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A Thief in the Night -- Part 4



weaver
Half-elven

Jul 10 2009, 3:53am


Views: 958
A Thief in the Night -- Part 4

Now, let's look at the exchange that Bilbo has with Bard and the Elven King, concluding with the moment when he gives up the Arkenstone.

"Really you know," Bilbo was saying in his best business manner, "things are impossible. Personally I am tired of the whole affair. I wish I was back in the West in my own home, where folk are more reasonable. But I have an interest in this matter--one fourteenth share, to be precise, according to a letter, which fortunately I believe I have kept."

Bilbo then reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out the letter Thorin gave him back in Bag End. He goes on to say he's sympathetic to their claims, and that he would deduct what is rightfully theirs before taking his share of the profits. He also warns them about the approach of Dain and his dwarf army.

Here is the conversation which follows:

"Why do you tell us this? Are you betraying your friends, or are you threatening us?" asked Bard grimly. "My dear Bard!" squeaked Bilbo. "Don't be so hasty! I never met such suspicious folk! I am merely trying to avoid trouble for all concerned."

Bilbo then says he wants to make them an offer -- which turns out to be the Arkenstone. Here is what it looks like:

"It was as if a globe had been filled with moonlight and hung before them in a net woven of the glint of frosty stars."

And here is what Bilbo says about it:

"This is the Arkenstone of Thrain...the Heart of the Mountain; and it is also the heart of Thorin. He values it above a river of gold. I give it to you. It will aid you in your bargaining."Then Bilbo, not without a shudder, not without a glance of longing, handed the marvellous stone to Bard, and he held it in his hand, as though dazed."

Questions:


1. Let me get this straight -- Bilbo lost his pocket handkerchief, and his buttons, but somehow he kept Thorin's letter? Is it credible he'd still have it at this point? And why did Tolkien think he needed it here?

2. Just how much of a plan did Bilbo have about this encounter? How much did he have thought out ahead of time, and how much is figuring out on the spot?

3. To make his case, Bilbo produces a letter, supports the "claims" of Bard and the Elven King, provides information about Dain, and gives up the Arkenstone. What conclusions can you draw about the particular sequence of things Bilbo had to do in order to win the confidence of Bard and the Elven King?

4. Do you see any similarities between Bilbo's interrogation here and that of Frodo by Faramir in LotR?

5. Which description of the Arkenstone do you prefer -- the shiny glittery imagery, or the reference to it being "Thorin's heart"?

6. Just how strongly was Bilbo tempted to keep the Arkenstone? If Bard had believed him without needing to reveal it, would he have kept it?

Weaver





Twit
Lorien

Jul 10 2009, 10:10am


Views: 665
here goes


Questions:


1. Let me get this straight -- Bilbo lost his pocket handkerchief, and his buttons, but somehow he kept Thorin's letter? Is it credible he'd still have it at this point? And why did Tolkien think he needed it here?

I think it could still be there, all though in reality it would probably look like it's been through the wash (how annoying is that?) and is a mush of paper in the bottom of his pocket. It reminds us and Bilbo that he is indeed in paid service to the Dwarves, and that he has the promise of payment.

2. Just how much of a plan did Bilbo have about this encounter? How much did he have thought out ahead of time, and how much is figuring out on the spot?

I think he has planned to a point and could probably guess that the elven King and Bard might ask questions. But Bilbo is good at thinking on his feet as we already know, and probably only really thought about what he needed to do and how to get back again in time for Bombur.

3. To make his case, Bilbo produces a letter, supports the "claims" of Bard and the Elven King, provides information about Dain, and gives up the Arkenstone. What conclusions can you draw about the particular sequence of things Bilbo had to do in order to win the confidence of Bard and the Elven King?

He is taking it a step at a time, this bit is probably more rehersed. He goes a bit further each time, and then finally, in order to seal the deal, he produces the Arkenstone.

4. Do you see any similarities between Bilbo's interrogation here and that of Frodo by Faramir in LotR?

I haven't read LotR for ages, but I suppose so, although Bilbo has gone to give up the Arkenstone where-as Frodo has no intention of giving up the Ring.

5. Which description of the Arkenstone do you prefer -- the shiny glittery imagery, or the reference to it being "Thorin's heart"?

I like the reference to it being Thorin's heart- just like the heart of the mountain and (in my head at least) the heart of Smaug. It is the most important thing to him, although this makes what Bilbo does the ultimate betrayal, he gives away Thorin's heart.

6. Just how strongly was Bilbo tempted to keep the Arkenstone? If Bard had believed him without needing to reveal it, would he have kept it?

No. Given the choice to keep it and give it to Bard, unless Bard offered it, he wouldn't have kept it. This ability to give it up reminds me of him being able to give up the Ring.


Thank you for your questions this week.Smile It's always a good sign that I can actually understand the questions Blush


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 10 2009, 2:19pm


Views: 653
Thoughts.

1. Let me get this straight -- Bilbo lost his pocket handkerchief, and his buttons, but somehow he kept Thorin's letter? Is it credible he'd still have it at this point? And why did Tolkien think he needed it here?

It's an important letter, potentially worth a fortune! Bilbo may have forgotten his pocket handkerchieves, but he didn't say anything about forgetting his leather wallet, in which he could have stored this precious letter. And unlike the handkerchieves, he didn't have to pull the letter out on a regular basis or use it at all. He just had to keep it safe, like a passport. Of course, there is also the comedic effect of Bilbo's businesslike tone and folded letter in the middle of this heroic romance.

2. Just how much of a plan did Bilbo have about this encounter? How much did he have thought out ahead of time, and how much is figuring out on the spot?

I think he planned it all ahead of time, except for slipping into the water and disturbing the guards, and except for the encounter with Gandalf.

3. To make his case, Bilbo produces a letter, supports the "claims" of Bard and the Elven King, provides information about Dain, and gives up the Arkenstone. What conclusions can you draw about the particular sequence of things Bilbo had to do in order to win the confidence of Bard and the Elven King?

Bilbo was selling his plan. Actually, I'm not sure he had to show them the letter, but it may have made him feel better to prove his claim. And maybe it made Bard and the Elvenking feel better about Bilbo's relative honesty. Then he told them about Dain so they would realize that they couldn't just starve Thorin out. Then he provided a solution to their problems with the Arkenstone and his offer to give up his claim on the treasure.

4. Do you see any similarities between Bilbo's interrogation here and that of Frodo by Faramir in LotR?

Bilbo is much more in charge of the situation than Frodo was with Faramir, and of course Bilbo isn't hiding anything. This may be more like Eomer's interrogation of Aragorn, where the tables get turned and the prisoner ends up taking charge of the situation, and leaving his interrogators with their jaws open.

5. Which description of the Arkenstone do you prefer -- the shiny glittery imagery, or the reference to it being "Thorin's heart"?

Well, I don't imagine it as a bloody, pulsing mass of flesh. I think I prefer the image of a globe filled with moonlight and starlight. And I don't think it really is the heart of Thorin, although I understand why Bilbo says it is.

Actually, I may prefer the third description you did not mention, the Heart of the Mountain, especially in light of our earlier speculation that the Arkenstone belongs in this particular Mountain, and has a sacred or magical purpose there. It reminds me of Gimli's claim that he would not remove the gems from the Glittering Caves, but rather leave them there like flowers in a garden, just chipping away the rock around them so that all could see the beauty of the cave. The Arkenstone is not Thorin's heart -- at least not until Thorin, too, is placed at the heart of the mountain.

6. Just how strongly was Bilbo tempted to keep the Arkenstone? If Bard had believed him without needing to reveal it, would he have kept it?

Well, Bilbo was tempted enough to take it in the first place, without any plan about how to use it. But he could not keep it and make the plan work -- it's the vital bargaining chip. Still, he finds it hard to give it up. So I think he was strongly tempted, but at this point had already committed himself to giving it up.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jul 11 2009, 12:14am


Views: 640
Letter

I found the letter credible, because he came across it right when Gandalf started flustering him and driving him out the door. I can just see him rushing out the door, absentmindedly stuffing whatever he had in his hand into his pocket--which happened to be the letter, and not a handkerchief.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jul 11 2009, 12:17am


Views: 655
Letter consistency

I love the image of the letter being mush in the bottom of the pocket! But that would happen with modern, pulp-based paper. If the letter had been written on vellum or parchment, it would have a leather base and hold up better. The ink might be a little splotchy, granted, but still legible.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


squire
Half-elven


Jul 11 2009, 5:24am


Views: 645
Bilbo makes them an offer they can't refuse

1. Let me get this straight -- Bilbo lost his pocket handkerchief, and his buttons, but somehow he kept Thorin's letter? Is it credible he'd still have it at this point? And why did Tolkien think he needed it here?
Yes, it’s easy to imagine the letter making it all this way, folded and kept in an inner pocket. As Dreamdeer points out, the paper would have been much more durable then than what we are used to. I have always read this scene with a vision of Bilbo occasionally – during the expedition’s rare moments of R&R - taking the letter out of his pocket and weighing its promises and conditions against his dreams of being safe back in Bag End.

He astutely admits that his deal involves profits, not gross – “below the line”, as it were. But although the letter definitely proves his bona fides, he doesn’t actually read it to his interviewers.

2. Just how much of a plan did Bilbo have about this encounter? How much did he have thought out ahead of time, and how much is figuring out on the spot?
3. To make his case, Bilbo produces a letter, supports the "claims" of Bard and the Elven King, provides information about Dain, and gives up the Arkenstone. What conclusions can you draw about the particular sequence of things Bilbo had to do in order to win the confidence of Bard and the Elven King?
Without tooting Bilbo’s horn too much, I think this is one of his supreme moments. He plays these guys like fishes. If he didn’t think through the entire exchange ahead of time, he at least knew exactly what he wanted, and what angle would hook Bard and the King. You can’t do better than that before you go into the meeting.

This is a much more important scene than the entire Battle of Five Armies. I shudder at all the emphasis that the BOFA gets in the various movie discussions I’ve witnessed. Yes, it could be a spectacular interval, but it really has little to do with the core story of “the Hobbit.” Whereas THIS scene is central to the Hobbit’s story.

4. Do you see any similarities between Bilbo's interrogation here and that of Frodo by Faramir in LotR?
As others have said, Bilbo is in charge here.

5. Which description of the Arkenstone do you prefer -- the shiny glittery imagery, or the reference to it being "Thorin's heart"?
It’s overblown melodrama to call it “Thorin’s heart”. I like the interpretation that its true role is as the “heart of the mountain”, and that its final placement on Thorin’s breast in his tomb is the whole point of the imagery.

The glittery imagery is very good here. Tolkien explores again one of his key images of the stars as elements of a net. Cf. in LotR: Arwen’s headdress. The stars in the Woody End. Etc.

6. Just how strongly was Bilbo tempted to keep the Arkenstone? If Bard had believed him without needing to reveal it, would he have kept it?
I think it just a touch of drama to include Bilbo in the forcefield of the Arkenstone, even as he resists it. Otherwise the scene might be too unbelievable.

Interesting idea that this presages Bilbo’s ability to give up the Ring in LotR. But the Arkenstone has not been built up to be an irresistible object like the Ring. Bilbo’s yielding of it seems almost painless.

Between the letter, and his feelings about the Stone, we see here a little greed in Bilbo. Yet as Curious says, he is already fabulously wealthy by the standards of his own people – later Tolkien will have him giving away all his “ill-gotten” Hobbit wealth without a second’s thought. I wonder how thoroughly thought through* is Bilbo’s motivation for this adventure in Tolkien’s mind. He kind of cheapens it here; then pulls back to the original romantically adventurous Bilbo of “Unexpected Party” later on.

*I’ve always wanted to write “thoroughly thought through”. It looks like a tongue twister - but it's not!




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sador
Half-elven

Jul 12 2009, 7:27am


Views: 638
Good for you to have done it!


In Reply To
*I’ve always wanted to write “thoroughly thought through”. It looks like a tongue twister - but it's not!



But just an interesting point, about your comment

Quote

Interesting idea that this presages Bilbo’s ability to give up the Ring in LotR. But the Arkenstone has not been built up to be an irresistible object like the Ring. Bilbo’s yielding of it seems almost painless.

In The Hobbit as written alone, this might be considered Bilbo's redemption (as Curious might say) - the moment he turns from a mere burglar to a 'honest thief', morally superior to the other characters (I think slightly differently, but basically agree).
However, once we read LotR we find out Bilbo is not honest yet - he is still lying to everyone (including Gandalf, and future readers of his book) about the Ring!

But as you point out, the free yielding of the Arkenstone, while it does not completely redeem Bilbo yet, prepares him for his leaving the Ring behind without coersion (after all, he did not try putting it on to get past Gandalf, which Gandalf hinted might succeed; and no force or even concrete threats were used).
And in Tolkien's world - this seems to have been a major factor in the saving of Middle-Earth. At least Gandalf says so.

"Such a fool deserves to starve." - Bard.


sador
Half-elven

Jul 12 2009, 7:52am


Views: 656
A few answers

1. Let me get this straight -- Bilbo lost his pocket handkerchief, and his buttons, but somehow he kept Thorin's letter?
I understand that was more important. But he had to remember switching it to his dry clothes in the goblin's cave!

Is it credible he'd still have it at this point?
I used to think it was hardly credible, at least surviving the Forest River.
However, Dreamdeer and squire pointed out it was probably written on parchment.

But was it? Remember the narrator's comment at the beginning of 'Roast Mutton':

Quote

"If you had dusted the mantelpiece, you would have found this just under the clock," said Gandalf, handing Bilbo a note (written, of course, on his own note-paper).

To me, this sounds as another of Tolkien's anachronisms - showing how much Bilbo is a modern Englishman out of place in the Ancient World; but it refutes this explanation!

Unless we assume this is a part of Tolkien's "translating" the Red Book into Tolkien's English. Do you like this suggestion? I suspect even Dreamdeer won't; and squire would probably abhor it.

And why did Tolkien think he needed it here?
It shows again just how much Bilbo is an outsider; even a dwarf wouldn't think of producing this kind of evidence (and not letting the Elvenking and Bard read it)!
Which serves both an internal and an external purpose:
Internally, it helps Bilbo baffle Bard and the Elvenking, getting them to accept his offer without misgivings or doubts.
Externally, reminding us that Bilbo is a character like us, and an outsider in this world - makes us see him as the reasonable and truly moral person who unties the Gordian knot of ancient world's prejudices, rather than the simple traitor he might otherwise seem. Bringing us back into the modern business-world, while being comic, also prompts us to view the action by the correct moral standards (our own, of course!).

2. Just how much of a plan did Bilbo have about this encounter? How much did he have thought out ahead of time, and how much is figuring out on the spot?

I think Bilbo is more of an improvisor. But can't think of any concrete proof.

3. To make his case, Bilbo produces a letter, supports the "claims" of Bard and the Elven King, provides information about Dain, and gives up the Arkenstone. What conclusions can you draw about the particular sequence of things Bilbo had to do in order to win the confidence of Bard and the Elven King?

First he baffles and mystifies them, then reassures them, wins there confidence by leaking critical information, and then males the actual offer.
Masterly!

4. Do you see any similarities between Bilbo's interrogation here and that of Frodo by Faramir in LotR?

Hardly any. Bilbo is the master here.
Curious' suggetion to parallel it with Aragorn and Eomer's encounter seems more apt.

5. Which description of the Arkenstone do you prefer -- the shiny glittery imagery, or the reference to it being "Thorin's heart"?

I prefer refering to it as 'Thorin's heart' - at least until I think of it a a sacred object, which the cynics of the world use as bargaining chip.

6. Just how strongly was Bilbo tempted to keep the Arkenstone?

He was, but not strongly enough to do anything foolish.

If Bard had believed him without needing to reveal it, would he have kept it?
And done what? There is no turning back at this stage; he should have looked at it earlier, before fording the river.

"Such a fool deserves to starve." - Bard.


squire
Half-elven


Jul 12 2009, 2:28pm


Views: 630
“Bilbo is not honest yet” - ??

"Once we read LotR we find out Bilbo is not honest yet - he is still lying to everyone (including Gandalf, and future readers of his book) about the Ring!"

I have a problem with this interpretation, that can probably never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Leaving aside the author's intent while writing The Hobbit and the confusing question of which edition we are reading, there is no evidence in The Hobbit that Bilbo is lying to anybody by the end of the story, much less about the Ring. The entire interpretation that he "is not honest yet" is imposed on this text by another - about as effective as if I was to say that Merlin in Mallory's Morte d'Arthur is living backwards in time, because T.H. White says so in The Once and Future King.

I don't think it makes a difference that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are by the same author, especially when the author had many chances to make such a moral connection explicit (or implicit with hints) in rewriting and chose not to do so. A subsequent book can indeed bring to light things that were not clearly or correctly understood by a reader of an earlier book - but I suggest that those things have to be there in the first place. Even the author may not have known they were there when he wrote it, as Tolkien marvelously did not know how much more he could make of the world of The Hobbit than just a setting for a juvenile adventure. He may later find much that is there that he can work with to develop his sequels. A magic ring of invisibility, say; or a peripheral demon who served to separate the wizard from the hobbit to allow the hobbit to grow.



But Bilbo's "continuing lack of honesty" just isn't there in The Hobbit. The later book simply imposes it in a devious attempt to reconcile irreconcilable stories.

I would say that Bilbo's character, as established in The Hobbit, is so appropriately shaped by his adventures (but not at all by the Ring as it is later reconceived) that it becomes plausible in the second book that the same character abandons the Ring - albeit with Gandalf's help. I don't see the Arkenstone surrender as a very large part of his character formation, because the author slights that brief conflict as a mere hesitation in the presence of the stone's beauty; he never foreshadows it and never returns to it. Bilbo was never in it for the money, and money has no power over him.

Here is a safer generalization: The mature Bilbo of The Hobbit's finale is the same comically strong character who casually accepts Gandalf's tricking him out of keeping the now-fatal Ring, who apologizes to Frodo for passing the curse on to him, who sincerely volunteers to take the Ring to Mordor at the Council of Elrond, who becomes the major literary artist of the late Third Age, etc.



squire online:
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grammaboodawg
Immortal


Jul 12 2009, 2:45pm


Views: 618
I like Bilbo's style of taking care of business so much more

than Thorin's. He's much better at getting to the point :)

I'm always impressed with how much Bilbo sticks to his plan. He's pressed for time and he grows impatient with the interruptions and suspicions. I think he was so focused on getting to the leaders and stating his case/handing over his trump card that he forgot that he would be considered an invader from the enemy camp. A flaw of the pure-of-heart, I'm afraid. Very naïve at some level.

And I love that the letter would survive when he'd been through fire and water and months of hardship. It's so Tolkien, for me, to have this delightful unlikelihood... like Sam carrying his box of salt or Pippin carrying his extra pipe to share with Gimli after being in the wild and kidnapped by Uruks.


Quote
'Half a moment!'; said Pippin. Putting his hand inside the breast of his jacket he pulled out a little soft wallet on a string. 'I keep a treasure or two near my skin, as precious as Rings to me. Here's one: my old wooden pipe. And here's another: an unused one.



Wonderful!



sample

"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West."
~Hug like a hobbit!~ "In my heaven..."

I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.



TORn's Observations Lists


squire
Half-elven


Jul 12 2009, 2:47pm


Views: 636
Ah, the "note-paper"!

Nice catch - as you say, I had agreed with Dreamdeer's parchment interpretation without looking back to that description. And kudos also for remembering the hurried switch of clothing during the mountain-storm!

I don't, as you guess, want to use the translation bugaboo to investigate this.

It is possible to suggest, within the story, that Bilbo's expensive note-paper is linen or cotton-based, depending on our understanding of the Shire's herblore and industry. A cruder alternative is that yes, in the West at that time even the best note-paper was made of the finest lambskin parchment, bleached and pounded to a nice thinness.

I exclude papyrus as an option.

In general, though, pre-industrial "paper" was both rare and durable. Assuming it was kept safe in a pocket, and taken out to dry whenever it got wet, I think it's quite believable that it survived to this point in the story. I suspect the question of the ink - always water-based in those days - is harder to answer! How many times is Bilbo soaked to the skin during his adventures?



squire online:
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squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jul 12 2009, 5:26pm


Views: 622
Quite so!

I don't think this point, noted in passing once or twice in the Reading Room, has been addressed in our discussions of "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire" or "Flies and Spiders", either this time through or in 2004, but Douglas Anderson does mention it in The Annotated Hobbit in his second note on the earlier chapter: the remark in the LOTR prologue that Bilbo had originally told the dwarves that Gollum had promised Bilbo a gift:


Quote
...contradicts the statement given here, that Bilbo "sat down and told them everything, except the finding of the ring" and the statement given later (in the spiders episode) that the dwarves, after hearing about the ring, insist on "having the Gollum story, riddles and all, told all over again, with the ring in its proper place." Bilbo's dishonesty, of great importance in The Lord of the Rings, is nowhere explicitly present in The Hobbit.


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Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 13 2009, 1:14am


Views: 625
Water-resistant ink

has been around for a long time. Oak galls were traditionally used in Europe, and the ink produced bonds with the writing surface and lasts an extremely long time. It's also fairly easily made; an elderly cousin of mine in England wrote me a letter a few years ago using a quill and homemade oak gall ink.

It's not suitable for use in fountain pens, though, as it corrodes the mechanism. I think we can assume the Dwarves don't use fountain pens.


My writing (including The Passing of Mistress Rose)

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


squire
Half-elven


Jul 13 2009, 1:38am


Views: 616
Excellent!

Mystery apparently solved!



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 13 2009, 3:19am


Views: 606
Fascinating!

This entire topic regarding Bilbo's letter, that is: from weaver's realization of this perplexity, through everyone's astute analysis - *applauds*!

Now this is a puzzle which has been "thoroughly thought through"! Laugh


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915



sador
Half-elven

Jul 13 2009, 6:41am


Views: 656
Perhaps "find out" was too strong

It definitely was stronger than I meant.

But as The Hobbit is a critical part of the background of LotR, I think at the very least LotR re-interprets this episode in a different way of what The Hobbit implies when read on its own.
My intention was to point out this difference, not to claim the second interpretation is found out to be more correct.

However, as I have read LotR about twice for each time I read The Hobbit, and bearing in mind that LotR is at least five times longer, then even if I could detach these books from each other, as you seem to prefer - for every hour I spend in a Middle-Earth in which Bilbo lays all moral ambiguities to rest in this chapter, I spend ten hours in a Middle-Earth in which he continues lying for another seventy-seven years.

It appears that some fans, while rejecting the detaching you suggest in theory, do so in practice (so they can cheerfully ignore one book while reading the other, except for when looking for connections); I find it difficult.



In Reply To
The entire interpretation that he "is not honest yet" is imposed on this text by another - about as effective as if I was to say that Merlin in Mallory's Morte d'Arthur is living backwards in time, because T.H. White says so in The Once and Future King.


But this is obviously going too far; especially considering the fact that Tolkien did intend to rewrite The Hobbit, and characterstically left that project in the middle; and the fact that 'Riddles in the Dark' was heavily rewritten after Bilbo's lying about the Ring was published. You cannot ignore this to the extent comparing this with White and Mallory.
And I think Dreamdeer once argued that Tolkien's later re-interpretations of passages in The Hobbit were inspired by his reading the book itself again, more deeply. This is at least partially true.

By the way - do you think Bilbo told the folks in Hobbiton about the ring? If he did, how could he use it to escape unwanted callers (I think that's mentioned towards the end of the book)? If he did not, isn't this a case of continued lying about his adventures and the ring specifically? Or do you think he kept mum about all his journeys (despite the contradiction to A Long-expected Party)?

"Let us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation." - the Elvenking.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jul 13 2009, 6:36pm


Views: 605
The Mind as Iceberg

To me it doesn't matter when a writer became conscious of any given part of a long story--that part was always there, in the unconscious mind, which comprises the greater portion of our thinking, like the submarine portion of an iceberg. Anyone who has seriously attempted a novel, still more a series, has experienced this. You often stumble back baffled to realize just how much foreshadowing you've written, about something that you just that minutre realized that you had to write, throwing yet another outline into the recycling-bin.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 13 2009, 6:45pm


Views: 601
It may be in the author's mind,

but it may not be apparent in the first draft of the novel, or the second or third, or, in this case, in The Hobbit as it was originally written. Otherwise there would have been no need to change "Riddles in the Dark."


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 13 2009, 6:47pm


Views: 615
If Bilbo lied to his neighbors about his adventures,

that's just another part of the lie invented in LotR.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jul 13 2009, 7:15pm


Views: 606
"His magic ring he kept a great secret..."

"...for he chiefly used it when unpleasant callers came."

From "The Last Stage". I believe that sentence is found in the first edition, though I haven't checked The Annoated Hobbit to be sure.

But is Bilbo obligated to tell his neighbors everything (or anything) about his journey?

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sador
Half-elven

Jul 13 2009, 7:22pm


Views: 601
Not lied?

From 'The Last Stage':

Quote

His magic ring he kept a great secret, for he chiefly used it when unpleasant callers came...
...though few believed any of his tales, he remained very happy to the end of his days.


So he told a great many stories (which weren't believed), but an essential part, which was critical to most of his escapades, he kept silent about - because he needed the ring for avoiding people he didn't like.
In short: he became a Minchehausen-like boaster, still playing what amounted to practical jokes on people he disliked.

And that is long before the ring became the Ring!

Of course, The Hobbit is a children's book, in which these are only the harmless foibles of our charming but eccentric hero; but once Tolkien carried on to a more adult book, he must have realised these are potentially very sinister habits (to say the least), and focused on the ring.

"Let us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation." - the Elvenking.


sador
Half-elven

Jul 13 2009, 7:24pm


Views: 598
Oops!

I didn't realise you were posting the same quote! Blush

"Let us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation." - the Elvenking.


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 13 2009, 8:32pm


Views: 597
As N.E.B. notes, there's no obligation to tell everything.

Especially when your audience won't believe you anyway. But I do wonder if Bilbo was ever tempted to prove his tales by showing off with the ring.


Quote
In short: he became a Minchehausen-like boaster, still playing what amounted to practical jokes on people he disliked.


That's harsh, I judge, and not supported by the text.


Quote
Of course, The Hobbit is a children's book, in which these are only the harmless foibles of our charming but eccentric hero...


That's more accurate.


Quote
...but once Tolkien carried on to a more adult book, he must have realised these are potentially very sinister habits (to say the least), and focused on the ring.


Invisibility is potentially sinister, as we see in the original version of The Hobbit, where Gollum uses his invisibility to strangle. But strangely enough, in LotR it is not the power of invisibility that makes the Ring sinister -- if that were its only power, Gandalf would be greatly relieved. Indeed, Tolkien so altered the powers of the Ring that the power of invisibility rarely helped Frodo, since the Nazgul and Sauron could sense Frodo better when he wore the Ring. In LotR, a ring of invisibility, which was harmless enough in Bilbo's innocent hands, became a Ring of Power, which was harming Bilbo and would harm all who bore it.


sador
Half-elven

Jul 14 2009, 6:15am


Views: 616
Well, you know

A part of the unbelievability of the stories was the fact that without being invisible, nobody is ever going to believe Mr. Baggins fought alone dozens of giant spiders, riddled with a dragon, or lived as an undetected guest among the elves for weeks! Small wonder that the episode with the trolls became a favourite of Bilbo and Frodo (as we are told in 'Filght to the Ford') - it is as magical as any other, but the magic is something which people know about!
(In 'The Clouds Burst' we are told Bilbo's favourite tale is the Battle of Five Armies, in which he really did nothing).


Quote
Tolkien so altered the powers of the Ring that the power of invisibility rarely helped Frodo, since the Nazgul and Sauron could sense Frodo better when he wore the Ring. In LotR, a ring of invisibility, which was harmless enough in Bilbo's innocent hands, became a Ring of Power, which was harming Bilbo and would harm all who bore it.


I liked this observation when you first made it, and I still do. I've been wondering recently what might have influenced this change of prespective? At least one obvious guess is the political developements of the 1930s; but I do not know enough of Tolkien's biography to pursue this topic.

"Let us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation." - the Elvenking.


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 14 2009, 8:55am


Views: 597
Bilbo told Frodo the whole story, but

I doubt that he told others much about his own role. If he just told them that he had fought with giant spiders, lived with elves, and saw a dragon, that alone would make them laugh before he got to any of the details. But you are right, Sam and Merry and Pippin, who presumably were eager listeners, must have heard a much-abridged version of the tale.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jul 14 2009, 6:56pm


Views: 346
The Quest for Power

Although people often equate the Ring with the Atom Bomb (a connection Tolkien denied as allegory, yet admitted as one of many options within the scope of applicability) I think that WWI and WWII made it clear how leaders will look for power everywhere and in everything. And in doing so, they will stick at nothing.

He had finished most of the books before the horror of the atom bomb became known to all the world, yet everyone knew how all sides scrambled to master it before the others and use it on their enemy--and in this there seemed to be no innocent parties. Tolkien witnessed hideous weapons used by both sides in WWI, poisonous gas and flamethrowers, and breathed a sigh of relief with the rest of the world when the Geneva Convention banned them--only to see them replaced by still worse weapons. And he saw the new media of radio and film harnessed into propaganda machines that seemed to cast huge populations under evil spells.

I can see how it became easily plausible that a handy little trinket, like a ring of invisibility, could turn into yet another tool of evil, offering the lure of power.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 14 2009, 7:46pm


Views: 333
Tolkien wanted to put the genie back

in the bottle and turn back time long before the atomic bomb was invented, and long before World War I. In LotR, for a little while, the long slow decline is reversed, although much good is lost when evil dies, and evil will return. The end of the Third Age is not Judgment Day, but it foreshadows the end of the world, just as the War of Wrath and the Fall of Numenor did.


squire
Half-elven


Jul 14 2009, 9:39pm


Views: 348
"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

That quote by Pitt the Elder, spoken in Parliament in 1770, precedes by a century the slightly better known variation by Lord Acton about power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely. Both quotes predate the yet little-known horrors of industrialized warfare.

I think Tolkien was more interested in the moral destruction that power causes, than in the physical. The Ring, after all, is not a weapon of physical destruction. Sauron does not wield any really advanced technologies by modern standards. The weaponry of World Wars I and II were indeed horrific to their generations because of their vastly increased power compared to earlier generations of weaponry. Yet I wager that Tolkien was more appalled by the uses to which the weapons were put: the destruction and enslavement of unarmed civilian populations rather than military forces - and potentially the corruption of all of Western Civilization by totalitarianism whether Communist, Fascist, or Democratic in guise.

Your thoughts about mass propaganda, in other words, strike me as most germane to an analysis of the One Ring's relationship to what was going on in Tolkien's time as he considered a sequel to The Hobbit featuring Bilbo's ring of invisibility. By setting his fable in a medievalized world he may have hoped to help people see that physical force - physical weaponry - is the thing we have least to fear when we think of the concept of a "Ring of Power."



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Curious
Half-elven


Jul 14 2009, 10:39pm


Views: 342
Or Capitalist or Colonialist

Yes, Tolkien was almost as horrified by the British Colonialist Empire and the American Commercial Empire as he was by the Fascists and Communists. In his eyes, they all behaved like orcs and they all would have eagerly used the Ring.

This strikes me as more a product of World War I cynicism, in which there was no consensus about the true villains, than World War II, the so-called "good war." Or perhaps it was a product of World War I cynicism plus pre-World War II cynicism, when the War to End All Wars turned out to be anything but.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jul 15 2009, 2:42am


Views: 330
You got my point

It is the mentality of control that was so appalling, and so apparent within Tolkien's lifetime, rather than the brute force aspects. Fire is so innocent in the hearth--and so diabolical when deliberately shot into a trench full of men. Poison gas, if I recall correctly, was the accidental byproduct of trying to find a way to slow rot in food. It's the mindset behind these things, rather than the things themselves, that are so terrible.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jul 15 2009, 2:53am


Views: 347
Consensus is a matter of opinion.

If Tolkien learned cynicism in WWI, he applied it to WWII. Remember his horror at hearing his fellow countrymen cheering at the sight of weary lines of German refugee women and children. And he wrote to his son that unfortunately orcs fought on both sides. And he likened aerial warfare to desperate hobbits learning to ride Fell Beasts. (This involved more than his dislike of technology; bombing cannot help but cause massive collateral damage among civilians.)

It is no small matter that Tolkien was ethnically German. He despised Nazism and everything to do with it, yet he could not see the German people as inherently different from himself, unlike so many who missed the whole point of what we were fighting for and viewed Germans as somehow fundamentally flawed, not like us. He couldn't retreat into the myth of Enemy as Monster; he had to deal with the seduction of initially decent human beings.

So it wasn't entirely a "good war" to him. Good and evil he saw clearly enough, and supported the opposition to evil by force of arms. That did not free the "good guys" from a responsibility to resist justifying bad means by good ends.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

(This post was edited by Dreamdeer on Jul 15 2009, 2:56am)