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Tolkien at University of Vermont
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Istar Indigo
Bree

May 22 2007, 12:51am

Post #1 of 108 (946 views)
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Tolkien at University of Vermont Can't Post

Greetings all,

This is a thread for my class ENGS 096 Tolkien's Middle-earth. Students will post questions here for extra-credit and return to follow up on your replies. Hopefully, we can have a few conversations concerning these enquiries. Students have been instructed on the syllabus to add "uvm" to their registered names and to carefully read the suggestions for Reading Room etiquette.

The first question that I have given my students and they may address here as well as on our course discussion board is:
Who is the first individual to actually speak in The Lord of the Rings and where does this occur? Why does this seem so fitting even at this point in the romance?

TORN members, please feel free to address this question and assume students have complete knowledge of the text. If my students take your comments back to our own discussion board, they will remember to give you credit. :)

Any extra-credit questions from my students?
best,
Chris Vaccaro


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


May 22 2007, 1:07am

Post #2 of 108 (406 views)
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*pulls up chairs* [In reply to] Can't Post

*breaks out chocolate biscuits and some of Kimi's plum gin*

Welcome to all of the students! I'm looking forward to seeing the discussions develop.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Curious
Half-elven

May 22 2007, 1:37am

Post #3 of 108 (366 views)
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Bilbo, in Bag End. But does it seem fitting? [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo invites Frodo to "come and live here," i.e. Bag End, so they can celebrate their birthday parties together. But that is pretty obviously not the real reason for Bilbo's invitation. Instead we have already been told that Bilbo "had no close friends, until some of his younger cousins began to grow up." We also learn that Bilbo is not on speaking terms with the Sackville-Baggins, his closest relatives and heirs, and that by adopting Frodo he dashes their hopes of inheriting Bag End. So by adopting Frodo he brings one of his few friends to live with him and disappoints the Sackville-Baggins.

Why is Bilbo so alone in the Shire? The contrast with the respectable but unadventurous Bilbo we met in the first chapter of The Hobbit could not be greater. And although the writing sounds like The Hobbit -- cute phrases like eleventy-first birthday and tweens, funny names like Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End and his heir Frodo, pleasant activities like birthday parties of special magnificence -- Tolkien strikes two ominous chords, especially for those who have already read the tale once, and know what to expect. First, why hasn't Bilbo aged? And second, although one can't imagine worrying about hobbits, isn't there something disturbing about the fact that Bilbo has few close friends, is considered peculiar, and is hated by the Sackville-Bagginses?

The Shire, for all its attractions, is no Utopia. Thus in this brief opening Tolkien sets up not only Frodo's quest, but also the Scouring of the Shire. But he does so subtly, in a manner that on the surface appears like a continuation of The Hobbit.

Perhaps Bilbo's invitation seems fitting because Bilbo and Frodo's birthdays both fall on September 22. Quite a coincidence, no? There may be more than coincidence involved. Tolkien liked to place significant dates around the change of seasons. Frodo's birthday will prove particularly significant, since it will help determine when he leaves the Shire. Because of that date, his quest will begin at the beginning of fall, and end at the end of winter, which seems poetically fitting. And even after his quest is over, significant events will occur on Frodo's birthday. On Frodo's 51st birthday, he reunites with Bilbo in Rivendell -- and Saruman enters the Shire. On Frodo's 53rd birthday, he reunites with Bilbo and they sail from the Grey Havens. And finally, Frodo's birthday becomes an annual holiday in all of the lands King Elessar rules -- except the Shire, where most hobbits never do appreciate what Frodo did for them. For Frodo, like Bilbo, will never be fully appreciated in The Shire.

So yes, it is fitting for Bilbo to adopt Frodo. But their shared birthdays are symbolic of something more that they share -- a special destiny that distances them from the rest of the hobbits. It's a fitting beginning, yes, but in hindsight also a beginning that foreshadows the epic's bittersweet conclusion.


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


May 22 2007, 1:41am

Post #4 of 108 (350 views)
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*sets out boxes of donuts on tables* [In reply to] Can't Post

The coffee and hot water for several varieties of tea, plus the sugars and creamers and napkins, are all ready on the sideboard. And nice glasses for the plum gin!

Looks like we're almost ready - welcome, visitors from the eastern brae of Lake Champlain!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"History often resembles "Myth", because they are both ultimately of the same stuff."


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


May 22 2007, 2:33am

Post #5 of 108 (376 views)
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No one speaks. [In reply to] Can't Post

Because there are no individuals in The Lord of the Rings, which is a book not a real populated place. All LotR contains are pages on which symbols are printed, most of them letters, along with some numerals and punctuation, plus a few maps and drawings. Most of this is organized into words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books and volumes.

Now, by one regular convention, these words can be taken as utterances by a variety of individuals or entities, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, his publisher (Houghton Mifflin in my copy) and recent editors (Douglas A. Anderson; and Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull). By that standard, the first words in my copy, which appear at the top of the front cover (The Complete Best-Selling Classic 50th Anniversary One-Volume Edition) are presumably by Houghton Mifflin.

If an answer is sought within the convention that speech is indicated by words that appear within quote marks, there are two possibilities in the second paragraph of Anderson's May 2004 Note on the Text. The first of these is the word 'corrections'. However, the quotes here perhaps indicate only that the word is being used in a special, ironic way. So I'm inclined to choose the phrase 'worst of all', attributed to Tolkien as his response to an early publishing 'correction' of elven to elfin.

Then again, this is probably the record of a written not a spoken comment. I think the first words that could possibly represent spoken speech appear in the Prologue, in the section Concerning Hobbits, in this passage:


Quote
Even in ancient days they were, as a rule, shy of 'the Big Folk', as they call us, and now they avoid us with dismay and are becoming hard to find.



So my answer is Hobbits.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

May 14-20: Open Discussion!


drogo
Lorien


May 22 2007, 2:33am

Post #6 of 108 (356 views)
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Mountain Dew and Domino's Pizza [In reply to] Can't Post

I know what college students want!

*ducks*


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


May 22 2007, 2:48am

Post #7 of 108 (328 views)
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Good to see that [In reply to] Can't Post

things haven't changed all that much in 30 years. My dorm floor would order mass quantities of pizza, and bring in cases of beer and soda, and pop up tons of popcorn.

Then we'd all gather around someone's little portable TV set, and watch the Red Sox lose...Tongue


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"History often resembles "Myth", because they are both ultimately of the same stuff."


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


May 22 2007, 2:53am

Post #8 of 108 (335 views)
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OK, [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm looking forward to seeing *some* of the discussions develop. *throws wet towel at NEB*

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Istar Indigo
Bree

May 22 2007, 3:06am

Post #9 of 108 (358 views)
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Perhaps I should have phrased the question like this [In reply to] Can't Post

Which character speaks first in the text?

The first words spoken by a character should not be confused with "voice" of the narrator.
I find Tolkien's choice for this privilege very interesting.
CV


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


May 22 2007, 3:34am

Post #10 of 108 (381 views)
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A less "trouble"-some answer. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Which character speaks first in the text? ... I find Tolkien's choice for this privilege very interesting.



Me too, even if we're focusing on non-peritextual material. In which case, the first character to speak is Bilbo, as Curious says, but not in the passage he cites. Rather it's the very first sentence of the story's main text:


Quote
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. [emphasis added]



Of course, this is "first" in the sense of its appearance within the text, not first in the story's chronology (for which we would need to dig something out of the appendices, I think). Curious's response, for instance, of Bilbo's invitation to Frodo, was an utterance made twelve years before Bilbo announced his eleventy-first birthday party.

But if we are restricting ourselves to material given within quote marks (and I would note that Tolkien sometimes uses italics instead for this purpose) then there is yet a different answer, an un-"natural" one. But I leave it to others to comment on that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

May 14-20: Open Discussion!


sevilodorf
Gondor


May 22 2007, 4:05am

Post #11 of 108 (329 views)
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As Bilbo says at the Council of Elrond [In reply to] Can't Post

"It is plain enough what you are pointing at. Bilbo, the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it, or himself."

But as Gandalf says .. It has passed on.

His part of the tale is done, it is time for others to take over. So in this first chapter that is what we see.

Readers came to the story expecting more Bilbo and more hobbits and more of the same sort of "adventure" as The Hobbit, Tolkien needed to shift the reader's loyalties to Frodo and this quest; but first he had to tie up a few of the threads with Bilbo.

A rather disjointed bit of meandering thought,

Also.... a side comment.... while I realize that things theoretically "never" drop off of this board, if a post is not visible when I scan the first page I don't go searching for it. So a new thread for each question might be a better choice.... or maybe handle it like grammaboodawg does the Time in Middle Earth bits she posts... add until it drops off the first page then start anew....or at least I think that's how she's doing it.

Sev's home away from home: http://burpingtroll.com


squire
Valinor


May 22 2007, 5:46am

Post #12 of 108 (322 views)
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I'll bite [In reply to] Can't Post

Since the story begins in Chapter I with the words "When Mr. Bilbo Baggins announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday" etc. that sets the present time in the narrative. Let's take INDIGO ISTARI's question to mean, who first speaks by the convention of putting active speech in quotation marks; and let's take first as meaning, first after the beginning of the story. If the story begins with Bilbo's announcement, all speech that is seen to occur previous to that point in the implicit timeline is prologue, not within the story proper.

So the next two quoted statements, "It will have to be paid for" etc. and "You had better come and live here, Frodo", etc. are clearly in the past, relative to Bilbo's announcement. They serve to further set the scene, although the story is already past those points.

The first lines spoken after Bilbo's announcement, and so the first lines spoken in the story - and this is what I thought the moment I read INDIGO ISTARI's question - are by the hobbits in the pub, discussing the upcoming party, and Bilbo's past:

'A very nice well-spoken gentlehobbit is Mr. Bilbo, as I've always said,' the Gaffer declared.

So, the Gaffer. Why is this "fitting"? The debate that follows in the pub is a working-out of the problem that Curious described: the question of whether Bilbo "fits in" to the Shire society. The Gaffer, who is drawn to represent the most traditional, yet sensible, English country stereotype, argues that Bilbo, for all his eccentricities, is sane and proper in the best sense of the word: as he says, "If that's being queer, then we could do with a bit more queerness in these parts". Although he does not convince his companions, the conversation establishes one of the story's primary themes: that a love for "magic" and a willingness to believe in "Faerie" is a virtue, not a failing; and that "respectable" society should recognize what Tolkien elsewhere praises as the virtue of "escape" (leading to "recovery", etc. as per On Fairy-stories).

How is the setting "fitting"? The pub represents hobbit-society; and more generally, the social ideal that Tolkien fantasized for traditional rural English life: gentility, respect or deference, common sense, companionship, open debate, and a love for tradition - and beer.

This first chapter picks up where The Hobbit left off. It makes much more sense when reading it, if one has just put down the final chapter of the earlier book. Tolkien is exploring the society that he only sketched in in The Hobbit; and where Bilbo was, effectively, the only hobbit ("The Hobbit") then, now there is to be an entire society of hobbits. Bilbo was the center of his world, to be contrasted only with the Elves, Dwarves and other remarkable creatures of the Wild. As presaged in the final chapter of the earlier book, now he has, to some degree, become a "remarkable creature" himself, and is regarded askance by the other hobbits. He has brought "adventure" back to the Shire (newly named in LotR), and in a little while we will discover what that literally means: the Ring.

For now, it is enough to see the Gaffer lay out the terms of the new book: what happens when a hobbit returns from an Adventure, and brings the Adventure home with him.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


May 22 2007, 9:38am

Post #13 of 108 (318 views)
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We can also... [In reply to] Can't Post

make this post a "sticky" if people would prefer to keep questions and answers for II's class all in one thread. That would keep it at the top and let the usual business of the RR go on below it.

What would people prefer? Multiple threads or one Sticky thread for the duration of the assignment?

Silverlode

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The genius and the plan thus inspired
Depart me and I, entering a room,
Find myself on the threshold, stand still
And wonder what I came to do there.


a.s.
Valinor


May 22 2007, 10:29am

Post #14 of 108 (332 views)
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First individual/first character [In reply to] Can't Post

I see you have some debate and rhetoric students already auditing your class, Professor (you know who you are!!), so I'll attempt to be straightforward. But welcome to a full-blast RR discussion!

Laugh

The first individual who actually speaks (as in has a directly quoted line of dialogue attributed to them by the writer) is Bilbo, of course, as others have answered. This is fitting for several reasons, not the least of which is placing LOTR directly in line as a continuation of Bilbo's tale in There and Back Again. It also quickly establishes Frodo's relationship with Bilbo and we learn from the very opening of the book that they share a birthday.

However, the first directly quoted "character" in the story proper is the ubiquitous "they". "They say" some things about Bilbo that provide a foreshadowing of some of the trouble to come and hint at the consequences of Bilbo's past actions. "Their" statement becomes a bridge from the story we left in The Hobbit and the coming story we are about to read. Commenting on his unnatural long life and youthful appearance, "It will have to be paid for," they said. "It isn't natural, and trouble will come of it!"

Extra Credit question: what's the significance of opening the story with talk about "birthdays"?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Some say they're going to a place called Glory, and I ain't saying it ain't a fact.
But I've heard that I'm on the road to Purgatory, and I don't like the sound of that!
I believe in love, and live my life accordingly,
And I choose: let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


(This post was edited by a.s. on May 22 2007, 10:38am)


Curious
Half-elven

May 22 2007, 10:38am

Post #15 of 108 (270 views)
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Oh, you are trouble./ [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Curious
Half-elven

May 22 2007, 10:48am

Post #16 of 108 (318 views)
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The Gaffer was who I first thought of as well. [In reply to] Can't Post

And I composed an answer regarding his lengthy speech. But the question, even as revised in response to N.E.B., was not which individual speaks first in the story, but which individual speaks first in the text.

However I do have a great deal to say about the Gaffer, and will take this opportunity to link to a blog I started some years ago about LotR. The blog only lasted a few days, but is still available on the internet, and in it I discuss the Gaffer's discourse at length. Here's the link (it reads in reverse chronology, with the last entry at the top):

http://tolkienfan.blogspot.com/


Wynnie
Rohan


May 22 2007, 12:11pm

Post #17 of 108 (292 views)
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I vote for separate threads [In reply to] Can't Post

-- a new thread for each new topic, the way discussions here usually run. Since the students will be identifying themselves as _uvm, it will still be easy to tell which threads are part of the class project. And as NEB pointed out a while back, we have no regularly scheduled discussions for the next couple of weeks, so the traffic on the board will be welcome.

I know the stickies are supposed to draw attention to threads, but I find I often don't notice new additions to them for days or weeks. After they've been up for a while, those threads just become part of the scenery and I barely see them any more. Though maybe that's just me.





the unbidden guest



squire
Valinor


May 22 2007, 12:41pm

Post #18 of 108 (309 views)
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I think we can work this out without too much more trouble, and move on to the meaning of the answer. [In reply to] Can't Post

INDIGO ISTARI asked: Who is the first individual to actually speak in The Lord of the Rings and where does this occur?

A. You proposed Bilbo: "You had better come and live here, Frodo..." (Book I, Chapter 1, p. 29, line 30.)

B. NEB pointed out that the question is indeterminate, noting the phrase "individual speaks" in a book could mean the authorial voice as much as anything. Easing up just a bit, he suggested that within the convention of quoted speech authorially attributed to story-characters, the answer should be the collective hobbit-folk in their colloquial reference to Men: "...they were, as a rule, shy of 'the Big Folk', as they call us,..." (Book I, Prologue, 1.Concerning Hobbits, p. 10, line 21.)

Dismayed, INDIGO ISTARI revised his question: Which character speaks first in the text?

C. NEB proposed Bilbo's unquoted speech conveyed by the narrator's wordchoice: "When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be..." (Book I, Chapter 1, p. 29, line1.)

D. I decided that "first" might mean first within the ongoing narrative established by the opening line, rather than dialog retold in flashback, and proposed the Gaffer: "A very nice well-spoken gentlehobbit is Mr. Bilbo..." (Book I, Chapter 1, p. 30, line 21.)

E. a.s. proposed the local hobbits of Bilbo's acquaintance: "It will have to be paid for," (Book I, Chapter 1, p. 29, line 17.)

You objected to my (D.) story-chronological construction, saying, "But the question, even as revised in response to N.E.B., was not which individual speaks first in the story, but which individual speaks first in the text."

So how to accomodate your objection? The question seems to come down to the meaning of four of INDIGO ISTARI's words: 1. "character"; 2. "speaks"; 3. "first"; and 4. "text".

2. Take "speaks" to mean quoted speech. That eliminates (C.) NEB's Bilbo making his party announcement.

1. Take "character" to mean an individual. That eliminates (E.) a.s.'s local hobbits, as well as NEB's (B.) hobbit folk (and a later similar usage, "...peculiar custom, or 'art' as the Hobbits preferred to call it.").

3. But "first" and "text" are interrelated, and still are not clear. If we take "first" at least to mean first in word, line, page order from the beginning of the book, that at least eliminates NEB's thorny problem of speech in the appendices or later flashbacks that is reported to have been spoken before the events we encounter when beginning to read the book. That definition also eliminates (D.) my clever distinction about when the story begins versus when the text begins.

But when does the "text" begin? NEB opened the question of the Prologue, which many people read before beginning Book I, Chapter 1. That Tolkien intended them to do so, and that the Prologue is written in the same authorial voice as the first chapter, is debatable (in the Prologue, Tolkien is writing as the "editor/translator" of the Red Book, but in Chapter 1 as through the rest of the book, he writes in a traditional authorial voice, though at times in his life he feigned to be writing as the transparent translator of some unnamed hobbit "narrator" or "writer" of the Red Book). Nevertheless, as I said, many readers regard the Prologue as part of the text of The Lord of the Rings, if for no other reason than that it is there, after the "Table of Contents", and not placed in the Appendices - and very few readers distinguish (as even Tolkien only occasionally does), between the "editor/translator" and "authorial/hobbit-narrator" mode.

4A. Take "text" to mean the story as it begins in Book I, Chapter 1. Your (A.) seems the soundest answer, by the reasoning above.

4B. But take "text" to include the Prologue, and we have a dark horse: Merry, as quoted in his Herblore of the Shire:

F. "'This,' he says, 'is the one art that we can certainly claim to be our own invention.'" (Prologue, 2. Concerning Pipeweed, p. 17, line 15.)

To be fair to INDIGO ISTARI, I admit that although Tolkien uses "says" here, he is quoting from Merry's writings, not Merry's speech (though we can imagine Merry speaking these words in a lecture -- to King Theoden, say, as is the actual case in fact of composition -- that was only later written down in his imagined scholarly monograph. The hobbit-writer's voice is remarkably colloquial for a book.) And there is the probable objection that INDIGO ISTARI just was not thinking of the Prologue when he used such unfortunately vague terms as "The Lord of the Rings", later emended to "text".

Which leaves you the clear winner with the first answer (A.):

A. Curious: Bilbo (Book I, Chapter 1, p. 29, line 30.): "You had better come and live here, Frodo..."

Nice going, as always!


Now, with that presumably settled, why does INDIGO ISTARI "find Tolkien's choice for this privilege very interesting."? How much of a privilege is it, after we have seen just how difficult it is for us to say that a reader (just reading along) would recognize this as the "first speech" of the book?




squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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


Istar Indigo
Bree

May 22 2007, 1:12pm

Post #19 of 108 (315 views)
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Close to my line of thinking [In reply to] Can't Post

Similarly, Tolkien incorporates bits and pieces of history into his fantasy, but the bits and pieces come from all over. The Shire, Tolkien himself admitted, is based on the rural Victorian English countryside of Tolkien's youth, and the hobbits on rural Victorian Englishmen. But that does not mean we are in 19th century England. We are, instead, in a part of Fairie that resembles rural 19th century England. But it is still Fairie. -from Curious' blog mentioned above.

Curious
I completely agree with much you point out about the Gaffer, his "court" at the Ivy Bush, and his relationship to genealogy, to story, and (I think) to Faerie. The Gaffer is occupied in an age-old activity, one that brings a hobbit of his sort as close to Faerie as he will ever get: tavern story-telling. During his consideration of Faerie's temporal discontiguity, Tolkien writes in his essay "Smith of Wooten Major" [published in Verlyn's wonderful edition of the text of the same name], "I have often said that this idea must have originated in inns: for nowhere does time 'fly' so fast compared with daily experience as when sitting and drinking and conversing with dear friends in an inn."

Inns are not located "near" Faerie, nor do they harbor some magical doorway by which we [hobbits?] can enter into that domain. But the tavern is a traditional social space at which men did and do come together to 'escape' routine and to enthusuatically share stories. There are some significant similarities and obvious differences between the Ivy Bush and the Eagle and Child where the Inklings met for a time. For Tolkien and his cirlce, the tavern was a doorway to Faerie, if only metaphorically.

ps. I emphasized 'men' because I think for Tolkien and his hobbits, this was seen as a male-oriented space. This is the subject of an essay I am workin on, so any contribution to this line of thought is greatly appreciated.
pps. I am utterly in awe of the level of analysis witnessed above. lol Absolutely in awe.


(This post was edited by INDIGO ISTARI on May 22 2007, 1:21pm)


Curious
Half-elven

May 22 2007, 2:20pm

Post #20 of 108 (305 views)
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I feel like I am back in school trying to guess [In reply to] Can't Post

what the teacher wants me to say. In this case Indigo's posts, and particularly his response to my blog, lead me to believe that maybe he did mean the Gaffer after all. After all, the Gaffer's discourse is much more "interesting" than Bilbo's brief sentence, and the choice of the Gaffer to open the discourse is much more "interesting" than the choice of Bilbo.


Darkstone
Immortal


May 22 2007, 3:30pm

Post #21 of 108 (292 views)
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Hmmmm.... [In reply to] Can't Post

The first quote in my book is from the Sunday Telegraph. (“Among the greatest works of imaginative fiction of the twentieth century.”) This is significant first because the Sunday Telegraph is a traditional full sized broadsheet newspaper as opposed to the new compact tabloid formats most of the other English papers have long converted to. Likewise, Tolkien’s LOTR is a very long form novel in the traditional style as opposed to the short, easy to convert into a 120 page screenplay novels published today. Secondly, the Sunday Telegraph is the first to be quoted ahead of more well-known American sources like The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, and The New Republic. Again, this points out that LOTR is first and foremost an English work. Indeed with LOTR Tolkien was working out an English mythology.

The first quote from an individual is from C. S. Lewis. (“Here are beauties that pierce like swords or burn like cold iron.”) Again, this is significant because of the deep friendship between the two men and without Lewis’ constant encouragement LOTR may well never have been written much less published.

Then again, the first non-blurb quote is the legal warning about unauthorized reproduction. It’s extremely ironic that the most imaginative prose poem in the entire English language begins with unimaginative boilerplate legalese.

But wait! The first quote by a character is Sauron’s Ring Verse printed just before the Table of Contents. Again, this is ironic since this is the first and last appearance by the titular big bad villain. By the short shrift given Sauron we see that, unlike the authors of today’s fiction, Tolkien’s fascination is not with the bad guy. Instead he is interested in the effects of Evil on the subjects of the poem itself: Elves, Dwarves, and Men. (and of course Hobbits.)

But then we get into actual text. Indeed, the first quote in “Note on the Text” is from Tolkien himself! He is commenting on how “worst of all” printers “corrected” his language. (Like “elven” to “elfin”.) Ironically, as wordsmith Tolkien says in his letters, a desire to showcase his languages is precisely why he wrote LOTR in the first place!

Then in Concerning Hobbits we get a long quote from a main character in the story. Merry gives a long discussion on pipeweed. This is ironic in two ways. First with this Tolkien blows the suspense that Merry (and later Frodo and Sam) will survive the Quest. This points out how Tolkien is an “amateur” writer and will be doing many more such unorthodox things that according to professional writers just should not be done. Secondly, in today’s more health conscious world such a mention of tobacco, especially in such a positive way, would result in Tolkien’s novel being rated NC-17, which would no doubt further confirm the good professor’s attitude (and a major theme of LOTR) that the entire world is going to heck in a handbasket.

Then when we get into the story proper the first quote, as a. s. points out, is by the Kafkaesque “they”, indicating the ubiquitous ambiguity concerning the Higher Powers that Tolkien will invoke throughout the novel. Plus as a. s. point out, "It will have to be paid for," they said. "It isn't natural, and trouble will come of it!" basically sums up Frodo’s fate.

Finally, the first actual quote by a character in chapter one is by the Gaffer, loremaster of the Shire. (Loremasters are very important in LOTR.) He’s also the father of the guy who will be revealed as the true hero of the book. (Everyone knows that the hero is the guy who gets the girl in the end. Sam gets the girl in the end. Thus Sam is the hero. QED.)

I'm sure one of these is the correct answer. Or not.

All is not gold that glitters,
All is not pure that shines.
Follow your mother's teachings
And happiness will be thine!
-Bugs Bunny, "Bowery Bugs", 1949.


Curious
Half-elven

May 22 2007, 3:55pm

Post #22 of 108 (296 views)
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I couldn't keep it up. [In reply to] Can't Post

For me Tolkien analysis is very much a social activity, and the blog was not sufficiently interactive. I started it during a brief period when the administrators here had asked me to dial down my activity on the boards, and I was looking for another outlet. But that didn't last very long. Come to think of it, this board is my inn, my meeting of the Inklings! And time certainly does pass quickly here!

Perhaps the inns are where the Gaffer and Sandyman and other ordinary hobbits were forced to hear about the outside world, whether they wanted to or not. For unlike the Inklings, the Gaffer and Sandyman and their audiences don't want to have anything to do with Faerie, and Sam is laughed out of the place when he brings up the subject. Nevertheless, the inns are the primary source of news, and disturbing stories do make their way into the Shire as travellers pass through or as tales from the border make their way from inn to inn. For the whole Shire is a part of Faerie, no matter how much the ordinary hobbits wish to shut it out, and when the Rangers leave, monstrous half-orcs from Faerie infiltrate the borders. And what do the outsiders do? Among other things, they shut down the inns!


Darkstone
Immortal


May 22 2007, 4:21pm

Post #23 of 108 (281 views)
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Doorways [In reply to] Can't Post

Or a Liminal Space.

In stories inns are where the newcomer goes, eveyone looks at him suspiciously, then finally someone warns him about the moors, or the castle, or the lake, or forest, or whatever. The traveller, having just stepped into the tavern from the Real World, of course scoffs at the superstitious locals. But when he goes out the door again darkness has fallen, fog has risen, there are odd sounds in the night, and then suddenly he realizes he's somehow wandered onto the moor or into the forest or is standing right in front of the castle or next to the lake. When he left the tavern he entered Faerie. Similarly when we leave the Green Dragon we begin suspecting that the tale is more than just about hobbits.

All is not gold that glitters,
All is not pure that shines.
Follow your mother's teachings
And happiness will be thine!
-Bugs Bunny, "Bowery Bugs", 1949.

(This post was edited by Darkstone on May 22 2007, 4:23pm)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


May 22 2007, 4:46pm

Post #24 of 108 (297 views)
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I love that 'Smith' essay. [In reply to] Can't Post

And I like how you brought it into this discussion.


Quote
I emphasized 'men' because I think for Tolkien and his hobbits, this was seen as a male-oriented space.


Regarding 'men', however, Tolkien was pretty careful in LotR not to use that word for hobbits (even going so far as to substitute "gentlehobbit" for "gentleman" in one of the Gaffer's speeches) with one curious exception, as emphasized by CactusWren during our last chapter discussion of LotR: the narrator uses "the old man" once for ... guess who.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

May 14-20: Open Discussion!


Curious
Half-elven

May 22 2007, 5:02pm

Post #25 of 108 (257 views)
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That sounds more like The Prancing Pony. [In reply to] Can't Post

The hobbits are not newcomers to The Green Dragon, and The Green Dragon is not near the wilderland like The Prancing Pony. The Green Dragon is more like Cheers -- where everybody knows your name.

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