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:
Over Hill and Under Hill Discussion - Part One

One Ringer
Tol Eressea


Jul 30 2012, 5:01pm

Post #1 of 8 (442 views)
Shortcut
Over Hill and Under Hill Discussion - Part One Can't Post

Hello everybody, and welcome to this week’s discussion on Chapter 4: Over Hill and Under Hill. Today I’m going to be pointing towards the... liveliness of nature. Let’s open up with the start of the chapter - - - -


Quote
There were many paths that led up into those mountains, and many passes over them. But most of the paths were cheats and deceptions and led nowhere or to bad ends…



What is the reader made to understand by this passage? Note “cheats and deceptions”? Is Tolkien personifying the mountains? Could this be subtle foreshadowing to what they soon face?


Quote
The nights were comfortless and chill, and they did not dare to sing or talk too loud, for the echoes were uncanny, and the silence seemed to dislike being broken – except by the noise of water and the wail of wind and the crack of stone.



Again with personification. Here we’re looking at the silence. Is there any particular reason why the sounds it welcomes are described with such strong/penetrating words (noise, wail, and crack)?


Quote
More terrible still are thunder and lightning in the mountains at night, when storms come up from East and West and make war.”



Another example - that a collision in nature can be conceived as war. Are there any particular images that come to mind beyond mere lightning and thunder at this point?

And now we come to the Stone-Giants:


Quote
When he peeped out in the lightning-flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among trees far below…



Now nature is truly humanized. How are we to perceive these beings? Are they as Gods, crushing the worlds below by the fault of their own “game”? In what way do they reflect nature, if they do at all? Furthermore, what does this moment really mean for Bilbo? Is it culture shock? Wonder? Anything?

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."


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 30 2012, 10:57pm

Post #2 of 8 (120 views)
Shortcut
Thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, "cheats and deceptions" is a marvelously ambiguous phrase. One could consider it simply the natural result of paths that lead into the mountains but not over them, or one could wonder whether someone is purposely misleading those who want to cross the mountains, or whether, as you suggest, the mountains themselves deceive travelers.

Note that the appearance of Gandalf, who has a tendency to abandon the party when they are lost or in trouble, was based in part on a postcard called Der Berggeist, or The Mountain Spirit. Mountain spirits were reputed to lead travelers into dead ends or abandoning them when they got lost. Like Odin, the other inspiration for Gandalf, mountain spirits were notorious tricksters.

In LotR the mountain Caradhras, at least, is personified as a wicked spirit, and Mount Doom and Mindolluin appear to be unholy and holy mountains, respectively. But in The Hobbit it is the inhabitants of the mountains, the stone giants and the goblins, who cause trouble. Gandalf's role may still be in doubt, and when he disappears some may still wonder if he will return.

The description of night in the mountains is similarly ambiguous, creating a spooky atmosphere without explaining whether the parties' feelings are justified. It reminds me of the evil-looking castles and mischievous fire back when the party met the trolls.

Storms making war is more of the same. That could just be a metaphorical description of two storm fronts meeting, and then again, it might be more than that. The collision of East and West reminds me of the importance of those directions in LotR, but they don't have quite the same importance in The Hobbit.

By the time Tolkien has used all this metaphorical language to describe the treacherous paths, the comfortless night, and the warring storms, it seems quite natural to speak of Stone-Giants hurling rocks for a game, except that it appears that there really are Stone Giants around, especially later, when Gandalf speaks of asking a friendly Stone Giant to block the cave. Still, Tolkien blurs the line between literal and figurative language. He blurs it further in LotR, when the rocks are thrown by Caradhras.

Based on Gandalf's later comments, the Stone Giants are not gods, but simply another race that inhabits the mountains and sometimes might even be friendly. Yet they also sound like a legend told to explain a natural phenomenon. Bilbo does not seem skeptical about the appearance of Stone Giants -- and really, after meeting trolls and elves he shouldn't be. But he is increasingly afraid, and, what is worse, paralyzed with fear. Everyone can see that it is no use sending him ahead as a scout.



dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 31 2012, 1:54am

Post #3 of 8 (112 views)
Shortcut
A most unfriendly location! [In reply to] Can't Post

These certainly are not the kind of mountains you would travel into for a pleasant hike.

The wayward paths actually bring to mind those kinds of "paths" that are made by animals, or by water run-off: they eventually head under brambles or stop suddenly. But Tolkien seems to imply that the vegetation itself is misleading the unsuspecting traveller - similar to the paths in the Old Forest, only those led deliberately to one end, instead of no end.

I love the creepiness of the phrase: "the silence seemed to dislike being broken", as if human/dwarf/hobbit/etc. voice and walking-noise were an intrusion.

And the power of that storm, as if a hundred thunder-storms were holding a raucous party overhead and all around! This is the kind of storm that looms in a child's nightmare, and thus makes for great bedtime-telling.


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

"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




justbennett
The Shire

Aug 1 2012, 5:25am

Post #4 of 8 (87 views)
Shortcut
Something that's bothered me [In reply to] Can't Post

I've read somewhere that Tolkien was critical of
The Chronicles of Narnia because Lewis seemed to reference myths and fairy tales from various sources all next to each other. I can see that Tolkien was very careful about defining his own beings in LoTR, but in the Hobbit he seemed much more willing to throw in characters of whimsy.

Perhaps he thought this would be his only work of fiction, and he was trying a little too hard.

Perhaps this is the voice of Bilbo embellishing the story years later. Bilbo seems like the type of character who would perpetuate a belief of stone giants among younger hobbits simply for the fun of believing in them.


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Aug 1 2012, 6:57pm

Post #5 of 8 (72 views)
Shortcut
Late reply, again [In reply to] Can't Post

1. I like the phrase "cheats and deceptions" - it not only personifies the mountains, but also, as you suggest, foreshadows the goblins and even Gollum (sounds very much like his manner of speech). And the silence that dislikes being broken not only continues the anthropomorphism of nature, but is another instance where I feel like Tolkien has hit on the perfect, concise, phrase for something that's very hard to describe.

2. The storms making war and the stone-giants confused me the first few times I read the book. I couldn't quite decide whether both were metaphors, both were meant to be taken literally, or one was one thing and the other was the other thing. (As I got older, I understood that the last was true, but I wonder if I was the only younger reader who was confused by this.)

I'd have liked more background on the stone-giants at some point.


(This post was edited by DesiringDragons on Aug 1 2012, 6:59pm)


Elizabeth
Valinor


Aug 1 2012, 8:37pm

Post #6 of 8 (91 views)
Shortcut
It was written for his children. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Perhaps he thought this would be his only work of fiction, and he was trying a little too hard.


Tolkien had already written a lot of fiction, including most of the Silmarillion, though he revised it later, but none of it had been published. This was a story written primarily for his two oldest boys. It was brought to the attention of an editor at Harper Collins, who fell in love with it and wanted to publish it. Tolkien added the last parts (which do have a somewhat different feel than the earlier parts) for publication.






Join us NOW in the Reading Room for detailed discussions of The Hobbit, July 9-Nov. 18!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


sador
Half-elven


Aug 2 2012, 10:21am

Post #7 of 8 (92 views)
Shortcut
Late answers [In reply to] Can't Post

What is the reader made to understand by this passage?
Not quite personification, but I am struck by the paths leading to bad ends rther than dead ends, which is the more natural phrase regarding natural mountain paths.

Note “cheats and deceptions”. Is Tolkien personifying the mountains?
Not necessarily. At least, not more than people often personify the elements of nature. For example, think of the phrase "pouring rain".

But personifying the elements goes a long way back, way into the first dawn of human conciousness (see? this is the obverse).

Could this be subtle foreshadowing to what they soon face?
Compare to Merry's words before entering the Old Forest:

Quote

But the Forest is queer. Everything in it is very much more alive, more aware of what is going on, so to speak, than things are in the Shire. And the trees do not like strangers...
...But something makes paths. Whenever one comes inside one finds open tracks; but they seem to shift and change from time to time in a queer fashion.


Something makes paths. And after reminding us that the landscape itself is ominous, one can't avoid a spooky, uneasy feeling.

Again with personification. Here we’re looking at the silence.

Quote

"Fools," said I, "you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows"



Is there any particular reason why the sounds it welcomes are described with such strong/penetrating words (noise, wail, and crack)?
Omnathpoeia.


Another example - that a collision in nature can be conceived as war. Are there any particular images that come to mind beyond mere lightning and thunder at this point?
Stormtroopers.
Once again, Tolkien is taking familiar images and presenting them in the obverse - the way our less sheltered and sophisticated ancestors first conceived them.

Now nature is truly humanized. How are we to perceive these beings?

Quote

'We cannot go further tonight,' said Boromir. 'Let those call it the wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us.'
'I do call it the wind,' said Aragorn. 'But that does not make what you say untrue. There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs...'


- The Ring Goes South.

I read this as Aragorn denying the existence of stone giants. And I note that Gandalf says nothing of this matter.
So perhaps even this is up in the air, and Gandalf looking for a "more or less decent giant" in two chapters' time... but that is a different discussion, which I am overdue in preparing!

Are they as Gods, crushing the worlds below by the fault of their own “game”?
"as gods"? Perhaps. The word "as" is open to one's imagination, and if that's how you choose to imagine it - who am I to deny you?

But I'm pretty sure Tolkien would have refused to capitalise the g. That is reserved for Eru.

In what way do they reflect nature, if they do at all?
One throws a bit of nature at the other; the other reflects nature.

Furthermore, what does this moment really mean for Bilbo?
A good scare.

Is it culture shock?
Possibly. Who knews Dwarves believed in this kind of stuff?

Wonder?
He wonders again why on earth he had let Gandalf shoo him from his pleasant little hole.

And probably also whether Gandalf remembered to wash that second breakfast he has left on the lawn. Apart of attracting flies, it would tell his friends, neighbours, burglars and the Sackville-Bagginses that he had abruptly left on a mad adventure.

Anything?
He is also cold and wet.

"Is the mountain more dangerous because it is personified? Are the nights not scary enough unless they are actively plotting against the dwarves?"
- Arwen's Daughter.



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

(This post was edited by sador on Aug 2 2012, 10:22am)


terrymerry
Rivendell


Aug 3 2012, 10:29am

Post #8 of 8 (224 views)
Shortcut
personifying the mountains [In reply to] Can't Post

Since I`m not a machine, the only way to take in nature, is through my sense, unlike a computer, which could only reduce the information it receives into facts. What Mr Tolkien is describing to us, with these texts, are a time, without the hindsight, and certainty of science. In fact he`s taking us back to Norse gods, and a
time where everyone knew, through there Scandinavian animistic mind shapes, that it was giants, throwing the boulders around. Lets face it, you only have to take us out of our own cosy environment, and turn the lights off ...and we soon start to revert back to our true nature...

 
 

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.