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***Favorite Chapters- Inside Information (The Hobbit)



uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 13, 4:54am


Views: 689
***Favorite Chapters- Inside Information (The Hobbit)

A great favorite chapter, and an important one. In Tolkien’s famous essay on Beowulf he points out that “dragons, real dragons, essential both to the machinery and the ideas of a poem or tale, are actually rare. In northern literature there are only two that are significant.” I couldn’t read that without thinking immediately of my own formative dragon, the wily old bastard who for this reader was always the benchmark against which all other dragons were to be measured. He is the third great dragon of northern Europe, and this sparkling word-hoard of a chapter is the only time he ever speaks.

But I’ll get to him in a couple days. Bilbo’s interview with Smaug is the chief jewel of the chapter but there’s a lot else going on in its pages, and at least as a beginning I will try, a little bit, to tackle its moving parts in their proper sequence. That said, obviously the peanut gallery will say whatever it likes… and to that end, quite apart from the meat of the discussion, I would like to formally welcome and invite one particular strain of outside information: anybody and everybody, as we go along, please do feel free to interject with any reflections that cross your mind relative to dragons in literature. Whichever ones you have found in your travels to be satisfying or noteworthy or just memorable.

First, though...


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 13, 4:55am


Views: 621
Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror, King under the Mountain

Let’s consider Thorin, particularly the way Thorin talks, since we begin our chapter with a proclamation the author abbreviates to save the reader from it. His diction is unlike anybody else’s in the book, and it never leaves him no matter how his actual behaviors swing from pole to pole. Shall we call it courtly? Bookish? Pompous? Tiresome? Foursquare? Shifty?

I love Thorin and I love it when he acts up and drives the story for a bit. Such a stew he is of admirable and contemptible traits. One might say he’s roughly caught between a good side (which has a lot to do with martial prowess) and a bad side (chiefly his disproportionate preoccupation with physical wealth). He’s the best shot, the canniest fighter, the bitterest complainer.

What he always is, though, is classy. I mean it—he reeks of class dynamics. He is Kingly with a capital K. He most certainly does not get up to do the dishes.

What do we make of him? What does it mean that he comports himself this way?


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 13, 3:35pm


Views: 601
I like how Thorin is usually the most sensible

Such as when they encounter the trolls, he's the only one who approaches them cautiously and is able to put up a fight. Or when they're in Mirkwood and the others are shooting all their arrows in futility, he's the voice of reason urging them to stop.

And I like his manner of speech, which some may call pompous, but I'd just call formal. It's rather wily of him to flatter Bilbo so much in this chapter in his little speech urging him to go on a solo run as their burglar.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 13, 4:05pm


Views: 597
Bilbo Baggins of Bag-End, Hobbiton

I wrote all this up a couple months ago and planned to post it as a sort of daily serial, but of course nobody else has done that and maybe it's dumb. I've been too busy in the last days to rewrite it but I'm thinking I'll just throw it all up here now, before much else gets posted.
----------------

Later, of course, we will come to know Elderly Bilbo as the dean of the hobbits, a sort of nanoscale Asimov, a hobbit Ben Franklin, who’s dabbled in every available vein of learning save sorcery (as far as we know). Poet, chronicler, translator—but no, no, no. That’s a different book. We’re reading a chapter of the Hobbit, and none of that stuff has crossed the author’s mind in the slightest, not yet. This is Bilbo, protagonist of the Hobbit, a lovely book I like to consider in its own right. Bit foppish, very proper, happily unremarkable, just settling down for a long descent into a fustian old age as a country gentleman. Although we are told, eventually, that he hasn’t merely “read of a good many things he had never seen or done,” he also can “do lots of things, besides blowing smoke-rings, asking riddles and cooking, that I haven’t had time to tell you about,” and we never will hear much about what those things might be.

One of the principal turns the book takes within the pages of this chapter, though to mature readers it is manifest already, is to announce formally that Bilbo’s status within Thorin’s company has changed. No longer is he a default burglar, brought along out of necessity and representing a bit of a deadweight the dwarves must grumblingly look after as they travel. He’s become the idea man, the de facto leader, “with ideas and plans of his own.” Indeed by now he seems to be the only one making any plans at all. God of war he may be, but Thorin doesn’t seem to intend to barge into Smaug’s bedroom, now it comes to the point; they’re all waiting for Bilbo to do something clever.

And he does his best, poor chap. He’s become a bold creature; by degrees, from the Misties through Mirkwood, he’s faced down a monster alone, tried his hand as a battlefield captain, hatched an escape plot when nobody else was available to do it, and now in the previous chapter he’s done his best to fill in as substitute loremaster. Now, at last, as he ventures not once but twice down a dark tunnel to the den of a dragon, he firmly dons the hat he was born to wear: he is a Trickster.

What does it mean for him to be “the real leader” now? What do we think of him as a character now, so far from home?


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 13, 4:06pm


Views: 599
Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities

If Smaug is the third dragon of the northern tradition, he’s the first talkative one. How does he fit into his role in the story? How would it all have been different if he had been a rampaging monster without speech?

Where does our dragon fall on the scale of class? Should we read him with more of a Jeremy Irons voice or more of a Bob Hoskins?

He’s devious, conceited, volatile, but courteous too; he knows the rules of diplomacy, even if his approach to it is gleefully roughshod. He brings a wonderfully compelling urgency to the scene, a sense that Bilbo is badly outmatched in trying to treat with him, he’s unsafe here, even as we can see that Smaug himself is also guessing in the dark, and missing things.

We see him devastate the mountainside in satisfying fashion, making clear he’s harder than stone, if he’s able to dive from the sky onto hard rock and smash it to pieces with his claws and tail without any mention of soreness on his part. And then, having established his electrifying potential for violence, he shall of course soon have his second chapter—after a suitable interlude—which will leave his old bones forever entombed, magnificent, profane, amid the abandoned piles of the demolished Lake-town. By then we’ve been given the curious dictum, as he coasts in low over the water, of his solemn awareness that the lake is “mightier than he,” as if the sleeping expanse of water is a wilful entity like himself; and perhaps in the First Age it would have been.

Sit in judgment on Smaug! Is this the dragon we need, a lightweight for a children’s story, the gold standard of all dragons, a cliché with a silly name?


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 13, 4:08pm


Views: 598
The chapter’s structure and its place within the whole.

One extraordinary thing about this chapter is that for the second time, our Bilbo goes deep down into caverns under a mountain, there to bandy riddles with a dangerous magical creature who keeps a treasure. This is… awfully specific, isn’t it? How does this happen twice to the same dude?

I’ve looked a little for underlying structural patterns… in fact Bilbo spends quite a lot of time underground, but I don’t know if it adds up to anything. Surely the Bilbo who twice braces a dragon voluntarily is changed from the one who wanders lost into Gollum’s cave and manages to navigate the situation by the seat of his pants. It makes me want to find some grand plot chiasm in Old Testament style, or something, but I’ve not tripped over anything quite so arcane.
But even absent anything else, the parallel between these two episodes is startling by itself. (If we step outside this book, perhaps Frodo’s gentler verbal footwork with Faramir, in a cave, becomes suggestive as well?)

Anyway! The threads running through the chapter reach forward as well as back. The Arkenstone is named and given clear importance. Here too we see introduced both the language and the tidings of the thrush; indeed bringing Bilbo’s hot tactical dope about Smaug’s vulnerability to the ear of the best archer in the area may be, practically speaking, the most important deliverable that Thorin’s entire final venture ever came up with. (Well and there’s the Ring thing. But again, that’s later, not yet imagined when these pages were written.) Talking to the thrush will lead to Bard, and also to speech with ravens and thence to kin from the Iron Hills. And Smaug, of course, throws a right tantrum, or two of them, and (also needled on by Bilbo’s words, just as surely as the thrush) wafts off to one last star-crossed assault on Esgaroth. Is this the moment when the professor has mapped out just how he will resolve the whole book? All the pieces are moving now. The dragon is roused, the dragon is doomed, war is stirring, and all for shiny treasure.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 13, 4:20pm


Views: 593
appendix w

I say Smaug was my formative dragon but of course that can’t be the whole story. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have some hazy notion of St. George’s dragon:

And really this is as seminal a northern draconic legend as anything. The dragon’s bargain, a kingdom bound to a compact, feeding virgins of some description to the dragon to keep the peace, the armored saint showing up to save the princess in distress: it’s all classic. The idea that in most early versions George subdues the dragon chiefly by invoking Jesus at it, and leads it tamely back to the square to lop off its head in public or something, tends to get lost now in favor of a more Dragonslayery dustup with weaponry and tactics, but still, this episode informs our sense of dragon schtick much more than Sigmund or Beowulf. (Best treatment, though, by Kenneth Grahame in the Reluctant Dragon.)

And comparably early: I nearly lost this one to the frailty of memory. I have from time to time asked people who seem to know kids’ literature if they remember the old Chinese tale I couldn’t put a finger on, of which I remembered only the little old man who was a dragon in disguise, and what I vaguely and not quite correctly remembered as an awe-inspiring two-page spread of the revealed dragon taking up the whole sky, in sort of pearlescent white and orange… nothing else remained. My searches, both online and among the memories of the old, got me nowhere.

My wife, however, is uncanny, and once I got round to telling her the story, she pieced it together with my siblings’ fond recollections of several different Mercer Mayer books, did the right search and came up with this:

And there indeed is the vast dragon, with the barely-remembered sense of satisfaction and approval for the boy watching, of basically divine inscrutability; the picture had blurred a good bit in my mind but I wasn’t fundamentally off-base. The staggering grandeur of the dragon looming over mountain ranges, a real exemplar of the scalability of the draconic myth. And boy I must have been pretty little back when I loved this book so hard. My two littlest, one and three, have already worn our new copy to pieces.


Other dragons of my mental landscape… there are many, of course. Eustace and poor old Octavian. Vortigern’s dragons. Later, Fred Saberhagen’s odd attempt to assemble all available draconic physiognomies into one demented life cycle. Pern’s dragons, who are really dragon-shaped space aliens, but still.

And a great favorite, whose dragons really rival Smaug in my heart for the title of dragons best handled: the dragons of Earthsea, in whom LeGuin managed a very fine balance between epic wild animal and immortal sage, the two most influential and most moving presentations dragons have tended to over time. Her dragons here may be destructive or protective, kind of amoral, or not bound up with any mortal notions of morality, maybe; they do speak in high diction, but it’s not safe to be that close, and if any dragon deigns to say anything to you at all it earns you a fancy title for life. I do love them still.



(This post was edited by uncle Iorlas on Jan 13, 4:23pm)


Solicitr
Rohan


Jan 13, 6:43pm


Views: 571
Well,


In Reply To
If Smaug is the third dragon of the northern tradition, he’s the first talkative one.


Fafnir has rather a lot to say.....

(St George and his dragon come out of the Mediterranean tradition, rather awkwardly relocated to Britain)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 14, 1:33pm


Views: 519
Bilbo the Trickster

I like the idea of Bilbo the Trickster! I do see that as part of his character now. And of course it comes out in Long-Expected Party too, with all those presents that are also parting shots to people.

I also see one of the trickster's failings - to get carried away by one's own cleverness or the temptation of pulling a clever trick. So here Bilbo gives away much more than he ought with his riddling, and risks a parting shot on his second encounter which earns him a scorched bottom. And in Long-Expected Party, Bilbo isn't content to tease his audience with a provoking speech (and leave the presents): he has to disappear dramatically, when (as Gandalf points out) it is hardly wise to use the Ring publicly.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 14, 1:40pm


Views: 519
More ways to run a chapter than beat a dragon


In Reply To
I wrote all this up a couple months ago and planned to post it as a sort of daily serial, but of course nobody else has done that and maybe it's dumb. I've been too busy in the last days to rewrite it but I'm thinking I'll just throw it all up here now, before much else gets posted


I think it's fine the way it is - looks like you're doing a great job to me! I think it would have been fine the other way too. I can remember successful discussions that were done that way (usualy with some kind of schedule given out up front, so that peoeple don't worry about pre-empting material that the leader hoped to come to later). I've tried many different formats in running discussions myself, without any complaints, or getting much sense of there being one 'right' way (either for myself or the audience).

I think that people are mostly just grateful (as well they might be) that someone has started a discussion and that there is something, rather than nothing, to read and comment upon in the Reading Room this week. And so (I suppose) most of us are happy to go along with any format the discussion leader fancies, or finds convenient.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 14, 1:58pm


Views: 523
I'm reading Thorin as being done for compedy here (but I'm not completely sure)


In Reply To
I like his manner of speech, which some may call pompous, but I'd just call formal. It's rather wily of him to flatter Bilbo so much in this chapter in his little speech urging him to go on a solo run as their burglar.


What's behind the verbosity? It could, of course, be cultural - maybe such an event requires, in dwarven culture many prolix speeches of exactly this nature. But I wonder whether I'm not also to react to Thorin's speech as if he were a native English speaker.

Who speaks like this? Nobody I've actually heard. I think I hear excess verbage and unusual synonyms in two circumstances. One is that someone has got used to talking like this - for example, they are using 'work' terminology for general conversations. The other is someone trying to impress, and needing to use words to do it, maybe because they are slightly lacking in anything else. So I see why Uncle I is saying it's a Class thing. I think I'd write a pompous official, small-town Mayor, school Headmaster etc. like that. I have a feeling that, if only I was familiar with folk such as Dickens, Elliot, Thackery and other 19th Century authors I might find a few models.

Whatever the reason it provides a stark contrast with the 'new Bilbo' who is almost rude in reply.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 14, 2:19pm


Views: 516
I read Smaug as being rather donnish

I read Smaug as being rather donnish - by which I mean 'like an Oxford or Cambridge Professor', rather than 'likely to leave a horse's head in a rival's bed', or 'liable to rant on Twitter'.

I've not encountered the subspieces myself, but I've heard tell of academics who feel they have to demonstrate their intellectual superiority over their students in a cruel way. That's the model I have in mind when I read Smaug allowing Bilbo to prattle on revealingly, and then choosing just the moment to undermine him. Whether that is what Tolkien had in mind wriing Smaug I couldn't say; I'm just explaining how he sounds to me.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


Solicitr
Rohan


Jan 14, 2:27pm


Views: 518
I

read Thorin as being slightly lawyerly; there's a lot of pettifogging going on. Certainly Bilbo's "contract" reads that way.... and Smaug immediately picks up the on holes hidden under the boilerplate.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 14, 4:20pm


Views: 508
ouch


In Reply To
Fafnir has rather a lot to say.....

Caught out! I guess I don't know that story as well as I was thinking I did. So that kind of leaves Beowulf's dragon as the only reticent one?


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 15, 2:59pm


Views: 427
Yeah, what is it will all these underground bits?

Tolkien does seem to like sending either Bilbo or Frodo underground for pivotal moments, often resulting in them encountering a monster and gaining or losing something:.

Bilbo -- Misty Mountains-- encounters Gollum -- gains Ring
Bilbo -- Smaug's Den -- Encouters Smaug -- gains the cup, and the key information into Smaug's weakness
Frodo -- Moria - encoutners Balrog --loses Gandalf, his mentor
Frodo -- Shelob's Lair -- encoutners Shelob --loses conciousness, but indirectly may gain access to Mordor, which might have been impossible without Frodo and his mail shirt acting as a diversion for the orcs of Cirith Ungol

I suppose we could have a longer list if we allowed deep dark woods to be a sort of honorary underground. But I have no idea whether that would be cheating or not.

is it something Freudian? Jungian? Following the pattern of The Hero's Journey? I don't know, but maybe someone will show up who does. Anyhow, I suppose it musyt have been these scenes that were impressive enough to help create a hobby called Dungepns and Dragons, as if those were both key imaginative stimuli ....

Of course, it's also teh case that Tolkien's underground bits are also often a cracking good read.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jan 15, 3:08pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 15, 3:15pm


Views: 419
This chapter marks a change of plan

Up until Esgaroth, I think, Thorin & Co's plan was little more than 'take a look around' (and then, presumably, see what opportunities there were).

The reception at Esgaroth ups the stakes, but it reads to me that only during this chapter do the party realise that their best-case plan is to steal what trinkets thay can (a mere rounding error of the whole account of the hoard) and try to walk out alive, dodging Smaug's attempts to catch them.

Then of course a more urgent priorty becomes how to escape from being trapped underground....
...and then new opportunities and difficulties will open up when Smaug does not return, and Thorin gets news that he's the lucky new owner of Erebor (if he can keep hold on it).

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


Solicitr
Rohan


Jan 15, 3:25pm


Views: 421
As well as


In Reply To
Bilbo -- Misty Mountains-- encounters Gollum -- gains Ring
Bilbo -- Smaug's Den -- Encouters Smaug -- gains the cup, and the key information into Smaug's weakness
Frodo -- Moria - encoutners Balrog --loses Gandalf, his mentor
Frodo -- Shelob's Lair -- encoutners Shelob --loses conciousness, but indirectly may gain access to Mordor, which might have been impossible without Frodo and his mail shirt acting as a diversion for the orcs of Cirith Ungol.


Frodo -- Sammath Naur -- encounters Gollum -- loses Ring (and finger)


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Jan 15, 3:26pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jan 15, 7:31pm


Views: 402
More:


In Reply To
Bilbo -- Misty Mountains-- encounters Gollum -- gains Ring
Bilbo -- Smaug's Den -- Encouters Smaug -- gains the cup, and the key information into Smaug's weakness
Frodo -- Moria - encoutners Balrog --loses Gandalf, his mentor
Frodo -- Shelob's Lair -- encoutners Shelob --loses conciousness, but indirectly may gain access to Mordor, which might have been impossible without Frodo and his mail shirt acting as a diversion for the orcs of Cirith Ungol


Bilbo -- enters troll lair -- gains Sting
Bilbo -- enters the Elvenking' s caverns -- finds his leadership ability

#FidelityToTolkien


squire
Half-elven


Jan 15, 9:00pm


Views: 399
It's kind of Jungian, as you guessed

Notice that the general direction of the underground travel is to the East (and while we're talking about it, don't forget Strider on the Paths of the Dead, the burial in the Barrow, and the passage under the High Hay to leave the Shire).

As I understand it, this trope is called the Solar Journey. The Hero passes East underground, experiencing symbolic Death and Burial, and emerges into the daylight at the end, Reborn. This of course is what the Sun does every night: setting in the West, casting the world into darkness while it makes its way under the world back to the East, rising again in triumph to restore hope, light, and new Day.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 15, 9:19pm


Views: 393
And the Barrow



Quote

In Reply To
Bilbo -- Misty Mountains-- encounters Gollum -- gains Ring
Bilbo -- Smaug's Den -- Encouters Smaug -- gains the cup, and the key information into Smaug's weakness
Frodo -- Moria - encoutners Balrog --loses Gandalf, his mentor
Frodo -- Shelob's Lair -- encoutners Shelob --loses conciousness, but indirectly may gain access to Mordor, which might have been impossible without Frodo and his mail shirt acting as a diversion for the orcs of Cirith Ungol.

Frodo -- Sammath Naur -- encounters Gollum -- loses Ring (and finger)

Frodo & friends -- Barrow -- encounter wight, gain swords/knives to kill Witch-king (plus just to have weapons in general). And Frodo had quite a pivotal moment in the Barrow on whether he should use the Ring or not to escape without his friends, or stay and fight.



CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 15, 9:22pm


Views: 399
I felt like the journy through Mirkwood was effectively underground

and they were stuck in a tunnel. It was quite liberating to Bilbo the one time he climbed a tree and see the outside world again. Then it was back to the tunnel.

And then underground in the Elf-king's palace, where Bilbo finally decided he was going to be the hero/leader who saved them all via barrels out of bond (along with some burglary, but no riddles).


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 15, 9:30pm


Views: 397
Bilbo as leader

I think because we readers like Bilbo, we're willing to see him takeover the decision-making. But I wonder if that stretches credibility a bit when he takes charge in situations that Thorin should have, and probably could have. Going down to scout the treasure while invisible, of course, is only something that Bilbo can do, though oddly, they never discuss why he doesn't "lend" his invisibility ring to someone else. That happens in other stories rather routinely, and at this point, it wasn't Sauron's Ring. But anyway, it's part of what makes Bilbo valuable to the troupe when he has been deadweight in the past, so it's probably essential for him to be the sole proprietor.


Solicitr
Rohan


Jan 15, 9:45pm


Views: 394
I think


In Reply To
I think because we readers like Bilbo, we're willing to see him takeover the decision-making. But I wonder if that stretches credibility a bit when he takes charge in situations that Thorin should have, and probably could have. Going down to scout the treasure while invisible, of course, is only something that Bilbo can do, though oddly, they never discuss why he doesn't "lend" his invisibility ring to someone else. That happens in other stories rather routinely, and at this point, it wasn't Sauron's Ring. But anyway, it's part of what makes Bilbo valuable to the troupe when he has been deadweight in the past, so it's probably essential for him to be the sole proprietor.


Bilbo rather enjoyed having an 'equalizer.' He had spent the first part of the journey as little more than luggage, and the Dwarves clearly couldn't see what the use of him was. But when he snuck right past Balin with none of them even noticing- well, NOW the Professional Treasure-Hunter had a unique and valuable skill!

As for the rest: just plain solid hobbit-sense, when the Dwarves were often not being sensible at all.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 16, 2:29am


Views: 377
Gonna take--a geocentric journey--

Fantastic stuff all round on subterranean Middle-Earth episodes. If the High Hay counts, isn't there a similar earthwork in Caras Galadhon? Not sure of my memory, I'll check. I already noted Henneth Annun. Aglarond could count, Gimli is even feared dead, though he is a aecondary character. But also, and I'm not quite sure how this counts, hobbits reside in holes generally. Wordplays on the subject are common. But what's that? It's the opposite of a journey. Maybe hobbits are opposite heroes?

Speaking of opposites, I wonder if the underground motif might be seen as the opposite pole to the towering importance of trees and the association between being amo g trees and having peace and safety.


squire
Half-elven


Jan 16, 3:17am


Views: 378
Don't forget, "Deep roots are not reached by the frost"

You bring up an interesting twist on NoWiz's inquiry: the existence of underground lairs or holds - which are not quite the same as underground passages. With these new features, one leaves the same way one entered, and the East-West orientation is more about vision, if it exists at all.

Underground lairs or holds:
Henneth Annun
Caves of Aglarond
Smaug's lair
Elven King's halls
Shelob's lair
Caverns beneath Isengard
Balrog's lair
Gollum's lair
Sammath Naur
Orcs in general
And of course, hobbit holes.

It seems pretty mixed up. Try to break it down. Here are some thoughts on the various images.

Imagery:

The Womb, 'good': Hobbit holes, Henneth Annun, Caves of Aglarond. Images of childhood shelter, hidden virtue awaiting birth or rebirth, beauty awaiting revelation.

The Tomb, 'bad': Villains' lairs: Smaug, Gollum, Shelob (also the bowels here), Sammath Naur (ditto on the bowels), Balrog, Isengard, also see Silmarillion for Thangorodrim. Images of death in residence underground, the hero re-emerging after triumphing over death.

The Fortress, 'good within bad': Elven King's halls, Moria, Erebor, Cirith Ungol, Goblin kingdom; also see Silmarillion for Nargothrond and Dwarf Kingdoms. Images of siege, hiding, and voluntarily accepting a living death in order to survive. Ref: WW I trenches and dugouts.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


sador
Half-elven


Jan 16, 3:14pm


Views: 378
I love Thorin, too.

I think he does put on kingly airs; perhaps when digging coals (as Gandalf said in An Unexpected Party), or even wielding his hammer (referring to appendix A of LotR) - this is the only thing which was left him, as well as something to keep his followers heads' up - they are mere miners now, but they still cling to the remnants of their fathers' dignity.

Thinking about things I don't understand


sador
Half-elven


Jan 16, 3:25pm


Views: 376
Any way of running a discussion is fine.

This whole series is indeed quite different from the others, but in previous discussions something similar to your approach was done. I will lead a discussion in a months' time - and will probably do it somewhat differently.


Bilbo becoming the real leader in this chapter is reflected, I think, in the change of the mode of the story. The picaresque of the first chapters has changed once the company reaches Mirkwood, and in the Lonely Mountain the true drama begins. The story and Bilbo grow together, and so we are able to accept his development.

Thinking about things I don't understand


sador
Half-elven


Jan 16, 3:32pm


Views: 379
I am sorry I was so late in responding

And also that I really do not have the time to respond properly.


However, Solicitr mentioned Fafnir - I think Smaug goes a step further, as his malice is not (like Fafnir's) an instrument of revenge after he had received his death-stab but an active tool to dismay and cow his enemies.
The best counterpart I can think of is Glaurung - however, Smaug seems relatively independent, and has a far better sense of humour, pride, and actual cleverness - in short, he (it?) has more of a personality than his First-age predecessor. Alas (for him), that personality includes a fatal flaw - the ancient one of hubris, in boasting and rolling around, exposing himself to Bilbo (and did Smaug not know a bit was exposed? or had he forgotten, in the excitement of the moment?)

Thinking about things I don't understand


Solicitr
Rohan


Jan 16, 3:58pm


Views: 379
IMO

Tolkien's dragons are some of his very best characters. Glaurung and Smaug of course have different tones because they are in very, very different stories. Glaurung, like the whole of the Turinssaga, is grim, horrifying and very, very serious. Smaug is in The Hobbit- which, although it becomes rather more serious and even grand in the later chapters, remains drolly humorous.*

And then there is my favorite of all, the sleazy con-artist Chrysophylax! Here we have the Smaug formula inverted: if Smaug is 80/20 dangerous/amusing, X-lax is the reverse: very funny, but there is still the frisson of "oh, yeah, dragon"

*Someone - Shippey maybe? - likened Smaug to a retired colonel accosted in a railway-carriage by someone to whom he has not been introduced. Myself, I always envisioned him with the voice of Jeremy Irons.


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Jan 16, 4:00pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 16, 4:03pm


Views: 375
Underland

Thanks for all the additional underground bits, for the interpretation and for the cacking pun about a geocentric journey...

It's all beginning to remind me of Underland, a book by Robert Macfarlane, describing journeys he made into various underground places, and a lot of thinking about the symbollism of those places. Underland is, by the way, one of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking books I've read. There is some overlap for me between the pleasures of reading Macfarlane and the pleasures fo reading Tolkien. For one thing, I find both their prose styles very satisfying.

The following quotes give some of Macfarlane's ideas that seem relevant to our current discussion. These versions come from a newspaper article Macfarlae wrote about his book. But as it happens, these particular paragraphs also appear in the book in slightly altered form. (So, if you've read the book , that is why they might seem familiar):


Quote
We know so little of the worlds beneath our feet. Look up on a cloudless night and you might see the light from a star trillions of miles away, or pick out the craters left by asteroid strikes on the moon’s face. Look down and your sight stops at topsoil, tarmac, toe. I have rarely felt as far from the human realm as when only 10 metres below it, held in the shining jaws of a limestone bedding plane first formed on the floor of a warm Cretaceous sea.


...The underland’s impenetrability to vision and its obstructiveness to entry have long made it a means, across world cultures, of alluding to what cannot easily be seen or said: trauma, memory, grief, death, suffering, the afterlife – and what Elaine Scarry calls the “deep subterranean fact” of pain. Deliberately to place something in the underland is often a strategy to shield it from view. Actively to retrieve something from the underland often requires effortful work, physical or psychoanalytical.


...Yes, journeys into darkness have long been made to recover or to store what is precious (minerals, information, memories, the lost, the loved) and to dispose of what is harmful (waste, ghosts, poison, enemies, trauma).


https://www.theguardian.com/...th-robert-macfarlane


Maybe it is all this sort of thing that makes the underground passages of Tolkien so memorble and significant, so that we end up with "Dungeons & Dragons", not (say) "Hikes & Heroes"

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jan 16, 4:04pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 16, 4:11pm


Views: 371
I would quite like to bury underground that "Puff the Magic Dragon"

"Puff the Magic Dragon" - a song about a dragon who is a child's imaginary friend, and who finds himself abandoned when the child grows older.

As a small child I found this fate for Puff very upsetting, and made up an extra bit in which a new child came along to rescue Puff from his loneliness.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 16, 4:18pm


Views: 371
By random co-incidence (Second World War school air raid shelters)

By random co-incidence, the work from which I'm taking a tea break involved me finding this site, with descriptions of Second World War school air raid shelters: http://www.subterraneanhistory.co.uk/...helters-redhill.html

Not entirely impossible that kids trapped down there were being read Tolkien to keep their spirits up; or that a few years later children trapped in the equivalent German school air-raid shelter were being read the German translation...

In any case, Bilbo and the dwarves running down the tunnel to escape from an aerial attack probably had particular wartime connotations for many readers early on.

Anyway, back to work...

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


Solicitr
Rohan


Jan 16, 4:34pm


Views: 371
Tolkien

after The Hobbit, of course, but during the writing of the LR, served as a volunteer air-raid warden. The typical ARP post looked like this:



Or used Anderson shelters of the sort many British families installed in their gardens:



Very hobbitish, isn't it?


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Jan 16, 4:46pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 16, 5:48pm


Views: 361
There was an Andersen shelter in the back garden...

There was an Andersen shelter in the back garden of the house in which I grew up. The sandbagging had long been removed, so it was just a corrugated iron half-cylinder slowly rusting away and meanwhile being used as a garden shed, and a backstop for garden air-rifle practice.

I think wartime models often had a pit or trench inside in which to shelter, but ours had been filled in and concreted off. I remember helping to clear the whole thing out so it could be demolished (you know how full of mathoms sheds get - or at least that's what happens in my family!).The night before I had a dream about finding a passageway down into what turned into a substantial tunnel. But real life was rather more prosaic.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 16, 5:52pm


Views: 362
That song always bothered me as a kid too

I wish I'd done what you did and make up my own ending for it, rather than let it make me feel sad. Poor Puff.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 16, 5:58pm


Views: 359
Dragons, Trolls and mind controls

A few weeks ago we spent a while discussing the accent of the 'Roast Mutton' trolls. I wonder whether it means anything that the violent but stupid trolls are from one end of the English class structure of Tolkien's time, and the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities is up the posh end (or so it seems from the accents they've been given)?

Maybe it's part of Smaug being demonic rather than demotic. There seem to be some hints that Smaug is hypnotic in some way. Something a little like Saruman's Voice, maybe. Perhaps Tolkien had already developed his ideas about the psychologically manipulative side of dragons we see in the Tale of Turin (the hero, I mean, not the Italian city...). Smaug the suave, sophisticated old-Etonian voice does somehow read more like someone who might trick you with his talk and get inside your head. I'm not sure that would work with an accent like the gor-blimey trolls.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 16, 6:09pm


Views: 359
I think we need a princess...

I think we need a princess to rescue the dragon from its neglect by its knight....

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


sador
Half-elven


Jan 16, 8:06pm


Views: 355
Yes, it was Shippey.

And of course, Farmer Giles is a truly fabulous story. Chrysophylax is up there with Garm, among Tolkien's most entertaining characters.

Thinking about things I don't understand


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 16, 8:23pm


Views: 349
A princess is probably preferable to my litigious idea of suing the kid for dragon neglect. //

 


Solicitr
Rohan


Jan 16, 9:12pm


Views: 346
Just because

Some of Tolkien's working notes for the LR are scribbled on the backs of City of Oxford Air Raid Precautions Warden's Report Forms


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 17, 3:35am


Views: 324
This reminds me


In Reply To
I think we need a princess to rescue the dragon from its neglect by its knight....

...of the day my ex-wife asked: if we have dragonflies, and we have damselflies, why are there no knight-in-shining-armor-flies?


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Jan 17, 3:44am


Views: 324
STOP THIS NONSENSE

Glaurung is indeed a great deal like Smaug, and it works differently in that darker story; I like Glaurung, actually, as an effectively fearsome villain whose worst weapons are psychological.

I wasn't thinking of Chrysophylax, oddly, but I did keep thinking of the sea serpent in Roverandom, who rather seems to belong to the same lineage.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Jan 17, 6:44pm


Views: 264
Shame! ;) - but I guess there are lots of night-flying insects?


In Reply To
..of the day my ex-wife asked: if we have dragonflies, and we have damselflies, why are there no knight-in-shining-armor-flies?


Shame! - but I guess there are lots of night-flying insects? Many of them bite me, so perhaps I am a dragon?

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jan 17, 11:02pm


Views: 255
Speaking of comedy

And for those that have seen it, Thorin's manner of speaking reminds me a bit of Captain Manewring from Dad's Army!Smile


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jan 17, 11:06pm


Views: 252
Going underground

A couple more perhaps, easy to miss some, Angband mostly underground I think it says somewhere, Dol Guldor, possibly, and even maybe Mordor, it isn't too much of a stretch to think that a lot of it was maybe underground.