The Cakes Might Run Short: My First (Gasp!) Trip to the Shire

Ladies and Gentlemen!  Two guest posts in one week!  I know, it really is the most exciting.  Today, I’m lucky enough to have something by ANOTHER of my favourite people, Amy from Lucy’s Football.  Listen, Ms Amy has had her blog going for a little over a year now, and in that year she has posted EVERY.  DAY.  Yes, every single day for over a year.  As if that weren’t enough, she also (somehow) finds time to go to all this awesome local theatre AND post over at the Booksluts AND (as if that weren’t enough) she has her very own book of poetry being published in a few months.  She’s amazing, and I’m constantly in awe of her.  I asked her if she’d…wait, I’ll let her tell you herself.

~o~

Hi. My name is Amy, I’m in my late 30s, and I’ve never read any Tolkien.

Aw! Look, like a jolly grampa!

I KNOW, RIGHT? In this day and age (especially, ESPECIALLY if you self-identify as a geek), this is akin to admitting you are a 40-year-old virgin (only without the hi-LAR-ious movie hijinks) or maybe admitting you were born without a SOUL.

To make things worse, I haven’t even seen any of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not one. Not even a PART of one.

I know, Pete. Can I call you Pete? Sorry. I know. So sorry.

I don’t really have an explanation for this. I’m not the biggest fantasy fan, but I like it just fine. (I’m a gigantic G. R. R. Martin fan.) I didn’t have some sort of childhood elvish trauma. I don’t have a problem with little people or wizards. It just never happened. It never seemed like a priority. And once the movies came out, I didn’t want to watch them without having read the books first.  (I’m weird like that.)

When I was in elementary school (I was trying to remember today what grade I was in – I was thinking 4th, but the person who read them to me was female, and my teacher that year was male, and I remember that because his wife shot him to death a few years later – TRUE STORY TIME! – so maybe 3rd? 5th? I’m not quite sure) our teacher read us The Hobbit. However, since I was somewhere between the age of 8 and 10 at the time, I remember none of it. Not a bit. Other than I liked it just fine, and the person who read it to us was excellent at reading aloud to squirmy children. Not long after that, the Rankin/Bass cartoon came on TV, and I was all, “Mom Mom Mom HEY MOM we read this in SCHOOL so can I stay up and watch this?” and she was all, “well, since it’s a SCHOOL thing” and let me watch it and I got as far as the Gollum scene and was SO SCARED but I was afraid to tell her I was scared because then she would be mad at me for kind of putting this thing forth as school curriculumy when it totally wasn’t. Mom walked in and saw me cowering on the couch and was like “NOPE THIS ISN’T APPROPRIATE” and turned it off and sent me to bed and I had Gollum-nightmares for weeks.

SO not even as scary as I remember. Kind of looks like a frog. Baby-Amy was kind of a wuss.

Anyway, so I was not in any rush to read the books. Not because of trauma – listen, the things that scare me now are losing someone I love, clowns, monkeys, and stepping on squishy things in the dark while barefoot, not things in books – but because I have other things to do, and because they’ll always be there, you know? But then sj, who I love more than pudding – MORE THAN PUDDING! that’s a lot, no joke – announced she was having a Tolkien re-read (or, in my case, first read) this summer, and she would like me to join. How can I say no to sj? I mentioned the pudding, right?

I finished The Hobbit today. sj asked if I’d write a post about The Hobbit written from the point of view of someone who is fast fast FAST on her way to middle-age who’s never read The Hobbit. I said, “I like attention in almost any form. I’m in, jellybean.” (No, I didn’t say that, come on.)

You want to hear I loved it so much, right? And it changed my LIFE, and now I want to attend CONVENTIONS with, like, I don’t know, Hobbit-feet on, or whatever?

Um. No. I’m not wearing these.

Sorry to disappoint, buckaroos. I liked it just fine. I didn’t love it. I liked it solid, some parts more so than others, and that’s about it.

Now, I realize that saying you weren’t immediately swept away by one of the geek community’s sacred cows is setting yourself up for immediate derision, and most likely, in the comments of this post, I’m going to get a lot of those very stuffy “well, you OBVIOUSLY didn’t UNDERSTAND what Tolkien was DOING with the novel, you unintelligent titmouse.” OK. If you want to be that way, and it makes you feel good, I guess that’s your right. But I’d also argue that, while it is unarguably one of the most beloved books in the canon, it’s also a book. With pages. And words on the pages. And therefore, I am allowed, as a reader, to have an opinion on said book, no matter how sacred it is to a lot of people. I’m also allowed to have an opinion on The Bible, War and Peace, Romeo and Juliet, and The Joy of Cooking. As they are all books, and I have a brain, and am capable of forming opinions with it. We cool? Good, good.

Here’s what I loved and what I didn’t, as someone who is much too old to be reading The Hobbit for the first time on her own.

Loved:

Bilbo. I loved Bilbo. I loved Bilbo from the beginning, with his adorably-described Hobbit-Hole and his consternation about whether or not he was going to have enough food, and then I just ADORED him when he had a freakout when Thorin was talking about their upcoming adventure and rolled around on the floor shrieking “struck by lightning! struck by lightning!” for no apparent reason, and that made me laugh and laugh. I liked that Bilbo got roped into the adventure without really wanting to go, because there was a little adventurous side of him, and how much pride he took every time he succeeded in something.  And aw! His little homecoming, and they had declared him dead and sold off all of his stuff! I was so sad! Bilbo was a kick. I liked him very much.

Beorn. I liked big old boisterous Beorn who was sometimes a bear and could talk to his pets. I wanted to hang out with Beorn.

The earlier adventures. I liked a lot of the earlier adventures, like the Trolls, and the Wargs, and the spiders, and the Elves. They were quick and well-written and snappy. I was very entertained.

Gollum (and the whole Gollum scene). It was creepy. It wasn’t SCARY. It was definitely creepy, though. (Heads up: I do know Gollum’s history, a little. At least who he used to be. I don’t think you could live in society and not know that, back when the movies were out.) Gollum all creepin’ around in the dark wanting to eat people? Yep. Pretty distressing. I loved the riddles; I loved poor Gollum realizing the ring was gone.

Smaug’s cave. Smaug the exciting dragon, lying on a bed of ALL THE GOLD AND SILVER AND JEWELS EVER. Now that is exciting, right? Sure it is. I liked that part.

This was the cover of my book. I kept looking at it. SO PRETTY ALL THE TREASURE.

Gandalf. Gandalf made me laugh. He’s kind of a manipulative bastard, isn’t he? But he’s entertaining as hell. He’s totally in it for himself, but you cheer for him. He’s regal and awesome and tricky.

Didn’t love:

All the singing. My good gracious there was a lot of singing that I didn’t care at all about. Blah blah bliddy blah SING SING SING. Sigh.

Everything between Bilbo & the dwarves finding the treasure and Bilbo going home. Everything was ticking along like clockwork until ZOOM the action left Bilbo and the gang, moved onto “the men of the lake-town” and then we had to learn about a whole load of new people. And one of THEM killed Smaug. Not even Bilbo! Or one of the dwarves! Who we’d spent a whole book getting to know! Then there was a whole damn war! I didn’t care about a war and I didn’t care about a whole town of lake-people and I didn’t care about a fight over Smaug’s treasure. I know. This is where you’re all gasping and wanting to string me up. It’s just  that I really was enjoying the book up until this point (if you skimmed the songs) and then there’s this whole CHUNK which is pretty much the whole end of the book that I just didn’t care about. I felt majorly let down. I can’t be the only one who thinks it would be a better book if somehow Bilbo was the one who, through his cunning, triumphed over Smaug, right? And don’t tell me he kind of did because the bird that told the Bard where to aim his arrow heard Bilbo talking and that’s the only way the Bard knew where to aim, or whatever. That seems to have been by eavesdropping and not by Bilbo’s active participation. I wanted Bilbo to have a bigger hand in the denouement of the book.

How little Smaug there was. More Smaug! How much fun was his whole little conversation with Bilbo, and his little hissy fit when he was all flying around crisping things? The MOST fun. Not enough Smaug. There can always be more dragons, as far as I’m concerned. Always.

Now I am on to the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have promised sj that I will read the first one. If I feel like I do right now when I finish it, honestly, I probably won’t finish the series. But if I love love LOVE it, I’ll read the next one and play it by ear. I am totally trying to be a good geek.

Also, I’ll at least be able to watch the movies, finally. Ooh, and see The Hobbit movie when it comes out! I do so love Martin Freeman. Sigh.

Pretty, right? Makes you kind of excited?

Are you so disappointed? Now’s your chance to roast me in the comments. Let ‘er rip.

49 thoughts on “The Cakes Might Run Short: My First (Gasp!) Trip to the Shire

    • I’m actually 3/4 of the way through The Fellowship of the Ring now. I know! Fancy, right? I feel like a good geek girl and am expecting my t-shirt to come in the mail any…day…now.

  1. You have no right to have an opinion on The Joy of Cooking! No right whatsoever! I am utterly disgusted and disappointed in you, you…you titmouse! (I may have borrowed a phrase here or there.)
    No, in all seriousness, I kind of agree with you. I haven’t finished it yet…still dragging my arse through it, but I will get there in the end. My best friend, who is obsessed with Tolkien like so many others out there, tells me that Lord of the Rings is much better. I hope so, for all of our sakes :P

    • I’m only 3/4 of the way through The Fellowship of the Ring, but I’m already enjoying it more than The Hobbit. So, so far, I’d agree with your friend. I mean, it might get silly, I’m not far enough to say, but so far, it’s pretty solid.

  2. That cartoon Gollum looks really odd. It reminds me of that time I was in a boring meeting at work, and someone managed to fall asleep with their eyes open. That was freaky.

    I’ve never read Tolkein either actually. Sj posts lots of stuff about Lord of the Rings, and then I always come on here and say I haven’t read any of it. I probably kill the atmosphere every time.

    • Nah. No killing of the atmosphere. I write for a book blog, too. We like when people comment, whether you’ve read it or not.

      I remembered cartoon-Gollum being a lot scarier than this. Maybe it was his voice that was scary. I need to YouTube this part and see what scared me so much.

  3. I love Tolkien’s books, but I’ve heard a theory I agree with: If you read them by the middle of your teenage years, chances are you’ll love it. If you don’t read it before that, however, you’re probably not going to be all that crazy about them. I read them when I was twelve. My wife hasn’t read them, but when she tried, she thought they were boring. Sometimes I wonder how we’re even married. :)

    • That could well be. I’ve always said that’s the reason I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t love “The Catcher in the Rye” – I first read it way too late in life to appreciate it. This could be another case of that. (Although I really am enjoying “Fellowship” right now.)

      • Glad that you’re enjoying “Fellowship” so far. It was actually my least favorite of the trilogy, and I’d hate you to miss out on reading the rest of it just because it starts kinda slowly (although skimming probably helps). Oh, and I also don’t care for “The Catcher in the Rye,” and I DID actually read it in high school. I don’t really remember my response to it then, but I recently re-read it and thought it was just so annoying. So… you’re not the only one (though you probably already figured that.)

      • No! I ALSO hate Catcher in the Rye, and I like/loathe EXACTLY the same parts of the Hobbit you do, and I’ve read it probably a billionty times since I was about seven. In fact, I love almost nothing after the barrel escape and before the return to the Shire except for the convo with Smaug. It’s all kind of abstract after the very specific and totally awesome Bilbo-perspective.

        I think you might love the very end of the trilogy a lot. It’s one of my favorite parts. I means, after the seventeen endings. Why? Because MOAR SHIRE, that’s why. Also, sj, the truth is I love the PJ movies because of the way he did the Shire, and that is all(Why he then left OUT…but I won’t mention that.) I want to go to there.

        • I love the Shire, and everything in Fellowship (even if it is a bit silly) up through the Birthday Party. After that, I grew steadily more angry. And yes, that…missing bit. RAGEFACE

          • As someone who saw the movies and THEN read the books, I think the movie should have ended after the scene at Minas Tirith, when *mumble mumble* bows down to *mumble mumble* and then everyone bows to *mumble mumble* and the camera zooms way out (at least I think that’s how it went, that’s how I’m remembering it in my head). That spot just felt like the ending of a movie. And if you’re already cutting out a lot at the end, what’s the harm in cutting out even more and letting the movie-goers get their ending where they expect it? Yes, it would disappoint fans of the book who were expecting more, but I feel like most fans of the book already feel that way. A long denouemont just doesn’t work nearly as well in a movie as it does in a book. Or maybe it’s just me.

    • It also helps if you’re still able to approach things with a bit of the whimsy of childhood, and I think Amy’s got that in spades.

  4. I haven’t seen any of the movies, either, and I’ve made a conscious choice not to. I love the books, but I’m just not that into the potential of having them ruined by movies that probably aren’t as good. Plus they’re like eleventy-one hours long, and that’s too much time spent that I’ll never get back. I’d rather spend that time reading. ANYWAY…

    I’m glad you’re giving them a shot. That’s commendable, even if you choose not to finish them. I have a friend who is a huge SciFi/Fantasy fan, and he hates the LotR books (although he really enjoyed the movies). He says there is too much description about the land and too much singing. Apparently people love to hate the singing. Haha!

    I’m proud of you for sticking with it so far. :)

  5. I agree about the description of the land. I skim those parts, too. At first I wasn’t, because I thought it might be important, but then I realized, nope, it’s not going to come into play at all. I guess it sets the tone, but I have slow-passage ADD or something and when things get long-winded like that I zone out. Which is ironic, given how long-winded I am. I appreciate the irony. Thanks, life! Heh.

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  7. I’m actually reading The Hobbit, too–although it isn’t my first time to read it, it is the first time in many years. (I didn’t know there was a readalong or whatever it’s called.) And I agree with everything you said, especially about the singing. (Even though I get that Tolkien was very influenced by epics like Beowulf.) I stopped reading The Hobbit and read a couple of other books because I needed a break. I need to go ahead and finish it and see if I agree with you that the Fellowship is better.

  8. It’s all right to not like parts of the Hobbit and to not RAVE and RAVE about it – it’s a kid’s book. It’s just an adventure tale. Some folks like some of the adventures, some like others. (And, I have to agree with you on the whole lack of Smaug, and the battle, etc at the end. Not my favorite part, either). LOTR is vastly different!

    In my experience, many folks (mostly younger) read the Hobbit and LOVE it, and rush out and read LOTR and are all “meh” – because they are not mature enough to really grasp LOTR. I struggled with it in high school, and then re-read it in college and it was like a completely different book! I couldn’t put it down. I have re-read the trilogy every 5 years or so since then (and I am, ahem, OLD, so that means I’ve probably read the trilogy 6 or 7 times now), and each time I read it I get more out of it. Yes, some of the battle descriptions can get a bit long, but I’m not into battles, so that may be a bias.

    As for the person who didn’t want to see the movies, because she was afraid they weren’t good – I must urge you to go ahead and see them! I thought they did a masterful job of bringing the books alive! Yes, there were a couple of changes (one of which I REALLY detest), but mostly they were very faithful to the book and they are just STUNNING visually!!

    Oh, and Catcher in the Rye? Yean, meh. And I read it as a teenager. Even re-reading it as an adult – meh. But, I know it’s REALLY meaningful for some people, so I’m all for that! Just because it wasn’t my cup of tea, doesn’t mean it SUX.

    That’s the glorious thing about books – we each have the ones that speak to US! That doesn’t mean they have to speak to EVERYBODY the same!! :-)

    • One of my very, very, VERY non-fantasy friends loved the movies, and ever since I’ve known I have to see them someday, because if she loved them, I know I will. I just put a reserve on the first one at the library, which should be ready for me about when I’m done Fellowship.

      • N.B. Amy — read more at least into The Two Towers, if not the whole series of books, before you watch the first movie. Some of the events from the beginning of the second book were added to the end of the first movie (ie. BIG spoiler if you watch The Fellowship of the Ring). Without getting into the inevitable locking of horns here, I’m a Tolkien fan who loved the movies — but I would say read the whole thing first.

    • Wow, we must have seen completely different movies. The films I saw were in no way faithful, with regards to characterization, especially.

  9. Because I’m a total nerd and usually try to read The Silmarillion before re-reading The Hobbit, the latter always, always surprises me by how whimsical and “for kids” it is. Which is not to say that I don’t love The Hobbit — but then I did read it at whatever that magical young age is, after having been mightily freaked out by the cartoon version of Gollum as a child as well, so I think I’ll always love and appreciate The Hobbit for what it is. And I did find, on first reading The Lord of the RIngs, that it was so different, despite having many of the same characters and being set in the same world, that it was a much denser and deeper read, which is much more suited to an adult readership. I’ll be interested to hear whether you want to continue once you’re done with Fellowship. I think the story reaches true “can’t-put-it-down” territory in The Two Towers.

    • I think I might have to keep reading, because I’m almost done & I’m going to need to know what happens next. I don’t like to leave things unfinished. I very seldom put a book down or leave a movie or play, even when I hate it, because I always want to know, even if it’s silly, how it ends. And this isn’t silly. And there are some characters I’m really loving.

  10. I liked The Hobbit just fine as a teen and reading again as an adult. I hope I like LOTR better now, I kind of gave up on it at some point in the first book and was so relieved when the movies came out so I could find out what happened without having to read all the description. Too ADD for lyrical narrative. I am better now. Kind of. I also loved Catcher in the Rye, and didn’t read it until I was an adult.

    Twenty years ago I met someone who is as close to a Gollum as you will ever meeet. Buggy, shifty eyes, pot belly, strange verbal mannerisms, everything except the hacking “gollum” reflex. So much scarier when it is standing right in front of you. Like clowns and monkeys rolled into one.

  11. I love The Hobbit. But it was only in college that I actually read the entire LOTR trilogy, because a philosophy professor of mine recommended it. Confession (and I am sure to be pilloried for this): I really find the trilogy overrated. The Hobbit is wonderful, though. Also, fucking Martin Freeman!

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  13. Smaug was just a bit part. I think the fact that the Dwarves were fine with not dealing with the dragon as long as they got their home and treasure back was yet abother way to show that the Dwarves were not all good or all bad, to add a layer of complexity so we weren’t quite sure how we felt about them collectively, but we wanted to like them as individuals. I think that is how a lot of the world views Americans… just sayin’…
    I want to live in a Hobbit hole so bad… but I am 6 feet 4 inches… (tall… I am that tall)… so it would have to be a big one… ummm… sigh…

  14. And maybe we can cut Mr. Jackson a little slack. If you look at the sheer volume of words and number of characters, the movies would have had to have been hundreds of hours long. And there is so much subtext. How do you put that into film? Okay, I wasn’t crazy about the whole Helm’s Deep segment. The design of the keep made no sense the way he did it. And now that I really think about it, I never understood why Saruman had better orcs than Sauron, who could stand daylight and were better fighters. Oh, those Uruk Hai… (sorry, spell checker still not working… not that it would help with those words)… That is like if Mussollini had better soldiers than Hitler… or something.
    And when Pete threw in that scene where Legolas slid down the stairs on a shield like a freekin skateboarder, I hung my head in embarrasment. Just like I did when he killed the giant oliphants like Skywalker bringing down an Imperial walker.
    But I doubt we are going to see a better film adaptation any time soon.

    • Art, you know I like and respect you, but I do not appreciate being told to cut him any further slack than I’ve already admitted to. Were they pretty? Yes, almost exactly as I’d pictured them in my head. Was the casting well done? Yes, see the previous answer.

      I do not have a problem with things being cut out of movies because I understand the need for time management. What I can not forgive (and refuse to), are things being cut from the films that were in the original text to make way for new things because he “didn’t like the way Tolkien handled that” and character motivations being changed at whim so that it is not even the same story.

      I get just as worked up about crummy PKD adaptations, and there are a lot more of those, but not many people I interact with have read those books and stories, so I don’t have to have it shoved in my face how “brilliant” (not your word, but one that is frequently used with regards to these) they were, when they were not. I have a right to my opinion, and just because something is popular, does not mean I have to like or appreciate it.

      I’m sorry that this comes across as confrontational, I’m just tired of being told that I should like these just because we’re not going to see anything better.

      If you think I’m ranty now, just wait until the Dark Tower movies get made.

      • Ummm… that was sort of aimed at the world as a whole… or hole, as the case may be… I do remember your views on the subject of him who shall remain peterless… And I really only meant cut him just a little slack for the few things he did get right. But I figured many of these people have not read all your posts on Tolkien, and since I was just putting an idea out there for everybody, it was okay.
        Also, just so you know, if I ever thought you were wrong about something, I would expect that you would value my opinion even if it was the opposite of yours, but the truth is I would never just come right out and tell you you were wrong in a rude way. I am too Gandalfy to do that.
        And, I sort of thought I was commenting on a post written by a stand in.
        But I do feel ashamed… I am standing in the corner all alone, looking all contrite and pouty, glancing over my shoulder and hoping I can play with the other kids at recess, teacher…

        • Oi, now I feel like a dick. Um, yes, Amy wrote this, but she hasn’t seen any of the movies yet, so can’t comment on that. I am sorry I misinterpreted your comment. [sigh]

          Also, I think I took my frustration with the rest of the movie-going world in general out on you when I mis-read what you were saying. Again, I’m sorry.

          • Once again I have realized how much I value your friendship, because I cringed like Wormtongue when I thought you were mad at me… ha! And I always associated myself with Strider…
            Then I thought back to that picture of you that you told us to run if we saw that face…
            But you do have to let us disagree now and then, not that you aren’t always right, but that letting us be wrong is how you teach us… oh wise one…

                • I just realized commenting was still happening (was away this weekend.) I missed all of this! I’m glad making-up has happened. And no, I haven’t seen any of the movies yet, so can’t say a word about them. I was going to watch them as I read, but sj let me know that the timelines of the movies were different than the books, so I’d probably get confused/spoiled, and I hate that, so I’m waiting til I finish all three to watch any of them. Another few weeks, probably.

                  I’m weird about movies made from my favorite books. I’m usually very disappointed (sigh, Golden Compass, what a misstep), and that grows with my love for the book. I’m liking LoTR a lot, but not LOVING-loving it. So I think I’ll be ok with the movies. But we’ll see. (I’m already wary about slapstickyness. I HATE that. Yes, I know that’s not a word.)

                  • I grew up reading the LOTR books, but also John Carter, Warlord of Mars. They just did the movie, and it was such a shadow of the stories. And I still almost liked it. I am just a loyal fan, I guess.

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