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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Who read the books "out of order"? (LotR before Hobbit, Silmarillion before LotR, etc.)

N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2007, 5:25am

Post #1 of 16 (350 views)
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Who read the books "out of order"? (LotR before Hobbit, Silmarillion before LotR, etc.) Can't Post

I've just finished reading The Book of Lost Tales I, the first volume of The History of Middle-earth, which contains some of Tolkien's earliest writings on his mythology (I'd only skimmed it previously). I'm also pondering Gergely Nagy's Tolkien encyclopedia article on The Silmarillion, in which Nagy considers at length the published work's relationship to the "Silmarillion", the entire Middle-earth legendarium that Tolkien worked and reworked for more than fifty years. I'm not sure Nagy has managed to balance his article's presentation to help his three audiences: those who have not read The Silmarillion, those who have read The Silmarillion but not the HoMe volumes, and those familiar with the whole complex of texts. It would be no small task to strike that balance! And the published Silmarillion is an odd constraint on scholars addressing the "Silmarillion" corpus: it is by now well-known that the material was much manipulated by its editors, but the texts from which it was derived typically are presented (often incomplete) in HoMe with reference to the 1977 edition -- I have difficulty imagining the experience of a reader who first encounters the Silmarillion stories in one of the HoMe volumes, like the Lost Tales.

And yet, I know one contributor here read the Lost Tales and other early HoMe volumes before encountering the published Silmarillion, but rather than privately asking Beren IV whether Christopher Tolkien's explanatory notes relating the Lost Tales to The Silmarillion were confusing or frustrating, or what surprised him about The Silmarillion after having read the stories in the earlier form, I'd like to ask of anyone who read any of the major Middle-earth works out of the "usual" order (which is The Hobbit > The Lord of the Rings > The Silmarillion > Unfinished Tales > HoMe* -- not that most readers get that far; I haven't): What confused you? Surprised you? Disappointed you?

*I wonder where The Children of Húrin will fit in.

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Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 5-11: Tolkien's "Visions, Myths and Legends".


Aerin
Grey Havens


Mar 9 2007, 6:23am

Post #2 of 16 (140 views)
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Well, I didn't read The Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

until after LOTR, but that was usual for my generation. Approximately no one in the U.S. read The Hobbit until after LOTR was published here. What surprised and disappointed me when I read The Hobbit was that it was a children's story.

Everything else I've read in the "right" order, except, perhaps, that I read LT 2 before LT 1, and was slightly confused by some of the references. I still haven't read most of HoME (beyond vols. 1 & 2), just used them for reference, reading selected portions. (I own all but one volume, I think.) I was trying to read the rest of HoME in order, but got bogged down with Vol 3 (I'm just not a fan of the poetry). So I'm thinking of skipping straight to the LOTR-related volumes. (Not that I have time for recreational reading, anyway.)


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 9 2007, 11:06am

Post #3 of 16 (135 views)
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does fourth grade count? [In reply to] Can't Post

I read Hobbit first...in fourth grade. There are probably many adult readers like myself who never re-read Hobbit, and only read it once in remote childhood. In fact, it's surprising that I ever read LOTR at all, if you base it on my enjoyment of Hobbit.

I guess the question really is: Does Hobbit really count? How important is it to read Hobbit in any kind of order? It's not as though Tolkien himself prepared all those volumes you mention for publication in that order, right?

So this is the order I've read in, if Hobbit/fourth grade counts: Hobbit---LOTR---the 1977 Sil---other Tolkien stuff like Leaf and Smith and etc---one volume of HOME (Sauron Defeated) just to read Notion Club Papers---UT---a few pages of BOLT 1, at which I paused and have not picked it back up.

And a lot of Tolkien "analysis" in between the first Sil reading and the "other" Tolkien stuff.

I think this makes me more typical than not, this reading of "other than LOTR" stuff with no particular relish. LOTR is really the only Tolkien reading I truly love. For readers like me, who have a hard time even holding the non-LOTR characters in mind and can't even keep the events or characters in the plain published Sil in memory, the differences between the 1977 Sil and other Sil-with-italics writings hardly matter, as the only reading we are doing is to throw light on the backstory to LOTR.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Everybody's wondering what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worried 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
No one knows for certain, and so it's all the same to me:
I think I'll just let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Mar 9 2007, 2:44pm

Post #4 of 16 (130 views)
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I read LotR out of order the first time. Does that count? [In reply to] Can't Post

I had no idea there was more than FotR when I started. I got to the end and went "What?" TT was checked out of the junior high library, so I read RotK next. I had no idea who Faramir and Eowyn were, or what Rohan was, or really much about Gondor. But I was madly in love with Aragorn at that point and read determinedly to find out what happened to him. When he showed up in the black ships I had no idea where he'd been, but I was still glad to see him. I got into the Faramir/Eowyn love story even without knowing their backgrounds. And of course Mount Doom was exciting and moving even without knowing all the background about the Dead Marshes and Shelob.

I then went back and read TT, and was a little befuddled when it started out with Aragorn crashing through the trees crying "Elendil!" I really had to scratch my head to remember what had happened. Oh, yes, the Breaking of the Fellowship. It sure seemed like a long time ago by that point. Of course the intended spoilers didn't get me: I knew Merry and Pippin weren't dead when Aragorn found the pile of burnt orcs, for example. And I knew Gandalf was alive, though I didn't know why. I don't remember being especially surprised when he showed up in FotR. But then again, this was 36 years ago, so I'm not sure about all my reactions.

I did read the other books in the "usual order", the Sil the day it hit the bookstores, and Unfinished Tales and Book of Lost Tales years later (after I began frequenting the Reading Room). I did read the volumes of HoME that were the rough drafts of LotR long before I read UT. My reaction to UT and Book of Lost Tales was "how did I get to be this old and I never read these before?" I loved "The Mariner's Wife" and "Quest of Erebor" and "The Coming of Tuor to Gondolin", but especially I loved the original tale of Tinuviel, with its Brothers Grimm flavor.

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"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

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Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Mar 9 2007, 2:47pm

Post #5 of 16 (138 views)
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The LotR-related HoME is really fun [In reply to] Can't Post

and surprising. (Trotter? Bingo???) I've read it several times, but haven't made it through much else of HoME, except for the Books of Lost
Tales.

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"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Mar 9 2007, 8:22pm

Post #6 of 16 (107 views)
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I read the main 3 in order, but [In reply to] Can't Post

...when I read the Hobbit it was more than 20 years before I read the Lord of the Rings. It was like I had never read it. I only had some vague general hints of memories of the story. Basically just that Bilbo found the Ring and that therer were dwarves, a mountain and a dragaon ant they passed through Rivendel. And Of course Gollum had a part. But what happened when, why or how was completely gone from the data back in my mind, like too many other things.


Hobbit: 1973
LotR 1994, 1998, 2001
Sil 2001 (before the films came out)
LotR 2002 . . . them in parts and pieces through discussion and my group activies
LotR CD 2003/4? (ah...better)
Tolkien Reader 2004
Smith of Wooton Major & Farmer Giles 2004
Letters 2004 (parts, sporatically, still)
Sil CD 2004-summer ( listened to most, not it all).
various bios & annalysis books since 2004
UT 2003 to now...have not gottem past teh middle of Turin'sstory. Just picked it up again.
I have more than half of HOME, but read only some ot the LOTR volumes.

Websites Directory, my drawings, Aloha & Mahalo


Nienna: “those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


squire
Valinor


Mar 9 2007, 9:28pm

Post #7 of 16 (152 views)
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"Approximately no one in the US read The Hobbit until after LotR was published." [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder how true that is -- and how true it is about the decades after LotR was published, too. It is a wonderful book for children. I wonder (Drogo?) if The Hobbit has always been in print in the US, back in the 1940s and 50s.

After LotR was published in paperback in the mid-60s, Tolkien became a mass-market phenomenon. That was 10 years after LotR first came out. At that point, I imagine, the readership for the epic began to outstrip The Hobbit audience, even though The Hobbit also became widely available by paperback in those years. It was "Frodo for President", not "Bilbo" - though Bilbo of course would make a much better president.

As we're hearing here today, a lot of people in the US actually do encounter The Hobbit before LotR, and possibly did too back in the 1940s and 50s -- but as children. In many cases they evidently don't read the LotR, because it's too "adult" to be an easy sequel, until much later, if ever. The number of people who go back to find The Hobbit after reading LotR may well be balanced by the number who find out about LotR years after thrilling to The Hobbit as kids.

I know both my parents got The Hobbit as gifts when they were kids in the 1930s, and they lived in the US. So when I was a kid in the US in the 1960s the book was floating around the house just waiting for me and my brothers. But we went on to read LotR immediately afterwards. And The Tolkien Reader was there too, so I read Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Tree and Leaf etc. at an early age. Farmer Giles of Ham I found silly but fun, and Smith of Wootton Major failed to grab me then and ever since.

Like Dora I read the Sil the day it came out (my father made a special run to bring it home). I never went back to read it a second time until I discovered the RR. Unfinished Tales I found by accident in the early 80s in paperback and I loved the Second and Third Age stuff.


As for the HoME, I consciously avoided it in the 80s and 90s - I thought it was a publicity gimmick to sell more books. I've only begun reading them since I came to the RR. The Book of Lost Tales is the most readable of the lot, but they're all pretty heavy going. I guess I could imagine someone struggling through BoLT without the grounding of the Silmarillion under their feet, but it would be a heavy slog against that flow of mock antique language and all that cute dialogue between Eriol and the Elves.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 9 2007, 9:54pm

Post #8 of 16 (111 views)
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"Bilbo of course would make a much better president" [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
It was "Frodo for President", not "Bilbo" - though Bilbo of course would make a much better president.


Is Frodo too scarred by his experiences to be an effective leader?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 5-11: Tolkien's "Visions, Myths and Legends".


drogo
Lorien


Mar 9 2007, 11:05pm

Post #9 of 16 (121 views)
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US Hobbit in the 40s [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Quote
I wonder how true that is -- and how true it is about the decades after LotR was published, too. It is a wonderful book for children. I wonder (Drogo?) if The Hobbit has always been in print in the US, back in the 1940s and 50s.



I checked Hammond and Anderson's Descriptive Bibliography and Anderson's Annotated Hobbit. There were 5,000 copies of the The Hobbit printed in March 1938. There was a second impression not long after that that removed the "bowing hobbit" from the cover (he had shoes and Tolkien complained, even though it was taken from his illustration!). Over 3,000 copies were sold by June 1938, so it did relatively well and was favorably reviewed (winning some minor children's book awards). During the 40s it was not available in England due to paper shortages and the bombing of the Allen & Unwin warehouse. That destroyed most of the 1942 3rd impression copies over there (that one had an art deco-style dust jacket with Bilbo wearing a top hat and monocle like the Daddy Warbucks!). It was still in print in the US, but didn't sell in huge numbers.

Then there was a 4th printing in 1946, and then 1,000 copies of the second edition (which was the 5th impression) were printed in 1951; these had the changes in "Riddles in the Dark." It wasn't a huge seller during the 40s, and the War certainly hurt it, but it did sustain enough interest to merit reprinting. The early FOTR dust jacket in the US said this book was for readers of The Hobbit who had grown up, so they knew people in the US would remember it.

I recall in one of his letters to Christopher that Tolkien remarked about an American kid who had written to express his shock that there were no other books about Hobbits yet. Tolkien was fascinated to learn that little American children really did say "gee whiz"!

BTW, look for John Rateliffe's much-anticipated History of The Hobbit this spring (unless it has been delayed again--I will have to check Amazon.co.uk where I have it pre-ordered). This is to be the equivalent of the Hammond and Scull LOTR Companion for the The Hobbit (though not exactly a page-by-page annotated guide like the LOTR Reader's Companion), and will be the best source for all things related to that book and its publication history.


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)

(This post was edited by drogo on Mar 9 2007, 11:15pm)


ringhead91
Rivendell


Mar 10 2007, 7:06pm

Post #10 of 16 (91 views)
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well, I read LOTR first... [In reply to] Can't Post

then The Hobbit, Silmarillion and HoMe

Children of Hurin will probably go after Silmarillion

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.



diedye
Grey Havens


Mar 10 2007, 10:48pm

Post #11 of 16 (94 views)
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LOTR, Hobbit, Sil, HoMe, UT [In reply to] Can't Post

 



Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 11 2007, 4:13am

Post #12 of 16 (127 views)
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"You won't rescue Lotho, or the Shire just by being shocked and sad, my dear Frodo." [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I think in a way Frodo was too scarred to be an effective leader after the destruction of the Ring. He no longer had the stomach for dealing with conflict. He could give moral leadership, but not practical, decisive leadership.

If it comes to that, if I were to vote for a Hobbit for President, my vote would go to Merry, who clearly has a knack for practical things, stays on an even keel even in crisis, has shown a great deal of courage - and a measure of foresight as well.

Silverlode

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The genius and the plan thus inspired
Depart me and I, entering a room,
Find myself on the threshold, stand still
And wonder what I came to do there.


Aerin
Grey Havens


Mar 12 2007, 1:09am

Post #13 of 16 (77 views)
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In other words, [In reply to] Can't Post

U.S. sales of The Hobbit before 1965 were miniscule compared with U.S. sales of LOTR the late 1960s.

Clearly, the vast majority of Americans of my generation first read LOTR before they had even heard of The Hobbit.


omeron
Registered User

Mar 15 2007, 3:49am

Post #14 of 16 (81 views)
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I read Silmarillion first [In reply to] Can't Post

I saw the movies first. After seeing them of course I wanted to read the books. I ordered the cd's, and felt glad to learn that the Silmarillion told the story of the first age. Having not read any of the books, I decided to start with Silmarillion, figuring that I would read them in chronological order. wwowowowowowowowowowow! I felt the most shocked and amazed at the last chapter of course, and learning about Gandalf just filled in everything, I felt ecstatic. I then followed that up with the Hobbit and the LoTR bookss. Now of course I start with Hobbit, then LoTR, then Silmarillion.


One Ringer
Tol Eressea

Mar 15 2007, 1:02pm

Post #15 of 16 (70 views)
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The Hobbit Came First [In reply to] Can't Post

I read The Hobbit first. I'm glad that it was my first Tolkien book I ever read, because it is my favorite book (including The Lord of the Rings). After I read The Hobbit, I read The Lord of the Rings. A soon as I finished there, I read The Silmarillion. Then I read Unfinished Tales, and now I am currently reading the history of Middle-Earth.

"Death is just another pathway. . .one which we all must take."

-Gandalf from "The Return of the King"


Beren IV
Gondor


Mar 16 2007, 11:11pm

Post #16 of 16 (118 views)
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I read HoME before the Sil [In reply to] Can't Post

and it shows, I am sure, on my images of the characters!

I also read LotR before the Hobbit.

 
 

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