Thread: TH FIRST
I've always wondered about the view on TH if it's read 'after' LOTR. Do people who read TH first generally have a better appreciation for it?
I'm not much help though, because I read the Hobbit before LotR. And it's kind of hard to put that Genie back in the Bottle .
Though I did reread the Hobbit some months ago after rereading LotR. The biggest difference in writing style was noticeable till after the death of Smaug. After that, the tone of the Hobbit seemed to mature somewhat. Though to an old Myth lover like myself, I felt the whole book was less like a "children's" book than many so-called adult fantasy books.
So it didn't seem like that much of a leap to the style of LotR to me. Especially as the Hobbiton parts of LotR, still read very much like The Hobbit. But of course, when Mr T was starting LotR he thought he was just writing a sequel. He was part way in when he discovered that he was writing a story set in his Life's Work, that is to say Middle Earth, which he had been developing for decades in private.
It's interesting you thought the end of TH was more in the atmosphere of LOTR, while the beginning of LOTR was almost in a TH style. Yes, I'm being clumsy here, but you know what I mean. Well, to me TH and LOTR, up until the Fellowship get to Lothlorien, are my favorite parts of the books - and its because TH and most of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING are so Hobbit-ish somehow. Really, I haven't explained myself very well, now have I? I trust you know what I mean though. And I guess I'm showing my TH preferences again!
(Tangentially: Has anyone read Roverandom? Of course you have! The book's a revelation! Why did it take so long to get published?)
Fellowship, indeed continues with the humour and the innocence that pervades The Hobbit. But it is more mature and even less directed towards children. As the story moves along, Middle Earth gradually takes shape, and before we know it the Drama shifts into High Romance (in the old sense of the word as applied to Beowulf and the Arthurian Legends).
And funnily enough Roverandom fits right into this discussion. Eldorion and I were discussing this very thing on another thread. Tolkien wrote Roverandom very much in the traditional style of a "children's" book. But felt a little guilty about "writing down" to his children.
Eldorion found quotes from Tolkien's letters that indicate Tolkien wrote the Hobbit as still directed at children. Yet I think, based on his feelings about "Fairy Stories" (as noted in his essay On Fairy Stories, he took umbrage at the notion that they should be considered as "childish", that he was already shifting gears in The Hobbit. Hence we find a work in transition, that has some elements of a "children's" story still in place, yet as he wrote it, it expanded into a Grand Epic. And this process continued into LotR.
As the Hobbits ultimately represent Tolkien's vision of an ideal pastoral country life-style with all the jolly comforts of hearth and home, it is no wonder that these are the parts of the books that make us feel so cozy. They are my favourite bits too. The ending of LotR is bitter-sweet. The Elves and Magic are leaving Middle Earth along with Frodo and Gandalf. Bit sad really .
I've often thought of The Fellowship of the Ring being transitional betwen TH and the latter part of LOTR. Now that you mention it, all of the GW (Great Work)(and herein I mean TH and LOTR), warps and weaves in style and atmosphere thoughout, though I accept your general view on how the books were written and about all the themes and ideas and influences that became meshed and entwined. (Alright, you did not say this exactly - but I feel that's the drift you take!)
As an aside, I've always found it a little sad that T regretted writing 'down' to kids in the Hobbit. I never felt that way when I was a child. I don't now. T told the story to his kids with love - and that love comes through for others. And, by the way, none of that makes TH a children's story in my opinion. The best way of descibing TH is that it is a fairy story. And it's for whoever likes that kind of thing. (What ever do they teach children in schools nowadays?!)
NB I hope someone directly addresses my question though. I'd really like to hear some views on it from LOTR firsters! A friend of mine read LOTR first and for years he thought TH a far lesser work than LOTR. (Funnily, when he read TH recently, he said he liked it more than he ever did. It makes me wonder if he is regresing mentally to a more innocent vintage? I hope so! He's an Old Fogey and is in sore need of some solid 'age' regressing in my opinion!)
NBB Ooh to be called "Gandy" by a young Scot. You lucky lucky... person.
I think I might have something of a split personality. You see, when I read TH, I somehow always forget the Ring's power. I'm so taken by the strength of the story, any other stories (including sequels) have no power to divert me. I read TH many times before I knew LOTR even existed. Maybe I was brainwashed. (Is all brainwashing necessarily bad then, do you think?)
I must say, it's interesting how folk say that LOTR is, dare I say it, the Greater or More Serious work of literature. I don't see it in quite that way. I feel TH is more literary than LOTR in some ways in fact - at least to me it is more effortless and subtle and allows more for the imagination. Hemingway wrote simply - if I may mention him as an example - but who would doubt his depth or seriousness? (My love for TH is actually visceral as well as intellectual! I root more for Bilbo than Frodo. Frodo is more Heroic somehow. Bilbo is Everyman - or Every-Hobbit, I suppose. I'm beginning to waffle - sorry 'bout that).
NB Don't anyone think I don't love Frodo too, though!