This week (just pretend I posted the first part of this series a week ago, and not yesterday), the questions are being asked by Lynn and some weird dude (i.e. me). They focus on the middle third of the book, from meeting Beorn to meeting the dragon, Smaug – so an action packed few chapters. Again, feel free to join in the conversation here on my blog, or by heading over to Writers’ Bloc, the lovely people who are hosting and running this group-read.
The answers to the questions (yes, I’m answering my own questions too) will be in italics, as last time.
1. If you’ve already read the LoTR (or for that matter seen the film) what do you make of The Hobbit so far as a prequel to that book?
I’m finding myself becoming particularly interested in The Hobbit when I discover things which begin to explain aspects of LOTR, such as seeing Gollum and the ring. At one point I even went back and looked into who Gimli from LOTR was related to, figuring it had to be one of the dwarves from The Hobbit, and sure enough it was – he’s the son of Gloin. Overall, I find it interesting to see the way Tolkien’s ideas are forming in this book, where they hadn’t really formed to the complicated extent which they would over the twelve years he would then spend writing LOTR, which was initially meant to be a much shorter sequel to The Hobbit, until he switched the focus to the ring itself.
2. I haven’t found the writing in The Hobbit overly descriptive, it’s written almost in a way that takes it for granted that the reader will bring a certain element of knowledge to the reading. Have you enjoyed Tolkien’s style of writing? Does it make it easy for you to imagine the world that he’s come up with?
Overall, yes, I do like this style of writing – not over describing, and leaving some elements up to the reader’s imagination. I think this aspect of his writing also makes it worth reading this before seeing the films later this year, because at this point we can all still come up with our own interpretations of his world, but once we see the film, it’ll be hard to divorce that interpretation from the reading if we don’t already have our own ideas.
3. Well, it’s been far from an easy journey. The stretch through Mirkwood was particularly hazardous – although I’m a bit puzzled about the names – Flies and Spiders. Spiders yes, but flies?? Anyway, given the situations that they’ve faced so far, which one would be your worst nightmare?
I’m guessing with that chapter, the dwarves and Bilbo were the flies? I’ve got to admit, being attacked by giant spiders would be pretty horrendous, but then if you had an awesome sword that terrified them, that’d make it more fun, too. I think going downstream trapped in a barrel would be horrible, just the sheer claustrophobia, and lack of certainty about whether you’d survive, or where you’re even going.
Matt’s (my) Questions
4. In Chapter VIII, “Flies and Spiders”, there is a moment when Bilbo kills his first giant spider, and something in him changes – he seems to make this dramatic and instant transformation from whiny, annoying hobbit to heroic slayer of beasts of burden. Do you think this transformation is too quick or forced, or too unrealistic (as far as realism goes in a forest with giant spiders)?
I guess this is sort of hinted at in earlier chapters, when he escapes a couple of situations on his own, without the help of Gandalf or the dwarves. But he is still whiny and annoying. When he kills that first spider and changes, it does seem too sudden really. But, on the same note, it’s good to finally find him more likeable as a person, so it’s somewhat a fair compromise, I suppose. And I am probably being super picky, too.
5. On the topic of heroism, it seems a major idea in this book is that anybody can be a hero – Bilbo is a very ordinary person, living and longing for an ordinary life, yet he does have heroic traits in him which appear when they are finally needed. Do you agree with this idea? Can anybody be a hero? Could you rise up if you were put into this situation, or is there even a way of knowing without putting yourself into such a situation?
I think it’s very true. We can all be heroes when we need to be. I think many of us often are, at least a few times in our lives, even if we don’t realise it, even if nobody else realises it. Just because you aren’t celebrated in stories, doesn’t make you not a hero. Part of life is being confronted by seemingly impossible and impassable situations, and finding a way to overcome them, and when we do, we always feel a little bit different. Bilbo’s story is obviously a more dramatic manifestation of this, though. And I don’t think we truly know how we will handle such situations until we are in them (war is a classic example of this).
6. For me personally, I have found chapters VI to XII much more interesting than the first part of the book. Have you found them more interesting, and if so, why exactly do you think so?
Ooops, I meant to write chapters 7 to 12, not 6 to 12. Anyway, I’ve found them more interesting mostly due to the lack of Gandalf. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an awesome character, but there were a few instances of very near deus ex machina in the story, where everything was about to go wrong, and then ta-dah, Gandalf magically saves the day! Lame. Once he goes, Bilbo is forced to grow into a new character, and the threats in the story feel more real and menacing. Also, they finally get to Lonely Mountain and meet Smaug, which is when the action really starts. Hooray!
That’s it for this week. We’re on the home stretch now, and the final part of this group read will be up next weekend. In the meantime, feel free to leave your thoughts on the book and these questions.