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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Ove Hill and Under Hill Discussion - Part Two

One Ringer
Tol Eressea


Jul 31 2012, 4:51pm

Post #1 of 12 (1495 views)
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Ove Hill and Under Hill Discussion - Part Two Can't Post

After finding shelter in a promising cave, the company is attacked by goblins-----


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Out jumped the goblins, big goblins, great ugly-looking goblins, lots of goblins, before you could say rocks and blocks.



That’s four times the word 'goblin' is used in one sentence. Considering that and emphasis on “rocks and blocks”, how does this come across? Is it lyrical? Is Tolkien conveying a specific style?


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The passages there were crossed and tangled in all directions, but the goblins knew their way, as well as you do to the nearest post-office…



Like numerous times throughout the book, Tolkien establishes a connection to the reader. In this case, what sort of assumptions is he making? What if the reader doesn’t know their way to the post-office? Is this statement universal, or are we meant to take on a specific role as readers?

We are treated to a sketch of the goblins:


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Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make clever ones….. It is not likely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once….



From my knowledge, “clever” can be seen on the same grounds as “genius”. Are goblins really genius at heart? Is there evidence to show this? Does this better define them as a race? If they aren’t all that smart, what does Tolkien mean by clever? Is he writing in another perspective? Could it be his own view on the industry of war? In such a case, what do the goblins reflect?

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."


Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Aug 1 2012, 4:24am

Post #2 of 12 (1153 views)
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Nearest what? [In reply to] Can't Post

That’s four times the word 'goblin' is used in one sentence. Considering that and emphasis on “rocks and blocks”, how does this come across? Is it lyrical? Is Tolkien conveying a specific style?

Tolkien often made up stories to tell his children, and this definitely comes across as oral story-telling. The repetition of the word "goblins" is very dramatic, and the juxtaposition of the silly phrase "rocks and blocks" releases the tension of the terrified audience.

Like numerous times throughout the book, Tolkien establishes a connection to the reader. In this case, what sort of assumptions is he making? What if the reader doesn’t know their way to the post-office? Is this statement universal, or are we meant to take on a specific role as readers?

The reader Tolkien is trying to connect with here is much rarer than in the author's day. I grew up in a small town and I certainly knew my way to the post office and could go there by myself when I was old enough to read The Hobbit. Now I live in a city, and even if my children knew how to get to the post office, I wouldn't let them go alone, except maybe the 14-year-old (if she went with a friend). But speaking of the 14-year-old, with texting and instant messaging, they have little need to go to the post office anyway. What reference would Tolkien use today? Nearest playground maybe?

Where's Frodo?


justbennett
The Shire

Aug 1 2012, 5:08am

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Master Storyteller [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree about the orality of this passage and passages like these. I get the feeling of a grandpa telling a child about a scary situation he was once in. In a different tone, it would be very frightening. As told there is an underlying assurance that the heroes will be okay. The goblins are bad and numerous, but maybe the heroes can handle this situation. It won't be pretty or fun, but we'll be right there with them.

The "rocks and blocks" thing has a feel of idiom, although I've never heard anything like it anywhere else. Sounding like it might be something that was a common saying in Middle Earth suggests a comfortable story teller. A story teller that is confident enough to amp up the tension using such embellishments actually assures the listener that relief will come by and by.

Has anyone ever seen, "before you could say rocks and blocks" anywhere else in literature?

--
I don't think the post office reference is universal. Seems very British to me. As an American I did grow up knowing my way to the post office, but when I read this I picture English school children running into the post office from Lark Rise to Candleford.

--
I think his description of goblins' use of technology is indicative of his views on the industry of war. He'd seen the wastefulness of human ingenuity being applied to the Great War. I'm sure it could have given him the view that beauty is a greater motive for "making" than usefulness. In contrast to the goblins, the dwarves make clever things and beautiful things, but either way they are always beautiful.


telain
Rohan

Aug 1 2012, 4:22pm

Post #4 of 12 (1119 views)
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making my way back... [In reply to] Can't Post

...so I hope you don't mind my jumping into this discussion.

I think the use of the word "goblins" has a sort lyrical repetitiveness to it. I know I have read similar things in other books, but I can't bring it to mind -- something like "big ones, small ones, fat ones, thin ones, etc." "Rocks and blocks" whether idiomatic or not, has a visual repetitiveness to it -- as well as reinforcing the underground/cave aspect of the scene.

That the goblins knew their way through crossed and tangled tunnels AND the fact that Tolkien describes them as being "clever" (or at least making clever things...) I think does paint an interesting picture. I would not say so far as "genius", but certainly they know what they know, if you get my meaning. They know their own cave/tunnel/underground lair very well. They know how to catch people unawares.

"Clever" if I am not mistaken is also something Tolkien imbued with some negative connotation, applying it to Saruman (if I am thinking of the right passage). So if "genius" is more positive, perhaps "clever" has the possibility at least of being more negative. Here I also (sorry for this) bring in JK Rowling's Slytherin House, which is supposed to be "clever" with a propensity for negativity. Something about that word/quality makes it seem tinged with dishonesty somehow...


DesiringDragons
Lorien


Aug 1 2012, 7:15pm

Post #5 of 12 (1121 views)
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1. I agree with the consensus that the repetition of "goblins" is a storytelling device - I think you find similar constructions in fairytales, or, as you suggested, songs.

2. "Faster than you can say 'knife'" is an idiomatic phrase, isn't it? Or used to be? I think the "rocks and blocks" usage is either the Middle-Earth equivalent or perhaps just a goblin-oriented one.

3. The usage of "post-office" is one of the very few turns of phrase that dates the book, I think. But it's still charming.

4. I think "clever" can have connotations of "sneaky and underhanded"...I think Gollum is described as having "clever fingers" at at least one point. It can just mean "smart", but I think it can also mean a sort of devious cunning.


sador
Half-elven


Aug 2 2012, 12:24pm

Post #6 of 12 (1097 views)
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Answers [In reply to] Can't Post

That’s four times the word 'goblin' is used in one sentence. Considering that and emphasis on “rocks and blocks”, how does this come across?
"rocks and blocks" are mentioned together with "tinder and flint", which seems a comic relief for the father telling this pretty terrifying story to his child/ren.

But then the Dwarves laid the table in Bag-end before you could say "knife". Is this a hint that Dwarves are faster than goblins?

Is it lyrical?
The goblins are.

Is Tolkien conveying a specific style?

Quote
Savvy songwriters know instinctively how to use both melodic and lyrical repetition effectively without allowing it to become monotonous or annoying.


- Mary Dawson, The Power of Repetition.


Like numerous times throughout the book, Tolkien establishes a connection to the reader. In this case, what sort of assumptions is he making?
The s/he knows his/her way to the nearest post-office as well as the goblins know their way in the tunnels.

What if the reader doesn’t know their way to the post-office?
Than s/he is new in town / non-Brittish / a smartphone geek.
In short, of no consequence at all.

Is this statement universal, or are we meant to take on a specific role as readers?
We are all the children he suffers to come to him.

From my knowledge, “clever” can be seen on the same grounds as “genius”. Are goblins really genius at heart?
They are also pure at heart.
In short - pure genius.

Is there evidence to show this?

Quote
Inscrutable are the ways of a woman's heart!


- Rabindranath Tagore, The_Postmaster.

And so with the hearts of goblins.

Does this better define them as a race?
As a state of mind.

If they aren’t all that smart, what does Tolkien mean by clever?
In the very next chapter, Tolkien does mention another clever fellow:

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We shan't ever be safe again, never, gollum! One of the goblinses will put it on, and then no one will see him. He'll be there but not seen. Not even our clever eyeses will notice him; and he'll come creepsy and tricksy and catch us, gollum, gollum!"



Which has an interesting echo in The Shadow of the Past:

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Long after, but still very long ago, there lived by the banks of the Great River on the edge of Wilderland a clever-handed and quiet-footed little people. I guess they were of hobbit-kind; akin to the fathers of the fathers of the Stoors, for they loved the River...



However, compare this to the Prologue, Concerning Hobbits:

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The only craft little practised among them was shoe-making; but they had long and skilful (not clever!) fingers and could make many other useful and comely things.


Do you regret using that Peter Pan quote in your old signature?

Is he writing in another perspective?
As an educator. Goblins are evil, so the child will learn to distrust those ingenious devices.

Could it be his own view on the industry of war?
On Alfred Noble.

Wait, does that make the goblins Swedes? Shocked

In such a case, what do the goblins reflect?
A regression from the heroic method of killing your enemies one at a time.


"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!


sador
Half-elven


Aug 2 2012, 1:40pm

Post #7 of 12 (1092 views)
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Jump right it [In reply to] Can't Post

There is always room, and you are always welcome!
We've even kept your mug clean, and made sure nobody used it. Can I make you something to drink?

"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!


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 2 2012, 6:08pm

Post #8 of 12 (1105 views)
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Context-driven catchwords? [In reply to] Can't Post


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"rocks and blocks" are mentioned together with "tinder and flint", which seems a comic relief for the father telling this pretty terrifying story to his child/ren.

But then the Dwarves laid the table in Bag-end before you could say "knife". Is this a hint that Dwarves are faster than goblins?

The goblins come through the crack in the rock wall before you could say "rocks and blocks"

Gandalf manages to strike a light before you could say "tinder and flint"

And as you reminded us (thank you!), the laying of the table happens before Bilbo could say "knife".

I can't help noticing that the things you can't say fast enough seem to match rather nicely to the things that happen while you're trying to say them!

Cool


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



telain
Rohan

Aug 2 2012, 6:53pm

Post #9 of 12 (1084 views)
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with both feet, then! [In reply to] Can't Post

And thank you for looking after my mug; I am very fond of it.

If there is a drink that can wash away the anxiety of teaching a 3-week summer course, then pour away!


terrymerry
Rivendell


Aug 3 2012, 11:43am

Post #10 of 12 (1092 views)
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I`ll dip my toe in ... [In reply to] Can't Post

..."Out jumped the goblins, big goblins, great ugly-looking goblins"

Since as an Artist, I`m viewing Mr Tolkien writings for visual clues, I would say, that there are quite a lot of variation to the size of an goblin, and in the way they look.

...before you could say "rocks and blocks"

well you could have said "Jack Robinson" but that takes you out of the illusion of the fix there in, to the present, so instead, he made up "rocks and blocks" which has the advantage of rhyming.

The passages there were crossed and tangled in all directions, but the goblins knew their way, as well as you do to the nearest post-office…

...The Hobbit was written for children of England / Britain back in the last century, he had no Idea how international it would become. Almost every village in Britain, had at the heart of the village, a Royal Mail Post office, which was a life line for all the people who lived there.

Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make clever ones….. It is not likely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once….

well ...ha! here Mr Tolkien is having a little side swipe at the arm industries, saying there worse then golbins, and after going through the 1914-1918 war who could blame him.
As an Artist I always imagined that Sauron and Saruman designed the machines and weapons, and maybe they could be decribed as genius of the black arts, and the goblin`s were clever, in the sense of making them...




DesiringDragons
Lorien


Aug 3 2012, 12:15pm

Post #11 of 12 (1087 views)
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It's interesting... [In reply to] Can't Post

...that the first instance of the phrase ("before you could say 'knife'") is an actual expression that pre-dates Tolkien's use of it...and just so happens to fit the circumstances (which is probably one reason why he's used it). And then in the next two examples ("tinder and flint" and "rocks and blocks"), he's adapted the phrase to the circumstances.

Well-spotted, and most clever of Professor Tolkien! (Er, clever in the good sense, I mean.)


Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Aug 4 2012, 2:50am

Post #12 of 12 (1236 views)
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Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats. [In reply to] Can't Post

As you say, that soft of repetition is pretty common in storytelling and in books that are written to be read aloud.

And I think "rocks and blocks" is meant to be the sort of thing a goblin might say.

I did a quick google search and found out it's a popular name for landscaping companies :-) I wonder if the owners are Hobbit readers.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



(This post was edited by Aunt Dora Baggins on Aug 4 2012, 2:52am)

 
 

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