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***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 1 - An Unexpected Party



noWizardme
Valinor


May 20, 9:51am


Views: 4902
***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 1 - An Unexpected Party

Welcome to the 2018 read-through of The Hobbit. The plan is to discuss each chapter in order, taking a week over each chapter. Each week will start off with an introductory ‘starter post’ – like this one, but they won’t all be done by me, and will probably vary in format. No starter post could possibly cover everything that is interesting about a chapter, so please do post replies that include new questions, comments or thoughts. That is, there’s no need just to react to what you see here: it is only intended to get things started.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. …”
The chapter is told in a light-hearted way, with the narrator making asides about the difficulty the ‘Tookish’ (adventurous) side of Bilbo’s personality is having emerging from the more stolid and respectable Baggins shell. I felt I was also being invited to smile at Thorin’s tendency to be proud and pompous. The narrator (who calls themselves ‘I’ and addresses the reader as ‘you’) strikes me as a fairly unusual way of writing outside of works for quite small children, and may be quite dated now to boot (or are there many examples I don’t know about?) Does anyone particularly like or dislike this narrator character, and if so would you care to explain why?

I’m a bit baffled why Tolkien includes the longish section in which the dwarves come in a few at a time, and the main detail is the colour of their hoods. It’s probably been a boon for generations of teachers setting comprehension quizzes, but I don’t think it’s working for me. The dwarves here seem like Disney dwarves from Snow White than – I think it’s the coloured hoods and that the sequence ends in the slapstick of a pile of dwarves on the hall floor, with Thorin having made an undignified entrance. Does anyone who likes this part want to try and explain what I’m missing?

It reads to me as is this chapter’s Gandalf has a trickster streak, which is one of the ways in which he feels (to me at least) to be a bit different from his LOTR character. A current example is that his way of engineering the start of Bilbo’s adventure (trickery) seems very different to what he does to Frodo (persuasion). What do you think – does Gandalf feel different to you and if he does, does it matter?

Of course there are very many other things we could talk about: from diamond studs to were-worms, to why it’s ‘poor Belladonna’ to the story about the invention of golf. Please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!

Now, over to you...

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

(This post was edited by noWizardme on May 20, 9:52am)


CuriousG
Half-elven


May 20, 2:34pm


Views: 4673
A Long Expected Read-through

Thanks for starting us off Wiz!

The narrator: for my part, I've always liked the narrator in The Hobbit because of his sense of humor and his generally sympathetic tone to the plight of whomever he's talking about. That makes me overlook the more silly extremes, such as when the dwarves sing humorously about smashing Bilbo's crockery, and the narrator refers to such deeds as "dreadful things," which makes him sound like some pompous, elitist twit who finds a worm on the sidewalk "atrocious." This is, after all, a story where some truly "dreadful things" will happen by the end of the book.

I'm fast-forwarding, but I always appreciated the narrator's remark when Bilbo is in Thranduil's halls putting the dwarves in barrels to escape, and Bilbo suddenly realizes the weak point in his plan (there's no one to put him in a barrel or let him out if someone did). "Most likely you saw it some time ago and have been laughing at him" --nope, I never saw that coming on first read, and it made me feel like I should be a more attentive, less passive reader.

The dwarves' arrival: this scheme is reminiscent of introducing them at Beorn's home, isn't it? So Gandalf recycles his tricks. But at least in this first chapter, I think the introduction of the dwarves in little groups (and conveniently when their names are similar in each group), and distinguishing them by the colors of the hoods is his attempt to wrestle with the information overload on readers of having 12 characters thrown at them where only one of them (Thorin) has a distinctive personality, the rest seeming pretty interchangeable, besides Bombur being fattest. I certainly agree it has a Disney Snow White feel to it.

The nature of Gandalf: I must admit I am heavily influenced by the Gandalf of LOTR, the deeply insightful chess-master who has a macroview of situations that others lack. So yes, he tricked Bildo into this adventure, but I tend to think that he thought Bilbo was indeed suited to the job, and it resonates with one of LOTR's themes that deep inside the fattest and most timid hobbit is a seed of courage waiting to blossom when an emergency requires it. So he's almost like a life coach or parent to Bilbo, throwing him out of the bird's nest where's he's gone soft and lazy to force him to fly and start thinking for himself instead of being a person who only does what society expects him to do.

But overall, yes, this is lower-scale Gandalf than the wise wizard of LOTR or even the end of the book at The Battle of Five Armies, where he functions at a higher level. I wouldn't be surprised in this chapter if he had a stall set up in a market and told fortunes, or performed "magic tricks" with people's money and replaced their money with counterfeit.


CuriousG
Half-elven


May 20, 3:04pm


Views: 4671
An introduction to all of Tolkien in one chapter

If someone were to teach a course on Tolkien, I think this is the chapter that encapsulates much of his writing patterns, so it would be a better intro than his grander and earlier works like the Fall of Gondolin. In particular:

Dialogue/word play: I love the exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo about the various meanings of "Good morning," including the fact that Bildo isn't backed against a wall by the wizard's cunning questions and rebuts with "All of them at once!" This kind of word play and sparring within dialogue will be seen over and over in all of Tolkien.

Love of food and comfort: plainly.

Hobbits as neither heroes or antiheroes: it strikes me that in the general description of hobbits on page 2, "they are inclined to be fat," this is something you never read in traditional stories about heroes, who are always strong, athletic, doing brave things, and are presumably like heroes in comic books with no body fat and gym-perfect physiques. Also, while Bilbo only reluctantly gets involved in the quest, it's clearly over his head what he's really getting into.

"Long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green": this is the unspoken foundation for every setting, everywhere, that yearning for pastoral peace and environmental conservation vs. industrialism.

Group solidarity and loyalty: there may be disagreements and squabbles within Tolkien's groups, but they always stick together. These dwarves even seem to think Bilbo unqualified for the job, but they're willing to take him along based on Gandalf's word, and they stick by his side throughout despite their reservations (and vice versa). Compare this with many modern stories, written or filmed, where there are two alpha males getting into fist fights (or worse) for the group's leadership, and groups splinter into factions that have lots of drama before they reconcile. I can't think of any group like that in Tolkien. (Which is why the LOTR movie's "Go home, Sam!" sticks with me as totally un-Tolkienesque.)

"You will notice already that Mr. Baggins...was very fond of flowers": of course he is, because so is the author! And anything that's green and growing. I would admit that Tolkien's themes of reverence for trees and the sea aren't present in this chapter, but you can find a whole lot else if you look for it.


noWizardme
Valinor


May 20, 5:14pm


Views: 4650
Dreadful things, and the narrator (who is the narrator, anyway?)

He's doing a lot of things, that narrator... (BTW I assume 'he' because when I first read the book I supposed the narrator to be The Author, who I knew to be a bloke. Someone with fond memories of the book being read to them by a woman might beg to differ, especially if she (the older person reading them the book) did a memorable performance of the narrator, the Trolls' voices etc. We could, perhaps discuss who we each thought the narrator was and why - I can think of several assumptions it would be reasonable to make).

He's doing a lot of things, that narrator. His first entrance is to impart information (what are hobbits etc.) in a way that is quite like a footnote. By 'dreadful things' though, I think he's being a bit mocking - blunted knives, cracked plates and spillages might indeed seem dreadful to Bilbo right now, but as you say he'll soon gain more context.

I remember a time when didn't like the narrator. I would have said I found him 'patronizing'. I'm not sure I can now explain quite why that was - perhaps the suspicion that there was humour here that I didn't understand, and that it might be the author exchanging a wink with any adults reading the book aloud, over the head of the child audience.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


May 20, 5:29pm


Views: 4647
unlikely heroes

I was thinking that not only are hobbits unlikely heroes, but this particular hobbit might seem a very unlikely character to put into a children's book as the character with which the reader is to identify. Apart from the general factors that make hobbits seem unheroic, this particular hobbit is middle-aged, fussy and boring or so he's made to seem at this point, before the story gets to work on him.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


sevilodorf
Grey Havens


May 21, 12:45am


Views: 4609
Of Narrators and Dwarves and....

The Hobbit -- General comment -- I came to The Hobbit after LOTR -- in 8th grade (12/13 years old) after reading Narnia to shreds.

Narrators -- The avuncular narrator voice of The Hobbit is not my favorite. In fact, it’s much like fingernails on chalkboards (which dates me tremendously). It is not a narrative voice used much now though Lemony Snicket used it with tongue firmly in cheek in his Series of Unfortunate Events which my granddaughter (now 24) loved and listened to on road trips. (Hmmmm… wondering if Deadpool’s constant breaking of the fourth wall to talk to the audience could be considered in the same style) I remember reading many books with that “voice” (some more extreme than others) Pinocchio, Lewis’ Narnia books, Alice in Wonderland, Five Little Peppers, Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, many of Roald Dahl’s (and I may be the only person on earth who really doesn’t like Dahl), Eleanor Estes The Moffats series, George MacDonald’s the Princess and Curdie books, Nesbit’s and Eager’s books as well…. Most of which are on the shelf behind me with copyright dates before my birth.

Now that paragraph seems to be a contradiction… I don’t like that voice but obviously I read a lot of it….and enjoyed them as the covers are mostly falling off… but I think what happened for me is that I outgrew it. I didn’t want an aunty or uncle telling me how to look at the characters, how to judge the events and most of all the constant feeling of being talked down to. The whole “dear reader” “your devoted author” voice was I believe fairly common throughout literature in the 1800’s but has gone out of fashion (thank goodness). Whenever I do a reread of The Hobbit (and it is less frequent than my rereads of LOTR) I tend to grit my teeth and skip the author asides.

Dwarves --- and for that matter Elves… certainly evolved greatly from The Hobbit to LOTR to The Silmarillion. It has always boggled the mind as to exactly how they traveled with viols, clarinets and drums. (the harp and flute are somehow more acceptable to me --- and I let the fiddles slide as I had an uncle who took his everywhere) But the real problem with the instruments is I don’t believe they are ever mentioned again. As anyone who has examined Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle Earth knows the Dwarves and Bilbo took an awfully long time to cover the same distance Strider basically force marched the hobbits over… surely they spent some of those many evenings playing music...but never is it mentioned.

Gandalf -- Reading between the lines and perhaps applying motives that were not necessarily meant at the moment of writing but work rather well in hindsight… Gandalf is manipulating the heck out of all of them. Subtly and not so subtly but still they all dance to his tune to a point.

A bit that does confuse me is when Gandalf and Bilbo are “good morninging” each other…
Bilbo says, “I haven’t asked for anything.” Gandalf replies, “Yes, you have! Twice now.”
The only hint Bilbo gives of wanting adventure that I see is about two paragraphs before that when he says, “Bless me, life used to be quite inter..I mean…”
Where is the other time he asked?


“Poor” Belladonna -- I so want to know the story… is there a hint anywhere? But this does bring up one point that cemented Tolkien into my top authors for years… This is a world… we don’t know everything but it’s there. These characters have history. Their history has shaped their world. I think it all shocked Tolkien too. Robert Heinlein’s theory that the universe is being created by blissfully unknowing authors or authors that somehow tap into other parts of the multiverse.

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Ithilisa
Rivendell

May 21, 4:56am


Views: 4584
Both of you make some excellent points about the dwarves.

I hadn't thought about how they do in their introduction resemble Disney's dwarves to some extent. Quite surprsing when I think about it given Tolkien's loathing for Disney's style.

"I name you Elf-friend; and may the stars shine upon the end of your road!" - Gildor

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."- Thorin


noWizardme
Valinor


May 21, 6:44am


Views: 4572
Letting go of the narrator’s hand


In Reply To
I think what happened for me is that I outgrew it. I didn’t want an aunty or uncle telling me how to look at the characters, how to judge the events and most of all the constant feeling of being talked down to.


That’s what I remember too! I also read The Hobbit after Narnia and before LOTR. I’m now wondering whether my discomfort with the avuncular narrator is to do with how I felt then, wanting to move on the literature that I believed was more mature.

I remembered an addition to your list of older titles that use this narrator- Kipling’s Just So Stories. I recall being read some by a teacher as a child, and finding them patronising. But an audiobook became a bedtime favourite for my daughter later; perhaps because of Geoffrey Palmer’s performance. Read that way, I didn’t hear a slightly bored mocking adult; I heard an adult with a warm relationship with their own daughter, to whom they were telling the tale which we were overhearing.

So maybe it depends on the circumstances of first reading? Is there anyone here who first read Hobbit to children, or otherwise cane to it as an adult? I wonder whether that affects how one sees the narrator?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


InTheChair
Lorien

May 21, 5:54pm


Views: 4524
Maybe Tolkien should have made Gimli carry some small instrument.


Quote
scheme is reminiscent of introducing them at Beorn's home, isn't it? So Gandalf recycles his tricks.


Was it Gandalf who made the Dwarves arrive in small groups to Bilbos house? I don't remember it stated. Though I also don't remember any explanation at all why they travelled in such a fashion to his house, but thereafter always travelled as one group.


Quote
it has a Disney Snow White feel to it


They at least share the same surface elements. Though Tolkien must have written and read the Hobbit to his children before they had a chance to see Snow White.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

May 21, 9:33pm


Views: 4488
Gandalf's trickery

Gandalf can be quite tricky in Lotr as well! Think of his dealings with Theoden for example it can almost be called manipulative or with Frodo sometimes like with Moria he nudges Frodo to say the right thing or even at the end I am not always sure that he is saying everything he could to the captains at the last debate! And of course he tries to be tricky with Denethor, but Denethor isn't playing!


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

May 21, 9:48pm


Views: 4487
There is quite a lot going on in this chapter

We do go from an idyllic fairytale place to a dangerous adventure in double-quick time. One minute we are fussing about the possibility of cutlery been broken then a few pages later we are suddenly informed that the Wild is very dangerous and increasing and by the way that is where the people are going on an adventure and there is the likelihood of death! Which I do sometimes think that Bilbo is very eager in agreeing to and I wonder if he ever regretted this. Or if sometimes people might have said, 'Oh, the likelihood of death, well, now that you mention this Mr. Gandalf, i might just pass!' Im not sure that it would make them any less heroic. Or possibly so.
Actually the society here in ME is interesting. We are introduced to an ideal pre-industrial ruling class person. Well pre-industrial with some of the best bits of industrial society thrown in like Post Office and a boiling kettle. As we don't wish to be too uncomfortably rural do we Mr. Tolkien!


hanne
Lorien

May 21, 11:09pm


Views: 4465
Love that way of looking at it!

Those are indeed core Tolkien themes. One more is the hints of a fully-realized world, with lots of other stories going on around the edges without any explanation: poor Belladonna, the Necromancer, the Battle of the Green Fields, Moria...


hanne
Lorien

May 21, 11:18pm


Views: 4464
There definitely is.

Hamfast Gamgee

Quote
One minute we are fussing about the possibility of cutlery been broken then a few pages later we are suddenly informed that the Wild is very dangerous and increasing and by the way that is where the people are going on an adventure and there is the likelihood of death! Which I do sometimes think that Bilbo is very eager in agreeing to and I wonder if he ever regretted this.


That's why I like it though. When Bilbo gets fierce and volunteers, it has resonance because you know he had to forget his comforts and routines and step into a larger self. That's what makes him a hero...so I think some of the fuss and domesticity is needed for contrast. I also love that it was the Dwarves's song that helped him reach that part of himself, because to me that is the first tonal shift and the first real feeling of depth, the first feeling that this story is going beyond kindly narrators and colour-coded Dwarves to something epic. The movies did that song very well!


InTheChair

Quote
Maybe Tolkien should have made Gimli carry some small instrument.

Although, Oin and Gloin seem to be the only ones without instruments, so maybe Gimli didn't inhert the musical gene either. The Dwarves run together so much, not going much beyond their initial colour-coding, so I like it when we get a detail like that!


sevilodorf

Quote
Dwarves --- and for that matter Elves… certainly evolved greatly from The Hobbit to LOTR to The Silmarillion.


Indeed. I think this chapter has perhaps more of the non-Middle-Earth references than others (LOTR has of course the famous express-train). But this one also has "tunnel without smoke" (took me years to realize he was talking about old-fashioned railway trains!), elephants, tobacco, coffee...

And there is so much magic mentioned here that we don't see later in the Lord of the Rings: the self-fastening diamond studs, Thorin's smoke rings that go where he tells them, jewelry made of light...the magical toys here I think become just marvellous toys by the time Bilbo is giving them out at his Party.


squire
Half-elven


May 22, 3:03am


Views: 4456
Gandalf needs "nothing short of a total literary resurrection".

A. Does anyone particularly like or dislike this narrator character, and if so would you care to explain why?
I love the narrator for the same reason I love The Hobbit: it is a tale from my earliest childhood, read to me and my brother by my mother when I was probably about six or seven, and read by me as I learned to read. More inclusively, the voice of the narrator captures an entire Anglophilic literary nursery culture that was far more prominent in its time than it is now, but which featured largely in my New England childhood. It includes Mary Poppins, Beatrix Potter, Alice in Wonderland and even Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Oddly enough, we never read Wind in the Willows, but I understand it shares with the others much of the same homey, safely dangerous adventures mixed with archly humorous parodies of upper middle class English life from the days of the Empire.

In other words, it’s not really about The Lord of the Rings at all. It’s not about that side of Tolkien. Granted, there’s plenty of overlap, as Tolkien changes his tone in the latter part of the book. But the earlier and far more memorable chapters mix humor with satire and broad insight into a child’s perspective on what it means to become an adult, and how an adult might recover childhood’s sense of wonder. The narrator is our conductor into that world, and without him even today I’d feel a little lost. I have always understood perfectly the comment of whoever it was that told Tolkien, as he edited the narrator and most of the other silly and childish magic out of the book, in his 1960 stab at making it into a consistent prequel to LotR: “this is wonderful, but it’s not The Hobbit.” (John Rateliff’s paraphrase).

B. Does anyone who likes this part want to try and explain what I’m missing?
It’s meant to be silly and humorous, and I think it succeeds. It’s not the most artful part of the book, but it does provide a fine slapstick introduction to the suddenly darker and more dangerous ending of the chapter. I never understood the hoods either, and I never figured out who any of the Dwarves were besides Thorin (the boss), Balin (Bilbo’s patron), Bombur (the fat one), and Fili and Kili (the two kids).

Anyone who doesn’t understand this “longish section” should try reading it, with appropriate acting out and good voice work, to a 9-year old child or two. It never misses. And I think that’s the point, much as it is of many another section that fails to impress an adult who has discovered The Lord of the Rings, by the same author and with many overlapping characters and settings.

C. What do you think – does Gandalf feel different to you and if he does, does it matter?
Yes, indeed. I have always loved Paul Kocher’s observation about this question, in his chapter ‘The Hobbit’ in his fine book of critical essays about Tolkien, Master of Middle-earth (1972). At the risk of pedantry, I’ll offer a longish quotation:
"Tolkien’s abrupt leap from a children’s tale to an epic of heroic struggle requires a radical elevation of stature for all of them [the recurring characters in both books]. As the Necromancer of The Hobbit is not yet Sauron, Gandalf is not yet Gandalf. The wizard of the child’s story, who ‘never minded explaining his cleverness more than once,’ who is ‘dreadfully afraid’ of the wargs, who tricks Beorn into accepting thirteen unwanted dwarves into his house, and the like, needs nothing short of a total literary resurrection to become the messenger sent by the Valar to rally the West against Sauron." (Kocher, 31-32. I have bolded the phrase that leapt to my mind when I read your question.)

One other note, as I re-read this chapter: I have noticed far more anachronisms and contemporary turns of phrase than we ever see in LotR – again, for the obvious reason that this is not yet “Middle-earth” of either the later book, or really, of the already existing Silmarillion. It is an educated fairy tale aimed at children. For instance:

  • “magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone until ordered”

  • “a big jug of coffee”

  • “’open the door like a pop-gun’”

  • green smoke rings hovering over the wizard’s head making him look “positively sorcrerous”

  • “very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel”

  • the famous invention of the game of Golf

  • “he looks more like a grocer than a burglar”

  • “shields [in these parts are] used as cradles or dishcovers”

  • “the leisure to make beautiful things just for the fun of it, not to speak of the most marvelous and magical toys”

  • “they [dragons] usually have a good notion of the current market value”

  • the dragon used to “carry away people, especially maidens, to eat”

  • “fried not poached, and mind you don’t break ‘em”

  • I kind of cherish stuff like this, as silly as it seems in retrospect, because as per my feelings above, it helps to separate the two books to a proper and respectable distance. LotR is certainly a sequel to The Hobbit. But The Hobbit is in no important way a ‘prequel’ to LotR.



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    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 11:42am


    Views: 4399
    More Gandalf’s trickery

    Great examples, Hamfast.

    And now I’m reminded of Wiz’s read-through of The Council of Elrond chapter in LOTR when, to paraphrase him (perhaps inaccurately from memory) he said the whole council was one where Gandalf pretended it was a debate but it was really like one of those company meetings many of us have been to where a manager manipulates everyone during a long meeting to come to the conclusion the manager had when they started out, they just wanted buy-in and the pretense of unanimous consent, a sort of pseudo-democracy. Tricksy he is!


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 11:49am


    Views: 4394
    That's tricky

    I agree with you - LOTR Gandalf has an agenda, and is not above withholding information from people.

    I do think there's a difference though.For example I think I'm intended to be amused by Gandalf's effrontery of his Unexpected Party trick of scratching 'Burglar for Hire' on Bilbo's door, or of how (looking ahead) he handles the trolls. There's nothing cheeky or amusing that I can see about Gandalf's handling of the situations you describe (except, perhaps him getting his staff admitted to Theoden's chamber).

    Perhaps there is some common ground though - it could be argued that Gandalf forces people into situations where they must make a choice. If Gandalf is an ambassador of the Valar, then they are being asked to make the Right choice. They might not like this, but I think the choice is, in the end, theirs.

    For example - when last we read through The Council of Elrond the consensus view seemed to be that Frodo freely chooses to take the Ring onwards (though people also argued convincingly that the meeting had been set up to lead Frodo to the conclusion that this was essential).
    Or, one might say about Denethor that he agreed to send his son with what turned out to be a summons to the Heir of Isildur. Now he refuses to follow that path.

    Perhaps the pattern holds for Bilbo - he could, theoretically, throw the dwarves out or decide (as he thinks he has by the end of Chapter 1) to oversleep deliberately and let them go off without him. In that case perhaps Gandlaf would have had a further trick to get Bilbo going - or perhaps not.

    Even Hama, when he admits Gandalf with his staff, makes a choice (and says he's done so). As I read it, the choice is the point here, not the trick.

    Gandalf's dealings with Frodo in LOTR are something that we could, doubtless debate. My own reading is that Gandalf (and other 'wise' characters such as Gildor, Elrond or Galadriel or Aragorn) are eager not to tell Frodo what to do or manipulate him into something: they conclude that he must choose, because only he can choose correctly.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 11:51am


    Views: 4398
    'Facilitated'

    I think it was Darkstone who knew all about tricksy people at meetings....
    Oddly enough I posted at the same time you did, also remembering our Council of Elrond read-through - see below.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 12:37pm


    Views: 4386
    I am sure Darkstone "facilitated" you into thinking that it was your idea. He's tricksy too. //

     


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 12:43pm


    Views: 4397
    "it’s not really about The Lord of the Rings at all"


    In Reply To
    In other words, it’s not really about The Lord of the Rings at all. It’s not about that side of Tolkien. Granted, there’s plenty of overlap, as Tolkien changes his tone in the latter part of the book. But the earlier and far more memorable chapters mix humor with satire and broad insight into a child’s perspective on what it means to become an adult, and how an adult might recover childhood’s sense of wonder. ...

    ...I kind of cherish stuff like this, as silly as it seems in retrospect, because as per my feelings above, it helps to separate the two books to a proper and respectable distance. LotR is certainly a sequel to The Hobbit. But The Hobbit is in no important way a ‘prequel’ to LotR.


    That might be an interesting area for discussion. One point of view might be that a reader wants to see Middle-earth as a consistent ; playing the game of imagining it is all real, and enjoying making satisfactory 'in-world' explanations for any omissions or inconsistencies.

    An alternative view would be to feel that The Hobbit should not be borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth - inconsistencies might exist, but to solve them would lose as much as one gains. (I think that's what you are arguing, squire?)

    ~~~~~~
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    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 12:44pm


    Views: 4392
    Well...

    Yes.

    This means something.
    Wink

    ~~~~~~
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    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 12:55pm


    Views: 4404
    why it’s ‘poor Belladonna’

    My theory is that someone made her sit through all three Hobbit movies back-to-back.

    OK, I'm joking of course. My serious answer is that I think Gandalf rather approved of the likely-to-go-off-on-adventures person that Belladonna once was, and felt that marriage smothered her.

    But other suggestions, serious or frivolous, are welcome!

    Meanwhile, I must quickly work on a pitch for a TV series that cover the adventures of Belladonna Took. I imagine her roving Middle-earth and raiding tombs for artefacts, defending herself with her trademark weapon, a combination polearm-crossbow. Later of course the family hushes up this scandalous behaviour, and the only clue left is the name she gives her son...

    ~~~~~~
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    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 5:16pm


    Views: 4353
    Or maybe Bilbo declared her mentally incompetent and collected his inheritance early,

    thus leaving her penniless and literally poor Belladonna. The Hobbit is supposed to be about his redemption for being so cruel to her, but he just got richer and forgot about her. It's really like Orwell's Animal Farm: it appears to be a children's story, but it's all about economics and how the 1% exploit the rest of us.


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 5:22pm


    Views: 4348
    I heard she had a freak accident with a bedside lamp

    ...it had a deadly night shade.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
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    Darkstone
    Immortal


    May 22, 5:42pm


    Views: 4352
    "He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce"

    In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. …”

    "Your first line sells the book. Your last line sells the next book."

    At least that's what Mickey Spillane says, and he should know.


    The chapter is told in a light-hearted way, with the narrator making asides about the difficulty the ‘Tookish’ (adventurous) side of Bilbo’s personality is having emerging from the more stolid and respectable Baggins shell. I felt I was also being invited to smile at Thorin’s tendency to be proud and pompous.

    The intrusive narrator was used quite commonly by 19th century novelists such as George Eliot and Leo Tolstoy. David Lodge in The Art of Fiction notes "Around the turn of the [19th] century, however, the intrusive authorial voice fell into disfavor, partly because it detracts from realistic illusion and reduces the emotional intensity of the experience being represented, by calling attention to the act of narrating. It also claims a kind of authority, a God-like omniscience, which our skeptical and relativistic age is reluctant to grant anyone"


    The narrator (who calls themselves ‘I’ and addresses the reader as ‘you’) strikes me as a fairly unusual way of writing outside of works for quite small children, and may be quite dated now to boot (or are there many examples I don’t know about?)

    The intrusive narrator has returned in post-modern metafiction where the author is not so concerned about realism but rather storytelling and language. In his writing Tolkien explored the same two constructs, as well as concepts regarding history, myths, meaning, etc. that predated today's Poststructuralists such as Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault by decades. Tolkien demonstrates that he is way ahead of his time, and more meaningful and instructive than ever.


    Does anyone particularly like or dislike this narrator character,…

    I like him.


    …and if so would you care to explain why?

    He feels homey. I always like it when we meet him again in LOTR when he asks the reader: “Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?” I also liked him in Canterbury Tales and Don Quixote.


    I’m a bit baffled why Tolkien includes the longish section in which the dwarves come in a few at a time, and the main detail is the colour of their hoods. It’s probably been a boon for generations of teachers setting comprehension quizzes, but I don’t think it’s working for me. The dwarves here seem like Disney dwarves from Snow White

    Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit was published on September 21, 1937. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in Los Angeles on December 21, 1937. It didn’t reach the UK until it premiered in London on February 24, 1938. Thus any connection would seem impossible. And note that since Tolkien’s much noted “heartfelt loathing” for Disney is quoted from a letter dated May 13, 1937 that emotion also would have nothing to do with the film “Snow White”.


    – I think it’s the coloured hoods and that the sequence ends in the slapstick of a pile of dwarves on the hall floor, with Thorin having made an undignified entrance. Does anyone who likes this part want to try and explain what I’m missing?

    This is a set up for later when Tolkien does a powerful reversal of the narrative technique of “breaking frame”. In Frame Analysis: An essay on the organization of experience Erving Goffman (considered by many to be the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century) defines a “frame” as a set of rules, expectations or stereotypes about a particular situation. In both film and literature artists sometimes “break frame” towards the end of their work to reveal that the story is just actors in front of the screen, or made-up characters in the writer’s imagination. Towards the end Tolkien reverses frame by reorienting the playful children’s story of Bilbo and the Dwarves into something morally dark and tragic. Amazing! Masterful storytelling!!


    It reads to me as is this chapter’s Gandalf has a trickster streak, which is one of the ways in which he feels (to me at least) to be a bit different from his LOTR character. A current example is that his way of engineering the start of Bilbo’s adventure (trickery) seems very different to what he does to Frodo (persuasion).

    In Myth and Middle-earth Leslie Ellen Jones compares Gandalf with trickster Loki. Both are associated with fire and magic, both set events in motion and then remove themselves from the situation, both are seen as troublemakers, etc. Jones notes that Loki helps or hinders depending on which course of action is most amusing to him at the time. Compare to Gandalf:

    ”In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.”

    BTW the philologist Eldar Heide seems to have solved the puzzle of the meaning of Loki’s name. He found that “loki” seems to derive from the Icelandic word for “knot” or “tangle.” Spiders are sometimes referred to as “loki” in a metaphorical sense as their webs are compared to the fish nets that Loki makes in certain Viking myths.

    Note that Pippin compares Denethor to a spider:

    There Denethor sat in a grey gloom, like an old patient spider, Pippin thought...
    -Minas Tirith

    And Pippin compares Denethor to Gandalf:

    He turned his dark eyes on Gandalf, and now Pippin saw a likeness between the two…
    -ibid

    Thus if Denethor is like a spider, and Gandalf is like Denethor, then Gandalf is like a spider, and so Gandalf is like Loki.

    QED


    What do you think – does Gandalf feel different to you and if he does, does it matter?

    There’s a progression from Gandalf the Grey in The Hobbit to Gandalf the Grey in FOTR to Gandalf the White in TTT and to Gandalf the Even More White in ROTK. I’m not sure he transmogrifies as much as simply grows:

    Gandalf: Akk! I’m dead! Varda, will you help me? Can you give me more power?

    Varda: You don't need to be helped. You've always had the power to save Arda.

    Gandalf: I have?

    Manwe: Then why didn't you tell him before?

    Varda: He wouldn't have believed me. He had to learn it for himself.

    Aule: What have you learned, Gandalf?

    Gandalf: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Bilbo and Frodo — and it's that — if I ever go looking for Arda’s saviors again, I won't look any further than the Shire’s backyard and for the exaltation of the humble. Is that right?

    Varda: That's all it is!

    Manwe: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you!

    Yvanna: I should have felt it in my heart!

    Varda: No, he had to find it out for himself. Now that magic ring will take you back in two seconds!

    Gandalf: Oh! And Boromir too?

    Mandos: Nope, sorry. Boromir stays dead.


    Of course there are very many other things we could talk about: from diamond studs to were-worms, to why it’s ‘poor Belladonna’ to the story about the invention of golf.

    Or Lilliputians, the Gobi Desert, Wild Wire worms of China, policemen on bicycles, and Bilbo being part goblin, except this is the third edition, right?


    Please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!

    Pie!

    “And mince-pies and cheese,” said Bofur. “And pork-pie and salad,” said Bombur.

    ******************************************
    “Did you say 'You Shall Not Pass' or 'You Shall Not Sass'?" asked the Balrog.

    "I said 'You Shall Not Pass,'” replied Gandalf; "and I wish you wouldn't keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy."

    "All right," said the Balrog; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of its wings, and ending with its shadow, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

    'Well! I've often seen wings without a Balrog,' thought Gandalf; `but a Balrog without wings! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’

    -The Adventures of Gandalf in Middle-earth Land




    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 6:18pm


    Views: 4339
    Doggoneit, Darkstone, was enjoying your story, but your last line was a total downer. Not going to buy your book now.


    In Reply To
    Gandalf: Akk! I’m dead! Varda, will you help me? Can you give me more power?

    Varda: You don't need to be helped. You've always had the power to save Arda.

    Gandalf: I have?

    Manwe: Then why didn't you tell him before?

    Varda: He wouldn't have believed me. He had to learn it for himself.

    Aule: What have you learned, Gandalf?

    Gandalf: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Bilbo and Frodo — and it's that — if I ever go looking for Arda’s saviors again, I won't look any further than the Shire’s backyard and for the exaltation of the humble. Is that right?

    Varda: That's all it is!

    Manwe: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you!

    Yvanna: I should have felt it in my heart!

    Varda: No, he had to find it out for himself. Now that magic ring will take you back in two seconds!

    Gandalf: Oh! And Boromir too?

    Mandos: Nope, sorry. Boromir stays dead.



    sevilodorf
    Grey Havens


    May 22, 11:57pm


    Views: 3275
    Perhaps it's Poor Belladonna because she married down?

    The Tooks may be a bit on the strange side but they are the "ruling" family and incredible rich.

    It is said that Bungo used Belladonna's money to build the most luxurious hobbit hole -- Bag End --

    Bungo 1246 to 1326 was about 80 when he died. (His father had lived to 93) Bungo was the oldest of 5 --

    Belladonna 1252 to 1334 was 82 at her death. (Her father had lived to 130) She was one of 12 -- second or perhaps third daughter and fourth youngest--

    Maybe it was poor Belladonna because she only had one son and he looked and behaved just like his solid comfortable father.

    Maybe Bungo kept bringing up the "queerness" of her family -- her older brother did just disappear -- trying to stuff the free spirited hobbit into a gilded cage.

    Oh the possibilities.

    Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
    Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

    (Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




    Roverandom
    The Shire


    May 22, 11:58pm


    Views: 3276
    With regards to Chapter One

    I believe that the narrator strikes just the right tone, if we consider that the story is something to be read aloud at bedtime by a parent to their child. The asides to the audience read that way to me. I'm reminded of The Princess Bride, with the main plot being the story-within-the-story, read by the grandfather. Every time something scary comes up, the narrator is there to remind us that it all ends well. I don't every remember being concerned for Bilbo's safety, that he wouldn't ultimately come out of it in one piece. One example of this would come later on, when we are assured that Bilbo will see the Eagles again at the Battle of the Five Armies --- and event that sounds exciting, but something for another bedtime in the future. Because of our thoughtful narrator, we know that Bilbo makes it at least that far. While "giving away the plot" isn't the best choice for a grown-up's book, it fits here quite nicely, in my opinion.

    Half of the company of Dwarves seem interchangeable to me, as evidenced by the lack of lines given to them in the course of the book. I think that the colored hoods and instruments may be the author's way of trying to individualize them, but that only lasts through this first chapter. After that, we pretty much have Thorin, Fili and Kili, Balin, and All The Others.

    Gandalf, of course, is a very different Gandalf from the one we meet in The Lord of the Rings. "Trickster" is a good way of describing this version of the wizard. In some ways Hobbit Gandalf reminds me of a more active version of Tom Bombadil. Maybe it's the part where Tom is likened to a carnival trickster when he plays, to Frodo's horror, with the Ring. I also wonder if we could make a case that this Gandalf is the stand-in for the author, as the story progresses. He steps away to allow Bilbo to shine, but he's always there when needed to either advance the plot or save the day, if necessary.

    For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the sill of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


    sevilodorf
    Grey Havens


    May 23, 12:06am


    Views: 3276
    Manners --

    Bilbo is constantly remembering his.... why are the dwarves allowed to have such bad manners? They walk in to the house of a hobbit they are attempting to hire and promptly begin eating him out of house and home and expect him to provide lodging for 14!!

    Why are they presented in this fashion?

    Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
    Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

    (Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




    dernwyn
    Forum Admin / Moderator


    May 23, 1:15am


    Views: 3267
    Yes, one must be careful

    with those one nightstands.

    Tongue


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "I desired dragons with a profound desire"


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 23, 9:06am


    Views: 3231
    -- maketh hobbit, but might maketh dwarf differently


    In Reply To
    why are the dwarves allowed to have such bad manners?


    Looking at The Hobbit as a story, I'd suggest that they behave this way because it is funny. I notice that they don't behave too inappropriately - for example there is no ceremonial forge (so essential before any dwarven expedition!) that must be set up in Bilbo's best peony bed, fuelled with his furniture. They're more like some long-lost sailor uncle and his larger-than-life sailor mates unexpectedly turning up and radically enlivening a dull family gathering.

    Looking for an explanation within the story, my suggestion is that the dwarves just assume Bilbo will behave as any dwarf host would. Manners are a cultural construct after all, and in real-life human cultures there are plenty of different takes on how hosts and guests should behave.

    For all I know, well-behaved dwarves like these would have carefully enquired from Gandalf what food a host might have to offer, so that he can have the pleasure of offering it all. Perhaps it's a dwarf guest's responsibility that their host is not embarrassed by being asked for something he does not have, and is not forced to do something as uncouth as to list what he has in store. Of course, all that is speculation, amusing or not. But I had fun making it up and it might serve as an example.

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    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 23, 12:31pm


    Views: 3220
    Contrasting manners


    Quote
    They're more like some long-lost sailor uncle and his larger-than-life sailor mates unexpectedly turning up and radically enlivening a dull family gathering.

    That is my take on it--the dwarves are rough in their manners, even with their Prince Thorin-who-should-be-king among them, because they are part of the rough world outside of the Shire, and more closer to home, they are like the rough blue collar guys who get into fights for fun at the pub contrasting with the refined, dull aristocrat that is Bilbo, like "Fight Club" meets "Downton Abbey." I think it's meant on the surface for comic effect, and a layer or two deeper down to show that Bilbo's dainty world is about to get a lot rougher.
    When the company gets to Rivendell, Beorn's home, and Laketown, they are much better-behaved.


    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 23, 12:39pm


    Views: 3213
    How to give character to 13 characters?


    Quote
    Half of the company of Dwarves seem interchangeable to me, as evidenced by the lack of lines given to them in the course of the book. I think that the colored hoods and instruments may be the author's way of trying to individualize them, but that only lasts through this first chapter. After that, we pretty much have Thorin, Fili and Kili, Balin, and All The Others.

    The movies struggled with this issue too. I think when it's both a book and a children's story, we're more forgiving that they're just "extras" on the edge of the stage.

    I was pondering the opposite point of view: should Tolkien have labored to make all 13 dwarves have fleshed-out characters? Would it have made for a better story? Was he cheating as an author?

    I'm not sure I've ever read The Hobbit wishing I knew more about All The Others. (By comparison, on my first couple of reads of LOTR, I wished that Legolas did more speaking because I wanted to know more about Elves, though he does get more author attention later in the trilogy.)


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 23, 1:03pm


    Views: 3202
    The Downton Abbey Fight Club? - you are *not* supposed to mention it! :) //

     

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
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    FarFromHome
    Valinor


    May 23, 4:16pm


    Views: 3198
    Also the dwarves think Bilbo is touting for business

    They assume he's a burglar for hire, and apparently think being wined and dined is the least they can expect if he hopes to be offered their valuable contract! Trickster Gandalf has set all this up so that the dwarves and Bilbo are at cross purposes the whole time. Which just adds to the comedy, so it's all good!

    They went in, and Sam shut the door.
    But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
    deep and unstilled,
    the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
    From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 23, 4:59pm


    Views: 3188
    colour-coded for your convenience

    Thirteen different characters is certainly something Tolkien achieved in LOTR - I imagine that if the 9 of the Fellowship were joined on their journey by Eomer, Eowyn, Faramir and Bombadil then not many of us would be scratching our heads over names or characters being too similar. It's because there's time (and a purpose in the plot) for them to be different, I think.

    The quicker way, beloved of many modern 'franchises' is to colour code, and do so utterly consistently (the red ranger wears red when off duty etc.). Maybe each character has a distinct attribute (object, super-power etc.) and a one-aspect personality.

    If Tolkien had been writing for the toy industry, I suppose there would also be a point where the dwarves would combine in groups of three to make larger creatures, and then in series 3 all 12 of them work out how to become one huge robot on which Thorin rides around.

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    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 23, 5:03pm


    Views: 3198
    Weirdest job interview ever

    But I hadn't thought of that - from the dwarves' POV, Bilbo is being cut in for a share of a very large treasure, so it might seem understandable that he'd be a generous host.

    That also seems to answer CuriousG's point, about why the dwarves seem 'better' behaved at other stop-overs: there, they're guests, rather than being entertained by a potential business associate on (presumably) an expense account.

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    (This post was edited by noWizardme on May 23, 5:15pm)


    Ettelewen
    Rohan

    May 23, 7:15pm


    Views: 3179
    First Readings

    I remember first reading The Hobbit after I'd read The Lord of the Rings, which means I must have been in my mid to late teens at least. I don't recall being put off by the narrative style then. It was just a different kind of story. I do admit The Hobbit has never engaged me at the same level LOTR has but I think that's due to the depth of content in the latter more than anything.

    I still find The Hobbit quite an enjoyable read, at least partially due to the presentation (at least in initial chapters) as a light-hearted children's tale that often includes decidedly non-childish issues and situations.


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 24, 8:16am


    Views: 3020
    How did Tolkien's various rethinkings and reworkings affect this chapter?

    (As I understand it):
    1) Tolkien made more-substantial-than-usual changes to his second edition of The Hobbit (published 1951, c.f. the 1e which was published 1937). I know that he made changes to Bilbo's encounter with Gollum, which had the effect of making Gollum's ring more sinister and more in keeping with LOTR (which Tolkien was then preparing). I don't know whether there were any significant changes to this chapter (we ought to hold off discussing changes that affect only later chapters, and talk about them when that chapter comes up).
    I'd be interested to learn more about any significant changes that affect *this* chapter - if anyone wants to summarise some of the Tolkien scholarship about this.

    2) At some point, probably as part of the work of preparing the LOTR appendices, Tolkien wrote an account of the Unexpected Party from Gandalf's point of view. The material was not included in the Appendices in the end, however, and finally made it into print after JRR Tolkien's death as part of 'Unfinished Tales' (Published 1980 edited by Christopher Tolkien), where it was titled The Quest Of Erebor. This has Gandalf as we know him at the end of LOTR, explaining that he wanted Thorin &Co to destroy Smaug and re-establish a strong presence of dwarves and Men around Erebor, as part of Gandalf's grand strategy to contain Sauron and improve 'the West's' chances in the foreseen War of the Ring. Gandalf also explains that he has a strong premonition that Bilbo *must* accompany the expedition, though he does not know why. In retrospect, it seems clear that Bilbo is meant to find the Ring and take it well away from anywhere Sauron or Saruman is likely to find it.
    I'll just comment that this makes perfect sense for Gandalf as I understand him to be by the end of LOTR, but I can't quite square that account with what I read in The Hobbit Chapter 1.

    I'd be interested to hear what other folks who have read The Quest Of Erebor thinkm when they try to reconcile it with the account we read in this Hobbit chapter. (But let's be mindful that we are not doing a UT read-through, so please consider the needs of folks who don't have access to The Quest Of Erebor, but who don't want to be excluded from our conversation).

    3) Squire mentioned something I didn't know - Tolkien considered a more drastic revision to The Hobbit (in 1960 I believe) , to bring the tone more into line with LOTR. But he abandoned this idea.

    I'd like to know more about that, if anyone would care to summarise what is known about what Tolkien was proposing to do, and why he decided not to proceed.

    Lastly (as usual for Tolkien) anyone who wants to study the development of the text of The Hobbit has been very well equipped to do so by the work of by Christopher Tolkien and other scholars (I think Douglas Anderson and John D. Rateliff are names deserving a mention here, but I've not studied the study of The Hobbit, and so can't be relied upon to distribute credit properly). A lot of skilled work has gone into finding and deciphering Tolkien's various drafts, and studying how the published text emerged from the initial drafts and what the changes might mean. I have not read those works (yet), and so would be interested to read a summary of what Tolkien scholarship can tell us about *this* chapter. (OK to generalise about the whole book a bit, I'd say, but we should be careful not to bring forward discussions that properly belong to later chapters).

    ~~~~~~
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    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 24, 8:33am


    Views: 3010
    Do we also get a taste of one of the book's themes - about greed?

    I notice that one of the things upsetting Bilbo about this unexpected party is


    Quote
    "He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he—as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful—he might have to go without."


    It seems trivial and amusing but I'm thinking it's an early appearance of someone being reluctant to share - something which plays out on a much grander scale when there are disputes over the treasure of Erebor.

    ~~~~~~
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    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 24, 11:30am


    Views: 3004
    And since Bilbo did share on a big scale later

    It seems foreshadowing to say “he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful.” That sense of duty stuck with him throughout.

    Though I think giving up the Arkenstone upset him more in knowing it would end his friendship with Thorin as a betrayal rather than out of any deep sense of personal ownership he felt to the stone (or personal loss in getting rid of it).


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 24, 1:49pm


    Views: 2999
    ...it gives us even more of your "all of Tolkien in one chapter"

    "Knowing your duty and sticking to it however painful" seems to be a recurring Tolkien theme to me. Often of course it works out, however unexpectedly (Frodo does achieve the impossible task of destroying the Ring - with some unexpected and unintentional last-minute help). If it doesn't (Boromir dies whilst protecting the hobbits; Theoden dies on the battlefield) there's the sense that other fates would have been worse.

    ~~~~~~
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    sador
    Half-elven


    May 24, 3:47pm


    Views: 2996
    Better late than never

    The chapter is told in a light-hearted way, with the narrator making asides about the difficulty the ‘Tookish’ (adventurous) side of Bilbo’s personality is having emerging from the more stolid and respectable Baggins shell.
    The best aside regarding the Tooks is "that was, of course, absurd" regarding the rumored fairy-ancestry.
    I mean, only a page ago we were told what hobbits were - and we were supposed to know that was absurd?



    I felt I was also being invited to smile at Thorin’s tendency to be proud and pompous.
    Well, he was an important dwarf, who lives in an antique world.
    Bilbo cuts him short - but sixty years later, the hobbits dread Bilbo's own speeches - he has become, to them, quite like Thorin!



    The narrator (who calls themselves ‘I’ and addresses the reader as ‘you’) strikes me as a fairly unusual way of writing outside of works for quite small children, and may be quite dated now to boot (or are there many examples I don’t know about?)
    Fielding and Thackeray used this kind of narration. If it's good enough for Vanity Fair, it's good enough for me.



    Does anyone particularly like or dislike this narrator character, and if so would you care to explain why?
    He reminds me of myself telling my kids bed-time story. They seem to have liked it.



    I’m a bit baffled why Tolkien includes the longish section in which the dwarves come in a few at a time, and the main detail is the colour of their hoods.
    Bilbo is baffled as well - which seems to be Tolkien's point. If you want an internal explanation - thirteen dwarves going through Hobbiton as a group might be conspicuous, oif even alarming.
    I once wrote a long piece about the groupings of the dwarves.


    The dwarves here seem like Disney dwarves from Snow White than – I think it’s the coloured hoods and that the sequence ends in the slapstick of a pile of dwarves on the hall floor, with Thorin having made an undignified entrance. Does anyone who likes this part want to try and explain what I’m missing?
    Don't you think Gandalf did this on purpose to humiliate Thorin?


    A current example is that his way of engineering the start of Bilbo’s adventure (trickery) seems very different to what he does to Frodo (persuasion).
    In both case, he creates a sense of urgency to push the reluctant hobbit to action.
    With Frodo, he relents and lets him stay in the Shire a few months longer - which turns out to be a bad mistake.


    What do you think – does Gandalf feel different to you and if he does, does it matter?
    He obviously is different.
    In fact, I thoroughly disliked Gandalf in LotR being revealed as having ever more power, and felt as if Tolkien was pulling some kind of shabby trick on the readers.
    "The situation become difficult? Oh dear, I guess I'll invest Gandalf with some more powers, so he could save the day" - this felt cheap to me, and on my first reading of Unfinished Tales, when Tolkien suggested he might have been Manwew in disguise (an idea he retracted immediately), I was really mad at him.
    Only when I tried to look at this constant embellishment of Gandalf the other way round - that he was very powerful indeed, but only revealed his power gradually, as the need became more dire - I came to terms with it.


    Please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!
    I will later - possibly as late as Sunday - look at some of the responses you've received, and see if I have anything to comment on them.



    Thank you, nowiz, for leading this discussion!


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 24, 4:36pm


    Views: 2992
    Dwarf roll calls

    A sador is never late, and neither is he early.... The main thing is that you posted!

    I enjoyed your list of the times what the Hobbit includes a full recital of the company's names (in the old post you linked to). It's making me wonder whether the dwarves' names, with their groupings by similar sounds aren't partly for the sonic effect. That is, rather than it being essential to list everyone for comprehension reasons, it's just fun to recite the list of names.

    A similar example might be "Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb" (an instantly recognisable list to many British people my age even now, being the fire brigade in the 1960s children's TV show 'Trumpton'.) Pugh et al. seem to have stuck in the memory of many British people about my age, partly because they would reliably appear in episodes to solve some (usually safely trivial) emergency, and would always stand to attention for a roll call before setting off. Like this (video clip 41 secs long: https://youtu.be/3P5wcCuNZbY ).
    I used to look forward to that bit as a small child (and I supposed the animators liked it too as they could recycle nearly 1 minute of content for each episode).

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    Roverandom
    The Shire


    May 24, 6:53pm


    Views: 2977
    Bedtime Story

    I agree with the idea that the names of the dwarves are meant to facilitate reading aloud. Like sador, I've been reading The Hobbit to, and now with, my daughter every October, without fail. I, too, have always tried to bring distinct voices to as many characters as possible. There certainly seems to have been a conscious effort on the author's part to repeat the "roll call" on multiple occasions throughout the story. One example that leaps to mind is when the lights go out in the forest during the Elvenking's feast, but I'm sure that there are others. I don't have the book in front of me, at the moment, but I seem to recall that the order remains essentially the same, with the rhyming pairs (or trios) helping the parent/reader along. It provides a little comic relief, if nothing else, especially when you try to read the names quickly.

    For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the sill of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 25, 1:39am


    Views: 2943
    The Quest of Erebor ("QOE")

    There are several versions of the story of Gandalf telling his version of this chapter to Frodo and others. I am cherry-picking a few tidbits.

    1. "Poor Belladonna": Surprisingly, there's a slight reference to her. Thorin is complaining to Gandalf that Bilbo is completely unfit to be taken on any quest and says in particular, "He is soft...Soft as the mud of his Shire, and silly. His mother died too soon." >>> Sorry, that's it, but it was interesting to come across.

    2. These are parallel quests in that both are known upfront to hopeless. In LOTR, please recall, Frodo cannot summon the gumption to throw the One Ring into his own fireplace, but somehow he's supposed to do so when he gets to Mount Doom in Mordor, contravening all logic.

    In QOE, Gandalf says, "So it was that the Quest of Erebor set out. I do not suppose that when it started Thorin had any real hope of destroying Smaug. There was no hope. Yet it happened."

    And seriously, how were thirteen lightly armed yet unarmored dwarves and a soft hobbit going to kill a great dragon? Yes, yes, they had a secret door to use, but did they all enter the secret door silently, as a group, intent upon murdering Smaug in his sleep? No. In both quests, it seems that Tolkien was injecting a hefty dose of trust that some divine intervention would set things right by manipulating events; call it fate.

    3. Reconciling different Gandalfs: it's not clear what Hobbit-Gandalf explicitly hopes to gain from this quest and what motivates him so strongly for it to succeed. I think we're supposed to take for granted that he's a wizard and wizards have mysterious motives. Or that maybe it's all a big game to him, and he sees an opportunity for tricks and mischief. Whereas the LOTR-Gandalf has a chess master's motive to establish a bulwark against Sauron in Erebor and also eliminate the apparently last known active dragon that could be used to attack Rivendell during the War of the Ring. Moreover, the Gandalf in QOE has vague feelings of foresight that 1) this quest must happen for the sake of Middle-earth and 2) Bilbo must go on it or it will fail.

    Gandalf's leadership role is fundamentally different in each version. In The Hobbit, he tells the dwarves, after Bilbo has made a fool of himself by having a panic attack, "You asked me to find the fourteenth man for your expedition, and I chose Mr. Baggins." He speaks as if he were hired by Thorin & Co, an agent who facilitates adventures, some wizard-for-hire. In QOE, Gandalf's intuition tells him to put the expedition together, and he spends a lot of time arguing with/persuading Thorin to take Bilbo along, and depending on the version, persuading Thorin to leave his current home and undertake the quest. He's a mover and shaker, and other people are his pawns.


    entmaiden
    Forum Admin / Moderator


    May 25, 12:46pm


    Views: 2899
    Re: your last point

    regarding the contradiction in Gandalf's role in choosing Bilbo. I can read it as follows:
    1. During the conversation at Bree, Thorin mentions that he is concerned his party is thirteen and could have bad luck because of that. He hesitates whether he should undertake the quest.
    2. In listening to Thorin, Gandalf understands this expedition must take place, and he needs to find a way around Thorin's hesitation.3. Gandalf has known Bilbo for years and has a high regard for him.4. Gandalf suggests to Thorin that there might be a way to solve the number problem, and Thorin agrees to allow Gandalf to propose a fourteenth member.
    I remember from one of my earliest read-throughs here in the Reading Room, where someone pointed out that the origin of thirteen being an unlucky number is from the Last Supper, and in Middle-earth there's no reason for thirteen to be unlucky since there is no Last Supper. Another area where Tolkien, either on purpose or unconsciously, has injected the real world into Middle-earth.


    Otaku-sempai
    Immortal


    May 25, 1:13pm


    Views: 2897
    How well did Gandalf know Bilbo?


    In Reply To
    3. Gandalf has known Bilbo for years and has a high regard for him.


    Gandalf had not had any close contact with Bilbo since the hobbit was a child. The wizard may have had a high regard for Bilbo's mother Belladonna, but he did not know Bilbo well enough to hold him in much regard--not until he sounded him out a month later.

    "I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 25, 9:26pm


    Views: 2852
    And for geeks like me: a couple articles on 13's history of being lucky or not (real world)

    This one from history.com points out that unlucky 13 is a Western thing; 4 is unlucky in China.

    This one from Wikipedia gives various sources for 13 being unlucky, including the Last Supper.

    I may be Curious, but I'd never thought to look up that origin before.
    Thanks for bringing it up as part of the larger conversation, Entmaiden!


    cats16
    Valinor


    May 26, 2:24am


    Views: 2837
    Some thoughts

    Thanks for kicking this off, Wiz. Diving in with some random thoughts:

    First, I'll mention the maps at the beginning of the book. I always chuckle at the parenthetical a few pages in that instructs the reader to refer to the illustration of Thror's map at the beginning of the book.

    I'm nearly done with my own read-through, but glancing back at Ch.1 I noticed how frequently colors are mentioned. The hoods are the notable example, but everything from doors to belts and fingers and hair and whiskers get their own color. JRRT's use of the color grey is so wide-ranging and subtle.

    Something that hadn't occurred to me before: the word 'Shire' doesn't appear in the book (unless someone points out that I'm wrong, and an idiot unmasked!). It's in the second sentence of FOTR, but I suppose, in my head, it had first popped up in The Hobbit.

    A comment by Thorin's late in the chapter stood out to me: "We have long ago paid the goblins of Moria...we must give a thought to the Necromancer." The bit about Durin's folk paying off goblins hadn't stuck in my head until I let the words sit in my head for a beat. Am I misreading it, or is there a better way of thinking about this comment? Is there any reference to these payments in UT or elsewhere? It's been a few years since I've cracked it open.

    More to come, I'm sure! *runs off to prep discussion for Ch.2*

    Join us every weekend in the Hobbit movie forum for this week's CHOW (Chapter of the Week) discussion!




    Meneldor
    Valinor


    May 26, 2:31am


    Views: 2829
    I've always assumed payments to goblins

    were rendered in the form of iron axes to their skulls. More paid back than paid off, if you get my drift.


    They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107


    cats16
    Valinor


    May 26, 2:44am


    Views: 2480
    Axe to the skull

    Ah, I see. Cleary in need of a nap!

    There's some line about not-so-good dwarves having dealings with goblins. Must've been in the back of my mind when I reread the chapter.

    Join us every weekend in the Hobbit movie forum for this week's CHOW (Chapter of the Week) discussion!




    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 26, 6:01am


    Views: 2466
    Shire

    My eBook reader can’t find the word “Shire” in The Hobbit either! Isn’t that fun- a bit like the LOTR Fellowship hardly ever calling themselves that.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 26, 8:46am


    Views: 2455
    It’s his big QOE miscalculation

    In QOE, Gandalf expects Bilbo to be much readier for adventure than he is, and Bilbo’s comical behaviour when faced with the dwarves is said nearly to derail the entire plan. Gandalf is forced into cowing Thorin with prophecy.

    It doesn’t work for me: how I read Bilbo in the “Good Morning” scene is that he has some glimmerings of realisation that his life is boring him. But if I were Gandalf on a vital Mission from Eru, then I wouldn’t rely on scratching a tune on Bilbo’s door, & waiting to see what happened. So I prefer my trickster Gandalf idea, where he does it that way for the lolz.

    I suppose there’s the common problem when assessing an unpublished idea- I don’t think we can tell whether it went back into the drawer because it hadn’t worked, or whether Tolkien was settled on it and we “mustn’t boggle”.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 26, 11:18am


    Views: 2445
    Great Elephants! No "Shire" in The Hobbit?

    Now I'm afraid to search for "the One Ring" or "Sauron" in LOTR. They were never really there. They're just details avid fans made up to embellish Frodo's dream.
    But anyway, that is surprising about the Shire not being named, not even on a map. But maybe it's because the focus is more on Bilbo and Bag End. We don't have other speaking hobbits in The Hobbit, and he leaves his homeland by the second chapter.


    sevilodorf
    Grey Havens


    May 26, 7:44pm


    Views: 2391
    QOE Gandalf's machinations

    QOE -- a 1953 attempt to align The Hobbit and LOTR without changing the former by explaining Gandalf's motivations -- In 1937 Tolkien dropped into the story in the middle and didn't really worked out the whole back story and history of Middle Earth so he went back and reexamined why Gandalf did what he did --

    But as Gandalf says in version B -- "I do not know the answer. For I have changed since those days and I am no longer trammelled by the burden of Middle-earth as I was then."

    Tolkien acknowledges that Gandalf has changed and that not all of the tale will line up.

    Gandalf says he carried the key and the map for nearly a hundred years .... to produce them at just the right moment --- fate -- divine intervention (as far is allowed under the idea of freedom of choice-- While Bilbo is "meant" to find the Ring he always has the choice to say no at any point in the journey.) The map cements the purpose of this being a "stealth" operation not a confrontation with the Dragon and thus requiring something unusual.. even absurd ... like a hobbit burglar.

    In QOE is does mention that Gandalf took care so to arrange it that word of a large party of dwarves were not seen traveling together. Also more references to how Bilbo is looked at a bit strangely by his neighbors for he talks to dwarves, hasn't married (a trait of his more adventurous Took uncles) and kept to himself.

    After Gandalf's excursion into Dol Guldur he urges the White Council to attack but Saruman's counsel to wait and see wins out.... but the situation in the North and the vulnerability of Lorien and Rivendell are constantly on his mind (for 90 years!!!) until he comes up with this absurd plan to deal with Smaug. A plan that somehow manages to succeed - allowing the North needed protection during the War of the Rings.... Long range planner indeed -- one of the benefits of being immortal.

    Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
    Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

    (Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




    Otaku-sempai
    Immortal


    May 26, 10:11pm


    Views: 2375
    Gandalf and Thráin


    In Reply To
    Gandalf says he carried the key and the map for nearly a hundred years .... to produce them at just the right moment --- fate -- divine intervention (as far is allowed under the idea of freedom of choice-- While Bilbo is "meant" to find the Ring he always has the choice to say no at any point in the journey.) The map cements the purpose of this being a "stealth" operation not a confrontation with the Dragon and thus requiring something unusual.. even absurd ... like a hobbit burglar.


    Yes, Gandalf carried the map and key for over 90 years (2850-2941). What I've often wondered about was when did Gandalf first visit Moria. It must have been before he realized that the dying Dwarf he discovered in the dungeons of Dol Guldur was, in fact, Thráin son of Thrór, King of the Dwarves of Erebor. However, I suspect that was well after his investigation of Dol Guldur in the year 2850.

    "I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


    sador
    Half-elven


    May 27, 5:17pm


    Views: 2291
    Reading to children

    The best part of it (if you have more than one) is to hear them discussing the book, or acting it out, afterwards.

    I remember back in the time when I was forced to read Cinderella to Belladonna and Donnamira (not their real names, of course) - I tried to make it funny, mostly to amuse myself; but they really got into it.
    One day, returning from work, I found the.living room a mess (i.e. decorated), and the two of them dancing with all kinds of shawls which belobg to tgeir mother. When Donnamira noticed me staring, she explained:
    "We're having fun! We're tge stepsisters..."


    sador
    Half-elven


    May 27, 7:53pm


    Views: 2273
    The maps!

    With the Cirth letters on them - but the language used is English!

    What do you make of this? Why be half modernised and half "authentic"?


    dernwyn
    Forum Admin / Moderator


    May 28, 3:44am


    Views: 2167
    Quite true.

    The Shire did not "exist" when The Hobbit was written - and surprisingly, Tolkien did not include it in his revision of Riddles in the Dark, even though he has Gollum later revealing that land to Sauron in LotR! (Or at least, that's what Gandalf claims, at the Council of Elrond.)


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "I desired dragons with a profound desire"


    sador
    Half-elven


    May 28, 4:47am


    Views: 2164
    Well, I checked in the Family Trees (appendix C of LotR)

    and sure enough, Tolkien did provide an answer. And a rather mundane one.

    It turns out that at the time of Bilbo's adventure, both of Belladonna's sister were still alive. And so were both her brothers-in-law.

    So she had only one child (as opposed to her sisters), became a widow relatively young, and passed away long before them (and no, marrying a Baggins was no more marrying down than Donnamira did).

    As for the qualities of Mr. Bungo Baggins - I did once write about that mysterious person; if there is any interest I'll try and dig that up.


    (This post was edited by sador on May 28, 4:49am)


    Murlo
    Rivendell


    May 29, 2:58pm


    Views: 2122
    Another practical reason for the Unexpected Party?


    In Reply To

    In Reply To
    why are the dwarves allowed to have such bad manners?


    ... They're more like some long-lost sailor uncle and his larger-than-life sailor mates unexpectedly turning up and radically enlivening a dull family gathering.

    Looking for an explanation within the story, my suggestion is that the dwarves just assume Bilbo will behave as any dwarf host would. Manners are a cultural construct after all, and in real-life human cultures there are plenty of different takes on how hosts and guests should behave.

    For all I know, well-behaved dwarves like these would have carefully enquired from Gandalf what food a host might have to offer, so that he can have the pleasure of offering it all...


    The first few times I read this chapter, I only thought of the Unexpected Party as a reason to shake-up Bilbo's world and stir his Tookish side into adventure.

    But the last time I read it, I thought it was a good thing that the dwarves ate all his food, otherwise it would have just rotted in Bilbo's pantry since he would be gone for over a year!

    Maybe Gandalf was confident that Bilbo would join them the next day, so maybe he decided to put Bilbo's larders to good use and not let all that good food go to waste Laugh


    Petty Dwarf
    Bree


    May 31, 7:16pm


    Views: 2091
    I would assume...

    ...that the lettering on the map is in English, but written in Norse runes so as to give young readers the fun of deciphering it. If it was in Elvish or Dwarvish, it would seem like gibberish.

    (sorry to enter this so late. I've been busy)

    "No words were laid on stream or stone
    When Durin woke and walked alone."


    Hamfast Gamgee
    Grey Havens

    Jun 17, 10:15pm


    Views: 1572
    all one save Boromir, possibly!

     


    joec_34
    Rivendell


    Jun 28, 2:06pm


    Views: 1454
    Tookish Adventures

    I find it curious that Gandalf knew the Old Took, and hadn't been by the Shire since he had died. What Tookish adventures did he stoke/instigate, and why then is he so harsh with Pippin in LotR? One would think he might be more tender given Pippin's heritage. Perhaps it is Pip failing to live up to the Tookish expectations that Gandalf had from prior adventures.
    To your humorous point, this might be fun to see on screen, (but I much prefer the mystery.)

    "Happy painting and God bless, my friend." - Bob Ross