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Bombur da bomb


Mar 15 2012, 7:47pm

Views: 2597
Bombur da bomb [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I have some short time to turn to the last of the minor dwarves.

I've discussed him a bit before, and I expect that my idea of his relative sniority was found surprisingby many. And rightly so: the impression Bombur usually gives is that of a comical grumbling soldier of the rank-and-file, a Švejk rather than a Bolkonsky.

Nevertheless, I am very dissatisfied with the way Jackson seems about to portray his character - however, there is a big but (no puns intended! Mad).

They first case of Bombur grumbling is after the episode with the trolls - when he admonishes Bilbo for attempting to pickpocket the trolls rather than do the logical thing, which is go back and tell the dwarves. Gandalf chides him - but rather unfairly, in my opinion. I also note that unlike Dori and Nori, Bombur does not complain about the scarcity of food - not until the Mountain (when as a matter of fact, his words to Bilbo in A Thief at Night indicate that he actually is partial to strong drinks).
He also grumbles when carrying Bilbo in the goblins' tunnels - but one must point out that he is goaded by Bilbo's own complaints; and that apart of Dori he seems the only dwarf to volunteer for this job.
What do these two occasions say about him? One might make the case that he is actually acting responsible in both occasions - although he is squashed by Gandalf, who simply loves doing that to people.

He does grumble about always being last, and decides on his own initiative to accompany Bifur and Bofur to Beorn. Is that a mini-rebellion against Gandalf's instructions? But if so, I can easily understand why he is extremely put out when Thorin arranges it that he will be last when crossing the Enchanted River (shipping him across with the baggage in the middle does make some sense), and even more by Thorin's snapping at him: "Don't grumble against orders, or something bad will happen to you". Hello mister, not long ago you were the guest ay my house, and some of your expenses were paid for by my money.
So Bombur does grumble - at least he is slow to get out of the boat (perhaps the faithful Dwalin who shared the last ride with him was eager to get out first? he shouldn't have). And something bad does happen to him.

I think it is only after falling into the Enchanted River that Bombur turns into the miserable, lethargic figure we know. His obsession with food and sleep becomes pronounced, and his attempts to try and recapture his lovely dreams might be caused by either the enchantment or by his companions' unsympathetic attitude as much as by his own tendencies. He suffers most from the spiders, and is washed ashore in the barrel deeply unconscious. It is a small wonder he becomes disillusioned with the whole enterprise, prefering to stay at the foot of the Mountain with Bofur while his companions look for the back-door, and later thanking Bilbo for the opportunity to catch some more sleep instead of doing his job - which enabled Bilbo's betrayal of Thorin.
Did Bombur realise that he was at fault when Bard revealed the Arkenstone? Probably, but Tolkien does not say. And I would guess that whether he was a simple soldier or a disgruntled ally, he kept this knowledge to himself. I doubt that his life in Erebor, rich and high in honour as one of the ten survivors of the Quest, was actually one of content. From being just very big, he became obese. Frown

Of course, Bombur was "the drum" from inception (I've seen this before somewhere, but never knew the source - thank you, visualweasel!) but drums are not just big and round, and the kettle-drums are connected to marching armies more than to kettles!

In short, the ladle-wielding cook of Jackson's projected films is far removed from my idea of this big, sympathetic, tragic-in-a-way dwarf. And from the way he is described in the first six chapters of the book - being one of the only two dwarves who actually fought the trolls before Thorin, one of the two who carried Bilbo, and despite his girth - nimble enough to climb a huge pine tree in case of need.
Even after that, after being always pick by the spiders for tasting, and probably heavily drugged with their poison - he still struggles and kicks; and in Not at Home his comment about Smaug being always hungry might be more of a grim assessment of the danger than a panicky collapse like Dori's.

But -
In the 1960 revision of The Hobbit, Bombur seems to be a pathetic fat joker from the beginning. In The Broken Bridge, the rewrite of the second chapter, not only he does not fight the trolls (this distinction is given to Fili and Kili - despite it being very unlikely that they would be the last to stay behind before looking for Bilbo), but he actually is not in that scene at all: he is left to guard the ponies, and falls asleep despite his charge, leading to their temprorary loss.
Rateliff has commented that the rewrite seems to flatten the character of Thorin, representing his reactions when under siege with the treasure not as a dramatic twist but as an innate flaw - pretty much like the entries regarding Saruman in appendix B to The Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales. I think the rewrite of Bombur is similarly unfortunate, reducing a well-rounded, full of dramatic potential character to a merely round one, with potential for low comedy. To say nothing of contradicting Frodo's words in Flight to the Ford regarding the three trolls who were caught by Gandalf when arguing how best to cook thirteen dwarves and one hobbit.

Unfortunately, I think Jackson has read all information regarding Bombur as static rather than dynamic; and Bombur is more likely to reflect Tolkien's later views on this character more than the book he had actually written.
And being a non-purist, I dare to submit that the earlier version was far better.

Subject User Time
Tertiary characters in the Hobbit discussion schedule, Bifor, Bofur, Bombur Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Mar 12 2012, 10:42am
    Bombur visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Mar 12 2012, 2:12pm
    Bifur was... Macfeast Send a private message to Macfeast Mar 12 2012, 3:54pm
        More cousins visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Mar 13 2012, 3:06pm
    "There was no getting around Queen Agatha – at least it was a long walk.” sador Send a private message to sador Mar 15 2012, 3:50pm
        Bombur da bomb sador Send a private message to sador Mar 15 2012, 7:47pm


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