Mark Reads ‘The Lord of the Rings’: Prologue

In the prologue of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien sets up the entire book, and there’s a lot of really adorable shit in here. I swear. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings. For the last time. :: sob ::


Okay, I can’t be the only person who finds it hilarious that I’m reading the prologue last, right? I got conflicting messages about this particular prologue, unfortunately. Half of y’all said it would unnecessarily spoil me. The other half said it was crucial to understanding the whole book. I erred on the side of caution, and I admit I’m glad I did. This really does answer a lot of questions I had along the way, but I think that, generally, I’m a big fan of me making a fool of myself for your entertainment. It’s what gives you all joy. Either way, I don’t think it would have ruined me reading this book, but I’m immensely happy with how this turned out.

I’ll be honest. I was terrified to do Mark Reads The Lord of the Rings. I really believed that I wasn’t going to like. I mean, once I read The Hobbit, I felt a lot better about going into this massive novel, but I was concerned that I couldn’t do what I do with a book this dense and complex. As I’m sure you all noticed, I was consistently shocked by just how accessible and entertaining this book was for me. I still am. I DIDN’T EXPECT ANY OF THIS. I think that this might be the most surprising project I’ve ever done for Mark Reads, specifically because I believed the notion that this would bore the shit out of me.

It’s nice that I can’t be spoiled by this anymore, despite that I’m quite sad it’s all coming to a close. I finally understand so many jokes that flew completely over my head for the last… well, since the beginning of time? No, seriously, I had the same reaction to finishing Harry Potter. I suddenly realized I’d been hearing inside jokes and snarky references to the series for years. I had no idea that in the episode “Beach Games” in the third season of The Office, there are like 40 billion Harry Potter jokes. I UNDERSTOOD NONE OF THEM.

So it’s kind of comforting to visit the Prologue, despite how absurd it is that I’m reading it dead last. Which makes very little sense, I acknowledge that. But the Prologue just feels so innocent, so very unaware of what is to come. I think that if I’d actually read this in its proper order, I would be even less prepared than I already was. I mean, this feels like Tolkien is holding our hand as we skip through the Shire and get a nice history and culture lesson on everything hobbit! There’s no way I could have known he would soon shove me off of a cliff made of despair and shattered puppies.

Like most of The Hobbit and the Appendices of this book, there’s a constant awareness on Tolkien’s part that this must all read like it’s a real history. Obviously, he frames the book as if it’s just part of a history that’s been recorded and passed down to him. (Oh god, do you know how excited this makes me for The Princess Bride? For once, I am absolutely and totally prepared and it’s still fucking exciting.) It’s charming, really, that he starts off his own book with an explanation of the hobbits, their physical description, and their detailed and elaborate culture. I refuse to get over the fact that Tolkien invented all of this. ALL OF IT!!! Yes, much is borrowed from other sources or even taken from our world, but the sheer detail in Middle-earth will always astound me. Reading the Prologue makes it more obvious than ever that Tolkien planned out every goddamn detail of every aspect of every hobbit’s life for all time. And he created so much that he couldn’t even fit it in one book. There’s appendices, there’s the Silmarillion, there’s so much stuff that I can’t even wrap my head around the very idea that one person could imagine so much. Yes, it’s intimidating, but it’s so inspiring to me as a writer. Reading The Lord of the Rings has forced me to re-think what sort of world I’m creating in my fiction. I don’t know that I could ever even attempt something with the scope of what’s in these pages, but this sure as hell makes me want to try, you know?

There’s something quite whimsical about the way this Prologue is written. Tolkien clearly cares about the hobbits, and he shares all the information about their culture and behavior as if he doesn’t want you to get the wrong idea about them. It’s like he knew how strange they were, so he wanted to explain them so that they seemed more familiar to the reader, like this is a gentle lecture on everything hobbit. For me, it’s interesting reading this because there are still gaps that this fills in. I didn’t really understand how the hobbits came to settle in the Shire, and I certainly didn’t know the differences between the various breeds of hobbit. (There are breeds of hobbits. AMAZING.) Generally, I think a fictional world can become overloaded if too much is revealed about its origins, but I find myself utterly fascinated by most things I’ve learned from the ancillary information Tolkien’s given me. That’s really rare for me! I like when things are left to my imagination, you know? But in this case, very little is, and I’m still satisfied. I mean, I HAD NO IDEA THERE WERE ABOVE-GROUND HOUSES THAT HOBBITS LIVED IN. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’d read about them and just forgotten them. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. The point is that I’m genuinely surprised that I care about all of this.

And now we need to talk about a few things:

…and the Sea became a word of fear among them, and a token of death…


The oldest kind were, indeed, no more than built imitations of smials, thatched with dry grass or straw…

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins were as bachelors very exceptional…

That’s because no one could handle how awesome they were.

The genealogical trees at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch are a small book in themselves, and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull.


There’s an entire section on the Hobbits’ use of pipe-weed, and it’s likened to tobacco, but I refuse to abandon my own head canon that the Hobbits smoke weed throughout The Lord of the Rings. I mean, come on, how cool is the thought of Aragorn getting fucking ripped with Merry and Pippin? It’s one of the best thoughts that’s ever entered my brain. I refuse to give it up.

There’s also some info on how the Hobbits are split up, as well as a bit more context for their unique government-less system of rule and law. That is also quite fascinating to me. I imagine it must have been incredibly bizarre for the hobbits in this book to interact with so many kings, stewards, and the like on their journey. They have very little in their culture or history to compare it to. And yet, despite that things are so different from them, they aren’t bigots. Like, I never really thought about how amazing that is. The four main hobbits in this book are always so respectful and full of wonder for the world around them, and it’s adorable. LIFE WOULD BE BETTER IF WE LIVED AS HOBBITS, Y/Y/Y?

The only thing in here that I appreciate not reading before I finished The Lord of the Rings is the fourth part of the Prologue. I can see the purpose of it; it provides the reader with the necessary information to understand the story if they hadn’t read The Hobbit. For me, though, I enjoyed seeing how the two stories connected without having it all told outright to me. Granted, I missed out on the retconning that Tolkien had to do to unite the two books, but it was fun to see how important The Hobbit was to this new story.

Despite that I’ve finished the book proper now, I actually want to hold off on my thinky-thoughts for the whole series until I’ve seen all the movies. Tomorrow, the liveblog for The Hobbit (Bass/Rankin) is at 12:00pm PST, and then each movie will be on its own weekend starting on March 31st. We will be using the extended editions to schedule these liveblogs, and I’ll probably start each of them at 12:00pm and run them with breaks at the halfway mark. Oh god, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a liveblog in my whole life. And remember, Mark Reads The Princess Bride starts Monday morning!

Mark Links Stuff
– The liveblog for the animated version of The Hobbit is now live!
 It starts at 12:00pm PST on Saturday, March 24th.

– Check out my eBook store. Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Mark Watches Firefly are both on sale now.
– I now have a Lulu storefront where all my previously released eBooks are now available as printed books, including a complete edition of Mark Reads Twilight.
– I am going on tour in April/May to promote Mark Does Stuff in the western half of North America. Please RSVP for any dates and help find a venue! I need venues in: Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Boise, Spokane, Seattle, and Vancouver.
– I am on Twitter: @MarkDoesStuff
- I have a Facebook page for Mark Does Stuff that I’m updating regularly. Feel free to like it and spread it to your friends!
– Starting April 1st, we will have official liveblogs every week for season 2 of Game of Thrones on Sunday nights. There will not be any proper reviews for these episodes unless I can find free time in between writing reviews and writing books.
– Starting April 14th, we will have official liveblogs every week for season 1 of The Legend of Korra. There will not be any proper reviews for these episodes unless I can find free time in between writing reviews and writing books. I am aware that the first two episodes air “early,” but let’s be real. Y’all are gonna watch them when they’re broadcast too, aren’t you?
– If you’re reading this far, the next MRHP book is exactly one month from publish date. It is in the hands of my editors. I’m starting Mark Watches Doctor Who: Series One this weekend! IT WILL BE A BOOK OMG.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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