1. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    The Hobbit

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Foxxx, Jan 21, 2018.

    Have you read Tolkien's "The Hobbit?" How about The Lord of the Rings? I'd like to know what your experience was like, and what your thoughts are.

    ---

    I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time in elementary school. It was a strange but charming, soft-cover copy that I haven’t been able to find since; about the size of a college history book and interspersed with beautifully drawn pictures.

    And I hated it.

    However, that was what I’d chosen for my quarterly book assignment. I can’t remember the requirements now other than having to read for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and writing something about it. I recall being bored to tears and utterly confused for most of the story.

    Tolkien’s genius was lost on me until a year ago when I finally bought the full set from Barnes & Noble. I loved The Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson long before I was supposedly deemed old enough to watch them (what can I say, I’m also a naughty boy) and figured it was about time I read the books that they originated from. Yet I couldn’t do that without first reading The Hobbit again.

    Often has it been said that The Hobbit was intended for children and, while this may be so, I’m inclined to believe there was some important information lost in translation. It was intended to be read to children, not by them.

    The sing-song cadence, the internal rhyme, the alliteration and assonance of the dwarven names, all begs for it to be read aloud and brought to life as a bedtime story. Those devices are as deliberate as the songs and poems Tolkien sprinkles throughout the work. The unexplained, mysterious magic, and embedding the tale in the context of a vastly rich, fictional universe with its own history, is also not by accident. It dreamily summons the same awe and wonder in the child as the real world does.

    More than that, The Hobbit is a call to adventure. I would know, because it inspired me to travel to Toronto alone for a weekend and attend a free speech event I’d been invited to. Leave the comfort of your hobbit-hole, go forth and slay a dragon. Face what you fear most, because that’s where the treasure is, and if you don’t confront the dragon on your own terms it will eventually awaken from its slumber and come to destroy you. Either pick the hill you want to die on, or it will be chosen for you.

    There’s no naive promise of success here. As Gandalf appropriately warns Bilbo, “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back… And if you do, you will not be the same.” Rather, the promise is simply that if you refuse to enter the forest at the point which looks darkest to you - like King Arthur and the knights of the round table - you will never find the Holy Grail. You won’t realize your potential, much less whatever it is that you seek; you won’t reclaim the treasure for the dwarves, elves, or men folk, and you won’t free Laketown from the evil that watches from the Lonely Mountain.

    Altogether, this is what makes The Hobbit the masterful classic that it is. It’s the ultimate expression of a set of archetypal themes that are an integral, undeniable part of our lives. In the same way that Bilbo passes the torch to Frodo, Tolkien says to venture into the world and slay your dragons. Live life, mature, transform and transcend. Change the world for the better.

    Then return, and pass on your experience and fortune to your children until they are ready to go there and back again.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2018
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  2. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with your assessment. I might point out that the Hobbit is really a story for what might be targeted as "young adult" today. And the Fellowship of the Ring starts out the same way, but at the point where the hobbits leave Tom Bombadil's domain, the book abruptly changes tone and becomes another thing entirely: an extended epic along the lines of the Angl0-Saxon-Nordic stories that Tolkien loved so much. Come to think of it, the change really comes when we're introduced to Aragorn, thereby bringing in all the back-story that Tolkien had been compiling for years. I didn't notice the transition until I re-read the Ring Trilogy after the movies came out.
     
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  3. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    I noticed that as well. I actually just read the scene where they first meet Aragorn, then a little bit past that, and the shift in tone and style is quite significant. I'd argue it's even an improvement, but that's just my personal taste.
     
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  4. Night Herald

    Night Herald Malfunctioning clockwork person Supporter Contributor

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    I think The Hobbit was the first "proper" book I ever experienced. I was very young; this must have been about 20 years ago. I borrowed it from the library on audiobook cassettes, and I would listen to it in the dark of night, when I was supposed to be asleep - I think you're right in saying that it's a wonderful story for being read out loud. Well, I loved it right away, from beginning to end. I believe I literally cried at the ending.

    The Hobbit was my first taste of Fantasy, and is probably to blame for why I write in the genre. Up until that point I had never suspected that stories could be so grand. I re-read it at age 17 or so, that time in a slim paperback. I still loved it, though of course I was not quite as awestruck. Both of those were translations, and I haven't read it since. I really feel like I should read the original at some point - and also Lord of the Rings, which I never read past the halfway point of Two Towers. I was still young when I tried - I think this was a while before the first movie came out, so I would have been 10-ish. I fear it was a little bit too heavy for my tiny brain; I couldn't finish these tomes before the library needed them back, and I just sort of dropped it.
     
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  5. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    A few years ago I picked up a boxed edition that had a CD with an excerpt of Tolkien reading the riddle section of The Hobbit, and I agree that it would definitely come across better to kids when read.
     
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  6. LarryM

    LarryM New Member

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    I read The Hobbit back in the early '70's while in high school, and was not impressed. As others mentioned, it seemed a little too much of a kid's story. Because of that, I had no plans to read the Trilogy until a friend convinced me that it was far better. I was skeptical, especially when, in the first sentence of the Fellowship of the Ring, appears the phrase 'eleventy-first birthday.' I thought it would be just an extension of the Hobbit, but I stuck with it. After the hobbits' harrowing near miss in the woods with the Black Rider, and then their arrival in Bree and the meeting with Aragorn on a stormy and terrifying night, I was hooked. I read the Trilogy several times in the next few years, with the Fellowship book a clear favorite, but overall felt the series was a stunning piece of work.

    Film versions of books can be disappointing, but Peter Jackson did an excellent job of bringing the books to life (so to speak). I haven't read through all three books for many years. Occasionally, I pick one up and read a few chapters, and I still enjoy the brilliance and beauty of Tolkien's writing.
     
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  7. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I have nothing to offer on the subject, @Foxxx, but do want to say how beautifully written your opening post is.
     
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  8. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    @The Dapper Hooligan That must be impossibly rare. I searched the internet to see if Tolkien had ever personally narrated an audio version, and the only thing I could find is that he had helped abridge The Hobbit for other narrators (unabridged audiobook versions of The Hobbit are like ~10 hours in length).

    EDIT: Oh, I just found what you were talking about!: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/08/06/tolkien-reads-from-the-hobbit/

    Appreciate it, @OurJud. :-D

    Thank-you, everybody, for sharing your experiences. I completely agree with you @LarryM that Peter Jackson did a phenomenal job. It's a shame that the greed of others is what prevented him from making something equally great with The Hobbit movies.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
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  9. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    Very well written post. I enjoyed reading it.

    I will admit that I find Tolkien's work a little exhausting to read at times, as he sometimes goes on a little too much about the detail of his world and, frankly, some of the stuff he wrote is just stupid (Tom Bombadil I'm looking at you, the whole entire forest and barrows part of Fellowship of the Ring was entirely unnecessary and stupid). But as a whole, he's easily my most respected author. I owe him everything, in a way.

    I also didn't hate The Hobbit trilogy. I didn't mind it got stretched out to three films (I'm aware it was studio greed that egged Jackson to do 3 films instead of the originally planned 2) but whatever. It's an additional movie I get to force my girlfriend to watch with me annually, even if Desolation of Smaug is a little long-running and Battle of Five Armies has a few too many stupid scenes in it for comfort. People complained "how do you make one book into three movies?" but I think that's unfair. The Hobbit was a short book page-wise, but the story within the pages spanned a ton of shit. Hell, it doesn't describe the battle of the five armies at all because Tolkien literally writes "Bilbo got knocked out and missed the battle lolz". While the trilogy had some slow points, I think it was a fun adaptation of the novel and I don't see how giving a book more screen time to adapt things from it is a bad thing. If it were only one movie and it left things out, people would complain it left stuff out. You're screwed either way.

    Plus hey holy fuck we got some amazing god damn music from The Hobbit trilogy. Last Goodbye is worth another 3 half-baked movies alone.
     
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  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Yeah, I agree with this. Tolkien definitely loved his world building. Sometimes I look at it and think that the story in LOTR was secondary and just an excuse to show off the world he'd created. I was excited when I heard they were making The Hobbit, and I watched them, but I can't help but feel that it would have done better as a single film and then all of the things they did from The Silmarilion could have easily made up the other two. When they smooshed them together, though, it just seemed like the film couldn't decide what tone it wanted to take which wasn't helped by all of the video game style, almost slapstick combat sequences interspersed by the dark and brooding scenes with Gandalf and The White Orc.
     
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  11. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    @TheRealStegblob

    Thanks!

    My gripe with The Hobbit films is the insane amount of CGI and the inconsistency of tone that the Lord of the Rings movies did not seem to suffer from. What's interesting is that it was studio greed that forced it into a trilogy, while at the same time the same studio greed that gave Jackson significantly less than optimal time to do it in. They wanted it both ways.

    Not to mention changing shit half-way through production, vetoing Peter Jackson's good ideas (as well as good ideas from Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens), forcing in a love story and Legolas. Just another example in an ever increasing pile of studio executives ruining good things.

    It honestly blows my mind. From a simple tally, it would appear to me that removing executives from majority of the creative process would have less of a detrimental effect than having them largely dictate it. Why in the Hell are you going to hire the director and writers who gave us masterpieces like The Lord of the Rings if you're going to proceed to be in the way of everything? It just doesn't make sense. Either do it yourself or get the fuck out of the way lol.

    That's also ignoring the irony. These executives want to maximize their profits and ratings, and then every decision they make is counter-productive to those supposed goals.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
  12. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    That was exactly what it was. Tolkien invented the languages of Middle Earth before pretty much anything else and then built his world around those languages. Tolkien built a lot of Middle Earth after that out of tribute for old poems and crap (he takes a ton of names, including all of the dwarves from the Hobbit and Gandalf's name from antiquated poems and songs). He pretty much invented his world and lore and then implanted his characters/story into it.

    That's the PALE orc, you little shitter.

    I didn't mind the CGI. It was very, very good and the orcs in The Hobbit are a bit different from the ones in LotR, anyways. Plus you have Smaug, who is by away and far just one of the most incredible works of CGI ever. The Hobbit in general was much different in tone from LotR, but I didn't mind that so much. It was a children's bed time story, after all. And they managed to make Beorn not the worst thing since Tom Bombadil, so meyah.
     
  13. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    Haha, yeah, I'll agree to disagree. :)

    I admit that Smaug was really good! The movies weren't terrible in comparison to some of the astoundingly shitty movies that Hollywood pukes out yearly, but I was disappointed and thought that they were of a lower quality than the Lord of the Rings trilogy for reasons besides my opinion on the CGI, most of which amount to braindead intervention by studio executives. And I should've been more precise with my wording; the tone was inconsistent in The Hobbit. I understand why the tone could not have been the same as LotR.

    Cheers!

    -Kyle
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Hey, I'm 197cm and 114kg. If you're going to call me a shitter, at least get the dimensions right.

    Yeah, apparently they had script problems while shooting, and the decision to use CG instead of practical effects just gives me the impression that the whole thing was just not thought out as well as LOTR and kinda ham fistedly shoved out the door to cash in on the hype from the Fellowship's 10 year anniversary.
     
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  15. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    I would have preferred traditional makeup and prosthetic suits and everything for the orcs like they were done in LotR, but eh. At the end of the day as long as it looks good I don't mind what effect they use. Of course, Azog and Bolg looked a bit cartoony compared to any LotR orc, but whatever. I can let all that slide.

    Well the CGI debacle all began when they decided to rely heavily on CGI for all the environments (as opposed to building miniature scales, like what they did with a lot of Minas Tirith in LotR or using lots of super clever camera angles to make the dwarves look shorter than Gandalf). Then somehow, it went from "We're just using CGI to build the environments" to "We're using CGI for almost all special effects". But for all that, they still went through and, for no other reason than because they wanted to do it, built an entire Hobbiton set and finished all the hobbitholes into real homes and shit. None of that stuff was even used in the film, they literally did it just to do it. Now you can go to a real, complete Hobbiton and actually walk through all the houses and stuff. I'll take any amount of Hollywood raping if that's what we get out of it.

    But yeah, it's very obvious The Hobbit trilogy was rushed compared to LotR. When you go back and you read some of the 'how they did it' special effects for LotR, especially when it came to manipulating camera angles for the hobbits, you really get a sense that LotR had a lot, lot more planning done compared to The Hobbit. I guess that's the fatal problem with CGI: Studio execs think you can skip planning phases of a movie production because "we'll CGI it in at post". CGI is a tool just like any practical effect, but too many people in Hollywood see it as a magic bandaid that you slap over a movie, instead of looking at it and using it like any other effect.
     
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  16. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    Edit: double post wooooooooooOOOops
     
  17. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I read all four books in a couple of weeks, spanning the day I graduated from high school, in 1967. I didn't mind the childlike tone of The Hobbit (which I read first) because I have always loved reading folk and fairy tales, and I thought the story fitted well into that camp—charming, funny and imaginative. Then I started LOTR, and got completely sucked in. To the extent that I started The Return of the King on the morning of my graduation. My dad was also reading the series (which I'd borrowed from the library) and I remember he was just behind me, midway through The Two Towers. I was trying to stay a book ahead of him, so we wouldn't be scrabbling over the same book!

    This was back when NOBODY else I knew had read this series yet. In fact, the reason I picked it up at the library was because I saw it advertised in a book-related magazine, and thought it sounded interesting. Thank goodness I had the sense to check out all four books at once. I would have been having kittens if I'd had to wait between books to go to the library again.

    I had no idea what was going to happen in the story. At the moment when Gollum finally 'delivered' the Ring to the fire, I had to walk away and take a wee break, I was so stunned. I had not seen that coming at all. And yet it was foretold. It's just that it was so skillfully done, I didn't see it coming at all.

    I loved the series so much I read LOTR at least twice a year (once in summer and once during Christmas break) every year for MANY years. I didn't re-read The Hobbit more than a couple of times, though. Nice book, but not quite the powerhouse LOTR was.

    I actually enjoyed the LOTR movies when they came out, and with the exception of the miserable portrayal of Gimli as a disgruntled Scottish dwarf (horrible stereotype) and the melodramatic literal cliffhanger at Mt Doom, with Frodo dangling over the edge (didn't happen in the book at all.) With those exceptions, I thought the movies (extended versions, which are the only ones I ever watched) were excellent. I only made it through the first of The Hobbit trilogy, though. I thought Martin Freeman made a superb Bilbo, but I really couldn't stand the other aspects of the film. And I never bothered to watch the follow-up two films.

    I doubt the LOTR story will ever be bettered on film. However, I also was kind of sorry to see the movies get made, because this means most newcomers will see the movies before (or instead of) reading the books. I'm very lucky to have discovered the books so long ago.

    Fantasy is not really my favourite genre, but LOTR is my favourite "book" of all time. It has flaws (the Tom Bombadil bit which didn't go anywhere, and the horrendous poetry ...glimmering, shimmering ...aargh), but it's my favourite.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
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  18. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    Gimli certainly got the shorter end of the 'comic relief guy' stick in the Jackson trilogy. John Rhys-Davies is an excellent Gimli, but he had a few too many "trailer one-liners" for my comfort. But to be fair, in the books, Gimli kind of got shit on by Legolas and Aragorn a lot, though. Like he's constantly giving his thought or opinion and one of the other characters is like NO GIMLI UR WRONG SHUT THE FUCK UP and would explain why whatever he just said was stupid. Like damn, try re-reading the series again and make a point of watching out for how many times Gimli says something and the other characters (Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf) tell him he's basically wrong and unhelpful. It's almost uncomfortable.

    Plus, Jackson pulled some real bullshit by making Legolas win the kill-contest at Helm's Deep. In the films, Legolas wins by 2 kills but it's Gimli who wins by 2 kills in the books.

    Still for all the flaws and changes, I highly consider the Jackson trilogy to be the immortal adaptation of the books. There will surely be some other attempt at adapting the books sometime in the future (50 years from now, 100 years from now, who knows?) but I don't think anything can top Jackson's films. I actually consider them perfect adaptations (flaws aside). The books focus on the journey and the world and the deeper lore and stories that comprised Middle Earth, where Jackon's films focused on the adventure and the action and drama that the books sort of skimped over. They're perfect companion pieces for each other, you get the same story in either version but told in two different ways. It's what an adaptation should be.
     
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  19. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    @jannert You brought up something that caught my attention. The Hobbit will definitely be something I read to my kids. But if I don't have a family, The Hobbit / LotR will still be something I'll re-read several times over my life. That's a mark of a good book.
     
  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Unfortunately, the tone of the two is very different, as you've pointed out. I fear that people will now just watch the 'easy' movies, and not bother with the 'old fashioned slow' books. I'd be curious to know. Have you met anybody who came of age since the movies came out who has actually read the books BEFORE seeing the movies? And I'd also like to know if people who started with the movies actually read the books all the way through afterwards. I suspect this will not be the case for the majority of newcomers to the Tolkien world.

    In my age group, love of the books led us to the movies (in fear and trembling ...and then delight at how well they'd been 'done.') I wonder if the lovers of the movies will end up reading the books.
     
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  21. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    I'm reading the books all the way through and I saw the LotR movies first. I like them equally well; masterpieces in their respective mediums.
     
  22. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    And that's really the important thing. Films and books are two very different media, with different demands on storytelling. They defy comparison. I can think of a few mediocre books that became good movies, and one or two good books that became great movies, because the film-makers knew how to tell the story in their medium. Unfortunately, a lot of good books become mediocre movies because they didn't have that advantage. (I think that's the rule rather than the exception.)

    There are a few things about Peter Jackson's LOTR and Hobbit that I don't care for: his maxim of "Never use a hundred orcs where a thousand will do," for instance, or a disconcertingly modern phrase used by a character. But if that's part of his artistic vision, so be it. I eagerly await the next talented film-maker who will deliver his or her own take on the classic, using the next generation of story-telling tools.
     
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  23. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    I don't care for the Hobbit films, which is why I only mentioned LotR, hehe. ;)

    But I completely agree with you about film and books as different mediums! There's some overlap, but they're ultimately different animals.
     
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  24. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    Neither do I, they tried way to hard to make it like a new LotR (movie) trilogy, which it shouldn't have been. The Hobbit was not an long three book adventure like the LotR, so the movies shouldn't have been either (in my opinion, of course ;))
     
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  25. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    My gripes are more with what went on behind the scenes. The quality of the films could've been a lot better had more time been allotted, among other things.

    I didn't mind the fact that it was three parts, but I'm kind of confused what all the extra run-time went toward. I guess the final battle is a big one, which was completely skipped in the book. And I'm torn about the stuff that was added from the Silmarillion, which came across more as obnoxious than meaningful.

    Ultimately you're probably right. It shouldn't have been a trilogy. Difficult to know what the Hobbit film(s) would've been if Peter Jackson had been running the show in the same way that he ran LotR. I'm not saying Jackson is infallible but idiot studio execs meddled far too much with The Hobbit.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2018
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