11 January 2010

Readalong 1: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

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.

The Hobbit at Powell's
The Hobbit at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007 [originally published 1938]
ISBN-13: 9780618968633
Challenges: 100+, LOTR Readalong, 451, Audiobooks, 2010
Source: Gift (see review policy)
YTD: 3
Rating: A+


Julie P. 1/11/10, 8:13 AM  

This is a blast from the past. Probably haven't read this for 30 years!!!

Anonymous,  1/11/10, 8:33 AM  

If I hadn't had so much to do reading-wise I'd join this in a heartbeat. I love Tolkein. I've read The Hobbit twice, and would be more than happy to do it again :-)

My first experience with it was the cartoon movies they made back in the 70s. I think they're part of the reason I got hooked on sff.

*sniff* I'll just have to participate vicariously :-)

Sandy Nawrot 1/11/10, 9:30 AM  

Believe it or not, but I've never read this series. I should be shamed. Interesting idea, listening to it on audio. I may have to look into this after the kids and I finish the HP series...

Alex the Girl 1/11/10, 9:32 AM  

It has been far too long since I've read The HObbit. I may have to give it a go. I think the last I visited was the cartoon edition!

bermudaonion 1/11/10, 9:44 AM  

What a sweet and thoughtful brother. That book does sound like something to treasure. I've never read any of Tolkein's books.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 1/11/10, 9:52 AM  

Have fun with the readalong. I haven't read any Tolkien, but it is fun to see the different ways this books has come up for you over the years.

Anonymous,  1/11/10, 9:56 AM  

Sandy is not alone! I've never read the series, wither. Although I did start The Hobbit once. And I saw one of the movies.

Eva 1/11/10, 11:10 AM  

lol @ your initials sidenote! I wanted to go to Narnia too, at least until The Last Battle. That book almost ruined the series for me, and I refused to ever reread it. ;)

Almost time for the midway-point discussion questions! I guess that means I need to think of some. LOL

caite 1/11/10, 1:09 PM  

Oh, I love The Hobbit...and as I mentioned, I love the cover on that edition. I first read it when I was in grammar school, although I am not sure what year. But I know, at the time, it had a huge effect on my. I had never read a book like that and of course, it was my introduction to LoTR.

Kathleen 1/11/10, 1:17 PM  

I'm so excited about the LOTR readalong. Sad to say I didn't discover these books until much later in life when my son started reading them. I know I would have enjoyed them immensely had I read them as a young person.

Dorte H 1/11/10, 2:53 PM  

I don´t read much fantasy, and I didn´t enjoy the first chapter or so of The Hobbit, but after that I was just sold. It is such a pleasure when an author can create such a credible and appealing world that you think: yes, if hobbits exist, it must be like this!

I have much the same feeling with Harry Potter´s world of witchcraft though I am not sure I will re-read Rowling´s books.

mimbles 1/11/10, 4:21 PM  

I first read The Hobbit when I was in 2nd grade, my dad bought a beautiful illustrated edition for me which was later stolen by people who rented our furnished house when we lived in the US for a few months. They were good tenants but they must have loved Tolkien, my dad's old copy of Lord of the Rings, which I read when I was in 3rd grade, went missing too!

I now own several editions of both The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings and I'm on to my second box set of the Narnia books - the first one fell apart after many re-reads :-)

Have you read Lois McMaster Bujold's fantasy series? The Curse of Chalion is wonderful.

Molly 1/11/10, 6:44 PM  

I should consider joining the read-along just for the Hobbit. I will be teaching it to my 7th graders starting next week - and this go around I plan to "review" the Hobbit through the audio CDs.

I am rather intimidated by the LOTR trilogy though -- and just not sure I will have the free time to read those. I will have to give it more thought.....

Belle 1/11/10, 8:44 PM  

I'll have to see about getting LOTR in audio - it sounds like a great way to reread the series. Plus The Hobbit, too. Your print copy definitely sounds like something to treasure!

Anastasia @ Here There Be Books 1/11/10, 9:34 PM  

Thanks for reminding me to answer Eva's questions! I had totally forgotten to do them. (eek)

Alice 1/11/10, 9:38 PM  

Like you, Tolkien started my interest in fantasy books. I believe LOTR is my first love for this genre when I read it many years ago.

I am also participating in this and haven't even started! Accck! I need to do that really soon.

Jenners 1/12/10, 11:40 AM  

This was interesting. It made me remember reading these books when I was a kid, but I think I started with Narnia books too now that I think about it. Tolkien was a very very big book for boys who I hung out with in grade school and I think I read it under their influence. They were always drawing creatures and stuff.

And I'll confess: I've never been able to finish the entire "Lord of the Rings" books ... I always stop somewhere in book 3.

And I started the Wheel of Time series and read all the books that were complete at that time (about 5 I think) and then kind of sidetracked. The books are excellent .. but the series still isn't done yet!

The Bumbles 1/12/10, 1:39 PM  

Narnia was a favorite for me at that same age too. I read The Hobbit but nothing else by Tolkien. The LOTR movies have tempted me to go back and revisit and discover further. But in general my interest in fantasy ended when I became a teenager. Must have been the Harlequins!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 1/12/10, 10:11 PM  

It's nice that you have an edition that brings back such strong memories for you!

I read THE HOBBIT, but I don't remember devouring it, and I know I read it only the once. Never got into the LOTR books. Maybe when my kids get into it I'll pick it up again. In fact, great idea for a bday gift for an upcoming 12th birthday :)

Elizabeth 1/22/10, 8:06 AM  

That sounds like a beautiful edition! I have to confess The Hobbit is my least favorite of the series - I enjoy the trilogy much more.

Nick 1/12/11, 3:31 AM  

I remember the time when my mother used to read me the book as a bedtime story. I think it's time to reread it.

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