Open Thread

Hobbit Book Club and Open Thread!

Well, I hope some of you have taken the time to re-read this lovely book. If not, I think enough of us have read it/remember it that we should be able to have a lively discussion. I’ll start with a few thoughts; feel free to respond to mine or just chime in with your own!

  1. Female characters. You know, there are none. Absolutely zero. Not even one who exists solely to heal the heroes’ wounds or give them something to fight for. I actually didn’t notice this when I was a kid, nor when I re-read it several years ago as an adult, but wow. How does this affect your enjoyment of the book? I’m entirely too in love with it, personally, for it to really be ruined, but it does kind of put a damper on things for me.
  2. The films. For the past two weeks, the filmmakers have been releasing pictures of the dwarves, a couple at a time. Here’s a pretty good rundown of the pictures released so far. What do you think? My first thought was that the dwarves look entirely too serious. Unlike the LotR trilogy or the Silmarillion, The Hobbit had a bit more charm and fun to it. My concern is that this film is going to treat the material with as straight a face as first three films. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think we’d lose some of the whimsy of The Hobbit, which was, after all, written for children.
  3. New things. I noticed, upon re-reading last week, that this book makes it a lot more obvious that hobbits are supposed to be English. So many things that Bilbo does, says, or thinks are just so British: the tea party, Bilbo’s desire for good hospitality above all else, his concern about the proper way to address other creatures encountered along the way. It had never occurred to me how many times manners and decorum is mentioned in the book. It’s rather adorable.

What does everyone else think?

Photo: Getty

17 replies on “Hobbit Book Club and Open Thread!”

I’m a bit of a skeptic about the movie as I am about any adaptations, but the LotR ones were as well done as they come.

I never really thought about the lack of female characters in the Hobbit until you mentioned it in last week’s pre-discussion thread! It is a bit of a damper as you say, but personally I find the character set is lower in number in the Hobbit, I probably should be more bothered by it. I’m also not sure if Tolkein even considered female characters for the Hobbit. It would be nice if Belladonna Took were more acknowledged.

This link is interesting: I’m not sure if it was confirmed or denied, but here is something else that worries me: can women only really fit into Middle Earth in the role of elves, delicate creatures of light?

Overall, what I have to say is that I think the Hobbit stands alone as not merely a prelude to the Lord of the Rings, it was indeed written first. My second point is that why I love the Hobbit so much more, personally, is that Bilbo is very (excuse the pun) human: he is flawed and not the perfect hero and not very altruistic.

My mother read the Hobbit to us one summer, and I’ve loved it ever since.

You know, it never really bothered me that there weren’t any female characters. I think I just accepted that the world of the Hobbit was a male world, a sexless world, like the Tintin books (with the exception of la Castafiore). And certainly, the absence of women was better than creating them badly. Bilbo himself always struck me as a little fastidious, almost effeminate.

I’m very much looking forward to the movie. Don’t forget that the dwarves were generally serious dudes, and that much of the humour comes from Bilbo and Gandalf.

The Hobbit is to me what Pickwick Papers is to Philippa Gordon in Anne of the Island : “a book that always makes me hungry…there’s so much good eating in it.” I feel the same way about the Wind in the Willows or the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. All these authors knew how to write about food, and about British culture.

Hello my dear persephies,

I’ve quite missed the community of fellow bookish women while I’ve been on a sort of “leave” of most social networking sights and I return to ask, humbly, for some traveling tips.

I’m going to London for the Radical Foucault conference and I’m traveling with one-two other students from my school. I’d really like to keep costs down and stay in a hostel in a super sweet, accessible, safe part of the city. Do they exist?

Even if you don’t have hostel thoughts, I’d be thrilled with any London-esque traveling tips or perhaps a meet up for drinks?

I can’t help you on hostels, I’m afraid.

My two top touristy places to go in London are the National Portrait Gallery and the Wellcome Institute (both free, as far as I remember). What kinds of things are you interested in?
Travelling tip: always stand on the right, move on the left on Tube escalators. Londoners will cut you if you get this wrong (in the politest possible way).

What are your dates?

Aw thanks so much for the tips!

Tentatively Sept 7-13th ish. The conference is the 8th and the 9th. Cheap/free is definitely what I’m into. I’m basically traveling on student loans only (stupid graduate school), so keeping the costs down is imperative.

Are you living in London now or did you travel there?

Okay, I will admit (insert hangdog expression) that I didn’t re-read The Hobbit for this discussion. But I have read it at 7-8 times since I first picked it up 25 years ago. I have also read LOTR at least a dozen times and I can distinctly remember the first time I read it with ‘grown-up’ eyes. I was amazed to find myself having negative reactions to something I had thought so perfect because of the roles of women in the books. I just don’t think I would feel the same way about The Hobbit. The LOTR is very heavy and serious, and the chauvinistic portrayal of women is just as serious. The Hobbit is whimsical, and like you said, written for children. I take that as – not to be taken seriously. I don’t think the absence of women would have much of an impact on me. But, of course, I’m going to have to go read it today with my feminist deconstruction glasses on. I’ll get back to you this weekend – k?

I am purposely ignorant of the movie and intend to stay that way.

I always thought Bilbo’s extreme attention to manners added to his ‘quaintness’ and highlighted his somewhat bumbling naivete. This all added to the whimsy of the book.

I completely agree with your concern about a loss of whimsy in this film. The Hobbit is, even in its scary parts but perhaps with the exception of the war at the end, a fanciful journey story. I’m teaching it this year to my 6th graders as part of a year on “the journey”. Thoughts or ideas on teaching it?

Having just recently visited the UK on my honeymoon, I, too, see the British-ness of it. My husband and I also noticed that the landscape was so much like the feel and landscape of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire – it was uncanny. Being from the states, and as a kid reading the book, I always had trouble with the dimensions of the landscapes of these books. Now having been to the places that Tolkien was using as reference it all makes more sense. We drove all through these two counties and over to the Brecon Beacons in Wales and were amazed at how close everything was – just like in the books. We really enjoyed pretending we were in the books on the trip!

As far as the lack of women, I have thought about it as an adult and it does make me sad. I’ve had this conversation with my brother-in-law and he tends to apologize for Tolkien – he went to all-boys school, he was an Oxford don and didn’t see many women, no daughters, etc, etc. I don’t buy it really and it is a frustrating part of an otherwise lovely and beloved book.

I don’t know, I think there’s plenty of whimsy in the dwarves’ costuming. James Nesbitt in that link, for instance – the hat! And the screenwriters did inject a lot of humour into LOTR that just wasn’t really in the books – I wouldn’t be particularly worried about that either. My guess is that the dramatic/dark moments are going to be a lot more so than in the books (the film isn’t aimed at children) but the humour and charm will be there as well.

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