I love the fantasy genre, have read Paolini, and am absolutely in love with Katsa and Po in Graceling. I’ve read all the books in The Chronicles of Narnia, play World of Warcraft, and I rather enjoyed Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure. So when I read about the Tolkein Readalong, I decided to Crash the Unexpected Party.
January was the month of The Hobbit with A Striped Armchair. I got a late start, so I’ve had to hurry a bit to catch up, but I’ve now finished the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was a re-reread for me, “the third time pays for all”, as Bilbo says, and my last time on the journey There and Back Again was in early 2008, I believe. It amazes me how this book was still able to keep me in suspense through goblins chasing them, Riddles in the Dark, the sticky troubles in Mirkwood, imprisonment in the wood-elves city, Bilbo’s battle of wits with Smaug the Dragon, and through the final scene of the book, The Battle of Five Armies. I so love Tolkein, and I seem to forget how much until I read his work. Next month will be The Fellowship of the Rings with The Literary Omnivore.
So Eva at A Striped Armchair gave us the following questions:
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?
Okay, so here we go :-)
1. 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?
I have just finished the book about twenty minutes ago, after tackling it in about 3 days. I was a bit burned out by the ARCs that I’ve read this month, and desperately need a fun escape in a comfort read and The Hobbit fit that to a T. I really do hope to take the next books a bit slower, because it gave me a bit of a brain-ache this way. As always, it lived up to my memories, and I’ve been running over to YouTube to watch the 1977 Cartoon version of it that I watched repeatedly at my parents naseaum as a kid. What really surprised me was that, even though I know the story, know what all’s going to happen, and know the outcomes, it can still hold me in suspense. I was biting my nails and flipping pages, even though I knew they were all going to make it through. Of course, since it was a reread, it was familiar, and maybe it is the cartoon I watched for all those years that makes it a comfort read for me.
2. Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
I did have trouble in the beginning of the book getting started. I kept falling asleep. However, that may have more to do with the fact that I was in a nice, warm bed at 12 o’clock at night, with the audiobook playing as I read along. There is a reason we read bedtime stories to kids to make them go to sleep, and I can tell you it works on 36-year-old moms just as well ;-)
3. Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?
Well, as I said, I read along with an audiobook, so I didn’t skip the songs this time, but I never skipped them anyway. I figure Tolkein put them where he did for a reason and read them (sang them, out loud, even if it drew stares) where he plunked them. It was a bit different hearing them from the audiobook reader, who also sang them, (but with breaks that I didn’t care for) in that his tunes for them was a bit different than the ones I had sung. Honestly, it would have never occurred to me to skip them.
4. What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
I have always loved the book’s narrator voice, and I’d have to say that I like the audiobook’s narrator’s voice, as well. I hope he’s doing the next three, as well.
5. Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?
Yes, my book had both the dwarf map of the Lonely Mountain and the moonrunes that Elrond discovered (lol, I can’t read runes, though, so what does that matter?), as well as a broader map that shows the Misty Mountains, Mirkwood, and the Grey Mountains, as well as Smaug on the Lonely Mountain. They’re labelled “Thror’s Map” and “Wilderland”, and I referenced them often, especially the one of Wilderland to get a good sense of the directions they took and how far they travelled. Like Bilbo, I too LOVE maps!
6. 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?
Ooh, favorites… I knew this question was coming, so I tried to be prepared, but I just was too into the book to remember to pick them. Let me see….
Favorite main character: Well, of course it’s probably Gandalf. Do people answer anything else? Why or how could you have any other favorite than the Wandering Wizard? Well, maybe Bilbo… since he is the one about whom the story was written. Certainly, it can’t be the dwarves, they’re a bunch of pansies who push Bilbo out in front like a Hobbit-shield. Money-grubbing, short, lazy.. grumble grumble. I know too many people like them in real life to like them much in the book, especially the pompous, self-important Thorin (though, he does redeem himself in the end).
Favorite minor character: Ahh, now this one gives us a much broader choice. My favorite minor character is, by far, Beorn. I loved Beorn! He treats his animals with care and love as if they were his own children, and watches over and guards his friends, too. Beorn could be called “The Guardian of the Wood”, I think. And I had forgotten about him until reaching his house after the Eagles had dropped them all at the Carrock. Beorn has this sense that he could be dangerous (well, and his does transform into a bear, after all), but there’s a gentleness about him at the same time.
Favorite scene: My favorite scene had always previously been the barrel-escape scene. However, this time around, my favorite scene is at the end, when Gandalf and Bilbo begin their journey home, parting company with the elvenking, and Beorn stays with them and protects them. I don’t know why I’d never paid much attention to him before!
As for my favorite quote… There were so many great lines and passages in this book, obviously! But here’s the one that struck me this time around:
“The the prophecies of the old song have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.
“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
“Thank goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.
–The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein, page 330
I found a deep sense of comfort in this passage this time around, and I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it’s the idea that I myself am “quite a little fellow” (or whatever the term for a girl fellow is) in a wide world, and it’s a comfort to know that it all will turn out okay in the end. Sometimes it feels like I’m battling the forces of darkness just to raise my kids to be honorable, integral, self-respecting, well-mannered, civilized, law-abiding, good citizens. And though it would be nice to have a wizard helping me along the way, or a bear-man like Beorn to watch over them when they’re not under my own watchful gaze, it is a comfort to know that there is Someone who does keep them, and all of us, and, though we might not understand the hows and whys, there is a Plan that is being worked out for the good of all.
This counts toward my 451 Challenge.
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