The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
It's been a long time since I've read any Tolkien. But I've had The Hobbit on my mind ever since the first of the films came out. I have no interest in seeing it, though Martin Freeman is one of my favorite actors, but I've been curious about how it could be stretched over three films. And then Anbolyn mentioned that she was planning to read it soon. The third crow for me was a book I didn't get on with at all, about the Roman Catholic elements in Tolkien's work. Although I didn't finish it, it brought his stories vividly to mind, particularly The Hobbit.
As far as I can remember, I first came across Tolkien on the bookshelves of my cousins. My aunt said I was welcome to borrow The Hobbit and all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings. It was years before I appreciated how generous my cousins were in letting them go without a word, or felt any shame over the fact that I not only took them but never gave them back! (Larry and Chris, if you ever read this, I can bring them next time I come to Portland!)
Whew - confession of book burglary over. Which is very appropriate, of course, in discussing a book about a burglar. It was such fun meeting Bilbo Baggins again, and Gandalf, who seem like old friends. That first chapter is wonderful, with Bilbo so settled into his comfortable life, only to be upset first by Gandalf's conversation and then by the overlapping arrivals of so many dwarfs for that most unexpected party. But from that very first chapter, he rises to the occasion, nudged by that Tookish streak in him, which sets him off on his adventures with the wizard and the Twelve Dwarfs. It was lovely to watch him grow from that rather comic figure, sunning himself complacently on his front steps, into the hero of their quest, while still remaining true to his own hobbit self - and not without some grumbling here and there, and some definitely unheroic moments. It was also lovely to see Gandalf in a more light-hearted adventure, not yet burdened with the cares and responsibilities of the Fellowship.
It was a bit slow going at first, because so much reminded me of the later books, and I kept pulling The Fellowship of the Ring off the shelf to read different parts, like Frodo and Company's encounter with the trolls, or their arrival at Rivendell. (And then I went around for days with "Gil-galad was an Elven king..." running through my head). I had also confused some parts of this book with the later stories, like expecting Shelob to show up in Mirkwood. Then there was much that I had forgotten, like the bearish Beorn, to whom Gandalf introduces his companions so adroitly. And while I remembered that Bilbo bravely ventured into Smaug's lair, I had forgotten he went more than once, and the adventures he had there. (I have to say, Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug almost tempts me to see the third film after all.) Nor did I remember the Arkenstone and the crucial part it plays in the story.
Reading this reminded me of how much I love Tolkien's books, and hobbits in particular. I think I'll be setting off again with the Fellowship of the Ring before too long.