Well, now that you've read the first chapter, you know why I tacked that "of special magnificence" thing onto the title of my blog party! If you thought I was just being conceited, now you know I was just quoting the very first line of the very first chapter of The Lord of the Rings :-)
This chapter delights me. I love learning about the customs and day-to-day life of other cultures, and every culture in Middle Earth is so thoroughly thought-out that they seem completely real. Sometimes I almost forget this isn't a sort of sociologically and linguistically inclined history. Aren't Hobbits just delightful? On their own birthdays, they give other people presents. They know How Not To Be Seen. They're good at gardening and farming. I want to be Hobbit, I admit it. (I also want to be one of the Rohirrim, but we haven't gotten to them yet.)
Did you notice all that foreshadowing going on in this chapter? The Gaffer warns Sam Gamgee that he'll land in trouble too big for him, Gandalf's real business is described as "more difficult and dangerous" than conjuring cheap tricks, etc. Very subtle and nicely done. If you haven't read it before -- did any of that feel like foreshadowing to you, or are you now going, "Oh! Hmm. Interrrrrrrrresting," and stroking your beards thoughtfully? (I'll admit it -- I'm a girl; I have no beard. I do stroke my chin thoughtfully sometimes, though.)
Does anyone else want to see some of Gandalf's fireworks? They sound magnificent, and way better than even what they conjured up in the movies.
WARNING! Once again, if you haven't read this or The Hobbit, but you're watching Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies and do not want to know how that all ends, you need to skip part of the paragraph that begins with "It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history..." Skip what's in italics.
Before long the invitations began pouring out, and the Hobbiton post-office was blocked, and the Bywater post-office was snowed under, and voluntary assistant postmen were called for (p. 26).
The art of Gandalf improved with age (p. 27).
"I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days" (p. 32).
"I am as happy now as I have ever been, and that is saying a great deal (p. 35).
"It was a compliment," said Merry Brandybuck, "and so, of course, not true" (p. 38).
"Look out for me, especially at unlikely times!" (p. 40)
Possible Discussion Questions:
If you've never read this before, is this at all what you were expecting? How are you liking it so far?
If you have read it before, are you liking it better during this reading than the last, in any way? Or liking it less?