A Little Hobbit Remembrance

I’m not an obsessive fan of the Tolkien books, but I’ve read them, liked Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series, and am looking forward to the Hobbit.  I am concerned that it might be a victim of the Kill Bill phenomenon, where a director leaves in stuff he should have cut because the movie is supposedly “too long”, and especially skeptical that it merits the same number of releases as LOTR.  But no matter, I’ll be seeing it.

I’m usually not much for nostalgia, but when I was looking up the details of the Hobbit movie, I began to think back on the first time I encountered that book.  The story is kind of relevant to the standardized testing debate, of all things, so here it is after the break.

In elementary school, all of my teachers were women, and most of them were older’. The one I remember most was my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. H.  She was probably 55 or 60 when she taught our class, but I’m not sure because, like most kids, I thought anything over 18 was ancient.

Mrs. H taught us the usual reading, writing and the rest, but I certainly don’t remember much of that. I do remember that she was kind and patient during those lessons, because one poor boy in our class had a terrible case of dyslexia and could barely read, and she was incredibly patient and protective of him when it came his turn to read out loud.

What I do remember well is the non-curricular things she did. One of those was starting our own banking system in the class, and it was elaborate. She issued scrip, we had weekly auctions for stuff we brought in from home, were able to buy and sell items (like candy) from each other during designated class times every day, and so on. In my memory it took a significant amount of class time, and occupied a great deal of our outside-of-class time, because we were planning and scheming for ways to amass little fortunes before the school year ended.

The other thing I remember was the Hobbit. One day she announced that we were going to have story time each day, and this was the first book. I’d never heard of it before, but before long it was the highlight of the day. Part of the reason was that she was a good reader–she did a great Gollum. Part of it was that this was the mid-70s, before the LOTR movies, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games had increased the level of sophistication of what’s considered children’s entertainment, so the Hobbit was far more complex and involving  than the Disney fare we were used to.

Anyway, if there’s any point to this other than self-indulgent nostalgia, it’s that Mrs. H had, as far as I could tell, complete license to do whatever she wanted with at least 20% of the school day. If she decided to create a banking system, she ran off a couple hundred dollars on the mimeo machine and handed it out to us. If she wanted to read the Hobbit, she brought it in from home and started reading. We had something to look forward to every day, we had an incentive to pay attention (because we didn’t get the Hobbit or to do banking if we were screwing around), and we learned something from both of those activities, even if it didn’t show up in a standardized test.

It’s been more than 35 years since I first heard the Hobbit read out loud and I still remember the experience. To my fifth-grade ears, it was a bit magical. Maybe today’s fifth graders wouldn’t have the same experience because they’re so much more sophisticated, but we’ll never find that out, since they’re too busy drilling for standardized tests. I’m very skeptical of “good old days” reminiscing, but in this case, I think the days before every moment was spent focusing on performance on a test left more space for great teachers like Mrs. H, and I’m sorry for the kids who won’t have that experience.

144 replies
  1. 1
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    What a wonderful teacher you had in Mrs. H.

  2. 2
    divF says:

    In 1967 (I think – in any case, I was 14 or 15) I spent a summer listening to a daily reading on the radio of LOTR. I was just one person reading the book, and it was wonderful – I remember particularly the scene of Gandalf confronting Saruman at Isengard, where the reader would make a subtle change of voice for the two characters. I have not been able to find any reference to that reading on the internet, or anyone else who remembers it. The show may have been “Reading Aloud” on public radio, but I wouldn’t even swear to that.

  3. 3
    nancydarling says:

    mistermix, I also have fond memories of my 5th grade teacher who read to us every day after lunch. She read at least two of Farley’s Black Stallion series. I can’t remember the rest. I went to Flushing Meadows on one of my early trips to NYC. Alas, I didn’t even see or hear the Black’s ghost. I did see that marvelous diorama of all the boroughs of the city though.

  4. 4
    Vivianna says:

    Excellent! As a teacher I could not agree more. Standardized tests have hurt education in ways we will never be able to fully measure.

  5. 5
    Svensker says:

    I thought my 7th grade math teacher was very nice, especially for an Old Guy. I thought about him a lot after school but figured he had probably died from old age. When I ran into him on the street 20 years later he was in his mid-40s.. which would have made him about 25 when he was my teacher.

  6. 6
    mb says:

    I was listening to Limbaugh one day and he was running down Head Start because it emphasizes teaching parents (by default, mostly mothers) to read to their kids. Limbaugh revealed during his rant that his mother never read to him. I thought at the time that that might explain some of his dysfunctional view of the world — not to mention his lack of analytical ability.

  7. 7
    Elmo says:

    In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell; nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole, with nothing in it to sit down upon or to eat. It was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.

    It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel, a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with paneled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, and lots of chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors.

    The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill – The Hill, as many people for miles round called it, and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side, then on another.

    No going upstairs for the hobbit – bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left hand side, going in, for these were the only ones to have windows – deep set round windows looking out at the garden and the meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

    There. I swear to FSM that is all from memory, and I haven’t read the book in thirty years. Such was my love for that book as a child.

  8. 8
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    That kinda shit must have been in the 5th Grade Stylebook back then because we did all the same shit and I hold that grade and Miss Bonnie Knowles as all-time favorites.

  9. 9
    divF says:

    A more careful search seems to indicate that the show was indeed “Reading Aloud”, produced by WGBH 1958-1991, and featuring Bill Cavness, reading various books 30 min. / day. He read LOTR during 1965.

  10. 10
    Just Some Fuckhead says:


    I was listening to Limbaugh one day

    I think I see the problem here.

  11. 11
    redbeardjim says:

    My fifth-grade teacher read “Lord of the Rings” to us. By the time Christmas Break rolled around she’d gotten most of the way through the first book, and I managed to convince my parents to get me the trilogy in paperback form for Christmas. I’d finished the whole thing by the time school started back up again in January.

  12. 12
    Amir Khalid says:

    I’m re-reading The Hobbit right now, ahead of the first movie’s opening here. And yes, it’s still very magical for me as well. As I understand, the plan is to supplement what’s in the book with some of the larger history of Middle Earth, in particular The Lord of The Rings. So hopefully, it will be much richer and more engaging than a straight book-to-movie translation, and well worth all three parts.

    When you talk to teachers nowadays, do they report having the kind of latitude that Mrs H got back then?

  13. 13
    kelrian says:

    Oh my god, my 5th grade teacher was the same way. She’d read to us just after lunch, with wacky voices and everything. She also had a massive rotating stock of books that you could borrow to read during break and lunchtime. I used to get in so much trouble for sneaking a bit of book-time in during the math part of the day.

    Teacher like Mrs. P and Mrs. H don’t seem to come along any more. I don’t know if it’s all the testing or what, but it seems like a little bit of the magic is just… missing.

  14. 14
    Onkel Fritze says:

    When I was 13 or 14 (in the late 70s), I first heard about the LOTR and decided to read it – and to read ‘The Hobbit’ first.
    I discovered that I must have read it before, probably as one of my very first books during 1st or 2nd grade. Scene after scene in the book just came back to me and practically every other page I thought ‘Hey, you’ve read that before’. Most of the book had stuck deep in my memory, although I didn’t have a clue that it was ‘The Hobbit’, or even that it was all in one single book. A fascinating experience to re-discover it.

  15. 15
    mb says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Dude/dudette, I listened to Limbaugh daily from the beginning of the Clinton administration until the run-up to the Iraq War — at which time, I could take no more. Note that during this entire time I was about as liberal as you can be and still be allowed to run loose in America. He was my daily lunchtime entertainment — also I was doing a lot of driving at the time and arguing with the radio keeps me awake better than music. I began listening to him because the agony in his voice over the Clinton admin. was so amusing. He’d endlessly ‘analyze’ the breakdown of the ’92 election to show how Clinton could not claim to have a mandate. I noticed he never analyzed the vote during the 2000 election quite the same way.

    Mind you, I rarely listened to all three hours, but I did often enough to know that he is so repetitive that you only need to hear about 30 minutes of his show to know everything he’s going to say, ’cause he’s going to say it over and over and over and over. I still listen to him if I’m on the road, but I’ve pretty much retired my daily laugh at Limbaugh hour.

  16. 16
    Comrade Mary says:

    Even here in Canada, there must have been a fifth grade teacher mind meld, because our teacher read The Snow Goose and the prose version of Beowulf to us one year.

  17. 17
    Rich (In Name Only) In Reno says:

    Dear Mistermix;
    My first encounter with Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” mirrors your own. The first part of it was read to us aloud in class and then loaned to me as the only student who wanted to finish it by Ms. Dorothy Downs, blessings and peace be upon her!, my sixth grade teacher at Sherman Elementary School in San Francisco, back in 1966. That book led of course to “The Lord of the Rings,” and then The “Gormenghast” series (marketed as another LOTR by Ballantine Books,) followed by E.R. Eddison, Ernst Brammah, and Lord Dunsany, who were all revived in paperback by Ballantine at that time. Hard on these followed Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Talbot Mundy, Abraham Merritt, and Fritz Leiber. All were available at this bookstore in my neighborhood located out on Geary near the old Alexandria Theater, called Canterbury Books.

    And all of the above somehow triggered a burning interest in Ancient History. Even when I dropped out of High School in the early 70s, I kept reading.

  18. 18
    Walker says:

    The Necromancer storyline could be good — it is a legitimate story that all happens off screen. However, I am concerned that the tone of the two stories is radically different and will not work now that they are being combined. The Hobbit was designed as a light-hearted children’s book, while LoTR (of which the Necromancer storyline is very much a part of) is much darker.

  19. 19

    I had the same teacher in Grade 5, except it was 50 years ago and it was Mrs. Cahill. She’s the one who read to us, who got us to read Alice in Wonderland as if it was a grown-up book, and who told me that I was a very good writer. She was in her 70’s then, so she never lived to see me get my Ph.D. in playwriting and have a play done off-Broadway, but I thanked her both times.

    The late Ed Catton used to do Reading Aloud on WIAA from Interlochen Arts Academy. Because of copyright issues, he never did LOTR, but he had the kind of voice that could have made it magical.

  20. 20
    tt crews says:

    I read The Hobbit out loud to my 4 yo son when he had some kind of flu thing that lasted several days. He felt bad all night and couldn’t sleep so reading kept his mind on something else. We finished in 3 days. For years after that, whenever he had a flu that kept him home from school, I would read him The Hobbit.

    In reading to myself, I always skipped the songs and poems but he loved them and as a 13 yo still chants “chip the glasses, crack the plates” when we wash up the dinner things.

  21. 21
    Fair Economist says:

    I liked the Hobbit a lot as a tween, when I read it (after LOTR, in my case) but I really don’t think it’s got enough material for a trilogy. If they add a LOT of the world backstory, there will be enough material (but not a huge surplus) but there’s a serious mismatch between the rather lighthearted sense of the Hobbit and the grim and foreboding sense of the backstory, which is foreshadowing LOTR. Waiting two years for the ending seems wrong too.

    Of course I’m still going to see all the movies so they will make more money off me this way, and that’s probably the point.

  22. 22
    Schlemizel says:

    The LOtR series was too short, too much good was cut out to make the movies possible. What ended up was a fairly long battle scene.

    I have no idea if The Hobbit movies will be good or not, but I don’t think you could do the book justice in 3 hours. Of course he can make it a hot mess over 9 hours too. Too much focus on the fact he turned it into 3 movies.

    It might be mean to point out that this is actually a 3 part prequel to a beloved trilogy. I doubt it can be worse than that other example

  23. 23
    cckids says:

    @Amir Khalid: Sadly, no. My sister is a 5th grade teacher. She has 39 kids in a classroom built for 30-32. She has some latitude, but no time for much that is special, and it is painful to her, as it is to any really good teacher. There is so much more to learning & educating than just meeting testing requirements.

    For me, it is one of the reasons I taught my 2 younger kids at home – our school system here in NV just doesn’t value creativity & education beyond standardized testing.

    Mistermix, your stories of The Hobbit really bring back some of my best memories of reading aloud with my kids; we did The Hobbit, all the Potter books, Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, The Once & Future King, and so many more. I was reading to them from the day they were born, & we still read things we like aloud together when we can. One’s in college & the other a senior, so that is less frequent, but still. It is one of the great pleasures in life.

  24. 24
    SatanicPanic says:

    I recently watched the extended versions of the LOTR, and a lot of that was stuff that Peter Jackson just made up and wasn’t in the books. BUT, sometimes that’s kind of cool. I don’t really need someone to just transform the story into visuals, I’ve already been doing that in my head for years. I realize now I want someone to expand the story a bit, have some fun with the source material. Peter Jackson did a pretty good job with that in LOTR, so I’m looking forward to what he does with The Hobbit.

    I had my parents read the Hobbit to me as a kid (guess my liberal parents are cooler than Limbaughs), and I read it to my son. We’re looking forward to three generations going to see the movies together.

  25. 25
    SatanicPanic says:

    @cckids: I never realized until I started reading to my son how great it is to read out loud. You get so much more out of reading

  26. 26
    Josie says:

    Before rigorous testing and curriculum coming down from the central office, teachers had much more latitude and time to explore various methods of instruction. Most teachers, after having spent 5 years to prepare for their jobs, are quite capable of figuring out how to motivate and teach the particular students that they have each year. It seems to me quite strange to require so much preparation to be a teacher and then permit people without that training to tell them how to teach.

  27. 27
    aimai says:


    I’m still pissed off that Jackson left the details of Galadriel’s gifts off the LOTR including (and especially) sams special rope and the fairy dirt and special seed that he uses to replenish and replant the shire after the cleansing of hte shire. And he left off the fucking cleansing of the shire, which is so emotionally important.

    Other than that I look forward to the Hobbit, why do you ask?

    Also: my parents had the first edition with the goregous paper jacket and maps and I read the LOTR all at one go, over a long weekend, and cried when it was over. I don’t remember when I read the hobbit but as you all say it sank deep into my bones.


  28. 28
    aimai says:

    @Rich (In Name Only) In Reno:

    We had the same reading list–how I loved Fafner and the Gray Mouser.


  29. 29
    YellowJournalism says:

    I can’t remember my fifth grade teacher reading to us, but my third grade teacher read all of the books of the Little House series to us and my sixth grade teacher read Half-Wish, Where the Red Fern Grows (made the entire class cry at the end, even the boys), and Summer of the Monkeys.

    Even back in third grade, I saw clues that there were families that rarely read or shared books together. One day before the teacher started reading from On the Shores of Silver Lake, a classmate made a comment that he was hoped during that day’s reading that Mary Ingalls would not be blind. Half the class looked at him like he was nuts, and the teacher explained that There wasn’t a cure for the blindness. The boy argued it with her on the basis that reruns of Little House would show Mary as blind one day and not another day. Turned out there were no books in his home and his parents never read to him.

    As a child who had been read to every night and treasured library days, that was aind-blowing concept. As I got older, I started noticing it more and more. In college, I met proapective teachers who despised reading or who had read very little beyond required reading or had just read Cliffs’ Notes. Now that I’m in Early Education, I often see families who have few or no books in their homes and parents who do not even read to their small children at all. You would be surprised at the fact that many of the families are well-off or have parents who are highly educated! I’m also coming across colleagues who don’t have even the basic knowledge of children’s literature like nursery rhymes or basic stories. (I’m not including those who grew up in a different cultural context because they usually share and bring their own culture’s stories and songs into the classroom.)

  30. 30
    dmsilev says:

    @aimai: There are a lot of things to motivate getting upset at Jackson. Besides what you mention, allow me to nominate the atomic leafblower fight between Gandalf and Saruman, the complete hatchet job done to Denethor’s character (who was written as a tragic character, not some cartoonish lout), ditto Gimli (dwarf-tossing? Seriously?).

    On the plus side of the ledger, many of the visuals were absolutely stunning and really did feel like Middle Earth come to life. Rivendell, Bag End, the Great Hall in Moria, the arrival of the Rohirrim at the battle of Minas Tirith. Also on the plus side of the ledger, Tom Bombadil was declared an unperson (unentity?).

  31. 31
    SatanicPanic says:

    @aimai: He included the gifts in the extended edition, I’m not sure why they didn’t make the final cut.

  32. 32
    magurakurin says:

    @aimai: I didn’t like what he did with Faramir, Boromir’s brother. Faramir never questioned Frodo at all. Frodo told him that Gandalf sent him and that was good enough. But Jackson said for the sake of continuity he had to make Faramir go through a trial and struggle with ring like everyone else. But that was precisely why Faramir is such a cool character in the book. He wasn’t tempted by the ring like his brother. Also, Faramir’s dad kind of gets the short shaft as well. Denethor had a palantir and his mind had been poisoned by Sauron. I know Jackson had a time limit, but it wouldn’t have take but a few moments to add the discovery of the palantir in Denethor’s chamber. Instead he ends up being just a crazy old coot who jumps to his death. Kind of lame.

    But the movies were fun and great, especially the first time I saw them. Faramir bugs me though.

    I’ll go see the Hobbit for sure though.

  33. 33
    aimai says:

    But not the dirt and the seed, nor does he deal with how the seed reseeds the shire.


    I agree completely about the re-writing of Faramir’s role. I thought that was completely wrong. Faramir is a truly good person and he never has a moment when you, or he, are in doubt about that. I feel like they made Bormir less bad and FAramir less good but they are meant to reflect the fact that some strains of nobility ran true and others didn’t. Also I thought Denethor’s death was done very badly. Its handled very differently in the book–less dramatically but more meaningfully and pippin’s relaitonship to Denethor is quite different.

  34. 34
    aimai says:


    As a freshman at University I horribly embarrassed myself walking into the home of a new freshman friend, first of her family to go to college, and looking around and asking “where are the books?” I didn’t mean “oh, you don’t have any books.” It just never occured to me that their books weren’t just “in another room” somewhere. I’d never been in a house where there weren’t more books than anything else so I was just curious as to where they had been banished too. Years after that when my children were in preschool and I was having a “playdate” with another mother she told me that told me that a wealthy playmate of her child had come over to play at their apartment and said, equally naively, “Where is ‘your part’ of the house?” thinking that the tiny family apartment was simply one portion of a much larger family property–like all the apartments in the building belonged to different family members and they would be ushered into “their playroom” in a moment.


  35. 35
    ruemara says:

    @magurakurin: You kidding? Why does no one wish fr Jackson’s entrails on a pike for what he did to Aragorn and the silly Eowyn thing? I adored Faramir and Aragorn. Aragorn is the ideal, Faramir was the human reality and Jackson just did not get it. He neutered Frodo quite a bit too and dumbness of his choices in the Two Towers movie has made that near unwatchable for me.

    Of course, when my friends gave me a The Hobbit movie gift card so I could go see it this month, I nearly broke down in tears because I feared I would not be able to see it at all. Jackson’s additions may stand out like turds on white silk, but visually, he’s done an amazing job.

    On topic, my mother says she read to me as a child. I do not recall that at all, but I remember reading to myself, my kid brothers and teaching them to make stories up before bedtime. I used to carry the Hobbit and LOTR books to school. The big hardbound editions from BoTC. People thought I was bringing in bibles. They kinda were. I’ve never lost my desire to see a more ennobled humanity. I adored these books and read extensively on JRRT’s life, then I started reading C.S. Lewis. I could start the Hobbit at 8 am and finish it around 10 at night, on a Saturday.

  36. 36
    divF says:


    Ursula LeGuin (another favorite) writes in her essay on Tolkien that he uses a motif common to fairytales and myths, which is to have separate characters that represent light / dark, good / evil aspects of the same character. In LOTR, examples are Elves / Orcs, Ents / Trolls, Gandalf / Saruman, Frodo-Sam (which she views as a single complex character) / Gollum . Gollum himself is twinned in such a way (which Peter Jackson captured wonderfully in the film). Faramir and Boromir are another light and dark pair, and Jackson’s treatment of Faramir completely misses that.

  37. 37
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @Elmo: Impressive! I can only do the first paragraph. Indulge me in a little reminiscing.

    I started reading at a really early age so I can’t remember the first time I read The Hobbit. I do remember the library’s copy, though, since I checked it out dozens of times. It was a little bigger than a sheet of notebook paper and always felt really big to me as a kid. The book was bound in that durable leather looking vinyl and it was the color of our front yard’s grass. I can remember a beautiful picture of The Lonely Mountain, Erebor, with Smaug circling in the distance on one of the first few pages. I also remember the animated version from the 70s, especially for the songs. I can’t read any of them without hearing them, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. The spiders always scared my sister.

    Although I got plenty of nice presents for Christmas, the two I can remember best are the SNES (So much Super Mario World!) and the paperback Hobbit/LOTR box set. I was super excited that I didn’t have to constantly go to the library to get them. Unfortunately I read them so often that I basically destroyed the books, but finally got a nice hard cover set when I got a job.

    Every time I read the first few lines, I get a tingle. Even after reading countless books since then, I’ve never felt quite such a magical experience from a book. I think that, more than any other book, The Hobbit is what made me love reading.

  38. 38
    Noonan says:

    I’m a HS teacher. It’s shocking how many of my students are aware of the movies, but not the books upon which they are based. Several of the boys (10th grade) in one class are huge MMO gamers, so I asked them what they knew about the books. They gave me blank stares. I told them I would bring in my copy of the book for them to read. Then I remembered something else…we have a library in school. I contacted our library aid (no money for a full-time librarian) and told her I would send one of my boys up to her to check out The Hobbit. He’s been reading it every spare minute since. He also said he saw a bunch of other books next to the Hobbit that looked really cool. Imagine that – using the library to get books instead of sitting on computers, looking up material on the internet and trying to play games when the teacher isn’t looking…

  39. 39
    rachel says:

    I enjoyed Jackson’s LotR for the most part, but the change where the Ents decide not to fight back and are then tricked into doing it by the Hobbits is just wrong. “Years of festering anger boils over” is way more dramatic than “Treebeard goes for a stroll with his two young friends and then sees something upsetting in his neighbor’s yard”.

  40. 40
    Fair Economist says:


    And he left off the fucking cleansing of the shire, which is so emotionally important.

    I do wish the last movie had had the Cleansing and a lot less extended slow-motion soft-focus reunions. Mostly I though the movies were fantastic, but that omission and that addition disappointed me.

  41. 41
    cckids says:

    @MeDrewNotYou: The books we love really stay with us, don’t they? My two older sisters & I loved LOTR; & two of us got together to give our oldest sister a gorgeous leather bound copy for HS graduation. It was deep tobacco brown, with gold details in runes & the Eye of Mordor. Set us back quite a bit of cash, as I remember, for the 70’s, with us in $2.25/hour jobs.

    Several years after that, that sister was in an abusive marriage; he gave away her entire library of books.(and he was a very educated person) They took up too much space; really, it was about control. Now that she’s divorced the bastard, I’ve been looking for 5 years for a set like that to (hopefully) give her again. No luck. It still breaks my heart.

  42. 42
    Liberty60 says:

    Good thing your teacher wasn’t Paul Ryan.

    You could have been forced to hear from that OTHER childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.

    You dodged a bullet, my friend.

  43. 43
    D. Mason says:

    In HS I had a history teacher named Coach N. this guy was the best teacher I ever had despite the surprisingly few lessons we had in the class. 2-3 days per week he would lecture for about half the class and he was a superb lecturer who covered the material quick with high retention rates. He took time to help kids who needed it but that was rare because he made history vibrant when he was on the curriculum. The other days and half days were spent organizing some charity, usually centered on whatever holiday was coming up. It might be a toy/food drive for the poor elementary kids (k-12 school) or helping fundraise for some extra-curricular that needed a boost. It was never an earth-shattering result but the accomplishments were real and the lessons learned carried through to later life. He got pushed out a couple of years after I graduated for spending too much time off the reservation. Kids going to school now miss out big time, especially when too few of them have parents with enough time to teach these lessons.

  44. 44
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @Fair Economist: I personally liked those slower-paced reunions scenes, especially where the four hobbits were back in The Green Dragon. They’d been so looking forward to their return, and now, finding themselves back in the shire, they realize they are forever changed and that there is no truly going back. Seeing Sam muster his courage to approach the previously unapproachable Rosie Cotton was great fun. Honestly, I thought the cleansing scenes in the book were unnecessary and even anticlimatic. Just my opinion. (JMO?)

  45. 45
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @cckids: That’s true. I can’t remember 90% of the crap I did as a kid, but I clearly remember begging my parents to take me to the library to get my Tolkien fix.

    Sorry about your sister. But if the Internet is good for anything, its good for finding unusual and obscure stuff. I’m sure you’ll come across it eventually.

  46. 46
    Jay C says:

    It’s so strange: my first experience with The Hobbit seems to jibe with so many others’: I first heard it read to our 5th-grade class (this would have been in the early 60s, well before the Ballantine Books edition popularized Tolkien). Unfortunately, the attractions of Middle-Earth remained unappreciated by me and my middle-American peers at the time: we were, AFAICR, far more interested in the “mainstream” genres of contemporary culture: Westerns, war stories, spy fiction, etc. It didn’t help that our hobbit-loving teacher seemed to us to be the worst sort of Affected Snob (he was Canadian, but tried to come across as a would-be Oxford Don), and I walked away from The Hobbit viewing it as merely a sort of silly (if overly-highbrow) fairy-tale.

    However, I soon learned better: literally on my first day of high school (actually a summer course before my freshman year), I found a scuffed copy of the Ballantine First Edition of Lord Of The Rings (3rd printing, 1965) and decided it was sign that I should revisit Tolkien’s oeuvre. And it was.


    JFTR, Fritz Leiber’s barbarian hero was Fafhrd (“rhymes with ‘proffered’, as the forewords always said)

  47. 47
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @D. Mason: I had a high school history instructor who would dress up as famous/infamous historical figures and conduct class in character, answering questions and such from the students. I can recall his interpretation of Hitler, Jesus, Lawrence of Arabia in particular. As a teacher myself now (j.c. English), I see how much effort that must have taken.

  48. 48
    RSA says:


    Mistermix, your stories of The Hobbit really bring back some of my best memories of reading aloud with my kids; we did The Hobbit, all the Potter books, Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, The Once & Future King, and so many more.

    Great choices. Also worth reading aloud are Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and The Graveyard Book, Roald Dahl’s children’s books (I like The BFG the best), Edith Nesbit, …

  49. 49
    Scamp Dog says:

    @aimai: I keep my copies of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories around for regular rereading. I enjoy them a lot more than LoTR, preferring the smaller scale, lighter touch and sense of humor to the epic Good vs. Evil of Tolkien. I need to reread The Hobbit, though, that was a fun read.

  50. 50
    janut says:

    I went to Catholic school (1959-71). We didn’t have any nice teachers who made learning fun.

    The only fantasy stories I got came from watching “Going My Way” or “Bells of St. Mary’s.” OMG, a beautiful and sweet nun! A nice, understanding priest! And he could sing! This was the stuff of fantasy for a Catholic school kid in those years.

  51. 51
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @D. Mason: I had a high school history instructor who would dress up as famous/infamous historical figures and conduct class in character, answering questions and such from the students. I can recall his interpretation of Hitler, Jesus, Lawrence of Arabia in particular. As a teacher myself now (j.c. English), I see how much effort that must have taken.

    @mb: That is intriguing regarding Limbaugh. Yes, he quite unwittingly provided an example for why parents should read to their children. Instead, he presents bluster and bravado as insight. Putz.

  52. 52
    Grover Gardner says:

    My fourth-grade teacher read us The Birds (!). That was pretty intense and memorable. :-) I have a friend who taught fifth grade and he had his kids start a Potato Museum, creating exhibits showing the history of the potato, the different varieties, the tools farmers used, etc. Each successive class added to it until they had a rent a building off-campus to house it. Eventually he left teaching to run it full-time, and wrote books about potatoes.

    We were recently able to switch our daughter to another school district here in Oregon thanks to a new law here, and there’s quite a difference. Her new school spends a lot more time on creative projects and she’s been much more challenged. Good experiences are still out there, but the emphasis on testing has got to go.

  53. 53
    Ivy vann says:

    Two things. One: I did my master’s thesis on reading aloud to older children. It’s an incredibly profound and valuable thing to do; done in a classroom or done at home it creates social capital and shared experiences easily and painlessly. It is also a terrific way for kids to enjoy much more sophisticated writing than they can manage on their own. I recommend it to all parents. Plus, it’s fun!

    The other thing: this is exactly why I’m not a public school teacher. You have no control over your time or curriculum, there’s no room for the kinds of work that really sticks with students. I’m too old for that nonsense.

  54. 54
    Paul in KY says:

    @magurakurin: I also thought the guy who plays Denethor in the movie looked nothing like the Denothor described by Prof. Tolkien.

    Denethor was described as about 6’5″, with very dark hair, lean build, always wore armour (even to bed). Looked a lot more ‘kingly’ (at first glance) than did Aragorn.

  55. 55
    Paul in KY says:

    @rachel: Excellent point. Real flaw in the movie (IMO).

  56. 56
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @mb: I sometimes listen to a few minutes of Dennis Miller. I just can’t take the other rightwingers: Savage, in particular, is a fountain of hatred, stupid, arrogant, misinformed hatred. But I do want to know what “the other side” is thinking. (Keep your enemies close, and all that stuff….) Miller has so changed from the 80’s SNL personality I had a passing sense of from his news readings. He struck me then as pretty full of himself but at least intelligent. He’s not truly stupid, but he has become juvenile and fearful. I do get tired of his hipster chatter: “These crazy dames today, I just don’t get ’em! That Clinton was an interesting cat. Hey, babe, I just think Obama could not be more wrong….”

  57. 57
    trollhattan says:

    Wow, that was quite the tell. She was too busy serially dropping him on his head, I suppose.

  58. 58
    Lurking Canadian says:

    I experience LOTR mostly with a sense of loss. I didn’t like the books. I tried to read Fellowship probably five times and never made it past Bree. It wasn’t until I saw the first Jackson movie that I was concvinced maybe there was a story in there worth reading, and I was able to force myself to make it to the end. Bored stiff the whole damn time, even when the Rohirrim come over the hill.

    So many people whose opinions I respect speak of the sublime experience they had reading the t trilogy. It grieves me that, for some reason, I was not able to have the same experience.

    On the plus side, it means te movies are an unalloyed pleasure, at least up until Deus ex machina airlines come for Frodo at the end.

  59. 59
    quannlace says:

    that it merits the same number of releases as LOTR.

    Throughout my life, I periodically take down the LOTR for a cozy reread. But I gotta say, I’ve never sat down and reread The Hobbit. I think because it is a bit more of a children’s book. Was really surprised to see that Jackson is spinning it out to three films. Is he taking other material from the Tolkien books, putting in some more back story and pre-Hobbit history?

  60. 60
    srv says:

    We had reading up to third, but It was fluffy stuff. I was in the back corner of class or in the library with a Big Chief and drawing Goblins attacking the school. I was the only elementary kid with access to the HS lib. Nobody read in class until we got to languages or British Lit.

  61. 61
    lou says:

    Our fifth grade teacher read aloud A Wrinkle In Time (and if I ever own a black lab, it will be named Fortinbras). I was introduced to Tolkien by a cousin at age 12.

  62. 62
    SatanicPanic says:

    @West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.): Totally agree with you. I much prefer the ending that Peter Jackson added to the cleansing of the shire. Thought that was unnecessary- Hey, we just saved the whole world from an all-powerful sorcerer, now look at us beat a few bad humans. Uh OK.

  63. 63
    PurpleGirl says:

    I’m not trying to defend teaching-to-the-test, but in my case taking my first standardized reading test changed my school experience. I’ve always stuttered. In the 1950s, NYC’s public schools tracked you (smart, average, needs help) by how you read orally in the Third grade. Yes, that’s right, by your oral reading ability in the Third grade.

    So I ended up in a needs-help class. Not that I got help, or maybe they decided the “speech” class I was pulled out for once a week was that help. (That’s a story for another time.) In the Sixth grade I took a standardized reading test. The results of that test — a reading level of 10.9 — changed how they viewed me. Suddenly, I was changed into a “smart” kid and in the Seventh grade I found myself in the college-bound group.

    Of course they never talked to me about my reading habits. I had a library habit — at least once every week I went to by local library and spent a few hours reading there and bringing home a few books (up to the maximum 10 allowed many times) to read. My first solo trips into Manhattan were to go (where else?) to a library.

    (Which reminds me, it’s time to my annual contribution to the Queens Library and New York Public Library.)

    (ETA: Sorry this is so long, but it’s my one deep memory of elementary school. I don’t get memorable teachers until Junior High and High School.)

  64. 64
    jon says:

    I could go on and on about all the changes and omissions in the LOTR movies, but I think almost every single one of them made a better movie of a series of books that would take a long miniseries to be done in their entirety.

    Tom Bombadil? Old Man Willow? Scouring of the Shire? I like that the first was taken out, the second was combined with the Ents, and the third was done to show how modern war works: the men returned, and the villagers had no idea of what they went through. Then again, I don’t know if that’s so good, in the movie or the real world. But it spoke to me in that way.

    I worry with the Hobbit that the story, which was so much more compact, will be lost. I want a cut that’s just the book, even though I’m certain I’ll enjoy seeing where Gandalf was always running off to.

  65. 65
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Lurking Canadian: I thought that was the only time the eagles actually made sense, because Gandalf knows where the hobbits are and asks them to go pick them up. Every other time they appear it’s pretty much out of nowhere, and it’s because Tolkein wrote himself into a dead end.

  66. 66
    handsmile says:

    When I was in the 5th grade (c. 1967), I visited New York City for the first time, traveling with my younger brother by Greyhound Bus from Worcester, MA. My aunt, with whom we were staying, eagerly told me of a wonderful new book she had just read, The Hobbit. What I still recall from her enthusiasm was the remark, “You’ll find characters who will remind you of everyone you know!” (Sadly, in truth, my search for a real-life Gandalf remains unfulfilled to this day though I suspect I’ve known some elves.)

    My aunt presented me with her copy and it rests beside me as I type this, a treasured possession of my book collection. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are among the most influential reading experiences of my life.

    As for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, I believe there should be a cultural wing of the International Criminal Court to seek justice for his transgressions. Insipid screenplay, atrocious acting (save for McKellen and Miranda Otto), and impoverished visual imagination (excepting the Mines of Moria sequence). Each film in the series was significantly worse than its predecessor.

    And yet with all that simmering indignation, I’m almost certain to sit through each and every one of “The Hobbit” films.

  67. 67
    PurpleGirl says:

    The educational organization I worked for emphasized reading out loud to children. Part of our parent training program was devoted to this. We taught the participants how to ask their children questions during the reading session. We gave out children’s books with questions pasted on pages as an example. (I came up with idea to use clear mailing labels for this, so as not to cover the pictures.) Many low-income, low educated parents don’t know how to do this. They may never have been read to themselves or imagined doing it. Many reported liking it.

  68. 68
    PanurgeATL says:


    There’s something about a haircut and a suit and an “adult” position and manner that can make young men (less so women, it seems) seem older than they are. I think I had much the same experience occasionally when I was a kid (though I wouldn’t have thought them “old”–maybe “middle-aged”).

  69. 69
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Heard The Hobbit in 5th grade (parochial school). That would have been ’67-68. One of a number of books I had read to me in elementary school — The Gammage Cup, and The Whisper of Glocken, and A Cricket in Times Square also stick in my head.

    I still do read-aloud, to high-schoolers. They love it — it features prominently on any list of ‘What do you miss from when you were in grade-school?’ Penelope Lively’s retellings of the Aeneid, Iliad, and Odyssey, usually. With the encouragement of our district literacy bod, too.

    If I teach my planned navigation class, I intend to go Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World.

    Students can be read to two grade levels higher than they themselves read. There’s that much support from the reader.

  70. 70
    reality-based says:


    AND they shortened the whole Eowyn story, left out the healing hands of the king, & the happy ending with Faramir – so we could see the pretty elf shoot arrows at CGI monsters for 10 minutes (it’s two paragraphs in the book.)

    (not to mention making an action hero out of Arwen. HUH?

    and cutting the cleansing of the shire – WHY???

    However, since Aragorn looked like the Aragorn that’s been in my head since reading all the books at 12 (40 years ago) – I’ve forgiven Jackson. And I’ll go see the Hobbit. i

  71. 71
    Peter says:

    @Lurking Canadian: My opinion largely tracks with yours bI can appreciate that depth and breadth that Tolkein applied to his worldbuilding, but I really think that his actual storytelling was crap. So very dry and overwrought. I felt this way when I first read it and I feel even more strongly about it now.

  72. 72
    Peter says:

    Also I did not miss the scouring of the Shire one jot. That was such a needless and dull part of the book, which was for all intents and purposes already over.

  73. 73
    WereBear says:

    I came to The Hobbit late; like 15 or so. But it tapped into every child’s dreams and wishes.

    For instance, I wrote the personal post, Village of Elves, on my blog, about the dream of meeting other cultures, so to speak.

    I love the extended version of LOTR; Peter Jackson put in a lot that he was criticised for deleting due to exhibitor pressure or what-have-you. What part of “make it longer and show more movies” do some people have trouble getting?

  74. 74
    PurpleGirl says:

    @WereBear: What part of “make it longer and show more movies” do some people have trouble getting?

    Theater owners are thinking about the turnover rate per day. A two-hour movie can be shown, say, six times but a three-hour or four-hour movie can be shown only four/three times a day. They want the one that gets them maximum money on that movie by the number of times they run it.

  75. 75
    ruemara says:

    @PurpleGirl: haha, are you me? Because I spent just about every day in the Queens Library across from the bus terminal. And once I had my first midtown job, I got my library card from the lending library at 41st and 5th. Never had any reason to go past the Lions, this wasn’t scholarship.

    (Which reminds me, it’s time to my annual contribution to the Queens Library and New York Public Library.)

    And thank you for that too.

  76. 76
    Spankyslappybottom says:

    @reality-based: While there was talk among Jackson & Co of making Arwen come with the elves to Helm’s Deep, it never made it to the film. So she’s not an action hero in the films, at least that I can recall.

    By the way, those on the fence about Jackson’s LOTR because of its book omissions really must see the Extended Editions, which add nearly a total of 3 hours to the running time. A much fuller viewing experience, and none of the additions are battles/fights/action.

  77. 77
    Fair Economist says:

    I thought the Scouring was important for two reasons. First, it shows the hobbits having grown and become heroic in their adventures. Merry and Pippin are always basically sidekicks earlier (like Robin, they save the day sometimes, but they’re still sidekicks). Frodo is just enduring under the crushing burden of the ring earlier. Sam is sort of a hero, yet still Frodo’s sidekick. But in the cleansing they’re the unalloyed heroes.

    On another level the Cleansing of the Shire is about 1) how war gets everywhere and is a bad thing even if you win and 2) how industrial society can be bad for human lives. These are good lessons, clearly part of Tolkien’s intent, and important.

  78. 78
    Fair Economist says:


    not to mention making an action hero out of Arwen. HUH?

    The book is pretty sexist (women have pretty minor roles) and that’s an attempt to modify the story for a somewhat less sexist modern world.

  79. 79
    Peter says:

    @Fair Economist: But those lessons have little to nothing to do with the rest of the text, and certainly have no place as a chapters-long coda at the end.

    By the time I got to them, I was seriously wondering why the book was still going on when the story had so clearly ended tens of pages ago.

  80. 80
    reality-based says:

    @Spankyslappybottom: Well, after Frodo gets stabbed by the Nazgul at weathertop, suddenly it’s Arwen who shows up and saves him, outrunning the Nine on her magical elf horse and being all warrior-maideny – in the movie.

    In the book, an elf lord (Glorfindel?) shows up, they put Frodo on his horse, and the horse outruns the nazgul while Aragorn, Glorfindel, and the hobbits charge with torches – – –

    just saying – she’s really minor in the book –

  81. 81
    PurpleGirl says:

    @ruemara: I’m not a big library user right now but libraries played a very important role in my life and I want to give back for that. Since the City keeps cutting their budgets, I’ll do my part, however small, in keeping libraries open and able to help others.

  82. 82
    PJ says:

    @West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.): It’s been around three decades since I last read the Lord of the Rings, but I felt the Scouring of the Shire was a stark reminder that no part of the world, even its most innocent or humble or naive, remained unaffected by the war. Tolkien came home from the devastation of the trenches to see the destruction of the English countryside continue (albeit at a much slower pace). For the hobbits, the home they thought they were returning to was gone forever. I can find many faults in Tolkien’s writing, but this sense of loss that pervades the Lord of the Rings is one of the things that makes it great.

  83. 83
    Matt McIrvin says:

    I remember that Children’s Digest ran the scene where Bilbo steals the Ring from Gollum.

    And I loved it, but didn’t actually read the rest of the book until I was in college. The kid’s-book tone of it grated on me a little by then, but I liked the way LOTR gradually opened out from a similar style of writing into a full-blown epic.

    In the meantime, I’d seen and enjoyed the Rankin-Bass adaptation of The Hobbit, and seen and not so much enjoyed Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation of half of LOTR. But for that reason, when I think of The Hobbit I still see the Rankin-Bass imagery in my head.

  84. 84
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Spankyslappybottom: Actually, I thought the extended Two Towers made an important addition to the battle of Helm’s Deep. Not to be too spoilery, you get to see how it actually ends! The theatrical release actually cuts out the decisive moment.

  85. 85
    McJulie says:

    I was introduced to The Hobbit by the Bass & Rankin TV movie in 1977. I was 11 years old and it was, beyond any doubt, the COOLEST THING I’D EVER SEEN. So I read the book and it was the COOLEST THING I’D EVER READ. Then Lord of the Rings was EVEN COOLER THAN THAT.

    As a teenager I loved the Bakshi movie, even though I hated his treatment of the hobbits — Sam in particular was all wrong.

    By the time the Bass & Rankin Return of the King was on TV, I was older and must have been getting more critical, because I thought it was merely okay.

    I love the Peter Jackson movies even though I dislike some of his changes. My favorite thing about them is that my husband, who was completely unmoved by the book, loves the movies.

    I fully expect to love the Hobbit movies even though I’ll have a million nitpicks and things I would have done differently.

    I recently re-read it (I re-read LOTR much more often than The Hobbit) and was struck by the fact that, although it’s a fairly short book, it’s crammed completely full of incident. I saw very easily how you could make it into a much longer story, just by engaging more fully in some of the things that happen. For example — Bilbo passes out for most of the battle of the five armies, and we catch up after the fact on what happened. As a child reading it, I didn’t mind. But if you’re adapting it to film, you have to show it.

    I think a short movie that covered the same ground as The Hobbit would feel ridiculously crowded, which I’m sure is why he was going to do two movies in the first place.

    Also, although it has a much lighter tone than LOTR, that’s largely because of the way the story is told, not because of what happens in it. There’s no particular reason why the Mirkwood spiders should be less terrifying than Shelob.

  86. 86
    Goblue72 says:

    Hell hath no fury like a nerd-fan scorned.

  87. 87
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Incidentally, while she didn’t read The Hobbit, I had a 5th-6th grade teacher very much like Mrs. H., and the experience was, I think, hugely important to me.

  88. 88
    IowaOldLady says:

    I learned a lot from listening to the writers on the extended edition of LOTR. The travesty of what PJ did to the Steward’s family is hard to forgive, but I can see the structural story-telling issues that the writers were trying to address.

    I recently listened to The Hobbit on audiobook in my car and loved the songs, which I skip when I read to myself. OTOH, Tom Bombadil. OMG. I wanted to drive my car into a ditch.

  89. 89
    handsmile says:

    @ruemara: , @PurpleGirl:

    My accumulated overdue fines represent a non-trivial annual contribution to the Queens Library system.

    The Queens Library has been an absolute godsend since moving to Astoria from Manhattan several years ago. Rarely do I have to wait more than a couple of days (if not available on the shelves) to borrow recently published books, ones that would require weeks or more until available from Manhattan library waiting lists. For example, at the moment I have Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Zona by Geoff Dyer, and It’s Even Worse Than It Looks by Mann and Orenstein. Moreover, its acquisition of costly fine arts publications, e.g., monographs, exhibition catalogues, is simply astonishing.

    Earlier this year, the library system was spared initially draconian budget cuts by the NY City Council (due in part to some savvy and broad-based local advocacy) which has enabled it to resume staff hiring and to expand operating hours at all or most branches (and the main Central Library branch will complete its comprehensive expansion plans.)

    From childhood, public libraries have played a crucial part in my reading life, indeed my professional life, and I am enormously fortunate and grateful to have lived in states/cities with a robust appreciation of their virtues to civic affairs.

  90. 90
    kerFuFFler says:

    @PurpleGirl: I’m glad that standardized test helped you out! It is such a shame that standardized testing has led some schools to focus excessively on the tests and now people are becoming reflexively anti-test. Both my husband and my son were similarly rescued (from teachers who would not recognize a gifted child if they saw one) when their test scores were wildly at odds with the teachers’ perception of their abilities. Although there are many wonderful teachers out there, there are also lots of dolts who do not have the insight it takes to craft meaningful measurements themselves. The standardized test can help identify when a teacher has misjudged a student——administrators and teachers are likelier to pay attention to an official score than the complaints of some mere parent!

  91. 91
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @PJ: I appreciate your perspective, and I think that LOTR is an extraordinary literary achievement, a trilogy people will be reading hundreds of years from now. I won’t reiterate what I already said, but as someone noted above (sorry, I can’t now find it), soldiers often do return home to find those they fought for are utterly unaware of what the battle was like: they’ve been living fat and sassy at home. The untarnished shire as shown by Jackson certainly was a departure from the book, by I thought it worked.

    I don’t think the film trilogy is flawless. Legolas using shields as skateboards, his ludicrous scaling of a rampaging oliphant, the already-mentioned dwarf-tossing scene… blah.

    Off-topic, but I thought the 80’s Bond films with Tarzan calls and Beach Boys music was a clear sign that the Roger Moore era was long done.

  92. 92
    The Other Chuck says:


    And he left off the fucking cleansing of the shire, which is so emotionally important.

    Just because Tolkein shoehorned a useless appendage into his masterwork doesn’t make it any less of a useless appendage. For someone who “cordially detested allegory in all its manifestations”, he put his colleague C.S. Lewis to shame in beating us over the head with it in that godawful anticlimactic epilogue story.

    And good riddance to Tom Bombadil too.

  93. 93
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @kerFuFFler: Yes, tests certainly do not always reveal intelligence! Watched a movie last night, Phoebe in Wonderland, about a 5th grade girl with Tourettes & OCD. I suspect that there are a lot of gifted children who are regarded only as troubled. Of course, a fair number of so-called normal children are perhaps just awaiting an enlightened mentoring figure (be it a parent, teacher, or someone else). I was an under-achiever; it was not until my 7th grade English teacher (Joseph Gustin) and a few others that I began to gain in self-esteem and blossom a bit. My parents were well-intentioned but without resources or knowledge. (Dad was a high school drop out. His parents quit school after 3rd and 4th grade back in about 1910. My mother graduated high school and became a dutiful Catholic housewife.)

    Great teachers are so important! Teachers who lead their students to new vistas of thought, who make us believe in ourselves… essential!

  94. 94
    jake the snake says:


    That almost makes me feel sorry for the evil bastard. Or, at least, pity.

    My mother read to me as long as I can remember until I learned to read. She read mostly from three books. “Good Reading for High Schools” which was her high literature text from the 1930s, “101 Narrative Poems”, (I can recite at least part of “The Ballad of East and West”, “Lochinvar”
    and “The Highwayman”to this day) and “Hurlbert’s Story of the Bible.”
    I can also remember my sister reading the Theban Plays to me when she was reading them for high schol.

  95. 95
    Tehanu says:

    I’ve never forgotten the almost physical thrill I felt, like a rocket going up inside my head, when I read the first sentence of “Lord of the Rings.” I was 14. I read the entire trilogy over and over again for the next three years — and I’ve read it many, many times since, probably more than 100 times altogether. I even wrote my diaries in Tengwar letters, so now when I unearth those old diaries, of course, I have to laboriously figure out what I was saying letter by letter! I think the Hobbit movies will be much more like the LOTR movies and not much like the Hobbit book — that is, dark and serious and full of battles and gloom — but I’m such an addict I don’t care. Of course the movies can’t possibly be as “good” as what I see in my own mind, but on the whole they’re much better than I would have expected, so I’m not complaining — well, not too much! We’ll see!

  96. 96

    @Fair Economist:
    A great number of people think including the author’s experience as unnecessary context, I don’t. Tolkein wrote during WWII, Twain grew up with slavery, etc. The Cleansing makes perfect sense in that regard (as well the maturing of the hobbits) but movies are made inside a context as well.

    I enjoy movies that are true in general to books but I enjoy them as movies, not as translations of books. Two different media with different needs and strengths.

  97. 97
    opie_jeanne says:

    @Amir Khalid: I reread it about a month ago because of the upcoming movie, and I had forgotten how good it is. That first page is a great example of how to start a book.

    I’m currently rereading LotR, have reached the point where Frodo is just outside Shelob’s lair.

  98. 98
    Tehanu says:


    this sense of loss that pervades the Lord of the Rings is one of the things that makes it great.

    That’s exactly right. I wouldn’t give up the modern world — emancipation for women (me!), modern medicine, fast transportation, fast communication, public health, cleanliness — but I think that Tolkien was right to mourn for the good things that were lost when modernity came in. He says it, practically on the first page of The Hobbit: “long long ago in the morning of the world, when there was less noise and more green…” (quoting from memory, think I got it right). If you haven’t, you should read Tom Shippey’s books on Tolkien, expecially Author of the Century.

  99. 99

    […] Visit link: Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » A Small Hobbit Remembrance […]

  100. 100
    Tehanu says:

    @The Other Chuck:
    What’s “useless” about it? You think it should have ended “And they all lived happily ever after”? I couldn’t disagree more. LOTR didn’t become a classic because it had a childish ending where the good guys slaughtered the bad guys and the reader could forget all about everything except a child’s-level win. It became a classic because it was about reality even though it pretended to be a “fairy tale.”

  101. 101
    opie_jeanne says:

    @kelrian: My 5th grade teacher was the same, and I was lucky to have her for 6th grade as well. That was September of 1961 through June of 1963.

    She didn’t read us “The Hobbit” but she did read many other books to us. The two I remember were “Tom Sawyer” and this other book about migrant workers, latter day Okies, called something like “The Blue Willow Plate”.

    When she got very sick and couldn’t teach for 6 weeks it was the dullest 6 weeks of school I ever endured. They eventually assigned a permanent sub but our impression was that this substitute hated all of us. Maybe she did: she was black and we were a bunch of little shits, either white or Hispanic (we white kids were the worst). We were little shits because we let her know right away that she WASN’T Mrs. Landreth and would never be Mrs. Landreth, which is hysterical because Mrs. Landreth was the scariest teacher on campus, the one you were terrified of when you were in K-4 because she was 6 feet plus, had a mannish haircut, and a big booming voice that could stop you in your tracks even if you were innocent of anything ever in your entire 11 years on the planet… until you were lucky enough to have her as your teacher instead of sweet Mrs. Chamberlain next door. I can’t even remember that woman’s name, but when I started 5th grade there was that blessed woman’s name, Mrs. C., on my room assignment and I knew I was safe from the terrifying Mrs. Landreth, until 2 hours into the first day when she arrived in the doorway of this classroom packed with more than 40 kids, pointed at 10 of us and said, “Come with me!” We found ourselves, a handful of 5th graders in a class with 20 6th graders, afraid to make a sound, afraid to move.

    I was so scared I called my mother and begged her to get me out of that class, that it wasn’t fair because I knew I was assigned to the other woman’s class, and that I would die, I just knew it. Mom just laughed at me.

    By the second week everyone had adapted and we enjoyed one of the greatest teachers whose classes were so well ordered that we didn’t have to ask permission to sharpen a pencil or get a book out of the cupboard, or a drink at the back of the room. That kind of freedom was unheard of in that school.

    And she played the piano and we sang, and she took requests gladly.

    She was amazing.

  102. 102
    ruemara says:

    @The Other Chuck: I know you have a right to your opinions, but you need help. The Cleansing is about the aftermath, and Tom Bombadil is rather an important sliver of the conflicts of man in the face of the spirit of land. Silly spirit with silly rhymes, but in the end, we are all silly to something that simply is.

  103. 103
    Peter says:


    And that would all be well and fine if Frodo’s journey had happened to take him back to the Shire at some point during his quest to see how things were getting fucked up, so it was at least a little integrated with the actual story. But the Scouring as it stands is utterly tacked-on, and only serves to waste the reader’s time after the story is long over.

  104. 104
    WereBear says:

    My fifth grade teacher read to us from Room for One More. It has an effect on me, still.

  105. 105
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @McJulie: Oh god, the spiders. As cool as Mirkwood will be*, I’m dreading the spiders. I’m not afraid of spiders, but I loathe them (Really ‘cuz they kinda scare me, but I can’t admit that, being a manly man.). As long as they’re Shelob-esque instead of the much more realistic looking Harry Potter ones I’ll be okay.

    *-I can’t wait to see it, considering how awesome they made Fangorn look and feel in the LOTR movies. It captured the weight of the ages and ancient feeling perfectly.

  106. 106
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.):

    I don’t think the film trilogy is flawless. Legolas using shields as skateboards, his ludicrous scaling of a rampaging oliphant, the already-mentioned dwarf-tossing scene… blah.

    Those concessions to “Hollywood action” are the only thing I really disliked about the movies. I can understand pushing Arwen a little, even though its a bit irksome, since the books are pretty devoid of female characters*. Having her rescue Frodo instead of Glorfindel isn’t too big a deal, since Glorfindel is the very definition of a minor replaceable character. And leaving out non-crucial things like Tom Bombadil or the Pukelmen keeps the story more manageable (Although I would’ve loved to see the Barrow Wights.). But the battle scenes were awesome as is, they didn’t need cheesy stuff like what you mentioned.

    *-Except Eowyn. Am I the only guy here that had a crush on her as a kid after reading the novels? I remember mentioning that when watching the movies with an ex-GF and getting the cold shoulder for a week.

  107. 107
    YellowJournalism says:

    @opie_jeanne: You’re right about The Blue Willow plate. I believe it was a story about a youn girl whose prize possession was a blue willow plate an she had to sell it for food or medicine at some point in te novel. I read it in 4th grade after purchasing it with the play money our teacher set us up to earn all year in the classroom. Every Friday we could buy things with our fake dollars from her “store,” so one Friday I bought the book because the plate on the cover was the same pattern as my Mom’s good china.

    I loved that money system, btw. You got assigned jobs for the week. If you were in charge of the electric pencil sharpener for the week, you made big bucks as it was five bucks a turn. We all paid often, because it was better than using the ancient hand-cranked one that ate pencils up or wouldn’t work at all. Free market!

  108. 108
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @MeDrewNotYou: Oh, no, you’re not alone with your crush on Eowyn… She (in particular in the movies) is a strong, capable female character. Miranda Otto wielded her sword quite powerfully and looks damn fetching reclining by the fireplace in the great hall of Rohan.

  109. 109
    IowaOldLady says:

    Eowyn was the original love interest Tolkien planned for Aragorn before he thought of Arwen.

  110. 110
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:


    I can find many faults in Tolkien’s writing, but this sense of loss that pervades the Lord of the Rings is one of the things that makes it great.

    Ditto that. The last chapters of LOTR are in many ways the saddest. Tolkien’s books let us savor the sense of discovery and adventure that comes with finding out that the world is bigger and there are more things in it than were dreamt of in our philosophy, but there is also a price to pay for that which is that having left home on that sort of journey, you can never truly go home again. Even if under the best of circumstances your home remains unchanged since you left it, you aren’t the same person you were when you departed. That sense of dislocation, alienation and loss is both profound and heartbreaking yet very difficult to communicate effectively in literature without over doing it.

    And this sense of exile and loss, of having to give something up which can never be recovered, is also central to the ethos of the literature of wonder, of “fairy stories” and the heroic literature underlaying them which Tolkien, writing at the time as the world’s foremost Beowulf scholar, so desperately wanted to resurrect for his own era. Exile is a pervasive theme in almost all of Tolkien’s writing, both in prose and even more so in his poetry. In his stories the mortal who journeys to Elfland inevitably realises that he does not really belong there and cannot stay and yet he no longer fits properly back into the mortal world either. It is impossible to imagine LOTR being complete as a work were it to end in any way other than on the theme of exile and loss.

  111. 111
    Dream On says:

    Not quite Hobbit-talk, but here’s my displeasures with LOTR:

    1) I never EVER thought that Denethor would be such a pig when it came to eating – I think he’d be too bereaved to want to eat much anyway, I was… surprised when Gandalf basically did a kung-fu move on him, and the only good thing about Denethor falling from a great height was the warping of the intriguing character in the novel ended. I think Jacson fucked up on that one.

    Denethor could at least have landed on a fruit-cart or car-roof, a la every ’80s movie.

    2) Treebeard only helps the hobbits out of coincidence (seeing cut trees, etc.) – he is not convinced by their kindness in the slightest.

    3) Dwarf-tossing – an Australian obsession, barely a Kiwi one, certainly not Tolkein.

    4) Faramir became uninteresting and more than a little seedy. Not the book.

    5) No Mouth of Sauron. If there was I don’t remember it.

    6) Still too many fucking elves, though that truly is a fault of the book, and Jackson timed it pretty well for needed popcorn breaks and trips to the restroom.

    7) As you would expect – the poetry and touching small moments of the books are almost completely lost. Maybe that was inevitable, and why people should read the books.

    A lot of the rest of it is the bees’ knees however. Who could argue with the Balrog? And Boromir’s death is quite affecting. Black riders? The moment Saruman’s orcs start their war-screams before the attack at Helm’s Deep. Deeply cool stuff, and so much better then the Star Wars prequels that were being released at the same time. I regret that the movies colonized my imagination, giving visuals to characters and events that I would like to see in my imagination. But that’s film for you.

    In about 1970, the Beatles wanted to a version of Lord of the Rings – I kid you not. Lennon would have played Gandalf – a truly stoned scheme. I did not believe this story was filmable, but Jackson proved it was, and it was immensely entertaining. I would have done some things differently, but I would never have been able to think of the good ideas Jackson had. So, kudos to him.

  112. 112
    eyelessgame says:

    Mrs. H sounds a lot like my younger son’s 2nd-3rd grade teacher.

    I was incredibly fortunate to have my fifteen-year-old brother read me the entire Hobbit when I was five. Inspired a love of F&SF, of reading, of theater that lasted my whole life so far, and also enormously woke up my intellect. I did the same for each of my kids…

  113. 113
    Spankyslappybottom says:

    @reality-based: Ah, yes, you are right about that change. It does make Arwen actiony.

    But: “Come and claim him…If you can!”

    Totally cool. Plus the gradual close-up introduction of Arwen looking right into the camera. Mesmerizing.

  114. 114
    Ivy vann says:

    My research suggests that stopping the action to ask questions does not work very well for older children.

  115. 115
    Triassic Sands says:

    Peter Jackson did a fine job on The Lord of the Rings, but things began to go down hill with his release of King Kong, a film that suffered seriously from BLOAT. Three films for The Hobbit? It will be a miracle if it isn’t a bloated mess.

  116. 116
    Joe Max says:

    I had much the same experience, with a similar teacher (Miss Kinney) in 5th grade, except she read “Wind in the Willows” instead of “The Hobbit”, but the effect was much the same. And in those days, teachers had so much more autonomy to do what they had been trained to do: TEACH.

    And like you, her reading “Wind in the Willows” still sticks in my mind after all these years, especially the chapter “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” – which was not only the inspiration for the Pink FLoyd album of that name, but was the most spiritual, “psychedelic” bit of children’s lit ever.

    But I paid Miss Kinney back by reading to my daughter every day – without fail – from the time she was 3 months old (when I first read “The Hobbit” to her out loud) until she was 10, when she told me she could read the latest Harry Potter book all by herself now, thank you Dad. (Of course, she could read them quite well for years by then, but we both loved “story time” so much. At least I did! And I did a great Gollum too!)

    Parents: read to your kids, dammit. Every day.

  117. 117
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says:

    I really think the LoTR books are our epics. The Greeks thought you would become a more refined, or at least a more Greek, person by thoroughly absorbing the Iliad and Odyssey and internalizing their values.

    The takeaway message from Tolkien is just exactly the opposite however—at least to me—that especially at certain critical junctures in history even the least among us can make a difference, not that “Excellence” wins over all.

    I’ll be interested in how they film The Hobbit. They had to pad Arwen’s part considerably for The LoTR, but there was only one female character in The Hobbit and she was a spider….

  118. 118
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @Dream On:

    n about 1970, the Beatles wanted to a version of Lord of the Rings – I kid you not. Lennon would have played Gandalf – a truly stoned scheme. I did not believe this story was filmable, but Jackson proved it was, and it was immensely entertaining. I would have done some things differently, but I would never have been able to think of the good ideas Jackson had. So, kudos to him.

    I love the Beatles and think nearly everything they did was great. That being said, thank FSM the Lennon did go through with it. It would’ve ruined everything and seriously diminished Gandalf. Instead of being the bad-ass that bellows, “You shall not pass!” he would’ve been a punchline. Even I would engage in some hippie punching.

    That also reminds me of a quote from a young Comic Book Guy from The Simpson’s episode ‘That 90’s Show.’ The camera pans over him as he finishes talking to a group of college students and says, “And that is why The Lord of the Rings can never be filmed!”

  119. 119
    Joe Max says:

    @Triassic Sands: The thing is, Jackson is pulling a lot of material from the Appendices of LotR, the stories of what was going on concurrently with the adventure of Bilbo and the Dwarves. There is a whole tale about what Gandalf was doing after he left them at the beginning of Mirkwood. This is why you see Galadriel and other characters in the previews. Galadriel shows herself to be the most powerful being in Middle Earth in the Battle of Dol Guldur. (And this explains why the denizens of Middle Earth are so pants-wettingly AFRAID of her in LotR! If she had decided to take the One Ring from Frodo, she really would have made Sauron look like a third-rate punk.)

  120. 120
    stinger says:

    @PJ: “this sense of loss that pervades the Lord of the Rings is one of the things that makes it great.”

    Agreed. First there were the Ainur, and then they fell out amongst themselves; there was beauty and music and creation, then there was strife. Then came the Elves, and they were tall and proud and great — but they quarrel and split into groups. By the time of LOTR, Elves are passing away from Middle-earth and leaving it to Men. The lifespans of Men gradually dwindle. The whole thing, from The Silmarillion through LOTR, is a story of loss (a result of sin).

    The Cleansing of the Shire pulls us back into the “real” world and surely rang very true to a British audience that still had clear memories of WWII.

  121. 121
    opie jeanne says:

    @Dream On: The Mouth of Sauron is in the extended version.

  122. 122
    Dream On says:

    @opie jeanne:
    @Dream On: The Mouth of Sauron is in the extended version.

    Ah! So I can like the movies a little more now…

  123. 123
    Central Planning says:

    Three of my children have read LOTR, my middle daughter did it in 5 days. I’m currently reading it to my fourth.

    I’m also going to see The Hobbit on the 14th at some special showing… I think it might be IMAX 3D too. Two more weeks!

  124. 124
    opie jeanne says:

    @Dream On: He/It was fascinating and creepy and disgusting, and I found him and what happened to him very satisfying in the film.

    I am only up to the point in LotR right now where Frodo has reached the mouth of Shelob’s lair, and I don’t remember how the Mouth of Sauron was treated in the book because I read it last so very many years ago, nearly 40 years.

  125. 125
    Joe Max says:

    @Dream On: Except in Jackson’s version, the Mouth of Sauron doesn’t just get scared away, instead Aragorn cuts his damn head off!

    And Gimili remarks, “well I suppose that’s the end of the negotiations…”

  126. 126
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    @Joe Max: Most of the time, both of my parents had to work. But as tired as they were, one of them would read to me every night until I was 7 or 8. My dad, who’s dyslexic and dropped out of school after the 8th grade, would always try to read something, even if it was as simple as Dr Seuss. (I’ve never really told him how thankful I am for that. This thread is a good reminder that I need to thank him next time we talk.) They were relieved when I started reading to my little sister, but they’d still try to fit in a story themselves once in a while.

    I don’t remember it, but my sister tells me that I read The Hobbit to her. However, I apparently bent the story a bit and told her that Gollum gave Bilbo a piggyback ride in the caves*. So whenever we played, I would be Bilbo and get carried all around the house and yard, swinging my stick/sword at invisible goblins. I don’t remember this, but it sounds like something I’d do as a kid, so I choose to believe it.

    ANYWAYS! The moral of the story is just as you said; read to your kids, anything will do. They’ll love the written word and you’ll be closer to boot.

    *-I think that this was instead of Bilbo jumping over Gollum to escape as in the book. She doesn’t remember exactly.

  127. 127
    gelfling545 says:

    I was taught by the Sisters of Mercy and every single teacher, grade 1 to 8, read to us for some part of every day. I have vivid memories of this and am sure that it is a part of my real love for (ok, obsession with) reading. I was lucky & found “my” stories early. I realized later as a teacher that so many kids never grow to enjoy reading because they have never found “their” story, the one that makes them say “more of this, please.” The daily reading of just plain stories with no expectation from us except that we hear the story is so far removed from instruction in literature. All we had to do was hear and, maybe, enjoy.

  128. 128
    freemark says:


    I don’t see how one of the best parts of the book

    “serves to waste the reader’s time after the story is long over”

    It made the whole book so much better. I think “and they lived happily ever after” always kind of sucked but I guess at least it didn’t waste readers time. I personally enjoyed the “real world” ending. After three books I wanted to know how the whole story ended; not just “Sauron was defeated and they lived happily ever after.”

    The fact that we got to see the difference their adventures made in their maturity, how life always changes, even in the Shire, and how some thing will always leave scars, like we see with Frodo, was extremely well written and important to the whole story. And in my personal opinion definitely not a waste of time.

  129. 129
    redshirt says:

    @Joe Max: Nerd chat! I don’t see how it could be possible Galadriel is that powerful. She’s just an elf – yes, one of the oldest. And yes, she’s got her own secret ring too (though she can’t wear it). But Sauron, Gandalf, and my main man Radagast the Brown are essentially Demons/Angels, and far more powerful than any elf could be.

    Also too: Sharkey4lyfe.

  130. 130
    PanurgeATL says:

    I had a teacher in 5th grade who also read to us most days after lunch; she couldn’t shut us up the rest of the day, but we were quiet for at least that period. My elementary school also had a librarian who’d read to our classes in first and (I think) second grade; we’d go to the library and gather in a corner of the big room around her. I can’t help thinking there was even more than that.

    I’m hardly thinking about the Hobbit films, probably because I don’t want my imagination colonized more; I’m not even 100% sure I’ll see them, and I’ve been a fan since I was 13. I’ve only seen the theatrical LOTR films once and only seen bits of the director’s cut of FOTR. I understand about the needs of a movie, but that’s not always sufficient justification for making a change in the story. I can’t help but think that LOTR is really more of a victim in this matter than most other stories, but that might be just me. But I’ve got my own “film”, and I don’t want it messed with. (OTOH, I don’t have a perfect “film” of every scene in either book; I wasn’t sure of how to picture the Balrog until I saw the film.) I’m wondering if Peter Jackson might try to shift the tone sometimes between the main plot and the side plots.

    Funny thing (and this must be at least the second time I’ve noted this here)–I thought the scene with Sean Bean and Elijah Wood toward the end of the FOTR film is just the way I would’ve done it, and it’s just two guys in front of a camera. I wish Jackson would’ve taken a tip from that. Someone once said that if it weren’t for the battle scenes, it could’ve been done as a BBC costume drama in 1976. I might’ve liked it better that way.

    I get the bit about “not enough women”, but I would’ve fixed it by making sure every female character, no matter how minor, got into the movie in full, not by making Arwen something she wasn’t created to be. Every crowd scene involving both sexes would also be in the movie. (What I would’ve done is put the scene on camera where Aragorn, Glorfindel, and the hobbits meet up with “Elrond’s people”, explained by Gandalf in the book; it would’ve been easy as pie to put Arwen there.)

    SIDE NOTE 1: Glorfindel strikes me as absolutely the most, um, Elven Elf in the whole book; no one in the real world could play him–he’s too perfect, the way I imagine him. (Tolkien was originally going to make him a member of the Fellowship, but his place was taken by Legolas once Tolkien ran into a plot-redundancy matter which you have to read The Silmarillion to understand.) A character like that doesn’t need to be major, but it makes for a really cool walk-on.

    SIDE NOTE 2: There is a reason Gandalf does not say “You shall not pass!” in the book. Too obvious, especially for a WWI veteran. All three times he says “You cannot pass!” and I like it that way. Maybe when they make the miniseries in 2025 or so…

  131. 131
    redshirt says:

    My fifth grade teacher sent me to the office because while she insisted a whale was a fish, I would not relent from my position that a whale was a mammal.

  132. 132
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Joe Max: The “Piper” chapter in “Wind in the Willows” actually really bothered me as a kid, because it was so different in tone and worldbuilding from everything else in the book. It felt like it didn’t fit. That guy would have been fine in Narnia, but not there.

    But, of course, it stuck in my mind to a greater degree than anything else in the story.

  133. 133
    aimai says:


    Well, to me the “cleansing of the shire” isn’t so much the “beat a few humans” as all about returning and finding the devastation–it seems so “Britain after the Blitz”–and working to restore what has been destroyed. Sam does more than just get up the nerve to approach rosy, he brings back elvish magic and plants the seed for a new party tree. Those scenes are part of the restorative vision and the ecological vision that made the books so of their time in the 60’s–that spoke to the struggle people were having with pollution and clear cutting and a general sense of the end of the natural world.


  134. 134
    aimai says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    Its not an “anticlimax” its elegaic. After war–peace, but what kind of peace? That is the question Tolkein explores in the ending.


  135. 135
    Peter says:

    @freemark: But here’s the thing: ‘the whole story’ had ended at the point the Scouring begins. It was fucking over! Tolkein then adds another extra story to the end. It has absolutely no place in the story’s narrative structure, because it’s conflict that comes after the central conflict of the novels has already resolved.

  136. 136
    Gemina13 says:

    I had teachers who read to the class in 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade–“Charlotte’s Web” in 1st, “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory” in 2nd, and “How To Eat Fried Worms,” among others, in 4th. But my older brother handed me “The Hobbit” when I was 10, and told me it was the best book I’d ever read.

    I’m grateful for the teachers who read to me and my classmates, but I’m equally grateful for my adult brother who decided his baby sister would enjoy his favorite book.

  137. 137
    Anton Sirius says:

    But here’s the thing: ‘the whole story’ had ended at the point the Scouring begins. It was fucking over!

    You’re completely fucking wrong. The story of the Ring was over, sure. But not the story of the hobbits, who are only the main fucking characters.

    It’s Joseph Campbell 101. The hero’s journey isn’t complete until they return home with their new wisdom and put it into practice.

    If you want to quibble with Tolkien’s execution of the ending, fine, go ahead. But if you think the Scouting of the Shire is “tacked on”, you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.

  138. 138
    Porlock Junior says:

    The people who consider the Cleansing to be a wholly unnecessary scene tacked on after the real story is over might take a bit of advice from Tolkien’s friend Jack, who is more responsible than anyone else (after Tolkien of course) for the fact that the book saw the light of day.

    I forget which essay it was in which C. S. Lewis made this favorite comment of mine, so I can’t look it up just now, but from memory: Now whenever I read War and Peace, I skip the final book, because it adds nothing to what has gone before.

    Sensible approach, though what really catches the eye is the opening clause.

  139. 139
    Peter says:

    @Anton Sirius: And you would never find Joseph Campbell advocating for the whole-cloth invention of a brand new conflict at the end of the story for that purpose. Because that would be dumb and unnecessary. Like the Scouring. If what it takes to end the Hobbits’ story is something brand new which affects nothing that came before in any way, then I would propose to you that their story was in fact finished after all.

    Also, The Hero’s Journey is a model which describes tendencies in existing fiction, it is not a prescriptive model. Very few stories feature each and every step described in that cycle.

  140. 140
    Anton Sirius says:

    Sure, Peter, it’s a “brand new” conflict. It doesn’t tie up a loose end regarding the fate of one of the major villains in the books at all, and it’s not like it was foreshadowed when Merry and Pippin found pipeweed in Isengard or anything… oh, wait.

    You are simply wrong. It’s OK to admit it.

  141. 141
    Tehanu says:

    The great Peter Cook and John Cleese routine from The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball:
    “The whale is not a fish, you know.”
    “Oh really?”
    “No, it’s an insect.”
    “That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard!”
    “I know. It’s a joke.”

  142. 142
    Peter says:

    @Anton Sirius: A villain who was already well taken care of. He didn’t need to rise back up in power and then get beat down again.

    I’m not wrong, I just have a different opinion than you do. One which is less starry-eyed about Tolkien’s writing.

  143. 143
    Original Lee says:

    I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time very vividly. I was 10 years old, and my parents were hosting a New Year’s Eve party. I wanted to be where the action was, and my parents wanted me to go to bed and stay there. So my dad went to the bookcase, got out a paperback copy of The Hobbit, and said, “Here. I think you’ll like this. But you can only read it if you stay in your room.” I read it all the way through, in one big gulp, and (I assume) fell asleep afterwards. Mission accomplished.

    My piano teacher had the LTR trilogy in a bookcase in his waiting room. When I walked in for my lesson the first week of January after having just finished The Hobbit, I noticed the author was the same, and took The Fellowship of the Ring down from the shelf. For the next few months, I read the trilogy in bits and snatches. Sometimes it was difficult to pry me out of the waiting room long enough to have my lesson!

    My fifth grade teacher read to us after lunch, too. Usually they were the first book of a series, I assume with the idea that we would get hooked and seek out the rest on our own. I definitely remember The Saturdays, and Diamond in the Window (which introduced me to Thoreau), and The Three Musketeers, and The Pushcart War. She also tried to sneak in some Agatha Christie, but a couple of parents protested, so she had to stop.

  144. 144
    Original Lee says:

    @YellowJournalism: I am not surprised at all. One friend who has a daughter the same age as Original Daughter, used to complain that the school was not doing an adequate job of teaching her how to read. I was neighbors with her daughter’s teacher at the time and knew that she required her parents to read to their children for 15-20 minutes every night, including keeping a reading log to prove it. So I asked my friend what kinds of books she was reading to her daughter, because it works best if you use a mix of grade level and more difficult books. “Oh,” she said, “we read magazines together if we have time.”

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