The age of Speculative Politics is over. The age of The Hobbit reading-group series is about to re-begin.
A French website accidentally released 60-second preview clips from the film’s score by Howard Shore, then quickly took them down — though not before I, personally, was rocking out at my desk to “Blunt the Knives.” Then Empire went ahead and released the whole score, streaming, if you don’t mind no track division or pause button.
In fact, as I write this introduction to part 2, I’m temporarily breaking my new no-spoilers vow and listening to a few tracks. A few. Up until “Misty Mountains Cold,” sung by Dwarves.
It’s wonderful music.
Many have said Howard Shore “gets” Middle-earth better than film director Peter Jackson. Yet Jackson must be admired for, evidently, making a film with adaptation respect beyond mere fan-service. At least two Tolkien songs, with very few changes, will pass into the film. And the rest of the story seems to honor The Hobbit’s fantastic whimsy, as opposed to the more-serious atmosphere and themes of The Lord of the Rings books and film version.
Of course, no one truly knows Middle-earth as well as J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
And in that respect, we turn again to The Hobbit, specifically chapter 2, in which Bilbo the reluctant lucky-fourteenth member of Thorin Oakenshield’s Dwarf-company, first tries to put his “burglar” skills to the test. He nearly winds up, along with they, being treated as …
Chapter 2: Roast Mutton
- Read chapter 2, pages 27 to 30 (It was not the last time that he wished that!).
- Why do you think Bilbo, despite all his protests, find himself on an adventure?
- Have you memorized the Dwarves’ names by now? Do you know anything about their personalities or motivations? If not, is that a bad thing? Could a newer fantasy story include 13 characters who seem very much alike? Why did Tolkien “get away” with it?
- Bilbo was sadly reflecting that adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine … (page 32). Imagining this, and perhaps recalling our own trips, is this sad or amusing, or both?
- “Now it is the burglar’s turn,” they said, meaning Bilbo. “You must go on and find out all about that light, and what it is for, and if all is perfectly safe and canny,” said Thorin to the hobbit (page 33). How do the Dwarves, and Thorin in particular, seem to regard Bilbo? How do their apparent attitudes add tension? Which makes the story more interesting, and thus keep us reading — “outward” struggles like the weather, or “inner” struggles?
Read pages 33 (Off Bilbo had to go …) to 39 (… before they were satisfied).
- Yes, I am afraid trolls do behave like that, even those with only one head each (page 34). Tolkien “speaks” to readers as if trolls are real (same with hobbits). Is that confusing?
- For those familiar with The Lord of the Rings, this scene could seem very different. Unlike the dumb monster trolls of that epic, these trolls talk, bicker, have names like “Bill Huggins,” and have possessions — including a talking purse! Is this at all weird?
- Why do you think Bilbo wants so badly to impress the Dwarves, even with the trolls?
- Read pages 41 (“Silly time …”) to the very end.
- Does Bilbo’s attempt to do “burglary” and impress the Dwarves seem to succeed or fail?
- How does Gandalf seem to view the Dwarves, and view Bilbo? After Thorin challenges Gandalf to tell where he went, why does Gandalf speak in riddles? Finally, here we see Gandalf doing some “magic” for the first time — how does this “magic” strike you?