Feb 13, 10:29am
It's good that in the end our Freddie has a bit more to him that the one-dimensional cliche-character he at first seems to be (A fat character? Let me guess: he'll be greedy, timid and probably lazy too?) Tolkien usually seems to avoid cliche, but he's close to the edge here. And it seems odd because aren't 'greedy, timid and probably lazy too' supposed to be pretty generic observations about hobbits? So it's nice that there is a little more to 'Fatty' than meets the eye. You know, I don't like calling him 'Fatty', so it's 'Freddie ' from now on.
They also serve, who're more than standard weight
A few thoughts in case they can prompt some onward discussion ('tis what we do here):
1) Tolkien was one of a quartet of Cleverest Boys In The School. They had at one time hopes of making waves in the arts. I'm not sure how fanciful that was - it's easy to be Cleverest Boy In The School and then discover that there are many schools, and many very clever boys and girls. And things worked out differently anyway (as they are wont to do) - two friends were killed in the First World War (if I recall), one became a headmaster (and that's OK); and probably these days they are most remarked upon as having been friends of Tolkien. Tolkien in any case is best remembered for something that wasn't his day job. Whichever committee made him Professor (a much more senior rank in the British university system than it is in the American) may have expected more work like his lecture on Beowulf, and not Hobbit and LOTR at all. I'm not suggesting that the quartet of hobbits departing Crickhollow are thoroughly autobiographical, just noting how some of the issues in mcmojo's blog post could be said to have applied to Tolkien's life.
2) In earlier drafts of FOTR, young Freddie Bolger has a larger adventure - he's captured by the Black Riders, rescued by Gandalf, and meets the others at Rivendell. The Bolger-rescue sub-plot does seem to me to give Gandalf a better reason not to try and catch up with Frodo than the 'getting lost' one Tolkien chose. I don't know why Tolkien abandoned that sub-plot. Possibly HoME says, though on the whole I recall it being very scholarly about what changed but pretty quiet about why (except where there are some of Tolkien's marginal notes working out what he thought was going wrong). My total guess as to why it was changed is that then there's be a fifth hobbit at Rivendell, and an obvious candidate to do what Elrond wants - send someone back to the Shire to lead La Resistance (which is - or at least we can imagine it is - what he does anyway on the finalized plot). So that would further undercut Elrond's argument that M&P can't go with the Ring, because they need to head back home. And Tolkien at that point is already not thoroughly convincing me that if M&P go then Glorfindel can't. My fridge and I have already had words about the logic or otherwise of that. Or possibly giving Gandalf the save Freddie/save Frodo dilemma felt too much like Aragorn's decision later to rescue M&P rather than go further with Frodo, or Gandalf's decision to save Faramir rather than fight the Witch King?Or, of course, someone may have a much better idea!
3) Put last because it's longest - I like this bit:
“Fond as he was of Frodo, Fatty Bolger had no desire to leave the Shire, nor to see what lay outside it. His family came from the Eastfarthing, from Budgeford in Bridgefields in fact, but he had never been over the Brandywine Bridge. His task, according to the original plans of the conspirators, was to stay behind and deal with inquisitive folk, and to keep up as long as possible the pretence that Mr. Baggins was still living at Crickhollow. He had even brought along some old clothes of Frodo’s to help him in playing the part. They little thought how dangerous that part might prove. Tolkien both tips readers off that Crickhollow isn't going to be safe, and hints at the rather amateurish nature of the hobbit expedition - they've thought it through to an extent, but don't really understand what they are getting themselves into. Perhaps that particularly works because Freddie seems to be afraid of the imaginary dangers of the Old Forest and ends up having to brave something that's arguably worse.
‘Excellent!’ said Frodo, when he understood the plan. ‘We could not have left any message behind for Gandalf otherwise.”
"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.