Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Hobbit Book Discussion: Roast Mutton 3
First page Previous page 1 2 Next page Last page  View All

SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 22 2012, 10:35pm

Post #1 of 32 (748 views)
Shortcut
Hobbit Book Discussion: Roast Mutton 3 Can't Post

Part I

Turning now from the mean to the sublime...

Even before his legendarium was conceived of, Tolkien seems to refer to a history of Middle-earth while also referencing the reader's sense of the real world, assuming familiarity with such things as "merry tales" and seasonal weather.

In An Unexpected Party Bilbo had this to say:


Quote
"... adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"


The adventure to this point seemed very much unlike what Bilbo had expected, until the weather turned:


Quote
Everything seemed gloomy, for the weather that day had taken a nasty turn. Mostly it had been as good as May can be, even in merry tales, but now it was cold and wet.



Quote
"To think it will soon be June," grumbled Bilbo as he splashed along behind the others in a very muddy track. It was after tea-time; it was pouring with rain, and had been all day; his hood was dripping into his eyes, his cloak was full of water; the pony was tired and stumbled on stones; the others were too grumpy to talk.


And some time after the company stops for the night, just before the encounter with the trolls we find Bilbo "sadly reflecting that adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine..."

Please share your observations about Bilbo's character to this point in the story. For instance, is he complex or shallow? Can he or the narrator (in so far as they are indistinguishable at times) be trusted? Thinking ahead we know that Bilbo's judgement is about to be tested (with comical results) but how has it measured up so far? and so on...

Given the last Roast Mutton thread, I should point out that here -- just before the party stops for the night and the encounter with the trolls -- we get a truer taste of Tolkien's mastery of descriptive writing.

Please share your impressions of the following excerpts:


Quote
Somewhere behind the grey clouds the sun must have gone down, for it began to get dark...

... the road went over an ancient stone bridge, for the river, swollen with the rains, came rushing down from the hills and mountains in the north.

The wind broke up the grey clouds...

...a wandering moon appeared above the hills between the flying rags.


(I'm particularly interested in your take on "a wandering moon.")

Part II

Now to the roast mutton of the chapter. Actually I'm not all that interested in the encounter with the trolls, least ways the action and dialogue. It seems to drag on a bit at the point where Gandalf (aka "a voice") gets involved.

However some things that will go on to be significant, both in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings emerge in this part of the chapter.

Luck. Fate. Thing.

(In the immortal words of Tina Tolkien, “What’s luck got to do with it?”)

From about the time the weather changes to the end of the chapter Tolkien seems to toy with perceptions of luck and fate. Please comment on the following with an eye to determining if the examples demonstrate luck, fate, or something else:

First, well, there’s the weather changing which essentially drives the encounter with the trolls.

At the bottom of the valley with the rain swollen river Tolkien says: “Fortunately the road went over an ancient stone bridge.”

Just as the party encamped “one of the ponies took fright at nothing and bolted” losing the provisions it carried in the river. “Of course it was mostly food.” But wait, by the end of the encounter with the trolls, food is what they found.

Just as Oin and Gloin were likely to give up on making a fire, Balin sees a light through the trees, “a red comfortable-looking light, as it might be a fire or torches twinkling.”

Gandalf was no longer with the party (for some unknown reason) so they were forced to rely on their own abilities.

Indeed there was a fire through the trees, but it belonged to three trolls.

There was the talking purse (Really? What are chances of there being such a thing?) which foiled Bilbo’s first attempt at picking a pocket leading to his capture.

Even though trolls eat such things as man-flesh, they were not beyond showing compassion when their bellies are full. William wanting to let Bilbo started a quarrel that allowed Bilbo to escape.

After all the dwarfs were captured, Gandalf returns, seemingly at just the right time, to confuse and defeat the trolls.

There was the key to the trolls’ cave, which Tolkien says “…must have fallen out of [William’s] pocket, very luckily, before he was turned to stone.”

Finally there was the intel Gandalf gathered from elf friends he happened to encounter when he went ahead to “spy out the road.” (Though how he missed the trolls the first time through remains a mystery.)


As for the other important aspects of the story that emerge in this chapter (some that become Tolkien-isms proper) I leave you now to flesh out for yourself and/or comment if so moved:

-- We learn about the relative stealthiness of Hobbits and Dwarfs.

-- Tolkien sets up a pattern for subsequent adventures: See a light (at the end of a tunnel?) > follow light > get captured or (as if Tolkien was haunted by claustrophobia) get confined to a small space (atop a tree surrounded by enemies/fire counts I think) or otherwise bound > escape by unforeseen means.

-- We become better acquainted with Gandalf, his ways and his role in the adventure.

-- Our party finds items that turn out to be incredibly important (or well known) later.

-- Spells do not seem to open cave doors, though they do try.

-- And lastly Thorin says “thank you” when it is appropriate to do so.


Thank you for your participation this week.


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 22 2012, 10:38pm)


One Ringer
Tol Eressea


Jul 23 2012, 5:47pm

Post #2 of 32 (252 views)
Shortcut
Lost [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Somewhere behind the grey clouds the sun must have gone down, for it began to get dark...

... the road went over an ancient stone bridge, for the river, swollen with the rains, came rushing down from the hills and mountains in the north.

The wind broke up the grey clouds...

...a wandering moon appeared above the hills between the flying rags.



This kind of goes back to what I was talking about in the last thread, that there tends to be many shifts in style within The Hobbit. Tolkien gives us a full account of the weather that day and how it affected the journey. Now here it takes a sort of turn; showing rather than telling. "the sun must have gone down, for it began to get dark" relays the fact that it had been "cold and wet" all day. There's no sun to tell the time, and they can only guess once it begins to darken. "swollen with rains" is another example of recounting the day's weather, and its excess. Given this frame of mind, I would guess that "a wandering moon" implies a loss of direction, if only by the stars.

FOTR 10th Anniversary Music Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33xJU3AIwsg

"You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain."


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Jul 23 2012, 10:20pm

Post #3 of 32 (269 views)
Shortcut
Thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post

(Can newbies jump in? I feel like I'm doing everything all wrong...please pardon and ignore me if so.)


1. I think Bilbo's more complex than he believes. He thinks he's very straightforward, but the war between the Took and the Baggins sides plus Gandalf's selecting him for the adventure indicate more depth. I also like that he really wants to prove himself as worthy for the job he was hired to do and isn't content with scouting and reporting back – he tries to do what he thinks a proper burglar should do (steal the troll's purse) even though it gets everyone in trouble. So there are hidden depths there, even though on the surface he seems quite simple.

2. I've always pictured the narrator as Tolkien himself rather than Bilbo...and I think he can be trusted although he definitely conceals things: all the “well, you will see how that worked out in the end”s, for example.

3. The descriptions. Tolkien can convey an incredible amount of atmosphere in relatively few words. In your “wandering moon” example, you can really picture that sort of rapid cloud movement where it appears that the moon is visibly moving through the sky. It's quite vivid. (And harking back to your contrast to Malory in an earlier post, if I may: the things that sticks out in my mind from Malory are the pomp and fluttering pennoncels...much love for Le Morte d'Arthur, but worlds apart from Tolkien's ability to convey heroic deeds in fairly simple language in The Hobbit.)

4. Tina Tolkien - I admit it; I laughed.

5. Re: Luck: I agree that a lot of the story is driven by luck or fate, but I think a few things might have explanations:

'At the bottom of the valley with the rain swollen river Tolkien says: “Fortunately the road went over an ancient stone bridge.” '

This would make logical sense if the river periodically flooded, though. Travelers would need a bridge rather than just a ford.

'Just as the party encamped “one of the ponies took fright at nothing and bolted” losing the provisions it carried in the river. “Of course it was mostly food.” But wait, by the end of the encounter with the trolls, food is what they found.'

Could the pony have smelled troll and bolted for that reason? Although the loss/gaining of food is still fortuitous.


I've said more than enough for now. I do apologize for butting in.


(This post was edited by DesiringDragons on Jul 23 2012, 10:29pm)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 23 2012, 11:13pm

Post #4 of 32 (248 views)
Shortcut
Yes! you are most welcome both here [In reply to] Can't Post

and to TORn in general.

In my opinion, though there are many things we can agree on about Tolkien and his works, there is still a great deal of room for new/original ideas here. There are few, if any, wrong answers when sharing your impressions of his writing. Wink

(I'm off to get diner just now. I'll return with a proper reply to your thoughtful post for dessert.)


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Jul 24 2012, 12:18am

Post #5 of 32 (227 views)
Shortcut
You forgot to mention [In reply to] Can't Post

Though I suppose we can read it for ourselves, the clever trick whereby Gandalf destroye the Trolls. Though thinking about it, really 13Dwaves 1hobbit and a Wizard should be too much for three Trolls. In fact, Gandalf by himself should have been able to take on only three Trolls, him been a Maia and all.
One thing I have wondered about. That clever trick Gandalf played upon them, did Tolkien think of this by himself or did he borrow this from another source? I don't suppose anyone here knows this. The tick has always seemed vaguely familiar to me, though. Oh, well, if only all the other problems the wild had could have been delt with so easily!


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 2:10am

Post #6 of 32 (252 views)
Shortcut
Not so much "forgot" as "decided not to" [In reply to] Can't Post

That is what I was talking about when I said this:


Quote
I'm not all that interested in the encounter with the trolls, least ways the action and dialogue. It seems to drag on a bit at the point where Gandalf (aka "a voice") gets involved.


However, late last night I did talk about it here (of all places). Wink

For the record (in case anyone wants to pick up on this in this thread) this is what I said there:


Quote
...a fresh look at Roast Mutton reveals a far more comical scene than a violent one. The trolls language was violent, yes. And certainly they fought among themselves quite a bit. But over all, I was surprised to see that no swords, axes, hammers, and so on made appearances during the capture of the dwarfs. There was that bit with Thorin and the flaming branch poking a troll in the eye and in the mouth before he was captured, and a couple of the dwarfs put up a fight before they were bagged... But yeah Tolkien hardly describes any of the physical struggles between the dwarfs and the trolls. In fact, Tolkien rather makes the point that it was Bilbo and Gandalf's wits that saved them all in the end...


Here is what newish TORn member Bagheera had to say in response (NB: that thread is more about the Hobbit movie than The Hobbit):


Quote
And you're right, the Roast Mutton scene is far more comical than violent...in the book. It looks like it'll keep the same tone and humor in the film, but we've also got all the dwarves flailing their weapons (which they didn't have in the book) and the scene has been described in the early vlogs as a battle. I doubt it'll last long, but I think PJ has amped it up.
It looks like Gandalf will use some sort of magic too to bring the sun up, though that could be a long stretch of speculation. I'm referring to the multiple shots we've had of him bringing his staff down you-shall-not-pass style, while he's standing on some sort of mound with the sun behind him. I hope I'm wrong about that, because like you said, it was Gandalf's wit that distracted the trolls until morning overtook them, and it looks like it *might* be a bit more magic-y in the movie (it double bums me out because I like Gandalf's you-shall-not-pass move as it's own thing, reserved for cracking the bridge in Moria, not some common motion he makes. Hope I'm wrong.)


You know what, the trick Gandalf played on the trolls does seem familiar. Didn't Jonathan Harker try something like that on Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897)? Or perhaps I am misremembering... perhaps it was in Murnau's film Nosferatu (1922) when Ellen kept Count Orlok at her bed past sunrise. Or maybe it was done in a fairy tale?


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 3:27am

Post #7 of 32 (267 views)
Shortcut
Now for a proper reply... [In reply to] Can't Post

First I have to admit that I often feel a touch of trepidation when posting in the Reading Room (as do many other people). There are just so many people here that know so much more about Tolkien than I do... many here -- whether they be lay academics, profs, authors, or all around brilliant Tolkien enthusiasts -- are extremely well read and knowledgeable about the topic. I think the trepidation comes from having great respect for the collected knowledge here, and also Tolkien's works.

Still, I have never been made to feel unwelcome, and a couple regulars (after much patience) have taken it upon themselves to help me by not letting me get away with doing things by half measures. I just wish more of the regulars were participating in this round of the "Hobbit Book Discussion". But it is, after all, summer in the Northern Hemisphere... many people are away or just taking a break.

Anyway you are not butting in... the whole point of these threads is to encourage people to join in the ongoing discussion about our mutual admiration for the works of Tolkien. And for the record, you've raised many good points:

1. This business about trying to prove he is worthy of the job for instance. From somewhere deep inside, comes Bilbo's desire to live up to others' expectations, or to disprove their doubt about his suitability for the job. Since he has only ever read about burglars, this desire surprises me as much as it surprises him; it no more makes sense that he would know how to be a burglar as it would that he would know how to "hoot like an owl" since he has never (as far as we know) practised either. Perhaps Tolkien is trying to highlight the difference between knowledge and practical ability?

Others have remarked that his Took side is what drives him on this point. However I wonder if it is not also something Tolkien wants to express about himself, or about British people in general. For instance is it more about the creeping middle-class ennui we talked about in chapter 1?

There is a side of Bilbo that views this desire as self destructive behaviour. Certainly he rebukes and chides himself throughout the tale. But there is the other side that really wants to break free of something -- perhaps "the womb," as Squire touched on in a thread about Smaug and the symbolism of mountains: "Bilbo is an innocent, child-like hole-dweller who lives in the earth in its capacity as the womb; Smaug is an evil, grown-up hole-dweller who lives in the earth in its capacity as the tomb."

So I agree that Bilbo is more complex than he believes himself to be. What, if anything, does complexity have to do with respectability after all (only a psychiatrist can say)? Regardless, he seems more than ready, lacking comfort or not, to find out more about himself.

As a side note, I'm interested too in his complexity as presented by Tolkien so far in the book. He seems forever to be changing his mind. For instance he starts out saying "adventures are uncomfortable and make one late for dinner." Then he changes his mind shortly after the trip begins. Then, when the weather and the dwarfs' pace proves his initial impression of adventures true (almost to a word) he "reflects on how adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine." It's like he can't make up his mind or is always second guessing himself. Both of which, if I'm not mistaken, are symptomatic of ennui (and/or a mid-life crisis).

2. Yes Tolkien is definitely the narrator. But his voice shifts in and out of Bilbo's head, if you catch my meaning. Sometimes he is talking as if through Bilbo... often, though there is an omniscient narrator, our perspective is constrained by Bilbo's point of view.

3. That is what amazes me every time I read Tolkien, the way he can describe a scene so vividly with so relatively simple (and few) words. Yet his descriptions seem so expansive. He really does rely on the reader's familiarity with the familiar. It's as if he is constantly saying, "you remember how [the moon looks like it's moving when it is actually the clouds flying past] don't you? You remember how [the sky breaks up when the wind rises after a rain] don't you?" and so on. (PS you got "wandering moon" on the first try, well done!)

4.*snert* and I don't even like that song Laugh

5. You are right, it makes sense, and has for ages, that a bridge should be there... it has nothing to do with luck or good fortune, assuming they were following the right road. Wink

Now when Tolkien says "nothing" he means "nothing." However he may also mean for the reader to consider how sometimes nothing is really something. Like the weather changing and the dwarfs' inability to light a fire, losing their food drove them to want to inspect the twinkling light through the trees. So was it really nothing, or was it something driving the series of events?

As well do the series of events work towards their harm or to their good? (That might be a way of determining if it was really nothing.) Though each little thing (apart from the bridge, though it too factored into the encounter with the trolls) looked like a bit of bad luck, ultimately the encounter (as unpleasant as it seemed at the time) was good -- they were better for having survived it and all that. Was it luck, fate, or something else? Does it really matter what the pony bolted at? If not than nothing seems more than appropriate. (aaand, not wanting to drift even further into the philosophical, I think that is enough for tonight).

Thank you so much for your participation so far DesiringDragons. Smile


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 24 2012, 3:33am)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 4:38am

Post #8 of 32 (235 views)
Shortcut
It could be... [In reply to] Can't Post

By now we all know that Tolkien knew the meaning of words. And he does seem to use them in such a way, or at such a time, when they are most likely to explode into the array of colours they contain.

Keeping with your line of reasoning about how celestial bodies are used for navigation in the wilds, "wandering moon" could very well be meant to imply that they were lost. I hadn't considered that.

Now since you seem familiar with such lore, is it true that the sun always shines a bit just before it sets?


sador
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 6:41am

Post #9 of 32 (224 views)
Shortcut
Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

Posting from work, I don't have The Annotated Hobbit here, but Andersson does bring aprecedent (or two?) of keeping a night-monster up until daylight by talking, until it turns to stone.
If I remember correctly, the creature is a dwarf, and it is kept up by riddles - sounds familiar? But I doubt any reader would justify Tolkien's bland statement:

Quote

And there they stand to this day, all alone, unless the birds perch on them; for trolls, as you probably know, must be underground before dawn, or they go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of, and never move again.


Probably? I bet the only troll most readers knew was the troll under the bridge of The Three Billy Goats Gruff - which did seem quite active at daytime!



In Reply To

You know what, the trick Gandalf played on the trolls does seem familiar. Didn't Jonathan Harker try something like that on Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897)? Or perhaps I am misremembering... perhaps it was in Murnau's film Nosferatu (1922) when Ellen kept Count Orlok at her bed past sunrise. Or maybe it was done in a fairy tale?



"Do you find it strange that the food is strewn about but the clothes of victims are hanging on the walls nice and neat?"
- Finding Frodo.



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


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 3:37pm

Post #10 of 32 (285 views)
Shortcut
Probably [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Probably? I bet the only troll most readers knew was the troll under the bridge of The Three Billy Goats Gruff - which did seem quite active at daytime!


This is what I was getting at here:


Quote
Even before his legendarium was conceived of, Tolkien seems to refer to a history of Middle-earth while also referencing the reader's sense of the real world, assuming familiarity with such things as "merry tales" and seasonal weather.


The narrator talks about things that ought to be familiar to the reader, but he also hints at a history of Middle-earth that at the time of his writing simply did not exist. In the next chapter, A Short Rest, his tendency to do this becomes far more pronounced and obvious. At one point he even says something to the effect "he wishes he had more time to tell [the reader] of all the tales that were heard while the party was at Elrond's house," as if those tales already existed... but why not? If we are in the middle of a tale where there are such things as ancient stone bridges Bilbo's world (Middle-earth) must also have a history. (That this device went on to become a standard feature of fantasy writing should come as no surprise since its power is immediate and obvious.)


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 24 2012, 3:41pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 5:26pm

Post #11 of 32 (207 views)
Shortcut
Thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Please share your observations about Bilbo's character to this point in the story. For instance, is he complex or shallow? Can he or the narrator (in so far as they are indistinguishable at times) be trusted? Thinking ahead we know that Bilbo's judgement is about to be tested (with comical results) but how has it measured up so far? and so on...

There are hidden depths, but they have not yet been explored. The narrator is quite distinguishable from Bilbo, and there is no reason to believe the narrator lies, although he can also be coy. Bilbo cannot always be trusted by other characters, but the narrator tells us when Bilbo is lying. Bilbo's judgment is lacking at this point in the story.


Quote
Please share your impressions of the following excerpts:


Quote
Somewhere behind the grey clouds the sun must have gone down, for it began to get dark...

... the road went over an ancient stone bridge, for the river, swollen with the rains, came rushing down from the hills and mountains in the north.

The wind broke up the grey clouds...

...a wandering moon appeared above the hills between the flying rags.

(I'm particularly interested in your take on "a wandering moon.")


This is not at the level of the word pictures Tolkien draws in LotR, but we see glimpses of what is to come. Of course, the wandering moon may not just be a poetic phrase in Middle-earth, in light of the story of the wandering Maia towing the Moon we learn in The Silmarillion, and in light of the poem about the Man in the Moon from LotR.

Note also that this section was revised to make it more compatible with the geography of LotR, but Tolkien still did not succeed, as Aragorn and company crossed the same bridge, yet took six days, IIRC, to reach the stone trolls.


Quote
It seems to drag on a bit at the point where Gandalf (aka "a voice") gets involved.


Oh, come now! This was, I believe, the favorite chapter of Tolkien's children. I would have loved to hear Tolkien do the voices. I find it delightfully comic.


Quote
From about the time the weather changes to the end of the chapter Tolkien seems to toy with perceptions of luck and fate. Please comment on the following with an eye to determining if the examples demonstrate luck, fate, or something else:

First, well, there’s the weather changing which essentially drives the encounter with the trolls.

At the bottom of the valley with the rain swollen river Tolkien says: “Fortunately the road went over an ancient stone bridge.”


Just as the party encamped “one of the ponies took fright at nothing and bolted” losing the provisions it carried in the river. “Of course it was mostly food.” But wait, by the end of the encounter with the trolls, food is what they found.


Just as Oin and Gloin were likely to give up on making a fire, Balin sees a light through the trees, “a red comfortable-looking light, as it might be a fire or torches twinkling.”


Gandalf was no longer with the party (for some unknown reason) so they were forced to rely on their own abilities.


Indeed there was a fire through the trees, but it belonged to three trolls.


There was the talking purse (Really? What are chances of there being such a thing?) which foiled Bilbo’s first attempt at picking a pocket leading to his capture.


Even though trolls eat such things as man-flesh, they were not beyond showing compassion when their bellies are full. William wanting to let Bilbo started a quarrel that allowed Bilbo to escape.


After all the dwarfs were captured, Gandalf returns, seemingly at just the right time, to confuse and defeat the trolls.


There was the key to the trolls’ cave, which Tolkien says “…must have fallen out of [William’s] pocket, very luckily, before he was turned to stone.”


Finally there was the intel Gandalf gathered from elf friends he happened to encounter when he went ahead to “spy out the road.” (Though how he missed the trolls the first time through remains a mystery.)

I would argue that weather is never coincidental in LotR, and I would guess that it is not coincidental in The Hobbit, either. Remember that it also drives the dwarves into the goblin cave. Evil weather is found in evil lands, and, just when Gandalf is not around, something makes the pony with the food bolt and mischief gets into the fire. It certainly seems as if bad luck is conspiring against the dwarves at this point, almost in concert with the trolls, and has pounced in a vulnerable moment. But Tolkien leaves it ambiguous; maybe it's all coincidence.

Bilbo has both bad and good luck. He has bad luck with the purse, and good luck with the key. He is right that a true Burglar or Trickster would do more than just avoid the trolls -- Gandalf shows him what a true Trickster can do. But Bilbo isn't there yet. He shows courage, at least initially, but not wit. He also lacks the ring, but I would argue that he needs his wits more than he needs the ring -- after all, the ring does little to protect him from Smaug. And Gandalf's trick is all about wit.


Quote
-- We learn about the relative stealthiness of Hobbits and Dwarfs.

This sets up the fact that Bilbo does have something going for him.


Quote
-- Tolkien sets up a pattern for subsequent adventures: See a light (at the end of a tunnel?) > follow light > get captured or (as if Tolkien was haunted by claustrophobia) get confined to a small space (atop a tree surrounded by enemies/fire counts I think) or otherwise bound > escape by unforeseen means.

Well, they do get captured or trapped alot. I'm not sure the pattern is more complicated than that. Until the last few chapters, Bilbo's adventure is a series of bedtime stories, most of which involve getting captured or trapped then making an escape, with intervals at Rivendell and Beorn's house and Long Lake where they rest and recuperate and continue. It's a good way to maintain interest over a very long, episodic children's tale.


Quote
-- We become better acquainted with Gandalf, his ways and his role in the adventure.

We do and we don't, since it's not yet clear that we can trust him.


Quote
-- Our party finds items that turn out to be incredibly important (or well known) later.

Yes, although arguably they could have done just as well with swords from Rivendell. Still, it's an important transition, particularly for Bilbo. He may have looked foolish, but he did show bravery, and in finding the key he even showed a bit of wit. So he doesn't get the most famous weapon, but it is a genuine elvish blade.


Quote
-- Spells do not seem to open cave doors, though they do try.

Not these doors, perhaps, but they also used spells to hide the gold. Spells and magic seem much more common, or at least more blatant, in The Hobbit than in LotR. The dwarves cast spells, and the trolls have several magic items.


Quote
-- And lastly Thorin says “thank you” when it is appropriate to do so.


Well yes, he does thank Gandalf. Eventually, he will thank Bilbo as well. But he also shows his flaws as a leader.


Quote
Thank you for your participation this week.

And, as Thorin would say, thank you!


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Jul 24 2012, 5:28pm

Post #12 of 32 (226 views)
Shortcut
A double thank you for the welcome and the response! [In reply to] Can't Post

...It appears I've been either Captain Obvious or Wrong in much of what I said. (Not for the first time! she said, quoting unnecessarily.) I guess those are the risks one runs when rushing in. Everyone here knows so very much!


1. I wonder if Bilbo himself would recognize the difference between a midlife crisis/middle-class ennui and the Baggins/Took debate...or are you saying that the Baggins/Took dichotomy is Tolkien's way of expressing that within the realm of Middle-Earth? I love that idea. I'm a but slow on the uptake sometimes. And I believe you are spot-on about Bilbo's indecisiveness or constant changing of his mind being symptomatic of a crisis or ennui. He's bored with his comfortable life on some deep subconscious level (though without Gandalf's help, would never have acted on it) and ready to be roused – but he still misses his creature comforts.

….oh gosh, I LOVE the linked passage from an earlier discussion about Bilbo and the hole as Womb vs. Smaug and the hole as Tomb. That's just perfect, and it adds a whole new level to Bilbo's conversation with Smaug.


3. Ah, I do see what you mean. Thank you for explaining further!


5. I think you're right that it makes no difference whether the pony spooked at Nothing or at Something. The party can't tell what spooked the pony, but off it goes with their food, regardless.

I do think the story is being driven by Something...Fate, the Will of Eru, I am not sure. If LotR had been written first, I'd say that the ring might be one of the forces behind events, but Sauron/The Necromancer is fairly peripheral in the text, if not to the underlying story, and the ring clearly doesn't exert its force on Bilbo as strongly as it does on Frodo. At least at first.


On another topic (oh no) – about the trolls turning to stone. Is that part of Icelandic folklore? I think there are rock formations in Iceland named for trolls supposedly turned to stone at daybreak. That would kind of make sense, since the Sagas were a great source of inspiration for Tolkien (the first time I encountered all the dwarves' names in the Volsunga Saga, I did an actual double-take, like everyone else).


Thank you again for your kind tolerance and welcome. :)


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 7:54pm

Post #13 of 32 (183 views)
Shortcut
As others have said, you are welcome. [In reply to] Can't Post

And I find your views quite sensible.


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Jul 24 2012, 7:55pm

Post #14 of 32 (169 views)
Shortcut
Thank you very much on both counts :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 24 2012, 9:55pm

Post #15 of 32 (202 views)
Shortcut
One more thought about Bilbo's conversation with the trolls. [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo's short conversation with the trolls is the first of three conversations he has with antagonists, the others being Gollum and Smaug. Here he talks in riddles unintentionally ("burrahobbit" "lots and none at all"), with Gollum he does so at Gollum's insistence, and with Smaug he does so intentionally and voluntarily. The conversations with Gollum and Smaug are far more important for Bilbo, and I am eager to compare and contrast them at a later date, but I find it interesting that the riddles start with the trolls, even if purely by accident.

In a sense, he does something similar with the spiders, although his teasing song may not be precisely a riddle. And he also sets a riddle for the elves regarding how the dwarves escaped. Although perhaps I am extending this theme too far. I'll have to think about it some more.


(This post was edited by Curious on Jul 24 2012, 9:59pm)


elostirion74
Rohan

Jul 24 2012, 10:00pm

Post #16 of 32 (200 views)
Shortcut
answers and a comment [In reply to] Can't Post

From about the time the weather changes to the end of the chapter Tolkien seems to toy with perceptions of luck and fate. Please comment on the following with an eye to determining if the examples demonstrate luck, fate, or something else:

First, well, there’s the weather changing which essentially drives the encounter with the trolls.

At the bottom of the valley with the rain swollen river Tolkien says: “Fortunately the road went over an ancient stone bridge.”

Just as the party encamped “one of the ponies took fright at nothing and bolted” losing the provisions it carried in the river. “Of course it was mostly food.” But wait, by the end of the encounter with the trolls, food is what they found.

__________________________________________

Hmm, I suppose one can choose to interpret these events the way one likes. Tolkien comments on Bilbo´s luck several times in the story, and sometimes he uses the word luck in this chapter as well.

The changing weather drives the encounter with the trolls, yes, but to me it seems less like an aspect of bad luck and more like a natural unfolding of events and Tolkien playing with our and Bilbo´s perception of fairy tale and adventures (I like your comments about Tolkien referencing the reader´s sense of the real world). After all adventures and life in general are not only pony-riding in May-sunshine; we´ve had nice weather, there must be some bad weather as well. Parts of an adventure might seem like an exciting holiday, but others are most certainly not, as we see in the way the bad weather realistically affects the mood of the travellers.

It´s fortunate that the road passes over an ancient bridge, but the existence of the bridge itself doesn´t seem improbable in the context of the story. After all people who lived in these parts would see the need of a bridge when the river floods or runs high, as a ford wouldn´t suffice.

Given that William actually engages in a fight, it´s not unrealistic that the key should fall out of his pocket. What makes me suspect luck, though, is the fact that Tolkien actually uses the expression "very luckily" about the event.

The finding of the food and the swords definitely seem like a lucky and significant turn of events.

What strikes me most about this part of the story, though, is something quite different: how Tolkien neatly blends characterization and comedy, both in Gandalf´s outwitting of the trolls and in the concise description of the dwarves deliberating about the course of action. The implied deliberation between the dwarves before they send Bilbo ahead to scout is quite comical IMO, but it achieves its comedy without compromising on realism (unlike the talking purse). Everyone has a different opinion about the course of action, but no one actually wants to do something themselves or put the first foot forward. This brief discussion is also the first indication of the cowardice - or is it the lack of a sense of responsibility? - to be found among the dwarves vis à vis Bilbo, which Tolkien will return to several times in the story.

Thanks SirDennisC for many interesting questions and discussions!


sevilodorf
Gondor


Jul 24 2012, 11:38pm

Post #17 of 32 (184 views)
Shortcut
Gandalf employs [In reply to] Can't Post

a variation on that old stand by ... get them monologuing and you can win the fight.



In Reply To

One thing I have wondered about. That clever trick Gandalf played upon them, did Tolkien think of this by himself or did he borrow this from another source? I don't suppose anyone here knows this. The tick has always seemed vaguely familiar to me, though. Oh, well, if only all the other problems the wild had could have been delt with so easily!


Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com





SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 25 2012, 2:41am

Post #18 of 32 (188 views)
Shortcut
Tolkien touches on this I think [In reply to] Can't Post

The Grey Havens with all that business about "being torn in two." (Yes it was an effect of the Ring, but I think that unsettled feeling, of wanting to be in two places at once, doing two (or more) completely different things at the same time (which of course is impossible) is what he was describing.)


Quote
And I believe you are spot-on about Bilbo's indecisiveness or constant changing of his mind being symptomatic of a crisis or ennui. He's bored with his comfortable life on some deep subconscious level (though without Gandalf's help, would never have acted on it) and ready to be roused – but he still misses his creature comforts.


As for the trolls being turned to stone and Icelandic Sagas... that is really outside my sphere of knowledge. There are a few here that can speak quite well on the topic, I hope they will chime in.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 25 2012, 2:52am

Post #19 of 32 (179 views)
Shortcut
Fascinating observations [In reply to] Can't Post

... and doesn't the riddling start straight away at Bilbo and Gandalf's first meeting?

Tolkien even gets the reader in on the fun, for instance in this chapter when Bilbo says "I didn't get your note until after 10:45 to be precise."
Dwalin comes back with an enigmatic "Don't be precise..." It seems a riddle for the reader because the exchange makes no sense. For one Bilbo has been anything but precise all along; for another he isn't even being precise when he says "after 10:45."

But yes, you are right about his use of riddles and wits in his encounters. I really like your observation too that Gandalf seems to be schooling Bilbo in trickery and the use of his wits.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 25 2012, 3:17am

Post #20 of 32 (229 views)
Shortcut
No, thank you Elostirion... now [In reply to] Can't Post

about luck -- excellent comments by the way -- if the party hadn't lost their food, would finding food seem as "lucky?"

Or how about this: since the party lost their food, was the encounter with the trolls a bit of good luck in the end?

I suppose the same goes for the key... though they found more than just food as you say (I really like what Curious pointed out about the apparent fairness of the distribution of the weapons btw).

And finally, though it is just my opinion, I rather think Tolkien is having a bit of fun with us when he says "very luckily" the key fell out of William's pocket. After all, without the key the complexion of everything that happened in this chapter would have changed dramatically.


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 25 2012, 3:22am)


sador
Half-elven


Jul 25 2012, 8:38am

Post #21 of 32 (175 views)
Shortcut
Answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Please share your observations about Bilbo's character to this point in the story. For instance, is he complex or shallow?
Homely.
I suppose every person is complex. Bilbo hasn't given much of that yet, but still far more than we will ever get from, say, Oin.

Can he or the narrator (in so far as they are indistinguishable at times) be trusted?
Bilbo - no. The narrator - well, if you don't trust the narrator, why read the story at all?
But see below.

Thinking ahead we know that Bilbo's judgement is about to be tested (with comical results) but how has it measured up so far? and so on...
He is fooled and manipulated by Gandalf. But who isn't?

(Okay, Denethor might not be. But he is severely punished for that)


Quote
Somewhere behind the grey clouds the sun must have gone down, for it began to get dark...


I love this kind of weather. But, as Richard Adams observed, only when I am safely indoors.

One wonders if readers of The Lord of the Rings are supposed to remember this when reading of the Dawnless Days. I guess not.


Quote
... the road went over an ancient stone bridge, for the river, swollen with the rains, came rushing down from the hills and mountains in the north.

At May? Shouldn't it be high with melting snow anyway? This river does drain the North-west part of the Misty Mountains, after all.

But to be honest, the hydrology of Middle-earth does sometimes seem sespect. It seems as if Ulmo was more interested in meddling with the fate of Elves and Men than in doing his job.


Quote
The wind broke up the grey clouds...


We already got the colour! Tiresome repetition.

But seriously, I love this description.


Quote
...a wandering moon appeared above the hills between the flying rags.


So the clouds were not just broken, but actually torn. Very nice. The rags remind me of Saruman's skull after his demise. Far less nice.

The wandering moon is a concept Tolkien loved. As did Shelley:

Quote

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a Joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

- To the Moon.

Rateliff calls the assorted notes Tolkien compiled when trying to fit The Hobbit into Middle-earth "The Wandering Moon", and suggests that the complete inconsistency between the different mentions might have been a reason for Tolkien to abandon that project. From the first two chapters he wrote, I can't say that I'm really sorry.



In the immortal words of Tina Tolkien, “What’s luck got to do with it?”

Quote
I've been taking on a new direction
But I have to say
I've been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel this way


From about the time the weather changes to the end of the chapter Tolkien seems to toy with perceptions of luck and fate. Please comment on the following with an eye to determining if the examples demonstrate luck, fate, or something else:

Quote
First, well, there’s the weather changing which essentially drives the encounter with the trolls.


I suppose it's the rain in the high places which drove the trolls down. But then, their hole seems to have been well-provisioned. Maybe it was their regular hiding-place.


Quote
At the bottom of the valley with the rain swollen river Tolkien says: “Fortunately the road went over an ancient stone bridge.”


That's a nice way to cover his tracks in adding this bridge, and the six day it took Aragorn to reach were the dwarves did in a couple of hours.


Quote
Just as the party encamped “one of the ponies took fright at nothing and bolted” losing the provisions it carried in the river. “Of course it was mostly food.” But wait, by the end of the encounter with the trolls, food is what they found.


Of course it was the food - that was probably the last laden pony. Those they rode were secured first.

They make the same mistke when crossing the Enchanted River in Mirkwood. They send the provisions last, and rather than having Bombur alight first and the trusty Dwalin unpacking from inside the boat, both Dwarves scramble to the far bank first (you can't really blame them, seeing that it's a river in Mirkwood, but still...), losing the boat, the provisions, and nearly Bombur himself as they do do.


Quote
Just as Oin and Gloin were likely to give up on making a fire, Balin sees a light through the trees, “a red comfortable-looking light, as it might be a fire or torches twinkling.”


Not likely to give up - likely to come to blows. It will be interesting if the first time we actually see the Dwarvish weapons will be when the two brothers draw them upon each other!

It's probably that their shouting at each other woke Balin up, so he finally did look and see what was directly ahead.


Quote
Gandalf was no longer with the party (for some unknown reason) so they were forced to rely on their own abilities.


He probably saw the light before, and being a sensible person, went ahead to look for cover (or food).

But everything which has to do with Gandalf demonstrates fate, luck, and/or something else.


Quote
Indeed there was a fire through the trees, but it belonged to three trolls.

Who else would be out in this kind of weather?

There was the talking purse which foiled Bilbo’s first attempt at picking a pocket leading to his capture.
Just when Bilbo thought he was a true burglar!

Quote
But just as he thought his dinner was caught,
He found his hands had hold of naught.



Really? What are chances of there being such a thing?
Trolls purses are the mischief, as you probably know.

And just a couple of sentences before, it is stated that picking trolls' pockets is very easy and usually profitable! Do you still trust the narrator?


Quote
Even though trolls eat such things as man-flesh, they were not beyond showing compassion when their bellies are full. William wanting to let Bilbo started a quarrel that allowed Bilbo to escape.


In a later letter, Tolkien denied that William was capable of compassion or mercy. Mething he protsested too much.


Quote
After all the dwarfs were captured, Gandalf returns, seemingly at just the right time, to confuse and defeat the trolls.


Ah! That's if you trust his story!


Quote
There was the key to the trolls’ cave, which Tolkien says “…must have fallen out of [William’s] pocket, very luckily, before he was turned to stone.”


Now if Bilbo had taken the key, rather than going for the purse, like any sensible burglar would...


Quote
Finally there was the intel Gandalf gathered from elf friends he happened to encounter when he went ahead to “spy out the road.”


I thought he knew the way to Rivendell?


Quote

Though how he missed the trolls the first time through remains a mystery.

He didn't miss them - they missed him!

As for the other important aspects of the story that emerge in this chapter (some that become Tolkien-isms proper) I leave you now to flesh out for yourself and/or comment if so moved:

Quote
We learn about the relative stealthiness of Hobbits and Dwarfs.

Eyes of a hawk and ears of a fox, etc.

We also learn that Bilbo has no idea what different owls sound like (but Thorin apparently does).
And that Balin is a complete doofus - stepping into the middle of the havoc, and only then beginning to wonder where Bilbo was or what was going on. The other Dwarves at least did not have the advantages of seeing a hearing the trolls from a long distance off.


Quote
Tolkien sets up a pattern for subsequent adventures: See a light (at the end of a tunnel?) > follow light > get captured or (as if Tolkien was haunted by claustrophobia) get confined to a small space (atop a tree surrounded by enemies/fire counts I think) or otherwise bound > escape by unforeseen means.


Sounds like Wendy M. A. Darling confined to her bedroom.

We become better acquainted with Gandalf, his ways and his role in the adventure.

Quote
There is much to read in that book, and I cannot claim to have seen more than a page or two.


- Pippin to Beregond, Minas Tirith.


Quote
Our party finds items that turn out to be incredibly important (or well known) later.

Originally, they were supposed to find Thrain's key at this point, which would have been even less credible.


Quote
Spells do not seem to open cave doors, though they do try.

One needs to know the proper spell.


Quote
And lastly Thorin says “thank you” when it is appropriate to do so.

Which is what the kid is supposed to say now, as you turn off the light.


Thank you for your participation this week.
Thank you! It was fun.



"As they approach the house of Elrond, Gandalf more or less tells the elves to be quiet, saying that “valleys have ears.”
What does he mean by this? Does he actually suspect spies here or something? Or does he just want those silly elves to shut up?"
- Menelwyn.



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for A Short Rest!


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 25 2012, 10:25am

Post #22 of 32 (207 views)
Shortcut
Read [In reply to] Can't Post

The Valiant Little Tailor. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/grimm/ht10.htm


Quote
The little tailor, not idle, gathered two pocketfuls of stones,
and with these climbed up the tree. When he was half-way up, he slipped down
by a branch, until he sat just above the sleepers, and then let one stone
after another fall on the breast of one of the giants. For a long time the
giant felt nothing, but at last he awoke, pushed his comrade, and said, "Why
art thou knocking me?" "Thou must be dreaming," said the other, "I am not
knocking thee." They laid themselves down to sleep again, and then the tailor
threw a stone down on the second, "What is the meaning of this?" cried the
other. "Why art thou pelting me?" "I am not pelting thee," answered the first,
growling. They disputed about it for a time, but as they were weary they let
the matter rest, and their eyes closed once more. The little tailor began his
game again, picked out the biggest stone, and threw it with all his might on
the breast of the first giant. "That is too bad!" cried he, and sprang up like
a madman, and pushed his companion against the tree until it shook. The other
paid him back in the same coin, and they got into such a rage that they tore
up trees and belaboured each other so long, that at last they both fell down
dead on the ground at the same time.



(This post was edited by Curious on Jul 25 2012, 10:26am)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 26 2012, 2:28am

Post #23 of 32 (187 views)
Shortcut
Great answers Sador [In reply to] Can't Post

and quite funny, many of them. Laugh

It seems too there is more to this "wandering moon" business than I knew... just last week (to be precise) a niece or my daughter (also to be precise) observed the clouds running past the moon. She said something like, "it looks like the moon is moving past the clouds." I guess it's similar to the effect when sitting in a train at station and a train to the left (or right) pulls away... often it feels like it's your train that's moving, but in the opposite direction. All that aside, it really is a lovely term and I quite like it... The Wandering Moon.

Now I wonder, why would Tolkien deny that trolls were incapable of anything resembling compassion or mercy yet leave them with the most human sounding names in the tale?

Finally I'm intrigued by what you said here:


Quote
Originally, they were supposed to find Thrain's key at this point, which would have been even less credible.


Is there something about "very luckily" that implies that the event (ie that the key fell out of William's pocket rather than being turned to stone with the rest of him) was incredible?


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 26 2012, 2:30am)


elostirion74
Rohan

Jul 26 2012, 6:50am

Post #24 of 32 (187 views)
Shortcut
Trolls showing pity or mercy [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien wrote about this in a letter to one Mr Hastings I believe (a very interesting letter in general btw). It seems like Tolkien thought the concept of pity and mercy would be diluted by applying it to William. Tolkien wrote something to the effect that William doesn't want to eat Bilbo because he isn't hungry, not because he truly feels any compassion. Showing pity actually had to restrain you from doing something that felt immediately desirable, like Bilbo's situation with Gollum in the tunnel.

But did Tolkien actually say that the trolls were incapable of mercy? I'm not really sure about that, I only thought he said they didn't show mercy in this particular instance. If Tolkien did think them incapable of mercy, one can only speculate as to why.


elostirion74
Rohan

Jul 26 2012, 9:44am

Post #25 of 32 (154 views)
Shortcut
About the trolls turning to stone [In reply to] Can't Post

Trolls turning to stone when exposed to sunlight is a common feature of Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore. Trolls often have several heads as well. Whether trolls are featured in the Icelandic sagas I do not know; I only have vague memories of them from school, and the stories we read focused on honour and vengeance between men without any trolls or similar creatures interfering.

First page Previous page 1 2 Next page Last page  View All
 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.