In a hole in the ground there (sometimes) lived a Jeremy. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with worms and smells, nor a dry, sandy hole with nothing to do. It was a basement hole, and that means curiosities.
So many things I want to say about this.
I can't remember being so immediately and totally enchanted by a thing since Star Wars. Holy smoke-rings this is splendid. I have shivers from how completely awesome this is and am 100% sold on the rest of the book to come. Where do I even start on this one, folks?
The narrator. The book is written like it has a narrator's voice, at least in the get-go, and immediately called to mind Grandpa with his book of stories. I'm hearing the narration in my grandfather's voice in my mind's eye. Ear. Mind's ear. Heck, it even sounds like it was written by a grandfather. The tone is sort of storytelling/fairy tale to begin with, but of course things don't stay that way.
Bilbo Baggins! I knew I knew something about the book and there it was. I've heard that name. The whole intro with Bilbo reads like a smile and a nod to The Wind in the Willows, at least the part with Mole meeting Rat. The language is fantastic and evocative, and the art is splendid. Roomie sent me some links to the art from the book, so I'll share with you what I'm seeing. Honestly, though, I could have done this whole chapter with no art, just feeling that cozy hobbit-hole setting. Have you ever experienced a cold April wind in front of a warm, flickering fire after a good meal with a large company? I have! There's something very Cape Bretony about the whole thing, and I love it. It feels homey.
GANDALF. There's another thing I've heard before! That's a name that whips about as often as Merlin's when wizards are mentioned and I never picked up on it. And now I've met Gandalf, and he's a rascal of the highest order, isn't he? :D
I've got to say, the story starts nothing like I'd imagined it would; I figured we'd kick off in, perhaps, a prison, with the hobbit already captured or escaping or the like. Yuck, is Ladyhawke really contaminating this experience? Fuck off, Ladyhawke. Still, for the record, to be perfectly honest, yes that's what I expected. Not this lovely homebody getting flustered and flummoxed - I love this word now, it sounds like something called a Flum Ox was put in your kitchen as a prank and you've got no solutions for it; incidentally there's a lot of words I don't know in this book. Learning! :D - and thoroughly eaten out of house and home by a baker's dozen of dwarves. Dwarves are in this book.
Dwarves are in this book, musical dwarves on a quest to seize back their mountain kingdom from a dragon there is a dragon and his name is Smaug you guys I am so incredibly sold on the dragon and there's also an evil wizard and a family vendetta against same. This IS the classic story, isn't it? Like THE classic story, the one everything else tries to match. The evil wizard, the dragon guarding treasure and eating maidens, secret doors and magic keys, goblins and whatever the hell were-worms are... this book is like I don't know how I want to describe it but it just fills me with happy in all the right spots and we're not even started yet!
Now I don't know to what extent the dwarves are actually dicks, since it's clear that Gandalf didn't keep them in the loop on his burglar recruiting decision, but they're pretty terrible guests, up or down. I'm used to elves being the jerks and dwarves being more... there's a word that's not rude and Roomie's not here right now to tell me, but I think it's like brisk or bunce or something and that's dwarves in D&D. These guys are not those guys. These dwarves are straight-up bad guests at best - though again it's not completely impossible that the not-innocent-in-this-regard-either wizardly chap with the stupidly long eyebrows told them they could belabor Bilbo's hospitality - and in the case of Thorin sink to just about the level of "entitled rectum." That's not just his attitude toward Bilbo, there; it's his way of treating everything. Why didn't this map come to me? Oh my god the horror of having to work for a living from time to time. Yeah, coal mining sucks. I've been to the Miner's Museum, I know all about the crap from that job. Blacksmithing, though? Come on, that's honest work and suited to crafters, and their poem song thing says quite clearly that even though blacksmithing is child's play and dull to them, it's definitely in their skillset. Grr, I'm a dwarf prince and I hate having a job. My solution to the current employment opportunities provided me is to GO KILL A DRAGON. This is the best plan. Also where might I apply to be a Ghostbuster?
There's also a map I love maps and this is the same one from the story itself, I believe. The description is dead on. I'm already fascinated. Had to turn the book sideways, but I'm just poring over it all and flipping out with glee. East lie the Iron Hills where is Dain? What is Dain? Another dragon? A city? A mysterious land? In Esgaroth upon the Long Lake dwell Men. So there will be humans in the book, then. Far to the north lie the Grey Mountains and the Withered Hearth whence came the Great Worms. There's a giant forest, an Elvenking who has Halls, towns called Ford, Elrond, Rivendell, Cannock and Beorn (is Eyrie one too? We'll find out!) and then more in the woods... this is just awesome. And look in the upper right hand corner of the big map: it's called the Lonely Mountain. What a great visual. That's immediately evocative - this one tall, lone mountain with nothing living nearby. Everything is dead and desolate because desolation of Smaug. The dragon has a territory and it is called The Desolation of Smaug. As you can tell, I'm happy about, oh, ALL OF THIS EVER. If only the maps were as good as the rest of the art.
One way or another, this book is shaping up to be incredible and I'm still in the first chapter. What a great way to kick off book reviews. :D
Artwork from my edition of the book this chapter (we couldn't find the first one, sorry):
An unexpected party