“The Hobbit” Read-Along, Chapter 19: “The Last Stage”

[Sorry for the lag for this final post of our magnificent Read-Along for The Hobbit. In Melpomene’s absence, I’m filling in to offer my thoughts on the end to Tolkien’s fairy story.]

Chapter 19

The Last Stage

Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!
Wind him in slumber and there let us leave him!
The wanderer sleepeth. Now soft be his pillow!
Lullaby! Lullaby! Alder and Willow!
Sigh no more Pine, till the wind of the morn!
Fall Moon! Dark be the land!
Hush! Hush! Oak, Ash, and Thorn!
Hushed be all water, till dawn is at hand!

So sing the elves in Rivendell, to remind us that even in a world with hardship and grief, death, and gloomy victory, even these shall pass, and dreams may be sweet again, and pillows soft, and water sweet and gentle, and dawn bright and strong.Descent-into-Riv2-port

“Merry is May-time!” said Bilbo, as the rain beat into his face. “But our back is to legends and we are coming home. I suppose this is a first taste of it.”

“There is a long road yet,” said Gandalf.

“But it is the last road,” said Bilbo.

Endings can be difficult things, but few authors can manage a truly comfortable, spot-on, well-earned happy one as well as the Professor. By the end of the previous chapter, all the major conflicts have been resolved, peace has been restored, victory has been celebrated, tragedies have been mourned, and one may wonder what there is left to say. Tolkien could have easily paraphrased a few paragraphs from this chapter and worked them into Chapter 18, and we probably wouldn’t have felt we were missing anything. But Tolkien knew that there were still things yet worth experiencing. Stories are not all conflict and the resolution of conflict, though those are generally the key parts. Just as songs sometimes benefit from a brief reprise of the opening verse at the end, perhaps in a different key, so do stories sometimes need to wind down a bit after the climax has passed, to catch their breath and return to walking speed before they stop for good.

What a simple pleasure it is to join Bilbo and Gandalf on their way back to Hobbiton! While the previous chapter mentions in passing that Bilbo suffered many hardships and adventures on his way home, Chapter 19 picks up as he enters the peaceful lands around Rivendell, and from there onward the road is gentle and the country kind. We catch snatches of their conversation as they walk, and it is the relaxed banter of friends between whom dialogue is welcome, but not necessary, for them to enjoy each others’ company.

This was much as it had been before, except that the company was smaller, and more silent; and also this time there were no trolls.

They pass the places of their old adventures: the trolls, the buried treasure, the border of the Wild. These are quieter now, and just different enough that the events of last year feel much older. Such is often the feeling when we visit again places that once were very important to us. My old high school is a bustling, overfilled place, but when I go to visit it feels quieter to me, because so few of the teachers and staff that I knew have remained. There is noise about, but none of it is meant for me. And if there are trolls there still, they are not the ones I knew.

My favorite part of this chapter is Balin’s surprise visit to Bag End, some years after their adventure. We are all too familiar—in real life as well as in stories—with good-byes that are accompanied by promises to visit, to write, to stay in touch, that are not fulfilled. Yet Tolkien is too wise to let that be the case here. Most of these promises are not kept, but some are, and these are precious, my friends, so very precious. Balin’s visit is not couched under the guise of a new adventure or any ulterior motive. It is simply a visit by an old friend. Well, two old friends, since Gandalf accompanies Balin. The old wizard slips away to secret places often enough, but he always comes back to where he is welcome, and to where he is needed.

And so this Read-Along is at its end, and I hardly know how to express my gratitude to you all for sharing it with me. Your reflections have been wonderful, joyous, thoughtful, serious, funny, melancholy, and giddy, often all at once. My mind and my heart have grown because of you all.

Grant me this small boon, that you read again the final image of The Hobbit: three old friends reminiscing, laughing, enjoying their pasts, their present, and their hopes for their futures. May the Lord bless us all with many such times!

TN-The_Shire_A_View_of_Hobbiton_From_The_Hill

Post-Script: If you still long to talk about Tolkien and his creatures, check out Jubilare’s fantastic series on the Dwarves! Part I, Part II, and Part III are already up.

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Happy Hobbit Thanksgiving!

We all have things to be thankful for.

jubilare

Lets face it, Thanksgiving is a very Hobbitish holiday. Food, family, thankfulness, and more food.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to have one of our chapters from The Hobbit Read-along fall on this day. Here we are, at the next to last chapter, “The Return Journey”.

We have been in the midst of a chaotic battle, but the dust has settled and dear Bilbo, invisible, wakes from unconsciousness, cold, and alone. He wakes to find victory, but not a joyful one. “Well it seems a very gloomy business,” he says. Yes, Bilbo, it is a very gloomy business.

Last chapter, the Dwarves  showed some real character. Now, so near the end, we get more. We see Thorin, faced with death, gaining perspective. Forgiveness and friendship finally outweigh material things to him. This death, and the deaths of Fili and Kili (I am so sad for their parents, if they still live!)…

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The Hobbit: Chapter 17, The Clouds Burst

“The Eagle! The Eagles!” he shouted. “The Eagles are coming!”

My Seryniti

Have you seen this read a long… Let’s catch up first and let me warn you, if you have not yet read the Hobbit or the chapters please note that there are spoilers. Some chapters even discuss what is to come next in the book!

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“The Hobbit” Read-Along: Chapter XVI, A Thief in the Night

Bilbo sure has been through a lot.

The Old Book Junkie

“The Hobbit” isn’t a very long book. It runs a mere 250 pages or so. For most of us, that’s easy. But not if you’re Bilbo Baggins. He’s not used to ten pages of adventures, much less 250.

Just look what he’s been through so far: He had to entertain a bunch of unappreciative dwarves without any notice. He had to leave home! He barely escaped being Troll Chow. He had to exchange riddles with one of the creepiest characters in all of literature. And let’s not forget the goblins, wargs, a werebear, giant spiders, a devious dragon and those most dangerous of all creatures, men.

So as you might imagine, our Mr. Baggins is getting a bit weary about now. Here he is, besieged in the Mountain with a bunch of grouchy dwarves and no end to the situation in sight. He just wants to go home. Unless he does…

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Chapter 15: The Gathering of the Clouds

A few very good observations.

Grimmella

Only a few more chapters left! Which means it’s only a few more weeks before The Hobbit is released!

As a reminder, all previous chapters available by clicking on The Hobbit Read-Along tab just to the left.

Just some thoughts I had while reading the chapter:

  • It’s interesting that ravens are the birds connected with dwarves. They are incredibly intelligent birds, yet usually classed with crows as harbingers of death and doom.
  • Another dwarf song! I personally tend to think of music as something more for relaxation but dwarf music is very martial; even Bilbo thinks so. I guess it makes sense then that when they’ve got two armies bearing down on them, they all sit down with their harps and start singing.
  • The last part of this chapter makes me cringe. You’ve got two incredibly proud, angry, and completely unyielding leaders who refuse to compromise. Thorin behaves like a…

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Giving Voice to the Story: On Reading the Hobbit Aloud to my Son

The joys and difficulties of reading aloud to children; also, how much fun Tolkien must have had reading The Hobbit to his kids.

A Pilgrim in Narnia

This blog is part of The Hobbit Read-Along at The Warden’s Walk. I’ve been assigned Chapter 14: Fire and Water. Feel free to comment on any of the great blogs in the series.

When I jumped into the Hobbit Read-Along, I never imagined that I would struggle to read two chapters a week. I am a slow reader, but given time I’ll find my way from book cover to dust jacket. But as I launched into this merry fellowship of nine writers, I didn’t account for the fact that I would be reading aloud to my son. Since the very beginning, we’ve been scrambling to cover two chapters a week.

Reading aloud to a curious 7¾ year old has challenges beyond sheer volume. The Hobbit is more complex than some of the other books we’ve read. We have only one book left in the Narnia Chronicles…

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“The Hobbit” Read-Along Chapter 12: “Inside Information”

The dwarves are very ill-prepared, indeed!

Pages Unbound | Book Reviews & Discussions

The Hobbit read-along continues over at The Warden’s Walk and so do my rambling thoughts about the book!

Chapter 12 continues developing the philosophies underlying the actions of all the characters.  The Dwarves think about treasure, Bilbo thinks about home, and Smaug thinks about himself.  Their philosophies and not their physical prowess ultimately decide all their fates.

Tolkien does not portray the Dwarves in a very flattering manner at this point in time, stating outright that “There it is: Dwarves are not heroes but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money.”  Though Bilbo has repeatedly proven his worth to the group, rescuing his companions from the spiders and the prisons of Mirkwood, he receives little credit from  Thorin, who announces (rather pompously) that the time has come now for the Hobbit to earn his reward.  Even so, the Dwarves hope to aid Bilbo as little as…

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