Monday, August 01, 2011

General Prologue to the Hobbit

Purely commentary and no exposition:

This book is one which I read on my own a handful of times, a friend of the family read out loud to us once a week, and was taught to my class in Grade 7. In terms of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, I prefer The Hobbit. At school we watched the animated Hobbit from the 70s or so, and I was not much taken with it; the reason why the book comes to mind is that I recently watched the three production videos for the future film and felt that it looks very promising. As long as Gandalf, intermittently comedic dwarves (and New Zealand) and a doughty hobbit are in it, it will hopefully not wander too far astray.

My Canada-residing grandfather had a copy of The Hobbit (Unwin Books's 1966 edition in the book's "Twenty-first impression 1969") bought obligatorily since it was in fashion; though he is (rather was, but the present tense seems right) mild in his likes and dislikes, he was sometimes displeased about things and The Hobbit was one of them; he once said that he considered the book cribbed from Norse mythology and not worth reading. I'm still not sure precisely what irritated him about it, or if he was in fact irritated rather than detached in his criticism. Dwarves, dragons, and gold are in fact not foreign to the sagas, but whereas I find the sagas too pontifical, ponderous, and unhealthily unmoored from the world itself, The Hobbit is grounded in Britishness, parochialism, characters and scenes on a less ambitious scale than the Lord of the Rings, and I like it. Besides I haven't read so many sagas or even Saxon things; English literature staples like Beowulf (despite the dragon in its final scenes) and The Dream of the Rood and The Wanderer are obviously in a different vein. To phrase it in undergraduate essay terms, though, the hearth/ale/song/comrade and wilderness/isolation/pain dichotomy are common to them all.

The same friend of the family who regaled us with The Hobbit also read retellings of Wagner's operas with all their deathly sickly sentimentality, among them the Ring cycle. These were interesting insofar as we found them abhorrently preachy, etc. While the rest of us suffered from a severe case of loving-to-hate she endured them with great equanimity, until we reached a consensus over the hideously frivolous Meistersinger von N├╝rnberg that enough was as good as a feast. It deepened the impression that Norse sagas are not my cup of tea.

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