Tuesday, October 1, 2013

LOTR Read-Along: A Long-Expected Party (FOTR Ch. 1)

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.

Favorite Lines: 

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? 


  1. Hope I haven't joined the party too late! Finally got to working on catching up with y'all. =)

    I've read The Hobbit before any of this, so all of the little nostalgic references to it were quite delightful in this chapter, especially the first chapter having been titled "A Long-Expected Party," up against the first chapter of The Hobbit: "An Unexpected Party." Warm fuzzies all around! =)

    The foreshadowing *was* so excellently done! Not so much that the mood of the rest of the scene is ruined, but definitely not unnoticeable. You can almost feel the shadow hovering somewhere in the distance. *shiver*

    If it's permissible to reference the movies here, I was very pleasantly surprised at how much Peter Jackson had followed the first chapter, especially in keeping much of the dialogue more or less intact. Maybe it's a little weird to feel like a stickler for the books before actually reading them, but it really is quite a delight to see an appreciation for the source material on the part of movie producers.

    In the back of my mind, I'm always very amazed that this entire trilogy came *after* and was built on top of The Hobbit's seemingly basic story. Maybe I'm underestimating how much Tolkien already had in mind for future publications as he was creating The Hobbit, but it's all so marvelously complex and detailed. I definitely wouldn't have seen all of this coming if I hadn't already known the Trilogy when reading The Hobbit for the first time.

    Now I'll shut up about The Hobbit. This is about the trilogy, after all. =P

    The descriptions of the party were so lovely. I especially enjoyed the the hobbits' reactions to Bilbo's increasingly long speech. They'd much rather carry on with the party than stop and reminisce; but I suppose that's what makes Bilbo different.

    1. You are never late! (Nor are you early. You always arrive precisely when you mean to. Are you a wizard?)

      I think the beautiful thing about this read-along is that, even a year from now, someone can jump in and say, "Hey, I'm reading this and loving the discussions -- here's what I think."

      Anyway, yes! Reference the movies! I do that all the time. Especially since (like you, I gather) I saw them first, then read the books. I love places where Jackson lifted whole conversations out -- truly an adaptation, not a movie based on a plot and some characters.

      I like to imagine Tolkien's publishers who'd asked him if he had anything else like The Hobbit. And he dropped this weighty tome on them. They had to have been nonplussed. Possibly agog.

  2. Very much enjoying the read, and the opportunity to chat about it with fellow bloggers! Looking forward to the next chapters. =)

  3. Alright, I had this weird feeling in the back of my mind for a couple of days that I should pick up LOTR again, and now I succumbed... So can I say I've fallen under the power of THE RING? :D As for the discussion questions: this first chapter always gives me the fuzzy, warm, "Yay I'm reading one of my favourite books again and there's going to be so many wonderful adventures waiting for me" kind of feeling! This time round that feeling was especially poignant, so I think the book is getting better with each read ;)

    1. Hooray! So glad you're joining us :-) It really does feel like a homecoming after the first couple read-throughs, doesn't it? I'm amazed that I'm on my sixth time through and still finding new nuances and details and new favorite lines.

  4. The moment I saw the chapter title, "A Long-Expected Party," I was thrilled. It's such a neat throwback to "An Unexpected Party," the first chapter of The Hobbit. I personally loved The Hobbit, so one of the things I especially enjoy about LOTR is how meticulous he is that every reference to the Hobbit be correct. (The talk about the mithril coat, Sting, etc.) So since we had just finished reading the Hobbit, the throwbacks in this chapter were really appreciated.

    This was my first time through, of course, so I was prepared to be pleased and also a little worried, wondering how Tolkien would measure up to my imagination. (I needn't have worried.) The beginning of the chapter sets the scene and gives us a taste of hobbit-life, which is cool and interesting, but it wasn't until Bilbo was trying to leave the Ring behind that I was really gripped. Then it crashed over me just how real the power of this ring could be if it was corrupting even Bilbo; then I really got sucked into the story. When he first called it "my precious" I was chilled -- it was so terribly reminiscent of Gollum.

    I do enjoy the Sackville-Bagginses rivalry too. The way they were moving into his home at the end of the last book made me laugh, so I found their whole thwarted desire to assume Bag-End quite funny.

    My favorite parts of this chapter were the bit where Gandalf threatens to blow that round green front door right down the hole and out through the hill if Frodo doesn't let him in (so Gandalfian) and this sentence just after Bilbo disappears, "Then there was a dead silence, until suddenly, after several deep breaths, every Baggins, Boffin, Took, Brandybuck, Grubb, Chubb, Burrows, Bolger, Bracegirdle, Brockhouse, Goodbody, Hornblower, and Proudfoot began to talk at once." I love the way he comes up with so many last names -- really pulls me into his world.

    1. I love how some of his last names are references to other literature. Like Hornblower and Bracegirdle, both character names from the Horatio Hornblower books.

      Don't know if you've seen me mention this somewhere around here, but I'm actually not a big fan of The Hobbit. The book, I mean. The movie trilogy, I love, but the book doesn't thrill me and has several things that actually bug me. Which is why I didn't read LOTR until I was in my 20s -- why would I want to read a thousand more pages of the same thing as The Hobbit? I think I was simply too old when I first read it, as people who first read TH when they're ten or younger love it, but I was like 15 and just failed to feel the magic.

    2. I didn't put together any outside references! That's cool. I also enjoy how the hobbit's last names feel very commonplace compared to the names he comes up with for Elves and Men later; it really contributes to the feel of the hobbits' simple culture.

      I liked the Hobbit myself, but I can see how it wouldn't appeal to everyone. But LOTR is so incredibly different -- the whole style and tone is completely changed, so I can easily see how you loved LOTR without liking TH. One of the things I like the most, though, is the way Tolkien doesn't try to re-write history; he doesn't change or ignore what happened in the Hobbit, just builds enormously on it. I guess I was particularly impressed by that because I dug deeply into Star Wars not that long ago, and I was really annoyed by the way the prequel trilogy seemed to contradict a lot of what was said about the past in the original trilogy. So I really admire Tolkien for not trying to rewrite his first book even though he changed the tone and darkened the story; every time he references the first book, the events are still intact. I don't know if this makes any sense, the way I've written it, but that's what impresses me most about the Hobbit references throughout LOTR.

    3. Marcy, yes, I love how he used his background as a linguistics expert to not only build languages for the different races, but have their names reflect the different backgrounds too.

      I have some issues with the storytelling in The Hobbit, though when I learned that Tolkien was a pantser and not a planner, they made more sense in a "Oh, now I see why he did this" way. But the overall tone just gets on my nerves, like a story told by a condescending adult to a little kid they are tolerantly trying to amuse. (But I love Peter Jackson's movies because they fix a lot of the storytelling issues.) But yes, Tolkien is very consistent with his facts, and I think that's because he already had this world and story in his head before he ever published The Hobbit, so it wasn't so much a "let's make up what happens next" thing as a "let's write down what happens next."


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