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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The Hobbit chapter 3: "A Short Rest" discussion pt.3

Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Jul 28 2012, 3:34am

Post #1 of 12 (514 views)
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The Hobbit chapter 3: "A Short Rest" discussion pt.3 Can't Post

Welcome to my third and last post of the week. Good thing I signed up for a short chapter, since I got a late start! Now back to the Last Homely House:

They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least, and they found it hard to leave. Bilbo would gladly have stopped there for ever and ever -- even supposing a wish would have taken him right back to his hobbit-hole without trouble.

1. Wow, that's quite a statement about homebody Bilbo. Have you ever visited a place that you would have liked to stay in forever, rather than going back to your own home by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing?

The master of the house was an elf-friend -- one of those people whose fathers came into the strange stories before the beginning of History...who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors, and Elrond the master of the house was their chief.
He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.

2. Compare this description of Elrond to the Elrond of LotR. If they are significantly different, which do you prefer, and why?

...(Elrond) looked at the swords they had brought from the trolls' lair, and he said: "These are not troll-make. They are old swords, very old swords of the High Elves of the West, my kin. They were made in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars.

3. Shouldn't Gandalf have been able to read the runes on the swords and figure out where they came from? Why or why not?

The moon was shining in a broad silver crescent. (Elrond) held up the map and the white light shone through it. "What is this?" he said. "There are moon-letters here...They can only be seen when the moon shines behind them, and what is more, with the more cunning sort it must be a moon of the same shape and season as the day when they were written.

4. Discuss the usefulness of writing that is so secretive it rarely even has the opportunity to be read.

Hmmm...I guess we need an open discussion thread for this chapter, too. OK, look for one more post!

Where's Frodo?


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 28 2012, 1:46pm

Post #2 of 12 (169 views)
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Thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm often reluctant to come home after vacation, but I know I don't have the money to stay on vacation forever. That doesn't seem to be a concern for Bilbo, but perhaps he doesn't want to impose on the hospitality of the elves. Tolkien may also be playing with the traditional stories of people going to elfland and never returning, or returning 20 or 100 years later. Tolkien puts a positive spin on the stories -- why would anyone want to come back?

We cannot tell from the description in The Hobbit that Elrond is immortal or thousands of years old. On the other hand, in LotR Aragorn does speak of Elrond as if they are of the same race, both half-elven. Elrond chose the fate of the elves, but he is half-human, too.

Tolkien's description doesn't actually tell us what Elrond looks like. Instead it describes Elrond's virtues, and lets us imagine what such a person would look like. But then, I'm not sure we ever get a physical description of Elrond in LotR, either.

Tolkien often uses this technique, leaving the physical description ambiguous while spending more time on the foliage or landscape. Perhaps it helps the fantasy to let the reader fill in the blanks, imagining the characters as we like. Or perhaps Tolkien is just better with landscape than with portraits, in prose as well as in illustrations.

We learn more about Elrond in LotR, and about his family, whereas he is an incidental character in The Hobbit. So I prefer the descriptions in LotR.

Gandalf should have been able to read the runes and this does seem like a glitch. However, Gandalf in The Hobbit is not Gandalf in LotR. Wizards seem to be more common and less angelic in The Hobbit, and when I read The Hobbit I never questioned the idea that Elrond might know something Gandalf didn't.

This kind of secret writing depends on a world where prophecies come true. At the prophecied time, the right people will be able to read the map, and will find the secret door on the appropriate day. Until then, the words and the door shall remain hidden.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 28 2012, 6:52pm

Post #3 of 12 (187 views)
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As you say [In reply to] Can't Post

Elrond's physical attributes are left to the imagination somewhat. Tolkien says "he was noble and fair in face as an elf-lord" and that he was "as strong as a warrior."

Noble could mean "stately" in either appearance or manner or both. "Fair in face as an elf-lord" tells us nothing since we don't know what elf-lords look like. However, I think it implies that he looks more like an elf than a human, which is an important distinction since he is both, assuming "Heroes of the North" means "Men."

Conversely, "strong as a warrior" seems to imply (though really it is left to the reader to decide) that although he was diminutive and fair as an elf would appear, he had the strength of a warrior (of whatever creature class). I'm guessing that Tolkien's readers had a sense of elves from the mythologies and romances that came before, if not some of Tolkien's own pre-Hobbit writing (which I was just reading about here).


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 28 2012, 6:55pm)


sador
Half-elven


Jul 30 2012, 11:53am

Post #4 of 12 (125 views)
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Late answers [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Wow, that's quite a statement about homebody Bilbo. Have you ever visited a place that you would have liked to stay in forever, rather than going back to your own home by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing?
Leaving my wife and kids? No.

As a bachelor - well yes! But the only home I had as a bachelor was my mother's (I assume dorms and shared rooms don't really count), which I was quite eager to leave...

2. Compare this description of Elrond to the Elrond of LotR. If they are significantly different, which do you prefer, and why?

I like this one better. It seems less cliched.

3. Shouldn't Gandalf have been able to read the runes on the swords and figure out where they came from? Why or why not?
No, why should he? Need a wizard (even an Istari) be proficient in everything?

I never thought so - and quite resent other's thinking he does.

4. Discuss the usefulness of writing that is so secretive it rarely even has the opportunity to be read.

It's very useful for this kind of tale, in which luck is so conspiciouslty on the side of our hero.

But perhaps it has something to do with old prophecies, and so on.

"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!


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Jul 30 2012, 1:27pm

Post #5 of 12 (130 views)
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Some brief responses... [In reply to] Can't Post

1. I've visited quite a few places I've really liked, but I was always glad to get home again. Bilbo's feeling about it made me REALLY want to visit Rivendell, though.

2. Elrond and his house both seem more approachable and less grand and lofty (I don't mean lofty in a bad way; just can't think of a better word) in TH than in LotR...which is appropriate considering the types of tales they are. I'm not sure which I prefer, though I absolutely love the phrase "kind as summer".

3. Maybe Gandalf doesn't want to reveal the extent of his powers and knowledge to the company, so he decides to let Elrond provide the answers since they are going that way anyway? That's a reverse-engineered answer, though; an attempt to explain why LotR-Gandalf might do what Hobbit-Gandalf does.

4. This actually bothered me/scared me when I was a child! WHAT IF they hadn't come to Elrond's house on the right day under the right type of moon? ...but of course, that couldn't happen because in this adventure, if things are meant to happen, they do happen.


CuriousG
Valinor


Jul 30 2012, 5:28pm

Post #6 of 12 (94 views)
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"kind as summer" -- I love that phrase too. Simple and unique.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 30 2012, 11:25pm

Post #7 of 12 (126 views)
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Was the inscription rune'd? [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Have you ever visited a place that you would have liked to stay in forever, rather than going back to your own home by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing?

Yes, there's one place (Acadia) I've vacationed with the family a few times, and I would love to stay far longer - but not forever, unless the winter is mild! Laugh

But I think that Bilbo at present is feeling the relief that the initial part of his journey is over. He's had far too much miserable travel and upsetting adventures already! He may have an unconscious desire to forget about the rest of the journey and just stay put.

3. Shouldn't Gandalf have been able to read the runes on the swords and figure out where they came from? Why or why not?

Douglas Anderson notes that Tolkien changed the 1937 "if we can read the runes" to the later edition's "when we can read the runes". To me, this implies that he felt the runes were in some way "hidden".

Could it be that the swords were too filthy for the runes to be read properly? They've been in a Trolls' hoard for ages, and who knows where before then. Even though they could see that the scabbards were "beautiful" and the hilts bejeweled, they might have been heavily stained and encrusted, and it could be that they required a decent cleansing in order to fully see the runes again.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

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




Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Jul 31 2012, 3:15am

Post #8 of 12 (101 views)
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What if? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
4. This actually bothered me/scared me when I was a child! WHAT IF they hadn't come to Elrond's house on the right day under the right type of moon?



Me too! Plus, since there were no other runes to read "by this moon" did they take the map out every few nights after that looking for runes made under another type of moon?

Where's Frodo?


Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Jul 31 2012, 3:20am

Post #9 of 12 (93 views)
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Ha! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Could it be that the swords were too filthy for the runes to be read properly? They've been in a Trolls' hoard for ages, and who knows where before then. Even though they could see that the scabbards were "beautiful" and the hilts bejeweled, they might have been heavily stained and encrusted, and it could be that they required a decent cleansing in order to fully see the runes again.


Rune'd -- OK, that makes enough sense to me.

Where's Frodo?


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Jul 31 2012, 6:26am

Post #10 of 12 (135 views)
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"if things are meant to happen, they do happen." [In reply to] Can't Post

great! now I have Tina Tolkien's song worming through my brain again.

You do however raise a good point. Tolkien mentions luck in the tale quite a few times but that doesn't mean he intended that we see every turn of events as luck (good or bad).

The moon-letters are a case in point. He says that "Gandalf and Thorin together [were] a bit vexed perhaps that even Elrond should have found this out first." But he follows this with, "though really there had not been a chance before, and there would not have been another until goodness knows when." This does not seem like a vote in favour of luck at play... luck is independent of opportunity, by definition.

Incidentally, that Gandalf was "perhaps vexed" that Elrond (and not himself) learned of the moon-letters first indicates that he was not hiding his knowledge, at least when it came to the letters. Furthermore, when Thorin thought it unlikely that they would be able to find the secret door on the appointed day (Durin's Day), Gandalf said "That remains to be seen." This could have been him hinting that it was very likely they would be there at the right time; or it could be, as you say, a case of him withholding information, by not saying outright what he may have already known to be true. I guess that brief exchange cuts both ways (though I favour the former assumption).

ps I'm really enjoying your thoughtful responses DD.


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 31 2012, 6:27am)


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Jul 31 2012, 2:56pm

Post #11 of 12 (72 views)
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I wondered that also! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Jul 31 2012, 3:05pm

Post #12 of 12 (236 views)
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Sorry about the earworm! [In reply to] Can't Post

Though you did start it. ;)

That's an excellent point about Gandalf and puts paid to my quasi-theory. In the bit you've quoted, I do quite like the sense that Thorin and Gandalf are both fond of being the one to find out important things. We'd expect that of Thorin, but it humanizes Gandalf to see that he's not above the occasional display of ego or frustration, which is rather charming. And he does like making a show sometimes (the fireworks in the Shire).

And yes, you're right, this does tie back in to your earlier remarks about fate and luck.

Thank you for your kind statement at the end! I really appreciate that.

 
 

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