This post contains musings about ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien, more specifically the first 5 chapters of the book. If you haven’t read it (read it for crissakes!) and, if you are the type of person that dislikes spoilers of any kind, you should probably skip the rest of this. 🙂
As I was putting my mind around this summertime power Tolkien fest, ‘Putting the blog in Balrog’, I mostly thought of just ‘The Hobbit’ itself, as it was the first, and the one I’ve read the least.
I couldn’t remember when I read ‘The Hobbit’ last, actually, and how many times I have.
My first encounter with hobbits was not the book, but an excerpt of it in another book. The description of this ‘hobbit’ and his dwelling was so vivid that it seemed like a real thing to me. I hadn’t read anything like it in my young life.
So now, with a different mind and perspective, I return to Middle Earth, and find that I remember this place, and these adventures, as wells as, or perhaps better, than if it had happened to me personally. While Tolkien would go on to to fill out this world to a detailed extent that would never really be matched by any other author, the seeds are all here in this book, despite it’s clear lean towards young readers.
As opposed to the sprawling ‘Lord of the Rings’ , ‘The Hobbit’ is off to the adventure quite quickly, and the laughably helpless(with the exception of Gandalf) party are very nearly completely wiped out, not once, but twice. The new thought that struck me, as I realized just how well I knew this story, is what a terrible idea this whole expedition was. Horribly dangerous for even the most capable citizens of Middle Earth, there would seem to be very little chance of survival for 13 not-particularly-bright dwarves and one clever, but inexperienced hobbit, wizard or no wizard. Despite Gandalf’s bad-assery, I’d say he tipped the odds against his own survival quite a bit by joining this suic.., err, incredibly foolish quest.(Oh yeah, the quest:Travel a large distance through a dangerous mountain range and a dangerous forest, ultimately arriving at a mountain with a large dragon living in it, and then, taking the dragon’s treasure. What could go wrong?) But at this point in the story, Gandalf and his motivations are a complete mystery.
(I completed the rest of this blog post and was quite happy with it, and it didn’t save and wiped out what I added. Boy, do I hate that sort of thing. So, once more, with probably a bit less feeling.)
Our adventure looks like it’s ending before it even begins, as Bilbo, curiously, decides to try out his thieving skills on a troll, and the collective genius of the dwarves gets them all captured. Thankfully trolls are even dumber than dwarves, and Gandalf bails them out. The now petrified trolls will make a cameo in the future.
The group is captured again, but in perhaps a less embarassing circumstance, as they were outsmarted by some sneaky goblins in the mountain range. Bilbo is separated from the group, and, in what is perhaps Tolkien’s best piece of writing, finds the Ring, and, unfortunately for him, Gollum.
While there were dangers before, and dangers ahead, this encounter with Gollum is by far the creepiest and most suspenseful. There is nothing cartoony or lighthearted about this scene as Bilbo bargains for his life in a contest of riddles, just inches away from this murderous creature in the dark. I remember this scene perfectly(except I actually forgot a couple of the riddles). The seed of the bigger story to come is here, as he hints of the Rings origins. Maybe the most important moment in all of Tolkien lore.
All in all, I am enjoying this more than expected so far, maybe because it was unexpected. 🙂 Outside of a more heightened awareness of how crazy this quest was, and how dumb the dwarves are, I have found that I enjoy the little songs more than I did before. ‘Til next time!
More ‘Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog’ goodness:
Update: David Fuller will be gleefully, nerdily, be filling in the blanks with awesome tidbits like this.
Also there is ‘Shouty Men in Shiny Armour‘ for your reading pleasure. 🙂