This is a kind of non-review of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. I am rereading this wonderful tale for the zillionth time as part of the Lord of the Rings Readalong. Eva from A Striped Arm Chair is the host for The Hobbit and has already started the discussion, which is what this post is all about.
First, Eva asked us to post a photo of the cover of our book. This is an image I pulled from the Internet, but it matches my hardbound copy, which I'd like to discuss for a minute.
I first read The Hobbit around 1966 when I was sixth grade. I owned a paperback copy, which I reread once or twice during junior high and high school. When I was a senior in high school, my older brother spent a year abroad; before returning to the States, he stopped in London, where he picked up this edition of The Hobbit for me. It was printed in 1971 by Allen & Unwin from their third (1966) edition of the novel.
My copy has both color and black-and-white illustrations, which were done by Tolkien. As you can imagine, I really cherish the book.
Okay, on to Eva's questions.
When did you first hear of The Hobbit? I'm not not sure. I read the Narnia books in fourth grade, and Tolkien was the next logical choice. Either I didn't know about it or there wasn't as much fantasy when I was young as there is now.
What made you decide to join the read-a-long? Have you read it before? If so tell us about that experience. I like to reread the entire Lord of the Rings series every once in a while, and it's been five years since my last read through. I decided it was time for another visit to Middle Earth.
Five years ago I bought the unabridged audio edition of LOTR (minus The Hobbit) and listened to the books for the first time. Rob Inglis does an amazing job with the narration, and he even sings the songs. I admit to skimming songs and poems in print novels, so I felt that the audio added a new dimension to the books. I am listening to The Hobbit, read by Inglis, for the first time. It is enchanting.
I really can't express how The Hobbit affected me that first time when I was young and full of wonder. I loved everything about Tolkien's world and was impressed even then with its depth and history -- with the languages, the different beings, the food, the clothing, and the weapons. I knew that Middle Earth existed.
J. R. R. Tolkien pretty much founded the modern fantasy genre. So let’s take a moment to think about the genre as a whole; have you always loved fantasy? What was your introduction to the genre? As I implied earlier, I think I was introduced to fantasy through C. S. Lewis's Narnia series, which I read when I was about eight years old. I loved the idea of another world full of talking creatures where humans could have exciting adventures. I wanted to go to Narnia. Because of Lewis and Tolkien, I have always been a fan of fantasy.
Or perhaps you still feel rather skeptical towards the whole idea of wizards and dwarfs and magic? I'm not all skeptical! In terms of subgenres, I like Tolkien's type of fantasy and magic better than the J. K. Rowling's version, though I did love the Harry Potter books. [Side note: If you are a fantasy writer, must you go by your initials rather than your first name?]
I have read a lot of fantasy over the years, but I have never recaptured the feeling I had when I read Tolkien for first time. Every series seems to lack a little something. I read Robert Jordan's New Spring in 2008 and liked it well enough. I will probably read his Wheel of Time series one of these days.
Do you have a certain plan for reading it? I started the audio (11.5 hours) last week, and I'll finish it tonight.
I won't be writing a real review for The Hobbit, but I'll be answering Eva's discussion questions throughout the month. For more about the readalong in general, see Teresa's introduction. For The Hobbit in particular, check out Eva's get started post.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007 [originally published 1938]
Challenges: 100+, LOTR Readalong, 451, Audiobooks, 2010
Source: Gift (see review policy)