I hosted a group read over the summer of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings called Puttin' the Blog in Balrog. It was a lot of fun and many people participated. Condensed below are my posts for this book. If you'd like to read the rest (or see what the other participants posted), you can find links to everything here.FIRST! This is the copy of The Hobbit that I grew up reading. In fact, this is one of the first times that I'm NOT reading this copy, because I wanted to be able to highlight and make notes - there was no way I was highlighting this one:I guess that's really neither here nor there, though - even if we are going there and back again.So. The book introduces us to our non-heroic (so far) hero, Bilbo Baggins, immediately and gives us a brief explanation of what hobbits actually are. I will admit that when I was a child, I thought it would be quite fine to live the life of a hobbit...minus the hairy feet.I loved how very confused Bilbo was at Gandalf's sudden appearance on his doorstep, and how the things he remembered most about our friend the Wizard were the fireworks shows of his youth. When Gandalf begins to discuss uncomfortable subjects (such as [gasp] leaving his comfortable little hobbit-hole or [double gasp] adventuring) Bilbo wishes him a firm GOOD DAY, but not before the requisite polite invitation to tea. C'mon, we must stay civilized, even if we're not exactly thrilled with the prospect of a strange guest in our homes, amirite?Heh, I hope everyone got a few hearty chuckles out of Bilbo's extreme flusteredness (shut up, I can make up words, too!) at having not one, not two or three, but no less than THIRTEEN DWARVES show up on his doorstep the following day. This was always one of my favourite things to imagine when I was young. Poor Bilbo, worried about his own meal-time, only to have to share EVERYTHING in his larder with these unexpected/uninvited guests. I also got a kick out of imagining Dwalin's great blue beard.I was utterly disappointed in the Rankin-Bass cartoon for not giving him his blue beard.And I find I'm even more disappointed in Peter Jackson for not even giving him a silvery blue beard in the upcoming live-action adaptation. He also doesn't even have his dark green cloak or his golden belt, WTS, PJ?!Gah, anyway - moving on. So, we meet all of these super interesting dwarves with funny (to us) names, and Bilbo learns that Gandalf has volunteered him to be a burglar/thief for their upcoming mission to the Lonely Mountain to try to steal back their treasure that was taken by the dragon Smaug.We get a little bit of Thorin's (King Under the Mountain) backstory, and it is very sad...or, I found it sad, anyway. Especially knowing that the Dwarves were first first (heh), reading about how they've been downtrodden and put upon throughout their entire history as a race - well, it IS a bit sad, isn't it? When I was a kid, I mostly skipped the songs, but I'm glad I don't do that any longer. Hearing their lament (in my head, of course) of the destruction of their home was heart-breaking. I think I've become more emotional as I've aged, because reading this time, I was close to tears. Oh, and this:As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.Yeah, that's pretty much exactly it.Skipping ahead, I got many giggles over poor Bilbo being forced to leave his home with the dishes all sitting in the sink and without a second breakfest (heaven forbid!) AND without any pocket handkerchiefs. Poor Bilbo.BUT THEN! We get to the trolls. How awesome was this. Once again, poor Bilbo, being sent ahead but not having the faintest idea what the snape he's supposed to do.Thank goodness for Gandalf, y'know? Jeez, things could have been pretty ugly there, and we'd have had no real story to speak of. So, we get to see Bilbo be a bit of a hero, just for picking up a key. Hmmm, the trolls had a pretty decent stash of super awesome items. Gandalf and Thorin both get swords and our dear Bilbo gets a dagger, but since he's on the small side, it serves as a sword for him.Since the swords are of elvish make, they glow in the presence of goblins (if you paid attention in the intro, you'll learn that these are the orcs we talked about last week, something that entirely escaped me as a child), which will come in quite handy fairly soon.Oh, and they spend a few weeks with some...interesting elves. Elrond (we talked about him once before) translates the runes on their treasure map for them, and gives them some interesting information they might have missed otherwise.“What are moon-letters?” asked the hobbit full of excitement. He loved maps, as I have told you before; and he also liked runes and letters and cunning handwriting, though when he wrote himself it was a bit thin and spidery.“Moon-letters are rune-letters, but you cannot see them,” said Elrond, “not when you look straight at them. They can only be seen when the moon shines behind them, and what is more, with the more cunning sort it must be a moon of the same shape and season as the day when they were written. The dwarves invented them and wrote them with silver pens, as your friends could tell you. These must have been written on a midsummer’s eve in a crescent moon, a long while ago.”Aw, and you guys probably thought I was just being egotistical when I decided to start reading on Midsummer's Eve (MY BIRTHDAY). Nope. It was totally planned all along, just for this part. Shut up, I can totally plan things.Into the mountains!Then came a wind and a rain, and the wind whipped the rain and the hail about in every direction, so that an overhanging rock was no protection at all. Soon they were getting drenched and their ponies were standing with their heads down and their tails between their legs, and some of them were whinnying with fright. They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainsides.“This won’t do at all!” said Thorin. “If we don’t get blown off, or drowned, or struck by lightning, we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a football.”To be honest, I was a little concerned about reading the digital versions of these books, but I was quite pleased to discover that they still contain the illustrations. Like this one, which still makes me smile to see. Oh, and Thorin's comment was fantastic, yeah?Our band of dwarves+hobbit+wizard take shelter for the night in what they think is an abandoned cave, but in the middle of the night, goblins/orcs come streaming through a crack in the wall and take everyone captive.Well, except for Gandalf, of course, who pisses the Great Goblin off something fierce. Oh, and he also hates dwarves. Dur, I can't help but feel that our poor dwarves really got the short end of the Middle-Earth stick. They seem to be at odds WITH EVERYONE. :(So, there's a hasty retreat being beaten by Thorin and Co., but poor Bilbo gets left behind. "Oh, dear, what's this?" he says as he picks up a ring on the ground. Hmmmm, what IS that, Bilbo?No time to think about that because it's RIDDLIN' TIME!Ugh, I don't remember finding the riddles in the dark as epically creepy when I was a child. Yes, I remember being incredibly worried that Bilbo was going to get et by Gollum, but this time...I don't even know. It just felt way more sinister than I remember it being. Weird.So, ANYWAY, Bilbo kind of cheated, yeah? Or, Gollum took the bait by accepting Bilbo's not-really-a-riddle as part of the challenge and lost himself a decent hobbit sized meal, I think.Of course, as Bilbo's trying to avoid being eaten, the ring slips on his finger, which renders him invisible. Gollum then foolishly leads him to the exit, and Bilbo escapes. Narrowly. At the cost of his buttons. Poor waistcoat. We hardly knew ye.When we left off, we were lamenting the loss of Bilbo's buttons - look, I don't know why the buttons made such an impression on me, but they did. It's mentioned a few times later when Bilbo is feeling particularly shabby, and I...never mind, the buttons aren't important. What IS important is that just as Bilbo is despairing of ever finding his friends or home, he stumbles across the campsite.Gandalf is trying to rally the troops to go back for our dear hobbit, but it turns out to be unnecessary because TA-DA! Here's Mr Baggins! Balin is pretty peeved that Bilbo somehow managed to sneak past him. We all know it was the Ring, but Bilbo decides to leave that part out of his story, instead exaggerating his bravery and cunning just a tad. Gandalf seems to know what's up, but doesn't call him on it.So. Things are looking pretty grim for our little party. No ponies, no food, NO HANDKERCHIEFS!BUT THEN...things get worse. The Wargs show up. Not gonna lie, guys, the Wargs scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. They talked, they worked with the goblins/orcs...that was enough for me to know they were bad news bears wolves. Reading THIS TIME, though, I was surprised at how much I giggled through this passage.Everyone climbs trees to escape them, except for poor Bilbo whose legs are too short for climbing, so there's a bit of hilarity as he gets helped up. Then ALL OF THE WARGS proceed to have their Warg-y Meeting right. there. Fun. Only Gandalf can understand them, but they're talking about how they're supposed to be there to meet the goblins, only the goblins are a no-show and everything is falling apart since the Great Goblin was killed.Well. Gandalf has this brilliant idea to start throwing fireballs at the wolves. In the middle of a forest. With trees. Trees that ARE LIKELY TO CATCH ON FIRE. Hey, GUESS WHAT HAPPENS?! Of course the goblins show up, and use the Wargs on Fire (which I'm totally singing to this tune, btw) to set the trees that our party are hiding in on fire.Thank goodness for the Giant Eagles, amirite?The Eagles take them to the Carrock, where they make their way to Beorn's house. [sigh] Beorn. [sigh] For realsies, I had a huge crush on him when I was a kid. It might have been my first literary crush. Not sure, but I think it was. Um, this is not how I pictured him. At all. Stupid PJ. :(Anyway, Gandalf has to trick Beorn into letting all of their party show up, but he's so tricksy with his trickery that Beorn is totally cool with having his house taken over by everyone. I felt kind of bad because of his obvious prejudice against the dwarves when we started, but then I felt EVEN WORSE for Beorn. Cos I'm sure it gets lonely with only animals to keep you company, and he doesn't have a lady friend and...well, anyway. This part was a little sad for me. I think I'm far too sentimental.So, Beorn follows their trail back to make sure they're telling the truth about killing the Great Goblin (because he hates goblins more than dwarves, at least), and mounts a goblin head on a pike in his yard. Look, Beorn. I want you to find a lady friend, and having heads on sticks out in front of the house probably isn't going to help. I mean, YAY for killing goblins and wargs and whatnot, but...that's not all that attractive. Sorry. I still heart you, though.Thennnnnnnnnn, Beorn lets them borrow his ponies and gives them all food and stuff so they can get to Mirkwood. But then he follows them the whole way? Why didn't he just GO WITH THEM? [sigh]Anyway, Gandalf leaves them at the edge of Mirkwood, and tells them he's got other things to take care of. "But stay on the path, dummies." Um...they don't stay on the path. They try to crash a few elf parties, which ends in sadness when the elves disappear and everyone is captured by the giant spiders. Well, everyone except Thorin, cos he's actually captured by the elves.Bilbo saves everyone from the spider (using the ring) and sings a taunting song. He kills a bunch of spiders, but then everyone except for Bilbo ends up being taken to Thranduil's cave palace and imprisoned. Bilbo manages to sneak in after the elves, but wanders around invisible, hiding in dark places until he comes up with a plan for escape. How cute is this? The cutest. More kids need to draw pictures from the Hobbit, I love this so much.The prejudices against dwarves are readily apparent in this chapter. Poor Thorin is just trying to explain that they were STARVING TO DEATH not trying to accost any elves, but no one believes him. At least elves treat their prisoners nicely and everyone is fed.Bilbo steals the keys to the cells from a drunk elf, packs everyone in barrels and they all get sent downstream to Lake-Town.“Who are you and what do you want?” they shouted leaping to their feet and groping for weapons.“Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!” said the dwarf in a loud voice, and he looked it, in spite of his torn clothes and draggled hood. The gold gleamed on his neck and waist; his eyes were dark and deep. “I have come back. I wish to see the Master of your town!”Then there was tremendous excitement. Some of the more foolish ran out of the hut as if they expected the Mountain to go golden in the night and all the waters of the lake turn yellow right away.HAHAHAHAHA! I loved this part. So much.Luckily, the people of Lake-Town (speaking of which, this is a lovely illustration of Lake-Town [not the one above] which I used as my desktop for quite a while - you should all check it out) are amenable to helping out the dwarves+hobbit, but they still think everyone's going to die. [shrug] What would you think if strangers walked up talking about killing the dragon that had lived in the mountain outside your town for hundreds of years? You'd wish them luck, then get on about your business is what you'd do.Which is what happens. Yeah, they don't go this way. Dur. That would be suicide.Most of them, except for Bombur (cos he says he's too fat for the ropes to pull him up and to climb the trails), climb the Lonely Mountain in search of the soopersekrit entrance. They find the door, but are having a hard time getting in. Oh, and there's an annoying bird that hangs around all the time. LUCKILY they arrived around the time specified on the map to be able to open the soopersekrit door, and Bilbo is sent down to scout things out.He steals a goblet and reports back. The dragon (Smaug) is PISSED. He knows immediately that his treasure has been stolen. Bilbo goes down again, but Smaug is only pretending to be asleep. They have a riddle-y sort of conversation, and Smaug (being a vain dragon) shows off his jewel-y armoured belly and chest, and Bilbo notices a chink in his armour.He returns to urge the dwarves to fill them in and to urge everyone into the tunnel because he's pretty sure Smaug is going to attempt some form of retaliation - but not before trying to chase off the bird that's annoying him by trying to crack giant snail shells on their ledge. Surprise, surprise, Smaug DOES show up and demolishes the side of the mountain when he can't find their soopersekrit entrance. So now...they're trapped in the dark tunnel with no idea how to proceed.Oh, and Smaug heads off to terrorize Lake-Town. Fun.“Barrel-rider!” he snorted. “Your feet came from the waterside and up the water you came without a doubt. I don’t know your smell, but if you are not one of those men of the Lake, you had their help. They shall see me and remember who is the real King under the Mountain!”He rose in fire and went away south towards the Running River....and I don't have enough characters left to add the final post here, but if you'd like to read it (and I appreciate you having made it to the end, truly) you can find it here.