#20: Read “The Hobbit”

This is part of our 100 Things in 2014 challenge. Here’s the full list.

This challenge originally read “read a book together,” but it wasn’t hard to choose The Hobbit. The movies are in theaters (and are strangely disappointing), and the kids are almost old enough for this story, so the time was right for pulling it out. We discovered that we both had nice, leather-bound copies to read!

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In the end, Ben finished first, but only by about 20 pages, and only because Becky took a break to read an 850-page novel in the middle.

Ben: this is only my second time reading this book. I actually think I read the Lord of the Rings books first, and I didn’t read them until I was in my twenties. Nonetheless, this is the origin of most of western “fantasy” stories and games, and those I’ve known since childhood. So in a way, I’ve read this a hundred times.

It’s a lot like watching Citizen Kane – so many of the elements have become cliche that you have to keep reminding yourself that this is where they came from. And the original is often better.

Becky: My first memories of this book are of my mother reading it aloud to us each night before bed. We would beg her to continue long after time was up. I recall it being such a complicated and complex story. By the time I was in high school I’d read The Hobbit a total of 10 times on my own. This 50th anniversary copy was a gift for my 18th birthday from a friend who knew how much I loved the story.

My brothers and I watched the 1977 cartoon movie many, many times as kids. My interest in the story now was rekindled by the new Peter Jackson movies. I tried so hard to enjoy them, but they were just not following the story and didn’t even seem to match the personalities I’d assigned all the characters. Last week we showed the original cartoon to the kids. On one hand, I loved it. So much nostalgia. As I read, those were the voices I knew and remembered. On the other hand, it was terrible!

Re-reading this time I was struck over and over by how simple the story was. Where was the complexity I always attributed to this tale? Where was the rich detail, the almost wordy explanations? Despite this, I still treasure this book. I can’t wait to read it to our kids in a couple years. I’m glad I read it as a grown-up.

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