I recently watched a couple extended edition versions of the LOTR movies and I got the itch to dive back into that world. And since the movie version of The Hobbit is drawing near, I figured I’d go for it. I’d read The Hobbit only for the second time as speed reading practice some fifteen years ago.
And now I’m about a third of the way in. I’m enjoying it, but I’m shocked by the narrative voice. It’s written like a child’s fairy tale … which I suppose it is. The problem is that I’ve gotten so swept up in the idea of LOTR being a history that I find myself disappointed by the humorous “story teller” narrator in The Hobbit. When the narrator mentions the post office, or golf, I’m jarred right out of Middle Earth.
And the frequent mentions of what Bilbo would think about the adventure many years in the future destroys any sense of jeopardy.
Gandalf! He makes me cringe! He’s mean, he has a “wand” and he’s kind of a buffoon. Didn’t Tolkien know that Gandalf is supposed to be wise, compassionate, and cool? I mean, he’s Sir Ian McKellan after all.
And the exclamation points! They’re everywhere! Sometimes their even in the middle! of sentences!!
I’m still hopeful that the movies will be awesome, and I still love the old cartoon version. But it’s clear I’ve outgrown the book.
I came up with a good writing exercise out of this re-read though. One could rewrite a chapter using a more modern narrative voice. Maybe even try first person, or a limited third. Could be fun!
Of course, I don’t have time for that right now. I’m working on Undermountain 2.