Mark Reads ‘The Hobbit’: Chapter 1

In the first chapter of The Hobbit, we are introduced the the world of the hobbits and, in particular, a specific hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who very much would like to not go on an adventure. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start The Hobbit.


Oh lord, what the hell have I gotten myself into?

My relationship to the world of Middle Earth (which I probably have already gotten wrong, as I have no idea if this takes place there) is pretty simple: All of humanity has either read these four books by J.R.R. Tolkien, or seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Meanwhile, I was busy doing jack shit while missing out on most of normal life. At least with Harry Potter, I had a rough sense of what was going on. It was a series about a boy wizard who goes to Hogwarts and bad stuff happens.

At best, this is what I know about The Hobbit:

  • Hobbits are these small people-like things that look like a mixture between a Cabbage Patch doll and a potato. And now I’ve gained the ire of every fan of these books for saying that.
  • No, seriously. Look at a Cabbage Patch kid. Then look at a potato. Am I in the wrong here?
  • J.R.R. Tolkien wrote it.
  • It somehow ties to the trilogy that follows it.
  • Stuff happens???

Somehow, I have been living under a rock in the cultural landscape because I haven’t even gleamed information about these books just through osmosis. (When I get to The Lord of the Rings, I’ll share what I know about the trilogy.) It’s odd to me because nearly everyone in my life is obsessed with all of this: my brother, the vast majority of my friends, nearly everyone I’m friends with online, and pretty much 99% of the world or something. On top of that, it seems there are even more people who are just casually familiar with this all, so much so that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so much shocked derision from a fandom. YOU’VE NEVER READ THE HOBBIT? HOW ON EARTH ARE YOU EVEN BREATHING AIR AT THIS MOMENT. I AM GOING TO MURDER YOU IN THE NEXT THIRTY SECONDS IF YOU DON’T START READING IT.

I think part of me avoided all of this because I’ve never been attracted to high fantasy. The fantasy world is probably pretty badass, but I’m a gay man who thinks RENT is the most important contribution to musical culture in the last couple decades. The truth is that I never thought there was much for me to like in these worlds. I like dragons! I like wizards! I like magic! But I tend to gravitate towards fiction that I can at least find something to relate to, and what little exposure I have had to fantasy made me feel like there wasn’t much in these worlds that I could get attached to.

But, again, the point stands: I don’t much about any of this, and after having such a good time with the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which apparently is greatly inspired by these books, I felt it was time to jump into J.R.R. Tolkien’s world. I had initially planned to open Mark Reads a year ago (OMG IT’S BEEN A YEAR) with these four books, but I worried about their density or my possible desire to piss off an entire fandom. Truthfully, I’m glad I’m starting these now, with quite a few books series under my belt and with a much, much more open mind than I have ever had in the past. So, it’s just over a year since I started this site, and it’s about goddamn time I read these books.

Shall we?

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 on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

There’s a part of me that is incredibly excited to lovingly poke fun of these four books and to bring back the alternate narrative reviews. Yet I can’t make fun of this: that is a fantastic couple of opening sentences for this book. It’s simultaneously this conscious effort to tell this story like a fairy tale, but to frame it in a direct, matter-of-fact way. What I noticed very quickly while reading this lengthy opening chapter is that J.R.R. Tolkien writes this with a sense that he is narrating the novel. Well, I suppose that it’s entirely possible that some other character is telling this story, but I’m still not sure about that. It’s an odd way to tell the story and there are a few moments here that take me completely out of the book. This might be his style, or it might have a larger point. But it’s different, and even if I’m totally not into it yet, I’m glad that it’s nothing like anything I’ve read.

Tolkien describes. He describes everything in the hobbit home, every piece of furniture, the layout, the floor, the rooms, which rooms are best, and then he describes what a hobbit is, what they look like, what sort of “magic” they possess, what skills they have, what they wear, what their body shape is generally like, and then announces:

“Now you know enough to go on with.”

Dare I suggest that I knew enough to go on with two pages ago? I think this is something I’m just going to have to get used to. Tolkien’s attention to detail is even more complete than George R.R. Martin’s. (Sidenote: Has someone in the world made a goddamn A Song of Ice and Fire cookbook? Because that man has described more food dishes than Julia Child. And half of them I want badly.) I get the sense that this is written as if the author himself is sitting down in front of us and telling us this story over a fine dinner, which is actually a neat way to write a book. But, again, it’s a tad distracting; I’m trying to imagine the home of the Bagginses and then Tolkien injects himself into the narrative. It’s a bit weird when he says things like, “…which I have just described for you…” because….well, I know you did, dude? I am reading your book. WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

Anyway, it seems that Bilbo has just been minding his business for decades. How do the hobbits have money? Are their hobbit jobs? Does Bilbo just sit around all day and drink tea and bear and eat cakes and such? Not that there’s anything wrong with that sort of life, but it seems that he really hasn’t done much at all with the fifty years of his life up until Gandalf comes strolling up to The Hill where Bilbo lives. I had no clue that Gandalf was in this book! Oh god, what sorcery will he bring to Bilbo?

That’s actually not clear. Both characters have an interesting way of talking; Bilbo is prone to exclamations and short sentences, while Gandalf is much more pensive, witty, and clever. He also brings adventure, which is apparently anathema to the hobbits. They just don’t like adventure! Why would you go do anything to disturb the possibility of having your second dinner? Sure, it’s some sort of event with Gandalf, but two dinners. I’m not even making fun of Bilbo because why wouldn’t you want to sit at home and have tea and a second dinner? That just sounds pleasant!

But once Bilbo realizes that this is Gandalf, who he’d not seen in many, many years, the tone of his rants change; he’s confused now, teetering between being polite to his guest, complementing his fireworks display when he was younger, and acting entirely wary of any sort of adventure that might require his service. Gandalf doesn’t just show up to small talk, so Bilbo becomes more and more nervous about what this wizard has in store for him.

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But please come to tea–any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Good bye!” With that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside his round green door, and shut it as quickly as he dared, not to seem rude. Wizards after all are wizards.

Um, rude. That’s Gandalf! He’ll…..well, I don’t know what he’ll do. He scratches a sign in Bilbo’s door. Does it say, “Kick me”? Is he secretly a high-school bully? Wait, there probably isn’t even a school in this world. So….what? What is going on?

Things only get more confusing the next day when Bilbo things Gandalf has returned for tea. Instead, a large procession of dwarves show up, one after another, all of them apparently in-the-know of some reason for why they need to be at Bilbo Baggins’s house. Also, can we talk about this?

They had not been at table long, in fact they had hardly reached the third cake, when there came another even louder ring at the bell.

This world measures time in the number of cakes consumed. Why isn’t this real? SIGN ME UP ALREADY.

And so continues this odd parade. A dwarf shows up and tells Bilbo that they’re “at [his] service.” Okay, what are you servicing? Is Bilbo running something? What does the sign that Gandalf scrawled on Bilbo’s door say? “Free back rubs for dwarves”? Okay, wait, that doesn’t even make sense, since they’re at Bilbo’s service, not the other way around. At this point, there are THIRTEEN dwarves in the hobbit’s house, and when Gandalf finally arrives, the wizard REMOVES THE SIGN ON BILBO’S DOOR WHILE KNOCKING. Oh, you scoundrel. With him, he brings four more dwarves, including the majestically-named Thorin Oakenshield, whose very name makes me feel like my entire existence is inferior to his. I mean, if I was a character in a fantasy novel and was introduced as “Ser Mark Oshiro, Lord of the Internet, from the Shire of Potato Tot, Heir to the Bicycle Throne,” I’m pretty sure you’d all laugh at me. Though now I have an image in my head of a field of tater tots, and that’s pretty goddamn awesome. Could you imagine? You’d just waltz out into a field and pluck a basket of tater tots from some sort of bush. Or, hell, maybe it’s a tree and you just shake the tree and gather them all in some sort of blanket or tarpaulin to harvest for that day’s meals.

Oh. Right. The Hobbit.

At this point in the chapter, I was just as confused as Bilbo. There are thirteen dwarves and a wizard in his house, all under some pretense he isn’t aware of, and they’re all demanding food and drink. And I get that this is part of hobbit culture to provide for guests, but it doesn’t make Bilbo feel any better about the whole thing, especially when Thorin announces that not only are they staying for dinner, but it’s time for music! And so the dwarves pile everything up and start to sing THE MOST TERRIFYING SONG IMAGINABLE TO BILBO BAGGINS:

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!

Blunt the knives and bend the forks!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates–

Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

NO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING dwarves. THIS IS NOT YOUR HOUSE YOU SHOULD STOP SINGING ABOUT THESE THINGS. Thankfully, they don’t actually do them, but how the hell do they all know a song about tormenting Bilbo Baggins? Is this just a thing that the dwarves do? Do they routinely enter the houses of unsuspecting people, demand food and drink, and then sing about destroying everything around them? If so, I would probably be a dwarf bigot and never invite one to my house. And that would be perfectly justified bigotry.

Even stranger, after bringing out a bunch of instruments and singing of stolen gold and adventures, this happens:

As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.

Is this just a realization due to the beautiful music, or is this a trick? Did Gandalf plan for this to happen this way? Either way, Bilbo is disturbed by this realization. It’s something he’s never felt before, especially as a hobbit who has developed a strong aversion to the very nature of adventure. But he can’t escape the sensation he has, and then he soon is unable to escape the plan he’s been dragged into. When Thorin begins to speak up and explain why they’re all here, Bilbo finds out he is a conspirator. He tries to explain (very verbosely, I might add) the opening of this journey when Bilbo FLIPS THE FUCK OUT. And justifiably so! Gandalf is responsible for this, for bringing these thirteen dwarves to this hobbit’s house, and for getting him involved in something that goes against his very nature WITHOUT EVEN ASKING HIM IF HE WANTS TO DO IT. Maybe Biblo was right to shut the door in this wizard’s face!

The story starts to come together when other dwarves express doubt that this little hobbit can actually help them with…well, we don’t know much at all at this point, do we? There’s something about a dragon and gold and then we learn that the sign on Bilbo’s door said he was a burglar. Is that….is that just something you brag about in this world???? HEY, I STEAL SHIT, COME TO MY HOUSE. What the fuck?

“And I assure you there is a mark on this door–the usual one in the trade, or used to be. Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward, that’s how it is usually read. You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like. Some of them do. It’s all the same to us. Gandalf told us that there was a man of the sort in these parts looking for a Job at once, and that he had arranged for a meeting here this Wednesday tea-time.”

GANDALF. WHAT ARE YOU DOING. How did you even choose Bilbo without having seen him for DECADES. I’m glad that he admits to being the one who puts the sign on the hobbit’s door, but I’m completely lost as to what he sees in this hobbit that assures him he’ll make a great burglar. Which is not to suggest that Bilbo is a waste of space or anything, as I’m sure he’s an awesome hobbit! It’s just that….what?

With this basis, Tolkien launches into the explanation for why all these dwarves and Gandalf are in Bilbo’s hobbit hole home. (THAT IS A MOUTHFUL.) Again, like before, this is….detailed. I can’t say it’s the most exciting story in the world? This dude is verbose. The dialogue over the best way to reach Smaug and the gold is interesting enough, though I still have no idea of scope or geography quite yet. Thorin is the one to oblige Bilbo when the hobbit finally tells the others that HE HAS NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT ANY OF THEM ARE TALKING ABOUT.

“Bless me!” said Thorin, “haven’t you got a map? and didn’t you hear our song? and haven’t we been talking about all this for hours?”

Oh, it’s going to be like that, is it? Even with the slight condescension, it seems Thorin is more than a little excited to tell the tale attached to this adventure. And maybe this is going to be the one thing I latch on to that I’ll make fun of constantly, but Thorin. Thorin. I think you might want to write down an outline of what you’re going to speak about next time because holy shit dude. While I understand that Tolkien is using this to introduce a whole lot of information to the reader, that’s the problem as well. THIS IS A LOT OF INFORMATION ALL AT ONCE. Surely, you could have just told Bilbo that a dragon named Smaug stole your family’s gold, burned most of the dwarves alive, and only your father and grandfather survived. Gandalf was given the map by Thrain (Thorin’s father) right before the dwarf disappeared and it has taken him until this moment to find Thorin and now they are enacting this plan. THERE I DID IT. That didn’t take SEVEN THOUSAND WORDS.

I’m just going to have to get used to this, aren’t I?

What amuses more than anything, though, is the bizarre sense of entitlement that drips across the pages. I think it’s just part of dwarf culture, perhaps, but Thorin not only insists that Bilbo is coming along with them on the journey to get his gold from Smaug, but he then tells Bilbo his precise breakfast desires:

“I like six eggs with my ham, when starting on a journey: fried not poached, and mind you don’t break ’em.”


After all the others had ordered their breakfasts without so much as a please (which annoyed Bilbo very much), they all got up.

No, seriously, never inviting a dwarf into my house. Because then I’ll end up just like Bilbo: falling asleep in total fear that they are going to make go on adventures to steal gold from a dragon. Okay, I admit that’s pretty awesome, but maybe a bit more of a heads up would have been nice? Oh, Gandalf, as long as you were actually Ian McKellan, I could probably never get mad at you anyway.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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440 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Hobbit’: Chapter 1

  1. Mer says:

    The Hobbit! Hurray!

    As for taking place in Middle Earth- I don't think this is a spoiler as it isn't something discussed in the text of any of the books- yes, it does, but it didn't when it was written. "Middle Earth" (from Norse mythology's "Midgard") was the setting of The Silmarillion, which Tolkein started writing first but which wasn't actually published until after his depth. When he decided that The Lord of the Rings would be a follow-up to both The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, the world of The Hobbit retroactively became the same world as the world of The Silmarillion.

  2. warmouth says:

    Good lord, you're going to be reading the Hobbit and LOTR? God speed good man.

    I personally wasn't a big fan when I read LOTR and the Hobbit. I've always been one for short descriptions. My eyes tend to glaze over when I read big blocks of text. LOTR is one of the few instances I preferred the movies to the books (or from music, power metal loves them Tolkein). But I certainly can appreciate Tolkein in his contributions to modern fantasy. Maybe I'll pick up the books in my next paycheck and join you. It's been so long since I read them I couldn't spoil anything. I've read some China Meville and survived, probably give Tolkein another shot.

  3. Liakela says:

    I read The Hobbit first years ago, because I was afraid of the LotR trilogy — the fact that everyone I'd ever spoken to about it had told me that it was not only a difficult read, but a lengthy one as well. I was intimidated for years, though I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hobbit. Even when Peter Jackson's movies were released, and I became completely enamored of the world of Middle Earth, I was daunted by the books. I finally bit the bullet and read the first two — haven't had a chance to read Return of the King yet. Since you're starting with The Hobbit, I've decided to read along with you!

  4. Vikikiwa says:

    I'm having hard time trying to grasp the idea of Not Having Read the Hobbit. For me it's like other fairytales, I read them when I was so young and so many times since that I can't remember the first time. It's like I've always known them.
    The dialogue over the best way to reach Smaug and the gold is interesting enough, though I still have no idea of scope or geography quite yet.
    Does the book you have not have a map in it? My book and the other editions I've seen have one at the beginning. Tolkien's maps are detailed and beautiful. I don't know if it's spoilery to look it up or not.

  5. Pan says:

    No, you're definitely not alone.

    I've never read The Hobbit or LOTR and I've completely forgotten, that there is a book called "Silmarillion". All of my friends loved these books, they've even yrneag gur ryivfu(?) nycunorg naq fbzr jbeqf – naq naablrq zr ol jevgvat gurve yrggref gung jnl -.-
    I've seen 2 of the movies and for some unknowen reasons, I've participated in a theater performance of The Hobbit. Awful. Oddly named non-people did stuff. Then, more stuff happened, while I was busy being bored. Then, my friends discussed the stuff and the hidden stuff and were somehow able to distinguish all these guys (THIRTEEN DWARVES?!), while I was stuck in boredom.

    So, I won't read along with you, but I will – of course! – read your reviews. For them, I'm intrigued. For the books – not so much…

  6. hillary says:

    omg hahaha I REMEMBER THINKING THE EXACT SAME THING WHEN I READ IT– er, all the things, that is. actually i was so surprised when there was a song all of a sudden. never prepared.

    also mark you are hilarious forever and always. JUST SO YOU KNOW.

  7. Heather R says:

    Mark, you are not alone in not reading the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    My friends are still astonished by this.

  8. Ryan Lohner says:

    Tolkien wanted more than anything for this to feel like a real story he was telling. Supposedly, the book started when he was in the middle of boring work grading papers and suddenly decided to write on an index card, appropos of absolutely nothing, "In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit." This expanded to a story he told his kids, and then to a desire to give Britain its own epic mythology like the Greek or Norse pantheon, as anything similar Britain may have had was lost in the Norman invasion (the stories of King Arthur mostly come from French sources).

    So, the conceit of these books is that Tolkien was translating a true story he'd discovered. And this allowed him some pretty creative leeway whenever he changed his mind about something, as he could just say he'd tranlated wrong the first time and put out a new edition. For instance, the very first draft of The Hobbit actually features a reference to China, which was quickly jettisoned when he made the decision to have Middle Earth be completely seperate from our world.

  9. Michael says:

    A place in which they cook the food of A Song of Ice And Fire, you say….?

  10. bookworm67 says:

    HELL YES. I am so excited for you! Also this is the perfect opportunity for me to get those books out again, I've been meaning to reread them for about…oh, I don't know, three years xD

    Oh, you have NO idea what you're getting into…

    Random trivia: Martin Freeman (who played Arthur Dent in the Hitchhiker's Guide movie and John Watson in Sherlock) is playing Bilbo in the Hobbit movie! Which comes out next summer, I think, and is in two parts.

  11. Linds says:

    I am so, so excited that you're reading this.

  12. BornIn1142 says:

    There are actually several blogs dedicated to making the dishes described in ASoIaF. This is, I believe, the most prominent:

    And I think they do have a book either out in in the works.

  13. Jenny_M says:

    So, without any spoilers, I will just say that I share a birthday with Bilbo (naq Sebqb, bs pbhefr, ohg Znex qbrfa'g xabj Sebqb lrg). And as a result, my father raised me on the Lord of the Rings. He is not a reader, and those three books are, I think, the only books he's ever read more than once. So I grew up in Middle Earth, so to speak. However, I did not actually get around to reading The Hobbit until I'd read LOTR and The Silmarillion about ten times apiece. I'm not as familiar with it as I am with those four, and so I'm excited to get to reread it along with you, Mark.

    Also, yes, A Cookbook of Ice and Fire is a thing.

  14. cait0716 says:

    I think my favorite part of this chapter is the invention of golf by Bilbo's great-grandfather. It just seems a bit out of place given the rest of the book. They have dwarves and dragons and hobbits. Adventures are a thing that just sort of happens. There are all these hints about fantastic things going on in different parts of the world and throughout history. And, oh yeah, golf. Which is probably the most normal, boring thing possible. Though it would certainly be suited to the hobbits' lifestyle.

    JRR Tolkien is certainly verbose. He creates an absolutely impressive world. I had friends in high school who taught themselves languages from this book and figured out how to write in runes. Even reading this chapter I was half tempted to start translating the runes again, since the introduction gives some guidelines and we get the paragraph from Thror's map in both English (in the chapter) and dwarfish runes (on the map at the beginning of the book).

  15. Noybusiness says:

    I've read The Hobbit and/or my Mom read it to me (it was a quite a while ago), but we could never get through the first book of TLotR because Tolkein kept side-tracking into history and geography. Good thing the movies came out.

  16. knut_knut says:


    I love the idea of living in a fancy hole and eating cakes all day (although I could do without the hairy feet and looking like, according to Mark, a Cabbage Patch Potato).

  17. AnHibou says:

    I've read your Harry Potter, Dark Materials and Twilight reviews (all of which were GLORIOUS, by the way), but I must say, I am BEYOND EXCITED that you're doing The Hobbit. In fact, I am so excited I have created an account /solely for the purpose of following you through this magical journey/.
    Must say, "YOU’VE NEVER READ THE HOBBIT? HOW ON EARTH ARE YOU EVEN BREATHING AIR AT THIS MOMENT. I AM GOING TO MURDER YOU IN THE NEXT THIRTY SECONDS IF YOU DON’T START READING IT" was hilarious, and basically my EXACT reaction yesterday when I realised I am living in a house with three people who've never so much as touched the book. I have now foisted it upon my unsuspecting younger brother.
    This is going to be SO GOOD.

  18. Ryan Lohner says:

    I've always loved the description of Lord of the Rings given by Marco from Animorphs: It's three books long, and each book is as long as three books.

  19. "Tolkien describes"

    4 books summed up in two words. That's entirely the reason why I've never got through the Lord of the Rings, after a while I get fed up with him describing things and want story to happen. Which is a pity, I love the story, I've loved every adaptation of these books I've encountered (the BBC Radio one is amazing), I love the world and the amount of effort that's gone into it, I just really dislike Tolkein's writing style.

  20. Ryan Lohner says:

    Looking forward to the new banner. Suddenly I feel the need to look up how to say "You are not prepared" in Elvish.

  21. The Hobbit is my second-favorite book of all time. It's also the first book I consciously remember reading — chubby, blonde, five-year-old me was sitting in my pink-and-white bedroom, and my dad came in and handed me his battered paperback and said, "You'll like this."

    Note: my dad doesn't read fiction. Like, at all. He reads the Bible and chess books and the occasional biography. So for him to hand me a book, and tell me I'd like it, was huge. And after that first opening line, I was sucked in and have never quite recovered. I read the Hobbit every year, at least once.

    All that to say: yeah, it's dense and verbose and heavy on the description, but I wouldn't change a thing about it.

  22. Tolkien is VERY verbose and prone to long, sidetracked discussions. It's a much slower-paced method of storytelling, but it gets in a lot more worldbuilding. It's a different style than what you've read before for Mark Reads, but I hope you'll come to enjoy it.

    Also, I laughed so hard throughout your review that my boss finally had to tell me to shut up and read it later because she was trying to work and my laughter was too distracting. XD

    Cabbage patch potatoes, lol.

  23. settlingforhistory says:

    Does anyone else have the illustrated book? I already really love the illustrations and maps!
    I'm a bit intimidated by all the runes and names, but it's still interesting enough.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading the chapter as if all the happened long ago and the people actually existed.
    Though Tolkien's interruptions like “…which I have just described for you…” bothered me, it's still not as bad as C. S. Lewis's constant 'as you read last chapter' or 'you saw that in the last book' that really made me crazy.

    What I thought quite funny was the use of weekdays and the invention of Golf.
    Do we find out in which century the story is supposed to play?

    All these details make me wonder if we need them later on. Like the colors of the dwarfs' hoods or the names of fathers and fathers' fathers. I already feel like I need to make notes in order to get through the books. 😛

    And NO Mark: You are not the only one who has no idea what this book is about!
    I watched the LOTR movies a while ago, liked them, but was never interested to start the task of reading the books.
    Your announcement a while back finally got me motivated to give them a chance and now I'm glad I have everyone here to read them with.

  24. Ryan Lohner says:

    Among all the people noting how verbose Tolkien is, it's also important to note that he had absolutely no creative writing training, and the DVDs of the films even have LOTR scholars noting that no publisher today would ever take on the books because of all the stuff he does that would have been ironed out in Creative Writing 101. "And it worked. Professionals don't know everything. Sometimes inspired amateurs know something."

    I also love that same guy's description of a certain scene I imagine Mark will have some fun with: "I always lose count of the number of people talking, but it's 20-odd, most of them have not been introduced before, and the whole thing is like nothing so much as a very badly chaired committee meeting."

  25. SteelMagnolia80 says:

    Woooohoooo! I'm just a tad excited this day has come. I'm glad I waited a couple of years to re-read this, so now I can go along with you guys. Oh Mark, bring on the snark all you want early on…I predict that you'll be as enthralled with this series as the rest of us by the end. That's me going all Trelawny on you.

    And Shire of the Potato Tot…YES PLEASE.

  26. bookling says:

    I don't think Hobbits really look like Cabbage Patch potatoes, unless you're talking about the animated movie.

    <img src=""&gt;

    I also don't think the Hobbits would have a problem with you getting sidetracked to talk about tater tot fields. I bet Hobbits would FUCKING LOVE tater tots.

    That said, I've never actually finished this book, though I've started it a few times and started The Fellowship of the Ring a few times, too. I always get stuck somewhere in the middle, because as you've noticed, Tolkien is sometimes impossibly verbose. It can make the books pretty hard to get through. Maybe if I read along with your reviews that'll help to keep me from getting stuck again!

    Oh, and fun fact: JK Rowling based the Hufflepuff common room on a Hobbit-hole.

  27. wafbscores Patch Clover Park vs. White River just kicked off at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood. Hornets punt on opening possession.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  28. Shanna says:

    You hit the nail on the head Mark re: verbose. After the three LotR movies came out I read that trilogy for the first time. While I enjoy the story greatly, it was a slog getting through the descriptions. I too favour short quick descriptions. I got about halfway through The Hobbit before putting it down and just never picking it up again. However I am very excited to read your reviews and I do think that 1 chapter a day is a good speed for these books. Maybe if I had stuck to that I would have been able to appreciate the (very well written) description passages more.

  29. Meenalives says:

    Mark, does the edition you're reading have a map? If it doesn't, you really want to find one that does, and this will be even more important for LOTR, where it's almost impossible to get a sense of the world without the maps.

  30. AnHibou says:

    As for the verbose thing- I agree, but when I read it as a kid I never really noticed. I might have just skipped through the long passages of text or whatever, but I didn't find The Hobbit too over-the-top. (Not making out I was a child genius or anything, because just LOOKING at The Fellowship of the Ring made me feel faint until about three years ago, but I think the light-heartedness of it all and the thrill of the plot generally, for me, made me ignore/forget about any random flowery rambling.)

  31. dktragonizer says:

    Man, I own this book, but I haven't read it in YEARS. I just have a memory of this and the trilogy being long, difficult reads because of, well, the verbosity. Oh well, I'll be fine with just reading your funny reviews.

    By the way, TYPOS!
    "Are THEIR hobbit jobs? Does Bilbo just sit around all day and drink tea and BEAR and eat cakes and such?"

    Really, Mark. Bilbo's cool and all, but I don't think he drinks bears. 😛

  32. plaidpants says:

    Yay! I've reread the first few chapters of the Hobbit many times, but haven't read it totally through in a while, so I'm going to enjoy reading along with you Mark.

    Anyway, as just about everyone has mentioned above, Tolkien is very wordy. I usually skimmed the songs and such, which helped. For anyone who wants to see shots of Freeman as the perfect Bilbo, they released a few promo ones to EW. He looks pretty awesome.

  33. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Even though I'm pretty sure this is the Tolkien book I read last, this is probably the one I have the least memory of. I pretty much only remember this chapter, gur evqqyr tnzr, fbzrguvat nobhg gebyyf gung ghea vagb fgbar, naq fbzrguvat nobhg univat gb geniry ivn oneeryf.

    "Ubj ur tbg gurer V qba'g xabj, ohg V sbhaq uvz n cevfbare va gur qhatrbaf bs gur Arpebznapre."
    V'z pbeerpg va nffhzvat gung guvf vf Fnheba, evtug? V qvqa'g guvax ur'q or vagebqhprq guvf rneyl.

  34. Elexus Calcearius says:

    ….woah, more reviews than usual at this time! I see lots of people like the Hobbit!

    Now, here's the thing. I've read the Hobbit before. A long, long time before. It was when I was a kid, and my parents were trying to get me out of my dyselexia and into reading, (it worked!) after I'd finished the Harry Potter books that were out yet and some Narnia. However, I don't remember anything about it. Since then I've tried to read LoTR, and re-read the Hobbit, (and even read my sister I bit of the graphic novel we had, for some reason). I was never particularly entranced by J. R. R's style, and hopefully I won't be maimed for saying that. But I'm trying again!

    So, I remember parts of this books. Some parts very clearly. Other parts…are a blur. And while I haven't seen the movies, since I have this things about seeing adaptions before the original, you pick up things. So I do know what I'm going into here.

    Okay, first off: That was one of the funniest reviews I've gotten in a long time. Laughing my head off there. But never describe the hobbits like that again, because it makes me imagine them as tiny little Sontarans in dresses, which is horrifying.

    Now, J. R. R.'s narration style…it's certainly odd. On one hand its very verbose and complicated, on the other it seems simple and whimsical and a fairy tale. I've enjoyed it more than I remembered, but it is definitely a bit odd. I get the sense that I'm sitting next to someone whose telling me a story in person, and is a bit long-winded about it, and that can take me out a bit, as Mark said. I'll probably just need to get into it.

    Hey, Gandalf! I remember you! You were awesome! I know the world in general likes to compare you and Dumbledore, and you two are similar. I can see a secret troll lurking behind your depths. Was anyone else reminded of when Dumbly went to the Dursley's house in book 6 and just trolled the crap out of them?

    On the other hand…the hobbits! I remember I grew to like them last time, but oh my, they're annoying here. I understand they like teasing this little guy, but they were a bit rude. Probably due to a culture clash, not genuine meanness, though. Are they all guys? I think I've been reading too much Discworld, 'cause I'm imagining that some of them are girls underneath the beards, but if they ever show it they'll be horribly discriminated against and…right. They're probably all guys.

    Anyway, Bilbo is quite sweet, but for a guy that's fifty, he doesn't seem like it. I suppose that they have a longer life span than us, since in maturity levels he seemed a bit off. In some ways like a pensioner whose comfortable with where he is, but in other ways like an awkward 20-year-old whose not quite sure how to deal with people. Maybe that's the way of all hobbits, maybe its just a Bilbo thing, but I'm guessing we'll see character growth either way.

    So, they're off to steal a dragon's gold! I remember that. Also, it was on my cover of a book as a kid. But it sounds exciting.


  35. leighzzz31 says:

    This is probably the most entertaining review you've ever written, Mark. You sound absolutely adorably clueless. And Tolkien's random train of thought seems to be catching – you seem to be saying the most random things mid-sentence as well (which I am not complaining about – as I said, very entertaining).

    Also, Tolkien's description as verbose? Oh, you have no idea. I mean there's descriptive and then there's Tolkien levels of descriptive.

  36. THE HOBBIT!!!

    Ahem. Anyhoo, I can definitely get being thrown off by the huge blocks of text. They're a little startling for modern readers in general I think- Tolkien really loved his countryside. I didn't have as much of a problem with this because my dad read The Hobbit aloud to me and my little brothers and sisters (childhood memories, you're all coming back). And when it's being read aloud, you don't mind because it just feels more vivid. Not to mention that my dad used to be an actor and could do some really fantastic voices. But all the info is really distracting, and it will take a bit of getting used to.

    Another thing that is just kind of cool to know/helpful is that when thinking about Tolkien's style and how he sometimes addresses the reader is that this began as a bedtime story and when he wrote it, he was thinking of it primarily with children in mind. Apparently years later he was really down on himself for all the times he spoke to the reader in the narrative, and said "I deeply regret them. So do intelligent children." Also, the first 'official reviewer' was the nine? year-old son of Tolkien's publisher. I'd look for it, but I think it's spoilery… either way it's adorable.

    And the story itself: I love it. I forgot how great the image of the dwarves just waltzing in and demanding everything is; horrible as it is to contemplate in real life, I love how vivid a picture it paints. And I have to admit I love the songs, particularly the ones in The Hobbit. "Far over the Misty Mountains old" is never going to fail to give me chills whenever I read/hear it. And I just love that to the hobbits, adventures are just these nasty things you go on and there's no real reason other than an adventure. Now Bilbo's discovering that there's actually a purpose behind these adventures. But still! "We don't want any adventures here, thank you!"

    I can't come up with anything non-spoilery to say about Thorin other than I loved his hood and his harp when I was a little kid, and those reasons picked him as my favorite dwarf. On readthroughs, he is still my favorite, but for reasons I can't mention here.

    I'll close by saying that my excitement for this is at a ridiculous level right now, mostly because I can finally indulge in Tolkien fangirling. I cannot wait to see what you'll make of the upcoming chapters!

  37. Appachu says:

    The Hobbit! Yay!

    This book never really struck me as overly descriptive, for some reason, and I just reread it a month ago – but I guess that really goes down to personal preference. Because I was never really bothered by all the descriptions and singing and what have you in LOTR, and LOTR takes it way beyond eleven. Mileage will absolutely vary on that one.

    But anyway! I'm glad you're liking it so far. *is excite*

  38. Ryan Lohner says:

    Another bit of trivia: back in the '30s, all it took to get a "children's" book like this published was if the publisher's young son liked it, which thankfully for us all he did. The kid's quite adorable review is on the Wikipedia entry, though you definitely shouldn't read it if you're trying to stay unspoiled, because it's mostly just a summary of the whole plot.

  39. Maartje says:

    Yeah, Tolkien certainly knows how to describe.

    Which is why, of all the Tolkien books I've read, I love the Silmarillion most. It's like Cliff Notes Tolkien, which ends up being a level of description well suited to my tastes. 😉

  40. rainbowsinside says:

    So, fun story: My and my husband made a deal. If he read Harry Potter, I would read Lord of the Rings. He read all the Harry Potter books in time for the last two movies and even went with me to LeakyCon and has become an official Potter nerd, so now I need to hold up my end of the bargain.

    I've seen the movies but I really only remember the bare bones of what happened, probably because the second and third movies bored me to death. I've attempted to read The Hobbit but only got a little ways into the first chapter before rage-quitting. I mean, I like detail but dear god Tolkien, just shut the hell up and let the story play itself out!

    So this is to say, I'll be reading along with you Mark! I'm glad you're reading this series because I don't know how else I would make myself read these books. And I'll catch up to you once I finish writing this paper that's due tomorrow!

  41. monkeybutter says:

    OT, but I wanted to draw more attention to these comments from jaccairn and amyalices. Neil Gaiman is impressed with your reviews, Mark! (And Natalie Fisher is awesome for pointing it out to him!)

  42. notemily says:

    OK first of all Mark I have VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:

    Tolkien’s world (Hu, vf vg n fcbvyre gb fnl gung guvf QBRF gnxr cynpr va Zvqqyr-rnegu?) is a big place with a long history, and there has been lots of information written about it that didn’t make it into the books themselves. As far as I know, this falls into roughly three categories: 1. Things that are in the Hobbit/LOTR books, but only in the Appendices or supplemental materials. 2. Things that aren’t in the Hobbit/LOTR, but are in other books such as the Silmarillion. 3. Things that aren’t in any particular book, but are known from Tolkien’s writings and letters and such. Are we allowed to talk about any of this stuff? I mean, as long as it doesn’t spoil future plot points? It’s mostly past, anyway.

    My second question is more about LOTR than the Hobbit, although it sort of applies here too: are we allowed to use non-spoilery movie images and gifs? I seem to recall being able to do this for Harry Potter but I’m not sure what the rules were exactly.

  43. Chloe K. Evil says:

    I have always appreciated Tolkien's verbosity. The man does things with description that I can't even dream of- it's beautiful. There's a specific passage in another book that I'm thinking of that always nearly makes me cry.

    But if you're used to sparer narratives, it might be strange!

  44. arctic_hare says:

    ALL RIGHT LET'S GET THIS PARTY STARTED. 😀 Welcome to the first installment of Arctic_Hare's Art Corner! I bring with me scans of my lovely hardcover edition, illustrated beautifully by the awesome Alan Lee, whom many of you know was on the production team of the movies due to his amazing art. But without further ado –

    <img src="; border="0"/>
    <img src="; border="0"/>
    <img src="; border="0"/>

    I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS BOOK. I HOPE YOU WILL COME TO LOVE IT AS I DO, MARK. I mean, yeah, Tolkien does a bit too much describing, but I can forgive that here because the story and characters are so charming. I love the sense of humor and fairy tale feel. "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." Yeah, pretty sure that's one of the all time great opening lines. Certainly very iconic, and for good reason. I <3 Bilbo, and I <3 Gandalf, so I am really enjoying another trip through this childhood favorite of mine. This is going to be fun! 😀

  45. windsparrow says:

    I am terribly sorry no to be reading all 125 comments before posting. But I have this to say about Tolkien's verbosity. Bear in mind that the man was, by training, a philologist. He lived, breathed, ate, drank, and slept words. He loved words. I daresay he loved words more than he loved his wife (and as he characterized his love for her as that of Beren's love for Tinuviel – that's THE love story of Middle Earth, that's saying something). His prose, therefore, is best loved by those who also love words for their own sake. If you never get drunk on words, then yes, there are going to be vast swaths of Tolkien's work that you will find tedious.

    I suppose you can always do what I do when reading Hardy – which is to skip over lengthy descriptions go straight to the action.

  46. arctic_hare says:


  47. Atlphyre says:

    If you think he rambles on detail in this book YOU ARE NOT PREPARED for the LoTR.

  48. Erin says:

    Mark, enthusiastic lurker here. I discovered your blog three weeks ago and have ripped rabidly through all your reviews of books and television that I already loved and now enjoy even more because you've reaffirmed my faith in fiction. So, so excited to see what you think of Tolkien because it's such a different flavour of narrative from most anything else.

  49. Starsea28 says:


    Mark, do you think you might possibly, possibly be a Hufflepuff? Or at least minoring in Hufflepuff and majoring in Ravenclaw? 😀 Because that's a very Hufflepuff reaction.

    I totally loved the song when I first read this book at eight years old. I loved Thorin telling the tale of the dragon. I loved Gandalf being a magnificent git and just dropping Bilbo into this adventure without actually asking him or telling him why because that's WHAT ADULTS DO.

    Bilbo stands in for every kid who's ever been made to go to a party with people he doesn't know to do something he doesn't want to do in a place he's never been before. I'm sure we can all sympathise with that. 😉

  50. stellaaaaakris says:

    Aww, man! I didn't know you were starting this today. I guess I'll just rely on my memory and what you mention in your review since I read this chapter about 15 times (more on that in a moment).

    I love how you wander into a tangent about fields of potato babies. Not only can I imagine that happening in the land of Hobbits, but my mind did something similar. My eyes tend to glaze over when I get long descriptive paragraphs or songs (these books were a real challenge) and my mind meanders on over to other thoughts (e.g. There are singing dwarves in The Hobbit. There are singing dwarfs in Snow White. Snow White is a Disney movie. I love Disney movies! I'm going to go watch Mulan, which is awesome. : : puts down book and wanders out of room:: ). I tried reading this book so many times, I've read this chapter about 15 times before I lose interest. I didn't actually get to Chapter 2 until I got a migraine and looking at all forms of technology hurt my head so my mom read it to me (I was much younger). And then I got sucked in. But it was the same process with Fellowship of the Ring. The only way I was able to finish it was because I wanted to read the book before the movie came out (finished with a couple days to spare!) and then dived right into the other 2, which wasn't an issue. But I understand your troubles and I think this one chapter a day pace is perfect for these books.

    Yay! Must go catch up when I get home from work!

  51. "J.R.R. Tolkien writes this with a sense that he is narrating the novel."

    …oh dear, does this mean you've not read E. Nesbit either? What kind of horrible, deprived childhood did you have? (Reading-wise, I mean; obviously you've told us about some of the other things.)

  52. James says:

    The thing about Tolkien is, he's a linguist. As someone pointed out, it's written like it's ancient texts and stories he found and is translating from their original languages (which Tolkien also created because the man's a fucking wizard). And he's not trained in creative writing. His verbosity isn't tedious for me, because he has such joy in language and the worlds that he's created. He has this whole universe in his head and shares all of the minute details with you, which in most cases would bore me (I struggled with the first half of Fellowship of the Ring), but there's such joy and richness to it that ultimately I'm just fond.

    Oh, and The Hobbit's aimed at children and it was quite common for kids books to be written in that "as I just described to you" way, presumably because they were going to be read aloud to the children. The Narnia books and Alice's Adventures In Wonderland do the same thing.

    So glad you're reading this!

  53. xpanasonicyouthx says:


  54. A.D.B. says:

    "I'm just going to have to get used to this, aren't I?"

    Sadly, Mark, you are. As much as I love Tolkien, I find it difficult to RE-read his work because of this.

    It may be a tough slog, my friend, but it's totally worth it to read it througha t least once.

    I never read the books until after "Fellowship" came out, but I was a fan af the Rankin-Bass Animated "Hobbit" movie since I was like 3.

  55. knut_knut says:

    OH MY GOD THE BANNER I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

    it's perfect!

  56. Angie says:

    You have to keep in mind (or at least, it'll help 🙂 ) that this was written in the early 20th century. This was a much more popular style back then, and Tolkien deliberately backed up even from there wrote in what was a pretty archaic sounding style even for his time; he was trying to deliberately write heroic folklore for the English people, whom he believed didn't have any. The King Arthur stories are pretty much it, and they're firmly embedded in the Christian mythos these days. Tolkien wanted to go back to a much older era, and his writing style reflected that.

    The idea that the authorial voice should be invisible, or at least disguised, is pretty new. It's only in the last few decades that we've been privileging narratives written that way. If you go back to Dickens, you'll see it clearly; there's a lot of "Dear reader" type description of setting and backstory, where the author is obviously trying to make it sound like he's sitting there talking to you.

    Also, you can see where a lot of D&D tropes came from, straight out of Tolkien. Whenever you see someone playing a Halfling [cough] thief in a D&D type game, this is where it comes from — Bilbo was the first. And the portrayal of Dwarves as noisy and rude and greedy and selfish — straight from Tolkien. See how many more roleplaying tropes you can spot as you go. 🙂


  57. arctic_hare says:

    OKAY SO ABOUT THIS BANNER. Obviously I did not draw it myself, that is a rendition of Bag End done by the immensely talented John Howe, who, like Alan Lee, worked on the movies' production teams. The writing in the corner is runes, fcrpvsvpnyyl, n zbba yrggref sbag, and it says "You are not prepared." And the font that says "Mark Reads The Hobbit" is Hobbiton Brushhand. 😀 So happy everyone likes it! <3 <3 <3

  58. @LizatLAX says:

    I found online a picture of the cover I grew up with ( — it was my father's and it's probably the oldest book I own. It sits on my shelf with a newer version of the Hobbit (my older one is in plastic since it's already damaged) along with hardcovers of LotR, History of Middle of Earth,etc. So I can't tell you how excited I am that you're reading this!

    Just so you know, it's hard for those of us who have the benefit of almost a hundred years of Tolkien scholarship to shut up about everything we know! SO HARD.

  59. kartikeya200 says:

    I have this weird way of trying to remember where I left things (or maybe it isn't weird?) Where I'll sit and try to picture, in my head, said thing in various spots in my house, and if it fits I'll go and look there. Well, it turns out, the problem with books that have been in my life since long before I was born (seriously, these are my mother's copies, and she got them when she was fourteen-ish), is that I can kind've imagine them being anywhere. ANYWHERE. I can imagine them sitting in my puppy's crate, or out on the porch, or in my car.

    …So yeah, can't find the books. Guess I'll just have to go buy the Hobbit today oh drat.

    That said, Mark, your review was FULL OF UTTER DELIGHT for me. I haven't read The Hobbit since uh…well, highschool, I think, early highschool even, and yet I instantly remembered this chapter as you talked about it. While I have a deep appreciation for Lord of the Rings, and especially all the things it brought to high fantasy and how much EVERYTHING EVER draws from it, it's the Hobbit that I love. There's just this sort of whimsy to the narrative that speaks to me.

    Also ahahaha, oh yes. Tolkien loves verbose and description as much as Rose loves drugs. MAYBE EVEN MORE. You are so very not prepared.

  60. TDM says:

    Ah, Mark… interesting that you picked up on the verbosity right away.

    When I was a little kid, I listened to The Hobbit on audio casette. I honestly can't remember if it was abridged but when you're listening to something on casette tapes, you can have long, lyrical descriptions and it barely matters. I really enjoyed the story of The Hobbit, and while my memory is a bit patchy in places, that's why I'm following this along. (I'm also having some fun reading some of your quotes of the book and remembering the narrator's voice on occasional lines of dialogue.)

    When I was a teenager, I tried to read another Tolkien book, and the amount of description really surprised me. Maybe it was because I was finally confronted with the words in front of me, I don't know… but I couldn't read it. I can't really visualise things, see, so I find description to be… a bit of an unnecessary extra. I know others don't, so I don't begrudge lots of description, it's just not really for me. I'm far more interested in clever wordcrafting. But there was -so much description- that I was struggling to get through to the actual plot (which I enjoyed), and I ended up giving it up around the point there was a description of a tree for like two pages or something.

    Anyway, thought that was a funny little anecdote. (Don't hate me, Tolkien fans – I really like his stories, I just find it very difficult to get past the denseness of description.) Hope you enjoy The Hobbit, Mark, I'll be reading along. 😀

  61. Jumpman256 says:

    Hey there Mark!
    I've just joined the community for this book–been following you since the beginning."
    Soo excited. You are…well, you know. 😉
    PS:: "Tea and bear?" Sounds dangerous. 😉

  62. Idapida says:

    The lengthy descriptions and Tolkiens tendency to get sidetracked was the reason why I gave up the first time I tried to read these books, but now it's become something I love about his writing. You'll get used to his style, and it gets easier to keep up as you become more familiar with Middle Earth in general 🙂 I love that he seems to be narrating the story himself, it's oddly relaxing to me.

    So exited for you to read these books, I love them more than HP and ASOIAF combined, and that's saying something!

  63. VoldieBeth says:

    The banner is beautiful!! 😀
    I'm so excited that you are read these books! I may have to dust off my copies and read along! And now you can join us fans as we wait for the next two Hobbit movies to come out! The LotR movies are probably the best book to movie series ever!
    I can't wait for more!

  64. nanceoir says:

    Oh, my, am I late to the party or what? Between sleep and everyone's excitement about tackling this book, there's nothing left to say.

    Actually, that's not quite true.

    (Quick note: I've seen the Peter Jackson LotR movies, but I've not read any of the books, outside of the first 50ish pages of FotR. Actually, it's a good time to update my IntenseDebate profile to reflect this. Basically, I am prepared and unprepared, all at once.)

    Maybe it's because I already have a relationship with this world, but I was utterly and thorough charmed by this first chapter. I knew going into it that it's more of a children's book than the trilogy, so maybe that's why I didn't mind Tolkien stepping in occasionally; I found it kind of fun and a little cheeky — or like a knowing wink or something.

    Even though the chapter was longer than I expected (I hit 10% in my ereader's book progression counter thing!) — though why I was expecting it to be brief, I have no idea; silly Nancy — I wasn't bored. I was a little frustrated, but that was Bilbo's frustration, in a "Why are you dwarves here exactly? Stop dancing around the point and tell me what I'm missing here!" sort of way, not in a "I'm bored, let's get going doing adventure things" way.

    Alas, it seems like adventure things are on their way and we probably won't be spending much more time in Bilbo's hobbit hole (I WANT THAT! WHY NOT ME?). Still, though, I'm excited to see this journey.

    (Also, Mark? Rather, Ser Mark, Lord of the Internet? Your field of tater tots is a glorious thing to behold.)

  65. Tauriel_ says:

    No, seriously, never inviting a dwarf into my house.

    Hehe. This reminded me of Peter Jackson's second production video he posted on his Facebook page, where we see all the Dwarves for the first time. The actors playing them were asked which Dwarf they'd invite over for dinner. Most of them answered "none". 😀

    Seriously, Mark, when you're done with the Hobbit, you must watch those videos, they're AWESOME.

  66. Openattheclose says:

    I'm terribly late, but I am so excited for The Hobbit!

  67. atheistsisters says:

    OMG Mark, I had no idea you had never read the LOTR books! This is going to be so much fun, I can't wait!!! I grew up on them, which is why I think it's odd that my parents would not let me read Harry Potter – anyway, your first few reviews of Harry Potter made me decide to read them this June – FOREVER GRATEFUL, BTW.

    Now I get to watch you discover Middle Earth, watch me asplode with excite!

  68. Oh my, I may just have to buy this book XD. A friend lent it to me when I read it, so I never bought it 🙁

    Tolkien does like words.

    I read The Hobbit back when I was 16, but *after* LotR. So I found it a lot lighter and much simpler, with a fairytale air where LotR is all EPIC EPICNESS. In fact, I read it one summer while at the beach, in a couple of weeks. It probably helps that I read the Spanish translation, which is a bit archaic but not that much.

    I don't mind the narrator's intrusions in the text. But that wouldn't really be Tolkien talking, since author is not narrator (/literature nerd). A book I read once would call it a "voiced" narrator as opposed to a "vocieless" one (the one whose presence you don't feel), and I particularly love that. That's why I don't mind infodumps, if the writing is iteresting enough.

  69. AmyAmy says:

    Tolkien describes.

    Yes, yes he does. His prosey style is what puts off a lot of people–I know several fantasy fans who can't stand to read Tolkien because of the way he goes on and on and on. Conversely, his descriptions are incredibly lush and beautiful…

  70. empath_eia says:

    Okay, very much excited for this. I’ve read the Hobbit and LotR so many times that every time I come back to them it’s like going home to visit my grandparents (the only family members I have who didn’t move every two years or so when I was growing up). The best sort of nostalgia.

    That, and I unabashedly love Tolkien’s style. I love the huge blocks of fantastical prose describing things, and the historical tangents, and all the random singing and wordy conversations. It all makes me happy and I wouldn’t change a word of it if I could.

    I’m looking forward to this Mark Reads a lot. (Even if you end up disliking it, which is obviously possible, it’ll still be like a trip through a place I love, just with someone who’s not as thrilled to be there, haha.) 😀

  71. @unefeeverte says:

    I am amazed you escaped the information via osmosis, the coverage the films got was enormous. Your innocence is so precious. You know nothing, Mark Oshiro — and I love that.

    I am SO EXCITED about this! 😀

  72. @unefeeverte says:

    Oh, and I don't remember if it's ever directly in the books, but I always assumed Bilbo was just sitting on family money, basically. There are definitely hobbit jobs, farming and so on.

  73. Lady X says:

    YOU DIDN’T KNOW GANDALF WAS IN THIS BOOK!?!?!?!? ASDF JKL; ASDF JKL; How does your brain not immediately go Gandalf= J.R.R Tolkien?? How is it possible for your brain to function this way? LOOK THIS IS SO BIZARELY WEIRD TO ME, I’M JUST GONNA SIT IN A CORNER AND CRY OK?

  74. Ryan Lohner says:

    So would you ever consider Children of Hurin after this? It was naturally a huge deal when the book was finally published a few years ago, but now it seems largely forgotten.

  75. notemily says:

    Oh no, that wasn't a critique of what you said, I just wanted to gush about Tolkien's world-building for a bit 🙂

  76. Kiryn says:

    I think I ended up having one of the weirdest experiences with Tolkien. When PJ's movies came out, I was in 4th or 5th grade, and my mom was a pretty big Tolkien fan, so she was like "OMG I NEED TO SEE THEM, but I have young children that I can't foist off onto someone else, WELL TOO BAD, YOU'RE SEEING THEM ANYWAY" even though I literally knew nothing about them at the time, but I saw the first 2 movies in this fashion. But then while waiting for the 3rd, I got impatient, because I wanted to know what happened next NOW. So I ended up getting the 3rd book, and I read the trilogy backwards (3, 2, 1). So, this is going to be my first time reading them in PROPER order, lol. 🙂

  77. Becky_J_ says:

    Oh! How happy I am! I have not been here in a while (by which I mean I check your site every day, but don't read reviews because I haven't read the books) but OH have I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and I can't wait! I could say a great deal of things here, mostly about tater tots and cakes and fifth brunches and so on, but I will hold myself to one comment….

    OH Mark, how I missed you!!!!!

  78. fizzybomb says:

    Man, I loved this book when I was a kid. In seventh grade it was tying with Garth Nix's The Seventh Tower series for favourite. And I just recently read the graphic novel of The Hobbit, which brought back quite a few memories!

    I've always liked the dwarves' after-dinner song. The atmosphere, the visuals… plus, I often imagine melodies for the songs I read, though they're usually pretty simple and repetitive. Does anyone else do this? Just wondering.

  79. fantasylover120 says:

    The best advice I can give for Tolkien is this: have patience. Because yes, he is verbose. The man likes his words and details. Current me really appreciates the amount of attention and thought he put into this (although I do still think he goes a bit overboard) but I remember thinking in middle school: dude, GET ON WITH IT.

  80. Wang Fire says:

    It's been nearly a decade since I read The Hobbit so as always it's great to have an excuse to read along again.

    Tolkein has a way with language. He gives a very clear picture of the world (which translated well into the look of the movies) but the wording can get thick. This and The Lord of The Rings are fair enough but I didn't get through The Silmarillion. Maybe the one chapter at a time format will make this journey a little less daunting, though.

    This is chapter is a very good opening as it feels like the start of a grand adventure. I'm looking forward to it.

  81. chrisjpardo says:

    Wahey, The Hobbit! I never really got into American Gods enough to really post about it, but I shall try to be more active while Hobbits are involved.

    From my own POV, I've never read LOTR, but I did read The Hobbit when I was at primary school. I think I'd have been about 10 at the time, so that's 16 years ago. Now THAT makes me feel old. But also makes my 9-years-since-I'd-read-Northern-Lights seem like nothing.

    I can remember very very little other than the fact there is a hobbit, and he goes on an adventure (SPOI… oh, not really).


    Also – I can see why Tolkien loves his scene setting and nature, as I live in Staffordshire, England… which was his inspiration I believe for 'The Shire'. Rubbish bragging over.

  82. Lis says:

    yes yes yes yes yes. read the lotr trilogy once. read the hobbit about 10 or 12 times. mark, ilu.

  83. Phoenix Lord says:

    Ah, The Hobbit. What an interesting read this was when I read this book earlier in the year or was it last year? Can't remember. It starts off a good adventure I thought. Don't worry Mark I've only read this book once and I've had all four books since before the movie for the 2nd LOTR book came out . I've read The Lord of the Rings books multiple times but this one only one time . You mentioning the song in this first chapter brings back memories of reading all the books for me. The amount of descriptions in the book seemed alright to me but it could be different to everyone else

  84. BumblebeeTuna says:

    "What I noticed very quickly while reading this lengthy opening chapter is that J.R.R. Tolkien writes this with a sense that he is narrating the novel."

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't this all written in mind for his kids? He was very fond of writing stories for them. I have a beautiful collection of letters that he wrote to them in the guise of Father Christmas. For each of their entire childhoods, he would write them these stories of what Father Christmas and his clumsy pal Polar Bear would get up to, inventing a whole world at the North Pole for a quick letter every christmas. He even illustrated them and had all the different characters narrate and annotate them.

    "Tolkien describes."

    Oh yes, yes he does. And you'd better get used to it. 🙂

    "Anyway, it seems that Bilbo has just been minding his business for decades. How do the hobbits have money? Are their hobbit jobs? Does Bilbo just sit around all day and drink tea and bear and eat cakes and such? Not that there’s anything wrong with that sort of life, but it seems that he really hasn’t done much at all with the fifty years of his life up until Gandalf comes strolling up to The Hill where Bilbo lives."

    Haha, yeah, that pretty much describes Hobbit-life. As far as I can work out, there doesn't seem to be much working going on at all in Hobbiton! Although, given how nice Bilbo's place seems to be, and his famous ancestors, I reckon he just came from old money.

    Re: the dwarves treatment of Bilbo, I've always thought that Dwarves just like to bully Hobbits, being pretty much the only race shorter than them!

  85. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    omg there are so many new people around


  86. Paula J says:

    I am so happy to have happened into this at the very beginning! I will stay tuned this time, I promise (I got sidetracked when you had barely started Harry Potter and never did re-engage). This will be SO MUCH FUN. [[But: I honestly can't see where ASoIaF has any lineage to LOTR at all, besides having named swords and dragons and lots of kingdoms of ancient renown. ASoIaF 's world is just so…I have to say it…harsh and grubby and mean-spirited, and just NO fun to be in, except for the food; whereas there's something enchantingly beautiful around just about every corner in Middle-Earth. IMHO.]]

  87. arctic_hare says:

    Oh, and also:

    What amuses more than anything, though, is the bizarre sense of entitlement that drips across the pages. I think it’s just part of dwarf culture, perhaps, but Thorin not only insists that Bilbo is coming along with them on the journey to get his gold from Smaug, but he then tells Bilbo his precise breakfast desires

    You've just hit on one of the reasons I love this book so much: this shit is hilarious to me. Seriously, there is so much in this book that makes me laugh. The dwarves are total fucking assholes in this chapter. Gandalf is kind of trolling here. Bilbo is so lost and confused. And me, I'm giggling into the pages. Lighthearted adventure is my thing, and The Hobbit scratches that itch wonderfully for me. <3 It's a total comfort book for me.

  88. oh mark, good luck with the hobbit (and lord of the rings). i found it so boring and overblown that i haven't touched it since i read it 20 years ago.
    i'll read your reviews because i am curious as to your reaction, but i don't think i can bring myself to crack the books themselves 🙂

  89. Though now I have an image in my head of a field of tater tots, and that’s pretty goddamn awesome. Could you imagine? You’d just waltz out into a field and pluck a basket of tater tots from some sort of bush. Or, hell, maybe it’s a tree and you just shake the tree and gather them all in some sort of blanket or tarpaulin to harvest for that day’s meals.

    Serious question time, Mark.

    Tell me, are you secretly a hobbit? One that cycles places and has magical adventures in Harry Potter themed places, but still a hobbit?

  90. thiamalonee says:

    I apologize in advance for my ridiculously nerdy nitpicky need to point something out:

    The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy. It is one novel that was split into three volumes because the cost of paper would have made it too expensive for people to buy as one volume.

    I know it's nitpicky and obnoxious.It's just one of those things I involuntarily point out whenever I hear the phrase "LOTR trilogy" in context of the books, instead of the movies. As we all seem to share a common nerdy bond, I hope you all can relate to my unreasonable need to point this out. I humbly beg your pardon to subjecting you all to my soapbox.

  91. ChronicReader91 says:

    Oh man, on the day Mark starts reading one of my favorite series ever AND gets a mention from Neil Gaiman, I’m stuck working away from the computer almost all day? FML. At least the review was worth waiting for.

    Ah yes, if there’s one thing Tolkien loves, its descriptions. That’s one of my only problems with his writing, the tendency towards this and to have big blocks of text.

    I never thought I’d see the day when the words “justified bigotry” showed up on your blog. JK, I absolutely agree, the dwarves are totally rude and no one can blame you for not wanting them as house guests. They’d probably take a bunch of your tater tots without asking. 😛

  92. krystalreid says:

    Wow, almost 400 comments so far! Clearly everyone's excited you're reading this. I personally love The Hobbit and have read it about a half dozen times. I was Gloin the dwarf in my sixth grade play, beard and hat and all, and it was awesome. I'm happy I'll have an excuse to read The Lord of the Rings along with you, because I've never managed to finish the trilogy on my own. I always lose steam somewhere in the middle of The Two Towers. Not that I didn't like it – I just have a short attention span and the wordiness does me in. It's a miracle I made it through A Song of Ice and Fire. 🙂 Anyway, I'm happy to finally get my geek street cred back up so I don't have to get THOSE LOOKS anymore when I mention that I maybe kinda never finished LotR. It's a shameful thing in some circles, really.

  93. queenie says:

    I just want to say that I’m so glad you love Rent, Mark. So, many people I know hate it, and I don’t understand why. It helped me come to terms with my bisexuality, so it has a special place in my heart.

  94. sporkaganza93 says:


    It's so interesting to read you experiencing this from a total outsider's point of view.

    And yeah, Tolkien does have a tendency to get verbose, but I've always admired his ability to be verbose without being flowery, and often without seeming like he's really being verbose. Tolkien is actually a linguist, so he always uses exactly the right words for what he means to convey – not, to paraphrase Mark Twain, their second cousins.

  95. Kiryn says:

    I'm listening to the LOTR movie soundtrack as I'm reading the Hobbit, and just….I weep. This shit is so majestic, man. I'm definitely getting my Tolkien on this week! Also, I am so jealous, my sister got to see LOTR in concert, and when I go home to see her, she wants me to bring the movies (BECAUSE I HAVE THEM, MWAHAHAHA), and I'm guessing she too wants to get her Tolkien on. So, soundtrack, the Hobbit, and LOTR movies FTW! THIS WEEKEND EQUALS FUN TIMES! 😀

  96. Phoenix Lord says:

    I love the new banner for the Hobbit. I hope the banners for the LOTR books are just as good

  97. elyce says:

    A wall isn't just a a wall, not in Tolkein's world.

    And kudos on reading the songs! After a while, I always start to skip over… especially now that i've read this book and LotR multiple times.

  98. mischief7manager says:

    Is there such a thing as Mark Listens? Because I vote the BBC Radio adaptation of LOTR be put on the top of that list. Like, the TOP.

  99. Nushi-ke says:

    I think it's kind of the English style. C.S. Lewis (one ofhis friends) wrote like that too in the Chronicles of Narnia.

    If you think George Martin's descriptions about food were delicious Tolkien might make you want to eat the fucking book.

  100. freetheradicals says:

    I have nothing helpful or witty to say, I am just flailing with happiness because you are reading this book! I first read the thing when I was 8, and it is very much one of my happy-place books that I read when life is getting to me.

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