Altogether, 2012 in the Shire was a marvelous year.

Posted August 29, 2012 by in Read-alongs / 63 Comments

Puttin' the Blog in Balrog button

Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog — The Readalong

Back in June, a group of us started reading The Lord of the Rings as a project hosted by SJ of Snobbery. “Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog,” as SJ named it, began with The Hobbit on June 23rd and ended with The Return of the King on August 11th. I’m not sure I can put into words what a wonderful experience this was for me.

It had been at least 20 years since I had read Tolkien’s LotR series, and I had forgotten a lot of the details; I almost felt like I was reading every book for the first time. I had truly forgotten just how much I like the story and the characters. It also brought back the great memory of watching the animated movie adaptation of The Hobbit with my dad when I was a kid.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. TolkienIf you’re not familiar with the series, The Hobbit is all about Bilbo Baggins’ adventures with a group of dwarves who have enlisted his aid in taking back one of their mountains from a dragon named Smaug. At one point in the adventure, Bilbo finds a ring that has certain powers and keeps it for himself (totally pissing off the creature that had possession of it before Bilbo found it). For the laugh factor, this is my favorite book in the series. In this book we also meet Gandalf the Grey, a powerful wizard who will continue to be a major character in the three (actually six) books that make up The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. TolkienIn The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King–the three volumes that make up the rest of the LotR series–the story of the One Ring is continued. The Dark Lord Sauron is back after being defeated a couple thousand years before (and then again as an aside in The Hobbit), and he wants the ring so he can become all-powerful and take over Middle-earth. This time Frodo (Bilbo’s nephew) is the ring-bearer, and he goes on all the adventures with three of his hobbit friends from the Shire. They meet lots of interesting new characters and lots of stuff happens. LotR is much more serious than The Hobbit–there are fewer laughs in LotR and it’s more “save the world from Evil” oriented. I love so many of the characters in this series–Tom Bombadil, Treebeard and the Ents, Gimli, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, and a bunch of others. I get sucked right into this series when I read it; I feel like I’m right there with the rest of them, fighting for the good of Middle-earth. I don’t remember much about my reading experience 20 years ago, but I can tell you how I felt while reading this time around: I got anxious when bad stuff was happening, I (literally) shed tears when sad stuff happened, I got angry when my character-friends were angry, and I’m pretty sure I fell in love with Treebeard and envisioned myself as one of the Entwives. Wait, what?

To get through all four books in a little less than three months made for a pretty aggressive reading schedule, and SJ put a lot of work into writing posts every few days and keeping the whole project going. I don’t know if I can thank her enough for making this the best readalong experience I’ve ever had. Not only was she a fantastic host who went above and beyond in sharing her LotR and Middle-earth knowledge, but I also met a great group of new-to-me people through “Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog.” This readalong made my summer very enjoyable and gave me some fantastic adult interaction that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. Thank you, SJ.

(Click here to check out the master list of posts written by some of the people who participated in the readalong.)

Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog — The Drinkalong (#PtBIB)

I had been avoiding the movie adaptations of LotR ever since they came out. I have been burned by too many rotten movie adaptations of great books, so at some point I just stopped watching the movies that were made from books I love. Then SJ suggested we watch the LotR movies while reading the books, and I knew that watching the movies with this particular group of people was going to be hilarious. If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you saw our #PtBiB antics every Friday night for about two months while we watched the movie adaptations of LotR. It was crazy and a lot of fun.

Puttin' the Blog in Balrog Drinkalong RulesImage by sj

SJ mentioned (once twice a bunch of times) how much she dislikes abhors Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the books (a feeling I ended up sharing with her from the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring), and suggested making the watchalongs more interesting by turning them into a drinking game. She even came up with rules (i.e. “drink every time there’s a close-up of the ring”). The first week’s rules turned out to be a little too much and everyone who was drinking seemed to be drunk within the first ten minutes of the movie (I was drinking Pepsi, so I just had to pee a lot). OOPS. So SJ changed up the rules a little and the rest of our Fridays were fantastic.

This post is really long already and I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so without going into too much detail, I pretty much hated the movie adaptations. They were just too different from the books and Jackson really screwed some of it up. It probably didn’t help that I was watching the theatrical editions instead of the extended editions, but now that I think about it, watching the extended editions probably would have just given me more to bitch about. If you’re interested in reading our (mostly) hilarious and (sometimes) bitchy #PtBiB tweets, SJ put each week’s tweets into Storify format which you can see on her Storify page. (In honor of the way some of us felt about Peter Jackson’s adaptations, @ProfMomEsq even coined a new term for when something is totally messed up or goes totally wrong: Jacksoned. Ex: “That was soooo Jacksoned.”)

(Note: There were some things I really liked about the movies, even though I was disappointed overall: the scenery and the soundtracks were fantastic, Treebeard was awesome, Gimli was hilarious, Peter Jackson actually did a great job with the Balrog and the Nazgul, and I had much more sympathy for Gollum/Smeagol while watching the movies than I did while reading the books.)

I want to thank the following people for making this experience so great. Each one of you brought something unique to our discussions of both the books and the movies, whether it was something hilarious or something thoughtful: @KateSherrod, @thebooksluts, @nrlymrtl, @Bill_the_Pony, @TheRealTonyBird, @lucysfootball, @ProfMomEsq, @borkadventures, @DavidJonFuller, @JerichaSenyak, @becomingcliche, and @jennabenda. If I’ve missed anyone, I apologize, and I thank you for what you brought to all of our discussions!

Again, SJ (@popqueenie) put a lot of time and effort into this part of the project (some of it specifically for my benefit), and I cannot thank her enough. If I had watched these movies without being able to read everyone’s hilarious tweets, and if I hadn’t had SJ there to crab with every time Jackson screwed the story or the characters up, my watching experience would have been miserable. Thank you for an amazing experience, SJ. I’m very sad that it’s over, and I’ll truly miss our Middle-earth shenanigans. You’re the best.


  • sj

    Aw, man. I’m a little teary eyed. You guys were a lot of fun to do this with, and I’m so happy at how many people joined in. Seriously, it was more than I’d ever anticipated.

    It was a lot of fun, but someone else gets to host the next thing. <3

    • Hahaha! Yes, you’ve definitely paid your dues and then some. <3

    • Next summer I’ll host a readalong of The Belgariad! And then my wife will kill me for blogging all the time. Still… could work…

      • Holy crap–The Belgariad was one of my favorite series when I was a teenager. I would gladly join that readalong to read those books again! Yes!

        • Oh crap, I’ve said it, now I have to do it! 🙂 Maybe I’ll cheat a bit and write a few blog posts over the winter. The Belgariad was one of my absolute favourite fantasy series in junior high as well — my wife is just rereading it now and I realized I don’t remember when I last journeyed through Sendaria, Nyissa, Cherek and all the rest.

          • What is the other series that goes along with it? The Mallorian? I liked that one, too. I really do need to re-read them, whether or not we have a readalong.

          • I felt the Mallorean kind of retreaded the same tropes and ultimately ran out of gas, but I usually read both series once I decide to read the Belgariad.

          • See, I can’t remember details like that from so long ago. Like you said, I think I would read it anyway if I’m already reading The Belgariad.

          • No Elenium, though! I’m still mad he started writing that and releasing those books interspersed with the volumes of the Malloreon, instead of JUST FINISHING THE DAMN MALLOREON which I was already waiting for him to finish at the (to me, as a high schooler) glacial pace of a book a year.

          • We can table it until you’re ready. It’s cool.

            Yeah, I never even got around to reading the Elenium, so I’m fine with not reading it now.

        • I would totally be down for a Belgariad read-a-long, as I’ve been wanting to read it. Both it and the Mallorean come highly recommended from my friend, Ryan. Be sure to keep me posted, Heather. 🙂

      • sj

        I can’t next summer. I’ve already promised myself I will do NO CHALLENGES next year and will only Read Whatever the Fuck I Want. No seriously, I’m already working on a post for Jan. 1 outlining the changes I’m going to be making to the blog, and talking about what my reading goals are. I MIGHT READ THEM IF I WANT TO, but not because I have to.

        However, since Heather is already saying she wants to do it, I will probably cave.

        • sj

          (crap, can I drop the eff bomb on your blog? Oops.)

          • Yes, the f-bomb is accepted here. We also take other forms of cussing, if need be. Haha!

        • I’m not doing any challenges next year, either, but I’m still cool with readalongs.

          Oh, but one exception to the “no challenges” rule, depending on if one is posted and what it is… I don’t think I could say no to another Insatiable Booksluts challenge. (Unless it’s like this year’s in which I think I’ve become a bit obsessive. Haha!)

          • sj

            ZOMG, HEATHER! I already have Megiggles working on a Year of Reading Whatever the Fuck I Want badge for me. You can totally steal it. 😉

            Dude, honestly, I think I’m giving up on the End of the World Challenge. I will NEVER catch up with Kate now [grumblegrumble], so I’m tempted to just spend the rest of the year re-reading things I love, BUT I AM NOT A QUITTER.

            So, yeah.

            Here’s a comment that says nothing!

          • HAHAHA! I’m not even worried about Kate–I just want to catch up to YOU, so you better keep reading. [grumblegrumble]

            I will totally steal that badge.

          • sj

            I think I was at ~28K the last time I totalled, and I’ve read ~500 pages since then? I can’t remember if I’ve finished one book or two. >.<

            That's not counting my re-reads, with those figured in, I think I'm ~37K.

          • I think I’m at ~25k for the challenge, and ~32k overall. I’ll never catch up. Haha!

          • sj

            You have done a REALLY good job of catching up so far, though! 3000 pages is, um…shit, I don’t know. It COULD be only 5 or 6 books!

          • I second the #YoRWtFIW … but I may still do a Belgariad thingy & try to live up to sj’s blogging example, just slightly less insane. Let’s table this until, like March next year.

          • BTW, you ladies make me sick with how much reading you get done. I think LOTR and The Hobbit were about the only non-work or non-assigned books I read all summer! 😛

  • The drinkalongs were a blast! I missed the last few because of work, but I hope we all do that again some time. I wish I had read along with the books now, too.

    • I *think* we’re going to try to do a watchalong once a month. SJ told me last night on Twitter that we’re (tentatively?) watching Monty Python’s Holy Grail in September. WOOOOOO!

      • I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

      • sj

        Yessss, as I stated last night – TENTATIVE EXECUTIVE DECISION, Holy Grail on September 21. I’ll try to put a post up next week.

  • You’ve made me really want to re-read them! Maybe they’ll be next year’s re-read once I get them from my mom’s in NC. I agree with you about the scenery and soundtrack being the best bit.

    • It was such a great experience to re-read them after so many years. I can’t stress that enough.

      • I just hope The Two Towers is easier to read a second time around. I almost didn’t finish it when I read them in High School.

        • Dude, the suspense in The Two Towers is monumental. It’s the motor that drives the story right into Return of the King. Take another run at it after all these years! Would love to know what you think this time.

        • I have to agree with David’s response to this–I can’t remember how I felt about it all those years ago, but I definitely had no issue with it this time around. I’m not sure there was any part of the series I didn’t enjoy this time.

          (I have been wondering–and wishing I could remember–whether or not I had any issues/complaints the first time around, though.)

          • My biggest issue was that his descriptions just got so long winded and the action of the first and third seemed so much more than anything in the second. I know it was a good book, but I honestly felt like he described every vein on every leaf on every branch on every tree at some points and it was just such a slow read. But I’ll definitely re-read them soon.

          • This is a complaint lots of folks have about this series, actually and it’s understandable. I personally have gotten used to that aspect of epic fantasy novels–it seems to be the norm. I actually liked that part of the story this time around. I think I probably appreciated it much more this time than when I was a teenager.

  • Heather, you read my mind. It has been so great to get to know some fantastic people out there in the blogosphere this summer, especially for a relative newbie like me. The arguments, in-jokes and neologisms (I’m looking at YOU, Kate Sherrod), not to mention Tony’s brilliant hipster LOTR images, still make me smile. The inimitable sj deserves a huge round of applause for not only getting this off the ground but for keeping it going when I think some of us (well, at least me) were getting exhausted. Her example kept me blogging like a mofo, and it was so great to see multiple bloggers posting every week and follow the discussion. It was a fantastic way to re-read the books.
    Thank you to everyone! Let’s all keep in touch and rile each other up often!

    • Yes, yes, and more yes. I have no doubt will remain pretty close-knit now. 🙂

  • sj

    New comment since the old one is TOO LONG.

    Um, if there’s no schedule (which I think was my downfall this time), I might consider joining in the Belgeriad read.

    Unless this time, I can be the David and just blog occasionally while going around and leaving lots of comments on everyone else’s blogs? 😉

    • Oh, look at that. I must have the limit set to ten or something. I didn’t count. Huh.

      Anyway, DUDE… I didn’t blog at all during our LotR readalong. I just commented a lot, mostly on your blog. I’m so bad about blogging when I “have” to instead of when I just feel like it. DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO. That’s my motto.

      David, if you find your way down here (NOT A EUPHEMISM), I get to read a lot because I don’t have a job outside the home, and my kids are grown enough to entertain themselves. I’m very lucky in the reading department. Sometimes I clean, too. Hahaha!

      • Ten? How about five.

        • Trying to comment to your later reply, hope this makes sense…
          I would propose making up a schedule (which I can do) in the winter for a spring/summer series of posts by all concerned. We could read the books on our own time & decide what we want to blog about, but then post according to an organized schedule, so folks who just want to follow the blogs can read new things regularly. (Gee, you’d never know I used to run a biweekly newspaper, eh?)
          I agree with you that trying to blog abut things as I read them is exhausting. I wanted to be a week ahead of the schedule but couldn’t manage it.

      • sj

        No, I know, but David was so horrified over how little he participated, I felt I had to engage in a little ribbing.

        But, seriously, the last few weeks I kept saying “MEGIGGLES, WHY WEREN’T YOU AROUND TO TALK ME OUT OF FORCING MYSELF TO ACTUALLY DO SHIT?!” and then of course, like a good friend should, she said she totally would have talked me out of it if real life hadn’t gotten in the way and whatnot.

        I really think that was the hardest part, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned it when we started that I haven’t been able to do real book clubs because I don’t like people telling me what to do.

        I FOOLISHLY thought it would be different when I was the one setting the schedule and stuff, but obviously I was wrong.

        • OK, I did finally make my way down here (NOT A EUPHEMISM) and will take that ribbing (NOT A…) I might do a looser structure and take things as easy as, say a book a month or something.
          I will be the sj and create as many posts, games and discussions as humanly possible, earnestly pulling my hair out over the hypothetical movie versions of the books (HOW THE HELL CAN THEY CAST KEANU REEVES AS BELGARATH), while the real sj can be me and just slacks the hell off.
          But you, Heather, Ima tell you what chapters to read each day & blog about. K? Wait, no, I bet the way to get you to blog about the books is to FORBID you to do so.

          • I’m laughing pretty hard at the thought of Keanu Reeves as Belgarath. Duuude.

            I’m never at a loss for words, but for some reason I have a hard time blogging about books AS I’m reading them. I can never think of a good topic to relate to what I’m reading…or something. I don’t know. It’s weird.

            Anyway, I’m actually fine with or without a reading schedule. I’ll just go with the flow.

  • A LOTR drinking game! I’m absolutely doing that.

  • Sounds like you had an incredible time doing this! Must admit, your drink-along tweets were fun to follow!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed them–we had a ton of fun.

  • I think I like what SJ said about doing no challenges next year. I just may do the same with the exception of my ongoing perpetual and long term challenges (but those include books only from my own shelves which are books I’ve been wanting to read so basically I’ll be reading whatever the fuck I want…LOL).

    I hate to differ with you and SJ, but I really liked the films, especially The Return of the King. Of course, I’m not saying that I liked them more than the books (of course not), but I count them among some of my favorite movies. I read each book before seeing each film and I’m going to do the same with The Hobbit, although I have read The Hobbit before. I wish I would have known that you were doing the watch-a-long and drinking game on Twitter. I would have enjoyed that. I’m always up for a drinking game. 😉

    • I’m sorry you didn’t know about the drinkalong! Shoot. I should have blogged about it while we were doing it.

      • No worries! I can join in the next time. Let’s just make sure there’s a next time. 😉

        • SJ has already set another one up! Monty Python and the Holy Grail! September 21st, 10:15pm ET. Check her blog for all the information, as well as to suggest drinking rules and what hashtag we should use. 😀

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  • That drinking game sounds serious! Wow, you’ll need a lot of wine/alcohol/whatever to drink every time one of those things happen! That said, I love the movies 😉 I want to read The Hobbit again, I haven’t read it since my mother read it to me as a child, I think. I also really want to reread LOTR – it’s such a great book!

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  • Can I just… how am I just now discovering this? Excellent post.

    • 🙂 My friend, you have a lot of reading to catch up on. ALL hilarious. ALL brilliant.

      • 😀

      • I will enjoy it 😀

        • I’m still waiting for the brilliant Jericha Senyak to create the video for “The Rohirrim Who Say Ni!”

          • YES!!! Oh my goodness, I would LOVE to see that.

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