Jul 10 2009, 2:19pm
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.