Dwarves are Trash and Other Thoughts on Tolkien’s The Hobbit
What is your first memory of reading The Hobbit? Is it super nostalgic for you? Does seeing the classic illustrations or reading the chapter heading “An Unexpected Party” have you reaching for some tissues or staring mistily off into space? Jennifer first remembers her mother reading it aloud to her when she was perhaps six or seven, complete with a set of dwarvish voices. Or perhaps your first encounter was more similar to Paige’s with the animated movie leading then the book? However you came to read Tolkien’s classic, welcome to our first Deep Dive episode on Big Book Energy! There is no judgment on Tolkien nerdiness here, Jennifer’s computer is named Smaug after all. What is perhaps most shocking is that Paige has yet to read The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion. Or is it? Tolkien has perhaps become increasingly difficult for readers to sink their teeth into, especially when the highly palatable and action-packed Peter Jackson movie interpretations are now available.
This Deep Dive series seeks to do exactly what it says: dive in! And this season we are featuring Tolkien’s works as our point of focus, with The Hobbit being the logical starting place for such an excavation. We decided that for this month’s Deep Dive, we would have the added theme of Tolkien and Verse, i.e. an exploration of how Tolkien uses verse or poetry in The Hobbit, what that might mean, and what we think about it. Now, neither Paige or Jennifer are literary scholars, so walking through how poetry works in Old English – one of Tolkien’s many sources of inspiration – was a struggle. Despite this lack of knowledge, Jennifer attempts to break down alliterative verse anyway.
There are also inevitable references to the latest films and how they compare to Tolkien’s written work. Overall, both Paige and Jennifer were struck by how unimpressed they were with the dwarves in the book. While the most recent movie adaptations portray Thorin and company in a relatively good light, the book is much less kind to them. Over the course of the entire season we are also likely to discuss news items related to the latest endeavor of Amazon to not completely trash the Tolkien legacy. Our fingers are crossed, but Jennifer is nervous about what they will do with her treasured childhood realm of Middle Earth.
This episode comes at a particularly bittersweet time. Only a few days before recording, news broke that Christopher Tolkien had passed away at the age of 95. Tolkien’s contributions towards his father’s legacy cannot be understated. Without him, we would have been left with only The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That is it. The Silmarillion, The Lost Tales, The Children of Hurin, The History of Middle Earth, Beren and Luthien, The Fall of Gondolin, and all the others that came between them would have been lost in Tolkien’s Smaug-worthy hoard of assorted paper and the incredible richness and depth of Middle Earth would have mostly been lost. Christopher Tolkien has our sincerest thanks for the countless hours spent organizing draft after conflicting draft and editing his father’s sometimes only partially finished works into a consumable form. BBE wishes him well on his voyage to brighter lands and fairer shores.
As promised, here is a terrifying image of Thranduil, king of the wood elves from the animated movie, The Hobbit (1977)
And here’s the BBE approved Thranduil, as played by Lee Pace in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. As you can see, there are some differences.
Here are some links promised in the episode:
- Tor’s tribute to Christopher Tolkien and his legacy.
- Here’s another tribute to Christopher Tolkien from NPR.
- Jennifer is currently reading Christopher Vogel’s The Writer’s Journey, but is also super interested in contrasting this to Hayao Kawai’s The Japanese Psyche that explores common motifs in Japanese myths and fairy tales.
- Here’s a couple great articles on recycling in America by NPR and The Atlantic. If you are interested in learning about going zero waste, Jennifer is really enjoying the book she is reading right now, Kathryn Kellogg’s 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste. Anyway, it is terrifying how wasteful we are with our limited resources, and Jennifer encourages everyone to evaluate their habits to reduce above all their consumption of single-use plastics and plastic in general.
- Link to amazing Wikipedia page on alliterative verse so you don’t have to only rely on Jennifer’s mediocre explanations.
- According to Wikipedia, Tolkien served in varying positions at Oxford from 1925 to 1959.
- The Wikipedia page on the Inklings is a good source, and if you are further interested in the Inklings, be sure to check out the Journal of Inklings Studies.
- Amazon show, what’s going on?
- If you haven’t visited Tolkien Society yet, are you even a Tolkien fan??? They specifically have a page for Tolkien related readings, and many other awesome links.
- Also, check out Tolkien’s Poetry, as mentioned on this month’s Deep Dive episode.
To catch our full discussion on why dwarves are terrible, why Bilbo is an absolute treasure, and why the recent Hobbit films succeed in some ways while failing completely in others, you’ll need to hop over to our Patreon page and subscribe! However, we have also uploaded a short summary/teaser of this episode where all podcasts live. Give us a follow on social media (links above) to keep up with all the BBE news. Until next time!