Thus began my first exposure to Tolkien's writing--to Middle Earth, hobbits, elves, and all the glory of his fantasy. You may (or may not) know that my husband is a Tolkien FAN (I mean super-fan, really. He has read everything Tolkien's written), and can you believe it? he married me before I had read the Lord of the Rings :) As a matter of fact, we read it aloud to each other on our honeymoon in Italy. I have many fond memories of sitting up late into the night, taking turns reading through the growing climax of the story. "Just one more chapter! Let's just read one more chapter!" But at the end of that chapter, we would want to read just one more. We spent whole days inside, in Rome, to read Tolkien. It was worth it.
I have read the story of Frodo and the ring twice since my honeymoon. Once for a class on the Philosophy of Tolkien (T and I ended up reading it aloud together anyway). The next time, I had started to read it aloud to Momma, during Congress last year. I thought she would like to hear the story--and being read to is always a nice treat when one is exhausted in every other sense. We made it to Tom Bombadil's house where "a golden light was all about them." I finished reading the story "by myself" (and yet, in a very real sense, still with Momma listening) and finished it in May on yet another plane ride to CA. I cried at the end. I sobbed. It is such a good story--there is much sadness, but so much hope. This time, I am reading the Lord of the Rings aloud with my sister Viv. Gandalf has just taken possession of the Palantir Wormtongue cast from Orthanc.
---I was getting my master's at Gonzaga when I first read The Hobbit, and I realized, as I sat on the plane to CA last weekend, leafing through the pages of the first chapter, I hardly remembered any of it. It must have been an exceptionally busy and stressful semester to have been so distracted as I read.
There were, of course, those points in the story which are noted in later works, which I remembered. But I couldn't remember how many dwarves descended on Bilbo's house, that he didn't know Gandalf before that morning in June, blowing smoke rings. I didn't remember anything about the Wood Elves' underground palace or even Beorn (!). Even nearing the end of the book, darned if I could remember how Bilbo and the Dwarves got rid of Smaug. So I really enjoyed reading it this time through.
I also enjoyed the different feel of the book from the Lord of the Rings. I understand the original editor replaced the word "tummy" with "stomach" in several places to make the book feel older, more mature. Tolkien, I am convinced, wrote The Hobbit for younger audiences that usually guessed.
I really think it's a story about growing up--striding out of your comfort zone and doing something courageous, using the skills you have to overcome the problems you're faced with, trusting your friends and having faith that things will work out.
Trusting that adventures come to an end and you will make it home, one way or another, safe and sound. And won't the sound of the boiling kettle warm your heart so much more, after adventure?