We’re still reading The Hobbit each night before bedtime, and although Calfgrit4 has lost all interest in it (it’s a little too complicated for a 4-year-old to keep up with), Calfgrit8 is totally into the story; he looks forward to us reading more of the book each night.
Now that I’ve read some more of it aloud, it’s getting a bit easier. But it’s still a very complicated out-loud read. The archaic language and very long sentences almost become tongue twisters.
We’ve reached the point in the story where Bilbo has escaped Gollum and the goblin caves, with the help of the magic ring, and has just met back up with Gandalf and the dwarves. I really got into the character of Gollum, reading his lines with the appropriately sinister voice. But the riddle game was a bunch of gibberish to me, and I can’t imagine that CG8 got any of that stuff. He listened closely because of the tense situation (Gollum threatening to eat Bilbo), but I think a lot of the text was over his head -– heck, some of the riddles were nonsense to me. (But I’m generally not very good with riddles, anyway.)
As I was reading the last pages of the chapter about Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, I remembered I have an illustrated hardcover version of The Hobbit – I had forgotten about it for years. (We’ve been reading from a non-illustrated trade paperback.) I pulled it off the shelf in the den and showed CG8 the illustrations of the all the main characters as well as the trolls, the goblins, and Gollum. “Gollum doesn’t look like what I thought,” he said. I was taken aback at that comment. I worried whether I should have left Gollum’s image up to his own imagination.
I first read The Hobbit for myself after seeing the old Rankin/Bass animated film, so I had a completely different image in my mind of Gollum when I read the book. The 1977-film Gollum looked like a frog-creature. The illustrated-book Gollum looks more like the 2000s-film version: a twisted, nasty hobbit. I wish I had asked CG8 how he pictured Gollum in his mind before showing him a picture. And maybe I shouldn’t have shown him a picture at all. This is going to bug me for a while.
CG8 was excited to learn that the ring Bilbo found turned him invisible. His excitement showed when he told his momma about the magic of the ring, “It made him invisible! No one could see him!”
He’s interested in Gandalf and Thorin as much as Bilbo; their magic swords, Goblin-cleaver and Foe-hammer, have captured his imagination almost as much as the ring. He knows Bilbo’s knife is magic, too — I’ve told him Bilbo will eventually name it Sting –- but it hasn’t done anything other than glow a little bit.
Middle-Earth hasn’t replaced the Star Wars galaxy as Calfgrit8’s preferred imaginary play place, but he’s definitely loving the story. I’m just glad that my mediocre verbal skills aren’t mangling Tolkien’s elaborate prose beyond enjoyment for either of us.