Welcome to our first day of The Hobbit read-along! The format for these posts will begin with recaps and are followed with discussion questions. Remember to take part in the comments and let us know what you think. And for those who maybe aren’t a huge fan of Tolkien or are reading The Hobbit for the first time, don’t hesitate to say what you feel; we won’t keep you from saying you don’t like something. Really.
“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.” The Hobbit opens with one of the classic lines in literature, and it immediately sets the tone for the novel. It moves quickly with descriptions, the next couple of pages telling us about Bilbo’s house, his family – “they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected”, and his remarkable mother from the more adventurous, less respectable Tooks.
One morning after breakfast, Bilbo stands outside smoking a pipe when he notices an old man standing near his home. When Bilbo calls “Good morning”, Gandalf questions him on the meaning. (I love Gandalf.) After their musings, Gandalf mentions he is looking for someone to share in an adventure. To which Bilbo tells him it would be rather hard to find an adventurer nearby as adventures are uncomfortable things and “Make you late for dinner!” When Gandalf introduces himself, Bilbo is intrigued, but only enough to invite Gandalf to tea the next day before darting back in his house. Once Bilbo is inside, Gandalf scratches a sign on Bilbo’s green front door and leaves.
Of course, Bilbo completely forgot he invited anyone round to tea, so when someone rings the bell he is caught off guard. Though the person at his door is not Gandalf, but a dwarf! Bilbo, being the ever-polite host, invites Dwalin for tea, despite the fact that Dwalin is already in the house and has hung his cloak already. Then arrives Balin, then Kili and Fili (who mention a throng and send Bilbo into a panic), followed by Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin. Last come Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and Thorin Oakenshield, who tumble into Bilbo’s house and fall flat on the floor, with Thorin on the bottom. Gandalf follows them all in, and more food is called round. The dwarves feast and Bilbo serves, though Thorin does have them pitch in for the cleanup (hilariously singing about chipping dishes while they do it).
All the food is followed by music, including “Over the Misty Mountains”, which sets the stage for their adventure. Thorin then begins to explain their quest, and though Bilbo felt a bit Tookish and adventurous earlier during the singing, actually talking about things pushes Bilbo over the edge and he screams. The dwarves put him in another room and question Gandalf’s choice of burglar. It is their insults towards Bilbo that spur him on and he tells them that he is quite good, thank you very much. He’ll come along to prove it. He asks for more detail about their adventure, which Thorin provides with a history of the Lonely Mountain, how the dragon came to be there, and Gandalf provides a map and key from Thorin’s father (which he acquired while in the dungeons of the Necromancer). They decide to take a hidden passage at the side of the mountain as their initial plan of attack, and Bilbo grows a bit more reluctant to help. He suggests everyone gets to bed and he’ll make them breakfast before the dwarves leave. At which point, Thorin reminds Bilbo that he is in fact coming with them. Bilbo sleeps uneasily and wakes late the next day.
- Looking at the narration for the story, it certainly opens with a tone of almost innocent delight – much like you would use when telling a small child a bedtime story. But as the dwarves pile into Bilbo’s house, does the tone get a bit darker? I think it does, but it still feels pretty light.
- Who else giggled when you realized Bilbo was almost more upset that he might have to (GASP!) go without cake in order to feed his guests than the fact there were so many unannounced guests?
- Rereading this, I still wonder – why do you think Gandalf chose Bilbo of all hobbits?
- After reading the first chapter, do you think Gandalf knows already that the Necromancer is Sauron? He seems pretty adamant that Thorin stay away, and he’s been in the dungeons.