Lord of the Rings Readalong

I meant to read The Hobbit ages ago, but never got around actually doing it. You see, while I don’t mind fantasy, I was never a huge fan. Last summer I in fact picked up my copy of The Lord of the Rings saga with full intent to tackle it, until practically every review I’d encountered recommended to read The Hobbit first as a good introduction to Tolkien’s world. And since I didn’t actually own the book, my fantastic quest was set aside indefinitely. Until today at least…

A Striped Armchair, a wonderful blog I started following lately, provided a perfect solution to my procrastination: a readalong of all four of Tolkien’s major works. I cannot promise to follow through till the end (a Tolkien overdose, anyone?), but I do intend to participate in at least the first quarter of the event. I’m feeling extra excited, since it’s my first time officially joining a readalong and an opportunity to tame such a beast that has been intimidating me for a long while.

If you’re new to The Hobbit, do you have any preconceptions going into it?

I do, I guess. For me Tolkien was always associated with long and tedious commitment. Some people I know have been praising his works as ingenious; others have branded them as impossibly slow. It’s hard for me to side with any of these groups, because, well let’s be honest, I’ve never read any of it. I did try to get into The Children of Hurin and couldn’t get past page three. Maybe I was in the wrong mood, or maybe Tolkien scared me off with a genealogical tree that contained at least a thousand names (or something close to that). I found it was really hard for me to follow the author’s (or his son’s for that matter) line of thought. It doesn’t mean that I am somewhat prejudiced toward The Hobbit, but I have to admit that bad prior experience made it more difficult for me to commit to the book.

J.R.R. Tolkien pretty much founded the modern fantasy genre. So let’s take a moment to think about the genre as a whole; have you always loved fantasy? Or perhaps you still feel rather skeptical towards the whole idea of wizards and dwarfs and magic? What was your introduction to the genre?

As I already mentioned earlier, I have nothing against fantasy. But as the question states, Tolkien practically defined the genre, thus breeding numerous copycats who choose to work with already created rules and stereotypes instead of developing their own. After a while a lot of high fantasy novels start sounding same. It happens with many other genres, where one monumental work throws its shadow over the little guys, but it doesn’t make it any easier trying to find an original story among all that mess.

Do you have a certain plan for reading it? A few pages a day, spacing it out over the month? Or are you just going to race through it? Let whimsy decide?

I’m not a fast reader. I tend to read every word, trying to appreciate the author’s syntax and stylistic principles. So you can only imagine the pace I’m going at. I’ll try my best to finish by the 31st, that’s a promise! I guess my strategy is going to include a few pages every day, and hopefully I’ll make it “there and back again” safely…

12 comments

  1. Welcome to the readalong. I do think The Hobbit is probably the most accessible to Tolkien’s books, although I like the Lord of the Rings better. The Hobbit is just a simpler story and an easier introduction to the world. Plus, it’s often really funny!

  2. Thanks for joining us! 🙂 (And for the compliment!) I’ve never read Children of Hurin, but I can imagine a long genealogy list at the beginning of a book feeling overwhelming. I’m seconding everything Teresa said about The Hobbit. 😉

  3. justbookreading · ·

    I agree, The Hobbit is a wonderful introduction to Tolkien’s world. I have The Children of Hurin my shelf too. My husband loved it but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe I should take another look at it.

  4. Good luck to you and I do hope you enjoy Middle Earth. The characters are so lovable, imo.

    (ps welcome to WP – do check your profile for the box for your url address – it is likely blank. Fill it in and come comment on my blog; if it works, then I will be able to link from your comment and come back here! 🙂
    )

  5. @ Teresa and Eva. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity~ I read a few chapters of The Hobbit yesterday and so far I like it. It’s definitely not as intimidating as The Children of Hurin. 🙂

    @justbookreading. Thank you. At least I’m not the only one! But I am going to give the book another try sometime in the future. After all, tastes change over time…

    @Care. Thank you for the tip! I totally forgot about that option… Now, I’m hoping, everything works fine.

  6. It works! Now LOTS of readers will have an easier time finding and visiting your great blog. 🙂

  7. I wish I could start over and read The Hobbit for the first time. Ahhhh.

  8. @Beth F. I feel same way about all my favourites! lol I’m reading The Hobbit right now, and even though I really like it, I still feel like I would enjoy it so much better if I was a kid. Maybe I lost my opportunity to experience the book’s magic like most other readers did.

  9. After a while a lot of high fantasy novels start sounding same. It happens with many other genres, where one monumental work throws its shadow over the little guys, but it doesn’t make it any easier trying to find an original story among all that mess.

    Yes! This is exactly my problem with a lot of contemporary (epic) fantasy books. I keep yearning for something New and Different, or at least the old stuff used in a new way, but it’s pretty hard to find anything that pleases me. Mostly the new stuff is found in the characters and the story, not necessarily the world, but the world is such a big part of a fantasy story (even if it’s urban fantasy) that it almost always feels just a little incomplete. Mostly the good stuff seems to be hiding with another genre, like a few interesting epic fantasy-meets-pulp detective fiction books I’ve found. 😀

  10. @Anastasia. Yep, I was burned many times before. Once, somebody recommended me to read Eragon. Yes, they said, it’s an awesome book, even a bestseller. Long story short, you can see my review of it on this blog and it’s not the most flattering one.

    What kind of fantasy/pulp fiction crossovers would you recommend? I heard China Mieville did something like that, no?

  11. Oh, let’s see. The one I read last year were Doc Sidhe, which has elves/faeries and a pulp detective sort of thing going on. I think also Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem could count as a fantasy, though it’s not very epic. I suppose also Lord Darcy might count– it’s got wizards, and a detective.

    Honestly, it’s so difficult for me to find epic-fantasy-hidden-in-something else that I actually LIKE that I haven’t found much (and pulp is a difficult-edged thing that could either be really awesome or really cheesy, anyway). I think there must be more, but I’ve either flung them from my mind or skipped over them, somehow. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful!

    I have read a little of a China Mieville book before but wasn’t much into it– I shall have to try again, I suppose!

  12. @Anastasia. Thanks for the recommendations. I’m putting those on my TBR list! Doc Sidhe sounds intriguing, but of course it all depends on writing style, so I’ll check it out. Love your review, btw, really fun to read~

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