Nov 15 2012 1:00pm

The Hobbit Reread: Chapter 1, “An Unexpected Party”

The Hobbit reread on Tor.comWelcome to the reread of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, where we will consider one chapter of the book per week. I haven’t read the book in a very long time, and I wasn’t planning on re-reading it again in advance of the first of the movies next month, but when the nice folks here at asked me about a re-read series, I simply couldn’t say no. I’ll be interested to see if this re-read brings me as many surprises as the The Lord of the Rings re-read did, and I very much look forward to hearing what you all think.

As before, everything Tolkien is fair game in the posts and comments. If you’re new to the book and you care about spoilers, you can read along instead with Mark Reads, who read it completely unspoiled about a year ago.

Before we begin, a brief note about my history with the book. Family lore has it that it was my first “real book,” at some absurdly precocious age. I have no memory of reading it for the first time, though I do remember the books themselves: a kids’ turn-the-page abridged edition, a paperback with Tolkien’s own river painting as a cover, and an oversized hardcover illustrated with art from the Rankin-Bass movie, the 1977 Harry N. Abrams Inc. edition described here. (Book collectors, don’t get excited, it’s not in good condition.) For all that I loved the illustrated version as a kid, I’ve still never seen the Rankin-Bass movie and didn’t even realize until quite recently that that was where the art came from.

But though I read The Hobbit first, I didn’t keep reading it. It wasn’t part of my annual re-read of The Lord of the Rings, and I genuinely have no idea when the last time I read the text was. I did listen to an audiobook (narrated by Rob Inglis, which was not to my very-finicky taste) about seven years ago. Then, my principal impressions where that it was unexpectedly grim; it was a cautionary tale against greed; and it depended a lot on luck for its plot. I have since forgotten what I meant by the last part of that, so that will be something to rediscover. Again.


What Happens

Bilbo Baggins is smoking a pipe outside his home when a wizard named Gandalf comes by and, after a short conversation, says that he is going to send Bilbo on an adventure. Bilbo attempts to decline and invites Gandalf to tea the next day as a way of leaving the conversation.

The next day at tea-time, dwarves just keep showing up and demanding food and drink as though they’re expected: thirteen eventually, plus Gandalf with the last group. Bilbo is flustered and upset, especially since the dwarves are very demanding eaters and drinkers. As the day ends and the room darkens, the dwarves sing a song about longing to recover their gold and treasures from a dragon. Bilbo is briefly moved to a spirit of adventure and then is frightened again. When Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the dwarvish company, begins to pontificate on their dangerous plans—and the fact that they expect Bilbo to come with them—Bilbo turns into a quivering mess and has to be put on the sofa in another room to recover.

When Bilbo feels better, he comes back to the group and overhears another dwarf, Gloin, expressing his doubts about Bilbo’s suitability as a burglar. Bilbo’s pride is hurt and he walks in declaring that he will do whatever they need him to. Gandalf tells them all to settle down: “I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes.”

There is then an expository conversation about how the dragon Smaug drove the dwarves out of the Lonely Mountain; how Gandalf obtained a map showing a secret door, and an accompanying key, from Thrain, Thorin’s father, in the dungeons of the Necromancer; and how they’re going to head for that door and . . . figure something out. Then they all go to bed, though Bilbo is “not now quite so sure that he was going on any journey in the morning.”



Two things principally struck me about this chapter: first, the characters, and second, the tone.

The characters: perhaps it’s because of my long relationship with this book, but I was surprised how unsympathetic I found, well, everyone except Bilbo, and that only part of the time. Gandalf could not be more stereotypically grumpy and unforthcoming—seriously, interrogating Bilbo on the deeper meaning of “Good morning!” when used as a greeting? That’s the first thing out of your mouth? Never mind the entirely arbitrary way he forces Bilbo on the dwarves, and also damaging the paintwork on Bilbo’s beautiful front door.

The dwarves? They do help Bilbo serve, but only after he complains to himself, and they tease him mercilessly with their song while they clear the dishes. (The bit where they just keep showing up at the front door is briefly funny to me, up until the last pratfall, but otherwise I don’t find them amusing here because I’m too busy wincing along with Bilbo.)

Bilbo himself? Well, I like that he sticks up for himself eventually, but it’s an odd move to have your protagonist—your eponymous protagonist, even—described thusly:

But [Thorin] was rudely interrupted. Poor Bilbo couldn’t bear it any longer. At may never return he began to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel. All the dwarves sprang up, knocking over the table. Gandalf struck a blue light on the end of his magic staff, and in its firework glare the poor little hobbit could be seen kneeling on the hearth-rug, shaking like a jelly that was melting. Then he fell flat on the floor, and kept on calling out “struck by lightning, struck by lightning!” over and over again; and that was all they could get out of him for a long time.

Certainly it gives Bilbo quite a lot of room to display his personal growth, but, enh. Possibly my embarrassment/humiliation squick is interfering with my judgment, here.

That quote leads me into the second major thing, the tone. The Hobbit has an explicit and intrusive narrator who is telling us this story, and so “poor little hobbit” and “shaking like a jelly” are from his point of view (I am assuming that the narrator and the author are the same, though I am open to other interpretations). Sometimes this works fine, and sometimes the tone wobbles so widely that I-the-adult-reader get whiplash. Immediately after the paragraph quoted above, for instance, comes:

“Excitable little fellow,” said Gandalf, as they sat down again. “Gets funny queer fits, but he is one of the best, one of the best—as fierce as a dragon in a pinch.”

If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took’s great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul’s head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.

Again, this may be because I’m looking for how the book gets from here to Thorin buried under the Mountain with the Arkenstone on his breast; but, golf, seriously?

In a year or so I’m probably going to run this experiment in-house (that is: read the book out loud to SteelyKid, who turned four this summer), but do any of you remember reading this for the first time and how you reacted? Again, I have a natural sympathy for Bilbo and, hey, quests and dragons and secret doors, great, but I was surprised how much I didn’t like Gandalf and how much the text seemed to be working against my Bilbo sympathies.


  • Hobbit aesthetics trump ergonomics? A perfectly round door with a handle in the exact middle sounds suboptimal, particularly to open and close.
  • Any pipe smokers here? If a pipe is nearly down to Bilbo’s toes, so maybe three feet long, what effect does that have? My instinct was that it would be really hard to inhale smoke over that long a distance, but I’ve never smoked a pipe, so that’s just a guess.
  • The changing characterization of Gandalf over the books is very clear. I can’t see Gandalf the White giving out “a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone till ordered,” can you?
  • I don’t think I’d noticed before that Bilbo bakes his own seedcakes. There has been much discussion about Shire economics over the years, but I was interested to find that my backbrain associates “gentlebeing of leisure,” which I think is what Bilbo and Frodo are, with “has servants to cook.”
  • Music makes such a big difference. On the page, I find the dwarves’ song about the dragon very thump-thump and boring; give it a tune, as heard from about :50 into the first trailer, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
  • I do not have a sufficiently mythological frame of mind, and thus the phrase “the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert” made me laugh and think of earthworms, before I realized that Wyrms of a dragon-like nature must be what’s intended. (I admit, I still think were-earthworms is pretty funny, though.)

And that’s it for me for this chapter. What do you all think? The comments were the best part of the LotR re-read and I’m very much looking forward to great discussions again, so please do chime in.

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at Dreamwidth and her booklog.

There and Back Again... Again: The Hobbit Reread: index | next ›
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie
I haven't really read this yet, but I just want to say: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

I have been reading through old LOTR reread threads and was sad that I missed that one in real-time.
Gardner Dozois
2. Gardner Dozois
A lot of the tone of the book is explained if you realize that Tolkien originally made it up chapter by chapter to be read to his children.
Niraj Merchant
3. NirajMerchant
I will second that... only discovered the LOTR reread earlier this year, so was way behind... I dont quite remember the first time I read the Hobbit either, but it was definitely my introduction to Tolkein.

Even when I reread it relatively recently, I was surprised by how much of the plot I had forgotten... the parts that I remember vividly were mostly about smaug and of course the riddles and gollum.

The other thign that struck me now that I know somewhat more of what Gandalf is doing during the Hobbit is that just how many interesting events are happening behind the scenes.

I never liked the fact that there seemed to be just one dragon in all of middle earth though (or are there other ones mentioned that I dont know about?) because it seems that in the Hobbit, the existence of a dragon is really not something to be surprised about.

The dwarves in this book never seemed very interesting characters to me, but I guess when you realize why the book was written in the first place, a lot of the inconsistencies explain themselves
Pamela Adams
4. PamAdams
My first exposure to The Hobbit was having it read to me and my siblings while camping. My main memory is of Mirkwood- which in my memory was almost as frightening as having to venture out to the campground's bathroom in the middle of the night.
Gardner Dozois
5. Rancho Unicorno
I've been reading it to the kids (one almost3, the other closing in on 6). Surprisingly, the one I thought that wouldn't care (the 6) loves it, while the one I thought that would (the 3) doesn't. I think that has more to do with my recollection of the book being an easier read than I remember. Tolkien does go on a bit, at least in the early chapters. I don't know about the later chapters, because we aren't there yet.

The biggest hit, though? The very song that you express disaffection for, which I didn't really care for, for the same reason.
S Cooper
6. SPC
I just finished my pre-movie Hobbit reread last week and this will be fun. The last time I read the book had been over a decade ago - I had a Disney storybook and cassette version of the Rankin-Bass movie as a kid that I read and listened to many times, but I read LOTR in middle school without the Hobbit, and then when I finally read it in high school, I was very disappointed. I suspect now that the slightly condescending tone and the fact that it wasn't more LOTR is what put me off. This time, I found the tone kind of charming, in an old-timey-kids-book sort of way.

All I really remembered from the plot was Bilbo's encounter with Gollum and the bit with the trolls. Even my memory of Smaug was vague.

On rereading, Gandalf was definitely hard to square with LOTR Gandalf (I'm really looking forward to the discussion of Elrond now), at least in this part of the book. Agreed, the dwarves showing up at his door was funny, but their behavior (and Gandalf's) as houseguests was an outrage.
Jeremy Goff
7. JeremyM
This is also my first real book. Or, I should say the first real book that carried me away, and it's where my love of reading started. I also own an Abrahm's edition but life hasn't been kind to it and it was still expensive. I also have a full sleeve tattoo in the style of the artwork in that book and the animated movie. So needless to say this is my favorite book of all time.

I've always been amused by the inroduction of Gandalf and the Dwarves. No matter how many times I've read it I still chuckle at how flustered Bilbo gets. I think it was the last time I read it though that, even though I was still amused, I really started thinking about how rude it was to just be thrown/manipulated into a life threatening adventure. I know if that happened to me I would not be a happy person. As for the songs I have never been able to enjoy them. I almost always skip them because without a tune they always sounded weird and hoakie.
Gardner Dozois
8. a1ay
There has been much discussion about Shire economics over the years, but I was interested to find that my backbrain associates “gentlebeing of leisure,” which I think is what Bilbo and Frodo are, with “has servants to cook.”

Well, of course Bilbo does his own cooking - why would a hobbit deny himself that pleasure?

And, on the more general point: hobbits don't have the same drives as humans, in particular they don't have the drive to order others around. This is a central plot point of Lord of the Rings, of course, but you can see it even in little things such as Bilbo, gentlehobbit of leisure, not having any servants. Even odder in the 1930s context in which it was written than it is now.

When he gets older, he pays Sam to come in and dig the garden a few days a week - fair enough, that's heavy labour. But even though he is very rich by this point, he still has no house servants of any kind. He does his own washing up. (So does Frodo.)
Steven Halter
9. stevenhalter
I first read the Hobbit in May of 1977--I was 13. I recall very clearly that I completely loved the first chapter. The opening paragraph completely captured me:
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
The first chapter is fun. You are supposed to be irritated (and amused) by Gandalf as he scratches the door and gets everyone to do just what he wants them to do.
Gardner Dozois
10. thehost55
The Hobbit must definitely be read either as a child (my 8-year-old son loved it) or as an appreciative and curious adult (I enjoyed re-discovering this background to the Lord of the Rings as I re-read it with my son). If ever recommending the Lord of the Rings to anyone between 10 and 30, I always recommend skipping it. I read the Lord of the Rings several times during my Junior High and High School days, but the Hobbit not more than twice.
Angela Korra'ti
11. annathepiper
Oh, yay! A Hobbit reread! I've actually been doing this already this year--trying to practice my French and German, and reading those editions of the book along with the English! I'm going a lot slower than you will, though, I think. I'm only up through Chapter Six. :D
Tim Kaufman
12. Tymerion
...this makes me so happy to read, I love this book and LOTR, and I'm going to throughly enjoy discussing certain issues within...

Re: Characters...personally, I love that we don't fall in love with all the characters right away. We're introduced to characters who are imperfect, and who go through great arcs throughout the series. One of my favorite things about all of Tolkien's stories is how initially unremarkable the Hobbits are, they are great fighters, they don't wield magic, but they are froced through extreme circumstances to "make a stand" and they do it extremely well. Obviously Sam is the best example of this, but Bilbo is another one, he's a supreme fish out of water in this book. I love it.

@ 3 NirajMerchant There are a number of dragons in the Silmarillion, they were agents in the War at the end of the first age.
Melissa Shumake
13. cherie_2137
my mom read the hobbit to my sister and i when we were really young, and i remember loving it. i haven't read it in a long while, since high school at least, but i picked up "the soddit (a parody)" at b&n the other day, and it's hilarious. not very far into it, but so far it's made fun of the things you say above you don't really like much.
Jeff Weston
14. JWezy
Interestingly enough, Tolkein attempted to rewrite The Hobbit in the tone of LOTR (in the early sixties), to present it as a part of the darker, more adult mythos. After a few chapters, his reviewer-friends were fairly unanimous that the result "just wasn't The Hobbit", and the project was abandoned.

The Hobbit had earlier been revised when LOTR was written, to introduce plot elements that tie the stories together. Most jarringly, in the original version, Gollum loses gracefully and willingly shows Bilbo the way out of the caves.

Another thing that I didn't see until I read The Hobbit a few years back was that Gandalf clearly plays the same trick on Bilbo here that he later plays on Beorn - have people show up bit-by-bit because otherwise the whole crowd would be thrown out. It is interesting to compare the responses of Bilbo and Beorn, and to contemplate Gandalf as the master schemer (as indeed he is).
Aimee Powalisz
15. longhairedspider
First of all - huzzah! I'm so excited to catch this re-read right at the beginning :)

I read The Hobbit after LotR, and I didn't read any Tolkien at all until college, when it became a necessity per a certain boyfriend.

I've always felt a connection with Bilbo, feeling the way I do when I have a ton of houseguests (even invited ones). I think that we're not supposed to feel much affection for the dwarves yet, since we're mostly going from Bilbo's point of view. As for Gandalf, I think this description of him by Aragorn in LotR explains some of the changing characterization: Gandalf is greater than you Shire-folk know — as a rule you can only see his jokes and toys. This is a Gandalf I can see giving out self-fastening diamond studs.

And as for the songs, I actually prefer reading them as poems, albeit somewhat lame poems, to hearing them sung.
Chin Bawambi
16. bawambi
I read this for the first time as a 5th grade English assignment too many years ago to admit. Since then just before Christmas (or during) I start with the Hobbit and then directly move on to LoTR. I sometimes throw the Simarillion in the mix as well but not always. When reading these you have to keep in mind the writing style changes and enjoy the Hobbit for its own self. If you are expecting LoTR you will be very disappointed - if you want a good young adult story with plenty of character development and suspense then you will be pleasantly surprised.
Gardner Dozois
17. TallJames
If I recall correctly Gandalf doesn't vandalise Bilbo's door carelessly. His scratched knock here, or the wizard/dwarf equivalent in runes, so the Dwarves know where to go. To Bilbo it's scratched paint for no reason and he's rightly not happy about it.
Chris Nelly
18. Aeryl
Yes, Gandalf put the mark there intentionally.

I always felt that Bilbo was the narrator, and so how we see him here, is how he sees himself, looking back on the story.
Azara microphylla
19. Azara
The introduction of hobbits in the first paragraph, and the whole emphasis on good food and comfort reminds me very much of The Wind in the Willows - Bilbo has a lot in common with Ratty and Mole.

I'm one of the many readers who came to this after reading The Lord of the Rings, and one thing that struck me (and which I assume will come up in later chapters) is that, for all it was written for a younger age group, the conflict of good versus evil is in many ways more complicated here than in The Lord of the Rings.

I'm delighted to see this re-read, and am looking forward to the whole thing.
Bill Reeves
20. RebelLives
I'm not currently reading so I'm going off of memory here. I first read the Hobbit at around age 7. Loved the fantasy of it. The round door and door knob in the middle is an english thing and I also saw hobbits as Tolkien's surrogate for the stereotypical englishman. I definietly always saw Bilbo as a homemaker. Someone who spends his days in the garden and the kitchen beautifying his home and making it inviting for polite, proper company. The songs I always had the animated movie to go off of, which I think I saw within a year of reading the book the first time. I also don't think dwarves are very musical. Now, onto Gandalf. Gandalf the Grey is pretty much a different person than Gandalf the White. At least his purpose is different on Middle-Earth. Grey, is a wanderer. He spent a thousands of years with the Elves and now has become fascinated with hobbits. I would also say that Gandalf the Grey is a mischievous individual, who enjoys a good prank. After the ring is found and he begins to suspect, I think he begins to see what is coming. When he comes back as White his purpose is to help Middle-Earth specifically Man, defeat Sauron. No more playing around. All of this is justification in my mind. I do not know if Tolkien had any of this in mind originally, as several had said he didn't originally have a clear picture in mind and he tended to ramble at the beginning of books. I think the first chapter of this book Gandalf comes off as the crotchety old wizard who is bossing people around and it is that way because that is the only way Bilbo will end up on this adventure.
Tara Mitchell
21. Jaxicat
I agree that Bilbo is the narrator. This is an account of what happened as told and embellished by Bilbo Baggins in his Red Book.
Gardner Dozois
22. jms1969
As others have pointed out, the Hobbit is a huge change from LOTR, both in scope, tone, and intended audience. I first was exposed to it in 3rd grade as a reading assignment where we read the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter, and was interested enough to eventually read the whole book. While I was probably on the young side for the book, it is definitely targeted to an elementary school level, whereas LOTR is more of a middle school level book (and the Silmarallion and other later works of Tolkien are probably high-school level or above). Despite this, I enjoy all three works greatly and still re-read them occasionally.

Anyone interested in the history of these books should read Christopher Tolkien's chapter by chapter history of the making of LOTR. It's a very dry read, with lots of notes and appendices, but for a true fan the story of how the story was written, revised, and re-written several times in totally different directions is fascinating.
Gardner Dozois
23. Lsana
One of the interesting bits I noticed when I re-read this one after LOTR was Bilbo's comment when Gandalf showed up: "You used to make things quite, I mean you used to stir up trouble." (Quoting from memory, so may be wrong about the wording). Suggests to me that despite the other indications, Gandalf's intrusion here was not quite as unwelcome as Bilbo claimed.


Based on Gandalf's comments in LOTR, I think there are still a few dragons around at that time. However, based on what he says in "The Quest of Erebor" (the events leading up to the Hobbit from Gandalf's perspective), it also seems like Smaug might be the last that has any significant power; Gandalf discusses the need to get rid of Smaug before Sauron can recruit him.
Kate Nepveu
24. katenepveu
Whoa, comments. Hi, everyone!

Lisamarie @ #1: welcome! I'm glad people still read those LotR threads, at least.

Gardner Dozois @ #2: I know he made it up for his kids, but when he set it down to paper I still find odd the tone difference between the start and the end, that's all.

NirajMerchant @ #3, I confess I can't tell any of the dwarves apart except Kili and Fili, the young brothers. And I believe we're told somewhere that the rest of the dragons were killed off, but I can't remember where. I'll keep an eye out.

Pam Adams @ #4, hearing Mirkwood read out loud while camping would be seriously frightening indeed! Yikes.

Rancho Unicorno @ #5, as I said in the post, SteelyKid is four and I don't think she has the patience for longer stories yet. Even books she knows and likes, she sometimes gets a little distracted in the middle of at bedtime. Like I said, we'll probably try it next year, or after shorter things like _Half Magic_ go down well.

SPC @ #6, very possibly we had the same storybook/recorded version, though mine must've been on a record!

JeremyM @ #7, any chance of a picture of your tattoo? That sounds awesome.

a1ay @ #8, excellent point about the pleasure hobbits take in cooking! You can tell that I don't much like to cook myself. Also quite an interesting point about hobbits generally not ordering others around; I don't think I'd made the connection to their domestic arrangments before.

stevenhalter @ #9, thanks for sharing your memory of your first reading and what caught you. I love hearing everyone's experiences.

thehost55 @ #10, yes, if I was going to recommend _The Hobbit_ to someone in their teens, I'd do so with many caveats.

annathepiper @ #11, I think trilinguialism is a good reason to read more slowly! If there's any bits that struck you as difficult to translate, I'd be curious to hear as we go along.

Tymerion @ #12, I definitely agree that the characters have a lot of room to grow and change from this start, but normally these days I expect to have reasonably strong sympathy with at least one character to keep me going in a book, so I was interested to find that either I didn't need that as a kid or (more likely) didn't really register their behavior.

cherie_2137 @ #13, I'd never heard of _The Soddit (A Parody)_, and I tend not to read parodies generally, but Wikipedia tells me it was written by Adam Roberts, who had some interesting things to say about _LotR_ a few years ago, so maybe I'll check it out. Thanks.

JWezy @ #14, re-writing _The Hobbit_ to be more in tone like _LotR_ isn't the worst re-writing idea I've heard--that honor goes to Tolkien's (also abandoned) plan to re-do Middle-earth's entire cosmology to be astronomically accurate--but it certainly is up there. And yes, I'll be trying to find references/descriptions of the revisions when we get to Gollum.

longhairedspider @ #15, yes, as an introvert I was *cringing* at imagining all these loud _people_ in my house who just won't _go_ _away_! Good point about Gandalf's jokes and toys; the self-fastening studs still don't seem to fit, but it's a nice turn of phrase to try and explain it.

bawambi @ #16, no, I'm certainly not expecting _LotR_, though when I listened to an unabridged audiobook several years back I was surprised that it was closer in tone, ultimately, than I'd expected. But it's very interesting to examine my own reader-reactions to the two things being part of the same universe.

TallJames @ #17, oh, I know why Gandalf scratched up Bilbo's paint, I simply refuse to be convinced that he had to do it that way instead of using, say, magically-protected chalk . . .
David Levinson
25. DemetriosX
I first read this shortly after my 12th birthday, when I was given the Ballantine boxed set with the Tolkien painting covers. As a result it wound up blending straight into LotR and many of my initial impressions are lost. But the opening tone, while it is very reflective of English children's literature of the day (compare to the tone of Wind in the Willows, for instance), changes a lot over the book. Certainly, by the time we actually get to the Lonely Mountain it's very different. Tolkien even used this slow change of tone to good effect in LotR. There's a bit early on after Frodo and company have set out from Bag End where the POV switches briefly to a fox who goes, "Hullo. That's funny, all those hobbits wandering about." It could have come straight from these early chapters.

@14 JWezy
I knew the Tolkien rewrote the events with Gollum, so that Bilbo's claim of a birthday present was no longer fact, but I wasn't aware that he attempted to rewrite the whole thing.
Gardner Dozois
26. jms1969
Should have added to my previous post...the LOTR history books also contain a lot of information about just how difficult is was to write LOTR, mostly because The Hobbit was never intended to have a sequel. They also address the change of tone between book 1 of LOTR (the portion of the Fellowship of the Ring that takes the hobbits from Shire to Rivendell) and the rest of the series.

In a lot of ways, I've aleays felt that this first section of LOTR more closely resembles the writing style and scope of The Hobbit than the rest of LOTR. It serves a great bridge to get readers between the books. I'll be very curious to see how the change of tone is handled in the movies - while it's possible to "grow up" as you read books, I don't know if the same is true in movies, or in reverse.
Gardner Dozois
27. sofrina
doesn't bilbo employ the gaffer as his general gardener, and then the gaffer's youngest son, samwise gamgee, after him?
Kate Nepveu
28. katenepveu
Aaand more comments that came in while I was typing (after this I'm taking a break, though):

Aeryl @ #18, Jaxicat @ #21: unfortunately I don't agree that Bilbo is the narrator, because the narrator clearly claims to be a human: "The mother of our particular hobbit—what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us." I know that Bilbo in-text writes his memoirs, and that they are supposed to be a source for the translated work that is purportedly _LotR_, but I don't think that framing device extends to this book.

Azara @ #19, I'm not quite willing to commit myself to good v. evil being _more_ complicated here than in _LotR_--ask me again at the end--but I did remember thinking, when I heard that Jackson was going to be adapting this book, that in some ways this book was more suited to him because he clearly doesn't believe in innate nobility of character and there isn't anyone like Faramir or Aragorn here. So yes, definitely complicated, no question.

RebelLives @ #20, round doors and knobs in center are an English thing! I had no idea. And I agree that there are in-text reasons for Gandalf's change, and good ones too, it's just very striking, you know?

jms1969 @ #22, I'm fascinated and a little horrified to hear of your reading assignment of chapter 5 only! But I'm glad it did work for you. I haven't read the making-of books by Christopher Tolkien, as I simply don't have time, so I hope anyone who has will comment with bits of note as they arise.

and @ #26--yes, we talked a bunch about the bridging intent in the early part of _LotR_, in content, structure, and tone. And it will be interesting to see how the movies handle this, no question (I confess that I have fairly low expectations for the movie, but I would love to be wrong, and in any event I confidently predict Martin Freeman to be more than worth the price of admissi0n).

Lsana @ #23, indeed, Gandalf tells Bilbo that he's giving him an adventure because he's asked twice for it, and the bit you remember is obviously one of those times! (I actually spent quite a while trying to decide what the second time was, but it's not nearly as clear to me.)

DemetriosX @ #25, nice to see your pixels again. And I'm going to be very interested to see the rate of change when it comes to the tone and authorial interjections and such here.

Okay. Any comments after #26, I will return to you this evening. =>
Jason Maceda
29. Metalstorm
I read the book with my eight year old son this summer because he wanted to see the movies, we read LOTR a year earlier. He wasn;t a big fan of teh first couple of chapters but found the golf reference hysterical. He still brings it up in conversation.
Gardner Dozois
30. PacJones
I'm sorry, but analysing the Hobbit in the way you are doing takes all the fun out of the novel. Remember, it's was written for children, so there has to be some fun thrown in there just for the sake of being fun. You're taking it way too seriously.
Bill Reeves
31. RebelLives
katenepveu@#28 - Well round doors are very unusual, but door knobs in the center are not. Do a quick google image search for 10 downing street the prime minister's residence and you will see a door with the knob in the middle. Yes, the changes that Gandalf goes through is very noticeable. I guess I see him as the original Dungeon Master. He guides the story and changes for that purpose. Kind of everything to everyone.
Ian Johnson
32. IanPJohnson
Awesome. The Hobbit was the book that got me into fantasy, at the age of eight, and eventually led me down the path towards writing my own stories. For that, I owe it, and Professor Tolkien, an infinite debt.
Andrew Barton
33. MadLogician
My take on Gandalf is that he's not really a wizard at all. Everything magical he appears to do is either sleight of hand, use of a made item, or a disguised use of the Ring of Fire. He adopts the image of a storybook wizard as a cover for his possession of one of the Three Rings, and sometimes he overplays it a bit.

He's not human either, of course, but he's lived among humans so long that he can pass for one very effectively.
Del C
34. del
It's a comedy for children, you might as well complain the Cat in the Hat is a bit of an a-hole.

Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, then he wrote another book with a different style. Bilbo doesn't "start employing servants later", Tolkien writes a book later in which Bilbo employs servants now. It's retroactive continuity, not character development.

Similarly, the creature Gollum becomes a proto-hobbit, the Necromancer becomes Sauron, the Ring becomes a thing of sinister power, and Gandalf changes from a mischievous old Man to a Maia. The elves here lock dwarves up and then sneak down to the cellar to get drunk. All birds and beasts have the power of speech and an oral culture, if you can only understand their language.
Mike Timonin
35. MTimonin
Before I get bogged down in reading other people's comments - I am actually re-reading this to my ten year old. That is, I am re-reading, she's hearing it for the first time. She could probably read it herself - she will almost certainly read it herself when I'm done, if her reading patterns remain fixed - and she's loving it. She seems to especially love the authorial asides (or maybe I'm biased, because I love the authorial asides. Inventing golf? Meandering discussions of the habits of trolls and goblins? Utterly unecessary stone throwing giants? That's what this book is about!).

We're a little over half-way through, and a couple of things have struck me. The first is, this is a profoundly silly book, at it's core. The whole dinner party of chapter one, sure, but Tolkien has this running gag throughout about Bilbo thinking about his nice safe hobbithole (and not for the last time!).

There's the scene where Gandalf is introducing the dwarves to Beorn, which mirrors the dinner party scene almost perfectly. The dwarves are absolutely clowns throughout the book. Then, as the party winds it's way through Mirkwood, it's clear from the beginning of the chapter that they are going to leave the path, and badness will ensue.

The whole thing is practically slapstick - and I think that will be lost entirely in the film if the images I've seen are indicative - all grey and black and grimdark. Bleh.

The second thing is that Tolkien is actually not that good at describing people. There isn't really a comprehensive description of the dwarves anywhere - we know what colour their hoods are, but not what colour their beards are.
Rob Rater
36. Quasarmodo
The Hobbit was my first book as well (fantasty themed, anyway), somewere around 2nd or 3rd grade. I sense a theme here!

When people have quoted the narrator, I keep hearing the voice of the narrator from The Winnie the Pooh movie. It's been forever since I've read this book, and I didn't remember the line about inventing golf, but found it hysterical when quoted in the article above.

As direct and blunt as Gandalf is in the book, it can't be as bad as in the cartoon where Bilbo chats away innocently, only to be cut off by Gandalf screaming "ENOUGH! I AM GANDALF, AND GANDALF MEANS ME!"
Gardner Dozois
37. Gardner Dozois
It's not just that it's written for children--it's clear that the narrative voice is the voice of someone READING the book aloud to children, and in the process throwing in all those interjections and asides you mention, to make it funnier or more entertaining for them; you can imagine them giggling after every one of them ("that's how golf was invented! Giggle, giggle.") The voice of this book is exactly that of someone reading the book aloud to children, in written form--which is why so many people read it to their own children; I read it to my own son when he was little. It's a nice idea that Bilbo is the narrator, but as the passage you quoted clearly indicates, it's not true--the narrator is the author himself.

Yes, the tone in the opening part of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is very similar to that of THE HOBBIT, and slowly changes as the book progresses and they get further away from the Shire. That passage with the fox wondering where the hobbits could be going is the very moment when it stops being a children's book. After that, you'll notice, there are no talking animals (although we do get a giant spider).
Gardner Dozois
38. pilgrimsoul
Great to see this reread!
I read The Hobbit after I read LOTR and found the children's book tone annoying and patronizing. I think JRRT expressed some regret about this later.
Gardner Dozois
39. AJ-417
My nine-year-old son and I are currently reading The Hobbit. What makes the book most enjoyable is Bilbo's dual nature, which is quite prominent in this first chapter.

Bilbo is both intrigued and put off by the prospect of adventure and the company of strangers. He has a temperament not unlike that of a nine-year-old boy. Bilbo shifts mercurally between Tookishness and Bagginsness -- from inquisitive, warm and generous to cranky, singular and selfish.

I agree with comments above. Even as they are introduced, the Dwarves are by and large indistinguishable from each other. Thorin is memorable, of course, as the leader and having most of the dialog. One of the dwarves shows his bravery in the forest, but I can't remember which. The weight of Boffur and Bombur causes slight consternation on the mountainside. But overall, they are not so interesting nor as differentiated as their kin, Sleepy, Grumpy, Sneezy and the lot.

If the reader doesn't relate to Bilbo, there's not much other access to the novel.
40. Susurrin
I too missed the original reread and have looked over it after the fact, but am looking forward to the Hobbit.
Brian Kaul
41. bkaul
Re: pipe-smoking - a long-stemmed pipe (e.g. a churchwarden), properly constructed, gives the smoke much more time to cool, and makes for a very pleasant smoking experience, where the flavor can be enjoyed without burning one's tongue. It would, however, be much less portable. A 3' long stem is something I tend to write off as fantasy exaggeration (I've rarely seen one much longer than half that), but hookahs and the like have hoses that are easily that long; it shouldn't make the smoke harder to draw through. (Most pipe smokers usually do not inhale, but draw the smoke into the mouth and then blow it back out after tasting it, much as with cigars.)
Gardner Dozois
42. Stephven
1: Approach Lonely Mountain (guarded by invincible, clever and vindictive dragon)
2: ?
3: Profit
Peter Schmidt
43. PHSchmidt
Yay, Kate + Tolkien is back! I've been pining for the LoTR re-read ever since it ended.

Even on first reading, when I was about 10, I remember being a little put off by how much of a fraidy cat Bilbo was during the dinner. But I do like how his pride caused him to claim the mantle of Burglar after all.

As for the rudeness of the dwarves, another way to think of them is as a Company of Heroes, invited to dine at the house of a (in their mind) peasant. Picture Arthur's knights crashing a small farmhouse, or a squadron of fighter pilots filling a sleepy Italian restaurant. They have high status in their own minds, abundant self-confidence, the implicit ability to use force to get what they want, but are bound by noblesse oblige. So they are more boisterous and arrogant than rude, I think, and that behavior actually flows from who and what they are, and so is not authorial clumsiness imho.
Jeremy Goff
48. JeremyM
@katenpveu - I would love to post pics of my tattoo for you guys to see. I don't know if there's a way to post them in the comment thread or if emailing them would be best. Let me know and I'll get them to you.
Angela Korra'ti
49. annathepiper
katenepveu @ #24: Yeah, I've become massively fond of Quebecois music so I've been working hard to learn French lately--but I've also got older interest in German that I'm trying to encourage, too! I figured that breaking out translated editions of a long-loved book would be an excellent way to dip my toes into translated fiction. :D

So far the main translation fun I've been having has been seeing differences in character names (e.g., Bilbo is "Bilbo Beutlin" in the German edition), and how the French and German translators sometimes rearrange paragraph structures in order to better capture the flavor of the writing for their own intended audiences. Once or twice I've specifically run into things that would make sense ONLY to the target translated audience.

What is really fun though is how the translators are handling the various songs. The French translator does more or less a straight translation without necessarily worrying about scansion or rhyme. The German translator, however, is actively changing the songs in order to get things that actually rhyme and make better rhythmic sense in German! Part of me feels that latter approach is a bit blasphemous, but the rest of me is all "but it makes for an ultimately better translation to German readers"... very, very chewy things to consider. :)

For interested parties I have ongoing sporadic blog posts on this going on my blog over here:
Gardner Dozois
50. (still) Steve Morrison
Yay, Kate + Tolkien is back! I've been pining for the LoTR re-read ever since it ended.
So have I!
I haven't read the making-of books by Christopher Tolkien
Then you also haven't read Rateliff's The History of The Hobbit? It's very worthwhile. And in that case, you presumably don't know what Golfimbul's name originally was in the early drafts? (I'll post it later if nobody else does.)
Gardner Dozois
51. Derek M.
So awesome that you're doing a Hobbit re-read.

I took a university course on Tolkein and his work. It's important to remember as you read The Hobbit that it was written far in advance of The Lord of the Rings, and in fact, the larger work wasn't even originally going to be set in the same world. It was only later that Tolkein decided to marry the two stories, which explains several oddities when comparing the characters and world-building side by side.

First of all, Gandalf in The Hobbit is more of a humorous figure, and certainly not the powerful servant of the Valar (and later the direct representative of Eru Iluvatar) found in The Lord of the Rings.

Second, the actual world of Middle-Earth contains werewolves, vampires, and various other more typical fantasy creatures during the Hobbit, but those are missing in The Lord of the Rings. In fact, most people I know find it surprising when those creatures are mentioned in The Hobbit, as they seem so out of place given the rest of the mythology.

An interesting note regarding the relationship between The Hobbit and The Lord of the the original release of The Hobbit, Bilbo wins the ring from Gollum in a riddle contest. Because that doesn't make any sense given the characters as they are presented in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien changed the story to what we now recognize - that Bilbo found the ring and the riddle contest was a separate event. In order to explain this inconsistency between the two printings of the book, he wrote in that Bilbo had in fact been lying about the origin of the ring, as the primary conceit of the entire work is that it is drawn from historical documents - that the stories actually happened, and that Tolkein is simply gathering and interpreting these histories, rather than creating them.

Definitely looking forward to the rest of this reread!
Steven Halter
52. stevenhalter
JeremyM@48:Just upload your picture to someplace you can get a link to and then click on the little image linker at the top of the edit box editor to put in the picture URL.
Gardner Dozois
53. wiredfool
We're currently reading this to our almost 6yr old. I noticed the similarities between the dwarves arriving at Bilbo's and at Beorn's. He's having a bit of trouble following it, and we have to be pretty careful where we stop, so as to not leave a cliffhanger that makes it hard to get to sleep.

The older kid didn't like the scary bits when we first read to him, but he got over that and has read it a couple of times @ 8 yrs old.
Gardner Dozois
54. jms1969
@50 (still) Steve Morrison - that's interesting...I didn't know there was a history of The Hobbit book. I'll have to check it out. Christopher Tolkien's history of LOTR obviously talks about The Hobbit's background in terms of how it relates to the background for LOTR. There were a lot of interesting nuggets there about The Hobbit, but I'm sure there's a much more complete story to be told.

@51 Derek M. - Your point is right on...the depth of the world of LOTR was not even imagined when The Hobbit was written, and there were no plans for a sequel. As a result, a lot of things that were written in The Hobbit needed to be either rewritten or explained away. This was one of the many reasons the gap was so long between publication of the Hobbit and LOTR.
Gardner Dozois
55. wiredfool
It's not so much the doorknobs in the center of the door that's impractical, It's having a hinges on the edge of a round door.

If you have one hinge, there's a hell of a torque on it that's likely to turn it into a pretzel. (specifically, a moment of mgr) If you have two hinges so that there's a shear (mg/2) and a tension/compression force of mgr/spacing, then you run into the problem of not having a good axis for the hinge.
Jeremy Goff
56. JeremyM
@stevenhalter Thanks I'll do that when I get home tonight.
Gardner Dozois
57. Rancho Unicorno
@24 (Kate) - I totally understand the waiting thing. Something I just thought of that has made a difference - read the annotated version. It has information that you'll find interesting and I find that the 6yo really enjoys looking at the various drawings as I read. They are small sidebars, but I still have to stop and show them to her or she'll climb out of bed.
Gardner Dozois
58. LisaMNoble
My sons and I re-read this out loud this summer, and my older son's class is currently reading it for literature circles, before going to see the movie when it comes out. I'm going to send them the link to the re-read, and maybe some of them will be moved to comment.
Gardner Dozois
59. Lsana
"It's a comedy for children, you might as well complain the Cat in the Hat is a bit of an a-hole."

Oh, I did, only I left out the "a bit" part. After my parents read the Cat in the Hat to me, they then had to comfort a screaming child afraid that this monsterous creature was going to come force himself into her playtime if she should show the slightest sign of being bored.

The "it's for children you can't criticize it" argument is a lazy one. Children notice much the same things adults do, and in this chapter, some are going to be amused by the antics of the dwarves, but others are going to find the whole thing horrible and embarassing. It's perfectly fair to point that out.

As for the whole "retroactive continuity" thing, I suspect you're right about the ring and Gollum, but the Necromancer was always supposed to be Sauron (apparently Tolkien was quite surprised when he showed up; the Hobbit wasn't originally supposed to be in the same continuity as the Silmarillion), and Gandalf here seems pretty consistant with what he is later: a mysterious figure who will help out the characters to some extent, but has his own agenda which takes priority. Gandalf probably wasn't supposed to be a Maia originally, but I think he was always more than "a mischievous old man."
Gardner Dozois
60. mutantalbinocrocodile
Circling back to the issue of Bilbo baking his own seedcakes. . .

There's an awful lot of social comedy in The Hobbit that can be a little hard for readers who don't know Britain very intimately to get. Bilbo is most definitely NOT an aristocrat--at least not by self-definition (the Tooks do seem to be written as aristocracy). Someone like him might very well employ a gardener, but not a full-blown house of servants. It's not really surprising that he does his own baking (except, of course, on the level that he's unusual as a bachelor character with zero interest in relationships).

This is relevant to the whole treatment of "greed" in the book. A very convincing idea I've encountered (not mine) suggests that Smaug and the dwarves have a very "aristocratic" attitude to money, in which it's something to be kept for its own sake, while Bilbo has a more middle-class attitude that it's there to be spent.

I also suspect that this kind of interpretation had something to do with the casting for the films. Watch how Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch interact on Sherlock. And listen to their accents.
Gardner Dozois
61. Jazzlet
I was read The Hobbit as a pre-schooler (so less than five), a chapter a night by various older brothers. I'm pretty sure I could read by then, but probably only picture books. My little brother who I shared a room with is fourteen months younger than me. The reading of a book or telling us a home made story was something my rather older brothers did to give my mother time to finish cooking dinner and welcome my father home.

I think that I found the dwarves behaviour funny, it was naughty, but that was exciting! And I have always thought of the dwarves chanting 'songs' rather than singing them, probably because that is what whichever brother was reading this chapter did.

I certainly didn't think Bilbo had house servants, unless perhaps to help for things like spring cleaning or a big party, therefore of course Bilbo cooked and I'm sure he was a very fine cook too. I have made seed cake because it sounded so wonderful in here and I wasn't disappointed. I agree that Bilbo would be middle class, comfortable, but without regular house servants. Garden help would be for the heavy and boring jobs.
Gardner Dozois
62. JohnnyMac
Hooray, a "Hobbit" reread! Very good! And conducted by the illustrious Katenepveu. Most excellent!

My first exposure to "The Hobbit" was when I was about 4 years old and my father read it to me. Of that I retain only one fragment: the image of Bard, still drenched by the water of the lake, stepping from the shadows into the firelight and proclaiming "I am the slayer of the dragon!"

A family friend gave me a copy of "The Hobbit" as a present for my nineth birthday. It was my reading (and many rereadings) of that book that made it an important part of my imagination. Even now, almost 50 years after that first reading, I still reread it with pleasure.

In contrast to some of the commenters above who read "The Hobbit" only after having read LOTR and found themselves disappointed by the fact that it is a childrens book, I was, intially, put off by the fact that LOTR was not a simple sequel to "The Hobbit" (please keep in mind I was first reading LOTR when I was 10). I can remember thinking "Who is this Frodo? What kind of name is Frodo anyway? Hey, where did Bilbo go!? Bring back Bilbo!" Soon enough I was caught up and swept away in the great torrent of Story that Tolkien unleashed but I still remember my first bewilderment.

Two points to keep in mind: first that "The Hobbit" is a childrens' book. Indeed, it was not just written as a book for children, it was based (as has been pointed out above) on the bedtime stories Tolkien made up for his children. It was never intended to be the first part of "The Lord of the Rings". Complaining about this seems to miss the point. There are certainly bits that bother me, as an adult reader, to one degree or another. The very twee elves Bilbo meets at Rivendell grate on me for example. How do I deal with these annoyances? Very simple: I skip over them.

The second point is that one of the underlying themes driving the story in "The Hobbit" is that Bilbo is a very respectable, Edwardian middle class gentleman of independent means who finds himself dropped into a saga adventure with a bunch of characters straight from the Elder Edda (I first saw this pointed out by Tom Shippey). The resulting contradictions and tensions give the story a lot of its comedy and drama.

There are things I would like to comment on but this comment is already too long, so I will leave it there for now.
Gardner Dozois
63. Bander1
Thank you so much for this! I have just finished rereading the Hobbit in preparation for the upcoming movie. I actually read the annotated version and it really added to the read. I'm sorry I missed the LOTR reread.

Until today, I hadn't even thought about the similiarity between arriving at Beorn's and arriving at Bilbo's. This has just so much fun to read. I'm enjoying the comments and Kate's article.
j p
64. sps49
Kate! Missed you!

I read this before LotR, and I feel it would be diminished by reading it after.

Bilbo and the Dwarves still look like Rankin-Bass in my mind's eye.

Rule of Funny, long before it had been codified, allows the rude behavior and inconsistencies. I think I first read this in David Gerrold's first Star Trek book, as advice from DC Fontana or somebody.

The songs may be like musicals- fine back then, but hokey now.

I don't expect this book to be as deep as LotR, but I do expect you to surprise me with depth.

Is there a version of the original Hobbit anywhere?
Glenda Wilson
65. glinda
Oh yay! This is perfect timing for me, in so many ways.

I didn't experience the disconnect many of you have between the two; not certain why. But then, I'd been reading SF&F since I was five or six, and already imprinted on my two favorite genre authors, Cordwainer Smith and Zenna Henderson.

I first read LotR in when I was 16, and Hobbit the next year. (And that next year, I got a copy of the Tolkien/Swann The Road Goes Ever On, which had just come out that year, and which is currently on the music rack of my piano.) (And then there's the Caedmon recording of that, which has Tolkien reading some of his poetry on the other side. That's now out on CD, but without the poetry. Alas.) (There are also two revisions to the song books, with an additional song each.) *babbling*
Gardner Dozois
66. CarterB
I have read this book many times (I have actually read at least to versions to pieces). I have read it to myself as enjoyment and to my children for mine and their enjoyment. I actually have to say that the Starting of the Good Morning conversation has stayed with me for over 30 years and I have actually quoted it to others when poking fun at them especially friends of my children.
The music from the trailer gave me the willies because that is what I have always heard in my head eversince the first time I read the Hobbit. I have written adventures arcs based off of this for my D&D games.
In response to hobbits of leisure I would think that he would definitely cook his own food but has someone else take care of the garden (Gaffer Gamgee). Cooking is part of the joy in a hobbits life just prior to eating is how I take it.
Now I am going to have to take the book off the shelves again and reread it before the movie.
Gardner Dozois
67. MaggiRos
I'm so glad you didn't like the Rob Inglis version either. I didn't care for it at all. He didn't seem to understand half of what he was reading, and no one gave him notes on pronouncing the names. It's a disaster, but no one's done it since.

I read Lord of the Rings first, myself, in the late 60s when the Ballentine paperbacks first appeared. I was 17, and I fell in love at once, reading it 3 times straight through without a break. Eventually I read the Hobbit, and didn't like it as much, thoughI've come to appreciate it since. I do not consider it the "first book of the trilogy" as so many people do. It's important, but not essential, in my opinion.

I'm enjoying your re-read, though, and looking forward to more. Thanks!
Bill Stusser
68. billiam
A Hobbit reread, very cool. Let me start off with a statement that many of you will find blasphemous; I like The Hobbit more than LotR. There, I said it.

This was the first real chapter book ( a term my nine year old daughter uses to describe books like this ), I ever read. I read it while in elementary school a couple months after seeing the Rankin/Bass cartoon, which totally blew me away at the time. I tried to read LotR at least twice, once in middle school and once in early high school, and never made it past a couple of chapters, before finally reading the whole thing later in high school.

As an aside, my mom gave me the soundtrack to the cartoon and I listened to it so much that I can't read the songs in the book without the songs from the cartoon running through my head. As such, the songs do not bother me at all when reading the book.

Also, I read one of the songs/poems from the book in a high school English class for an assignment where we had to read a poem accompanied by music. Imagine me reading the one that starts out 'Far over misty mountains cold' set to Metallica's instumental song 'Orion' off of the Master of Puppets CD.

Some time after seeing the cartoon and before reading the book myself we also read the riddle chapter in class. That chapter from The Hobbit was in our class's reading book, which was a compilation of small excerts from many different books. Reading this in class was what made me decide to read the book in the first place.

Its been a while since I've read the book though so I am going to read the first chapter tonight and see if there is anything more I want to comment about.
Gardner Dozois
69. MJB
I first read 'The Hobbit' when I was nine or ten. A babysitter found me playing a now-forgotten Atari ST game called Phantasie and put me on to it.

That same year I found out the local community theatre group was going to be putting on 'The Hobbit: the Musical'. ( I was so excited and went along to the auditions, and to my delight got cast as Bilbo. All the dwarves were cast as kids. Also the elves. Everybody, I guess, except the trolls, definitely adults. The guy who played Gandalf seemed quite old to me but in retrospect he was probably about twenty. Smaug was a masterpiece of amateur stage effects. Sting was battery-powered. Looking back, the stage must have been pretty busy with all the dwarves.

I was a new kid in town, my family having just moved to New Zealand from Texas. I don't know what audiences thought about Bilbo having a Texan accent. Also, I couldn't carry a tune at all, so every time Bilbo had a solo I had to turn around while someone backstage sung.

I haven't read the Hobbit since then, more than 20 years ago, but revisiting the first chapter just now, when I got to Bilbo's speech remembering Gandalf "the wandering wizard" and Old Took, all the lines came back. So had to share that...

The same year, this being New Zealand, I remember watching a video of Peter Jackson's Bad Taste really late at night staying at a friend's place. Who knew?
Gardner Dozois
70. CaitieCat
I would agree with bkaul about the pipe: a very long stem (the longest one I have is about 20cm, a good 75 cm or so shorter than Bilbo's enormous example!) would allow much more time for the smoke to cool, reducing its harshness on mouth (and throat, if inhaling).

Think of it as coming from the same school of technology, in reverse, as that which nature uses in providing long noses for cold-climate dwellers, and broad short ones for hot-climate dwellers. It's all about the air's time spent in places that manage heat...
Flint Timmins
71. Giovanotto
I first read the Hobbit when I was 9 or 10 and remember not liking this first chapter at all. Gandalf and the dwarve seemed really shady and Bilbo annoyed me. I read it this summer for the first time as an adult and absolutely loved it. I really enjoy how enthralled Bilbo becomes by the stories of Smaug and the Lonely Mountain. Against his better judgment our little thief can't resist a good adventure.
Kate Nepveu
73. katenepveu

Back, and delighted to see so many people discussing the book. Here we go:

sofrina @ #27, I don't believe there's any mention of Bilbo employing a gardener in _The Hobbit_ proper. And besides the changing conceptions between books that others have rightly pointed out, somehow having someone cut your lawn feels different to me than having someone cook your meals--this may be my American nature showing, of course.

Metalstorm @ #29, I am glad your son liked the golf reference, seriously! Did he find it weird to be reading _The Hobbit_ after _LotR_?

PacJones @ #30, I'm sorry that you don't find this fun, though I don't imagine you'll see this as this conversation is not to your taste. What can I say? I do enjoy discussions like this, or I wouldn't do them, and I think that the book has enough substance to not be destroyed by an analytic approach. Also, with regard to things like the golf joke, I mean to convey "I find this weird" not "this is WRONG," which are things that sometimes get conflated in discussions.

RebelLives @ #31, yeah, here is my American-ness, I had no idea that 10 Downing had the center doorknob! Thank you. I have conferred with the resident physicist, who confirms my physical intuition that it would make slightly more sense to have a center doorknob on a circular door than a rectangular one of the same height, though the hinge problem mentioned by wiredfool @ #55 remains an issue. He may be doing a blog post about this, I will drop a link if so.

IanPJohnson @ #32, Susurrin @ #40, Bander1 @ #63, welcome!

MadLogician @ #33, your theory that Gandalf has no intrinsic magical abilities--am I understanding you correctly?--is very interesting. I am not sure I can think of anything in _The Hobbit_ or _LotR_ proper to contradict it explicitly (the bit about him being a Maia is in _The Silmarillion_ and _Unfinished Tales_, I believe). I'm nevertheless going to disagree with you on the grounds that he says he is of the same order as Saruman, whose powers of persuasion are more than natural; and that Elves are subtly in-and-of-themselves magical, as are those humans descended from Luthien to a lesser extent, so magical abilities are not tightly limited within Middle-earth. I realize these are hardly conclusive arguments, of course.

del @ #34, I don't *complain* that the Cat in the Hat is a jerk, but I do *observe* that he is! (Also, show of hands, who agrees that _The Cat in that Hat Comes Back_ is much less interesting--at least to read out loud--than the original?) There are lots of ways of being comedic and a children's story (that also works for adults), and I'm fascinated by the ones Tolkien chooses.

MTimonin @ #35, just as a note, it's thoughtful of you to worry about spoilers but not necessary--I give away Thorin's ultimate fate in the post, after all. It's more fun if we can discuss each chapter in light of everything else. I'm very surprised to hear that you think of the book as profoundly silly at its core--of course this chapter is slapstick, as is the Beorn introduction, but when I listened to it several years ago I found the greed and betrayals and deaths surprisingly dark.

Quasarmodo @ #36, the narrator in the _Winnie the Pooh_ movie from a couple years ago, John Cleese? Or from a prior generation of Winnie the Pooh movies? And that Gandalf bit from the cartoon, err, that is something, all right!

Gardner Dozois @ #37, agreed that the voice is someone reading to children (now that Quasarmodo just above you has invoked Winnie the Pooh, I'm reminded of the odd framing device in those stories, which also drops out over their course), which on one hand makes me eager to read it to SteelyKid and on the other makes me wonder if it may not feel a little odd to be reading a storyteller who isn't me to an imagined child who isn't her, if that makes sense. But I imagine we will get through regardless.

pilgrimsoul @ #38, great to see you too!

AJ-417 @ #39, having no up-close-and-personal experience with nine year olds yet, I'm fascinated to hear how well it's working for your son. Though shifting mercurially is not unknown to four-year-olds or younger, of course--we have been known to refer to the Onion's spoof headline 98% Of Babies Manic-Depressive rather frequently some days . . .

bkaul @ #41 , thank you for the information about pipe-smoking! And sorry, I should have realized that "inhale" was not the right word (you can tell I don't smoke at all).

Stephven @ #42, that second step before "Profit!" is a doozy (and really not very far off the actual conversation in the book!)

PHSchmidt @ #43, oh dear, no pining, they're terribly flammable trees, as we've just learned! And I think you're right about the dwarves' behavior from their perspective, but I don't think it makes it easier to take from Bilbo's. Also I wasn't suggesting authorial clumsiness, just surprise at my own reaction.

JeremyM @ #48 , I see someone further down has pointed out the way to post images in comments; if you don't have an easy way to host images, feel free to email them to me at and I'll upload them.

annathepiper @ #49, can you tell what "Bilbo Beutlin" conveys in German, or what "Baggins" would have conveyed that the translators were trying to avoid? And thanks for the link, I'll try to remember to check back as we go through the chapters.

(still) Steve Morrison @ #50, I have not read _The History of the Hobbit_ either. (I will take down my copy of _The Road to Middle-earth_ and refresh my memory on its _Hobbit_ comments before next post, though.) I would be delighted if you would share tidbits as we go.

Derek M. @ #51, welcome, and yup! It's very interesting already to compare and contrast Middle-earth between the two books, and will only get more so (I'd forgotten the werewolves and vampires!). Of course it would be *nice* if authors knew what they were going to do so well and had such good memories that they had perfect continuity across all their related books, but I'm fully on board with the right of the author to have a better idea if it serves the story. =>

stevenhalter @ #52, thanks for the help.

wiredfool @ #53, do you find that the chapters are too long for your almost-six-year-old? (I don't have a good feel for how long they'd be out loud because (a) I'm reading on ebook and (b) even in paper I usually read picture books so I wouldn't be a good judge.)

jms1969 @ #54, yeah, we talked a bit about Tolkien's trouble getting things finalized during the LotR re-read. It's kind of amazing that he ever published LotR at all . . .

wiredfool @ #55, the resident physicist (previously seen on the LotR re-read discussing resolution of distant images on the plains of Rohan) is now plotting to look up movie clips and see what they did about hinges (I'm guessing a pole straight through?) and maybe write a post about it, so I will link here if/when that happens. =>

Rancho Unicorno @ #57, I did not know there was an Annotated Hobbit! I'm leaning towards reading from the big illustrated edition of my childhood, because, big illustrated edition of my childhood => , but I'll check that out too.

LisaMNoble @ #58, I would be delighted to have your kids comment if they're so moved. I love hearing all the different experiences and perspectives people have reading these books, I find it fascinating.

Lsana @ #59, I didn't know the Necromancer was always supposed to be Sauron! Cool.

mutantalbinocrocodile @ #60, yes, social comedy is a very contextual thing and it's hard to know what you're missing. I'll try to remember to look for class implications as I read, though I'll probably need help interpreting them.

Jazzlet @ #61, your brothers reading to you to give your parents time sounds like a lovely memory. And I'm not at all surprised that the dwarves are more appealing to younger readers! Finally--tell me about the seed cake? I see the internet suggests caraway, which I don't think I've ever had before. Do you want to post a recipe?

JohnnyMac @ #62, I also wasn't ready for LotR immediately after reading _The Hobbit_, though I may have tried to read all the prefatory matter instead of going straight to Chapter 1, which cannot have helped! And yes, something I noticed but forgot to say was that Bilbo is middle-aged and how that quite reasonably affects his behavior.

sps49 @ #64, good to see you too! I suspect that one of Christoper Tolkien's volumes must have the original text in it, but I imagine someone here can tell us.

glinda @ #65, welcome! I hope that if you have things to say about the songs and poetry, you comment, because it is so very much not my strength.

CarterB @ #66, I love finding that everything in these books is specially loved by someone (as Tolkien himself said in the prefatory material to _LotR_).

MaggiRos @ #67, this far away I can't say *why* I didn't like Rob Inglis's reading. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks and stop them because, while I don't know what a character *does* sound like, I know it isn't _that_ (Temeraire, Dortmunder). But if the rights weren't exclusive, it would be cool if someone else tried it. And welcome!

billiam @ #68, you're the second person to have had the riddle scene excerpted in a school book, it must've been a non-uncommon text book. And I don't think it's blasphemous to like this better than _LotR_ when they are ultimately so different, though if you'd care to expand a bit I'd like to hear it!

MJB @ #69, you were a Texan non-singing Bilbo! That is, and I mean this sincerely, absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much.

Hinklemeir @ #71, welcome and I'm always oddly pleased when someone has the exact opposite reaction from me--variety in reading experiences is so cool.
Gardner Dozois
74. (still) Steve Morrison
Since nobody else has posted the answer, Golfimbul was originally called Fingolfin(!)
Bridget McGovern
76. BMcGovern
Kate @73--yes, sorry: the system seems to be waging war on links this week, for some reason. I'll see what we can do!

MJB@69: Belated applause in your general direction: I'm sure you were a stellar Texan non-singing Bilbo! That story made my day :)
Gardner Dozois
77. Rush-That-Speaks
I was six. My parents didn't have tunes for the songs when they first read them to me, but I did the second I saw them written out on the page, later the same year, and I have them all written down somewhere on sheet music, one of the things I did in college. One reason I can't watch any of the films is that the tunes aren't right and I have had the same tunes since I was six. Tolkien is one of two or three poets that happens to me with and I have tunes for everything in LotR as well. In the usual way I don't compose at all; it has to be somebody else's lyrics which are intended, in-text, to be sung, or I can't.

It took me a very long time to notice a thing I suspect Tolkien meant to be at or near the center of the moral heart of the book, which is that Bilbo is hired as a thief. To steal. Nominally from evil folks, i.e. the dragon who stole in the first place, but for all practical purposes from just about everybody in sight. And no one, from Gandalf on down, ever bats an eye about it. It's as though in Middle-Earth thievery is a respectable profession; Bilbo thinks at times of what he could do if he were a legendary-caliber thief. But. And the cognitive dissonance of this did not hit me until very much later in life, and yet Tolkien must have intended it.
Gardner Dozois
78. Anna_Wing
The knob in the centre of the door doesn't normally turn. It's to help move the door.

I always assumed that Bilbo had someone who would come in and clean and do laundry at regular intervals, but not live in, much in the same way that a don living in college rooms would have a "bedder" to clean every day, but not to cook, since the don would eat in Hall. A normal hobbit family would probably have been big enough that children (middle-class or lower) or outlying cousins/subordinate associated families (upper) could easily have done all the work in-house. This is a common pattern in the more traditional sort of society. I have a friend whose household consists of herself, her housekeeper (daughter of her parents' housekeeper), the housekeeper's husband and child, a live-in maid, a daily maid and a jobbing gardener, to all of whom she has, so to speak, quasi-feudal obligations of care and protection, in exchange for their service.

Bilbo was a gentleman. He would not have considered himself an aristocrat but would not have considered himself inferior to an aristocrat either (it was perfectly all right socially for a Took to marry a Baggins).
Gardner Dozois
79. Bolg
My first encounter with things tolkiensic was at a friend's house when I was about 9 or 10. I skimmed a big green-covered book and remember reading the lines, "It seems a great big hole to me" squeaked Bilbo ... but it didn't seem to be interesting, so I left it and forgot about it ... until I got to Deakin High School and took the English class titled "Traditional", and the very first book they had for us to read was The Hobbit.

I don't remember what happened in the rest of that year - I was far too busy reading Tolkien, firstly The Hobbit, as required, then The Lord of the Rings, then when it was returned, The Silmarillion ... the most thorough waste of time I'd discovered since The Second Jungle Book and Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and the rest of his vast oeuvre ...
Gerd K
80. Kah-thurak
@73 Kate
"Beutlin" is pretty much "Baggins" translated to german, as Beutel means Bag. Actually the question whether such "speaking" names should be translated in german editions of foreign books often leads to heated debates here. A recent example would be a new translation of GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire, where most names were translated (Jon Snow becoming Jon Schnee etc.) while they were left english in the old (albeit rather flawed) translation.
Gardner Dozois
81. a1ay
As for Gandalf, I think this description of him by Aragorn in LotR explains some of the changing characterization: Gandalf is greater than you Shire-folk know — as a rule you can only see his jokes and toys. This is a Gandalf I can see giving out self-fastening diamond studs.

Definitely. Remember, this is Gandalf who can command magical fire against his enemies - and, in his spare time, to make really good fireworks.

much in the same way that a don living in college rooms would have a "bedder" to clean every day

A scout, if you don't mind. Bedders are Cambridge. :)

you were a Texan non-singing Bilbo! That is, and I mean this sincerely, absolutely wonderful.

I cannot now avoid thinking about casting Lee Marvin in "Paint Your Dragon". ("I talk to the Ents/but they don't listen to me...")
Gardner Dozois
82. James Moar
The Annotated Hobbit would probably be quite handy for the reread. It notes all the textual changes in different editions -- nothing else anywhere near as big as the Riddles in the Dark revision, but they make some adjustments to the tone. There's also a large selection of pictures from different editions of the book round the world, which have some dramatic differences in how the story seems to be viewed.
David Levinson
83. DemetriosX
Pipes: Long-stem pipes were fairly common in earlier centuries. For some reason, I always associate them with the Dutch, especially the colonial Dutch. Maybe a forgotten illustration I saw as a child for Rip Van Winkle or something. Apparently they are often called churchwarden pipes and in German they're called reading pipes, meaning that the bowl doesn't get in the way of your book.

Servants: As has been pointed out, Bilbo was essentially a British gentleman or squire. He probably did have someone come in to "do for him". There's also the possibility that while he was well-off prior to the beginning of The Hobbit, it was only when he got back with his share of the various treasures that he could truly be considered rich. Another thing that occurs to me is that for hobbits cooking could easily be an acceptable "gentleman's hobby", rather like painting or photography in Tolkien's day.

Translation: Beutlin has been covered above. There are a couple of different German translations of LotR; I don't know if that is also true of The Hobbit. Tolkien also provided translation guidelines and suggestions for translators working in Germanic languages, where he explained the various sources for his names and offered suggestions based on his own research and expertise. (In ASoIaF, I can sort of see translating the bastard names like Snow or Flowers, because they are common words meant to be evocative of a region.)

Tone: Another instance of the fictional narrator reading to a fictional child which occurs to me is the Just So Stories. There you have the narrator frequently directly addressing the child (O Best Beloved) and even pointing things out in the illustrations! With the evidence of both Kipling and Grahame, this was probably simply the standard tone for children's books at the time. That also explains why the early Pooh books do it too, but have it fall away. Milne was a slightly older contemporary of Tolkien and probably gave it up as the fashion changed.
Gardner Dozois
84. Irina Rempt
I first read The Hobbit at 12, in the summer between elementary school and high school, because it was the most accessible-looking book in my parents' bookcase that I hadn't read. I grew up almost bilingual, but my English was spoken-only and it was kind of hard to teach myself to read it! I thought for months if not years that "carrion birds" meant "a flight of birds". (In fact I started on LoTR earlier, at 10 or so, in translation, but the Shadow from the Past chapter scared me so much that I put it aside and didn't read it again until I got my own copy, in English, at 14.)

@55 wiredfool, I can imagine the door turning on a vertical rod set off-center so (a small) part of the door turns inside when the main part of the door turns outside. I don't know how they get it in though, but then I'm not a hobbit builder.

As for Beutlin, in the Dutch translation it's Balings, from baal "sack, bale". I don't think either translator wanted to avoid associations, just 'naturalise' the names a bit. I'm always in two minds about that kind of thing, but it's done often in children's books (and also in fantasy I think, but I don't read fantasy in translation if I can read the original so I don't have enough experience).
Bill Reeves
85. RebelLives
@84 Irina. The vertical rod isn't a bad thought for the door. It could be off-set to either side and would be like an axle. There would potentially have to be pins running perpendicular to the axle rod through the door to support the weight of the door.
Gardner Dozois
86. Rancho Unicorno
@73 Kate - I didn't realize there was one either. I was at the library looking for an illustrated version and chanced upon the annotated. Do you have the ISBN for the illustrated - while the annotated hasn't been bad for the kids read, it would be better for the reread while a proper illustrated would be a lot easier on the kids? The ISBN for the annotated is 9780618134700
Scott Silver
87. hihosilver28
Other people have mentioned pipe smoking previously, but I do smoke a pipe, and also have a churchwarden. Funnily enough I got a replica of Gandalf's from Fellowship. It's 18 inches long, has a briar bowl and an oak stem. The long stem does what everyone previous said, it allows the smoke time to cool before it reaches your mouth. The difficulty of the draw is dependent almost entirely on the tamp of the tobacco in the bowl. After I bought my churchwarden, I got a straight stem pipe that's about 4 in long (a much more typical pipe). The straight stem is much easier to clean and easier to travel with. There is a difference in smoke temperature, but it's not unpleasant. Just different ways of smoking a pipe.
Steven Halter
88. stevenhalter
After I read the Hobbit the first time, I immediately read it a couple of more times. It was about a year later that I finally got a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. I recall being quite
disappointed with the shift from Bilbo to Frodo as I had become rather fond of Bilbo. I did get over that and enjoyed both for what they were rather than disliking them for what they weren't.
Darren Kuik
89. djk1978
As a kid I read the Hobbit many times. The town library had a large illustrated copy with terrific artwork. I now have just about all of Tolkien's work in paperback, with the John Howe artwork covers.

I loved the first chapter as a kid, and yes I thought the golf joke was funny. I do agree that the narrative changes a bit as the book progresses. But with a child's eye I didn't notice it. As an adult reader I think it's important to remember both how the book came about and who the target audience is. If you critique it as a book for adults there are lots of failings.

It's interesting to see that people are reading it to their kids. I want to read it to my son, who is now almost six. But I thought he was maybe a bit young still.
Rob Rater
90. Quasarmodo
Kate, the Winnie the Pooh I was referencing was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which IMDB dates to 1977. According to them, the narrator is Sebastian Cabot. I absolute adore that movie, and have been unable to enjoy any Winnie the Pooh shows after that because the voices always seem wronge, especially Eeyore's. Also, Rabbit's personality changed quite a bit, becoming more of a throwaway, psychotic character.
Robert Evans
91. bobsandiego
I can't remeber the exact age I was when I read The Hobbit, it certainly after I discovered -- okay had genre reading forced on me -- but it was before high school so call it about 13 or 14.
I have always preferred the Hobbit to the LotR. The first time I read LotR I made it though Fellowship and stopped never picking up the second book. I didn't read the triology until after seeing the films. (yeah I'm a heretic.)
I agree it's going to be interesting to see how Jakcson plays the Elve in the Hobbot versus the way they were in LotR.
I tended to skip the songs as I had no tune -- and no talent for creating them - to go with the words. I love the sound I have heard in the previews.
Gardner Dozois
92. Jfarish
@20 RebelLives
"Gandalf the Grey is pretty much a different person than Gandalf the White. At least his purpose is different on Middle-Earth. Grey, is a wanderer. He spent a thousands of years with the Elves and now has become fascinated with hobbits. I would also say that Gandalf the Grey is a mischievous individual, who enjoys a good prank. After the ring is found and he begins to suspect, I think he begins to see what is coming. When he comes back as White his purpose is to help Middle-Earth specifically Man, defeat Sauron. No more playing around."

This doesn't take into account the broader history of middle-earth, as related in the Silmarillion. The five wizards were sent to middle-earth specifically to help the peoples of middle-earth fight against Sauron. They were not allowed to engage Sauron directly, but were to prepare the people to fight against him. Their purpose never changed. As the ring was found and Sauron began to gather strength, I think their focus changed, but their purpose was ever to defeat Sauron.

By way of introduction stories, I first heard tLOTR as my 4th grade teacher read it to us in class. She would read a little bit, then go home that night and read on her own, then come back the next day and summarize what she had read at home, then read us some more. I had my parents buy me the set of books right away (which I still own), and have re-read them ever since. All of the analysis aside, they are like a good friend to me, or a warm blanket that I would curl up with on a rainy day.

As for the Hobbit, I re-read it last month, and was struck for the first time by what an oral tradition it is. It's style makes much more sense when you remember that it was spoken as a story first, rather than written.

I am grateful to have them to read when I need to escape to a different world. What an awesome world it is!
Tricia Irish
93. Tektonica
Oh, I'm so glad you are doing this, as my memory of The Hobbit is, um, sketchy. Good prep for the movie!

I first attempted to read the Hobbit in college, and could not get past the odd names. I was more into ScFi then, and this Fantasy stuff just didn't cut it for me. Project abandoned.

Then about 10 years ago, my son and I were doing a 3 day cross country drive to Colorado, and I bought a box of 13 cassette tapes of The Hobbit. We were mesmerized! We actually had to stop in Denver at The Tattered Cover (a great independent bookstore, btw), and buy The Lord of the Rings to stave off withdrawal. It entertained us for the rest the summer.

Now that I think of it, I've probably never read The Hobbit, only listened to it! Being visual learner, maybe that's why I dont' remember much about it?! That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Thanks for this reread, Kate!
Robert Evans
94. bobsandiego
@93 Tektonica "
"I've probably never read The Hobbit, only listened to it! Being visual learner, maybe that's why I dont' remember much about it?! That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."Don't feel bad I;ve never read Dracula or Frankenstein, but have only listened to the audio books of each...
Gardner Dozois
95. Gardner Dozois
I read THE HOBBIT before LOTR, took it out of the public library.

So I read it myself for the first time, rather than having it read TO me, but it's a book made to be read aloud, particularly in the early going, where most of the asides and wink-wink jokes are, which is demonstrated by how many people DO read it aloud to their kids, as proven here. People naturally tend to smirk and ham it up when they get to lines like the golf one, and the kids giggle, just as they did in Tolkien's time, I'm sure.

I agree that the tone changes as the book progresses--you mostly lose the jokey anacronistic asides by the Narrator, and it becomes more like LOTR in tone and feeling. So it's sort of a dry run for LOTR, and I myself doubt that he ever would have actually written LOTR if he hadn't written THE HOBBIT first.
Bill Reamy
96. BillinHI
For all the Hobbit and LOTR fans, here is the latest Air New Zealand safety video. Peter Jackson even makes a (very short) cameo.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
97. Lisamarie
Oh man, I'm sad that there ar a kajillion comments on this already (and excited about the interest) because the main reason I don't contribute on teh WOT/GRRM blogs is because I feel like by the time I get to them there's just too much for what I say to even matter. However, I am much more versed in Tolkien Lore than WOT/GRRM lore so maybe I can hold my own ;)

My first exposure to the Hobbit was when I was in 6th or 7th grade, my uncle was surprised I'd never read the books and for Christmas sent me The Hobbit and Fellowship. At the time, I really wasn't a geek of any particular stripe - I just liked to read. This did probably set me on the path of fantasy/sci fi geek though (along with seeing Star Wars for the first time in 8th grade). I went through a phase in high school where I had the LOTR books on constant rotation (as soon as I finished ROTK I started with the Hobbit). But before I really 'got' LOTR (the first time I read it, I read it too fast so I really didn't absorb a lot of detail), I actually liked the Hobbit better!

The last time I re-read it was when my son was born (about 19 months ago) - I read a chapter to him every day (mostly just so he'd hear my voice). And I also was struck by how unsympathetic some of the dwarf characters were (and the elves!) and especially how it's not really a dragon/adventure story, but a story about greed and lust for treasure. I mean, really, the dragon gets killed something like halfway or 3/4 through.

Random commments:
*I loved the Good Morning discussion, haha.
*I cringe everytime I read about the terrible mess in the kitchen and all the Dwarfs showing up. I'm such a neat freak, haha. Poor Bilbo!
*I actually kind of enjoy the narrator's side stories and silly comments.
*I don't think Tolkien had this planned out at the time, but kind of interesting to see hints of the Necromancer/Sauron and his hunt for the Rings even then :)
*Hobbits love food so even if Bilbo is well to do, I can see cooking and baking being a very Hobbitish leisure hobby.
Jeff Weston
98. JWezy
katenepvu@24, demetriosX@25: all credit to The History of The Hobbit, which traces the text through the various versions. I needed a new copy of The Hobbit a few years ago, and bought the boxed set that included a hardbound copy of The Hobbit as well as the other work. Challenging read (following all the footnotes and editing sidetracks makes the thread of the story much harder to discern), but I enjoyed it.

I don't recall if the Necromancer was a late add as well - it makes sense to add it as a segue into LOTR, but there had to be some reason why Gandalf was absent in the second half of the book. I will have to look that up.
Kate Nepveu
99. katenepveu
Hello, everyone.

(still) Steve Morrison @ #74: Fingolfin is definitely a ! worthy name for a goblin.

KeithS @ #75, thank you so much for the link to the side-by-side comparisons of the edited Ring-finding scene; that's fascinating and I will be referring to it extensively when we do that chapter.

BMcGovern @ #76, thanks for letting me know! And everyone, watch out for adding links to your posts.

Kah-thurak @ #80, thanks for the German translation information. As a native English speaker, I don't think of "Baggins" as very "speaking," whereas Jon Snow is, but maybe there are puns later that I'm not remembering.

(I came across a similar thing with the anime _Princess Tutu_, whose main character is named Ahiru, which means Duck in Japanese (she's a duck who turns into a girl who turns into a princess, and in the reverse too). The English dub calls her Duck, to give the same effect to the English-listening audience as the Japanese, which worked fine for me (but not for everyone).)

a1ay @ #81, Gandalf's fireworks were one thing I was thinking of when I was trying to decide if he did any explicit magic that couldn't be attributed to the Ring of Fire. I decided that given what was attributed to the toymakers of Dale, his fireworks weren't necessarily magical (or at least magical through him alone), though I do think they were.

James Moar @ #82, I'm going to try to get the Annotated Hobbit from the library. (We don't really need to own three oversized paper versions of it--I also own the green leather slipcover version, which was a gift.)

DemetriosX @ #83, reading pipes, how appropriate!

Irina Rempt @ #84, ah, the perils of gathering meaning from context. I remember those days well.

Rancho Unicorno @ #86, the illustrated edition I have is now out of print and expensive, but its ISBN is 0810910608.

hihosilver28 @ #87, thanks for the additional pipe information. How does it feel to smoke Gandalf's pipe?

stevenhalter @ #88, welcome! And it must've been particularly nice for you to read Frodo & Bilbo's reunion in _RotK_?

djk1978 @ #89, we're only guessing that it'll be okay for SteelyKid when she's five; you know your kid best, of course. (Actually the one I really want to read her is _LotR_, because when I was doing the re-read I kept finding passages I wanted to read out loud. But that's *definitely* not for a few more years.)

Quasarmodo @ #90, thanks; Winnie the Pooh wasn't a big part of my childhood so I am coming to it now through my daughter. The recent movie is charmingly meta and has catchy songs, though it won't help your problem with the voices (or possibly Rabbit, I'm not sure).

bobsandiego @ #91, that's two who liked _The Hobbit_ better, you're not alone!

--I have to stop here, but I will return.
Birgit F
100. birgit
I don't know if there's a way to post them in the comment thread or if emailing them would be best.

You can upload pictures on your TOR profile.

I don't remember any vampires, but there is a Sauron werewolf in the Beren and Luthien story.

I liked the good morning joke, it fits Tolkien the linguist.
There are two different German translations of LotR and the Hobbit. I only know the old one. As others have said, Bilbo Beutlin von Beutelsend is simply a translation of Bilbo Baggings of Bag End.

I don't remember when I first read the Hobbit, but I do know when my mother did. She is the only one in the family who isn't interested in "dragon books" (fantasy). She started the Hobbit long ago (I think about the time I was born), but never got beyond the singing dwarves. "When will you unsing the dwarves?" was a family joke. Then last year she got a kindle and finally read the Hobbit as an ebook. She didn't like the big battle at the end.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
101. Lisamarie
More comments after reading:
*"this book was more suited to him because he clearly doesn't believe in innate nobility of character and there isn't anyone like Faramir or Aragorn here." - bwahahahaha, this made me laugh out loud. That is actually one of my biggest beefs with the movies. It will be interesting to see how Thorin is portrayed in the movies (and Thranduil)
*I never really thought of Bilbo having servants (aside from a gardner which I don't think is even mentioned in this book) - after all, he appears to do his own cleaning, as seen in the next chapter.
*Agreed that I am looking forward to discussion on the Elves/Elrond
*While there is a difference between Gandalf the Grey/White, I think he DID always have focus. Even the events of this story (some of which are, admittedly, retroactively explained) and his entire motivation fo the Quest, actually do revolve around fighting Sauron.

Also, I see a few people already mentioned this, but YES to the Annotated Hobbit, I love it. I believe it also has the text of the original Riddle Game in it.
Gardner Dozois
102. TimWarp
I first read "The Hobbit" (followed by LotR) in 7th grade (1968), and then at least once a year every year after that until I was through college - and maybe once every 10 years since. My best friend and I were *obsessed* the way only middle-schoolers can be: we filled notebooks with notes on the book (i.e. each page had its own character or place, so every time we'd read a description, we'd write it on the correct page), took hobbit nicknames, and bought and read every version of the books, or books about the books, we could find. (I still have two bookshelves full, but gave up collecting about 15 years ago. I enjoyed Jackson's movies, but couldn't keep up with the new merchandising!) Now I'm inspired - time for a re-read!
Gardner Dozois
103. Dr. Thanatos
First of all, thanks for doing this, Kate! I loved participating in the previous re-reads and hope to keep up with this one as well. Let the fun begin!

I have no issues with this book as long as I keep reminding myself it's only marginally related to LOTR in terms of continuity. I mean, Dwarves who are wandering miners who happen to carry modern musical instruments with them? And what happened to those? Were they left in a closet at Bag End and collected by Balin at a future visit? I don't recall seeing them again.

Gandalf also is not the same smarty-pants we know and love; not only is he cranky and at times positively condescending, but it seems that he got an upgrade sometime between this book and Fellowship, as we will see as he struggles with unidentifiable swords, unreadable Standard Elvish Runes, and other things that Gandalf 2.0 could have dealt with before breakfast.

Your point is well taken regarding hobbit economics. Did we see servants or cooks in LOTR other than working at inns? Seems to me that Bag End is a rather lonely place, staffed by invisible servants. Is that where "Five Rings for the Hobbits who eat things" went off to, to create wraithstaff?

Again, thanks for starting this up. I look forward to further postings as a Hobbit would: with relish.
Kate Nepveu
104. katenepveu
Before I dive back in, the resident physicist has determined that in fact rectangular doors are generally _easier_ to open with a knob in the middle than round ones, and also found stills showing how the Bag End door is attached to its frame. Here's the blog post with the calculations.
david hanson
105. AproposofNothing
Huh, I never realized this before, but "Eaters of the Dead" by Michael Crichton-filmed as _The 13th Warrior_-is basically the same tale as The Hobbit. I mean, duh, they're both basic "Hero's Quest" stories, and EotD is a pastiche of the Grendel tale, but there are significant parallels: An almost epically unsuited outsider is co-opted by a wise man to accompany a dozen strangers on a long journey to deal with a monster. Before the end the leader of the expedition is killed and our protagonist reveals depths hidden even from himself, adapting and even thriving in his new environment, returning home a better (or at least different) person than when he started.

Yeah, Hero Quest 101.

Odd how I never noticed all the similarities before, considering how much I loved both these books as a kid. I haven't read either in years though. I'm going to have to grab a copy of The Hobbit at least to follow along though.

Also, I had completely forgotten that that story about the origin of golf was from the Hobbit.
Gardner Dozois
106. Lesley A
I first came across the Hobbit at school, where our headmaster read sections aloud to us. He gave Gollum a Welsh accent, and even now, when I think of Gollum speaking I sometimes hear Mr Alcock and his Welsh accent rather than Andy Serkis.
Kate Nepveu
107. katenepveu
Jfarish @ #92, welcome, and yes, an old friend or a welcome escape, indeed.

Tektonica @ #93, what a great story. I have a soft spot for audio-first stories because I experienced the Aubrey-Maturin books that was, through Patrick Tull's great readings.

bobsandiego @ #94, were the Dracula & Frankestein audiobooks you listened to multiple-reader productions? I'd think that their epistolary nature would lend themselves well to that.

BillinHI @ #96, also making a cameo is Gollum! Very cute.

Lisamarie @ #97, I read everything no matter how many comments (though I may have to take a break from _responding_ so I can write the next post!), so please do comment regardless. And yeah, I remember being surprised how soon Smaug dies too.

and @ #101, I hope Jackson will do well by Thorin, it seems more in his area of comfort. And Chad's getting me the Annotated Hobbit from the library . . .

birgit @ #100, right, but a shapeshifting Sauron feels different than a werewolf to me. My mom is also not a fantasy reader, but I'm sure it was her that introduced me to this book as a kid--and much later she handed me a sample of _The Eye of the World_, so she was very influential on my fantasy reading regardless!

TimWarp @ #102, there really is something about the middle-school age that lends itself to that kind of all-encompassing focus, isn't there? Certainly not limited to then, but all the same. Welcome!

Dr. Thanatos @ #103, whether the dwarves' instruments were anachronistic is not something that I thought to ask myself. So they are, then? And I groan at your pun . . .

AproposofNothing @ #105, I watched and moderately enjoyed _The 13th Warrior_ back in the day, but remember little about it. Hero Quest 101, sure, but a little more closely aligned than many other stories that one could also label that.

Lesley A @ #106, a lot more people saying they encountered _The Hobbit_ in school than _LotR_, I think. I'm a little envious, as mostly I thought our assigned reading was pretty dire.
Steven Halter
108. stevenhalter
Kate@99:Yes, the reunion of Bilbo & Frodo at the end of RotK was pleasing to me.

Kate@104:Thanks for the physics link! Very interesting.

Kate@107:If I recall, in the Silmarillion, Sauron is named as the Lord of Werewolves and could assume the form of a werewolf. He also commanded vampires. He seems to have been a powerful sorceror who could become various things rather than just a werewolf.
Gardner Dozois
109. (still) Steve Morrison
Judging from context, the "vampires" in The Hobbit and The Silmarillion are probably meant to be vampire bats.
Gardner Dozois
110. pilgrimsoul
@various Bilbo cooking
Somewhere--and I can't remember where--JRRT says ALL Hobbits can cook (and don't I wish the people of the United States would follow their excellent example), and in the Two Towers Merry and Pippen have no trouble dishing up lunch for Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas.
Waves at Dr. Thanatos!
Andrew Mason
111. AnotherAndrew
Sorry, I'm coming in rather late, and haven't read every word of the comments, so apologies if I duplicate anything.

Like many others I knew LOTR first, and did find The Hobbit a rather odd work. But a number of things were interesting; meeting Gloin again and understanding why Frodo recognised his name; meeting Balin for the first time; suddenly understanding why 'A Long-Expected Party' was a significant chapter title.

The Hobbit is set in the world of the Silmarillion from the start - there's a reference in it to Gondolin - but the connection is very loose. Some writers do set all their stories in the same world without intending to link them closely. It's hard to tell, therefore, just what connections were intended from the start and what weren't. I think it's worth remembering, though, that these stories have in-story authors. Bilbo at fifty will have seen things differently from Bilbo at eleventy-one, Frodo or Sam, and also from the elvish authors on whose knowledge they are drawing. The presence of beings in The Hobbit who aren't mentioned later needn't mean that the world of LOTR lacks them, only that the elves who are responsible for the system of knowledge drawn on in LOTR aren't aware of them.

Gandalf is not explicitly a Maia in LOTR - I don't think the word 'Maia' occurs in it - but he does refer to his childhood in the West where he was called Olorin. (And those of us who read The Silmarillion when it first came out can remember seeing the name 'Olorin' and going 'Ohhhh!'.) I think he is clearly a messenger of the Valar. What he is The Hobbit is less clear. Are any other wizards mentioned? But he clearly is involved in the councils of the wise, as his operation agisnt the Necromancer shows; we are only seeing one side of him.

Regarding servants: Bilbo isn't an aristocrat (I think only Tooks and Brandybucks could be called that) but he is gentry. People of his class would certainly have had servants in England at the time - as indeed would large portions of the middle class. I think the Hobbit country (not, by the way, called the Shire in the original Hobbit) is definitely different in that respect. I don't see any inconsistency between the works; he doesn't have house-servants, but he does have a gardener - later and for all we know in The Hobbit as well, since there's no special reason for the gardener to be mentioned.
Soon Lee
112. SoonLee
Yay! Welcome back Kate & everyone else old & new.

"The Hobbit" was my gateway drug to Fantasy & Science Fiction. I must have been seven or eight when I first read it. I had been working my way through the library of a family friend who had children several years older than I was, so was well furnishd with books. My literary diet was a whole bunch of English children's books mainly Enid Blyton: Famous Five, Secret Seven, Wishing Chair, and also Malory Towers (which so informs the Harry Potter books) . Alongside those were also Alfred Hitchcock & the Three Investigators, the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew mysteries. It was The Hobbit that opened up new worlds for me in a way none of the others did.

Having read other children's books by English writers made the framing device unsurprising; that Bilbo was a gentleman hobbit was plainly clear, though at the time I didn't grasp the social subtleties others have mentioned. I think of the The Hobbit compared to LotR as what you might get if you start with the same primary materials and tried to create stories for two distinct audiences; a bit like WWII comics vs prose novels.

I'll be back once I've dug up my copy of The Hobbit.
Rob Rater
113. Quasarmodo
If you and your daughter are enjoying the current incarnations of Winnie the Pooh, I won't recommend the original as it would ruin you to all other versions! (And you thought THOSE songs were catchy!!) ;)
Robert Evans
114. bobsandiego
@107 Kate
Dracular had two readers for the amle and female characters. Frankenstein had 1 actor with a terrible female voice he effected for the women.
I found both books much easier to deal with in an audio format than reading.
Soon Lee
115. SoonLee
One more thing: someone's mentioned (citation needed) that Bilbo was Tolkien's idea of utopia - a bachelor life of peaceful leisure with plenty of food & drink, pipes, books, and welcome company.

Then Gandalf arrives...
Bill Reeves
116. RebelLives
@92. Jfarish - You are right focus is a better word and more of what I meant. He was always there to fight evil but the urgency grew after the ring was found, so he became more focused towards the end.

@112 SoonLee - I like it! The Hobbit, the gateway drug to SF&F.
Gardner Dozois
117. Dr. Thanatos
Regarding the placement of the Hobbit vis-a-vis the Silmarillion:

It is important to remember that JRRT began writing the Silmarillion matters long before the Hobbit. According to Corey Olsen the Hobbit was originally conceived as being set in the same time as the Silmarillion: Mirkwood was Taur-na-fuin (translates roughly as the dark woods) which is where Sauron (who was actually called the Necromancer in the First Age) fled to after being nuked by Beren and Luthien. When LOTR started coming together, he retrofitted the story to fit his new concept of the Third Age.
Gardner Dozois
118. Jazzlet
Seed Cake, the simplest recipe is a classic pound cake (I'm sure there is another name for it in the USA, but I can't recall what it is) ie equal weights of soft slightly salted butter, sugar, self-raising flour and eggs, for 4 oz of each add 1 tsp of baking powder, 2 tsp carraway seeds and (optional) 1heaped tbs of ground almonds. Beat it all up to a smooth batter and put into a well greased lined 9" loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour at mark 4/180C/350F, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin for 15 minutes then remove to a cake rack.

The almond helps keep the cake moist, and dry seed cake is apparently much to be feared; it is mentioned as being offered to guests by lonely spinsters in all sorts of books. If you find some of your cake has become dry it's rather nice toasted with butter. Originally one would have used a pound of everything, these days most of us would use a total of a pound.

If any of that doesn't make sense do say.
Soon Lee
119. SoonLee
Two comments:

1. Bilbo has an "Engagement Tablet" (which I assume is like a fancier version of a writing slate) to note down appointments. I would have expected an actual paper book.

2. Tobacco. The stuff they put into a pipe to smoke is explicitly called tobacco whereas in LotR, "tobacco" was never used; it was always "pipe-weed".
Gardner Dozois
120. (still) Steve Morrison
This was John Rateliff's most controversial thesis in The History of the Hobbit. The conventional wisdom was that The Hobbit wasn't really set in the same world as The Silmarillion and that Tolkien had just haphazardly reused some names and situations from it, much as he did in Letters from Father Christmas. Rateliff argues that what Tolkien was really doing was leaving open the possibility of saying that The Hobbit was in the same continuity as The Silmarillion, while not committing himself to it.
Gardner Dozois
121. Confutus
It appears to me that the Hobbit started out as a light-hearted , humorous bedtime -type story for children, but as Tolkein wrote along and the story grew, it threw out roots and branches into the world of the Silmarillion, and became more serious and mature. Neither the characters nor the author were quite the same as when the story began, and did not stay the same when the story ended.
In contrast, LOTR was concieved from the start as a serious, adult work, which both drew from and continued to develop of his earlier sources. His creative process introduced serious problems of consistency between the earlier and later products of his imagination, problems that he never quite resolved.
alastair chadwin
122. a-j
Sorry to be late to the party, but just to add my appreciation that this re-read is happening as I so much enjoyed the LOTR one.
Add me to the lists of those who prefer The Hobbit to LOTR. Always have. I assume this is because I came across it first, specifically when my mother read it to me during a camping holiday when I would have been 7 or 8, I think. And I loved it.
It must be so odd coming to The Hobbit after reading LOTR as they are so dissimilar and are trying to do fundamentally different things. The Hobbit is an amiable rather comic adventure story for children and has to be approached as such. It will become deeper and profound towards it end, but here at its start it is an exciting adventure.
I find, and have always found, this chapter very funny. I love and loved Gandalf's 'Good Morning' analysis and Bilbo's desperation in dealing with his weird guests. As someone points out above (and deep apologies for not naming him/her, but I can't be bothered to scroll all the way up to find the comment again) this is the comedy of a respectable Edwardian gentleman who finds characters from the Norse legends in his lodgings. I suppose a modern version would be the Crane brothers from Frasier suddenly having to entertain characters from Game of Thrones.
On re-reading, I was interested to note how often money is mentioned. It must have been an issue with Tolkien at the time. I also loved the bathos of Bilbo seeing the old map of the Lonely Mountain with runes and so forth upon it and the note that he has a map of his local area with his favourite walks marked in red.
I actually prefer this version of Gandalf, a sort of Odin/Loki mash-up of elder and trickster and missed him when I came to read LOTR as a teenager and found he had turned into this solemn and worried sage.
Count me amoung those who thought the golf joke was hilarious as a child.
Oh, and finally, as a life-long resident and subject of the UK, can I state that I have never seen a door with the knob in the middle and number 10 Downing Street does not have one. It's door knob is on the right. I think that must be the door knocker people are seeing, which is in the centre.
Gardner Dozois
123. OldWoman
Thanks for this re-read Kate.
The Hobbit was my bridge from SF to Fantasy. I have always been a reader but in my day, girls didn't read SF. My first SF read was Andre Norton. She used a male alias because women didn't write SF either.

Then came the '60s and all kinds of changes for women. We broke out of our restraints and there's been no looking back. Late '60s saw me starting my own adventure and travelling on the road with my then boyfriend. I picked up The Hobbit at a used book store and started reading it aloud to my bf while he drove us around the US. That instilled in me a love of fantasy and dragons that has remained with me into my seventies.

I look forward to being re-introduced to Bilbo and company and remembering my adventures from both his and my adventures.
Becca Hollingsworth
124. bibliobeque
Hey, a Hobbit re-read, how fun! I first read The Hobbit at the age of eight or so, after stumbling across the end of the Rankin Bass cartoon version and wondering how they all got to the forest with the giant spiders. I remember being so bored by the early chapters that I skipped ahead to where it looked like something interesting was going on, and carried on from the riddle game.

Needless to say, I've gone back and read the whole book many times since then, though for years I tended to skim the poetry, or skip it entirely.

I was amused by the golf joke the first time, however, and Gandalf's deconstruction of "Good morning." Even as a little kid I was interested in playing with language.
Gardner Dozois
125. JohnnyMac
A thank you to KeithS, @75 above, for the link to the original and amended texts for "Riddles in the Dark". I knew that Tolkien had rewritten that chapter for the second edition but I had never had the chance to compare the two versions side by side. Very interesting.

To a-j @122 above, I think my comment #62 is the one you refer to "As someone points out above...this is the comedy of a respectable Edwardian gentleman who finds characters from the Norse legends in his lodgings." Just to be clear, I don't claim this is my insight; I got it from Tom Shippey (whose writings on Tolkien are invaluable). I love your idea of the Crane brothers trying to cope with the characters from "The Game of Thrones"! I can see Frasier and Niles forming a psychotheraputic tag team and trying desperately to resolve the issues of the deeply dysfunctional Lannister family (not to mention Catelyn Stark's relationship with her stepson Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy with, well, everybody).

Finally, a welcoming wave of the hat to Dr. Thanatos, @103 above, whose finely warped sense of humor added so much to the LOTR reread comment threads.
Tricia Irish
126. Tektonica
Now that so many of you have mentioned it, I think The Hobbit was my "gateway drug" to Fantasy, as well. Before The Hobbit, I was a confirmed SciFi nerd, but I have barely touched it since. Yup, stuck in Epic Fantasy!
Thanks Bilbo!
David Levinson
127. DemetriosX
I was thinking about Gandalf's deconstruction of "Good morning" and while it probably is just a case of a period children's literature trope, it's possible to read a little more into it. Gandalf knows that Bilbo is extremely set in his ways and it's going to take a lot to get him moving. This is simply the first step in disorienting Bilbo, the first link in a chain that will eventually lead to him leaving home without a handkerchief.
Soon Lee
128. SoonLee
DemetriosX @127: Oh, most definitely. And if you look at Gandalf's behaviour, not only in The Hobbit but also in LotR, diplomacy/psychology is his main tool in the fight against Sauron. In that context Bilbo & the Dwarves is one of his weapons, and Bilbo needed some prepping.
Gardner Dozois
129. Dr. Cox
My first reading of Tolkien was the "Riddles in the Dark" excerpt of
The Hobbit in Mother Goose magazine (at least I think that was the name) when I was twelve or thirteen, and I soon read LOTR after that, then progressed on to The Silmarillion etc.
I'm glad there's another reread and I will hunt up my copy of The Hobbit and catch up :).
Gardner Dozois
130. Deb W
I remember going to the library one summer when I was about middle-school age and seeing the exact book you have pictured above on the shelf. For some reason, just that title and that cover were enough to peak my interest. I took it home and gave up reading it in chapter 3 - it was just taking too long to get to wherever they were going. A year later, I found the book on the shelf again and decided to try it. I think I got to Mirkwood - for some reason, when Gandalf left, I wanted to follow him, not the dwarves or Bilbo. Back to the library it went. Then, finally, I kept running into that book and decided I was going to finish it. I'm glad I did - it led me to Lord of the Rings, which I've reread every year since I was 15. So, my advice is... press on. It gets better.
Kate Nepveu
131. katenepveu
stevenhalter @ #108, right, Sauron definitely not your typical werewolf. Are there any others?

(still) Steve Morrison @ #109, I still don't remember vampires in _The Hobbit_ but I'll keep that in mind when they do show up!

AnotherAndrew @ #111--hi! I admit I disagree with you about this story having Bilbo as an in-story author alllll the way back at #28 (in the first paragraph, at least). And I had not spotted that it's not named the Shire in this book (I just searched my ebook to be sure). That just seemed like such a bedrock thing that it went right by me, so thanks.

SoonLee @ #112, thanks for commenting! Somehow I missed a lot of those English children's books, though I did read many, many Nancy Drew books back in the day.

and @ #119, I was assuming, on zero evidence, that an engagement tablet was a notebook bound at the top. And thank you for pointing out the tobacco usage!

Quasarmodo @ #113, very thoughtful of you! *grin*

bobsandiego @ #114, thanks for the audiobook information. Next time I'm in the mood I'll check Dracula out.

Jazzlet @ #118, that is not at all what I thought seed cake would be like--of course I don't know what I thought it *would* be like, but never mind that! I love the note about dry seed cake, as well. Have no idea how common caraway seed is around here, but perhaps I shall give it a try--oh, especially next time I run a con bake sale!

Dr. Thanatos @ #117, (still) Steve Morrison @ #120--wait, it is actually in *dispute* what Tolkien's intentions were, even after the posthumous volumes? I know, I know, unreliable authors and all that, but I would have thought that he _said_ what he thought he was doing at some point, even if it wasn't widely know!

Confutus @ #121, and hence _The Silmarillion_ was not completed in his lifetime.

a-j @ #122, welcome to the party all the same, and I definitely prefer _The Hobbit_ to _Game of Thrones_ characters crashing _Frasier_, because the latter seems destined to end in much bloodshed! And you've made me look harder at the pictures of 10 Downing--if the link doesn't get eaten, here's a big one--and there does seem to be a very unobstrusive black knob on the left of the photo (it took finding a *really* big picture for me to see it), but there is also a very obvious brass round-ish thing in the center. So at least you can see why I was wrong!

OldWoman @ #123, welcome, and I love the idea of reading _The Hobbit_ out loud on a road trip, how appropriate!

bibliobeque @ #124, I have to force myself to read every word of the poetry here and in _LotR_; it's just not my natural form.

DemetriosX @ #127, that is an excellent point about Gandalf trying to unsettle Bilbo from the start. I have mixed feelings about this, as you may imagine, but it makes a great deal of sense to me as a motivation; thanks.

Dr. Cox @ #129, so many people are mentioning "Riddles in the Dark" as an excerpt that I am now very eager to read it with an eye to how it fits in the text and how it would seem as a standalone.

Deb W @ #130, welcome, and I know what you mean about wanting to following Gandalf instead; I also sometimes have a hard time when books drop one obvious plot/character thread in favor of another with no clear idea when we'll be getting back to the other one.
Gardner Dozois
132. James Moar
"I definitely prefer _The Hobbit_ to _Game of Thrones_ characters crashing _Frasier_, because the latter seems destined to end in much bloodshed!"

I'm not sure Niles would get quite that annoyed....
Gardner Dozois
133. Dr. Cox
@131. katenepveu, for me the stand-alone "Riddles in the Dark" was definitely a "whet my appetite for the rest" excerpt. Still, I think my favorite is LOTR, with, interestingly enough, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien coming in second.
Ian Johnson
134. IanPJohnson
@119: Bilbo's "engagement tablet" is clearly an iPad.

Well, it's not, really, but the technology level of Middle-Earth is incredibly variable. It's a medieval fantasy world with folding umbrellas, for Ilúvatar's sake.
Gardner Dozois
135. (still) Steve Morrison
Hm, on checking I don't find any point in the published Hobbit where the bats aren't simply called "bats". I must have been thinking of the notes in THotH. Unfortunately, the ebook of THotH isn't available in the US, so I don't have it. As for Tolkien's stated intentions, the problem is that he said different things at different times (as he frequently did in Letters). This old post on Rateliff's blog quotes two statements by Tolkien which take some work to reconcile (however, his links to lotrplaza threads on the subject no longer work).
Peter Schmidt
136. PHSchmidt
As I recall, one of Morgoth's chief servants, Drauglin, on the same order as Sauron, was a werewolf - but the most badass werewolf imaginable, a peer of dragons and balrogs. The talking hound Huan (almost certainly a Maia, like Gandalf and the Eagles) defeated it, but died in the process. Wikipedia notes,

When she was following Beren, Lúthien was captured and brought to Nargothrond by Celegorm and Curufin. Aided by Huan, Celegorm’s hound, she was able to flee. With his aid she came to Sauron’s fortress where Huan defeated the werewolves of the Enemy, Draugluin, and Sauron himself in wolf-form. Then they freed the prisoners, among them Beren.

Luthien and Beren go on to cast a sleep spell on Morgoth, and manage to wrench or cut a Silmaril from his iron crown.
Andrew Mason
137. AnotherAndrew
Kate@131: OK, Bilbo isn't literally the in-story author - indeed I seem to remember defending this view myself in the past; and likewise Frodo isn't literally the in-story author of LOTR, as certain things like the steam-engine reference show. But they are the sources - the human author is adapting what they wrote. That at least is the conceit of LOTR, and I don't see why it shouldn't be so in The Hobbit as well, even if nothing is said explicitly. But I'm more concerned about the other end; now that we have the Silmarillion and lots of other elvish writings, the world looks much more systematic to us, and I think we are inclined to take the account given in these works as fact, and as complete, and puzzle about things which don't fit it; but these works were written by elves who may not have known everything.

Werewolves; I think at the time The Hobbit was written the werewolf mythos had not taken such definite shape as it has now, and 'werewolf' did indeed just mean 'person who can transform into a wolf'. Indeed, this was so even later - there are werewolves in Narnia, among the company of the White Witch, and if I remember rightly they transform at will.

Steve Morrison@135: What are the two statements by Tolkien? I can only find one in that post. It seems to me that The Hobbit is set in the world of The Silmarillion but much later, as is shown by the fact that, if I remember rightly, the goblins' horde contains gold from Gondolin. That seems consistent with what Tolkien says there. However, he was certainly capable of being confused about such things. The manuscript of The Lost Road (the original Numenor story) clearly puts it in the same world as The Silmarillion, yet later statements by him imply it was quite separate.
Elaine Normandy
138. ElaineN
When I first read this thread, soon after the reread was announced, there were only three comments. Glad to see activity.

Back when I reread the Hobbit as middle-schooler, I used to skip the first chapter because I found Bilbo's hysterical fit too uncomfortable to read about. I haven't read the book since teens, and don't even have a copy. However, I just ordered the Annotated Hobbit, based on these comments, and look forward to following along.
Gardner Dozois
139. AussieRebel
In addition to the Annotated Hobbit and The History of the Hobbit, I'd like to mention both Shippey's take on the Hobbit in The Road to Middle-earth and Author of the Century, and most importantly, Corey Olsen's new book, Exploring JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Olsen's book is based on his well known "Tolkien Professor" lectures:

Olsen analyses The Hobbit chapter by chapter in this highly lucid and readable book, so I highly recommend this as a recource for this re-read.

But before we start the re-read, we can ask, which Hobbit are we actually reading? Olsen distinguishes three stages of the Hobbit's journey from children's novel to LotR prequel. The first stage he calls the "Solo Stage". As Olsen writes, and I think this is important to bear in mind, "For many years, this book was the only piece of literature that anyone associated with Tolkien..." the next stage, the "Revision Stage", involved a partial re-write, for example of the Riddles in the Dark chapter, which helped to assimilate the book into the world of the LotR, though imperfectly. Gandalf remains a trixter, his motives ambiguous, and Bilbo lives in Hobbiton, but not the Shire. The final stage, the "Assimilation Stage", occured following the publication of tLotR. The Hobbit itself was not entirely re-written, but in notes and essays Tolkien assimilated its story into the wider socio-political situation in Middle-earth. I think it would be a mistake to re-read the Hobbit as through the prism of this "Assimilation Stage", and Olsen doesn't. Instead, like Olsen i think it would be great to read it through the Revision stage - the Hobbit retains many of its most idiosyncratic characteristics but we can still acknowledge that it bears some important connection to tLotR. However, we need not continually remind ourselves that Gandalf, for example, is "really" a maia on a mission - in the "Revision" stage Hobbit his ontological status (!) is still ambiguous and it's okay to differentiate him from the Gandalf of tLotR.

Anyhow, I highly recommend Olsen's podcasts and his books, as well as Shippey's analysis in RtME. I look forward to this re-read.
Birgit F
140. birgit
In the First Age Sauron lived on Tol-in-Gaurhoth (Isle of Werewolves) and bred werewolves. Sauron also turned into a vampire and had a vampire servant.
Gardner Dozois
141. Dr. Thanatos
@140 Birgit,

In the First Age (at least in the published Silmarillion) Sauron turned into a bat, and had a servant who appeared as a bat, but at no point were these portrayed as vampires (bats who drink human blood, undead Carpathians who turn into bats who drink human blood, or broody teens who drink human blood and hang around with werewolves who never remember to put on shirts when in human shape). The only reference was when Sauron, defeated by Luthien, transformed into a bat who dripped blood...
David Levinson
142. DemetriosX
@141 Dr. Thanatos
Not so. Tolkien specifically uses the word vampire in reference to Thuringwethil. Page 178 of the Houghton Mifflin 1st US edition:
She was the messenger of Sauron, and was won to fly in vampire's form to Angband...
His description seems to imply a bat or humanoid/bat hybrid rather than an Eastern European in evening wear, so who knows what he meant exactly. Maybe it was as simple as evil bat => vampire.
Gardner Dozois
143. Dr. Thanatos

I stand corrected. Perhaps he meant vampire bat, as opposed to "I do not"

But if we start talking about Team Drangluin vs Team Thuringwethil, I'm taking my cat Tevildo and getting outa here...
Gardner Dozois
144. a1ay
Bilbo has an "Engagement Tablet" (which I assume is like a fancier
version of a writing slate) to note down appointments. I would have
expected an actual paper book.

Tablet could, I think, mean something like a pad of paper.
Gardner Dozois
145. Dr. Thanatos
Engagement Tablet: Given Bilbo's apparent total lack of interest in social interactions, I might conclude that an Engagement Tablet is that pill you take if, despite your best efforts, someone is coming over for tea.

Could also apply to the other kind of Engagement, given Bilbo and Frodo's track record with the ladies...
Robert Evans
146. bobsandiego
On werewolves:
I'b bet dollars to donuts that Tolkein was talking old school werewolves. Evil men given the power to tranform themselves into a wolf form so that they could do evil things for their own gratifications.
What 99% of people thinking of when they hear 'werewolf' is really the 'wolf-man' as created by Kurt Siodmak for the Universal horror film 'The Wolf-man.' The good man who gets the curse througha bite, loses his intellect and becomes a beast by the full moon and is harmed by silver, nearly all of that traces to this movie. (An ealier film Werewolf of London had the Moon light transformation but was more of a Jeykel/Hyde story.)
David Levinson
147. DemetriosX
@146 bobsandiego
That's a very good point. In German folklore, a werewolf is a man with a special jacket and a belt with seven buckles. There's some dispute as to whether the jacket is made of wolfskin or human skin. Livonian werewolves supposedly had a potion they drank. England doesn't seem to have had a werewolf tradition. Tolkien was probably aware of the various traditions through his studies and had one or more of them in mind.
alastair chadwin
148. a-j
Re: No. 10 Downing Street
My apologies. That door knob is definately in the middle of the door. I never noticed.
Gardner Dozois
149. bonhoor
I started reading The Hobbit to my children (8 & 10) a few months ago in preparation to see the movies. We are now near the Smaug part and they have been enjoying it. I think it is better read aloud especially with all the asides the narrator makes. My daughter insists on trying to sing all the songs, and Bombur has now become the butt of our family jokes.
I don't know if a 5 year old will understand some of the nuanced British words. I've had to explain quite a few.
Gardner Dozois
150. Dr. Thanatos
Style notation: How Tolkien in this book much more than LOTR uses songs for exposition. Note the first Dwarf song; provides strong imagery as well as backstory. He then follows with prose exposition . He does this at several points and it's interesting how smoothly it works that you barely notice getting a mental image and even emotional vibes about what the dwarves are like, what the elves or goblins are like, and then have it summed up in prose.
Jason Maceda
151. Metalstorm
@73, katenepveu - He didn't think it odd to read the LOTR before The Hobbit. Of course he only read the books because he wanted to see the movies. I couldn't get him to read The Hobbit until he found out the movies were being made.
John Doherty
152. Doherty111
Your reading this like an adult. Read it like a child! It's fantasy first off and second it's a kids story, fully of silly details to make kids laugh. Things like door handle position are hardly worth a mention

I first had the hobbit read to me when I was 6 by my sister! Great memory
Kay Shapero
153. Anansii
I first read The Hobbit as a kid when home with some ailment or other when Mom brought it home from the library. It didn't make much of an impression - I'd forgotten the whole thing until I read it again as a college student. When I gradually recognized enough to first realize I'd read it before, then enough to recall when and how... and then got to Riddles in the Dark and wait a minute, I don't remember that bit At All. I'd read an early version, and this one had the changes he made to jibe better with LOTR. But they didn't extend to the whole book and there are a lot of loose wierdities like those cufflinks, and Gandalf's cavalier attitude toward that ring. It simply wasn't that important. It was my introduction to how interesting authorial changes could be, though, which later lead to things like reading the collected papers of JRRT as related to LOTR and to the Hobbit with the result that sometimes I don't recall which incidents belong to the published version. Well, a published version anyway.

Anyway, it was my daughter's bedtime story for a while, in between various things things by Terry Pratchett, Diane Duane and Phil Foglio. She liked it. :)
Kate Nepveu
154. katenepveu
IanPJohnson @ #134, I was trying to remember where folding umbrellas are mentioned and suddenly flashed on that scene in _Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade_, which got cross-wired with Gandalf somehow in my brain, and now I'll need to reboot, excuse me.

(still) Steve Morrison @ #135, thanks for the link about Tolkien's intentions.

AnotherAndrew @ #137, whether we take the perspective that the in-story authors didn't know everything when they were writing or that Tolkien didn't when he was (what in other contexts is referred to as Watsonian versus Doylist explanations), you're quite right that readers shouldn't _fault_ the works for not fitting together well. I just can't help noticing when they don't and poking at whether it might mean anything.

ElaineN @ #138, in a much more serious vein, I've never been able to re-read the first few chapters of Bujold's _Mirror Dance_. (The first time through, I almost literally read it through one eye, because yikes.)

AussieRebel @ #139, I've read _The Road to Middle-earth_ and will flip through it to refresh my memory. I have to think about picking up Olsen's book; it might be better to let people who've read it mention things in comments, rather than add another source to read on a week-by-week basis. Also it feels somehow inappropriate or like cheating. I don't know; I've snagged an ebook sample and I'll think about it some more.

PHSchmidt, birgit, Dr. Thanatos, DemetriosX, bobsandiego re: werewolves and vampires: thank you all, I am informed.

a-j @ #148, no, don't apologize, I was agreeing with you! 10 Downing's got two doorknobs for whatever reason, one at the edge, presumably to turn, and one . . . to look cool? Oh well.

bonhoor @ #149, glad to hear your kids are enjoying the read. I shall look for Bombur as comic relief!

Dr. Thanatos @ #150 re: songs as exposition, whereas on _LotR_ the songs that jump to mind are character moments (the road goes ever on) or not-very-explicable historical references (all eight million words of Earendil was a mariner, oh my gosh). Interesting.

Doherty111 @ #152, I read very differently when I was a kid and alas I can't get that back now--well, partly alas, there were some things that were better about it and some that were worse. Fortunately this book holds up to either mode!

Anansii @ #153, hey cool, you read the first edition! Yes, that would be a weird experience, not knowing it was revised. (Which Pratchett and Duane did you read to your daughter, and how old is she, if I can ask?)
Soon Lee
155. SoonLee
Dr. Cox @129: You've just reminded me that my first encounter with "The Hobbit" was not actually the whole novel but the first chapter published in IIRC "The Golden Treasury of Children's Literature", which also contained excerpts from other works. It was both intriguing & annoying at the same time, being teased by small samplers of different children's books.
Gardner Dozois
156. timwarp
Years ago, I bought a British hiking guide. When I started reading it, I realized it "read" like "The Hobbit." In other words, it had an English sensibility, a different-from-American flavor (or flavour, if you will), that added to the other-worldliness feel. I think English audiences who read "The Hobbit" and LotR miss out on this extra dimension!
Rich Bennett
157. Neuralnet
looking forward to this reread... this is the only book I ever stole from the library as a kid... horrible thing to do (still feel bad about it) but just couldnt live without it back in 3rd or 4th grade.
Gardner Dozois
158. wiredfool
Re: chapter length for a 6 yr old: We're doing 2 chapters at a shot (mostly, modulo a good stopping spot). 1 seems too short for the kiddo, 2 seems long for the reader.

Re: Round doors: There's a good shot of the mechanisim for the LOTR Hobbit Hole set here where you can see how they actually made it work. The door has hinges ~ 1 foot apart, set into a big iron bracket that's firmly attached to a large post. There's also a latch at the far corner, where the inside handle/knob is.
159. doode999
This is one of my favorite books. This time as I've been reading, I've gotten a sudden longing to live in this world. I figure if the book doesn't satisfy my longing, maybe the movie will. Hopefully one of them will stop me from trying to figure out how I would go about building a hobbit hole and living in it for the rest of my life.
Gardner Dozois
160. Jazzlet
Soon Lee @119 I imagined the engagement tablet along the lines of a calendar pad that displays a week at a time.

Ian P Johnson @134 The parasol was in use in ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and China. The folding technoloy isn't that difficult, the water proofing perhaps more so.

Dr Thanatos @145 Bilbo did like social engagements, the hall at Bagend is described as having "lots and lots of of pegs for hats and coats - the hobbit was fond of visitors" but invited guests are rather different from uninvited ones!

Kate @154 the door to Number Ten only has the middle knob as it is never opened from the outside.
Ian Johnson
161. IanPJohnson
@160: Well, that's what I was getting at. Parasols and umbrella-type devices are easy to make. But when we say "umbrella", we typically mean the kind of thing that's held over your head to protect you from rain. Which is harder, because try bringing a parasol out next time there's a downpour, and see how fast it melts.

Having an umbrella implies a whole amount of technology that includes vulcanizing rubber and other suchlike things that nowhere else in Middle-earth has.

(Huh. Consulting the Googles, it actually appears that the Chinese were the first to invent waterproof umbrellas, which were basically parasols waxed and lacquered to protect against rain. This doesn't surprise me, as the Chinese basically invented everything.)
Gardner Dozois
162. stardreamer
I just recently discovered the LOTR re-read and have been going thru that, but I'm going to stop and concentrate on this one for now because it's been so long since I read The Hobbit.

I picked up The Hobbit from the library at age 12 or 13 and enjoyed it. Either the behavior of the dwarves didn't bother me or I just took it at face value; I'd read some British kids' stories growing up, so I suspect the tone was familiar enough not to be a jolt. A year later I finally worked up the nerve to tackle LOTR (I was initially a bit put off by the size of it), fell in, and didn't come up for air until I finished it 3 days later. And somehow after that I never went back and re-read The Hobbit, although I did see the Rankin-Bass animated version. So this will be my first exposure in some 25-30 years.

I'm more than a little startled to see a few people saying, "It's a kiddie book, why are you trying to ruin it with analysis?" It strikes me as similar to, "It's a rainbow, it's pretty, why are you trying to ruin it by talking about optics?" Oh well, they don't have to read any of this, now do they?

Kate, caraway seed is the stuff in rye bread -- it has a distinct and very strong flavor, which I happen to dislike but many people enjoy.

It's amazing how much difference the music can make to a given set of lyrics. The setting in the trailer makes the poem into a lament, which I'm pretty sure is not how I read it on the page. One of the few things I remember from the Rankin-Bass film was their setting of "Fifteen Birds in Five Fir Trees," which was unfortunately identical to a silly song called "Bill Grogan's Goat" that I'd had to play for piano lessons. I hope the new movie does something better with it!

Kate, re having to force yourself to read the poetry -- do you "hear" the text in your head as you read? And if not, does it help if you read the poems out loud? I have an as-yet-barely-tested hypothesis that people who don't "hear" text while reading also have trouble reading poetry.
Kate Nepveu
163. katenepveu
stardreamer @ #162, indeed, I do not "hear" words in my head when I read! I read in some effectively-indescribable state that is neither words on the page nor pictures/sounds in my head, but somewhere in-between.

I am also not a phonetic reader--I learned to read by word recognition--which is another problem when it comes to poetry.
Gardner Dozois
164. bexalew
I think that you have to remember when reading it that the narrator is supposed to be Bilbo telling his story about his adventure, and that you get the off-comments because that's how Bilbo tends to be.
Beccy Higman
165. Jazzlet
@160 finely woven silk works quite well as a water proof in the same way that nylon does in tents, not so good if you touch it, but fine at shedding water if you don't ... and I think people used to make umbrellas using silk. No idea if silk is to be found in Middle Earth mind.
Gardner Dozois
166. (still) Steve Morrison
I've just learned of a page which has a recording of Tolkien singing "That's what Bilbo Baggins Hates".
Kate Nepveu
167. katenepveu
(still) Steve Morrison @ #166, fabulous! Everyone, go listen!
Ed Rafferty
168. BigBoy57
Did somebody up there really slag off King Solomon's Mines? Then the rest of HRH's works also? Lordy, lordy I'm swooning - smelling salts please!
Maybe I've read too many Victorian writers but - really now.
I must admit that after reading The Lord of the Rings in high school first and then The Hobbit, it was a bit much to swallow, but it did pick up after the rather weird cockney Troll episode. It certainly never got as many re-reads as TLotR did.
Kate Nepveu
169. katenepveu
BigBoy57 @ #168, I took the "waste of time" comment to be not serious, as in "spent doing things other than my obligations." But Bolg, if you are here, do feel free to correct me.
Brandon Lammers
170. wickedkinetic
I discovered the Hobbit first in the animated film. I was probably 9 or 10, and woke early on a Saturday morning and found it on TV, and watched it by myself - most of the time thinking 'this is awesome! how have I not heard of this?!' and half-wanting to wake up everybody in the house so they could enjoy it too but not being able to tear myself away....

Why I remember it so clearly, is that in spite of its flaws, the finale, with King Dwarf on his deathbed - was the first time I'd seen death depicted in a touching, meaningful way (as opposed to James Bond or the GI Joe cartoon etc etc all the good guys live and only the red-coats and stormtroopers get killed). Probably the first fictional character I'd seen killed on screen that I felt attachment and loss for.... I felt the movie did a very good job of characterizing the awfulness of war - the endless violence for no particularly good reason - I highly doubt I would have had the same reaction by reading it - and I doubt the new epic global blockbuster trilogy loosely based on the Hobbit and a bunch of stuff made-up and mixed together with appendici will have the same focus on the tragic deaths and unnecessary war of 5 armies.... I suppose there is a lesson there on the danger of power vaccuums and the inevitability of the crooked trying to take from the weak and defenseless.....

at any rate, I have always classified the Hobbit as a 'kids book' entertaining and brilliant right up there with the first few Harry Potter books - but in a totally different class from the LOTR saga that requires a more mature attention span and offers much less comic relief....

I re-read the Hobbit a few years back, and had never previously been able to picture Chapter 1 in the way I did after having the film-reference to visualize Bilbo and Bag's End - perhaps I was just in a joyful mood when I read it but I could stop laughing at how funny it was...

in addition to understanding the context that the Hobbit and all Middle Earth started from stuff JRR made up for bedtime stories for his kids - and that the Hobbit was written stand alone, and the LOTR stories were written very slowly after at least a decade of world-building and history-establishing and language-inventing and Silmarillion-theology-designing etc etc ---------- I think its also important to note that this was maybe the 2nd novel he wrote and the first that had any success, and it was designed, marketed, and had success as a 'kids book' - was not expected to be any more than that - the LOTR story was published maybe 20 years later and was not a big success at first - but really was rediscovered and became hugely populer in the 60's and 70's....

much of the Hobbit will not stand up under close inspection because all of the deep/heavy Middle Earth world-building came after
Gardner Dozois
171. Cold Drake
I love this book, it's my favorite Tolkien work and one of my favorite books period. I love it for it's adventurous, road trip style. Great characters like Beorn and Gandalf being introduced. The Elves and Men claim to the treasure before the Battle of Five Armies adds some shades of grey to it that LOTR lacked.
Gardner Dozois
172. FrodosDad
KateNepveu @#18, what Bilbo asks for twice is not an adventure, but Gandalf's pardon:
I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in business.”

“Where else should I be?” said the wizard. “All the same I am pleased to find you remember something about me. You seem to remember my fireworks kindly, at any rate, and that is not without hope. Indeed for your old grandfather Took’s sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for.

I beg your pardon, I haven’t asked for anything!

Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you.
Gardner Dozois
173. NerfHerder7
I've always assumed that the narrator/author of the book was Bilbo, and we were reading his version of the events. Granted, there are some holes in this approach, but it works for me as an overall effect. It also helps explain the difference in tone between this book and LOTR.
As far as everyone's treatment of Bilbo, I feel that Gandalf encouraged it to bring out the "Tookish" side of Mr. Baggins. Had they behaved as polite dinner guests, asking nicely for the hobbit to join them in their dangerous quest, Bilbo would have most likely thanked them kindly for stopping by and sent them on their way. I submit that Gandalf is a master at getting people to help achieve his goals.
Kate Nepveu
174. katenepveu
FrodosDad, thank you very much, I do believe you are right!

NerfHerder7, you're quite right that Gandalf does a fair bit of manipulating in this book!
Gardner Dozois
175. JohnnyMac
A note on Bilbo's pipe:

I think the long stemmed pipe Bilbo is described as smoking in the opening scene may have been inspired by the chibook of the Ottoman Turks (also spelled chibouk or chibuk). This was a very long pipe; ranging from 3 to 5 feet long. The bowl of the pipe would be set on a stand or tray on the floor.

The adventurer and writer Patrick Leigh Fermor told of encountering the chibook in the country house of a Hungarian count in the 1930s:

"Afterwards in the drawing room, my footman friend approached Count Jozsi carrying an amazing pipe with a cherry-wood stem over a yard long and an amber mouthpiece. The meerschaum bowl at the end was already alight, and, resting this comfortably on the crook of his ankle, the Count was soon embowered in smoke. Seeing that another guest and I were fascinated by it, he called for two more of these calumets and a few minutes later in they came, already glowing, before they were offered, the mouthpieces were dipped in water. The delicious smoke seemed the acme of oriental luxury, for these pipes were the direct and unique descendants of those long chibooks that all Levant travellers describe and all the old prints depict; the Turks of the Ottoman Empire used them as an alternative to the nargileh. (That sinuous affair, the Turkish hookah, still survived all over the Balkans and before summer was out I was puffing away at them, half-pasha and half-caterpillar, in many a Bulgarian khan. But Hungary was the only country in the world where the chibook still lingered. In Turkey itself, as I discovered that winter, it had vanished completely, like that khanjar and the yataghan.) "Between the Woods and the Water" by Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1986, p. 80-81.

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