The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring: So Many Questions, So Little Time #PtBiB

Behind, behind … I’m so far behind.  For a lady who was so excited about this LotR group read, I am not doing nearly all that I planned.  Thankfully, sj at Snobbery and David at As You Were are totally overachievers awesome at keeping up with this project, so you need to go read their blogs for the best summaries, great analysis of story line and characters and a round-up of the other bloggers who are much better than I in the group-participation department.  (Special shout-out here to Kate Sherrod at Kate of Mind – her blog is awesome not only in the LotR department but in general, so go check her out!)

I’m pretty sure sj and David are secretly snickering at how far behind I lag – the way the dwarves all rolled their eyes at Bilbo.  Or, I’m imagining it, because I have  a guilty conscience.  Either way, it gave me a reason to Storify something.  Apparently, I accidentally published this before it was done, but after spending about three ridiculous hours figuring out how to embed this em-effer into my blog, here you go:

  1. Last night was the #PtBiB Drink-along the Second.  We learned a lot of valuable lessons from the first drink-along; chief among them, how to nurse a hangover.  This time, I learned the importance of being ON TIME.  sj, though, learned that one Tweet too many will land you in the Twitter version of the Mines of Moria.
  2. popqueenie
    @ProfMomEsq Yupyup. Kinda wishing I was still in there.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:32:50
  3. This is, perhaps, because I suggested to Heather (@Between_Covers) that we torture sj by Tweeting glowing comments about Peter Jackson while she could not respond.  I’m just guessing.
  4. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie I … um … good morning? [backing away slowly with my coffee]
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:35:55
  5. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie You? Tired? I’m relieved actually – I was starting to suspect you had a third hand and eyes behind your head. 😉 Go nap.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:40:10
  6. Well, yes.  This is a woman who herds the cats that make up this little read-along group of ours, writes blog posts summarizing ten to twelve chapters of reading per week, writes blog posts organizing the drink-alongs (replete with countdown timers!), reads other books and posts reviews about those, mothers FOUR children (one of whom eats something like 9 waffles at a clip) – AND THIS IS JUST THE STUFF ABOUT WHICH I KNOW!!  I’m actually goddamned relieved that she’s tired, because – yes – it makes me feel better about myself.
  7. I don’t know what’s exhausting David.  Maybe its the blogging and book writing at the same time?  Maybe its his crazy wide-deep knowledge of ancient and mythical languages?  Just typing all that made me need a nap.
  8. ProfMomEsq
    <—– dragging guilt-ridden, lazy ass to blog. Damn overachievers, you two. @DavidJonFuller @popqueenie
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:59:38
  9. DavidJonFuller
    @ProfMomEsq No, no… @popqueenie makes me look like a piker.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:24:23
  10. Crap, David.  I cannot argue that with you.  I know the pain.
  11. popqueenie
    @DavidJonFuller Heh. I’m still kind of a slacker anyway, compared to some. @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:38:26
  12. Compared to who exactly?  Because I need to avoid being ever standing next to this person.
  13. DavidJonFuller
    @popqueenie Um, if you go on in this vein, I will have to kill you. How many pages have you read this week? Words written? @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:47:27
  14. David is clearly a glutton for punishment.
  15. popqueenie
    @DavidJonFuller Oi, pages read? Hang on. @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:48:29
  16. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie I’m not listening. LALALALALALALALALALA [hands over ears] @DavidJonFuller
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:50:04
  17. popqueenie
    @DavidJonFuller Just under 1000 (not including the LotR stuff) pages since last Friday. Around 4300 words written on the blog since Monday.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:55:08
  18. popqueenie
    @ProfMomEsq See how considerate I am! I removed you from that conversation so you didn’t have to see. 😉 @DavidJonFuller
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:56:06
  19. Shit, I should have said “LALALALALALALA!  I’m not looking.”  Stupid, stupid verbs.
  20. DavidJonFuller
    @popqueenie Usss! Farðu í helvíti, andskotans ófurhöfundurinn þinn.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:59:18
  21. How can I not admire a guy who can curse in Icelandic.  (Wait, is that a language? … running to Google.)
  22. DavidJonFuller
    @popqueenie I would kill you, but then I DID ask… @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 12:00:10
  23. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie I must find way to assign #LotR as required reading for legal studies students. [evil laugh] @DavidJonFuller
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 12:00:06
  24. DavidJonFuller
    @ProfMomEsq @popqueenie Have’em discuss the finer points of the treaties between Gondor and Anor, or Rohan and Mordor.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 12:03:40
Yessssssss.  And I will make them write papers about it, which I will pass off as blog posts, and then you two will NEVER catch me.  Bwahahahahaha.

So, basically, these two are showing me up. Please go read their stuff (which is terrific). Once you’ve done all that, then come on back here, and read the dissertation I’m about to write, then bring me your praise, your quarrels, your tired and restless, in the comments (which I heart SOOOOOOOO much).

Question 1:  Tom Bombadil – Why doesn’t the Ring turn him invisible?  What is his alignment?  General thoughts on his character?

Tom Bombadil by John Howe

Tolkien deliberately left Tom Bombadil a vague and mysterious character.  In doing so – he left open the possibility that Tom is good, evil or some of each.  He also left open the possibility that Tom is not a being but the physical embodiment of something less tangible – something spirit or even god-like.  The best analysis of this that I’ve read so far is in the Encyclopedia of Arda, here.

Noticeably absent from this well-done analysis of Tolkien’s enigma is the crackpot theory that Tom is the alter-ego of the Witch-King of Angmar.  I’m not even going to link you to this crap, because none of it is (in my opinion) supported by actual evidence, it ignores completely what little evidence Tolkien left behind regarding Tom’s origins and nature, and it reads to me like so much conspiracy-theory bullshit.  (Which is, of course, a highly technical term.)

When I encountered Tom Bombadil, there was nothing about him that struck me as evil.  I was, in fact, quite a bit more fascinated with his wife, Goldberry, whose origins are just as quizzical.  At least as to her, Tolkien wrote that represented the seasonal changes in the real river-lands.  (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, No. 210 (1958).)  Ultimately, I think Tom represents something akin to Mother Nature – not meteorological but botanical.  He represents the will and heart of all forests, which were once nearly all connected.  I think this explanation makes the most sense to me, because it is consistent with Bombadil’s known character traits – his imperviousness to the Ring, his power, his unwillingness to leave the forest, his companionship with Goldberry, and his existence before Morgoth’s arrival in Arda.  (See, The Fellowship of the Ring, “In the House of Tom Bombadil”) Plus, how can you think evil of anyone/thing that has a pony named Fatty Lumpkin?

Image Credit:  http://misterdavid.typepad.com/middle_earth/paradoxes-of-life/

Question 2:  Strider/Aragorn – Srsly, would a note have been enough to make you trust this stranger?

I don’t have a big fancy analysis for this one.  My answer is yes.  Given all the circumstances confronting the hobbits at that moment — the potential exposure of the Ring, Merry blabbing the name “Baggins” about, the chase of the Nazgul, the unwelcome attention of Bill Ferny, and the delivery of the note by Barliman Butterbur (albeit late – very, very late), all make this plausible to me.  Butterbur seemed none to trusting of Strider, and he vouched that the letter was from Gandalf.  In fact, Butterbur was rightly afraid Gandalf would work a terrible spell on him for the delayed delivery:

Poor Mr. Butterbur looked troubled. ‘You’re right, master,’ he said, ‘and I beg your pardon. And I’m mortal afraid of what Gandalf will say…. But I didn’t keep it back a-purpose. I put it by safe. Then I couldn’t find nobody willing to go to the Shire next day, nor the day after…; and then one thing after another drove it out of my mind…. I’ll do what I can to set matters right, and if there’s any help I can give, you’ve only to name it.

Given the option of trusting a Man for whom Gandalf vouches and continuing their harrowing attempts to evade the Black Riders on their own, trusting Strider seemed logical here.

Bert, Bill & Tom by John Howe

Question 3:  Since we just finished reading The Hobbit together – What the Snape is up here?  It took us less than five chapters to get from Bag-End to Bill, Bert and Tom – but this time ’round, it’s taking forfreakingEVER to get to THE VERY SAME TROLLS!  Why is it taking so long to cover the same distance?  Discuss.

This is the worst part about falling behind in my reading — I forget details.  There are only two things that come to mind for me here.  Bilbo was traveling with Gandalf and 13 dwarves.  I can’t remember whether they had ponies, but I do know they weren’t being pursued – at least not by the Black Riders.  So, their route was rather direct, ensured by Gandalf and the dwarves’ familiarity with the lands through which they traveled.  Comparatively, Frodo is traveling with three other hobbits, none of whom have ventured much beyond the borders of the Shire.  They are leaving in a state of emergency (as opposed to the urgency that sent Bilbo on his way), all the while pursued by the Ringwraiths, who cause them to lose their way more than once.

I actually didn’t mind how long it took for the Company to reach the trolls, especially because it resulted in the detour through Farmer Maggot’s land.  I had forgotten all about Farmer Maggot, and reading that part was like reading a new book for me, which was truly enjoyable.  This, however, marks the beginning of the end of any fondness I had for the movies.

Question 4:  How awesome are Sam and Merry?  Like, really, why are they the only ones not acting like total dumbasses right now?

I’m not sure where we are in the story when sj poses this question, but – as a whole – Sam, Merry and Pippin in the books are not the Sam, Merry and Pippin you see in the movies.  On the whole, they are not dumb or asses.  While they have their moments, the movies attribute quite a few bone-headed moves to these hobbits that were not so attributed to them in the book.  In fact, the also get robbed of really smart moments.  Merry more or less solving the riddle of the door to the Mines of Moria springs to mind here …

Question 5:  Did anyone else think Elrond’s Council was just TOO.  LONG?

For the love of Elbereth and Target gift cards, yes.

Image credit:  SingleBuilder via Flickr

Question 6:  Who’s your favourite member of the Fellowship so far?  Why?

I don’t have a favorite.  I like them and dislike them in equal parts – at least until they get past the Falls of Rauros.  After that, I’m a pretty clear dislike on Boromir.  I particularly liked Legolas when the Company was battling Caradhras.  The cold was terrible and the wind worse; snow was falling many feet deep, and the Fellowship could not move forward or back.

‘If Gandalf would go before us with a bright flame, he might melt a path for you,’ said Legolas.  The storm had doubled him little, and he alone of the Company remained light of heart.

‘If Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us,’ answered Gandalf. ‘But I must have something to work on.  I cannot burn snow.’

Aragorn and Boromir set about using brute force to clear a path through the snow for safe descent.

Legolas watched them for a while with a smile upon his lips, and then he turned to the others. ‘The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow — an Elf.’

With that he sprang forth nimbly, and then Frodo noticed as if for the first time, though he had long known it, that the Elf had no boots, but wore only light shoes, as he always did, and his feet made little imprint in the snow.

‘Farewell!’ he said to Gandalf. ‘I go to find the Sun!’ Then swift as a runner over firm sand he shot away, and quickly overtaking the toiling men, with a wave of his hand he passed them, and sped into the distance, and vanished round the rocky turn.

Coming Up Next:

I have a couple of proposed topics of discussion for the future.

First, in my copious spare time, I stumbled across this essay about – among other things – Tolkien’s view of women as reflected by the way he develops the female characters in his books.  Do you agree or disagree?  I can’t wait to write about this.

Second, the Hubs asked me this morning, “If you could bring only one character from The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings to life, who would it be?  Why?  What if you could ask him/her/it only one question?”  The Hubs just asked me this this morning.  I had no immediate answer.  But, I’m definitely pondering it and will write about it soon.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Middle-Earth Family Tree #LotR #PtBiB

Merry dol!

Fine.  I’m cheating a little.  Obviously, there are words here.  But, they’re really just a preamble to something so awesomesauce that you will absolutely look the other way at my flagrant disregard for wordlessness.  And, Wednesdays.

When sj first started talking to me about the Silmarillion (which I’ve never read), I had a very hard time keeping everybody straight.  Tolkien characters have names that rhyme, for one.  For two, they often have multiple names.  So, I actually started trying to chart it all out.  Then, David started talking about a lot of LotR back-history, and I had to futz around with the charts more.  Then, I was literally cutting and pasting paper together?

But, guess what?  GUESS WHAT!?

Somebody already made a kick-ass genealogy chart!  And, you can see it here at the Lord of the Rings Project website.  It has multiple views.  You can look at everyone, or just dwarves, or just hobbits or men.  I cannot even begin to imagine how long this took.

So, how cool is that, huh?  No, really.  I need you to quantify the coolness, so I don’t feel bad that this isn’t billable.

Wordless Wednesday: #TheHobbit

Image Credit:  John Howe (via Dana Mad Gallery)

Bilbo with Beorn by John Howe

hiding in trees

Chapter VI: Out of the Frying Pan – Into the Fire by Alan Lee (via Dana Mad)

Smaug

Scouring the Mountain by Ted Nasmith

For more stunning Middle-Earth art, visit the Dana Mad Gallery.  You can search by Topic in the left sidebar menu to find Middle-Earth artists.

Gollum v. Bilbo Baggins: Moral Choices and Undue Influence #TheHobbit #PtBiB

The group read of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy started!  We’ve finished the first five chapters of The Hobbit, and discussion of those chapters (lead by the wicked-awesome and hard-working sj) is up over at Snobbery.  Don’t worry if you’re just getting around to your reading — you can join the discussion at any time.

sj picked three particular topics for discussion regarding Chapters 1 through 5, but one stuck with me even after I gave my initial answer on her blog.  Here’s the question:

How do you feel about the way Bilbo escaped from Gollum/the Goblins?  Was he cheating?  Or did he do what had to be done?  This isn’t a question about the narrative aspects (because we know there would have been no story if he’d been gobbled up right away), but rather do you believe he could have clarified?  Stopped Gollum from trying to guess what he had in his pockets?

Bilbo v. Gollum:  Riddle or Death

Click the image to find the answer

My initial response was this (except for grammatical editing of my embarrassing mistakes that I did not properly proofread for the first time):

When I was young, my feelings about this were simple – Gollum was [a] gross, sneaky little bastard, so he got what he deserved. For that matter, so did Bilbo (especially if the alternative was Bilbo’s death.) Now, I still am inclined to give Bilbo credit for powerfully quick thinking (which means I realize now that HE was the actual “sneaky little bastard”) under some amazingly crappy circumstances. I don’t think the significance of this scene is really about a Hobbit’s moral dilemma between honoring rules and survival. Now, I think the scene illustrates that Bilbo maybe wasn’t in control of his mind at all. [I] think this whole scene (and Bilbo’s subsequent reaction to it) sets up [later] explanations about the Ring, its maker and its power. I definitely understand this now only because I know what’s coming. I guess, if anything, this whole scene is a good example of why it’s never a waste of time to re-read a good book.

When sj responded, I think she pretty much agreed with my assessment:

Yesssssssssss, Bilbo WAS the sneaky bastard here! I don’t know why I never really realized it before, but it’s fairly interesting how differently I’m perceiving things with this read.

So, I thought, Yep. Not just me. Must be right.  But, that was before David showed up.  David is an expert on a lot of things Middle-Earth.  I have mad respect for the level of research he’s done on these books and Middle-Earth in general.  (And you should check them out, here.)  Here’s what he said:

I think you can read the scene both ways (on its own, without knowledge of the Ring’s true power, and Bilbo is making a moral choice; and as an example of the Ring exerting its influence). But I feel Tolkien wrote it the former way, then retconned it while writing LOTR to fit that story.

Well, damn.  Now, I have to think about this again.

So, I did.  And, here’s the thing.  I don’t think Tolkien retconned it at all, and I also** don’t think you can separate Bilbo’s choices from the influence – however new and weak — the One Ring wielded over Bilbo the moment it touched his hand on the cold, cavernous floor.

Consider this passage:

He guessed as well as he could, and crawled for a good long way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel.  It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it.  He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; it did not seem of any particular use at the moment(Emphasis mine.)

When Bilbo and Gollum encounter one another, Gollum is ready to attack poor Bilbo and turn him into a meal but for two coincidences.  If you don’t know Gollum, let me introduce you:

Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature.  I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was.  He was Gollum – as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face.  He had a little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold.

First, Gollum was full of a recent meal so not hungry.  Second, Bilbo wielded an elven dagger with which Gollum was none too excited to tangle.  So, instead, the two decided on a battle of wits: a riddle contest.  If Gollum stumps Bilbo, Bilbo is dinner.  If Bilbo stumps Gollum, Gollum shows Bilbo safe passage out of the goblins’ caverns.

The riddles go back and forth, and it is Bilbo’s turn to ask a riddle after nearly being stumped by Gollum in the previous round:

But Bilbo simply could not think of any question with that nasty wet cold thing sitting next to him, and pawing and poking him. He scratched himself; he pinched himself; still he could not think of anything.

‘Ask us! Ask us!’ said Gollum.

Bilbo pinched himself and slapped himself; he gripped on his little sword; he even felt in his pocket with his other hand. Then he found the ring he had picked up in the passage and forgotten about.

‘What have I got in my pocket?’ he said aloud.  He was talking to himself, but Gollum thought it was a riddle, and he was frightfully upset.

‘Not fair! Not fair!’ he hissed.  ‘It isn’t fair, my precious, is it to ask us what it’s got in its nassty little pocketses?’

Bilbo seeing what had happened and having nothing better to ask stuck to his question.  ‘What have I got in my pocket?’ he said louder.

“S-s-s-s-s,’ hissed Gollum.  ‘It must give us three guesseses, my precious, three guesseses.’  (Emphasis mine.)

Ultimately, Gollum cannot guess what Bilbo has in his pocket.  When Gollum’s final guess (which is actually two guesses in one – a no-no) is wrong, Bilbo immediately assumes a defensive stance, wielding his dagger and preparing for Gollum to go back on the agreement.

[Bilbo] knew, of course, that the riddle game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it.  But he felt he could not trust this slimy thing to keep any promise at a pinch.  Any excuse would do for him to slide out of it.  And after all that last question had not been a genuine riddle according to the ancient laws.

Bilbo’s fear is well-founded; Gollum already concocted a plan to return to his island in the middle of the lake to retrieve the Ring (which Gollum had not yet realized he lost), make himself invisible and attack the unsuspecting Bilbo.

Now, let’s go back to sj’s original question:  Did Bilbo “cheat” or was he doing what “had to be done”?

Dude, you can't even cheat right?

Cheaters never prosper. Unless you’re playing Uno with Grandpa. Then, that might be the only way to win.

Merriam-Webster defines “cheating” as a dishonest violation of the rules or the use of trickery that escapes observation to gain an unfair advantage.  Bilbo acknowledges that asking Gollum, “What’s in my pocket?”, wasn’t a proper riddle under the ancient rules.  So, the riddle is a “violation of the rules.”  But “cheating” requires more; it must also involve a violation of the rules that is dishonest, that escapes observation and is committed to gain unfair advantage.  As Bilbo was struggling mightily to come up with a riddle, he — without much thought — put his hand in his pocket and felt the ring, which was forgotten until that moment.  Only after touching the Ring did Bilbo say – mostly to himself – “What have I got in my pocket?”  Bilbo didn’t ask the question intending it to be a riddle at all.    BUT — BUT! – when Gollum interpreted the question as a riddle and objected to its fairness, betraying his unpreparedness to answer such a question — Bilbo definitely capitalized upon that by goading Gollum into guessing, even acquiescing to Gollum’s demand for three guesses.  So, it’s hard to argue that Bilbo’s violation of the riddling rules wasn’t a dishonest violation even if it wasn’t designed to gain an unfair advantage.  But the last part of the definition – the requirement that the rule violation “escape observation” – that’s where it all falls apart.  Gollum immediately recognized that the question wasn’t “fair” (e.g., in compliance with the ancient rules of riddling), but he didn’t demand a new, proper riddle.  Instead, he demanded a further modification of the rule — three guesses instead of one.  So, if Bilbo was dishonestly taking advantage of Gollum’s weakness brought about by the improper question, Gollum certainly knew it but played along nonetheless (although miscalculating whether he properly compensated for any disadvantage by gaining the advantage of multiple guesses).

So, no, Bilbo didn’t cheat.  Which brings me back to my original conclusion — the entire episode is meant not to illustrate any moral or ethical dilemma for Bilbo but to foreshadow the dark power of the One Ring, even against a being of unflinching honesty or respect for rules/traditions.

To accept that this scenario involves a moral or ethical choice of any sort requires also accepting that Bilbo’s actions were volitional.  That, I cannot accept.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think it’s okay to tell you this much about the One Ring:  its power is so strong it exerts will.  It is never lost, found or held by chance but by desire.  Bilbo found the One Ring in a random dark cave, by means of a set of coincidences too numerous to mention (and even rightly to be called coincidences).  To believe that Bilbo escaped with the One Ring by choice (or a series of choices) requires not just suspension of disbelief but a complete blindness to the reality of the One Ring’s power.  The Ring wanted to be found.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it wanted to be found by Bilbo.  Go back and read the emphasized passages above.

Which brings me to the real question I think Tolkien wants us, as readers, to ponder.  Who (or what) controls the will of the One Ring?  The easy answer is Sauron, because he is the father of the One Ring and desires its return with all the power, fury, lust, greed and black-hearted desire any being is capable of imagining.  But, there is nothing about Tolkien’s story that begs an easy answer.  The most complex of human emotions are expressed in the simplest of terms, and Tolkien is masterful at writing a beautifully nuanced, complex set of stories in the voice of a grandfatherly narrator recounting tales of his youth.  And, if you know how the story of the One Ring ends, you know the answer cannot be so simple as the One Ring was under Sauron’s control.

I have to leave this analysis here for fear of spoiling these stories for first-time readers.  But, I can say that – to me – these passages evidence Tolkien knew from inception the fate of the One Ring and the fates of those who touched it along the way.

In any event, I certainly did not think this carefully about the exchange between Bilbo and Gollum on my first read.  I was too anxious to know that Bilbo would escape unharmed, and my relief that such clean escape (sans several lovely brass buttons) occurred also relieved me of any further thought about the exchange until now.

Happy reading.

**Postscript: I did not know when I first wrote this post, but have since learned, that the original version of the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter of The Hobbit was quite different.  Gollum and Bilbo played a riddle game, but Gollum did not offer Bilbo escape from the caverns if Bilbo won; Gollum offered Bilbo a present.  The “present” was to be the One Ring (although Bilbo does not at first know this).  If you are interested in a side-by-side comparison of the original chapter and the version in the editions we likely all have read, go here. I also apologize to David for stating so emphatically that Tolkien did not retcon the book.  I wasn’t aware – but probably should have researched – whether you were stating a fact or expressing an opinion.  Clearly Tolkien did so, and clearly I made an assumption, and we all know what happens to people who assume.  I fully admit asshattedness here.  I’ve made edits to the original version of this post to show where my errors occurred.

It’s Here! Putting the Blog in Balrog: Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Group Read #LotR #PtBiB

Image credit: SJ at Snobbery.

Today’s is June 23.  That means it’s time for Putting the Blog in Balrog, a group read of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  This is the brainchild of one of my most awesomest Tweeps/blog-friends, SJ over at Snobbery.  If you are interested in joining us, here is the reading schedule.  Then, read on below.

First, whether you will read these books for the first time or the hundredth time, do yourself a Gandalf-sized favor by checking out the easy-to-read, entertaining and very helpful summaries SJ wrote for the various chapters of The Silmarillion. (The Sillmarillion is the story of the birth of world, the gods, the creatures and humans we later meet as wizards, elves, orcs, hobbits, dragons, dwarves, spiders and other such magical, mystical, creeptastic things.)

SJ’s summary divides into five parts:

Part I:  Ainulindalë (Music of the Ainur) and Valaquenta (Tale of the Valar)

Part II:  Quenta Silmarillion (the Tale of the Silmarils)

Part III:  Quenta Silmarillion (the Tale of the Silmarils) (continued)

Part IV:  Quenta Silmarillion (the Tale of the Silmarils) (continued) (Now do you see why you should read the summary?!?)

Part V:  Akallabêth (The Downfallen) and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

Also, if you are (or become or would like to become) a LotR super-fan, check out David Jón Fuller’s blog over at As You Were. He will hook you up with the “Total-nerd Tolkien reading plan.”  This is a road map for the order in which you should read Tolkien’s published works on Middle-earth, in addition to The Hobbit and the LotR trilogy.

If you’d like to join us, just read per the schedule, then visit Snobbery at the end of each reading section to peruse SJ’s posts and the participants’ comments on the group read.  If you have your own blog, you can write your thoughts and point us toward them.  And, don’t worry if you can’t keep perfectly to the schedule — SJ’s posts will be there when you’re ready, and you can still leave a comment.

Personally, I am ridiculously excited about this.  I haven’t The Hobbit or the LotR trilogy since I was very young, and I’ve forgotten more from the stories than I remember.  I started reading The Hobbit early (because I cheat), and already I realize that it’s like reading a whole new book.  Now, I get the added benefit of sharing it with others who love it, too.

So, come meet us in the Shire.  Don’t forget your pocket kerchiefs or your pipe!