Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

In my Goodreads review of The Hobbit, I said “In short: if it weren’t for reading The Hobbit back in the fifth grade, I would be a completely different person than I am today. A worse person, I think. So it should not surprise you that I do not have a bad word to say about it.”. And that’s entirely true.

The Hobbit is a a very special book. It’s a children’s book that, as an unintentional prequel, leads into a much larger and more adult world. It was written by an academic who invented languages for fun and had a strong intellectual understanding of fantasy world-building. It’s a small window into an enormous fictional world that Tolkien spent his entire life creating. And, of course, it’s a delight to read.

I like returning to Middle-earth every once in a while: in my schoolboy days, I would read The Lord of the Rings once a year. These days, I don’t visit quite that often. But it’s still nice to make the trip on occasion.

This year, of course, Peter Jackson is expanding on his excellent film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings with the first of his films based on The Hobbit. Though his films are excellent, Mr. Jackson has been known to take certain liberties with his adaptations. In The Lord of the Rings, some of these changes were necessary to make the story work on screen while others were malicious mischaracterizations that served to show that Mr. Jackson didn’t actually understand or appreciate the source material.

Thus, it is necessary to know the content of the book before seeing the movie so you can have the proper context to decide if Mr. Jackson is a brilliant filmmaker or an insipid hack — or, as it turned out in The Lord of the Rings, if he alternates between being both and neither every few seconds.

That’s why I’ve decided to refresh The Hobbit in my mind in advance of the film’s December 13, 2012 release date. There’s about half a year to go which should offer plenty of time for reflection on the work without too much opportunity for things read to fall back into the uncertain mists of memory.

And, because I felt the need for a project, I’ve decided to really pay attention as I read it and write about the book chapter-by-chapter. This project is clearly inspired by the great re-reads hosted on Tor.com. It works well there and I think it will work well here as well.

If you’d like to read along (and I really hope you do! We can all exchange links on our blogs and it will be just like a mid-nineties webring!), I’ll be reading “An Unexpected Party” this week with the post for that chapter to appear either Sunday night (June 10) or Monday morning (June 11). I’ll read a chapter a week after that with new posts appearing on Sunday or Monday (depending entirely on how long it takes me to think of something to say).

I’ll assume that everyone has some familiarity with The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Middle-earth in general, so I’m not going to worry about spoilers if it seems useful to link something in an earlier chapter to something that comes later (or earlier in the case of things from The Silmarillion).

I’m looking forward to this. If nothing else, I’ll end it by having read The Hobbit again. And I’ve never regretted that before.

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