Tomorrow is J.R.R. Tolkien Reading Day (Mar 25, 2015)! I’m still working out what it is I’m going to read and write about. As I prepare this post–and as you tuck yourselves in to a great book tonight and tomorrow–I thought I would link some of the Tolkien posts I’ve done over the last few years.
Enjoy, please share, and be sure to link your on #TolkienReadingDay posts.
When the teaser trailer of the third film, The Battle of Five Armies, was released, I wrote “Faint Hope for The Hobbit.” Although it is clear in the trailers that this is a war and intrigue film, I still had some hope I would enjoy it. The huge comment section shows in that post shows that not everyone agreed it was possible!
My review of An Unexpected Journey captures the tug back and forth I feel about the films. I called it, “Not All Adventures Begin Well,” and it is a much more positive review than many of the hardcore Tolkien fans or academics. And it gives this cool dwarf picture:
“What Have We Done?” These words are breathed in the dying moments of the second installation of The Hobbit adaptation, The Desolation of Smaug. In this review I think about what it means to do film adaptations. While I do not hate this Hobbit trilogy, I think that Peter Jackson just got lost a bit.
When I finally got to The Battle of 5 Armies, I decided it would be fun to do a Battle of 5 Blogs. 5 other bloggers joined it, making it a Battle of 6 Blogs! But the armies are pretty tough to count anyhow. I titled my blog, “The Hobbit as Living Text.” It was a controversial approach to the film, I know, and people are still commenting on it (agreeing and disagreeing with me). Make sure you check out the other reviewers link here. Some of us chatted about the films in an All About Jack Podcast, which you can hear here and here.
There was no greater friend of The Hobbit in the early days than C.S. Lewis. In “The Unpayable Debt of Writing Friends,” I talk about how, if it wasn’t for Lewis, Tolkien may never have finished The Hobbit, and the entire Lord of the Rings legendarium would be in an Oxford archive somewhere. Lewis not only encouraged the book to completion, but reviewed The Hobbit a few times. Here is his review in The Times Literary Supplement.
Lewis is not the only significant reviewer of The Hobbit. When he was 8, my son Nicolas published his review, just as the first film was coming to the end of its run. When I was posting Nicolas’ review, I came across another young fellow–the son of Stanley Unwin, the first publisher to receive the remarkable manuscript of The Hobbit. Unsure how children would respond, he paid his son, Rayner, to write a response to the book. You can read about it here: “The Youngest Reviewers Get it Right, or The Hobbit in the Hands of Young Men.”
I realize as I do this survey that I haven’t written a review. That’s okay: C.S. Lewis and my son are better sources anyway.
The Read-Aloud Hobbit
One of my first digital exchanges was participating in The Hobbit Read Along–you can still see the great collection of posts online. As I was doing this shared project, I was reading The Hobbit to my 7 3/4-year-old son. It was a great experience, but I made the mistake of doing accents to distinguish characters early on in the book. That’s fine when you’ve got oafish trolls or prim little hobbits. But a baker’s dozen of dwarfs stretched my abilities! You can read about my reading aloud adventures here.
In reading aloud I was really struck by the theme of providence in The Hobbit. I’m sure others have talked about it, but “Accidental Riddles in the Invisible Dark (Chapter 5)” is a great example of that hand of guidance behind the scenes. I’ve written other Tolkien Ideas reflections, like “Let Folly Be Our Cloak: Power in the Lord of the Rings” or “Affirming Creation in LOTR,” but this idea of providence is the most powerful to me.
Hobbit and Art
I am fascinated by Tolkien’s own artwork. In some of the Tolkien letters we find out how his humble drawings came to be published with the children’s tale. I decided, though, that I wanted to explore it a little more, and so I wrote, “Drawing the Hobbit.”
There have been many other illustrators since–including Peter Jackson. One of my favourites was captered in this reblog, “Russian Medievalist Tolkien“–a gorgeous collection of Sergey Yuhimov’s interpretation of The Hobbit.
With the great new editions of unpublished Tolkien by his son, we also get to see some of Tolkien’s original art. I continue to be fascinated by this dragon drawing. What an evocation of the Würme in medieval literature!
Tolkien’s work is rich with reflection on the world. I would encourage you to read Jubilare’s reblog of the Khazâd series. It’s just the first of a great series, but shows you a bit of the depth of Tolkien’s world behind the world. Just the other day I took that legendarium a little further. In reading up on the Wizards of Middle Earth–the Brown, the White, the Grey, and the two Blues–it struck me how relevant Radagast the Brown is to us today. Do you agree or disagree? I’d love your comments.
And Just For Fun….
Because I can, and because some things are entirely meaningless, I will leave you with a quiz: What Character in the Hobbit Are You? You will not be surprised that I am Thorin Oakenshield!