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**An Unexpected Party** - 1. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure
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squire
Valinor


Mar 23 2009, 9:09am

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**An Unexpected Party** - 1. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure Can't Post

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Thus begins a famous tale. Welcome to the Second Official Reading Room Discussion of The Hobbit! The first and last one was in 2004. I barely participated in it, having just discovered the Reading Room in the previous month or two, at the end of the second LotR discussion. So this week’s production is a long-expected pleasure for me – and an unexpected one, as I have found myself more distracted from TORn in the past year or so than in the previous four. But how could I resist starting the hobbit off on his journey There and Back Again?

I will, as always, focus on The Hobbit as an independent work that precedes and is quite different from The Lord of the Rings. Some here may recall that I read (or had read to me) the first edition of The Hobbit in my 1960s childhood - the one where Gollum helpfully shows Bilbo the way out. Only in the 1990s when I had kids of my own was I shocked to discover that the book had been rewritten to substitute the evil Ring-crazed Gollum of LotR for his mad but relatively innocent predecessor!

So in general (although I know all about the book’s stylistic evolution, and Tolkien’s later ambiguity about its role in his legendarium) I personally still think of The Hobbit as a brilliant story aimed specifically at older children, with its own theme about growing up, that has little to do with the epic of the Ring that followed it. I am particularly interested in Tolkien’s use of middle-class British nursery story conventions from the early 20th century (also seen in his other children’s tales: the Father Christmas Letters, Roverandom and Mr. Bliss) to build comic contrasts with the more traditional fairy tale elements from Grimm, MacDonald, Dunsany, and older sources that he was professionally familiar with. I especially respond to The Hobbit’s basic identity as a comedy, which is quite strongly established in this first chapter.

You may feel differently! Feel free to add your own perspectives on the book, and even its forthcoming movie adaptation, as you respond to my questions. As always, I ask a lot of questions, without expecting you to answer all of them. Just pick and choose.

I will assume you are reading along. I can only offer synopses and brief quotes of the story, due to the sniper across the street. I plan to cover this chapter in nine posts covering 800-1000 words each, plus some additional posts on general thematic subjects. And so let’s begin.

The opening (see above) coyly introduces the hobbit (an unknown word to the reader, except that it is the title of the book) by where and how it lives: in a “comfortable” hole in the ground. What follows is an elaborate description of the layout of the hole, which follows the conventions of an English country house, distorted into a single tunnel/hallway with endless side rooms.

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?

In early drafts, Tolkien mentioned red lamps to provide illumination, and did not have the window-lit rooms on the left.

B. How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?

The hobbit – we now learn his name is Baggins – has “whole rooms” full of clothes, multiple bathrooms(!), and dining rooms.

C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption? How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?

A very clear connection is drawn between being respectable (and rich) and not doing anything unexpected or adventurous. These key words are repeated in this paragraph twice, in opposite order.

D. Is Tolkien satirizing or accepting the literary conventions of British country life that contrast respectability and adventures? Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?

This paragraph also lets us know the entire point and ending of the story, leaving only the moral up in the air.

E. Does it hurt the story, or reassure the young reader/listener, to be told up front that Mr. Baggins will definitely survive his adventure?

In a forced aside, the narrator interrupts himself to explain just what a hobbit is. We finally learn that they are not animals but little people: half human size. They are however not dwarves, lacking especially the beards. They are fat and cheerful and dressy and have the peculiarity of feet so hairy and tough that they do not need shoes.

F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend? Why do hobbits so famously belong to Tolkien?

Their magic, so called, is the “ordinary everyday sort” that allows them to “disappear” (implied: hide) when they hear “big people” (humans) coming along.

G. Looking ahead, does the hobbits’ “magic” ability to “disappear” foreshadow Bilbo’s acquisition of an “extra-ordinary” magic ring that allows him to do literally what he could already do metaphorically?

Next we learn Mr. Baggins’ name – Bilbo – and about his “fabulous” and “remarkable” mother, Belladonna Took, daughter of the Old Took. The Tooks live just across the Water at the foot of Bilbo’s Hill. They are known for being richer, somewhat less respectable, and more adventurous, than the Baggins family.

H. What do we suppose makes Belladonna so fabulous? Doesn’t the story imply that she had adventures before her marriage?

There is an “absurd” story that a Took once married a “fairy wife” at some point in the past, to explain this trait.

I. Comments on the “fairy wife” explanation for the Tooks’ adventurous traits??

We end here, with Bilbo age about 50, “apparently settled down immovably” in his “most luxurious” hobbit hole. But another basic theme in the story, the conflict between Bilbo’s paternal and maternal temperaments, has been set up nicely.

J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?



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'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 23 2009, 2:19pm

Post #2 of 80 (568 views)
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Bag-End is like the Brady house [In reply to] Can't Post

in that the interior dimensions do not relate at all to the exterior. I noticed the incongruity of the description of rooms and rooms within, and only one row of windows, but I liked the interior descriptions so much I was fine with leaving the discrepancy intact. I have seen several attempts to draw the interior of Bag-End - don't know if Tolkien himself did one.

I fell in love with the tone in the first chapter that we (me and the author) were in the know about hobbits and the brief explanations were more like reminders than actual explication. I felt like an insider. As an American, I also appreciated the affectionate teasing about the stolid, respectable hobbits being scandalized about the fairy wife.

I think Belladonna was not as adventurous as the author wants us to think. It could be another juxtaposition - she probably taught her maids to read or something that would shock her generation but would appear tame to the modern reader. But it's the hint, the allure of scandal that intrigues us - more than the actual behaviour.

Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver.
`Are these magic cloaks?' asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.
`I do not know what you mean by that,' answered the leader of the Elves.


NARF since 1974.
Balin Bows


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 23 2009, 4:42pm

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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?

Show not tell:

“What is a hobbit? I meant you to find out…”
-Early draft.


In early drafts, Tolkien mentioned red lamps to provide illumination, and did not have the window-lit rooms on the left.

B. How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?


“'If you don't let me in, Frodo, I shall blow your door right down your hole and out through the hill,' he said.”

The central hall is perpendicular to the hall that goes straight into the hill and, presumably, almost exits or does exit the back of the hill.


The hobbit – we now learn his name is Baggins – has “whole rooms” full of clothes, multiple bathrooms(!), and dining rooms.

C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption?


Seems good enough to me. Plus it sounds like Bungo was attempting to recreate the great Smials for Belladonna.

Since Bungo was one of five children and Belladonna was one of twelve, it seems very strange they only had one child. They seemed to have anticipated a very large family.


How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?

Not much. What matters is land and power. Money and respectability are two entirely different things.


A very clear connection is drawn between being respectable (and rich) and not doing anything unexpected or adventurous. These key words are repeated in this paragraph twice, in opposite order.

D. Is Tolkien satirizing or accepting the literary conventions of British country life that contrast respectability and adventures?


It’s more a satire of Victorian society. Etiquette in those days ruled daily lives like a tyrant. The knowledge of what to wear and what time of day to wear it was essential, as well as when to smoke or drink, whether to bow or tip your hat, when and how to address someone, and so on. One little slip could be the cause of gossip for days. A worst case scenario could mean social ruin and total ostracism, resulting in the necessity to immigrate. To keep one’s respectability meant constantly following strict etiquette which entailed not doing anything adventurous or unexpected.

Children are also supposed to obey the rules, behave themselves, and never do anything adventurous or unexpected. Of course they find those things most unnatural.


Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?

Again, predictable conversation would be a result of Victorian etiquette. Proper greetings, standard openings, and safe topics could make conversation deadly dull.

A Victorian “comedy of manners” often has a scene where a bulwark of decorum continually tries to steer a conversation back on predictable track while an upstart character constantly derails it. There’s a nice contest between Mrs. Higgins and Mrs. Eynsford Hill versus Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in Shaw’s Pygmalion that illustrates the scene.

Other dull predicable characters would be parents. What child hasn’t rolled their eyes and mouthed the well-known words during a parent’s standard lecture. Of course if the parent notices…..

“And ‘tired’ always followed ‘sick’. Worst beating I ever got in my life, my mother said, ‘Well I am just sick,’ and I said ‘And tired.’ I don't remember anything after that.”
-Bill Cosby Himself (1983):


This paragraph also lets us know the entire point and ending of the story, leaving only the moral up in the air.

E. Does it hurt the story, or reassure the young reader/listener, to be told up front that Mr. Baggins will definitely survive his adventure?


Did it hurt LOTR?

Anyway, I suspect the assurance is more for the parent than the child.


F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend?

In a brilliant twist Tolkien subverted the traditional little people of Europe. Here it’s the other way around! Bilbo is not a creature of faerie, but of the mundane world!


Their magic, so called, is the “ordinary everyday sort” that allows them to “disappear” (implied: hide) when they hear “big people” (humans) coming along.

G. Looking ahead, does the hobbits’ “magic” ability to “disappear” foreshadow Bilbo’s acquisition of an “extra-ordinary” magic ring that allows him to do literally what he could already do metaphorically?


It’s another standard theme of fairy tales: “If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard.” Often the hero had the true love, the true power, the true treasure right at the beginning.


H. What do we suppose makes Belladonna so fabulous?

“Belladonna” = beautiful lady.

“Arwen” = noble lady.

“Artanis” = noble woman.

There's a pattern here.

She was also one of three remarkable daughters, Belladonna, Donnamira, and Mirabella who were direct ancestors of the remarkable Bilbo, Fatty, and Merry, respectively. (Pippin is a remarkable Took already, and I’m sure if the Shire genealogists fiddled around long enough they’d come up with a Took ancestor for the remarkable Sam.)


Doesn’t the story imply that she had adventures before her marriage?

“Not the Gandalf who was responsible for many quiet young lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures? Anything from climbing trees to visiting elves - or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores!”

Gandalf later fondly remembers Belladonna. One suspects the three remarkable young lasses had remarkable adventures together ala the later remarkable the young lads Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Indeed, an adventure may have been how the fourth and oldest sister Hildigard met her end. I prefer to think she found a fairy husband after she stowed away aboard a ship that sailed “to the Other Side". Perhaps they were there to welcome Frodo to Valinor. (Yeah, probably not.)


There is an “absurd” story that a Took once married a “fairy wife” at some point in the past, to explain this trait.

“It had always been said that long ago one of other of the Tooks had married into a fairy family (the less friendly said a goblin family), certainly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like about them."
-Early draft

"It was often said (in other families) that the Tooks must have some elvish blood in them: which was of course absurd, but there was undoubtedly something queer about them..."
-Discarded revision.


Comments on the “fairy wife” explanation for the Tooks’ adventurous traits??

The Fallohides had a strong friendship with the Elves, plus they tended to be fair and beardless. One could almost see an Elf-Man-Dwarf parallel with the characteristics of the Fallohides-Harfoots-Stoors.


We end here, with Bilbo age about 50, “apparently settled down immovably” in his “most luxurious” hobbit hole. But another basic theme in the story, the conflict between Bilbo’s paternal and maternal temperaments, has been set up nicely.

J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?


It seems an inversion of the typical Horatio Alger story of an adventurous poor boy who becomes rich and respectable. Here Tolkien stands the genre on its head and a rich and respectable middle-aged gentleman goes off on a young-hearted adventure.

I suppose The Hobbit could reflect a mid-life crisis. However it doesn’t seem to have that cynical bitterness most such novels have, especially those inspired by academia.

As I grow older I more and more appreciate a story with a middle-aged hero that doesn’t have all the trappings of “Death of a Salesman”. And next to Dernhelm, Bilbo has always been my favorite Tolkien hero.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 23 2009, 4:45pm

Post #4 of 80 (554 views)
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A fairy house for a fairy wife? [In reply to] Can't Post

`It's a big house this, and very peculiar. Always a bit more to discover, and no knowing what you'll find round a corner."
-Sam, re Rivendell

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 23 2009, 5:37pm

Post #5 of 80 (528 views)
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My thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

        

Thanks for the welcome, Squire--I'm really looking forward to this!


In Reply To
A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?


Perhaps. But he also hearkens to an older fairy-story tradition of marvelous little people living underground.

In Reply To

B. How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?


By drilling straight into the hill from one of the short ends, lengthwise. Imangine the parentheses are the sides of the hill, and the vertical straight line is the dweilling: (| _) That's how.

In Reply To

[C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption? How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?




Perhaps. It also, however, implies something rather sad, beneath the cheery exterior. Plainly his parents built Bag End with many children in mind. They only had Bilbo. And there he is, sort of rattling around in a place much too big for him, all alone. It sort of reflects the emptiness of his self-indulgent life, filled up with clothes and food but not with people.

In Reply To

D. Is Tolkien satirizing or accepting the literary conventions of British country life that contrast respectability and adventures? Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?


Oh, definitely satirizing! Otherwise the happy ending would involve him coming to his senses and repenting having ever gone forth adventuring.

In Reply To

E. Does it hurt the story, or reassure the young reader/listener, to be told up front that Mr. Baggins will definitely survive his adventure?


It not only assures young readers, but tells us in advance that this is a road trip, that the end-goal does not matter nearly so much as the journey and how it changes the character. IMHO.


In Reply To
F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend? Why do hobbits so famously belong to Tolkien?



Not just European folk legend, either. My tribe has accounts of magical little people, as do the Muscogee tribe, the indigenous tribes of southern California, and no doubt many other tribes of American Indians, as well as the native Hawaiians, the indigenous people of that island where they found the bones of Homo Floriensis, and who knows how many other cultures around the world. That makes it an archetype.

[br]Tolkien's distinguishing mark is the shoe-eschewing feet, in perpetual contact with the soil. Hobbits exist neither high above it, like an elf in a flet, nor deep beneath it, like a delving dwarf, but dwelling directly in the living soil, the liminal interface between animal, vegetable and mineral (and one might also say the fertile meeting-ground for Yavanna and Aule.) They sometimes learn of things higher and deeper, but they hold the very important middle ground of...Middle Earth.


In Reply To
G. Looking ahead, does the hobbits’ “magic” ability to “disappear” foreshadow Bilbo’s acquisition of an “extra-ordinary” magic ring that allows him to do literally what he could already do metaphorically?

I hadn't thought of that, but it makes an interesting point: that just as Bilbo didn't really need Dragon's gold, he doesn't really need the Ring, either. He might actually have had it in him to achieve all of his adventures without a magic taliman to make him disappear.

In Reply To

H. What do we suppose makes Belladonna so fabulous? Doesn’t the story imply that she had adventures before her marriage?


I always assumed so. But the polite society of Tolkien's day especially avoid remarking upon the adventures of a female. it is also not uncommon for a dull man to find himself attracted to an exciting woman--yet once they marry, and he becomes "one" with her, and replaces her name with his own, he feels it his duty to suppress everything that originally attracted him, and render her as dull as himself. Poor Belladonna!

In Reply To

I. Comments on the “fairy wife” explanation for the Tooks’ adventurous traits??


I can only offer fanfic supposition, my own being that hobbits have a bit of elf and dwarf in a predominantly human gene pool, and that the only male heir of the union between a man and a dwelf kept the family name, so that the Tooks have some vague memory or heritage left over from what actually features in the ancestry of all hobbits. But this is sooooo UUT!


In Reply To
J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?


All writers share something in common with their stories, so that's possible. But I know too little about the Tolkiens and the Suffields to say anything with authority.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

(This post was edited by Dreamdeer on Mar 23 2009, 5:47pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 23 2009, 5:43pm

Post #6 of 80 (503 views)
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Thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?

Perhaps. I certainly see resemblances to The Wind in the Willows.


B. How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?

Perhaps the rooms with windows get much larger as the hallway goes further into the hill.

C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption? How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?

Bilbo is a little too comfortable. That's why Tolkien can poke fun at him. On the other hand, Tolkien also implies that all hobbit holes are comfortable ("it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort"). Bilbo is considered rich, and his hole seems larger than most, but there's no mention of poor hobbits in The Hobbit. There's no mention of servants, either -- on the contrary, we will learn that Bilbo regularly cooks his own food and cleans his own house and dishes.

So while Bilbo's consumption is conspicuous, it is not cruel or callous. As far as we can tell, Bilbo is rich, but not too proud to wash his own dishes, and all the hobbits are comfortable.

D. Is Tolkien satirizing or accepting the literary conventions of British country life that contrast respectability and adventures? Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?

I'm not knowledgeable enough about literary conventions of British country life to answer this question, I'm afraid. Perhaps Jane Austen touches on such matters.

E. Does it hurt the story, or reassure the young reader/listener, to be told up front that Mr. Baggins will definitely survive his adventure?

I don't think it hurts the story, and I do think it reassures the young reader/listener. My daughter often asks me for a "happy story." I suppose this is, for the most part, a happy story, and maybe the audience would like to know that up front.

F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend? Why do hobbits so famously belong to Tolkien?

Someone on these boards a long time ago pointed out that the hobbits may be Tolkien's refutation of the Shoemaker's elves -- wee folk who have no magic and make no shoes. I think the lack of magic distinguishes them from leprechauns, wee elves, and tiny fairies. Their resemblance to humans distinguishes them from dwarves and gnomes. Are there other little people who lack magic in European folk legend? I'm not sure. But even if there were, Tolkien makes these wee folk his own, just as he makes his elves and dwarves and wizards his own. Eldar and Istari belong to Tolkien too.

G. Looking ahead, does the hobbits’ “magic” ability to “disappear” foreshadow Bilbo’s acquisition of an “extra-ordinary” magic ring that allows him to do literally what he could already do metaphorically?

Yes, it amplifies his natural talents. And note that invisibility often does not help him, or even hurts him. It gives his talents a boost, but he must use his wits and courage as well.

H. What do we suppose makes Belladonna so fabulous? Doesn’t the story imply that she had adventures before her marriage?

Yes, the story does imply that she had adventures before her marriage, but perhaps nothing so dramatic as fighting dragons. Perhaps she just went off to Bree from time to time, or took boats down the Brandywine, or visited the Old Forest in daylight, not venturing too far in. That would be considered pretty adventurous by the standards of Hobbiton.

Then again, The Hobbit originally inhabited a different world from LotR. Perhaps in that original world hobbits did fight dragons from time to time, or goblins or wargs or trolls, and perhaps Belladonna was a hobbit version of Eowyn. Perhaps in that original world Bilbo was not quite so exceptional.

I. Comments on the “fairy wife” explanation for the Tooks’ adventurous traits??
In the 1937 version of The Hobbit Tolkien did not dismiss this rumor as "absurd." Again, originally The Hobbit and The Silmarillion took place in different worlds.

After LotR, Tolkien revised The Hobbit because it no longer inhabited a different world from The Silmarillion and the notion of a hobbit marrying an elf from The Silmarillion was absurd. More likely in the world of LotR, and of the revised version of The Hobbit, is that some of the Tooks were elf friends, and that the family received blessings similar to Galadriel's blessing of Sam's family.

J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?

Well, Tolkien did once compare himself to a hobbit, although he didn't say anything about the Suffields. I don't have enough information about Tolkien's biography to argue the point one way or another, but I haven't seen anyone dispute the speculation of Humphrey Carpenter that the Tooks were in some respects based on the Suffields, and the Baggins on the Tolkiens.



(This post was edited by Curious on Mar 23 2009, 5:46pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 23 2009, 5:55pm

Post #7 of 80 (505 views)
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I think that was the original published version. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
“It had always been said that long ago one of other of the Tooks had married into a fairy family (the less friendly said a goblin family), certainly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like about them."
-Early draft


According to my copy of The Annotated Hobbit, that was the way the published version read until 1966.


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 23 2009, 6:02pm

Post #8 of 80 (481 views)
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Is that the way Tolkien drew it? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
By drilling straight into the hill from one of the short ends, lengthwise. Imangine the parentheses are the sides of the hill, and the vertical straight line is the dweilling: (| _) That's how.



In his famous picture, the door appears to be roughly in the center of The Hill. I suppose there could be an angle to it that we don't see, though. Still, if the passage is at all straight, then the window rooms farther in are likely to be quite large.




entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 23 2009, 6:04pm

Post #9 of 80 (492 views)
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Re: Predictable Conversations [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Jane Austen is the most prominent author that comes to mind. She was brilliant at skewering the society in her day by creating characters that did not at all conform to the norm, and subtly made fun of the endless conversations about dinner, the latest letter from the far-off relative, clothes, the servants, the weather.....

Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver.
`Are these magic cloaks?' asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.
`I do not know what you mean by that,' answered the leader of the Elves.


NARF since 1974.
Balin Bows


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 23 2009, 7:04pm

Post #10 of 80 (458 views)
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Either that, or... [In reply to] Can't Post

The size of the rooms might vary on a curve, as the hill widens in an arc and then draws in again. That could actually make some design sense, with the most important rooms being in the center.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Mar 23 2009, 9:43pm

Post #11 of 80 (477 views)
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I'm not sure Tolkien's drawings always match his descriptions. [In reply to] Can't Post

I vaguely remember that one of his Orthanc drawings didn't look anythink like the description of Orthanc. The drawing had a round summit, with no corners, and the description includes four corners.

*goolging away* Here's the drawing I'm thinking of:
link

So his drawing of Bag End may not be that accurate in terms of the description.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Mar 23 2009, 9:46pm

Post #12 of 80 (465 views)
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Wow! [In reply to] Can't Post

Two of your points really struck me: first, that the size of Bag End is kind of sad, considering that Bilbo is all alone there without his expected siblings. That had never occurred to me before. And second, that the hobbits' bare feet put them in an almost spiritual contact with the surface of the earth.

I have nothing to add, except--wow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 23 2009, 10:09pm

Post #13 of 80 (435 views)
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That was a discarded version. [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's Tolkien's drawing of Orthanc that matches his text:




batik
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2009, 10:51pm

Post #14 of 80 (454 views)
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a few opinions...short ones [In reply to] Can't Post

How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?
Is this a *spatial relations* question? Pass!

Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption?
With all due respect, Mr. Baggins seems to be a bit of a pack-rat.


Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?
Gracious yes! In all those Harlequin Romance novels!

Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?
Absolutely.



Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 24 2009, 12:17am

Post #15 of 80 (407 views)
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*munch munch* [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the cookie! It's delicious! Smile

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Mmatmuor
Registered User

Mar 24 2009, 12:54am

Post #16 of 80 (451 views)
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Section C. [In reply to] Can't Post

C.
I suppose "very well-to-do" was having enough money not to have a day job which he apparently doesn't have. Re-reading it this time I was struck by how Bilbo didn't have any indoor servants, yet Frodo had a gardener. I was searching for a quote in LotR of the Gaffer saying he worked for Bilbo but this was all I could find.

"I saw Mr. Bilbo when he came back, a matter of sixty years ago, when I was a lad. I'd not long come prentice to old Holman (him being my dad's cousin), but he had me up at Bag End helping him to keep folks from trampling and trapessing all over the garden while the sale was on."

So old Holman may or may not have been working for Bilbo, the text isn't explicit. This was the closest I could find to Bilbo having any servants. Odd for someone who is "very well-to-do". Tolkien may have not put servants in there because it interfered with the flow of the story.

Another point of conspicous consumption is the pipe that reaches down to his toes (when he's talking to Gandalph on the doorstep). I can't imagine that's practical. This is jumping ahead just a bit but it seemed to fit.


weaver
Half-elven

Mar 24 2009, 1:40am

Post #17 of 80 (477 views)
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"In a post in the Reading Room, we began the Hobbit discussion.." [In reply to] Can't Post

"Not with a nasty, trollish post, but with a squire-post, and that means plenty of good questions..."

I'll try my best at a few of these!

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of
animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?


Hmm...well, I read the Hobbit after LOTR, so I already knew what a hobbit was. But even if I was uninitiated, the opening line doesn't make me think of an animal as much as a different kind of person or of a fairy tale character. Maybe it's the bit about "comfort", which seems more like a civilized trait than something associated with nature.

C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption? How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?

The Hobbit opening sounds so much like a fairy tale here that questions about money and conspicuous consumption just don't occur to me at this point. I guess I put it in the same category as a lot of children's tales, where you are told "once there was a man who was very rich, etc." You accept it as a given that he's rich, and don't think about the nature of the society he's in and how he got his money so much as the fact that this is an aspect of his character that is somehow going to be important to the story.

E. Does it hurt the story, or reassure the young reader/listener, to be told up front that Mr. Baggins will definitely survive his adventure?

I think it does a good job of focusing the attention of the reader on the main thing Tolkien wants you to get out of the tale -- by telling us Bilbo survives, we won't spend our time worrying about whether Bilbo lives or dies, and so will be more open to considering how he is changed by his experiences.

F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend? Why do hobbits so famously belong to Tolkien?

I think it's because the hobbits we meet in Tolkien become fully fleshed out characters, rather than fantasy-character types. Tolkien's hobbits stand out because he helps us to see them as
"creatures who have a magical element to them" rather than as "magical creatures". The perspective is different, and important. It's kind of like the difference between saying someone is "a person with a disability" and saying someone is "a disabled person". Emphasizing the person over the disability helps to get you past stereotyping.


H. What do we suppose makes Belladonna so fabulous? Doesn’t the story imply that she had adventures before her marriage?

I'm not sure it's as important that we know why she's fabulous, but that Bilbo has some kind of fabulous genes in his blood. This kind of description is good grounding for making it credible that this comfort loving, non-adventure seeking hobbit will actually go off and do something fabulous in his own right before the story is over.

J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?

Well, there are lots of "dual" or "paired" characters in Tolkien -- Gollum/Smeagol, Bilbo with his Baggins/Took sides, Theoden/Denethor, Boromir/Faramir, Gandalf/Saruman, etc. Divided natures, and opposites are big in Tolkien, and it's not too much of a leap to think that he wrote in such a way because he knew first hand about such divisions in his own life.



Weaver



dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 24 2009, 3:16am

Post #18 of 80 (418 views)
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Have another! [In reply to] Can't Post

Those same two ideas of yours really hit me, as well: that Bilbo's lavish closets and pantries filled the empty space in his life; and that being naturally bare-footed showed the Hobbits' connection to the earth, and thus their love of green and growing things. "I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again."

The stories of "little people" must have some truth to them, they are so universal! Our local Mohegans tell of the Makiawisug. Interesting how to some peoples, they are friendly and live in harmony, while in other places they are tricksters - or even evil.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 24 2009, 5:24am

Post #19 of 80 (438 views)
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The first paragraph does suggest a much smaller creature. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat
A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time readers/listeners to imagine at this point a "hobbit" was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children's literature?


And a small animal at that: the largest hole that I have ever seen in muddy or sandy soil is of small burrowing animals, so readers may briefly think that Bilbo is about the size of the rabbits and squirrels in Potter's tales. (I have never been sure exactly how large were the animals in The Wind in the Willows, who interact with human characters.)

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We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

Join us Mar. 23-29 for "An Unexpected Party".
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How to find old Reading Room discussions.


sador
Half-elven

Mar 24 2009, 7:16am

Post #20 of 80 (565 views)
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Any cookies left for latecomers? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, anyway, I have to earn them first.

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?
I was thinking more in terms of Kafka's The Burrow. But NEB is right; the mere name "hole" refers to something smaller, and the reader is not really expected to know about the holbytla etymology.

B. How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?
I was thinking along the lines of Darkstone and Dreamdeer on this.

C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption? How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?
Once again, I second Dreamdeer. The multiple bathrooms do imply that a lot of children were expected (one couldn't count on troops of dwarves prefering his house to the couple of inns around) - an expectation which wasn't realised untill much later, with Sam and Rosie's family.

D. Is Tolkien satirizing or accepting the literary conventions of British country life that contrast respectability and adventures? Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?
Anticipated? Well, some people are like that; although hobbits seem to be the only people (if you exclude Dickens' Veneering-Podsnap circle, which are deliberate caricatures) who consider their dullnes a virtue!

A-propos, when I was in the University, we had a reacher who was famous for his expertise in Mathematical Logic; and apart of his academic reputation, he had taught the subject for years. The standard textbook was one based on his lectures, which he edited and published, and it was said corresponded to the lectures word-by-word.
A wicked, slanderous anecdote was told of how he once started a joke in class, and forgot the punchline - so he checked in the book!

E. Does it hurt the story, or reassure the young reader/listener, to be told up front that Mr. Baggins will definitely survive his adventure?
Hurt the story? That depends on what the essence of the story is. Please bring up this question again in the last week of discussion!

F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend? Why do hobbits so famously belong to Tolkien?
I know very little of European folk legend. As far as I'm concerned - dwarfs and elfs belong to Tolkien, too (even when the plural is spelled like that).

G. Looking ahead, does the hobbits’ “magic” ability to “disappear” foreshadow Bilbo’s acquisition of an “extra-ordinary” magic ring that allows him to do literally what he could already do metaphorically?
Not necessarily. Tolkien is disparaging Men; not more. In order to disappear so that goblins, spiders and elves won't see him (as Smaug doesn't, but he doesn't need to) - he did need an actual Ring.

H. What do we suppose makes Belladonna so fabulous? Doesn’t the story imply that she had adventures before her marriage?
Locally? Her money; remember that it was mainly with her money that he built (dug) the best real estate in the neighbourhood!
But once we hear later about Gandalf, the fact that some of the lads and lasses he befriended actually did come back, and his knowledge with Belladonna (which carried on after she married) - perhaps she did have some adventures.

I. Comments on the “fairy wife” explanation for the Tooks’ adventurous traits??
The Tooks are Fallohide, and therefore fairer than other hobbits.
But note that in 'Flies and Spiders' Eldamar is called "the Faerie".
I haven't read Smith of Wootton Major yet, but from what I know of that story, it should probably be relevant to your question.

J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?
Whose idea is it? Carpenter's? Your own?
I don't know enough of Tolkien's biography to answer this question properly. At the moment, I put no particular weight to it; but I'll stow it somewhere in my memory, and perhaps reconsider it later.

"Let us join the throng!" - Kili


Jazmine
Tol Eressea


Mar 24 2009, 1:27pm

Post #21 of 80 (371 views)
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I first had the Hobbit read to me in school [In reply to] Can't Post

When I was around 8 or 9. After our teacher had read the first few pages to us, she asked us to draw the main character.

I have dug about for this old drawing of mine, (my mother kept all of my drawings, every last scribbly one), but haven't been able to spot it. But I do remember that the Bilbo Baggins I drew was not human-like in the slightest!

He had all the right clothes, (and a pocket watch), but for some reason, he looked like some kind of bipedal aardvark!

I'm not sure why I drew him in this way, seeing as they were described as half-sized people. I do know that it wasn't until my second, solitary reading of The Hobbit a year later that I was finally able to shake the image of Bilbo that I had created! Crazy


In Reply To

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?




*Jazminatar the Brown*


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 24 2009, 3:21pm

Post #22 of 80 (360 views)
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Some answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Just to clarify that I'm joining Tolkien in his ambiguity as I read the Hobbit when I was a little child and it has never struck me the way LOTR did years later. Otherwise, I find it a good enough tale for small children, not more serious or developing the brain than any good folklore tale I've read and studied since then.

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?

I don't remember feeling teased. I just accepted there is a hobbit in this hole the way children do - no questioning. Which is precisely what adults should try to save unchanged, IMHO. Open eyes lead to open mind.

B. How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?

Well, if the hill is narrow and long it will go exactly like this. Looking a little bit like a sand dune.

C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption? How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?

Enough money. How much is enough? It depends on the life-style. For this particular hobbit who needs a nice home, good food and wine and plenty of clothes enough money would be not that much compared to someone who wants a palace, expensive jewellery and far away vacations twice a year.

D. Is Tolkien satirizing or accepting the literary conventions of British country life that contrast respectability and adventures? Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?

As a true lover of the typical British country gentleman and lady (that's me), yes, I think Tolkien accepted them just the way I do - with love and a smile. Because they are so beyond any changes and time. They are so British and happily connected to their gardens, tea cups and cucumber sandwiches. They are pure delight with their frightening idea of going "out" which contradicts with their enormous curiosity about "out".

F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend? Why do hobbits so famously belong to Tolkien?

No, they are unique. I dare to say this as a long-years explorer of folklore and fairy-tale tradition in Europe. Hobbits don't even resemble much any of the other small creatures although one can certainly find some parallels. However, these parallels will be limited to the human connection but won't stretch towards the emotional characteristics or the way of life Tolkien described. The latter two turn the hobbits into quite unique characters. And, of course, the name itself is a good enough reason to grant uniqueness.

G. Looking ahead, does the hobbits’ “magic” ability to “disappear” foreshadow Bilbo’s acquisition of an “extra-ordinary” magic ring that allows him to do literally what he could already do metaphorically?

I don't think so. The magic of the Ring was not the everyday type. The hobbits' magic resembles more the animals' ability to avoid being seen thus reminding me of Aragorn's ability to do so if he wishes as most men living in the wild can also do even these days.

J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?

Well, Tolkien did think so making a connection between himself and the hobbits, didn't he? I trust him. Smile I haven't read his letters, so I'm just referring here to things I've read mainly on TORN that Tolkien mentioned something about himself being fond and resembling the hobbits but this is not the right wording, I can't remember it now.

Culinary journey through Middle Earth continues! Join us on the Main board!

I believe


Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Mar 24 2009, 3:22pm

Post #23 of 80 (389 views)
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Bilbo Halfelven [In reply to] Can't Post

No time to write much, but touching on the fairy wife idea is this posted ficlet by Chip of Dale:
http://archives.theonering.net/...1B3628F000D608B.html

Where's Frodo?


Arwen's daughter
Half-elven


Mar 24 2009, 4:06pm

Post #24 of 80 (374 views)
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Some thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Is Tolkien teasing his first time reader/listeners to imagine at this point that a “hobbit” was a kind of animal, following the beast-fable conventions in children’s literature, for example Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows or the tales of Beatrix Potter?

Absolutely and he knows it. Several paragraphs later when the narrator decides that a Hobbit needs explaining, Tolkien could have moved that forward, but he wants to play with it a bit.

B. How can the hole go almost straight into the hill and still be close enough to the outside slope to have an entire series of windowed rooms on one side of the central hall?

Well, I suppose that depends on the shape of the Hill. As Tolkien draws it, I always wondered why there weren't windows all the way around. But, if the hill doesn't have a distinct summit and is more of an escarpment there's more room to play with the layout and make it work.

C. Is being “very well-to-do” sufficient explanation for this conspicuous consumption? How much money does it take to be “very well-to-do”?

I'll take Mmatmour's explanation of enough money to not need a day job and add enough money to go on adventures and come home without repercussions (which turns out to not be so true for Bilbo, of course).

D. Is Tolkien satirizing or accepting the literary conventions of British country life that contrast respectability and adventures? Have you read elsewhere of characters so dull that their conversation can be anticipated?

Satirizing would be my thought, but I have nothing to add beyond what others have said.

E. Does it hurt the story, or reassure the young reader/listener, to be told up front that Mr. Baggins will definitely survive his adventure?

Does it hurt a book when you come back and reread it? I think it's entirely on a case by case basis for the reader. My own vote is yes, but I did not read The Hobbit as a small child, nor have I read it to young children.

F. Hobbits may be considered Tolkien’s most famous addition to the land of fairy tales. But aren’t they just Anglicized leprechauns or some other version of the well-known but hard to spot “little people” of European folk legend? Why do hobbits so famously belong to Tolkien?

Leprechauns and most other "little people" are far more fairie than Bilbo and the Hobbits. The idea of ordinary beings who are short seems a relatively new one.

G. Looking ahead, does the hobbits’ “magic” ability to “disappear” foreshadow Bilbo’s acquisition of an “extra-ordinary” magic ring that allows him to do literally what he could already do metaphorically?

Now that you point it out to me, sure. While I suppose Tolkien meant "ordinary magic" to mean "no magic" for their ability to disappear, I've always wondered if it's not a little like the elvish magic, which the elves claimed were simply skill and art that seemed as magic.

H. What do we suppose makes Belladonna so fabulous? Doesn’t the story imply that she had adventures before her marriage?

Oh I bet she was quite the adventurer in her day! Crossing rivers and leaving the borders of the Shire!

I. Comments on the “fairy wife” explanation for the Tooks’ adventurous traits??

The "fairy wife" is a sort of scapegoat for the Hobbits. They get to say, "We aren't adventurous and those who are aren't completely Hobbit."

J. Do you put any weight to the idea that Bilbo represents Tolkien himself, a man torn between the kind of mature and solid academic respectability his Tolkien father would have approved of, and a childlike love of poetry, art, folklore and fantasy that is more prominent in his Suffield mother’s family tree?

I don't know Tolkien's history well enough to say much on this subject. But I believe that all writers find something of themselves in their characters.




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Curious
Half-elven


Mar 24 2009, 4:15pm

Post #25 of 80 (354 views)
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Thanks for the link!// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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