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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Smaug happens


Oct 10 2012, 10:52pm

Views: 399
Smaug happens [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sorry I haven't been able to keep up with the last few chapters. As Sam would say, "I've missed a lot, seemingly."

Nice approach to this chapter, Modtheow.

1. Backtracking. It works for me because each chapter is fairly short. I'm sure the cinematic version will splice scenes from different locales together to give a simultaneous feel for everything. That works better when you get the whole story in 2-3 hours in a theater, I think. In book form, I think it builds some welcome suspense that you must stay in a chapter and follow its story before you go back to what the other characters are doing. The thoughts do arise at the back of your mind: "What are Bilbo and the dwarves doing? Will they somehow come and join the battle at Esgaroth? Can they see it from afar? What was up with that suspicious raven?"

In Lord of the Rings, it's such an immense plot, Tolkien does have to backtrack at times, and some of those times are less satisfying than others. I never quite warm up to reading about The Paths of the Dead after the fact, though I relish Gandalf's story as White Rider about his battle with the Balrog. So, sometimes it works better than others. Works fine for me in The Hobbit. If the alternative is splicing the chapters together, then I'm glad that didn't happen. Do you know of another way he could have approached delivering the story and its timeline? (And yes, I think it's a patronising adult tone to children, but I accept that as part of The Hobbit.)

2. The order Tolkien settled on: I think it's satisfying this way because as a reader, I'm ready for Smaug to quit lying around on gold and go do something dragon-like, like breathe fire and attack things and cause wanton destruction. I've waited for that since Hobbiton--I'm ready.

3. Excellent insight into all the light imagery and language Tolkien uses related to Smaug--I never picked up on how much there is. Isn't it a little ironic that light, which is almost always a good thing in Tolkien's realm, is bad when we get to Smaug, and a harbinger of bad things?

The passages you cite are reminiscent of the fall of Gondolin, which remains vivid in my mind. The Elves standing on the city walls in the morning darkness to welcome the sun's light in the east, only to see light coming from the north instead, and that's the light of invading dragons on this holy day of theirs. Here again there is dragon light coming from the north to spread destruction.

I love Tolkien's description here: "the trees by the shores shone like copper and like blood with leaping shadows of dense black at their feet.

4. Battle: I hope I'm not ruining your post by making linkages to Silmarillion and LOTR, but the use of "every...every" reminds me of Helm's Deep, where at one point "every shaft was shot" and there's another every, I think "every blade was notched." (Sorry, I'm on a train 100s of miles from home and can't look it up.) There was the same feel at Helm's Deep that you evoke here, one of desperate, complete mobilization. This isn't a battle between English and French knights where sure, there will be some deaths, but survivors will walk away at the end, and the victor gets a new piece of land from the loser. This is a fight to the death for one side or the other, which is far more terrible.

Also, I like alliteration, though it's contemporary to criticize it. Tolkien rations it out well enough for me that I don't think it's overused, and it adds a lyrical quality to his writing.

5. A Hobbit-less Hobbit chapter: Curious (not me) has remarked before that this part of the book differs vastly in style and structure from the earlier part of the book, including Bard suddenly appearing here like he popped out of a vending machine for heroes. The Hero (the classic one) appears while the other hero (Bilbo, the little guy, the reluctant, unlikely hero) is out of sight. Is this a problem in Tolkien's own mind? Was it hard for him to put both types of heroes in the same story segment? We might have a good debate about that. I think Bilbo later on becomes a great moral hero by (naively) giving away the Arkenstone in hopes of peace, and our Classic Hero, Bard, sticks stubbornly to his claim on the dragon hoard without taking a cue from Bilbo that peace at any price is better than bloodshed. So that's a long way of saying that when Bilbo's heroism shines later, Bard's heroism is diminished. Maybe Tolkien was thinking that when he wrote this chapter and wanted to make sure the Classic Hero got all the attention and glory without any distractions from a Baggins burglar with a big heart.

Subject User Time
***Fire and Water*** I: Smaug Attacks Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Oct 9 2012, 8:14pm
    Smaug happens CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 10 2012, 10:52pm
        Fall of Gondolin Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Oct 11 2012, 4:45pm
    My Thoughts justbennett Send a private message to justbennett Oct 12 2012, 10:18pm
        The last lucky arrow Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Oct 14 2012, 4:34pm
    The sequence is excellent. dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Oct 13 2012, 12:23am
        Bilbo as dragon-slayer Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Oct 14 2012, 4:46pm
    quite a scene Escapist Send a private message to Escapist Oct 13 2012, 12:52am
        Bilbo as author Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Oct 14 2012, 4:57pm
            I think of Bilbo and Frodo as the writers of an original manuscript Escapist Send a private message to Escapist Oct 14 2012, 5:05pm
    Late answers sador Send a private message to sador Oct 14 2012, 3:11pm
        and a late question Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Oct 14 2012, 5:14pm
            All of those you've said sador Send a private message to sador Oct 15 2012, 9:39pm


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