Friday, November 16, 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Day 5: Chapters 17-19

All week we have been reading J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit together here at the Inkpot. Today is the grand finale, the end of the journey, where we read the final chapters and finish our Hobbit reading adventure.

It's been a marathon week of reading - (and writing for all those involved in NaNoWrMo) - and today we cover how Tolkein ended his classic. Personally, it's made me hugely excited about the first of the three Hobbit movies, Unexpected Journey.  Unfortunately, we have to wait until July 18, 2014, before we see these chapters on the big screen in the third and final Hobbit movie, There and Back Again, but we have the book so we can hungrily anticipate Jackson's magical movie interpretation knowing how it ends.

Briefly, in Chapter 17, The Clouds Burst, Bilbo's plan has backfired. Not only does the appearance of Bard, the Elvenking and Gandolf with the Arkenstone incense Thorin against Bilbo, but it incites him to call for dwarf reinforcements. Thorin has such treasure-lust that he refuses to honor his deal with Bard and chooses to fight instead. With true Tolkein genius, the stakes are raised when the armies of dwarves, elves and men are forced to unite against the Goblins who turn up with their chilling sidekicks: bats, wolves and Wargs. At the beginning of the chapter Bilbo courageously owns up to his part in handing over the Arkenstone, but by the end of the chapter Bilbo is our loveable coward again - hiding under his ring of invisibility as the battle rages, and Bilbo gets knocked out cold. 

Chapter 18, The Return Journey Tolkein as omnipotent narrator has Bilbo rescued, reunited with a repentant and dying Thorin, and tells us how Beon in bear form, along with the eagles, saved the day and routed the goblins so their defeat was absolute (well, almost). And so, Bilbo, Beon and Gandolf head home and our omnipotent narrator saves us a hundred pages or more by summarizing the journey back to Rivendell.

Chapter 19, The Last Stage (can we bear it? The FINAL chapter.) Here Tolkein indulges in Elven songs and an informative rest stop with Elrond before Gandolf and Bilbo move on to retrieve the buried gold from their encounter with those three delightful trolls, Tom, Bert and Bill, and then travel to Hobbiton. Instead of a quick happy-ever-after ending, Bilbo arrives home at Bag-End, Underhill, to find the scrumptiously named Messrs Grubb, Grubb, and Burrowes auctioning off his possessions on behalf of Bilbo's conniving cousins, the Sackville-Bagginses. There's nothing more satisfying than Bilbo arriving home just in time to thwart these sneaky Sackville-Bagginses' plans to move into his most cozy hobbit-hole.

And just when we thought it was over after our narrator tells us all about Bilbo settling back into his content, not-quite-respectable Hobbit life, who turns up again but Gandalf (who is habitually enlightening when it comes to backstory and information) with Balin. They fill us in with an all-is-well follow-up from the lands of the Mountain, and Gandolf gives a profound reminder to Bilbo that much more than luck was at work throughout his adventure.

For Discussion:
When I picked up my old tatty copy of The Hobbit after 20 years (gasp, did I say 20 years?) for this weeks' read-along, I was struck with how much of the story I had forgotten. At 13 yrs-old I had struggled to get into it, but on my third attempt I got beyond the first chapter and couldn't put it down. I fell in love with the story, and The Hobbit is still one of my all-time favorite novels. It was great to read it again, and yet, my honest opinion is that Tolkein's writing would never be acceptable to an editor today. What do you think?

What impact did your first reading of The Hobbit have on you? 

And how did you like Tolkein's ending?

I hope you enjoyed re-reading The Hobbit and spending time with us here at The Enchanted Inkpot as we've discussed it. Can't wait to hear from you - and come back and let us know what you think of the movie. I'm a huge fan of Martin Freeman so consider him a rather dishy Bilbo Baggins ... but that's a whole new topic entirely!

Pippa Bayliss (the short and non-hairy-footed honorary Hobbit. Second breakfasts rock.)


  1. Interesting comment about Tolkien's writing, Pippa. The narrator does have a very cozy and confidential tone--in places, a little bit condescending, the way people used to write for kids. Also he does tend to meander a bit.

    Nevertheless, the book is utterly charming, and the narrator has a distinct personality. Bilbo is a completely consistent character: Brave when he has to be but, as you say, with the sense to hide himself when the battle starts. I'm so glad he didnt' turn into a mighty warrior!

    I loved the ending. It was very satisfying seeing the Sackville-Bagginses get their commupance (although not nearly as satisfying as the end of LOTR!) and I loved the clear indication that Bilbo was back in his element, passing the tobacco.

  2. My gosh, Pippa, you and I have nearly exactly the same Hobbit story (except I reread it last winter with another blog's read-along)! My copy was also EXACTLY TWENTY YEARS OLD, much battered, and I'd gotten it for Christmas when I was 13. I'd been skeptical at first-- "REALLY?" I thought, "I'm supposed to be interested in a story about a FUSSY MIDDLE-AGED MAN? Who is very short and has hairy feet but still." And then I got suckered in. (This initial reaction is doubly amusing to me now, because I am ALSO a HUGE, huge Martin Freeman fan-- actually I have the world's most horrible crush on him-- and I can't imagine what 13-year-old me would think about that! She'd be horrified I suppose). And I ALSO was struck by how much I'd forgotten on this last reread-- specifically, I somehow had NO MEMORY WHATSOEVER of the last three chapters. I'm SURE I'd READ those chapters, once upon a time, but it was still like reading a completely new book!

    I've never been SURE about Tolkien's writing, but I think it's a little like other Very Popular Books where people are like "but the writing's not even that GOOD!" The characters and the story and the world are compelling enough to be obsession-causing nonetheless. Harry Potter was the same way. But it's true the STYLE is old-fashioned also, but it's LASTED, which is more than can be said for most children's books from long ago. And it makes an excellent read-aloud.

    Oh, and I also consider myself a non-hairy-footed honorary hobbit. KINDRED!

  3. Most awesome! Thanks so much for sharing - and I think you are my new bestie. Oh yeah, KINDRED.

  4. I think all copies of this book must be tattered! Everyone in our family read it. Friends who didn't have a copy of their own borrowed ours. We thumbed through the pages to find the parts we wanted to revisit and relive. For a few years, my youngest demanded second breakfasts. We had them. :-) Everyone became involved with the adventure, so this book--probably more than any other I remember--became a real part of our lives. It was so great to see your posts and find the story again.

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