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Flies & Spiders III: Butterflies and Treetops
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Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 12 2009, 3:16pm

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Flies & Spiders III: Butterflies and Treetops Can't Post

III. Butterflies and Treetops–Tuesday Morning, May 12, 2009, Morning

“About four days from the enchanted stream they came to a part where most of the trees were beeches. They were at first inclined to be cheered by the change, for here there was no undergrowth and the shadow was not so deep. There was a greenish light about them, and in places they could see some distance to either side of the path. Yet the light only showed them endless lines of straight grey trunks like the pillars of some huge twilight hall. There was a breath of wind and a noise of wind, but it had a sad sound. A few leaves came rustling down to remind them that outside autumn was coming on. Their feet ruffled among the dead leaves of countless other autumns that drifted over the banks of the path from the deep red carpets of the forest.”

(Feel free, if you wish, to ignore the following questions and instead tell us what you like, dislike, or notice about this scene with Bilbo climbing the tree to scout the land.)

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious? And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth? When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?

“At times they heard disquieting laughter. Sometimes there was singing in the distance, too. The laughter was the laughter of fair voices not of goblins, and the singing was beautiful, but it sounded eerie and strange, and they were not comforted, rather they hurried on from those parts with what strength the had left.”

2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere? What aspect of the Shadow might they point towards? In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?

They’re still carrying Bombur, by the way, and getting mighty sick of it. (More on Bombur later.) Now they move on to an oak forest, after going downhill for awhile.:

The dwarves select Bilbo, as the lightest person present, to climb to the top of the trees for reconnaissance.

3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them? Consider that fat is unrealized potential energy, now fueling action for the first time in years. Bilbo is now giving out more than he’s taking in. Once again, Bilbo has been selected as the optimum person for a task. What do you make of these changes in our hobbit?

He has a pretty miserable time getting up to the top, and then finds the light blinding...but then he finds the view well worth the climb and doesn’t want to come down!
“...he saw all around him a sea of dark green, ruffled here and there by the breeze; and there were everywhere hundreds of butterflyies. I expect that they were a kind of ‘purple emperor’, a butterfly that loves the tops of oak-woods, but these were not purple at all. They were dark dark velvety black without any markings to be seen.”

4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person? Have you had any similar experience?

5. What might butterflies symbolize? You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies. And what black butterflies might flutter forth from the Shadow?

Bilbo enjoys watching the butterflies with the refreshing breeze in his face, but eventually, grudgingly, climbs down again because the dwarves keep hollering for him. Our hobbit reports back that he saw no end of the forest in sight. The narrator tells us that he failed to realize that he was, in fact, in the bottom of a valley, that created an illusion of endless forest. The dwarves teeter on the brink of despair at the news.

6. On the purely practical level, shouldn’t the dwarves and/or Bilbo have figured this out by the fact that they’ve been walking downhill? Or does that sort of thing occur to people unfamiliar with the wilderness? Would you have thought of it? Does the Narrator seem more exasperated or more sympathetic to their lack of observation?

7. How common is it to think that a situation is hopeless or endless, when in fact one is merely in a valley that one temporarily can’t see beyond? How does such an experience affect us on our journey towards personal growth? Consciously or unconsciously, what might Tolkien have thought of such a situation spiritually?

8. How might remembering such a tale, consciously or unconsciously, affect the reader in her own time of wandering in a valley?

9. The dwarves are “too heavy to climb up and feel” the breeze on their faces or to see the butterflies, and this frustrates them. On the psychological/spiritual level, what might make some people too heavy to climb up to get relief in their valley-journey, and how might this apply to the dwarves? In what sense besides the physical might Bilbo be lighter? Tolkien says that the dwarves “did not care tuppence about butterflies”–could this have something to do with their heaviness? If so, explain.

10. Why do the dwarves cry out, “What is the use of sending a hobbit!” ?

11. Any other thoughts on this passage?

(I also invite pictures of beech forests. Oak forests, forest top-views, purple emperors, black butterflies, and/or anything else that seems applicable. Within reasonable size, of course.)

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

(This post was edited by Hengist on May 12 2009, 4:18pm)


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


May 12 2009, 5:33pm

Post #2 of 43 (381 views)
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“Fly away/ High away/ Bye-bye.” [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious?

Just about anything after three or four years: high school, college, jobs.


And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth?

Kids hate boredom. Adults do, too; but self discipline in the face of tedium is a sign of maturity. “She guessed that this tall man, both stern and gentle, might think her merely wayward, like a child that has not the firmness of mind to go on with a dull task to the end.”


When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?

Sounds like the job I left in January. I gave my two weeks’ notice, but they talked me into staying an extra two weeks, making me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I agreed, although at times I felt tempted to leave, anyway. Once you’ve committed yourself, you just have to stay the course. It’s part of being a mature, responsible adult.


2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere?

The company has gone beyond the edge of the Wild. While wilderness has its own sort of beauty it is also dangerous.


In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?

The popular girls in high school. ;o) The view from a height. Also, something which we understand is pleasant but of which we have no first-hand knowledge. I’ll stop being coy and say it: first-time sex. :O Also, for some, marriage can seem that way. *thinks of poor hubby before the wedding*


3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them?

They’re all stout and heavy, although I imagine most of the Dwarves’ weight comes from muscle. Anyway, Bilbo is shorter than the Dwarves so unless he was obese he would still likely be the lightest.


4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person?

He has experienced the darkness and monotony of Mirkwood and enjoys the contrast of fresh air and sunlight. I can’t say that means he has grown as a person, except insofar as he has had an experience in Mirkwood that he’d never had before.


Have you had any similar experience?

It’s hard to come up with a lasting example of good feeling after initial intensity. Emerging from a cold grocery store or overly air conditioned office building into the hot Texas sunshine seems similar. The feel of the sun on your skin is almost unbearable ecstasy at first then tapers off to pleasant comfort. Of course, after about fifteen seconds, you’re more than ready to go back inside again; and when you do it’s relief all over again. ;o) The only lasting thing I can come up with is, after a late night, it can be hard to get out of bed. The shock of the alarm clock is like the sunlight, and the comfy bedding makes it hard to leave. Eventually, though, you become restless. Metaphorically, leaving that horrible job in January was a similar relief. The day after was pure bliss. Yet, after a week off between jobs, the pleasure of inactivity wore off, and I felt ready to start my new assignment.


5. What might butterflies symbolize? You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies.

“Butterflies are free to fly” – Bernie Taupin

They flutter about effortlessly through three dimensions. Therefore, they fit into many people’s concept of freedom and light-heartedness. Bilbo sure would like to get out of that forest.


6. On the purely practical level, shouldn’t the dwarves and/or Bilbo have figured this out by the fact that they’ve been walking downhill? Or does that sort of thing occur to people unfamiliar with the wilderness? Would you have thought of it? Does the Narrator seem more exasperated or more sympathetic to their lack of observation?

As with the clue provided by the deer, everyone is too tired and hungry to think straight. The Narrator does seem exasperated.


7. How common is it to think that a situation is hopeless or endless, when in fact one is merely in a valley that one temporarily can’t see beyond? How does such an experience affect us on our journey towards personal growth? Consciously or unconsciously, what might Tolkien have thought of such a situation spiritually?


It’s often darkest before the dawn. Most often in my own life, my own lack of power in a situation that lies in someone else’s hands causes my inability to see whether there is an end and how far off it is. Sometimes it’s worth it to stick with it; but, of course, you don’t really know. In the Mirkwood situation, though, they have not much of an alternative but to keep trying to get out.

If it were a moral question, Tolkien would certainly believe one must persevere. Of course, in this story, the decision isn’t so much about right or wrong as what is the most likely way to get out of the forest, and the answer certainly isn’t to sit around and do nothing. Still, perseverance is a fine quality, one that can be useful in moral difficulties. I’m sure Tolkien felt good about encouraging it in this story.


8. How might remembering such a tale, consciously or unconsciously, affect the reader in her own time of wandering in a valley?

I suppose they could find some applicability, although I’ve never felt particularly inspired by scenes in The Hobbit.


9. The dwarves are “too heavy to climb up and feel” the breeze on their faces or to see the butterflies, and this frustrates them. On the psychological/spiritual level, what might make some people too heavy to climb up to get relief in their valley-journey, and how might this apply to the dwarves? In what sense besides the physical might Bilbo be lighter? Tolkien says that the dwarves “did not care tuppence about butterflies”–could this have something to do with their heaviness? If so, explain.

I just see their heaviness as a physical limitation that makes them grumpier. There’s a hint of sour grapes about their response about not caring about the butterflies. Also, Dwarves are underground creatures. Butterflies may not figure in their concept of freedom.

"Vampire bats are free to fly.”


10. Why do the dwarves cry out, “What is the use of sending a hobbit!” ?

Exasperation makes them lash out at Bilbo who has at least had a moment of relief.


11. Any other thoughts on this passage?

(I also invite pictures of beech forests. Oak forests, forest top-views, purple emperors, black butterflies, and/or anything else that seems applicable. Within
reasonable size, of course.)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Emperor

~~~~~~~~

The TORNsib formerly known as Galadriel.



(This post was edited by GaladrielTX on May 12 2009, 5:40pm)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 12 2009, 6:07pm

Post #3 of 43 (309 views)
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"Vampire bats are free to fly.” [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the giggle!

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Beren IV
Gondor


May 12 2009, 7:33pm

Post #4 of 43 (311 views)
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I have little experience with beeches [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a lot of experience with oaks, which are very closely related to beeches, but very little experience with beeches themselves.

So, beeches.

We know that we've entered the elves' forest for sure, now - we can hear its inhabitants. But they're not safe to travelers, as we will find out later. They're fine if you let them mind their own business, but Thorin is going to stick his nose in it, and refuse to take it out again. I think that the eeriness may be something of a warning: to someone who would respect them and treat them with respect, they wouldn't be so dangerous. But most dwarves, like most humans, aren't really as capable as living harmoniously with the elves as they should be, and to most of us, they're dangerous.

The paleobotanist is back!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 12 2009, 7:38pm

Post #5 of 43 (334 views)
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Your answer intrigues me! [In reply to] Can't Post

Especially the last lines.

(Now I'm going to go look up beeches.)

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


May 12 2009, 8:15pm

Post #6 of 43 (322 views)
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Thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious?

I've often had that sense on a long hike, where what seems to be the long-awaited end of the trail turns out to be more trail, and more trail, and yet more trail. Once it turned out that we had missed the campsite altogether, and walked two days' hike in one day!

I've also had that sense in a long deposition, where the examiner promises just a few more questions, offering a glimmer of hope that the day will soon end, then drones on for another two hours. I've learned never to promise just a few more questions myself, since I can never be sure I will keep my promise.

And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth?

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but Bilbo must have patience. Of course, in the end it turns out to be a good thing that they didn't have patience, for the light at the end of the tunnel is a trackless swamp. So maybe the lesson is that sometimes we should ignore good advice and leave the path. Or maybe the lesson is that it's better to be lucky than good.

When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?


It's natural to feel frustrated. And as it turns out, it's a good think the party gives in to its frustration. Does Tolkien have a perverse teaching purpose here -- sometimes it is good to be naughty and ignore the advice of your teachers? Or is there no lesson to be learned except that it's good to be lucky?

I can think of a similar moment when Aragorn uses the palantir, ignoring Gandalf's advice to refrain from doing so. Of course, Aragorn has a much better idea of what he is doing and why, but he still risks all by doing so against Gandalf's advice. Maybe a better example is Pippin stealing the palantir in the first place, which is clearly the wrong thing to do, but by great good luck, and perhaps divine purpose, turns out to be the best thing he could have done, since he unwittingly misleads Sauron about the location of the Ring and saves Gandalf from making using the palantir himself and suffering Saruman's fate.

"At times they heard disquieting laughter. Sometimes there was singing in the distance, too. The laughter was the laughter of fair voices not of goblins, and the singing was beautiful, but it sounded eerie and strange, and they were not comforted, rather they hurried on from those parts with what strength the[y] had left."

2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere?


How could they not guess they were among the elves? Have the dwarves forgotten their history? Don't they know that elves inhabit these woods? Even if they had no history to forget, don't they know what elves sound like? Do they think the fair voices and laughter are evil? Do they think they are ghosts? The reader has a better excuse for ignorance, and the narrator maintains ambiguity, dropping a couple of hints and then moving on.

What aspect of the Shadow might they point towards?

All I can think of are the fair faces of elves in the waters of the Dead Marshes -- one might suppose that these voices in Mirkwood, although fair, might be part of some illusion, or might be the voices of spirits, not flesh and blood people. And I also recall that in Lothlorien the elves bewildered and bewitched the orc intruders with their voices, and that no orc returned alive. So even if they guess that these are elves, that does not mean they are safe from the elves. Perhaps no one associates the fair laughter and voices with evil, but still might associate them with hostility and danger, like the bewitching songs of fair sirens luring ships onto the rocks.

In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?


Attractive members of the opposite sex, salesmen, preachers, inspirational leaders, bright lights and big cities, money, fame, success.

3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them?


I think he was always the lightest, and never the fattest. He's a good deal shorter, and remember that also means he is a good deal skinnier without being disproportioned at all.

Consider that fat is unrealized potential energy, now fueling action for the first time in years. Bilbo is now giving out more than he’s taking in. Once again, Bilbo has been selected as the optimum person for a task. What do you make of these changes in our hobbit?


He doesn't do very well with this task, fortunately, failing to keep his wits about him regarding the valley, but thereby, through luck, leading them off the disastrous path.

4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person?


He's peeking out of Plato's Cave? Sticking his head in the clouds? Getting a little high and mighty? He's trying to play Gandalf's role, figuring out strategy, and not just tactics; playing leader, and not just tag-along follower. But like the incident with the trolls, the dwarves have put him up to it and push him into it, putting him in a place where he does not feel comfortable or competent. Of course he screws it up, because he's much better on the ground, both figuratively and literally, but his luck saves him. And later he more than redeems himself.

It reminds me of Pippin and Merry's conversation in the Houses of Healing, after Aragorn heals Merry:


Quote

'Dear me!' [said Pippin,] 'We Tooks and Brandybucks, we can’t live long on the heights.’

‘No,’ said Merry. ‘I can’t. Not yet, at any rate. But at least, Pippin, we can now see them, and honour them. It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the Shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them, whether he knows about them or not. I am glad that I know about them, a little.'


Or perhaps this quote is more apt:


Quote

'Now, Pippin my lad,' [said Merry] 'don't forget Gildor's saying – the one Sam used to quote: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.'

'But our whole life for months has been one long meddling in the affairs of Wizards,' said Pippin. 'I should like a bit of information as well as danger. I should like a look at that ball.'


Have you had any similar experience?


I've had my head stuck in the clouds many times. Leadership is a heady experience, and new leaders are likely to screw it up a few times before they get used to the experience. It's especially bad when new leaders let themselves be pushed from behind, rather than really taking leadership and doing what they think is right.

5. What might butterflies symbolize? You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies. And what black butterflies might flutter forth from the Shadow?


That's easy. Butterflies symbolize rebirth! Certainly appropriate in light of our speculation that Bilbo himself is undergoing a process of rebirth, from caterpillar to butterfly, one might say. Black butterflies are interesting. Perhaps black is not always evil, and perhaps Mirkwood is not beyond all hope. Perhaps Mirkwood itself can be reborn.

Bilbo enjoys watching the butterflies with the refreshing breeze in his face, but eventually, grudgingly, climbs down again because the dwarves keep hollering for him. Our hobbit reports back that he saw no end of the forest in sight. The narrator tells us that he failed to realize that he was, in fact, in the bottom of a valley, that created an illusion of endless forest. The dwarves teeter on the brink of despair at the news.

6. On the purely practical level, shouldn’t the dwarves and/or Bilbo have figured this out by the fact that they’ve been walking downhill?


Yes.

Or does that sort of thing occur to people unfamiliar with the wilderness?

You can be sure Aragorn would have noticed.

Would you have thought of it?

Perhaps not. I've gotten lost before, and usually after getting lost it seems stupid in hindsight.

Does the Narrator seem more exasperated or more sympathetic to their lack of observation?


Neither. The narrator, I could swear, is laughing like Gandalf, both at the party, and at the reader. The narrator, who knows the whole story, is neither sympathetic with nor exasperated with the party, because it will turn out that the party is doing exactly the right thing. The narrator misleads the reader into thinking that the party should stick to the path, when later we learn the path will die in the middle of a trackless swamp. The narrator is a tease.

Of course, the reader should know that nothing really bad will happen to Bilbo, because we have already been told that he will come back alive, although changed. But we may be surprised to learn that not everyone will survive.

7. How common is it to think that a situation is hopeless or endless, when in fact one is merely in a valley that one temporarily can’t see beyond?

Metaphorically, quite often. Literally, perhaps less often.

How does such an experience affect us on our journey towards personal growth?

Tolkien's advise is not what it seems to be at first. Stay the course is the usual advice -- but it turns out that Bilbo was better off abandoning the course! Maybe Tolkien's lesson is that life is a mystery, we cannot predict what will happen, and we should pray for luck!

Consciously or unconsciously, what might Tolkien have thought of such a situation spiritually?


Sometimes we discover that what seems like good advice is bad and what seems like bad luck is good. As Gildor said to Frodo, "‘Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.'"

8. How might remembering such a tale, consciously or unconsciously, affect the reader in her own time of wandering in a valley?

Don't be too quick to despair, or too quick to declare success. Keep a level head.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:


If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:


If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--"If," by Rudyard Kipling


9. The dwarves are "too heavy to climb up and feel" the breeze on their faces or to see the butterflies, and this frustrates them. On the psychological/spiritual level, what might make some people too heavy to climb up to get relief in their valley-journey, and how might this apply to the dwarves?

The strength of the dwarves comes from their connection to the earth. That's why the Great Rings have little power over them, for example, beyond making them greedy. But it also means that they are firmly rooted on the ground, and sometimes lack imagination.

Elves like Legolas, on the other hand, have a lightness of being, which allows them to live in the trees and walk on top of the snow. They live in a world of visions and enchantment. On the other hand, the elves can get caught with their heads in the clouds, and sometimes lack a proper connection to the here and now. The elves created the Great Rings, after all, in an attempt to hold on to the past.

Hobbits are probably more like dwarves than like elves, but hobbits are a good deal lighter than dwarves. They are grounded, but not quite as attached to the ground. They are more like the children of men; built close to the ground, but light enough to climb.

In what sense besides the physical might Bilbo be lighter?

He might be spiritually lighter.

Tolkien says that the dwarves "did not care tuppence about butterflies"–could this have something to do with their heaviness? If so, explain.


The symbolism is lost on them. They are prose, not poetry; earth, not air. Although if I were in the same situation, I might agree with them.

10. Why do the dwarves cry out, "What is the use of sending a hobbit!" ?


It's a common reaction to blame the messenger. In fact, all of them are to blame for not realizing they have been walking downhill into a valley, the worst place to climb a tree for a view.

11. Any other thoughts on this passage?

As noted above, this strikes me as very like the disaster with the trolls, where the dwarves forced Bilbo to do something he didn't want to do and wasn't good at doing. Bilbo gets into trouble when he listens to the dwarves, and has more success when he listens to himself.

(I also invite pictures of beech forests.




Oak forests,



forest top-views,



(It took me a while to find one that looked like what Bilbo may have seen, complete with a rise in the near distance.)

purple emperors,


black butterflies,


(This is the female scarlet swallowtail.)

and/or anything else that seems applicable. Within reasonable size, of course.)

A little late, but:






Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 12 2009, 9:33pm

Post #7 of 43 (283 views)
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Thought-Provoking! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for some thought-provoking responses. I had not, for some reason, thought of Bilbo as failing in his mission (I guess I figured that the dwarves should have processed his raw information better) but you're right, he did. And you also made me think of Tolkien now and then touting the value of every so often departing from the recipes for living that others give to us, however wise. Subversive material for a children's book!

Fantastic pictures--I enjoyed every one of them!

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


simplyaven
Grey Havens


May 13 2009, 2:59am

Post #8 of 43 (282 views)
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Just a few thougths [In reply to] Can't Post

Yjis passage is among my favourites in The Hobbit because of how heavy on symbolism it is. Beeches in some cultures (mainly in folklore) symbolize youth - strong, flexible, stern, delicate on the outside but difficult to break; and especially male youth. And here there is a forest of beeches. And I wonder: is Bilbo saying goodbye to his youth meaning not simply his ages but his innocent understanding of simple life? Is this the point when youth forgets black and white and is forced to accept the nuances of life? I think so. From this moment on the forest is Bilbo's true transformation point, IMHO. The beeches are there but also leaves are falling - it's not only their autumn approaching. There is the wind and in most cases wind symbolizes turns, changes. It all leads towarda a breaking point, a swift for the character. I find this passage one of the most folkloristic Tolkien pieces. Pure gem based on centuries of story telling. And this:

"Their feet ruffled among the dead leaves of countless other autumns that drifted over the banks of the path from the deep red carpets of the forest."

is the top of it. The countless other autumns don't speak only of the forest's long existence. In this context, surrounded by the beeches, falling leaves, and wind, I'd say these were the countless other changes experienced in this forest. It speaks of the enchantment laying there. It says: "Beware, countless entered and none of them left unchanged." Lovely part of the book! Heart

Culinary journey through Middle Earth continues! Join us on April 30th on the Main board for the renewed thread!

Middle earth recipes archive

My rambling on food, cooking, wine and other life pleasures

I believe


batik
Tol Eressea


May 13 2009, 4:04am

Post #9 of 43 (279 views)
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spooky! [In reply to] Can't Post

2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere?
Mysterious and kind of spooky! That'd be my impression if I was days into the woods where I'd already heard "queer noises", "it was everlastingly still and dark and stuffy", "really pitch" at night and I'd seen "pairs.... of eyes..." and then my companion had fallen into some kind of enchanted sleep!



Twit
Lorien

May 13 2009, 11:10am

Post #10 of 43 (319 views)
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here goes [In reply to] Can't Post

Before I continue, beech trees don't normally lose their leaves in the autumn, but in the spring so is it spring or autumn in Mirkwood?

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious? And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth? When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?

The beginning of the summer holiday is always great for about 2 days. Finally going into labour when pregnant?



2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere? What aspect of the Shadow might they point towards? In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?

They make the forest seem more mysterious, although I couldn't help but think, 'what's wrong with them, here's a sign of good and yet they hurry on?' Of course if the Dwarves recognised Elves then maybe they would hurry along. Perhaps Elves are beautiful yet frightening to the Dwarves.
Any act of nature could seem beautiful yet dangerous to us, volcanoes, tsunamis, lions, tigers. Childbirth could also be thought of as this. ( I see a pattern developing here!)


3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them? Consider that fat is unrealized potential energy, now fueling action for the first time in years. Bilbo is now giving out more than he’s taking in. Once again, Bilbo has been selected as the optimum person for a task. What do you make of these changes in our hobbit?

I think he was merely chosen as he was the lightest and the best at climbing, but for Bilbo this is very important, as he gets to do something only he can do.

4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person? Have you had any similar experience?

The relief he feels from the fresh air and the light is short lived, which could signify that pleasure is and should only be short lasting, otherwise we'd get bored and then seek pleasure from elsewhere. I suppose addiction is similar.

5. What might butterflies symbolize? You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies. And what black butterflies might flutter forth from the Shadow?

They're beautiful, but again short lived. The re-birth and free and easy themes are well known, but I don't know why they might come from the shadow. Perhaps as spies?

6. On the purely practical level, shouldn’t the dwarves and/or Bilbo have figured this out by the fact that they’ve been walking downhill? Or does that sort of thing occur to people unfamiliar with the wilderness? Would you have thought of it? Does the Narrator seem more exasperated or more sympathetic to their lack of observation?

No, I think they are too tired and down hearted. Maybe the narrator is laughing at them (not unkindly) and reminding us that sometimes all is not what it seems, and if you keep your head and your wits about you you can often find hope in the most difficult of places or times.

7. How common is it to think that a situation is hopeless or endless, when in fact one is merely in a valley that one temporarily can’t see beyond? How does such an experience affect us on our journey towards personal growth? Consciously or unconsciously, what might Tolkien have thought of such a situation spiritually?

It's very common, especially at the moment. But perseverance and luck will often win out in the end.

8. How might remembering such a tale, consciously or unconsciously, affect the reader in her own time of wandering in a valley?

9. The dwarves are “too heavy to climb up and feel” the breeze on their faces or to see the butterflies, and this frustrates them. On the psychological/spiritual level, what might make some people too heavy to climb up to get relief in their valley-journey, and how might this apply to the dwarves? In what sense besides the physical might Bilbo be lighter? Tolkien says that the dwarves “did not care tuppence about butterflies”–could this have something to do with their heaviness? If so, explain.

The Dwarves still have a way to go before they have 'grown', and I think they say this because they are irritated that they cannot climb up and see them or feel the breeze.

10. Why do the dwarves cry out, “What is the use of sending a hobbit!” ?

They are jealous and frustrated, so they take it out on Bilbo.

11. Any other thoughts on this passage?

It's been my favourite part so far... although that might be because I'm reading it along side everyone here, and gaining more insight and ideas about it through you all. (Applauds eveyone's cleverness)

So thanks for that!


TolkienJackson
Bree


May 13 2009, 2:13pm

Post #11 of 43 (265 views)
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Sorry guys! [In reply to] Can't Post

I can only answer one for now. I am exhausted, and I can't find the energy to answer each one.

So sorry.Evil

Anyway:

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious? And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth? When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?

As I have major anxiety disorders and possible Aspergers, I find many of life's stressful situations to be tedious. Especially if the situation has started as light and bright, and then it all falls apart. I do not like that at all. This is why I cannot go to high school anymore. I have to do a program called SIDE, where I do all the work at home.



King Kong and Tolkien - My, PJ has good taste!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 13 2009, 3:45pm

Post #12 of 43 (250 views)
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That is so beautiful! [In reply to] Can't Post

I didn't know that about beeches. It really helps to have a folklorist on board.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 13 2009, 3:51pm

Post #13 of 43 (243 views)
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More about beeches [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for teaching me about beech-leaves! I wonder if this inspired Tolkien's description of Lorien? In the story it's autumn. I think that Tolkien might have that base covered by mentioning "a few" leaves falling, knocked down by the breeze that now begins to sift down through the trees. Or, he might have made a mistake.

I like your "pangs of childbirth" approach!

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 13 2009, 3:53pm

Post #14 of 43 (247 views)
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Perfectly all right! [In reply to] Can't Post

You have no need to apologize. Many of us often do answer only one or two questions, or offer some observation about a passage completely outside of the questions. The questions offer a place to start the conversation, but aren't some sort of requirement.

Welcome to the Reading Room!

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


TolkienJackson
Bree


May 13 2009, 4:03pm

Post #15 of 43 (255 views)
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Oh! Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the welcome!Smile

King Kong and Tolkien - My, PJ has good taste!


Darkstone
Immortal


May 13 2009, 9:20pm

Post #16 of 43 (299 views)
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"An adventure? Bah!" said Bilbo. "Humbug!" [In reply to] Can't Post

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

-A Christmas Carol


1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious?

Turning vegetarian for a couple of weeks. Also makes me light-headed.

BTW, the local fried catfish place has a new appetizer: Chicken fried bacon.


And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth?

Getting out of a rut, trying new things, discovering new tastes, etc. Like the first time an old country boy from the USA backpacks across Europe. The experience is jarring, fun, disconcerting, exhilarating, inconvenient, enlightening, annoying, terrifying, and an all around life-changing experience.


When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?

“I see light at the end of the tunnel.”
-Walt W. Rostow,

”That light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train.”
-Robert Lowell

“Will the last Marine out of the tunnel please turn out the light?”
-Wall graffiti in Hanoi, 1975

“There’s a light over at the Frankenstein place.”
-Richard O’Brien

“Run away from the light, Carol Anne!”
-Poltergeist (1982)

“Go into the light, Carol Anne!”
-ibid

“You’ll want to take a right at the light!”
-Tiki Bar TV


2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere?

Faerie.


What aspect of the Shadow might they point towards?

“I think one of his spies would – well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.”
-Strider


In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?

Graduating high school, entering college, going on to grad school, getting a real life job, getting married, buying a house, having kids.

Life.


3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them?

“It’s the beards.”


Consider that fat is unrealized potential energy, now fueling action for the first time in years. Bilbo is now giving out more than he’s taking in.

And Dwarves are bigger boned.


Once again, Bilbo has been selected as the optimum person for a task. What do you make of these changes in our hobbit?

The best tool for the job is sometimes that one you never use in the bottom of the tool box.

And wisdom is knowing to use it rather than the hammer.


He has a pretty miserable time getting up to the top, and then finds the light blinding...but then he finds the view well worth the climb and doesn’t want to come down!
“...he saw all around him a sea of dark green, ruffled here and there by the breeze; and there were everywhere hundreds of butterflyies. I expect that they were a kind of ‘purple emperor’, a butterfly that loves the tops of oak-woods, but these were not purple at all. They were dark dark velvety black without any markings to be seen.”


My favorite descriptive passage. I’d love to see this in the movie. And if it was 3-D….. Wow!


4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person?

“How 'ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?”

-Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis


Have you had any similar experience?

The Musée de Cluny in Paris. Specifically, the six tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn.

Beauty that makes you cry.


5. What might butterflies symbolize?

Rebirth of the body. Freedom of the soul.


You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies.

The migration of the Monarch butterflies is always breathtaking.

As of Friday, last week, the first Monarchs are reported to have crossed into Canada and have reached latitude 42 North.


And what black butterflies might flutter forth from the Shadow?

I've been searching for a man
All across Japan
Just to find, to find my samurai
Someone who is strong
But still a little shy
Yes I need, I need my samurai

Ay, ay, ay,
I'm your little butterfly
Green, black and blue,
Make the colours in the sky.

- Ayumi Hamasaki

(My little 14 year-old niece did a sword dance to that song at the local Spring Festival.)


6. On the purely practical level, shouldn’t the dwarves and/or Bilbo have figured this out by the fact that they’ve been walking downhill?

Depends on the ground. If it’s really broken ground and you’re continually going up and down rather than just a constant smooth downward slope then you could miss it, especially in a close wooded forest with no horizon.


Or does that sort of thing occur to people unfamiliar with the wilderness?

Even experienced hikers can get disoriented, especially if they’re too proud of the fact that they’re experienced hikers.


Would you have thought of it?

People have remarked on my dependable sense of direction even in very new, strange, and chaotic locations. That said, I’ve gotten lost more than a few times. Once I ended up eighty-some odd miles from where I thought I was.


Does the Narrator seem more exasperated or more sympathetic to their lack of observation?

Dramatic.


7. How common is it to think that a situation is hopeless or endless, when in fact one is merely in a valley that one temporarily can’t see beyond?

That’s usually how it is.


How does such an experience affect us on our journey towards personal growth?

Depends if you climb out or stay where you are.


Consciously or unconsciously, what might Tolkien have thought of such a situation spiritually?

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
-Psalms 23:4


8. How might remembering such a tale, consciously or unconsciously, affect the reader in her own time of wandering in a valley?

“When you find yourself trapped in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.”


9. The dwarves are “too heavy to climb up and feel” the breeze on their faces or to see the butterflies, and this frustrates them. On the psychological/spiritual level, what might make some people too heavy to climb up to get relief in their valley-journey, and how might this apply to the dwarves?

We’ll find out what’s important to them when they find the treasure.


In what sense besides the physical might Bilbo be lighter?

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
-Thorin Oakenshield


Tolkien says that the dwarves “did not care tuppence about butterflies”–could this have something to do with their heaviness? If so, explain.

Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
Scrooge trembled more and more.
“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

-A Christmas Carol


10. Why do the dwarves cry out, “What is the use of sending a hobbit!”?

Obviously a Dwarf would have made more practical observations without notice of beauty.


11. Any other thoughts on this passage?

"And so, as Tiny Frodo observed, Eru bless Us, Every One!"

******************************************
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


May 13 2009, 10:14pm

Post #17 of 43 (255 views)
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Ho ho ho! [In reply to] Can't Post

(In reference to "A Christmas Carol" and not the Hanoi quotes.) Thank you for a Christmas gift out of season--savored as always!

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


sador
Half-elven

May 14 2009, 7:08am

Post #18 of 43 (291 views)
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A few answers [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious?
The election of a new government/president/mayor/whatever.
With the good ones, it takes a long time; and sometimes we remember the opposition is actually worse - which is the usual tactic for being re-elected.

And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth? When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?
That's what light does; it shows us we still have far to go.

In the dark, we can dream of revelation; but we're ususlly afraid of it - afraid that it would show how much more we need to work.

2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere? What aspect of the Shadow might they point towards?

That someone else is actually enjoying this $$ place.

In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?
Our children.

3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them?

Well, it's not dwarves who are renowned "for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow"!

Consider that fat is unrealized potential energy, now fueling action for the first time in years. Bilbo is now giving out more than he’s taking in. Once again, Bilbo has been selected as the optimum person for a task. What do you make of these changes in our hobbit?
He's simply the one who does all the unpalatable jobs.

Often, such people become indispensable, and actually leaders.

4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person?

It's easy to be sidetracked.

Have you had any similar experience?
Well, I don't log off from this site, which takes too much of my time as is!


5. What might butterflies symbolize? You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies. And what black butterflies might flutter forth from the Shadow?
We have already noticed that Bilbo wasn't really prosy, and that he loved flowers.
In a way, butterflies are an extension of that - you have flowers which move.
(At least, that's how my five-years-old daughter sees them, and she is the aristic soul in our family)

6. On the purely practical level, shouldn’t the dwarves and/or Bilbo have figured this out by the fact that they’ve been walking downhill?
Should they have? How exact are the maps of Mirkwood they last saw - and where did they see them? I guess Rivendell - and how much could you trust that old map? And estimate accordingly where you are?

Note that they are not on the path they planned to take, and that Beorn's advice was also wrong. How do they know they are outskirting the Mountains of Mirkwood, and not going through them? Think of the Emyn Muil.

Or does that sort of thing occur to people unfamiliar with the wilderness? Would you have thought of it?
Excellent example! No, it probably wouldn't occur to me.

Does the Narrator seem more exasperated or more sympathetic to their lack of observation?
I don't find him exasperated at all.

7. How common is it to think that a situation is hopeless or endless, when in fact one is merely in a valley that one temporarily can’t see beyond?
Being optimistic in a religious way, I believe it is very common.
But I can't really substantiate it - there are a few examples to support this belief, and some others to contradict it.

How does such an experience affect us on our journey towards personal growth? Consciously or unconsciously, what might Tolkien have thought of such a situation spiritually?
Perhaps he thought this is a description of the post-Christian people of Europe - going downhill, but getting near the end of their wandering in the dark forest.
Or maybe 'thought' is too strong: hoped, or wanted to believe, might be more accurate.

8. How might remembering such a tale, consciously or unconsciously, affect the reader in her own time of wandering in a valley?
How does the Bible affect people? Some profoundly, some not at all, and some get furious with the false hope the priests/preachers/pastors/qaddis/rabbis/anyone else sold them.

9. The dwarves are “too heavy to climb up and feel” the breeze on their faces or to see the butterflies, and this frustrates them. On the psychological/spiritual level, what might make some people too heavy to climb up to get relief in their valley-journey, and how might this apply to the dwarves?
Being Earth-bound. And the dwarves are exactly that (re: 'Aule and Yavanna').

In what sense besides the physical might Bilbo be lighter? Tolkien says that the dwarves “did not care tuppence about butterflies”–could this have something to do with their heaviness? If so, explain.
As I noted above, Bilbo was very fond of flowers, i.e. with nature; and butterlies seem to be flowers with an extra degree of freedom.

As a side-note - the use of 'tuppence' here is nothing short of lovely! One of my childhood favourite was Agatha Christie's The_Secret_Adversary - does anyone else around here like that book?

10. Why do the dwarves cry out, “What is the use of sending a hobbit!” ?
Frustration.
And there wasn't really any use, was there? Unless you think the mere description of the wind others can feel is useful.
Perhaps it is, but note that it was not the wind at the end of the road he felt, but of the skies above the forest roof.
Symbolically, Bilbo gave them a glimpse of the glory of art - not of the path to salvation. I guess Tolkien would be rather ambivalent (or truly torn) about the question "what is the use of art?"

11. Any other thoughts on this passage?

Only two chapters ago, Bilbo was mentioned as the only member of the expedition who couldn't climb trees. Does anyone else feel annoyed by this?

"Don't start grumbling against orders, or something bad will happen to you." - Thorin

(This post was edited by sador on May 14 2009, 7:10am)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 14 2009, 1:24pm

Post #19 of 43 (222 views)
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Many terrific observations! [In reply to] Can't Post

I especially like, "That's what light does; it shows us we still have far to go.
In the dark, we can dream of revelation; but we're ususlly afraid of it - afraid that it would show how much more we need to work."


As for Bilbo not being able to climb trees, he only has difficulty reaching the first branch. I assume that the dwarves boosted him up, here.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


FarFromHome
Valinor


May 14 2009, 6:30pm

Post #20 of 43 (251 views)
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A few quick answers [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious?

I can understand the relief of finding themselves under beech-trees, with their smooth, elegant grey trunks and high foliage. I like the description of them as the "pillars of some huge twilight hall" - it must have seemed as if the company were coming to a more civilized part of the forest - and perhaps they were, although they were unable to see it. Beeches are probably the forerunners of mallorns, and so may be a sign that this part of the forest is (or was) tended by the Elves. But even something beautiful becomes oppressive if there is too much of it - and there are too many beech-trees here, as there will be too many oak-trees soon.

2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere? What aspect of the Shadow might they point towards? In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?

The Elves are both beautiful and dangerous, as Sam explains to Faramir when Faramir calls them "perilously fair". I think we're getting a first taste of this here. The music and laughter is enchanting, but enchantment is not something to take lightly. In fact most things that are truly beautiful in this world have an element of the frightening too, I think - not least because, like the Elves, they may enchant us to the point that they ensnare us.

3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them? Consider that fat is unrealized potential energy, now fueling action for the first time in years. Bilbo is now giving out more than he’s taking in. Once again, Bilbo has been selected as the optimum person for a task. What do you make of these changes in our hobbit?

In terms of lightest, I think Bilbo may always have been that because he's so small. Dwarves may not be fat (except for Bombur, of course), but they are sturdy and broad. There are two changes here - one is that Bilbo has started to feel confidence in his own abililities (although he still doubts himself a lot), and the other is that the Dwarves have started to change their opinion of their Burglar - they may still not be sure about him, but they obviously now think he has his uses.

4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person? Have you had any similar experience?

Let's face it, Bilbo is forced to make this climb - and he doesn't enjoy it at all, at least until he finds himself out in the sunlight. I guess I see a lot of other things, that Bilbo chooses to do, as more significant in terms of his growth as a person. Here I see him as acting more as his ordinary, selfish self - wanting to carry on enjoying the fresh air and light, when he knows his duty is to come down again into the dark to report to the Dwarves. That he does come down foreshadows the way he goes forward into the darkest patch of the forest later, when he's searching for the Dwarves after their capture by the spiders. Bilbo may still not like the dark, but he knows where his duty lies.

5. What might butterflies symbolize? You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies. And what black butterflies might flutter forth from the Shadow?

Could these be the same as the "black moths, some nearly as big as your hand, flapping and whirring round their ears" that bothered them during the night earlier in the chapter? Context can make a big difference to perceptions - what seemed horrible and disgusting in the darkness might seem beautiful in the sunlight. It's darkness that creates fear, as we will see personified with the Black Riders in LotR. Bilbo has briefly escaped from the Shadow, and so sees the beauty of these black butterflies, even though he couldn't stand having similar creatures flying around him at night in the forest.

(No time for the rest right now. And I'm very sorry not to have had time so far to contribute to any of your other intriguing threads. I am in the middle of two overwhelmingly busy weeks when I hardly have the energy to put the computer on at all by the time I get home!)

Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 14 2009, 7:24pm

Post #21 of 43 (224 views)
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Quality surpasses quantity [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for contributing what you can--beautifully put!

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


May 14 2009, 11:06pm

Post #22 of 43 (269 views)
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My own answers [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Can you relate to similar experiences, where a welcome change of pace in turn becomes tedious? And/or, what might it signify in Bilbo’s journey towards personal growth? When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?

Weather, for one thing. Only a week or two ago I was happy to bid the winter cold adieu. Now with temperatures in the triple digits, I look towards Summer with dread, and can't wait till the cooling of the year's decline.

What it might signify? First, the point when you see that you've made progress, then when you realize that you need a whole lot more progress to get where you want to be.

How might one react? The tempting thing is to shy away from the light, honesty and truth, because it reveals what you don't want to know. Yet the only real way to get out of the mess you don't want to see is to stare it down and march forward anyway.

2. We will come back to these eerie songs and laughter later. For now, how do these sounds add to the atmosphere? What aspect of the Shadow might they point towards? In the journey towards becoming a fuller person, what sort of things might simultaneously seem beautiful and frightening to us?

Shadow-wise, even good things seem frightening and strange to us, when we have stuffed them away out of sight for a long, long time. Not everything that we suppress into the Shadow is evil, but by the very nature of our consigning it to Shadow in the first place, we find it disturbing.

3. So once-fat Bilbo is now the lightest among them? Consider that fat is unrealized potential energy, now fueling action for the first time in years. Bilbo is now giving out more than he’s taking in. Once again, Bilbo has been selected as the optimum person for a task. What do you make of these changes in our hobbit?

Maybe this isn't physically surprising, but psychologically I find it so. I first identified him in the first chapter as fat; now people find him light enough to mark him as optimum for the job of peering beyond the morass. I do think that this is because he is finally exercising the stored, unrealized potential in himself.

4. Consider this stage of our hero’s journey. Through difficulty, he climbs to a point where he’s blinded by the light. But once he gets there, he loves the beauty and the fresh air so much that he doesn’t want to come down again. What might this signify in terms of Bilbo’s growth as a person? Have you had any similar experience?

This sounds like the spiritual experience that comes to us only through hardship. Once we sweat through the difficult part, suddenly getting the over-view of the grander scheme of things brings such ecstasy that we don't ever want to go back to the practical matters of survival once again! For a little while Bilbo attains an elevation beyond his trials. Things like that can keep a body going!

5. What might butterflies symbolize? You might draw from mythology, or folklore (including pop folklore) or your own personal knowledge about butterflies. And what black butterflies might flutter forth from the Shadow?

Lots of cultures equate butterflies with the soul. Some even claim that a butterfly escapes through the mouth of a dead person when nobody's looking. That makes symbolic sense, when we think of our mortal bodies as coccoons for our souls.

Black butterflies, to my mind, symbolize the part of his soul that got suppressed in the Shadow, that can still fly above all that, if only he makes the effort to rise up to where he can witness it. Although his reluctance to climb down might still seem selfish, I think that Bilbo undergoes the beginning of a transformation, here, appreciating something more than the gold at the end, more than even the desperate wish to make it home unscathed. Here he is in a valley that seems to offer no hope, in a desperate bind so bad that he had never even imagined it, in danger of starvation, and yet for one glorious moment he can rise tro see a beauty grander than anything he could ever have known sitting safely in the Shire.

6. On the purely practical level, shouldn’t the dwarves and/or Bilbo have figured this out by the fact that they’ve been walking downhill? Or does that sort of thing occur to people unfamiliar with the wilderness? Would you have thought of it? Does the Narrator seem more exasperated or more sympathetic to their lack of observation?

After watching "Survivor" for years, I've seen many times how hunger and fatigue can fuzz up the mind to miss obvious clues. I think that the narrator is sympathetically exasperated, chuckling and shaking his head.

7. How common is it to think that a situation is hopeless or endless, when in fact one is merely in a valley that one temporarily can’t see beyond? How does such an experience affect us on our journey towards personal growth? Consciously or unconsciously, what might Tolkien have thought of such a situation spiritually?

Very common, I'd say. Almost every misery, in fact, seems to stretch on forever, and it's easy to lose sight of any hope that it will end. But when you force yourself on anyway, without hope if necessary, you learn more and more how often your worst fears go unrealized, how finite misery can be. You start to collect quite a library of memories to fall back on, knowing that this isn't the first time you've been in trouble, and you've gotten out before. The older you get, the more you can take in stride.

Bilbo has, however, led a sheltered life. His idea of trouble, up till now, has been getting cornered by obnoxious relatives. Now he's struggling for his life, and learning that he can get through it even when he sees no hope in sigtht.

8. How might remembering such a tale, consciously or unconsciously, affect the reader in her own time of wandering in a valley?

Profoundly, in my case. Many a time after reading this I have remembered that just because I can't see a way out doesn't mean it's not there.

9. The dwarves are “too heavy to climb up and feel” the breeze on their faces or to see the butterflies, and this frustrates them. On the psychological/spiritual level, what might make some people too heavy to climb up to get relief in their valley-journey, and how might this apply to the dwarves? In what sense besides the physical might Bilbo be lighter? Tolkien says that the dwarves “did not care tuppence about butterflies”–could this have something to do with their heaviness? If so, explain.

Gold is heavy, and that's where their hearts are. To not care tuppence about butterflies is to not care about the wings that could lift you up. There is a myth that great effort and "frivolity" mutually exclude each other, that someone who sings and smiles and gets up and dances at parties doesn't work as hard as others, doesn't have enough responsibility to weigh him down. But in fact the cheerful souls are often the bravest and hardest working of all, in my experience at least. Sometimes frivolity is an act of courage.

10. Why do the dwarves cry out, “What is the use of sending a hobbit!” ?

Projection. They want to believe that their inability to appreciate butterflies doesn't matter, that in fact it's a flaw, they are perfectly fine just as they are, and it's Bilbo who's defective for seeing beauty in the midst of hardship.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

(This post was edited by Dreamdeer on May 14 2009, 11:10pm)


simplyaven
Grey Havens


May 15 2009, 3:05am

Post #23 of 43 (248 views)
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This is not exactly true [In reply to] Can't Post

The beech trees in North America (Fagus grandifolia mainly) and the beech trees in Europe are of different types. Where I come from for example, there are mainly two types of beech trees - (Fagus sylvatica) è èçòî÷åí áóê (F. orientalis).. They both lose their leaves in the autumn right after their fruits fall off. Tolkien, living in England, definitely had seen the beeches that lose their leaves. Therefore, it was autumn in The Hobbit.

Here are the autumn leaves of Fagus sylvatica:

http://bg.wikipedia.org/...s_Closeup_3008px.jpg

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Eowyn of Penns Woods
Valinor


May 15 2009, 5:02am

Post #24 of 43 (252 views)
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Hmmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

My book says:
F. sylvatica (European Beech) has darker bark and smaller, darker green, shining leaves that turn reddish brown in fall and remain on the tree most of the winter.
and the leaves of all the varieties of European Beech in my yard and in my area keep most of their leaves all winter. A period of drought is the only thing I know of that can bring them down early here.

(This post was edited by Eowyn of Penns Woods on May 15 2009, 5:07am)


sador
Half-elven

May 15 2009, 6:13am

Post #25 of 43 (231 views)
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Wonderful! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Could these be the same as the "black moths, some nearly as big as your hand, flapping and whirring round their ears" that bothered them during the night earlier in the chapter? Context can make a big difference to perceptions - what seemed horrible and disgusting in the darkness might seem beautiful in the sunlight. It's darkness that creates fear, as we will see personified with the Black Riders in LotR. Bilbo has briefly escaped from the Shadow, and so sees the beauty of these black butterflies, even though he couldn't stand having similar creatures flying around him at night in the forest.


Heart


"Don't start grumbling against orders, or something bad will happen to you." - Thorin

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