The Hobbit Wrap-Up: December Book Club - Sword & Laser ep. 20

Uploaded by geekandsundry on 28.12.2012


TOM MERRITT: Coming up, what's five feet
high and three abreast?
VERONICA BELMONT: The pile of mail we got with your opinions
about "The Hobbit." It's the Sword & Laser Book Club.
Do hobbit females have three boobs?
TOM MERRITT: No, it's different breast.

Welcome to the Sword & Laser Book Club.
I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: And I'm Tom Merritt.
This is the show where we walk you up to a fountain of
amazing sci-fi and fantasy and pour them all over your brain,
VERONICA BELMONT: OK, well, that actually sounds a little
bit painful.
How about instead they just, you know, read our book picks
along with us and then have some great discussions over on
the Goodreads forums.
OK, but I insist on letting them know about all the new
cool books that are coming out now.
Calendar me.

VERONICA BELMONT: Kick of New Year's Eve right with "Doctor
Who: The Wheel of Ice" by Stephen Baxter.
It's your usual doctor suspected of sabotage on
Saturn and the mystery that could kill
them all sort of situation.
Also on December 31st, "The Dog in The Dark," a novel of
The Noble Dead by Barb and JC Hendee carries on the series
with an unwanted, aging Elvin assassin along for the ride.
And speaking of assassinations, "Battle, The
House War, Book Five" by Michelle West is lousy with
assassination, four on Jewel Markess ATerafin alone.
TOM MERRITT: And then you can start your new year right with
"Great North Road" by Peter F. Hamilton.
Faster-than-light travel, energy and environment
problems solved, far flung colony worlds
perking right along.
What could be wrong?
Genetic drift and rivalries in the clones of the ruling North
brothers, that's what.
Also on January 1, 2013, "Star Wars Scoundrels" by Timothy
Zahn, featuring Han Solo going a little "Ocean's Eleven"
alongside Lando and Chewie and a few more rogues.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, we have lots of thoughts from our
Goodreads forum to get to, including some video
commentary and email.
So let's get started talking about this month's book pick,
"The Hobbit."
TOM MERRITT: Ah, the holidays may be winding down but
Suzanne is not.
Look at this, we got little dragons and rockets.
VERONICA BELMONT: We got to show them.
OK, yeah, so we have our--
I touched this one so now I have to eat it.
But we have our little sword, our little sword and laser.
TOM MERRITT: No, backwards.
Oh, wait, no, you're right.
You got it right.
VERONICA BELMONT: Laser and Sword.
TOM MERRITT: Just eat it.
So yeah, let's talk about "The Hobbit."
VERONICA BELMONT: I can't talk with my mouth full.
TOM MERRITT: Well, I'll start then while you swallow that.
Oh, gross.
I'll get it later.
Don't worry.
TOM MERRITT: OK, "The Hobbit," J.R.R. Tolkien we talked about
it in the kick off that he wrote it before he had ever
conceived of "Lord of the Rings." He did go back and
change some things and put out a different edition.
But even so, whether you're reading the revised edition,
which we were, or if you were able to get a copy of the old
one, it didn't seem to change tone from beginning to end.
Did you did you feel that?
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, do you mean change tone in the sense
that it started off a lot more light hearted and then got
darker, like that kind of deal?
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, yeah.
That, and it felt like that even the elves in Rivendell
that you get to early in the story, those
are different elves.
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, they're like singing, happy elves.
There's like music playing everywhere.
TOM MERRITT: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
It's a magical world of fairies and elves.
But then like halfway through, it start--
Mirkwood brings in the dark.
And I think--
I felt like Tolkien was finding his way into Middle
Earth in this book, even with the revised editions where he
makes Gollum a little more evil.
VERONICA BELMONT: But I think it fits in with the story too.
I mean, that's kind of the whole point.
Like, we're taking Bilbo Baggins out of his safe,
comfortable place, this place that he's
only ever known really.
And now he's learning about the rest of
the world out there.
And he's realizing that life isn't all just sitting at home
with a good book, like eating all the cheese that you want,
although that's basically my perfect life, and, you know,
getting out there and seeing the bigger universe for him.
So I think a change in tone would come naturally for that
kind of story progression.
TOM MERRITT: Definitely, there needs to be a change of tone
to tell that story.
And that is you're telling the story of Bilbo's learning
about the world.
I don't even think it's a loss of innocence necessarily
because even towards the end, he's still like, I don't
really want to be a part of the fighting.
VERONICA BELMONT: Can I just stay out of that part?
TOM MERRITT: You know, the Baggins part is winning over
the Took part in there right?
VERONICA BELMONT: The Took part, exactly.
TOM MERRITT: Could you tell the parts where Tolkien went
and changed the story?
There's a great resource at that
puts side by side all the parts that Tolkien changed
from the original publication to the revised edition.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, I mean, one of the major parts,
of course, is something that we mentioned in our kickoff
episode, which was the whole deal with Gollum and the ring.
And the main difference here is that when Gollum is doing
the riddles to decide whether or not he's going to lead
Bilbo out of the caverns or if he's going to eat him--
in the original story, the one that wasn't changed, he was
going to give him the ring as a reward.
That was going to be the prize.
And so Tolkien had to go back, once he had done "Lord of the
Rings," to kind of change that around so it made more sense,
to be like, no, Bilbo found the ring and then used it as
the-- well, in both cases, he used the ring as a thing he
hid in his pocket.
TOM MERRITT: In the original version, he says, "But funnily
enough, he need not have been alarmed for one thing Gollum
had learned long ago was never, never to cheat at the
riddle game, which is a sacred one and of immense antiquity.
Also there was the sword.
He simply sat and whispered." And then he goes like, "must
we give it the thing, precious?
Yes, we must.
We must fetch it."
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, it's funny too--
TOM MERRITT: Wheras, in the revised edition, it's like,
"He knew, of course, that the riddle game was sacred and of
immense antiquity and even wicked creatures were afraid
to cheat at it when they played at it.
But he felt he could not trust this slimy thing."
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, he was going to cheat him anyway.
He wasn't really going to lead him out of the caverns.
He was going to eat him.
VERONICA BELMONT: So it was really funny how that whole
change kind of happened.
It really did change the tenor of that whole conversation
between Gollum and Bilbo.
TOM MERRITT: Now, Pete Aaron who is the Aaron--
VERONICA BELMONT: Of whiteboards.
TOM MERRITT: --that does our whiteboards, on the forums
wrote what he thought was the moral of the story.
Here's what Aaron wrote.
"Thorin's final speech to Bilbo, which I can never read
without choking up, is the moral of the tale.
Stop seeking glory and gold.
Value friends, home, hearth, and safety instead.
To hell with quests and fantasies of dragon's plunder.
Have a nice cup of tea."
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, that sounds pretty good.
Yeah, it's a lovely sentiment and it's absolutely, I think,
at the core of what the story is about at
the end of the day.
The dwarves are really driven towards achieving their home,
which makes a lot of sense.
But they also want to get back to that elevated status that
they previously had, you know, really come back to the
kingdom, regain all of their riches, have the stronghold in
the mountain again.
But at the end of the day, what does that get Thorin?
TOM MERRITT: The axe in the head, metaphorically speaking.
I guess that's the way dwarves might put it.
I like what Aaron's saying here, which is this is not
your typical hero's journey of hero leaves, learns about the
world, and matures and changes into the warrior that will now
defend the realm.
This is hobbit goes out in the world and goes, whoa.
You know, I really want comfortable slippers and a
glass of tea even more than I ever did before.
VERONICA BELMONT: He's like, you know, I'm glad I did this
but it's time to book it on home.
But speaking of which, I think we talked a lot about the
movie going into this book discussion.
And we did both see the film.
So do you want to touch on some of that stuff?
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, sure.
I didn't really feel like the movie was "The Hobbit." In the
middle of the movie I kept thinking, I kept rephrasing in
my mind, it's a movie inspired by "The Hobbit" or a movie--
VERONICA BELMONT: How would you sum it up?
TOM MERRITT: --based loosely on "The Hobbit." But yeah, as
I've summed it up before, a great movie.
I enjoyed it.
For me, unlike Patrick Rothfuss who was fearing
exactly the same thing, I didn't have as much invested
in it becoming "The Hobbit," and so I could still enjoy it
and say, OK, this is in "The Lord of the Rings" universe
and it's doing a good job.
And there's some brilliant moments between the Galadriel
and Gandalf.
And when Bilbo faces down certain things and proves
himself, the scene with Gollum and the ring is fantastic.
But it's not "The Hobbit." And because I had just read "The
Hobbit," I was like, I'd like to see that movie.
I'd like to see the movie that stays truer to the book than
what Jackson did with the movie.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, I felt a lot of the same way.
I mean, I enjoyed the experience.
I saw it in 3D.
I saw it at 48.
I liked watching it.
It was very cool.
But I didn't walk away with that, like, really satisfied,
like, oh, that was a great interpretation of the book.
That was just really--
either it took it in a great new direction or it was really
faithful to the text.
It was faithful in some parts.
But it felt long to me.
It felt like it dragged.
TOM MERRITT: And it's only a third of the book.
VERONICA BELMONT: I know, which is crazy too because, I
mean, the book doesn't drag.
The book is real--
is pretty snappy.
TOM MERRITT: The book isn't also bringing in Radagast and
parts of "The Silmarillion" and other appendices material.
VERONICA BELMONT: So this is the thing.
So people who haven't read the book recently--
I went with my husband and a few other friends.
And they were all like, well, can you explain to me the
parts that were different?
And I'm like, well, most of it.
Because, you know, the whole part where Gandalf is going
after the necromancer, that doesn't happen in the
foreground of "The Hobbit." That is stuff that happens--
Gandalf disappears.
He's gone for a while.
We don't know where Gandalf is until the
very end of the book.
And what he's doing is he's going off with the other
wizards to fight the necromancer.
So in a way, I was kind of glad to get to see that.
But I felt like it was taking away from Bilbo's story.
And, in fact, I left the movie feeling like Bilbo had very
few lines in the movie.
Like, almost like he was a bit part to Thorin
and Gandalf's story.
TOM MERRITT: And that's what I mean is that--
and this goes back to the book.
The book was written by Tolkien before he had
conceived of "The Lord of the Rings." And he sort of
retconned it later to fit in.
But even so, when you read it, it doesn't
have that same feel.
And what Peter Jackson's trying to do is bring it into
that same feel.
And to do that, you have to minimize a lot of the
hobbitness-ness of it.
VERONICA BELMONT: But then all the feels, I'm missing all
these feels in these feels.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, yeah.
And they're different feels.
So that's why I'm almost like, I wish someone would create a
movie just about "The Hobbit" that's not trying to exist in
a "Lord of the Rings" universe yet, because I would like to
have the elves just be goofy, singing elves.
VERONICA BELMONT: And not be Elrond.
TOM MERRITT: And I think when you're looking at the movie,
that's the one part that really shows the tension where
he's trying to have the elves kind of be a little more laid
back and fun, true to "The Hobbit," But yet, he has to
make them like the elves from "Lord of the Rings."
VERONICA BELMONT: And didn't it--
TOM MERRITT: It just doesn't come off that well.
VERONICA BELMONT: When they walk up and the one female elf
is playing the flute and sounding, la, la, la.
And, like, this does not feel like the elves that we know
from "Lord of the Rings." It feels like awkwardly weird
instead of like, you know these gay, happy elves.
You know, la, la, la, singing songs to the
hobbit and to the dwarves.
And I was like, [? no ?] scowling Elrond and, like,
Galadriel, who is apparently able to twist her whole body
without moving her feet at all.
She just twists.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, but that's [? Myer ?] thing.
TOM MERRITT: You know, that happens.
VERONICA BELMONT: Anyway, but I did enjoy it.
I would recommend it.
It was fun.
It just--
for someone who, like us, who take things like this very
seriously, it bothered us in some ways.
TOM MERRITT: I feel like the movie is good.
The book is amazing.
Don't try to evaluate them as a package.
VERONICA BELMONT: Not to say that I won't go see the next
two films because I absolutely well.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, no, I still liked the movie.
It's just I'm not going to think of it as "The Hobbit."
It's just Peter Jackson's interpreting the works of
Tolkien and pulling from lots of different sources,
including "The Hobbit."
VERONICA BELMONT: All right, well, I think that about sums
up our thoughts on "The Hobbit," don't you?
I would actually love to know what you guys about the movie.
So please leave us video responses, leave us a comment
here on YouTube.
Let us know what your thoughts were comparing the movie to
the book or just about the movie in general.

All right, so next time, we kick off our January pick,
"Old Man's War" by John Scalzi.
But before we go, let's see what folks are saying in email
and on Goodreads.
TOM MERRITT: Let's start with another video from Tim who
tells us how Tolkien thought to make the world safe for
fairy stories.
TIM: When Tolkien fans and scholars talk about the
influences that led to the creation of "The Lord of the
Rings" and "The Hobbit," World War I comes
forward as a ready example.
But the soldier's life was only a small part of Tolkien.
First and foremost, he was a scholar
of the English language.
Like his good friend and writing companion, CS Lewis,
whose final novel, "Until We Have Faces," prefigured his
serious philosophical exploration of human
interaction in "The Four Loves," Tolkien's fiction
represented a sort of complement to
his academic studies.
In his essay, "On Fairy Stories," we can see some of
the themes and ideas that would
later define his writing.
Firstly, Tolkien sets out to define what a fairy story is.
He distinguishes it from traveller's tales, which
purport to take place in our own world-- science fiction,
which uses science, even made up science, to explain its
fantastic elements-- beast tales that merely use animals
as stand-ins for people-- and dream stories that conclude
with the main character waking up.
This last example illustrates an important point-- that all
true fairy stories must at least present
themselves as real.
Secondly, Tolkien discusses the fallacy that fairy stories
are only for children, arguing that it stems from a gross
misunderstanding of how children think, namely that
they enjoy being tricked or lied to rather than learning
about the world around them.
He points out that so long as we use fairy stories as a sort
of comfort food for kids, we shouldn't be surprised that
the adults who enjoy them are written
off as childish escapists.
The graphic content of original Charles Perrault or
Brothers Grimm tales further dispel the idea that these
myths are intended primarily for kids.
It may seem silly and unnecessary, particularly to
avid fans of the genre, to hear someone defending fantasy
in our day and age.
But bear in mind that early novels like "Robinson Crusoe"
and "Pamela" came under fire because creating fantastic and
imaginary scenarios was once viewed as a little better than
lying, definitely impractical and possibly immoral.
In Europe, the moral elite were particularly concerned
about women and children, who naturally couldn't
differentiate between fact and fiction in
the books they read.
And anyway, have we truly escaped from this mindset?
Didn't all of us have some authority figure who was wary
of us spending too much time in fantasy land?
Tolkien argued that while everyone has to grow up, the
idea that doing so requires an abandoning of fantasy is an
incorrect and destructive assumption.
He believed that fairy stories achieved something called
secondary belief, the creation of another world within the
primary world, which obeys a slightly different set of
rules but which, nonetheless, must retain internal
consistency for us to participate with it in a
meaningful way.
Entering into a secondary world is an act facilitated by
good fantasy, though it also happens when a sports fan
watches a big game or an artist works their craft.
When fully engaged in a secondary world, a reader
doesn't ignore the primary one.
Rather, they recreate the feeling of exploration and
discovery that constant exposure to the primary world
often dulls.
We have the opportunity to look at the primary world from
a fresh perspective and question many of our firm
assumptions about it.
It is a natural human activity and an important one.
TOM MERRITT: Pretty good stuff from Tim.
TOM MERRITT: Nicely done.
And he, therefore, gets a free copy of "Letters from Father
Christmas" by JRR Tolkien.
TOM MERRITT: Thanks to Copperfields Books for
lettings us give these away.
VERONICA BELMONT: See what happens when you
contribute to the show.
You get stuff.
TOM MERRITT: And a really good contribution from Tim.
VERONICA BELMONT: That looked like a lot of work putting all
those images together.
TOM MERRITT: Thansks for doing all of that.
VERONICA BELMONT: And great writing.
Martin wanted to know what got you started
reading sci-fi and fantasy.
In his case, it was Patrick Scott Saunder's "Space
Adventure" series followed by the "Last Legionary" series by
Douglas Hill, both in the late '70s.
What about you?
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, we have lots of people on Goodreads
who gave their answers.
I feel like I always read science fiction and fantasy.
Like, I can't think of not reading it.
The earliest thing I remember reading was Isaac Asimov's
selected short stories, a hardback that I got for
Christmas one year that I really remember reading and
thinking, oh, I'm reading adult stuff.
I'm reading science fiction.
So that's probably what dragged me into it.
And I know Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide" in high
school, when I started reading that, was the thing that
really solidified my love of the genre.
VERONICA BELMONT: I think for me, as I think I've mentioned
on the show before, was probably "Tailchaser's Song"
by Tad Williams.
So easy enough.
Well, we'll have to bring him on the show in two weeks.
TOM MERRITT: And you can talk to him about cats.
TOM MERRITT: Last year, terpkristin set a goal of
reading 52 books and "The Hobbit" was number 52.
So she did the goal.
TOM MERRITT: Her new goal for 2013 is to read ever Sword &
Laser pick-- you brave, brave, woman--
as well as read all the books she's purchased
but hasn't read yet.
She wants to basically get her to-read and already purchased
list down to zero.
So congrats on--
VERONICA BELMONT: That's amazing.
TOM MERRITT: --reaching your 2012 goal, terpkristin.
VERONICA BELMONT: That is amazing.
TOM MERRITT: Did you have a reading goal this year?
But it wasn't 52 books.
I mean, it was like, I think it was like 20.
And I did reach it.
But it's kind of arbitrary.
And I just, you know--
I've got two books a month that I have to read for
Vaginal Fantasy, the other book club we do here on Geek
and Sundry, or that me and Felicia, Bonnie, and
Kiala do, not you.
You're not involved in that show.
I don't do that one.
I enjoy watching it.
VERONICA BELMONT: And then our show, of course.
So we have our book pick, and sometimes if we have an
alternate pick as well.
So I'm keeping busy enough as it is with those.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, I never feel like I have to set
reading goals because doing the show is a reading goal.
I read slow too.
So I just I just try to keep up.
I actually do try to read an alternate pick along with
whatever our main pick is all the time.
And then Michael pointed us to Fantasy Faction's Top 10
Anticipated Fantasy Books of 2013.
Some very good stuff coming out in the new year.
What are you most excited about?
TOM MERRITT: Well, on the fantasy list,
probably the one--
I'm excited for a lot of these.
But Scott Lynch's "The Republic of Theives"--
number three in the Gentleman Bastard series--
cannot wait--
VERONICA BELMONT: I haven't read number two yet.
TOM MERRITT: --to get my hands on it.
Oh, it's good.
You got to read it.
VERONICA BELMONT: So it will be my next one after that.
TOM MERRITT: But Brent Weeks's "The Blood
Mirror" looks great.
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's "A Memory of
Light," of course, the finale.
VERONICA BELMONT: Brandon will be on the show shortly.
TOM MERRITT: And "Highprince of War" by Brandon Sanderson,
not with Robert Jordan, also coming out.
VERONICA BELMONT: He's keeping busy, that's for sure.
TOM MERRITT: There's also--
I mean, as we mentioned in the calendar, there's "Great North
Road," Peter F. Hamilton, coming out.
There's also a Neil Gaiman book coming out later this
year, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane." I'm looking forward
to "The" Human Division," John Scalzi on the sci-fi side.
CJ Cherryh has number 14 in The Foreigner series,
"Protector," coming out.
TOM MERRITT: "Red Planet Blues," Robert J. Sawyer is
coming out next year.
And Orson Scott Card's got "The Gate Thief, Mither
VERONICA BELMONT: Huh, he's still writing, huh?
It's a lot--
Terry Brooks, "Bloodfire Quest" coming out next year.
There's a lot of great stuff coming out.
TOM MERRITT: All right, well, that about
does it for us today.
But don't forget the Sword & Laser author guide show where
we interview the best authors in the biz and submit your
questions to them.
In our last episode we got a chance to talk with Joe
Abercrombie, so watch that next.
Even if you already watched it, watch it again.
It's worth it.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yes, he's very handsome.
You don't want to miss that so subscribe to our YouTube
channel at
Send us email to joh and catch up on all the discussions
happening over at
Look for the Sword & Laser.
He's definitely going to put a restraining order on me.
TOM MERRITT: All right, hope you're husband's not watching.
VERONICA BELMONT: Bye, see you guys next time.