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.
If 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.
In 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.
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.