The Hobbit Group Read: Week 1

Wow, am I ever late! (I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! Wait; wrong story.) I am currently reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as I decided to join a group read hosted by Writers’ Bloc. Each week, participants read a selected number of chapters and then later discuss what was read, and, well… My post is late! I did read the first six chapters beforehand, but the chance to answer this week’s questions didn’t present itself until now.

Inkeri‘s questions:
1. In the book Bilbo gets visited by 13 strange dwarves, and just lets them in to eat his cakes and drink tea. In the modern world it would be really weird if people just started barging in your home. Why didn’t Bilbo just tell them to go?

  • Of course I would think it odd if uninvited people started knocking to be let in my house. Not only that, but to expect the service of food and drink from me. When the dwarves came a’knocking, I assumed Bilbo’s nature either timid, baffled, or too concerned about attending to these strangers as a good host to say anything. Hobbits make for such jolly, hearty, and a mostly polite group as well, so I didn’t put much thought into Bilbo’s lack of voiced curiosity. “Come along in, and have some tea!” he says, which is a front he keeps up despite his annoyance. Whatever Bilbo’s reasons, I enjoyed the event’s peculiarity — not a bad way for a book to reel me in, either.

2. Where would the dwarves and Bilbo be if Gandalf wasn’t with them? It’s seems to me that it’s him who saves them from the scary situations.

  • Gandalf always disappears without notice and returns mysteriously, just at the perfect moment to save his traveling companions. The thought has occurred to me: if not for Gandalf, how far would the dwarves and Bilbo make it on their journey? Not far, perhaps, as it’s very possible that the trolls would have been the last creatures our group would have seen. If not that, then surely the goblins would have gotten them. When danger unfolds and surrounds them, it’s Gandalf who find a path toward safety. I must admit that I like to see Gandalf’s magical ability, although I felt equally impressed when Bilbo found his own get-away from the goblins. Luckily he found and took Gollum’s ring, otherwise: fat chance of escape, Bilbo!

3. Bilbo plays a game of riddles with Gollum. He ends up winning by asking “What have I got in my pockets?”, which Gollum is unable to answer. Do you think it was a fair, as it wasn’t actually a riddle?

  • If one wants to play strictly by following rules, then no, but: a hobbit’s got to do what a hobbit’s got to do for survival! And if that means tricking your cannibalistic opponent, then so be it. I won’t deny that I’d do the same as Bilbo to gain the upper hand, although I’m more likely to panic and the let adrenaline empower a good punch and then — flee!

Writers’ Bloc‘s questions:
4. For those of you who haven’t read The Hobbit before, is the tone of writing one you’d expect from a book that has been loudly proclaimed as a classic? And for those of you who have read it before, how did it feel – like coming home to a much loved book, or were you surprised by how much you’d forgotten?

  • I imagined Tokien’s tone more serious and dramatic-like, so I’m surprised by the light tone and easy readability — how even  though peril is involved, the writing manages to radiate a fun, adventurous vibe. I’m quite thankful for it, as my (pleasant) surprise stems from my younger self’s perspective, and especially that of Jackson’s LotR films. I picked up The Hobbit only once before. I was about twelve, and Peter Jackson’s LotR films had recently come out or had finished. Considering how I found myself absorbed into each movie, I thought to read this book. After all, I enjoyed the films so I should enjoy a book I’ve heard referred to as the LotR’s prequel, right? But I could not have felt more disinterested in The Hobbit back then. The Hobbit being my first Tolkien read, I also draw expectations from Jackson’s films, which present complexity and a mature story. Tone — and whether I like it — depends on what my mood searches for, which can change often. It just so happens that I enjoy the light-hearted atmosphere at present!

5. We’ve seen quite a few songs so far. Do you pay attention to them, or do you skip them altogether? Do you like how silly they are, or do you think them an interruption?

  • But who would ever skip the songs?! (Looking in Green Paw-Paw’s direction, cough.) Whenever I flip or skim ahead to see what awaits (as if no one does that!), I get excited when I spy another song. No one judge me, but I think they are especially fun to read out loud. I understand why others prefer skipping over the songs, however — all the quicker to back to the actual story, yeah?

6. What has been your favourite scene, so far?

  • Gollum’s scene, by far! While the closest I have come to Tolkien is through film (until now), Gollum has always been a favorite. Yes, he is absolutely mad, cruel, and a frightening creature to be around, but I mostly pity his character. All the time spent with no one but himself to keep company, he’s a rather sad and unloved thing… I’d like give him a caring pat on the shoulder, but I wouldn’t ever dare.

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15 thoughts on “The Hobbit Group Read: Week 1

  1. It was a long time ago since I read this book and actually the first time was in school – painfully embarrassing for a bunch of teenagers made to experience it by reading it out loud. Most of it unfortunately degenerated into a bunch of incomprehensible grunts. I can’t quite figure out why, at about the same age I picked up LoTR – I seem to remember at the time not even connecting the two books together. I’m so glad that I did read the second book – it’s a great read and it is definitely written in a different style from the Hobbit. ‘Who would ever skip the songs’? ahem, me. But only in the earlier readings. I just found them a distraction and probably more so because they look like they’re written as a rhyme so when I was reading them I had the same daft tune playing in my head which actually became a tiny bit annoying!
    Lynn :D

    • That brings back high school English memories of my own. We did read-alouds for To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, and Macbeth. I more distinctly recall the Macbeth read, though — everyone getting tongue-tied on Shakespeare, reading ve-ry- s-l-ow-ly, etc. It was painful, but the teacher at least let readers volunteer. I sat quietly with my hand never raised, ha ha.

      I think after The Hobbit I will start LotR — I’m pretty sure a copy is somewhere in the house. At least I know to prepare for a difference in tone.

      I’m okay with songs in books, usually. I think the only time it becomes a bother for me is if it’s repeated often and has butchered flow or overly dramatic language. It just isn’t pleasant!

  2. Pingback: The Hobbit – Week One « Writers' Bloc

  3. You’re right. I expected Gandalf to rescue them from the goblins, too, and even though I”ve read this before, I didn’t remember that he hadn’t. But Bilbo is beginning to fend for himself, and I’m pretty pleased about it. Also, doesn’t it feel like Gandalf was testing how much they could handle and how fast they could adapt? Because this is their quest, after all, not his.
    I was surprised at the lightness of tone, as well, I didn’t remember it being so conversational! I imagine if we picked up the first LoTR now, we’d see a huge difference in writing style.

    Oh, hush. Lynn does it, too. And she’s awesome, so that makes it okay. :P

    • I’ve had a late start for chapter 7, so I have lots of Hobbit reading to do this weekend! But I’m interested to see see Bilbo grow more — especially if he tells Gandalf and the others about Gollum’s ring. Gandalf, I think, certainly suspected something when Bilbo returned from the goblins’ mountain all on his own.

      I agree — Gandalf appears more like a timely hero who allows space for his little companions to grow. I suspect personal growth might be a theme, too… Bilbo started out reserved, and now he’s breaking that mold.

      I’ve fancied the thought of starting LotR after this, so long as I know to expect a contrast in tone. I imagine it’s more pensive.

      Ha ha, you guys — I dunno, but I like reading songs in books. Unless they’re written poorly, ick.

      • Inkeri and I have been thinking about reading LoTR as well, after this. But maybe a little later, I dunno. Every time I look at my growing pile of books to be read, I feel part excited, and part guilty. Let us know if you decide to read it, okay? Maybe we can buddy-read it on Goodreads or something. :)

        By the way, I’m adding you.

        And yes, LoTR is a lot..heavier. I hated it the first time around, but, well, then I grew up. :P It’s not as bad as I’m making it sound, the first few chapters are a little slow, that’s all. :)

      • I know the feeling, although my book pile easily overwhelms with just a glace in its direction… I have a bit too many in my to-read stack.

        Will do! I especially enjoy this group read for The Hobbit, because it helps me stay on track with the book. It’d be great have a partner/group read-along for LotR as well (:

  4. Seeing this review makes me think I should try my hand at it again. I remember reading the LOTR books after the movies came out and it was such a slog trying to get through them….. the language, the style, the long-ass songs were just too much for me then. I tried the Hobbit too but couldn’t get into it. I’m guessing now that its been almost 10 years since then, I should try picking it up again.

    • I haven’t gone anywhere near LotR for exactly the reasons you listed. That’s the problem between epic fantasies and myself… I mean, I do love fantasy books, but the ones that are extremely rich in it are the most difficult for me to connect with. I had to push myself through the first chapter in The Hobbit, although I do that with most books anyway. But I’m finding it to be light reading, and it’s kind of fun! Definitely not what I expected.

  5. Pingback: The Hobbit Group-Read – Week Two « Writers' Bloc

  6. Hello my fellow group-reader!
    I once before, just like you, picked up this book after the movies had come out, thinking I would surely love it. I guess I wasn’t young or old enough at that moment, or I wasn’t in the correct mental state, but I’m glad I finally picked it up again and realize I’m really enjoying reading it.

    • Hi!
      I’m happy I decided to give The Hobbit a second try. My first encounter with it convinced me to stay away from Tolkien books altogether, because I didn’t think I’d enjoy any of them. This group read is starting to open me up finally.

  7. Finally have gotten round to looking at your answers to these questions! And am glad I have! :)
    Also, am super happy to know I’m not the only one who likes the songs in this book :P

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