Friday, November 16, 2012

The Hobbit: Week Two

"We must not miss the road, or we shall be done for."

The Hobbit audiobook cover
As a participant in the "The Hobbit" Read-a-Long instigated by Unputdownables, this week we read chapters three through five.

I am so glad I'm listening to this in audio.  Even though I can read the eBook much more quickly, being told the story seems to be the ideal experience.  Chapter III has a lot of great place names that add to the appeal of the storytelling - the edge of the Wild, the fair valley of Rivendell, the Last Homely House, the Misty Mountains... it makes me feel nostalgic despite never reading this as a child.  Maybe I am also remembering my summers spent playing in the woods and mapping out my own kingdom.

Another thing I love about the storytelling is the obvious foreshadowing.  It builds my anticipation as a reader that something exciting is certainly going to happen, and soon.
"That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves: you don't know how far they go back, sometimes, or where a passage behind my lead to, or what is waiting for you inside."
What is even better about that tiny little statement is that the reader may think that it was resolved when the goblins attacked, but chapter V has Bilbo Baggins meeting Gollum for the first time, far deeper into the caves.  The goblins seem inconsequential by the time this happens, because everyone knows the ring and Gollum are the root of the story.

I did end up with a few questions/observations about the creatures in The Hobbit, and I'm hoping the few readers of my blog can help me out.

1. What is the difference between a troll and a goblin?  Trolls threatened early on, talked about eating the dwarves, and they got past them.  The goblins seemed similar.  I don't see a difference in fear, although the goblins seem to be smarter or at least act more rapidly.  Any insight?

2. I was surprised to read Gollum described as "dark as darkness" since the movie version has him pretty much pale as snow.  I wonder if people who were avid fans of the book were bothered by this change.  Maybe it doesn't matter.  It is clear that Tolkien describes him this way to make him practically invisible in the cave, even without the powers of the ring.

3. Gollum is scarier than I expected.  He eats goblins, after all.  Chomp.  I always found him a little pitiful in the movies, rather than threatening. 


  1. 1. Size. Trolls are very large creatures with thick, almost impervious skin. Like giants almost. Goblins are smaller than humans, almost like a twisted dwarf. (Orcs, seen in LotR, are super-sized goblins, as tall as a man.) Goblins and orcs don't like the sun, but they can survive in it. Trolls cannot.

    2. No, I've heard a lot of complaints about changes from the books to the movies by Tolkien purists, but I never heard any book purists complain about the change to Gollum's appearance in the movies. I don't recall the passages specifically, but "dark as darkness" could be interpreted as a metaphor for how twisted and evil Gollum has become and not a literal description of his skin color. It probably makes more sense that he's pale anyway since he lives underground in nearly complete darkness. Besides, there are racial overtones if you make Gollum have dark skin that a modern filmmaker would probably best want to avoid.

    3. Bilbo is alone and lost in the darkness, and he meets a cannibalistic and loathsome creature. It's supposed to be a little scary. Gollum only becomes pitiful when you learn more about him and how he came to be that way, but you're not at that point in the story yet.

    1. Interesting about the size difference between goblins and trolls. They seem so threatening in the caves that my brain magnified them. They were snatching dwarves, and dwarves are huge. (I appreciate your feedback, Ed!)


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