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***The hobbit-read-through: Ch5 – Riddles In The Dark



noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 17, 9:01am


Views: 1630
***The hobbit-read-through: Ch5 – Riddles In The Dark

Thanks to sador for last week's fun, and here we go with this week's chapter! It's an important and memorable chapter – Bilbo’s first independent adventure, and one which has major repercussions.

As usual, I’ll suggest some of the possible things we might spend the week discussing – there are quite a lot of those this week! Please feel free to think about any number of these that you want to. And if I haven’t mentioned something that interests you, then please do write a post raising it – quite likely other people would lie to discuss that too. Fine to do that instead of picking up any of the prompts I've provided - the important thing is to have things to discuss!

With a lot to think about in this chapter, and so to organise things a little, I’ll put my actual discussion prompts into sub-threads, as follows:

1) Bilbo in the dark
2) Gollum
3) Riddles
4) Tolkien’s changes to this chapter for the 1947 the second edition

If you’d like to read an, essay-like introduction to the chapter, then I think this 6000-word one, written by blogger ‘Never Felt Better’ is excellent. https://neverfeltbetter.wordpress.com/...riddles-on-the-dark/

~~~~~~
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


Jun 17, 9:04am


Views: 1472
**'Bilbo in the Dark' subthread

Bilbo starts the chapter at a low ebb. His ability – eventually – to face going on as the only sensible choice seems like a Tolkien theme to me: doing what you have to do, even if you’d prefer a different menu with nicer options. Does anyone else see this as an important moment in Bilbo’s development?

None of Bilbo’s thoughts seem to be about his companions, who for all he knows are being ‘made into Chutney’ at this point (as the authors of the Blue Book of Harvard version of the tale point out). Should Bilbo – one of the only three armed members of his expedition – give more thought to attempting a rescue? I notice that rescuing others is exactly what he does think about when the rest of the company is in trouble in future chapters - is that contrast an example of ways in which this chapter marks a change in Bilbo?

I notice that the sword that will later be named Sting provides both actual light to see by, and a comforting connection with heroes from the Old Tales – is it like Galadriel’s phial and how it supports Frodo and (perhaps especially) Sam both physically and morally (spiritually?) at Shelob’s Lair and Cirith Ungol?

Bilbo goes deeper, beyond the areas the goblins frequent and the narrator tells us to expect other inhabitants – ‘older and fouler things’ (as Gandalf will call them in Moria, in LOTR). Any thoughts as to why Tolkien used this device at least twice (here and in Moria)?

Bilbo’s adventure ends when he takes a mighty (impossibly mighty?) leap, and returns to the light of the part open doorway (why would the goblins keep it part-open?). I notice that a lighter tone returns - the chapter ends almost in comedy, with Bilbo playing a deadly game of ‘blind man’s buff’ with the goblin guards, and escaping with the loss of his brass buttons. Is this a way of settling down the intended child-at-bedtime reader with a little more gentle material after a tense chapter? Does it fit symbolically, or in other ways?

To what extent is the whole chapter a riddle? The narrator makes sure that we notice Bilbo getting the ring, by saying it will be the turning point of his career. But it is some time before we find out what this means.

~~~~~~
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


Jun 17, 9:07am


Views: 1480
**Gollum subthread

Last week, we touched on a Jungian interpretation of Bilbo’s current adventure:


Quote
So, in the story, the hero descends below the ground, travels east, and re-emerges to greet the rising sun. ...How it applies in this particular episode is that Bilbo symbolically dies, overcomes Gollum in a version of the contest with the Devil, and finds his way out on the Eastern side as a stronger and now magically empowered character.

squire, explaining ideas from The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien, and the Archetypes of Middle-earth, Timothy O'Neill, 1979 - see here for more: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=945836#945836



If Gollum is diabolical (for the purposes of this interpretation) is it fitting that Bilbo has to save himself by a trial of wits rather than by force or fleetness of foot? And what to make of Bilbo doing this without realising he has something absolutely diabolical in his pocketses?

Compare and contrast Gollum and the Balrog. To me the balrog comes across as something to which the only responses are fight or flight. One contrast is that, because the riddle contest requires Gollum to talk extensively, we see much more of his character – essential I suppose if we are to understand Bilbo’s eventual decision to spare Gollum.

(Another obviously interesting compare/contrast would be with Bilbo’s encounter with Smaug – but let’s not do that in so much detail that we've exhausted it by the time we get to Smaug!)

Gollum is given a very characteristic way of speaking (compare the stock-character mockney of the trolls, which fades out as soon as the reader has been cued to understand what kind of character they are). How does this contribute to how you read his character?

Back to symbolism again. The great Ursula Le Guin (RIP) once suggested that Tolkien’s handling of evil (and Gollum especially) is distinct and possibly archetypal:


Quote

Take [Tolkien’s] handling of evil: his villains are orcs and Black Riders (goblins and zombies; mythic figures) and Sauron, the Dark Lord, who is never seen and has no suggestion of humanity about him. These are not evil men but embodiments of evil in men, universal symbols of the hateful. The men who do wrong are not complete figures but complements: Saruman is Gandalf's dark-self, Boromir Aragorn's; Wormtongue is, almost literally the weakness of King Theoden. There remains the wonderfully repulsive and degraded Gollum. But nobody who reads the trilogy hates, or is asked to hate, Gollum. Gollum is Frodo's shadow; and it is the shadow, not the hero, who achieves the quest. Though Tolkien seems to project evil into "the others", they are not truly others but ourselves; he is utterly clear about this.

This is part of a review by Le Guin of "The Dark Tower by C S Lewis" and was originally published in The New Republic, 1977. It is anthologised in "Dancing at the Edge of the World (Grove Press 1989)



I’m wondering to what extent Gollum is Bilbo’s shadow – is Gollum what Bilbo fears he might become, should he never get out of the mines and yet decide to continue living by whatever means? Is this what makes Gollum disturbing (rather than terrifying, like a Watcher or Balrog or some ferocious animal)?

Is Gollum Bilbo’s shadow (what Bilbo might become) once Bilbo realises what the ring does?

Reading this chapter of The Hobbit (rather that ‘the trilogy’) do you hate, or feel you’re asked to hate Gollum?

And, actually, is Gollum ‘evil’ on the evidence we have from this chapter (that is, set aside our post-LOTR knowledge that he’s a murderer)? Or is he a hungry carnivorous creature who is now unwilling or unable to leave his underground life, but no more evil than (say) a real-life wolf, bear or lion?


If Gollum started out looking something like a hobbit, he has changed a great deal physically. What do you imagine has caused 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


Jun 17, 9:10am


Views: 1467
**Riddles subthread

On my first reading I couldn’t solve any of them and would soon have been eaten! Who else tried to solve them on your first reading (i.e not just reading on until you got the answers) and how did you get on?

Do you think the characters of Bilbo and of Gollum are illustrated by the riddles they choose –if so, then how? What other significance, if any, do you see in the riddles Tolkien chose?

For handy reference, here are the answers to the riddles (with a few comments by me):

--
Gollum --> Bilbo: Mountain (guessed easily)


Gollum now suggests a formal game, and the riddles go as follows:

B--> G: teeth (because Bilbo is thinking about being eaten)

G--> B: wind, often as a destructive force

B--> G: sun on the daisies (made up on the cuff, it seems probably Bilbo’s best effort)

G --> B: dark (in reaction to painful memories of sunshine and overground etc.)

B--> G: egg (asked by Bilbo to gain time, but turns out to be a ‘nasty poser’. Food-related again!)

G--> B: fish (Gollum expects this to be easy, because this is *his* favourite food, but Bilbo is unable to answer and is saved by luck when Gollum wades ashore and a fish jumps out of the lake. Gollum refers back to this and provides some more lines when guiding Frodo and Sam.)

B--> G: “fish on a little table, man at table sitting on a stool, the cat has the bones”. (Asked quickly to drive Gollum back into his boat, and the narrator suggests that carrying on the ‘fish’ theme is a mistake. Note Gollum must know about furniture and cats).

G--> B: time, again as a destructive force (Bilbo saved by luck, when he can't say 'give me time' and just says 'time')

Stuck for any riddle, Bilbo asks ‘what have I got in my pocket?’

--

Bilbo is repeatedly saved by ‘luck’ – it helps him solve the ‘fish’ riddle and the ‘time’ riddle, and causes Gollum to miss him (when Bilbo stumbles whilst invisible and being pursued). Is that just inevitable – a hero needs some luck so that they can have can have perilous, suspenseful adventures and yet survive? Or do you read it as something we’re supposed to notice, and infer that there is more than regular luck at work?

The issue of cheating at the riddle game is something that Tolkien turned on its head as part of his second edition changes – see that second edition sub-thread (below) for what changed (and, I hope, a discussion about its significance).

~~~~~~
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


Jun 17, 9:32am


Views: 1476
**Tolkien's unusual changes to the second edition, and their significance - subthread

For the 1947 Second Edition Hobbit (which from now on I’ll call just ‘2e’) Tolkien made various revisions to bring this chapter in line with his new LOTR thinking about the ring. (At this point LOTR was well under way, but it would not be published until 1953.)

I’ll say briefly what the substantive changes were, so that we can discuss them without requiring everyone to find a text of the first edition. If I miss any changes you think important, please raise them for discussion.

In the first edition (‘1e’), Gollum proposes a riddle game but the prize should Bilbo win is ‘a present’ (rather than being shown the way out). When Bilbo does win, Gollum sets off to his island to get the present (which is his ring). Finding it missing, he’s very upset, but for a different reason:


Quote

For one thing Gollum had learned long long ago was never, never, to cheat at the riddle-game, which is a sacred one and of immense antiquity.

I don't know how many times Gollum begged Bilbo's pardon. He kept on saying: "We are ssorry; we didn't mean to cheat, we meant to give it our only only pressent, if it won the competition." He even offered to catch Bilbo some nice juicy fish to eat as a consolation.

The Hobbit, 1e


SO, in 1e, Gollum is principally afraid of the consequences of cheating at the riddle game. Thus when Bilbo proposes that Gollum is ‘let off on one condition’ (that he shows Bilbo the way out) Gollum is compelled to agree. Compare Gollum’s furious, even insane, reaction when he finds that his ring is lost in 2e, and the speed at which he suspects the truth; that Bilbo has his Ring.

In 1e, Gollum explains what his now lost magic ring did (never realising that Bilbo has it in his pocketses). This saves Bilbo (and us readers) having to work it out. Gollum shows Bilbo the way out as promised, and they part amicably. I suppose all this would never do once Tolkien had ‘realised’ that 'A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. (Gandalf to Frodo in LOTR/Book 1 Ch2, Shadow of the Past).

It is of course Gollum’s inability to give up his ring in 2e that forces Bilbo to chose between killing him and sparing him (a decision which will of course have very big consequences in LOTR).


This business of cheating in’ a sacred game of immense antiquity’ is something that Tolkien handles differently in 2e, I notice:


Quote

"Both wrong," cried Bilbo very much relieved; and he jumped at once to his feet, put his back to the nearest wall, and held out his little sword. He knew, of course, that the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it. But he felt he could not trust this slimy thing to keep any promise at a pinch. Any excuse would do for him to slide out of it. And after all that last question had not been a genuine riddle according to the ancient laws.

Hobbit 2e



That is, it’s possible that Bilbo was the one to cheat, but Tolkien is ready with a loophole:


Quote

“The Authorities, it is true, differ whether this last question was a mere ‘question’ and not a ‘riddle’ … but all agree that, after accepting it and trying to guess the answer, Gollum was bound by his promise".

LOTR Prologue



In another rather clever bit of back-filling, Tolkien suggests that the 1e version of the story is the one that Bilbo told the dwarves, and the true (2e) version only came out later. Bravo!

The business of ‘cheating comes up again in LOTR Ch 2 when our current adventure is reprised. Frodo doubts that Gollum could ever have been anything at all hobbit-like, and suggests Gollum was intending to cheat anyway (so ‘cheating’ back was justified?) Anyway ‘hobbits don’t cheat’ so (Frodo assumes) Bilbo can’t have:


Quote

‘They understood one another remarkably well, very much better than a hobbit would understand, say, a Dwarf, or an Orc, or even an Elf. Think of the riddles they both knew, for one thing.’

‘Yes,’ said Frodo. ‘Though other folks besides hobbits ask riddles, and of much the same sort. And hobbits don’t cheat. Gollum meant to cheat all the time. He was just trying to put poor Bilbo off his guard. And I daresay it amused his wickedness to start a game which might end in providing him with an easy victim, but if he lost would not hurt him.’

LOTR Ch2 Shadow of the Past



I think that Frodo's 'Hobbits don't cheat therefore Bilbo can't have' is the kind of bad argument known as a 'genetic fallacy' (like arguing 'English people take tea at 4pm, so no English person could have committed a burglary at that time'.)

I also wonder what would have happened had Bilbo lost the riddle game fairy – did he really intend to surrender his neck passively to Gollum’s throttling fingers? Or do you think he would have tried to save himself (and if so would that make it fair to say ‘Bilbo meant to cheat all the time’)?

Do you find these defence of Bilbo's behaviour convincing? Are they intended to be convincing?

Why does Tolkien make so much of this business of cheating (intentional or excusable or neither) and of false accounts?


How seriously ought I take the idea that the riddle game is ‘sacred’ – would cheats expect to be cursed– as in damned or doomed? Does Tolkien seem to take this idea any further (do you think anything bad happened to Gollum or Bilbo because they cheated)? Or is it a plot device used to explain the lack of more flagrant cheating, and then forgotten?


Another change to 2e is to include some subtle hints that Bilbo is already affected by his ring. For example, when surprised in visible form by goblins:


Quote

A pang of fear and loss, like an echo of Gollum’s misery, smote Bilbo, and forgetting even to draw his sword he struck his hands into his pockets. And there was the ring still, in his left pocket, and it slipped on his finger.



As I understand it, such big revisions in a new edition were an unusual thing for Tolkien to be allowed to do. Apart from the whole business of making substantive changes to the story, there would have been a cost factor. In those days of hot metal typesetting (physical letters cast in lead that were fitted into a frame to make the page, and then stamped onto the paper) it meant that many pages would have to be broken up and rebuilt - much more labour than making similar changes today. Tolkien was asking his publisher to react as if Hobbit were a textbook, and substantive new information had come to light, requiring it to be updated. Does this tell us anything interesting about Tolkien’s attitude to inventing (or discovering) Middle-earth? Are we grateful to Unwins for allowing Tolkien to behave in this eccentric and expensive manner?

The changes are important from the point of view of consistency with LOTR, and so will automatically be welcome for those who prize that. But imagine that you are reading Hobbit without any knowledge that LOTR is to come: did Tolkien’s changes improve the storytelling of this work?

~~~~~~
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 Jun 17, 9:39am)


Petty Dwarf
Bree


Jun 17, 6:10pm


Views: 1429
The phial and the sword...

It seems to me that it makes sense that the phial and the sword would have similar properties. They are both of Elvish make, and quite possible are both light of the Two Trees. The phial, of course, is of the light of Earendil, which is the light of a Silmaril, which light comes from the Trees; and I don't know why, but I always assumed that the light of Elvish weapons was captured moonlight, and the moon is a fruit from the Silver Tree.

There's probably nothing in the text to support that, but it's what I've always assumed.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 17, 7:08pm


Views: 1413
Interesting- a technological link in that case, as well as a thematic one? //

 

~~~~~~
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

Jun 17, 8:59pm


Views: 1400
They are both of Elvish make, and quite possible are both light of the Two Trees.

I wonder. If Sting was made in Gondolin like the other two swords (though not mentioned to be perhaps) then it seems more likely to be derived from starlight. Only if it was the star of Earendil could it contain the light of the two trees, but so far as I can tell that star did not enter the skies until after the fall of Gondolin.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 17, 10:22pm


Views: 1392
I didn't get any of them either!

Even the ones that the Narrator assured me where chestnuts. BTW why are chestnuts easy as well, I was thinking!Smile


elostirion74
Rohan

Jun 18, 4:04pm


Views: 1368
a few comments on Gollum

"I’m wondering to what extent Gollum is Bilbo’s shadow – is Gollum what Bilbo fears he might become, should he never get out of the mines and yet decide to continue living by whatever means? Is this what makes Gollum disturbing (rather than terrifying, like a Watcher or Balrog or some ferocious animal)?"


I wouldn't say that Gollum is Bilbo's shadow - their relation is too short-lived to justify this kind of analysis. What makes Gollum particularly disturbing is his mix of quite human and relatable traits with a strongly animalistic and unpredictable nature. He is someone you can play a game with and to some extent understand, but not trust. He is even someone you wonder if you could talk with about experiences from childhood and yout, but at the same time someone who has lost many of the cultural aspects we associate with ordinary human life as a result of prolonged isolation and addiction. His behaviour is the result of someone who has lived a completely self-centered existence of mere survival for a very long time. It's pitiful, scary and slighly repulsive at the same time.


"Reading this chapter of The Hobbit (rather that ‘the trilogy’) do you hate, or feel you’re asked to hate Gollum?"

I feel that he's a presented as a person you can be equally fascinated by and repulsed by, someone you should be wary of and not altogether trust, but at the same time someone you can pity. And to some extent he's presented as a greedy child mixed with the strength and cunning of an adult person.


"And, actually, is Gollum ‘evil’ on the evidence we have from this chapter (that is, set aside our post-LOTR knowledge that he’s a murderer)? Or is he a hungry carnivorous creature who is now unwilling or unable to leave his underground life, but no more evil than (say) a real-life wolf, bear or lion?"

Gollum is not typically evil, but I would certainly say he seems malicious and difficult to trust. The conscious scheming we see from Gollum in this chapter sets him apart from other carnivorous animals, although his behaviour in other respects resemble them.


"Gollum is given a very characteristic way of speaking (compare the stock-character mockney of the trolls, which fades out as soon as the reader has been cued to understand what kind of character they are). How does this contribute to how you read his character?"

His way of speaking makes him much more of an individual and unique character than the trolls.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 18, 9:21pm


Views: 1316
New from John Rateliff: "I was wrong about Tolkien's start date".

Pardon a brief diversion; I didn't want to start a new thread just about this point, but since The Hobbit is under discussion, here's some news that may be of interest.

There's a big new Tolkien exhibit at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and it's accompanied by the publications of two catalogs. John D. Rateliff, author-editor of The History of The Hobbit, noted on his blog yesterday that his order just came in the mail. Quickly skimming the books, Rateliff mentions the following:

"One particular highlight for me is conclusive evidence that Tolkien had already started work on THE HOBBIT before summer 1930, which I had argued was the no-earlier-than-by date. Thanks to a mention in Fr. John Tolkien's diary for 1930 we know know JRRT was several chapters into the book by New Year's Day, a few months earlier. So I was wrong about Tolkien's start date, a topic important enough that I'd like to devote a separate post to it."

Treason doth neuer prosper? What's the Reason?
for if it prosper none dare call it treason.


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noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 6:21am


Views: 1263
Thanks for adding this! //

 

~~~~~~
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


Jun 19, 12:01pm


Views: 1252
Hobbits and cheating/ethics

I’m mullling over the ethical questions you posed, drawing on our only other source for hobbits—LOTR.

1. Lobelia stole Bilbo’s spoons (or someone did, and probably her), plus Frodo found her stealing items from Bag Eng and hiding them in her umbrella. She wasn’t stealing out of poverty but either out of malice or entitlement. OK, this isn’t “cheating” but it’s stealing, and the ethical flaws are related.

2. For Bilbo’s birthday party, there were guests who did cheat by trying to enter more than once to get extra door prizes.

3. When Sam angrily confronts Faramir in Ithilien, he uses the tone reserved for mischievous hobbit-children stealing from Bag End’s orchards.

So hobbits aren’t always ethically up to snuff. (Bad news for Frodo; I’m reminded that in the Scouring of the Shire he asserted that hobbits don’t kill hobbits, but that one seemed to be true and stay true.)

I really like your question about Bilbo agreeing to be eaten as part of the deal—no, he wouldn’t have carried through with it, and yes, that makes me conclude he entered the game with cheating intent on his side. Though I think that’s really more of a fast ball by the author zipping past readers—I’m not sure we’re meant to stop and think about its moral implications of the rules of this riddle-game of antiquity that none of us knows about, and it was more likely written out of comedic horror: look, kids, if Bilbo loses, he gets eaten! That also tells readers that of course that won’t happen.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 5:23pm


Views: 1211
Getting it in the neck - riddles in the dark ages

This article, about possible dark age sources for the riddles, might be of interest. It includes the idea of 'neck riddles' - unguessable
riddles asked to save one's neck


Quote

Archer Taylor [a noted scholar of riddles] identifies five different types of riddle in the Exeter book, one of which is the “neck riddle”, so named because it is used to save one’s neck. Neck riddles are unfair because there is no way for the person guessing the riddle to know the answer. Bilbo’s final question is a neck riddle, “what have I got in my pocket?”

But Tolkien’s use of a neck riddle is just as likely to be the result of Viking influence as Anglo-Saxon. He seems to have used several Old Norse sources for "Riddles in the Dark”. In the Vafþrúðnismál from the Elder Edda and in the Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, the god Odin adopts a disguise before entering into a riddle contest. His final riddle is “What did Odin whisper in Baldr’s ear before Baldr was burned on the funeral pyre?” No one except Odin himself can know this, so it’s just as unfair as Bilbo’s riddle. In each Viking tale, the answerer finally realises that the riddler is Odin himself; Tolkien combines the reactions of Vafþrúðnir, who concedes defeat and Heidrek, who attacks Odin, making Gollum acquiesce at first but then attack Bilbo later.

Riddles in the Dark Ages, by Thomas Rowsell
http://www.medievalists.net/...es-in-the-dark-ages/


~~~~~~
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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 19, 5:35pm


Views: 1205
Tolkien once delivered a paper titled "A Neck-verse". //

 

Treason doth neuer prosper? What's the Reason?
for if it prosper none dare call it treason.


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Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
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noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 5:42pm


Views: 1210
I think it's also possible to see Frodo's furious defence of Bilbo...

Good examples - I also wonder whether all hobbits were entirely honest during the stresses of The Scouring.

I think it's possible to see Frodo's furious defence of Bilbo as being more than loyalty to his race or his kinsman. For me, his reluctance to believe that the degraded and repulsive Gollum could possibly be any sort of hobbit reflects the ignorance of the Shire folk, who after many years of good fortune have come 'to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk' (LOTR Prologue). It's a handy point of view if you'd like an excuse for not helping anyone who does not enjoy peace and plenty - it's bound to be their fault somehow. Gandalf, of course, has just suggested that Gollum's 'sad story' 'might have happened to others, even to some hobbits that I have known'.(LOTR, Bk 1 Ch2)

Another possibility is that Frodo is thinking defensively about the legitimacy of Bilbo's claim to the Ring, which is of course the sole basis of his own claim to it.

~~~~~~
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 Jun 19, 5:45pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 5:44pm


Views: 1206
Can't imagine Tolkien doing a paper round...

...oh wait; I see....Wink

~~~~~~
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 Jun 19, 5:46pm)


squire
Half-elven


Jun 19, 7:03pm


Views: 1191
I have always seen another angle to Frodo's outrage

I think you're right as to the story-internal motivation. But Frodo also speaks for the Hobbit-readers, who are suddenly being asked to completely reconsider who Gollum is. I remember my shock, even as a kid, at first reading Gandalf's line here. Frodo spoke for me, and I imagine, many others. I think this outburst, petulant and angry, reflects Tolkien's awareness as he wrote of just how radical a change he was imposing on the existing story.



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sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 19, 9:29pm


Views: 1169
Sting

- while it is a dagger to men... isn't it a sword to hobbits? How then do you wear it inside your breeches? Ouch??

As for the glow -- are elves not afraid of giving away their location by the glow of the sword? -- Or do they look for the impression it makes on the enemy to make up for that? -- and Gollum in LOTR says the sword is bright and hurts his eyes but doesn't mention it here (yes yes evolved character) Does the ring hide the glow of the sword as it gets brighter with the proximity of the orcs/goblins?

Bilbo in the dark -- though it is here that he makes a decision that affects everything - he shows compassion -- a sense of fairness and does not kill Gollum -- though of course that appears here to be simply self preservation as Gollum is his only way out. --

And the ring is up to tricks --

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)




sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 19, 9:41pm


Views: 1167
Gollum -- tangential thoughts

Gollum talks like those who have no one to listen but themselves -- Later in LOTR this is expanded to show his two "minds" -- how much is the madness and how much is simple loneliness.

Gollum is very intelligent -- he's not been caught for years and it's not all due to the ring as he leaves it on his island for long periods of time. It preys on him, but it can't really connect or entice him (as it does later with Sam) because Gollum's wants are very narrow -- get away from others, and food.

Riddles are said to be what he played long ago and it's amazing that he remembers any of the them.... envision Gollum having riddle contests with himself -- or perhaps trying to have them with the orcs he captures.

Gollum as Bilbo's shadow -- evil mirror -- perhaps -- though ultimately both Gollum and Bilbo carry that ring for longer periods of time while withstanding or totally oblivious to its evil enticements.

And as LeGuin says -- it is Gollum who achieves the quest in the end. So perhaps the lesson is don't count anyone out.

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)




sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 19, 9:54pm


Views: 1172
Riddles ---

honestly can't remember if I knew any of the answers when I first read it or not.

I would assume that Tolkien was familiar with the Anglo Saxon Riddles from the Book of Exeter --

In those first days my father and mother
left me for dead: there was no life yet,
no life within me. Then a kindly kinswoman
faithfully covered me with her own clothing,
held me and cherished, kept me warmly,
even as gently as her own children—
until beneath her, as my destiny willed,
I waxed into life with my alien fellows.
My friend and protector nourished me then
till I grew and grew able to go forth by myself.
Because of this now her own dear children,
sons and daughters, were fewer, alas.

Obviously much wordier than the riddles used by Gollum and Bilbo


Four dilly-dandies
Four stick standies
Two crookers
Two lookers
And a wig wag


Both are animals.

As to What do I have in my pocket --- it's not a riddle so Bilbo cheated (and he knew it or he wouldn't have allowed three chances to guess)... might this be the ring's first subversion of Bilbo?


And yes it all worked out nicely as to Bilbo tells the tale one way at first and then changes it --- amazing that his editors let him do that.


(Answers are cuckoo and cow)

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


Jun 20, 12:42am


Views: 1156
Sting. Bilbo and Gollum


In Reply To
while it is a dagger to men... isn't it a sword to hobbits? How then do you wear it inside your breeches? Ouch??


Yes, a sword to Bilbo, but a short sword. Not quite so hard to conceal as you might have thought.


In Reply To
As for the glow -- are elves not afraid of giving away their location by the glow of the sword?


Not so revealing if kept in its sheath. But, yes, I imagine that the glow could be very disturbing to orkish foes.


In Reply To
Bilbo in the dark -- though it is here that he makes a decision that affects everything - he shows compassion -- a sense of fairness and does not kill Gollum -- though of course that appears here to be simply self preservation as Gollum is his only way out.


Yes, though Bilbo confronts the question of showing mercy to Gollum after he has already been shown the way out and Gollum is between him and escape.

"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


Jun 20, 11:05pm


Views: 1045
Good points

And I suppose my gut feeling about Frodo denying Gollum's hobbitness is from a feeling of horror that there could be any connection between them. It's far more comfortable for Frodo to think of Gollum from somewhere on the family tree of orcs, dragons, vampires, ghouls, whatever, than to think they could have any close cultural/racial connection.

And maybe that's also foreshadowing that Frodo, without realizing it in Bag End, will by the time he meets Gollum in person realize that he too could become a hobbit corrupted by the Ring, and therefore he finally finds the pity in his heart Gandalf had urged on him earlier. (vs. "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature.")


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 20, 11:14pm


Views: 1050
Tolkien's changes from a publisher's perspective

When I was a new editor for university textbooks, I remember someone submitting a whole list of errors in one of our books, which I promptly forwarded to the production/reprint/manufacturing dept to implement. These were little typos here and there, mind you, not entirely new paragraphs, though there were probably 50 or so total.
What followed was a small earthquake in the company that the rookie editor had dared issue a call for so many budget-breaking changes in the archived film (which replaced printing plates but is still pricey to reproduce), and an educational meeting with me on how you can make that many changes unless you declare a complete revision of the book, which we weren't ready to do. So, I had to settle with fixing only the most egregious errors and living with the others. One of those cases of business triumphing over perfectionism.
All that is to give personal context that yes, it was a very big deal that Tolkien's publisher allowed such a substantial rewrite that wasn't necessary for the sales of The Hobbit itself.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 20, 11:33pm


Views: 1043
Gollum vs the Balrog--wait, is this the Arena?


Quote
Compare and contrast Gollum and the Balrog. To me the balrog comes across as something to which the only responses are fight or flight. One contrast is that, because the riddle contest requires Gollum to talk extensively, we see much more of his character – essential I suppose if we are to understand Bilbo’s eventual decision to spare Gollum.

I think the fact that Gollum is alone, talks a lot, and has no supernatural power puts him in a wholly different category than the balrog (oh, and Gollum doesn't have wings, either Wink). The balrog, as you point out, is 100% Big Menace, and there's nothing amusing about him, while Gollum is perhaps more of a danger than the trolls (because Bilbo is alone and rather childlike with no one to rescue him this time), but Gollum is still somewhat comedic and lightens the mood with his insane prattle. He seems part monster, part absent-minded/eccentric professor.

Then there's the fact that Tolkien develops Gollum enough that Bilbo finds an ounce of pity for him, whereas no one ever pities the balrog. I think the balrog represents pure evil whereas Gollum is a conflicted character, and at this point, we don't know he was ever a hobbit, but from a glimpse of his memories, we can sense he wasn't always this bad, and maybe he's just a hermit gone crazy (and murderous) from excess isolation. He does seem to feel genuinely wounded in a pitiable way when he loses the Ring and ineffectually calls after Bilbo "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!" It's the aggrieved and powerless rant of a victim who's been wronged and has no hope of justice setting things right. (Though of course Bilbo didn't steal the Ring and just got lucky finding it, so the rant isn't fair. The point is just that we see Gollum in very raw pain.)

While Gollum is Frodo's shadow in LOTR, I don't think I can picture him as Bilbo's shadow in The Hobbit. To me, Gollum is just another creature encountered along the way and left behind: trolls, Elrond, the Goblin-king, and soon the Eagles and Beorn. That's the episodic nature I'm used to in fairy stories where the protagonist meets a variety of colorful characters in unending succession, all to make a good story.
Jumping ahead, I think Bilbo is more disturbed later in the book that he might become treasure-obsessed like Thorin, and giving up the Arkenstone in the cause of peace to avoid becoming greedy like Thorin was perhaps his equivalent of Frodo hoping to throw the Ring into the Crack of Doom and avoid becoming like Gollum. But, that's a long ways off.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 20, 11:40pm


Views: 703
Fog on the Barrow-downs, anyone?


In Reply To
Bilbo starts the chapter at a low ebb. His ability – eventually – to face going on as the only sensible choice seems like a Tolkien theme to me: doing what you have to do, even if you’d prefer a different menu with nicer options. Does anyone else see this as an important moment in Bilbo’s development?

None of Bilbo’s thoughts seem to be about his companions, who for all he knows are being ‘made into Chutney’ at this point (as the authors of the Blue Book of Harvard version of the tale point out). Should Bilbo – one of the only three armed members of his expedition – give more thought to attempting a rescue? I notice that rescuing others is exactly what he does think about when the rest of the company is in trouble in future chapters - is that contrast an example of ways in which this chapter marks a change in Bilbo?

I agree, this is similar to Frodo's moment in the Barrow when he had to decide between giving up or fighting on, and Frodo's choice leads to a growth arc for him which ultimately redeems him. Contrast Frodo's arc with both Saruman and Denethor who each essentially gives up the fight against Sauron, and look at the harsh fates they suffer.

But growth comes slowly and in stages. This is the stage where Bilbo seizes control of his own fate. We need to wait for the Mirkwood spiders for him to take responsibility for the rescue and well-being of his friends. Yet once he goes down that path, he never falters, and he spends the rest of the story trying to help them, even with his ill-fated (since I just brought it up in another post) attempt to prevent war and slaughter by surrendering the Arkenstone to the Elven-king. That wasn't the betrayal Thorin thought it was, nor was it selfish--quite the opposite, as he was trying to spare them all a nasty end in a pointless war. (It's not his fault it didn't work out. His heart was in the right place.)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 21, 10:27am


Views: 671
Gollum versus Yoda (still not The Arena)

Your description of Gollum as 'part absent-minded/eccentric professor' (somehow) made me think of another fantasy character with eccentric speech - Yoda from Star Wars.

Its an interesting contrast. As I see it, the gag about Yoda when he first appears (Empire Strikes Back) is that Luke Skywalker is expecting some very impressive warrior-monk-mentor. Instead this small strange creature he finds Hmmmm? Some time he takes, to learn by appearances to judge not.*

Yoda is done mostly by changing the word order (verb to the end and so on). It works for me - I think I see George Lucas playing with the old 'You Not Take Candle' trope (characters are often given garbled grammar to suggest they're primitive or stupid - good article on that here http://tvtropes.org/...Main/YouNoTakeCandle )**


Gollum is equally characteristic, but I don't suspect 'you no take candle' (c.f. Ghan-buri-ghan , a character I very much see being made to do 'Tonto Talk'.) What I see in Gollum's case is:

Lots of sibilants - starting with the jokey 'bless and splash us', but often done without overtly twisting the dialogue. It's a gift for a read-a-louder wanting to do a sinister hiss, and it also suggests to me echoes bouncing off the cave roof.

Gollum talks to himself but used 'we'. It enables him not to address Bilbo but to appear to talk about him over his head (e'g' 'what has it got in its pocketses'). Not only is it unsettling, but the effect for me is to disempower Bilbo -like he's a child and adults are talking about him over his head.

Gollum calls Bilbo 'it'. I suppose it could be too dark to assess gender, but it suggests to me that Bilbo is dehumanised in Gollum's eyes - an 'it' that might be et, if you will.

Reading this chapter I wasn't completely sure Tolkien had yet thought of 'Precious' being the ring, rather than Gollum's pet name for himself. Nor do I see the sort of Gollum/Smegol split one does in LOTR (and which was performed so memorably by Andy Serkis in the PJ film) If I have time I'll re-read on the look out for that, or if someone has done it already and report, that would be great.


--
*This makes me recall shopping with my family and finding a Yoda T-shirt for my then Star Wars obsesses WizKid#1 (he would have been about 6). The T-shirt had the caption "judge me by my size, do you?" So I joked about whether they had the same design in boxer shorts, but I chickened out when Mrs NoWiz dared me to ask the shop assistant.

** Yoda's speech also parodies beautifully - I think this 'Seagulls, Stop it now' parody by Bad Lip Reading is very funny: https://youtu.be/U9t-slLl30E

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


Jun 21, 10:29am


Views: 671
Do we have any bilingual contributors?

I was wondering how Gollum's speech patterns has been translated into other languages, and whether there are any interesting differences or nuances a reader would get reading Gollum in the translated version?

~~~~~~
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


Jun 21, 11:37am


Views: 672
Why this coming did we not see it, Precious?

“Gollum calls Bilbo 'it'. I suppose it could be too dark to assess gender, but it suggests to me that Bilbo is dehumanised in Gollum's eyes - an 'it' that might be et, if you will.”

Gollum definitely dehumanizes/de-hobbitizes Bilbo by calling him “it,” the easier to eat him, I am sure.

But while we leaped ahead to LOTR and Frodo’s indignant denial that Gollum isn’t a hobbit, where is the narrator in either book telling us, “Of course by now you’ve spotted the obvious.”? Which is: Gollum was a hobbit and should have recognized Bilbo as one, but he never does, and in LOTR, he refers to Sam & Frodo as hobbitses, as if he doesn’t belong in that race. Granted, he’s been twisted over time and has forgotten his own name (though I think that’s out of guilt too), but in the passage of the Dead Marshes, his memory is good enough that he recalls the old war stories from his hobbit-youth about how they became that way.

So, he remembers events of world history that didn’t involve him, but he can’t recognize a member of his own race? Odd for Tolkien to gloss over that, it is, but perhaps he was distracted by slogans on boxer shorts. (Maybe Gollum lost the Ring for the same reason, especially glow-in-the-dark boxers.)

I like your point about his snake-like voice echoing off the cave roof—Gollum is creepy for many different reasons, and that’s just another one to add.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 21, 12:35pm


Views: 664
It was the accent :)

As Bilbo explains to the trolls, he's a Burra hobbit

Burra is an old copper-mining town in South Australia, so I suppose Bilbo's Australian and has an Australian accent.
Stands to reason - you've just found yourself a nice quiet spot by a little-known lake, so the most likely non-local visitor to come along would be an Australian backpacker.... Wink


How would glow in the dark boxer shorts work even, unless someone went around without their trousers on?
And where did Gollum get his boxers then? Oh, I know - they come from his old hobbit days & he got them from the quartermaster stoor's?
Do they say 'what have I got in my pocket'?

~~~~~~
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


Jun 21, 1:15pm


Views: 659
Three cheers for Unwins...

I don't think Tolkien was always the easiest of authors to work with, and I imagine there were often cases of 'the black speech' coming out of Editorial or Production.

~~~~~~
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


Jun 21, 1:59pm


Views: 647
more seriously though, I agree...

I agree - it is hard to see why Bilbo doesn't remind Gollum of the hobbits (or hobbit-like creatures, at least) with which he used to live.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
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Petty Dwarf
Bree


Jun 21, 7:42pm


Views: 621
Well, it's been a few hundred years.

Old Gollum's memory may not be what it used to be. Wink

As for him calling Frodo and Sam "hobbitses" as though he wasn't one; well, it is noted that the word was not in use when Smeagol was living down by the river.

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


sador
Half-elven


Jun 22, 11:44am


Views: 613
Late Again

Well, you take some of the blame for it, for introducing me to the NeverFeltBetter blog... but it was mostly the calls of RL, as well as a burnt-out feeling after last week (I'm not as used to these discussions as I used to be).


Anyway, no more excuses. Let's get to work.


is it [Sting] like Galadriel’s phial and how it supports Frodo and (perhaps especially) Sam both physically and morally (spiritually?) at Shelob’s Lair and Cirith Ungol?
Well, Sting will feature at Shelob's Lair, and Frodo will mention its history then.
But I agree the Phial seems to help Sam more. This is another manifestation of something I have mentioned several times before - that Sam seems to be Bilbo's true heir. Frodo becomes a tragic savior figure; but Sam is the one who goes There and Back Again, and ends up being the torch-bearer of the story to latter generations.
Sam is also the homely and rustic hobbit - an innocent abroad, like Bilbo was in The Hobbit. And Tolkien makes fun of him, and patronises him, just like Bilbo here.


Any thoughts as to why Tolkien used this device at least twice (here and in Moria)?
We are in a world which is still pretty unexplored. And the deeps of the earth were always a fascinating, mysterious place.


Is this a way of settling down the intended child-at-bedtime reader with a little more gentle material after a tense chapter? Does it fit symbolically, or in other ways?
In a way, it is. But it also reinforces the image of the goblins we know from the previous chapter.


To what extent is the whole chapter a riddle? The narrator makes sure that we notice Bilbo getting the ring, by saying it will be the turning point of his career. But it is some time before we find out what this means.
Hardly so, as Tolkien himself did not yet know what it means. Bilbo uses the Ring in this chapter, and at the beginning of the next one - and then promptly forgets about it, until he needs it when fighting the spiders.
Obviously, once knowing The Lord of the Rings, it surely seems so. But I have always assumed the one who asks the riddle should also know the answer when asking.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 22, 2:58pm


Views: 599
Way Down We Go

To me it makes a sort of symbolic sense that deeper levels underground become wilder. The goblins after all have a civilisation (not the same thing as being civilised). Something older, more primal, wilder lurks below - and the goblins are afraid of it.

Perhaps for creative people there's a further applicability:


Quote
With athletes it’s ‘going for the burn’; with writers (at least, this writer) it’s ‘dipping in the slime’. A matter of sliding a fist and even a forearm into the unholy ooze that collects in the dark depths of the imagination. Into the Parisian-sewers-of-the-mind with you, boy, and see what you can find.

Give The Anarchist A Cigarette (Pimlico)" by Mick Farren


~~~~~~
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


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 22, 10:54pm


Views: 582
Gollum and Goblins

Gollum has been in the Misty Mountains for over nine-hundred years, Now the Goblins of Goblin-town are a relatively new addition. Although Goblins did have an up and down history over those years, but they do not seem to be always there, so did Gollum eat things like fish other than Goblins when they where not about? Or as a bit of speculation and a bit like Smaug, maybe he knew the taste of Dwarves. After all, there where times when Dwarves passed that way, in the war of the Dwarves and Orcs for example and possibly Gollum did snag a few!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 23, 12:13am


Views: 578
How long?


In Reply To
Gollum has been in the Misty Mountains for over nine-hundred years...


That would be some trick considering that Gollum would have been a little over 500 years old when Bilbo encountered him!

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jun 23, 12:14am)


sador
Half-elven


Jun 24, 1:49pm


Views: 509
"Hey, daddy-o / I don't wanna go down to the basemewnt / There's something there"

If Gollum is diabolical (for the purposes of this interpretation) is it fitting that Bilbo has to save himself by a trial of wits rather than by force or fleetness of foot?
Diabolical? Gollum is no Balrog or Smaug, and not even a Shelob.
But this is another foreshadowing of the coming conversation, as well as the fight with the spiders - in which he uses his sword, the Ring, and indeed running and jumping.


And what to make of Bilbo doing this without realising he has something absolutely diabolical in his pocketses?
We don't know that yet, not until the sequel.

Well, Riddles in the Dark was re-written after Tolkien knew pretty much about the Ring - but this symbolism was written into the chapter long before that.

If you really want to think of this question, I would see this as a manifestation of the unexpected luck of widows' sons.


Compare and contrast Gollum and the Balrog. To me the balrog comes across as something to which the only responses are fight or flight.

Quote

"Do you think they're friendly?" said Legolam, trembling like a leaf.
"That I cannot say," said Stomper. "If they are, we have no worries; if they are foes, we must escape their wrath through craft."
"How?" asked Gimlet, seeing no hiding place on the flat plain. "Do we fight or flee?"
"Neither," said the Ranger, falling limp on the ground. "We'll all play dead!"
Legolam and Gimlet looked at each other and shook their heads. There were few things on which they both agreed, but Stomper was definitely one of them.




One contrast is that, because the riddle contest requires Gollum to talk extensively, we see much more of his character – essential I suppose if we are to understand Bilbo’s eventual decision to spare Gollum.
Yes, I agree. Frodo will later feel the same.



Gollum is given a very characteristic way of speaking (compare the stock-character mockney of the trolls, which fades out as soon as the reader has been cued to understand what kind of character they are). How does this contribute to how you read his character?
squire had a nice take on this.



I’m wondering to what extent Gollum is Bilbo’s shadow – is Gollum what Bilbo fears he might become, should he never get out of the mines and yet decide to continue living by whatever means?
Well, this part was added in 1947, so I think this is possible.
I'm not entirely sure I accept Ursula Le Guin's take on Gollum in general, but once you accept her premise, this works for Bilbo as well.



Is this what makes Gollum disturbing (rather than terrifying, like a Watcher or Balrog or some ferocious animal)?
I don't think so. His talks does.



Reading this chapter of The Hobbit (rather that ‘the trilogy’) do you hate, or feel you’re asked to hate Gollum?
No.



And, actually, is Gollum ‘evil’ on the evidence we have from this chapter (that is, set aside our post-LOTR knowledge that he’s a murderer)? Or is he a hungry carnivorous creature who is now unwilling or unable to leave his underground life, but no more evil than (say) a real-life wolf, bear or lion?
In The Hobbit alone, we are not called to pass moral judgment on minor characters. So the question is moot.



If Gollum started out looking something like a hobbit, he has changed a great deal physically. What do you imagine has caused that?
We do not know this at all. If you look at Douglas Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit, you have several illustrations from early editions of The Hobbit. Some have Gollum looking radically different.





sador
Half-elven


Jun 24, 2:34pm


Views: 501
"Near a tree by a river there's a hole in the ground / where an old man of Aran goes around and around"

Who else tried to solve them on your first reading (i.e not just reading on until you got the answers) and how did you get on?
I doubt that I did try; I definitely did not succeed solving any.



Do you think the characters of Bilbo and of Gollum are illustrated by the riddles they choose –if so, then how? What other significance, if any, do you see in the riddles Tolkien chose?
Yes, of course. For one thing, Bilbo is domestic, even homely; Gollum is more dark, and refer more to the Wilds. They are also more antique-feeling, while Bilbo's is nearer to our experience.




Is that just inevitable – a hero needs some luck so that they can have can have perilous, suspenseful adventures and yet survive? Or do you read it as something we’re supposed to notice, and infer that there is more than regular luck at work?
I've referred to this before.
I think it is obvious - and the dwarves will, too, in Flies and Spiders.

Is this too much? I don't know enough of the genre to assess that.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 24, 4:31pm


Views: 498
The unexpected luck of widows' sons.

Does that still count if your mother wasn't widowed until after you reached adulthood?


In Reply To
And, actually, is Gollum ‘evil’ on the evidence we have from this chapter (that is, set aside our post-LOTR knowledge that he’s a murderer)? Or is he a hungry carnivorous creature who is now unwilling or unable to leave his underground life, but no more evil than (say) a real-life wolf, bear or lion?
In The Hobbit alone, we are not called to pass moral judgment on minor characters. So the question is moot.


Well, Gollum is an intelligent humanoid with cannibalistic tendencies. And we know that if he had not lost his ring, he would have tried to kill and eat Bilbo in spite of his promise. So, yeah, I think characterizing him as 'evil' is a fair cop.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 24, 5:59pm


Views: 497
What counts as cannibalistic?

At first sight this might look tediously pedantic and lexical, but I believe the question improves upon acquaintance. It could lead, I hope to thinking about whether 'the wonderfully repulsive and degraded Gollum' [Ursula K Le Guin] should realise he's doing wrong.

I think that cannibalism is normally about eating your own species. Gollum has only done that if we see goblins as his own species. And even if he did eat Bilbo (which would certainly mess up the rest of the story!) on the basis of The Hobbit text alone we should probably think of him as predatory rather than cannibalistic. That's because it is only in LOTR that we learn that Gollum was once a hobbit himself (or something like it). So the cannibalism charge relies, I think, upon the assumption that gollums and goblins are the same species.

In real life eating people vary in their opinions about eating other animals (from always wrong, which makes Gollum wrong to eat fish) to a taboo against eating other people, but most other things are OK. I suggest that debating the rights and wrongs of these opinions about food is out of scope for this board, but I think it might be non-tedious to think about whether Gollum would know he was in the wrong, or ought to be so judged.

I don't know how I'd feel about eating goblin, if such a thing were possible. It's hard to imagine, because of course there are no goblins to eat and we are used, in real life to the idea that talking sentient creatures are other people. Not of course that we always treat each other any better than goblins, but that is the language of politics, which I shall not utter here. Is eating goblins (as Gollum does) much worse that killing them all in battle, no surrender (which our LOTR heroes do)?

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


Jun 24, 8:11pm


Views: 489
Gollum's diet.

I am using the term 'cannibalism' in the looser, more general sense of any thinking humanoid viewing anyone who could normally be counted as a person as just another source of food. I am not attempting to explore the ethics of ritual cannibalism or the eating of human flesh as a last resort in a life-or-death situation. I feel confident in stating that cannibalism as practiced by Gollum, Orcs or Trolls would in Middle-earth be considered to be an act of evil. However, I was also writing of Gollum's plans to betray his promise to Bilbo, not just his eating habits.

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


squire
Half-elven


Jun 25, 3:09am


Views: 475
Whence this creature's precious features?

Thanks for the reference to my 2009 post on Gollum's original way of speaking. It reminded me that I expanded it into a slightly more formal essay for the TORn front page the following year. I am still fond of this thesis and occasionally muse about pursuing it further with more complete examples of contemporary style and British nursery customs.

In general with Gollum, the Ring, and most other aspects of the story, I remain fascinated by just how much of this chapter, and subsequent chapters of The Hobbit, were written without reference to The Lord of the Rings -- because it hadn't yet been imagined. For all of Tolkien's later and brilliantly reconstrued connections, including the major rewrites in this chapter, I much prefer to read and think about The Hobbit as a stand-alone novel with its own themes, and its own portrayal of the world later transformed into Middle-earth.

I don't really like to work on trying to explain away apparent contradictions, although of course it's a fun game to play with friends around here. I much prefer to embrace the contradictions for the breathing space they give the earlier book.



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sador
Half-elven


Jun 25, 7:25am


Views: 453
"And I'm giving youy a longing look / every day I write the book"

Well, I guess I should stop this kind of silliness.
To your questions!


I think that Frodo's 'Hobbits don't cheat therefore Bilbo can't have' is the kind of bad argument known as a 'genetic fallacy' (like arguing 'English people take tea at 4pm, so no English person could have committed a burglary at that time'.)
Well, Frodo did also claim in The Scouring of the Shire that no hobbit ever killed each other on purpose. He's good at making this kind of claim.

And didn't Bilbo cheat Throin when taking and keeping the Arkenstone? I know why he did that; but perhaps we should modify Frodo's argument to 'Hobbits don't cheat without a really good reason'?


I also wonder what would have happened had Bilbo lost the riddle game fairy – did he really intend to surrender his neck passively to Gollum’s throttling fingers?
He did mean to, but then instinct kicked in - and by sheer coincidence, his sword was in his hand. He's really sorry.



Do you find these defence of Bilbo's behaviour convincing?
Well, I live in a cynical age, and am affected by it.


Are they intended to be convincing?
Yes. Tolkien was hoping to educate reprobates like me. Unlike CS Lewis, he went about it in a subtle way.


Why does Tolkien make so much of this business of cheating (intentional or excusable or neither) and of false accounts?
To prepare us for the Arkenstone business.


How seriously ought I take the idea that the riddle game is ‘sacred’ – would cheats expect to be cursed– as in damned or doomed?
I think quite seriously. Ancient times took this kind of challenges seriously - think of the Sphinx, and the "what object stays on the table in the morning, on the wall at noon, and in your handbag at evening"? riddle.
And this was a riddle-game - not something profane such as cards or quoits (something Bilbo was adept at, too).


Does Tolkien seem to take this idea any further (do you think anything bad happened to Gollum or Bilbo because they cheated)?
Well, Bombur got the "don't grumble about orders, or something bad will happen to you" for Thorin, and something bad indded did happen.
Which led to Thorin and co. having to caqrry him around. Be carefgul what you threaten subordinates with...


Or is it a plot device used to explain the lack of more flagrant cheating, and then forgotten?
Well, Bilbo needed to explain his own actions by subterfuge. He naturally couldn't just say "well, I was transplanted here from a modern time, and I don't really follow you so-called sacred rules".


Does this tell us anything interesting about Tolkien’s attitude to inventing (or discovering) Middle-earth?
Well, that's a telling example of the Red Book Conceit.


Are we grateful to Unwins for allowing Tolkien to behave in this eccentric and expensive manner?
As CuriousG implied, it was a rarity. It was quite good of the Unwins to agree.



did Tolkien’s changes improve the storytelling of this work?
I tend to think so, as it seems to be more in line with Bilbo's actions later regarding the Arkenstone.
But this might just be my bias, being used to this version and never reading the early one till well after I've joined this website.



Thank you, nowiz, for this discussion! I'll try to join your next one, possibly tomorrow.




sador
Half-elven


Jun 25, 7:27am


Views: 450
I remembered the longer one as well

But did not know how top find it. Thank you!


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 25, 11:41am


Views: 433
Arkenstone rehersal

Which sounds like a name from Skulduggery Pleasant, but is actually me admiring


In Reply To

Why does Tolkien make so much of this business of cheating (intentional or excusable or neither) and of false accounts?

To prepare us for the Arkenstone business.


I hadn't thought of that, expecting responses more along the lines of the dishonesty showing the ring's effect on Bilbo's character.

~~~~~~
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


Jun 25, 11:43am


Views: 435
I think that's a really interesting idea - Gollum as gothic horror granny


Quote
Even in the original The Hobbit, Gollum was a ghoul and a monster, but he was a strangely endearing one because of his language. Isn’t it possible that Gollum’s original, pre-Ring personality was that of a nursemaid-turned-monster, to the thrilled horror of the Tolkien children? At the core of the caricature is a childless old lady who cannot let a precious infant go, but will continue to baby it, coddle it, spoil it, and dominate it, long after it is time to let the child grow up – and so she becomes the child, and the child becomes her.

Looked at this way, Tolkien’s satirical rendering of a pathologically self-infantilized child-creature relates very well to the story of Bilbo, a child-sized adult who rediscovers his lost but strong inner fantasy-child. The original Gollum, and Bilbo, have a monster-victim relationship that is most appropriate to The Hobbit with its strong theme of Childhood Lost and Regained – wherein Gollum is Childhood Endlessly Prolonged.

squire http://www.theonering.net/...-does-it/#more-35932


~~~~~~
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


squire
Half-elven


Jun 25, 12:09pm


Views: 434
There's cheating and then there's cheating

I tend to see the immense importance of 'cheating at the Riddle Game' as being necessary to explain why Gollum, having lost, placably agrees to walk Bilbo out of the caves when he can't find the promised present.

Bilbo's willingness to appropriate the Arkenstone, later in the story, seems to me to be more about the terrible power of the Dragon-spell to overcome his honesty. The major 'criminal' theme of The Hobbit is not the Ring, of course, which is just a super-burglary device to even Bilbo's odds. The Dragon-spell of greed for treasure is what drives the entire story, and Bilbo is naturally sucked up by it as well, for a brief time, before redeeming himself by giving up his treasure in the cause of peace.

It's fun to remember that, when faced with writing a sequel, Tolkien seriously considered reviving the Dragon-spell as the motivation to get Bilbo out on a second adventure. Of course the Ring proved to be an excellent hook instead, once he realized he could transform it into the totem it became with relatively few changes to the previous story. But the fact that he stuck with the treasure and the dragon at first speaks to how seriously he took The Hobbit as a story in its own right. His larger model, the existing Silmarillion with its iconic jewels (for which the Arkenstone was an obvious stand-in), is far more about a world-war and conflict over Treasure than Power, after all.

I would be curious to trace whether Tolkien, having lived through the previous decade of rampant totalitarianism in Europe, didn't find his mind far more interested in the question of corrupting Power by the late 1930s and 1940s, than he did when first composing his epic and medieval-modeled quests for treasure, the Sil and The Hobbit, in earlier years.



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CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 25, 12:53pm


Views: 433
But. some of my best friends are cannibals


Quote
I think it might be non-tedious to think about whether Gollum would know he was in the wrong, or ought to be so judged.

I think most people find the idea of consuming the flesh of a thinking, talking being to be morally and socially objectionable.

Though for me, I think Gollum's habit of eating anything that comes within reach is more to depict him as a scary monster for kids. After all, what do scary monsters do to you? They smack you a couple of times and steal your lunch money, or break your favorite toy, or tell your parents you ate more cookies than were allowed. That's all too commonplace. A scary monster is going to eat you; authors go for that primal fear we have of being eaten by anything or anyone.

The trolls, Gollum, the wolves, the spiders, and Smaug liked eating sentient people--scary monsters. The goblins just wanted to kill Thorin & Co, unless I missed a reference to eating their prisoners too.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 25, 1:26pm


Views: 428
Oops, I did miss a reference

Next chapter, when Bilbo is complaining about the lack of supper and being tired, Gandalf says they must carry on or they will become supper. The context is still about goblins and before there's any mention of wolves.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 25, 3:37pm


Views: 487
Maybe not in 'The Hobbit'.


In Reply To
The trolls, Gollum, the wolves, the spiders, and Smaug liked eating sentient people--scary monsters. The goblins just wanted to kill Thorin & Co, unless I missed a reference to eating their prisoners too.


I think we have to jump over to the Orcs of LotR for that. And even then I might be remembering more from the movies than the book.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 25, 3:44pm


Views: 488
On the other hand...


In Reply To
I tend to see the immense importance of 'cheating at the Riddle Game' as being necessary to explain why Gollum, having lost, placably agrees to walk Bilbo out of the caves when he can't find the promised present.


I can certainly see that is how it is in Hobbit 1e. But as I read it, Tolkien gives us more about accusations of cheating in 2e than in 1e (and yet more in bits of LOTR that refer back to thsi episode). So I think it had changed its significance - what started as a handy plot device to prevent treachery by Gollum has now been used for something else, rather than edited out altogether or edited out only partially, with some left in as a sort of 'fossil'.

It reads to me that the 'cheating' thing is now source of guilt and discomfort for Bilbo - something that bothers him and perhaps acts as an ostensible reason to keep the ring secret.

And I think it's also a rationalisation for Gollum - because Bilbo cheated it would be OK to murder him to recover the ring. When he talks of killing Bilbo and Frodo, I see a revenge motive, as well as (of course) wanting to recover his Precious.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
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squire
Half-elven


Jun 25, 5:04pm


Views: 485
Sure, for the Ring modification the cheating issue grows in importance

As you say, the entire 1e/2e revision is to give the Ring its due. Bilbo's and the narrator's honest doubts about his and Gollum's various versions of 'cheating' do help explain the Ring's history in the later book, especially so in the rewrite. My point was that the vast majority of the present book remains unchanged. Anything we read that wasn't changed was never meant to apply to LotR, even if Tolkien cleverly found plenty of second meanings due to overlaps of psychology and just plain good storytelling about mythic subjects.

Even in the context of the new stuff about the Ring, I'll say that 'cheating' in this chapter is a word used for game play, not general criminality or dishonest conduct with friends. Thus I disagreed with sador's suggestion that the cheating in the Gollum chapter was a thematic introduction to Bilbo's later dishonest or burglarious behavior. I would even venture that Tolkien agreed, in that he added the "Thief! Thief!" dialogue to make the distinction clearer - Gollum doesn't rant "Cheat! Cheat!" because it wouldn't make sense in the new scenario.



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Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 26, 9:28am


Views: 468
Although as we know

The events in the Hobbit did happen in the broader ME world.