We’re reading The Hobbit in May, aloud to Z-baby, and Betsy-Bee is reading it to herself. I thought I’d blog about our journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain and home again along with Bilbo and the twelve dwarves and Gandalf the Wizard.
I found a few old favorite quotations as we read the first chapter:
Of course, there the opening line, which my annotated edition of The Hobbit tells me is now so famous that it’s included in Bartlett’s: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirt, 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.”
I’ve always enjoyed this exchange between Bilbo and Gandalf:
“Good morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.
“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.”
Then there’s this lovely exclamation from Bilbo: “Confusticate and bebother these dwarves! Why don’t they come and lend a hand?” Such a useful but fairly gentle imprecation!
This chapter also features two classic Tolkien songs: Chip the glasses and crack the plates! and Far over the Misty Mountains cold. I think Tolkien was, if not a poet, at least a competent and enjoyable lyricist. I wish I knew a really good tune to each of these songs. I’ve heard them sung on our cassette tapes of The Hobbit, but the tune there doesn’t stick in the mind.
Z-baby said that if all those dwarves showed up at her house, uninvited, she would have told them to get lost. Z-baby is not usually at a loss for words or suffering from any lack of confidence. Perhaps her assertiveness comes from being the youngest of eight. She has no choice but to assert herself.
Did you know that Belladonna Took, Bilbo’s mother, is the only female character named in The Hobbit? I wonder what Peter Jackson, et. al., will do with that lack of female characters in the movie? I’d just as soon they left it alone and made an all-male movie, but isn’t that against the Rules of Hollywood? Even war movies have to have a romantic interlude, right?
Bilbo serves seed-cake at his “unexpected party,” a delicacy that the book tells me is “a sweetened cake flavored with caraway seeds.” I poked about a bit for a recipe and found out that seed cake is an old British bread that originally did not have any sugar in it. However, I think a poppy seed cake, even if it’s not so authentic, sounds better than one with caraway seeds, so I think we might try out this recipe.
The girls, of course, had questions as we read:
Who is the Necromancer?
What are smoke rings?
Answer: RIngs of smoke that come out of a pipe. But I have no idea how to produce them since I don’t smoke a pipe.
What are runes?
Answer: Elvish writing that looks like calligraphy and is somewhat mysterious. I was able to connect the word “runes” to the poem we are memorizing, The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe, in which Poe says the bells are ringing in a “sort of runic rhyme.”
Z-baby wanted me to print out a copy of Thror’s map for her since she likes maps “just like the hobbits do.”
Maps of Middle Earth, including Thror’s Map.
As for me, I’m feeling rather Tookish today after reading the first chapter of this old favorite. How about you? Any adventures in your life this fine May?