Over the last couple of weeks, roughly, the guys over at Writers’ Bloc have been hosting a group-read of The Hobbit, a book which I have never read before (shocking, I know). Essentially, we’re reading a chapter a day, and at the end of each week some of us are taking it in turns to ask questions to the other readers based on the chapters read in that week. I am part of the
interrogation team discussion leading in week two, and those questions will be posted up later this weekend, but for now, I need to go back and answer the questions from week 1, which can be found here (but which I will also show on this post).
Feel free to join in the discussions if you have read the book before, either through comments on my blog or particularly at the Writers’ Bloc page (which you should definitely visit and join in the fun).
1. In the book Bilbo gets visited by 13 strange dwarves, and just lets them in to eat his cakes and drink tea. In the modern world it would be really weird if people just started barging in your home. Why didn’t Bilbo just tell them to go?
I guess because Bilbo was just flustered, and they were pretty insistent. Also it was clear Gandalf had something to do with it, and I suppose I wouldn’t want to mess with a wizard on any level, unless I was one myself. Interestingly, it reminded me of an old Monty Python sketch (I say this about far too many things), where people kept barging into a man’s home right as he was about to seduce a woman who he was with, and slowly but surely his house turns into this party, and when he tries to throw them out they accuse him of rudeness and eventually shoot him, continuing to party. Of course it’s all very silly, but kind of funny all the same. Anyway, back to the question, I guess it hints at a time long past, where hospitality would extend even to strangers barging into your home. These days most people would just call the police.
2. Where would the dwarves and Bilbo be if Gandalf wasn’t with them? It’s seems to me that it’s him who saves them from the scary situations.
It does seem a lot that way, and I’m pretty sure that Gandalf “having to leave them for business down south” in later chapters was Tolkien’s way of making the story more interesting by taking out the character that keeps saving everyone too easily. I actually think for me, as much as I love Gandalf, the way he kept saving them almost made the first few chapters kind of predictable. But without him, they probably wouldn’t have gotten very far.
3. Bilbo plays a game of riddles with Gollum. He ends up winning by asking “What have I got in my pockets?”, which Gollum is unable to answer. Do you think it was a fair, as it wasn’t actually a riddle?
I guess it’s technically not fair, as Gollum shouts, but then neither was stealing his ring. Nor does Gollum do a lot of fair things in his story through Tolkien’s various tales. I figured if I was in Bilbo’s shoes, I would have done the same.
4. For those of you who haven’t read The Hobbit before, is the tone of writing one you’d expect from a book that has been loudly proclaimed as a classic? And for those of you who have read it before, how did it feel – like coming home to a much loved book, or were you surprised by how much you’d forgotten?
For me, as a first time reader, yes and no. It does feel like a classic, it does feel like a children’s book in some ways, but frankly, the first few chapters I really struggled with. I expected it to be gripping from the start, but it only became really interesting about the point Gollum and the ring came into it. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for such a book, I’m not entirely sure. I think as the book goes on, yes, the tone of writing does seem to fit, but it does also remind you that this book was written in the 1930s, unlike a lot of other fantasy literature. Having said this, I think this slightly older tone fits the genre much better, once you become used to it.
5. We’ve seen quite a few songs so far. Do you pay attention to them, or do you skip them altogether? Do you like how silly they are, or do you think them an interruption?
I do read the songs actually, and quite like them. They make for a nice break from some of the writing sometimes, and often can be quite menacing at the right moments, and also quite funny at other moments. I think reading this book without reading the songs is like reading a picture book without reading the accompanying words – you can still make sense of it, but it isn’t as fulfilling.
6. What has been your favourite scene, so far?
In the first six chapters, my favourite scene was probably the riddle scene. Apart from the familiarity of Gollum and the ring, I found this scene just more entertaining, and it’s the first time Bilbo has to think on his own two feet. It’s also the first time he shows any sense of heroism or initiative, or even just a backbone.
So there we have it! Tomorrow, Writers’ Bloc shall post up my questions on the next six chapters, which I shall then also blog about on here, and answer myself.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts?