a chapter every other day or so; I want to just race throgh it! I don’t think I’ve read The Hobbit since I was in middle school, and one thing that’s surprised me so far is that it’s much easier to read than I was expecting (I think that’s because I’ve read Lord of the Rings several times in the interim, so I’m getting them confused). Gandalf is kind of an ass, compared to my memory of him. I like that though…he’s not a benevolent, simplistic character at all. I was also a bit taken aback by how little time is spent in Rivendell, and especially the lack of description. The elves are definitely on the outer fringes of the book, and you could almost miss them. While I’ve been told that Bilbo loves the elves, I haven’t been shown why. Oh-and I’d completely forgotten about the huge spiders! I couldn’t help thinking that a certain someone ‘borrowed’ that idea. That being said, Gollum is just as creepy as I remember! And the trolls; for some reason, I’ve always remembered them, and it was fun to see that they haven’t changed. And Bilbo himself…my mom has never liked Bilbo, but I do! I think he rises to the occasion admirably, especially since he’s constantly out of his element.
Ok, this is going to make me sound like a total nerd, but when I come to a song in the text, I sing it. Out loud. Sometimes several times. I think the songs are one of the best parts of the book, much more sophisticated than the rest of the story, and they hint at all the wonderful solidity that Middle Earth has. Also, you can tell that Tolkien was a marvelous linguist…he has a great ear, and he uses a lot of the rhyming/rhythm schemes common to Old English (which I learned about in The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry and which were refreshed for me when reading the introduction to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight last year). I find that the songs all have very particular characters, and as soon as I start singing them, the music readily emerges. Whether it’s the goblins’ creepy 2/4 beat, or the dwarves’ lilting laments (which I tend to sing in B flat), or Bilbo’s cheeky song to draw away the spiders dotted with extra sharps, I just love them.
As far as the narrator’s voice goes, it has that kind of mildly condescending tone that I associate with the Golden Age of children’s lit (and British authors). I grew up on those kind of narrators, and they’ve never bothered me. In fact, I find them comforting and soothing. But if I were reading it for the first time, and if I hadn’t read Lewis and Nesbit and Blyton and Boston and others as a child, I’m sure it would bother me
I am a total map nerd, so you can bet I’ve been consulting the included ones to follow Bilbo and the dwarves! My edition includes Tolkien’s illustrations, and while they’re nice, I can’t say I spend much time on them. Maps aside, I’m much more of a words person than a picture person.
Now for the favourites! I feel like I should just do shotgun answers, hehe.
>>Bilbo. I think he’s really the only main character…the dwarves don’t have as much differentiation/personality as I remembered from being a child. Maybe that will change now that Gandalf’s left.
>>Beorn, the shapeshifter. He loves his ponies, he hates goblins, and he lives on honey and cream!
>>I love the spider scene…it’s creepy and funny all at once, and it’s the first time that Bilbo really comes into his own. Silly dwarves. The riddles between Bilbo and Gollum come in second.
>>Ok, I’m going to share one of the songs. I love them all, so it was difficult to choose, but here’s one of the dwarves’ (and yes, I sang it again while I was typing it out):
The wind was on the withered heath,
but in the forest stirred no leaf:
there shadows lay by night and day,
and dark things silent crept beneath.
The wind came down from mountains cold,
and like a tide it roared and rolled;
the branches groaned, the forest moaned,
and leaves were laid upon the mold.
The wind went on from West to East;
all movement from the forest ceased,
but shrill and harsh across the marsh
its whistling voices were released.
The grasses hissed, their tassels bent,
the reeds were rattling – on it went,
o’er shaken pool under heavens cool
where racing clouds were torn and rent.
It passed the lonely Mountain bare
and swept above the dragon’s lair;
there black and ark lay boulders stark
and flying smoke was in the air.
It left the world and took its flight
over the wide seas of the night.
The moon set sail upon the gale,
and stars were fanned to leaping light.
There you have it. :) I’m thoroughly enjoying my reread, and I’m so happy to know I”ll be spending the next few months in Middle Earth.