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Answers

sador
Valinor


Oct 17 2012, 10:40am


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But first, welcome back!

What do you make of animal sentience in The Hobbit? It seems widespread -- what are the implications?
It makes it a fairy-tale, or perhaps even a fable. While Tolkien did write in On Fairy-Stories about the human wish to converse with other spieces, in his other books he was quite careful to minimise it. Even Huan is allowed to speak only three times, and in the published Silmarillion there don't seem to be any other occasions (I don't count Thorondor, or Sauron's understanding Draugluin). In The Lord of the Rings there are none, although the fox's thoughts are recoirded, and it is hinted that Fatty Lumpkin could converse with the other horses.

On the other hand, Roverandom is full of speaking animals; and there is the truly delightful Garm in Farmer Giles of Ham, and the North Polar Bear. But neither Leaf or Smith do. (Are the animals in Mr. Bliss sentient? I haven't read it yet.)
This seems like a watershed, doesn't it? And it is curious to see where this puts The Hobbit.

Why the distinction between ravens and crows? Is there any primary-world basis for the distinction? Mythological basis?
I suppose there is more or less the same basis for the distinction as between eagles and vultures.

If the thrush can understand Common, why can't it speak Common to the dwarves?
Why can't Giles' mare? But he understood her well enough.

Why didn't it try speaking with the dwarves before now?
Didn't it? As far as I remember, it did sing on Durin's Day just before the key-hole appeared.

Why does the raven use Common when the thrush did not? Aren't the dwarves able to understand the raven's bird speech?
Perhaps it is not a problem of the speaker, as one of the listeners - an age-old conceit.

Why are the birds gathering back to the Mountain and to Dale from South and East and West?
And not North? Presumably because of the goblins of the Grey Mountains; and no bird (except for crows) would dare the Withered Heath!

Why does Smaug's death cause them to gather?
Back home!
I expect that after the maidens were all eaten, Smaug had to feed on the birds. "Nice birds!" As Gollum used to say.

How much of what we know was told by the raven?
I expect only the bare facts were.

Did the dwarves learn anything about Bilbo's role in the discovery of Smaug's weak spot?
They all heard it in Inside Information, and Balin even commended him on the discovery!

Did they learn that Bard shot down Smaug because of this crucial information? I doubt it.

Why did Tolkien gloss over this point?

As a rule, he does not seem to be too concerened with what the Dwarves do and do not know.

How does the raven know the character of the Master of the Lake-men and of Bard?
He is an old gossip.

Is there another bird speaking to the Elvenking?
Probably. Didn't Tolkien say so specifically? I think I remember something of the sort, but I don't have the book with me.

Does the thrush return to Bard and tell him what happens?
Well, Bard does not know of Dain until Bilbo tells him.

Are the birds just incredible gossips?
Yes. In middle-earth, they do all the twittering.

Do they get anything out of spreading this news?
Not that we know of.

Do you have any other comments on these passages?
Thorin seems to remember which birds used to live in the area.
And Roac knows Balin - who according to Durin's Folk was seven when he fled the Mountain!

And I wonder whether Thorin's associating with the ravens in preparation for battle is an allusion to Thorfinn Raven-Feeder, which Tolkien must have known about?



"Like The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is a tale that grew in the telling, beginning as a children's fairy tale and evolving into the epic of fairy tales... The Gathering of the Clouds completes this transition. Unlike a typical children's story, the sides of good and evil are no longer clear-cut: the good peoples that we have been introduced to earlier are preparing to fight a war, and if that war happens, good people will die no matter who wins. Moreover, everyone, the good guys included, have character flaws that bring this situation about... and it is hinted that although the Dragon's body may be dead, his evil will remains to corrupt those who defeated him."
- Beren IV



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for The Gathering of the Clouds!

Subject User Time
**The Gathering of the Clouds** I Curious Send a private message to Curious Oct 17 2012, 6:11am
    Answers sador Send a private message to sador Oct 17 2012, 10:40am
    Some answers SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Oct 17 2012, 4:07pm
    The thrush and its purpose dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Oct 21 2012, 2:50am
    Thoughts. Curious Send a private message to Curious Oct 22 2012, 6:12pm

 
 
 

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