Lord of the Rings Readalong

The Lord of the Rings Readalong started this month!  Hosted by Eva, Maree, Teresa, and Clare, this readalong is starting with reading The Hobbit this month, and we will all read one of the Lord of the Rings books each month subsequently.  Until we run out at the end of April, and then there will be a great mourning across the blogosphere until everyone agrees to read, I don’t know, The Silmarillion.  It is not a challenge.  I have absolutely put my foot down and shan’t join any more challenges than the ones I already have, and this Lord of the Rings Readalong is not one.  It is totally dissimilar.  For one thing, if I fail at it, it will not be the challenge police but the readalong police who will get me.  For another, I have already read all the books in question and will just be revisiting them like old friends.  (Except The Hobbit which I will be revisiting like an insidious old enemy.)

Eva asks: Have you read The Hobbit before? If so tell us about that experience.

OH I WILL TELL YOU.  What happened was, my older sister Anna was in love with J.R.R. Tolkien.  This was back in the day when we were quite small and still shared a room; and she used to chant songs from Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as I was trying to fall asleep.  I would say “NNNNNNNNGGGGG,” and Anna would say, “It’s from Lord of the Rings!” like that should make me feel better.  Since I desperately admire Anna and yearn for her approval, I obediently went and fetched one of her copies of Fellowship and gave it a go, and I found it absolutely unbearable.  The age-old story of so many would-be Tolkien readers: I got to Tom Bombadil and found it impossible to continue.

And if I managed to push past Tom Bombadil by sheer force of will (remember I was only eight or nine and did not possess all that much force of will), I bogged down at the Council of Elrond.  I tried to blame it on being younger than Anna, but the bottom fell out of this excuse the next year, and eventually I concluded that Anna was just smarter than I was, and I would never love Tolkien.  Then she got her own room, and I shared with my younger sister, and instead of All that is gold does not glitter as I was trying to fall asleep, it was more Hey Jenny?  Hey Jenny?  Hey Jenny?  I had a Coke and now I can’t sleep.  BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.  I’m bouncing on my bed.  Hey Jenny?  I can’t sleep.  I’m bouncing on my bed.

Somewhere in the midst of my insomnia, I managed to read all of The Hobbit and hated it.  I hated how the dwarves came in and made a mess in Bilbo’s lovely house, and I contrarily didn’t like Bilbo for being unwelcoming.  There was just nothing about the book I enjoyed.  In a way it was a relief, because it meant positively that I didn’t enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing style, and it allowed me to stop worrying about Lord of the Rings.  I quickly contrived to forget everything about The Hobbit except the scene where Bilbo plays the riddle game with Gollum.  That scene has always stuck in my head quite vividly, or at least it seems vivid – I guess I’ll see how well my memory aligns with the actual scene when I reread.

Thus did it come to pass that I rejected Tolkien utterly until the first Peter Jackson film came out and I grew curious about what was going to happen next, and whether the film had been acceptably faithful to the books, and why everyone seemed to think that the eventual saving of Middle Earth was All About Sam, and who Faramir was anyway, and how badass Gandalf was going to be when he came back.  What I did was, I skipped Fellowship and that whole Tom Bombadil mess (figuring the movie would have given me the gist of the action), and went straight through into The Two Towers; and only when I had finished the second two books did I read the first one.  I never returned to The Hobbit.

Until now.

Cue dramatic music.

I have no idea what to expect, though I do feel confident I will still be annoyed at the dwarves’ intrusion into Bilbo’s home.  My understanding is that Hobbit is far more of a children’s book, without the grandstandy (and I say that with love and affection) die-for-what’s-right hero ideal that we get in Aragorn – well, in most of the characters really – in Lord of the Rings.  And there’s Smaug.  I know there is Smaug because other books talk about him, but I do not remember him from reading The Hobbit in elementary school.

I am eager, by the way, to congratulate J.R.R. Tolkien for his excellent job in retconning the changes he made in the Gollum-ring-riddles scene after writing Lord of the Rings.  But I do not expect much out of the conversation.  I expect it will be like this:

Jenny: Hi, Professor Tolkien!  I am Jenny!  I like your books!
Tolkien: *mumble mumble*
Jenny: I just wanted to tell you, when I first discovered that you had to change The Hobbit in order to make it fit with Lord of the Rings, I was sort of sneery.  Then I found out that you retconned the change by explaining that Bilbo originally lied about how it went with Gollum, and was eventually induced to confess the truth.  That is hella clever.  Well done you!
Tolkien: *mumble mumble*
Jenny: And you made up lots of languages, that was incredible, I really admire that.
Tolkien: *bewildering linguist babble*
Jenny: *wishes she had taken more linguistics classes*
Tolkien: I find you disappointing.
Jenny: Kthxbai.

Not sure why I am so bent on having this conversation when I imagine Tolkien to be so mumbly and mean (I imagine him this way not based on those of his letters which I have read, but on Diana Wynne Jones’s description of his lectures and my recollection that he didn’t like the Narnia books).  Maybe I will use that time to go chat with my hero Frederick Douglass and thank him for his tireless efforts on behalf of social justice.

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26 thoughts on “Lord of the Rings Readalong

  1. LOL; your opening paragraph cracked me up! And then your post got even more hilarious!

    I loved Tom Bombadil, but I was so much older (high school) when I read LOTR. I did NOT love Bilbo’s birthday party, though-that thwarted me both times I tried to read Fellowship in middle school. lol

    And then your Tolkien dialogue at the end almost had me in tears I laughed so much. Well done you! 🙂

  2. Ha, ha, love your interview with Tolkien. I loved the first book of LOTR but somehow couldn’t get through The Two Towers. Of course, I was blown away by the films.

  3. I love your conversations with dead famous people.

    I know I read the Hobbit when I was in elementary school, but I’m pretty sure it was some sort of abridged version. I also remember not particularly liking it. Could be I need to try it again.

    • Well, don’t rush right into trying it again. So far I’m finding it just okay, though the riddles-with-Gollum scene is just as I remember it, and quite nice.

  4. Hilarious! I think it’s worth having the chat with Tolkein, even if it’s just to make sure he’s a curmudgeon. If he’s read this post, from his position of omnipotence, then he may be a bit more forthcoming. 🙂

    • Maybe! Or maybe he’d have spent all that time in heaven becoming more curmudgeonly, and maybe he one time glanced down at me by coincidence and saw me doing something mean! YOU CANNOT PREDICT.

  5. I would just like to say this: you can never ever ever blame reading things on being younger than me. You learned to read before I did, and read more adult books before I did, and therefore have a head start both ways.

    I also suspect you will still dislike much of the hobbit. Just a guess.

    • I just said, my excuse didn’t hold up! I thought that might be the reason, and then it turned out not to be! But I have always wondered why I couldn’t manage Lord of the Rings as young as you did.

  6. This is just hilarious! I’ve always imagined Tolkien as a bit of a curmudgeon.

    I do hope you enjoy the first books more this time around. The Hobbit is altogether different in tone from LOTR, and it’s my least favorite of the four main books, but it does have its charms. I think most readers hit a few snags on the first read. For me, it was the first half of Two Towers that nearly ground my reading to a halt.

    I rather liked Tom Bombadil but was so glad he didn’t appear in the films. How could he not look ridiculous on film?

    • Okay, so you’re now the second person who struggled to get through Two Towers – I’m dying to know what the snag was. Any particular scene? That one’s my favorite of the three, by a good margin. Was it the Ents? They are very slow.

  7. I hated Tom Bombadil too, I barely managed to get through that part!
    Your anecdote is really hilarious! I’m reading it early in the morning, and it marks a cheery beginning to my day. Hope you have better luck with Tolkien in the future (should you be up to attempting a second chat!)

    • Hahaha, well, maybe when I reread his letters, when he is writing nice responses to people who wrote him about Lord of the Rings, I will imagine him friendlier in heaven. 😛

  8. The Two Towers is my favorite part of the story of The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit has never been my favorite–it is more of a children’s book, although I think it gets better once they get to the lonely mountain.

    But yeah, I love Tom Bombadil and the River Daughter and Old Man Willow and the rainy day at Tom’s house. I was kind of glad Peter Jackson left him out, because there’s no way a movie could do him justice and this way he still belongs only to readers. Although Jackson did have the wit to include a bit of Old Man Willow in Fangorn.

    • Yay! Go Two Towers! Do you like the parts with Frodo and Sam in Mordor? My father and my oldest sister, ardent Tolkien fans both, don’t like those bits and skim through them, but I enjoy them a lot.

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