Yay, we’re done with The Hobbit and are making progress with this whole thing! Not to imply that The Hobbit is inferior, but there’s probably a reason I’ve read it only 20-30 times instead of the 50+ I’ve probably read LotR. Dunno. Also, don’t you judge me for my multiple re-reads. When I lived in NW Montana from the ages of 10-17, our library was a two mile bike ride away and only open two days a week during the summer. I had to do a lot of re-reading of things to avoid having to carry my own damn books home all the time. Plus, I love this book, so that helped.
Here’s a funny thing, though. I grew up reading the copies my dad had bought when he was a kid. I just checked this morning, and they’re the second editions from 1965. What, you wanna see? FINE.
Lest you think I’m trying to show off or anything, I’m saying this for a reason. The above editions ARE NOT what I’m reading now, and apparently were riddled with typos. I’m currently reading the 50th anniversary ebook editions which have ALL THE INTROS, ZOMG! Normally I would have skipped the foreword and stuff cos I’ve read it a bunch, but this was NEW TO ME so I was all kinds of excited. I know, I’m lame. Shut up.
Past the intros we get a little bit about the history of hobbits, the Shire and why they weren’t mentioned in the Silmarillion, a nice little summary of how Bilbo came upon the Ring AND an amusing little history of pipe-weed. Because of course, that’s super important. Hee!
When the story starts, we hear a little about how Bilbo has been pretty much ostracized by the more uppity hobbits since his return from the adventures we just read about, but has been friendly with some of the younger crowd. He’s adopted his nephew/cousin, Frodo, which really pissed the Sackville-Bagginses right off. Of course it did. There’s going to be THE HUGEST PARTY THE SHIRE HAS EVER SEEN for Bilbo’s ELEVENTY FIRST birthday. That’s pretty old, even for a hobbit, so people have been talking about that, and casting furious side-eyed glares his way. It’s just not proper to live that long and look exactly the same as he did on his 50th birthday, who does he think he is?
Um, he’s the guy that’s about to blow your socks off, that’s who.
BIG PARTY! WITH GANDALF! AND FIREWORKS!
AND BLACKJACK! AND HOOKERS! AND…disappearing Bilbo? After he insults everyone? Huh. They weren’t expecting that, were they? There is a huge uproar, and we (with our omniscient narrator) get to see that Bilbo is sneaking off in the night with his dwarf caterers. He leaves the Ring on the mantle along with his will and the papers regarding his estate. Oh, wait. No, he STARTS to leave the Ring on the mantle, then absentmindedly puts it in his pocket. Gandalf shows up to see him off and IMMEDIATELY calls him on his shenanigans. Bilbo engages in a small bit of Ring lust before conceding that Gandalf is right. He leaves the Ring behind and heads out the door.
The following day, people come banging on the door to find out WTS happened to old Bilbo. They find that he’s gone forever and has left them some lovely snarky parting gifts. Tell me you didn’t giggle imagining Lobelia’s face when you saw this:
For LOBELIA SACKVILLE-BAGGINS, as a PRESENT; on a case of silver spoons. Bilbo believed that she had acquired a good many of his spoons, while he was away on his former journey. Lobelia knew that quite well. When she arrived later in the day, she took the point at once, but she also took the spoons.
17 years pass. During this time, Gandalf and Frodo become quite close, and Frodo spends a lot of time tramping around the Shire with his besties, Pippin, Merry and Fatty. Gandalf spends a lot of time hanging out at Bag-End, but waits A LONG TIME to go find out anything about/tell Frodo what, exactly, the Ring is. Then he shows up one night, throws it into the fire, and we learn that it’s the Ring of Power. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNN.
So, since Sauron has been missing his favourite accessory for THOUSANDS of years, and our old friend Gollum (whose backstory we also learn) couldn’t keep his mouth shut about BAGGINSES! SHIRE! he’s set the Nazgûl on the trail. Yeah, Frodo, GTFO of the Shire, you dummy. Oh, what’s that? You want to wait SIX MONTHS until your birthday? Well, I don’t see why there could possibly be a problem with that. Hey, who’s listening at the window? Why it’s Samwise Gamgee! A faithful servant and gardener at Bag-End, who was there before Mr Bilbo left. He’s a good little hobbit. You’ll find out why.
Frodo spends the next six months convincing everyone he’s decided to move to Buckland, and finally agrees to sell Bag-End to the Sackville-Bagginses. Too bad Otho died before he could get his greedy mitts on it, amirite?
The night that Frodo, Sam and Pippin are to head off to Buckland (Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday, September 22), Frodo overhears someone questioning ol’ Gaffer Gamgee (Sam’s da) about his whereabouts. This can’t be good, right? Turns out, it’s terrible. They learn while they’re on the road that they’re being searched for by the Nazgûl and there are a few near misses.
After one such near miss, they meet a group of wandering elves led by Gildor. Now, maybe this isn’t of utmost importance to most of you, but I feel it needs to be mentioned that Gildor is a Noldorian elf, specifically of the House of Finrod. Finrod was son of Finarfin, who was the brother of Fëanor that turned back, instead of sailing to Middle-Earth with his traitorous jerkwad brother. I talked about all of that here. It isn’t strictly necessary to know all of this, but real Tolkien nerds lose their ish over the interconnectedness. [ahem]
MOVING ON! Frodo, Sam and Pippin spend the night with these Noldorian elves, Gildor gives Frodo some advice that isn’t really advice (in the manner of elves, natch) – but does impress upon Frodo the need to GET OUT OF THE SHIRE, head to Rivendell and if Gandalf doesn’t show up, then he needs to take some friends with him. And Sam (who has always dreamed of meeting elves) has this to say:
Sam could never describe in words, nor picture clearly to himself, what he felt or thought that night, though it remained in his memory as one of the chief events of his life. The nearest he ever got was to say: ‘Well, sir, if I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener. But it was the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean.’
Oh, Samwise. There’s a reason you’re one of my favourites. <3
The following morning, they awaken to find their new elf-friends gone, but breakfast is left for them. They try to take a shortcut to Crickhollow (the location of Frodo’s new home), but end up far off course – on Farmer Maggot’s land. Frodo’s a bit frightened because Farmer Maggot caught him stealing mushrooms when he was young (hobbits LOVE mushrooms), and his dogs are supposed to be familiar with Frodo’s scent – and they know to attack if they smell him again. LUCKILY Farmer Maggot has seen some strange Black Riders inquiring after the young Mr Baggins and is aware that he should offer some assistance. Our three hobbit friends get a decent meal and a ride to the ferry, where dear Merry is waiting for them – with news that Gandalf still hasn’t shown up.
At Frodo’s new home, everyone has a nice hot bath and ANOTHER dinner (accompanied by more of Mrs Maggot’s mushrooms, aw) and Frodo worries how to tell his friends that he’s taking off on his own. He knows his mission is far too dangerous to ask them to accompany him, but it turns out he needn’t worry. They all know, and have been preparing/spying/making arrangements for quite some time. Fatty will stay behind and pretend to be Frodo, and Pippin, Merry and Sam will go along. There’s no way they’d let their dear friend head off to danger by himself, and they have EVERYTHING ready to go.
They leave the next morning, thinking to take a shortcut through Old Forest. Old Forest is thought to be a bit haunted, there are rumours that trees once moved to the edges of the hedge and attacked passersby, so the hobbits cut down the nearest trees and had a huge bonfire. The Paths seem to have minds of their own, and before long, our little group is quite lost. They sit down on the bank of a stream under a large willow and are lulled into sleepiness. Luckily, Sam suspects something is up, and is proven correct when Frodo is tipped into the stream (and held down by a root) and Merry and Pippin are swallowed up by the tree. Frodo and Sam think to burn them out, but Merry yells (from inside the tree) that they’ll be squished in half if they continue. Frodo (not thinking) starts running around shouting for help, and a strange little man in a blue hat with a “face as red as an apple” shows up to sing the tree into acquiescence.
TOM BOMBADIL! Aw, you guys, I heart Tom so much. You’ll find out why as we continue.
- First time readers – are you keeping up okay? Is everything fairly easy to follow so far, or are there things that need clarifying?
- Also for first time readers – what could be keeping Gandalf? Any ideas or thoughts on why he hasn’t shown up again yet?
- Re-readers – Frodo’s dream in Crickhollow. I think the last time I read this, I was high on Silmarillion and had convinced myself that he was talking about Elwing’s tower lighthouse instead of Tower Hills. Now I can’t remember why I was so sure. Thoughts?
- Old Man Willow – related to Ents, Huorns or neither? Why?
- Um, did anyone else [fistpump] when they read this? : “We are horribly afraid, but we are coming with you.” Man, these little hobbits. I get emotional every time. Am I the only one?
Post-script 1: If you haven’t already checked it out, I’m collecting all of the posts related to this group read on a separate page, you can find links to everything here. Make sure you check it out and see what everyone else has to say.
Post-script 2: Sorry this post took so long, I saved the draft last night, but 900 words were deleted instead of saved. :/