Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Colbert vs. The Hobbit (-eh-)

So, thanks to friend Stan for pointing out that Steven Colbert had some Tolkien content on his show last week. Here's the link, with the lead in to the Tolkien talk starting at about the four and a half minute mark:

The context for this is his guest's having just finished reading the entire Harry Potter series to his daughter, raising the question of what next. Colbert maintained that at age ten she wd now be ready to plunge into THE LORD OF THE RINGS. When the father suggested THE HOBBIT instead, Colbert responded with -eh-   At six or even eight, he said, maybe THE HOBBIT wd have done.

Given his status as a stalwart Tolkien fan, I was surprised to find him so dismissive of what I think is one of Tolkien's masterpieces. It was revealing that the parts of THE HOBBIT he really likes are the parts that tie in with LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION: the Gollum story, the swords from Gondolin, the Elvenking. It sounds to me as if he loves LotR and is deeply conversant in THE SILMARILLION, but not much interested in Tolkien's other work, like FARMER GILES or SMITH or, it turns out, THE HOBBIT. 

I know there are some people who like THE HOBBIT but not LotR  (a minority opinion).

And there are quite a few who view THE HOBBIT as just a 'prelude' to LotR, something you need to get through to get on to the good stuff (a much more widely held view, though one I think wrong). I find a lot of people in this position had read LotR first and then THE HOBBIT, like Colbert himself.

And then there are those of us who love both THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS (the majority) -- and often much much more. Many in this group read THE HOBBIT first, then went on to read LORD OF THE RINGS (sometimes after a gap).

I count myself lucky to belong to the most inclusive of these groups. I'm sorry to find Mr. Colbert's sympathies more limited than mine, but though we eventually come to a parting of the ways I'm glad our road runs together for as much of its length as it does.

--John R
--current reading: ALL SYSTEMS RED by Martha Wells. The Murderbot series, Book I
(v. enjoyable; a loan from friend Jeff)


grodog said...

I've read The Hobbit and LOTR aloud to my wife and two sons multiple times, in addition to the many times I read the books (and The Silmarillion, Farmer Giles, etc.) as a child and up through university.

Re-reading the books as an adult, and in particular as a result of reading them aloud, my interest in LOTR has dwindled significantly. The Hobbit remains my favorite, followed by The Silmarillion (I've still not read The Children of Hurin, Beren & Luthien, or The Fall of Gondolin yet), then Farmer Giles, with LOTR somewhere afterward, I think. I still enjoy it, just not as much (and definitely not nearly as much as The Hobbit when reading the book aloud!).


THOMAS said...

Someone asked me once which I like better, the Hobbit, or LOTR. I answered that it depends on my mood. Sometimes I want a quick fast-paced story, while at other times I want a sprawling epic. Tolkien gave us both! And a lot more.

I love everything Tolkien wrote, and I can hardly read any of it anymore without almost going into a trance and being transported to his world. His language is so evocative, and it seems to have more power than ever.

insurrbution said...

One does not simply skip a Middle-earth book.

She should have had The Hobbit read to her a few years ago ;)

But for what after Lord of the Rings? Hmmm..... the best series ever (as The Lord of the Rings is one novel) is Earthsea. Great author, writing, and proves that you can do incredible fantasy without being in the typical trope setting of Middle-earth and copying Tolkien's style.

David Bratman said...

I remember seeing Colbert on some other video clip testifying to the depth of his Tolkien fandom by stating that he'd even read Smith and Giles. I don't think he mentioned any of the later posthumous works, which would have been more impressive.

Bill said...

How could anyone not like Giles?

Paul W said...

I have to say I really enjoyed his Gawain translation, as well as his King Arthur and Kalevala works. I wonder if his lectures are still extant, I suspect a compilation of his lectures would be pretty good.