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** The Hobbit, “Riddles in the Dark”** 2. – Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum

squire
Valinor


Aug 10 2012, 10:19pm

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** The Hobbit, “Riddles in the Dark”** 2. – Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum Can't Post

Let’s pick up the story with Bilbo splashing to a halt in the lake at the bottom of the mountain tunnel. We have just been warned that “the original owners [of the caverns] are still there in odd comers, slinking and nosing about” and sure enough, the next line makes it real:

Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum - as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face. (Hobbit V)

A. Doesn’t the phrase “old Gollum” convey a kind of folksiness to the character?

He is a “small slimy creature” evidently. Sliminess typifies amphibian creatures, not reptiles or mammals; the slime keeps their skin moist while it is out of the water. I argued earlier in this discussion that C.S. Lewis was wrong to call Gollum a fish-type creature, but I guess I didn’t notice this particular line.
B. Is slimy metaphorical or literal here?

He is “as dark as darkness”.
C. Does this mean he has what we would call black skin (or deep brown, whatever)?

In a bit that is characteristic of a number of creatures in Tolkien, Gollum’s eyes are called “lamp-like” as if they gave off light – which eyes never do, at least in our world. But medieval theorists of sight thought for a long time that the eyes did give off rays of vision. Also, the illusion of illumination that we get when we see some animals’ eyes reflecting a campfire or flashlight back at us in the dark is powerfully suggestive of original generation of light.
D. Again, is Tolkien being metaphorical or literal here?

“He liked meat too. Goblin he thought good, when he could get it.” Clearly, Goblin is one option among many.
E. What other meat does Gollum like?

It seems that Gollum never risks discovery by going up the tunnels to hunt goblins—except that later in this chapter it appears he does after all (otherwise he would not know the way out, to Bilbo’s benefit). Nevertheless at this point in the story the writing is very plain and even emphatic: Gollum never leaves his lake.
F. What do you think?

Speaking of the goblins who “sometimes” don’t come back from the fishing expeditions
G. Why doesn’t the Great Goblin, who seems like a rather responsible monarch, show more curiosity, or guts, in solving this mystery?

Gollum with his eyes “like telescopes” can tell from some distance, that is from his island in the lake, that Bilbo is “no goblin at all”.
H. How does he do that? This place has no light whatsoever.

“Bless us and splash us, my precioussss! I guess it’s a choice feast; at least a tasty morsel it’d make us, gollum!”

This is Gollum’s opening line, and it lets us know a great deal about him. He doesn’t just attack Bilbo. He doesn’t, on the other hand, address Bilbo. He says “bless us and splash us”, which I have always suspected is an old Christian imprecation based on baptism – more charming than terrifying, like an tetchy old priest or nun might say. He says “my precioussss”, which as I have argued elsewhere is a common nursery endearment that children would find funny coming out of the mouth of a monster. He hisses or lisps, so that precious runs off with three extra s’s – providing another comic sound effect for the reader-aloud. He calls Bilbo “it”, “guessing” that the hobbit is either a feast or a morsel, a large or small meal – confirming that, for all the quaint mannerisms, Gollum is supposed to be a mortal threat who hopes or intends to kill and eat Bilbo. But he uses “choice” and “tasty” which continue the theme of “cute” diction that makes Gollum so odd a villain. All in all, an engaging character who promises us an adventure but who, for many reasons, we can’t take very seriously as a threat to Bilbo’s life.
I. Or not … what do you think?

The “horrible swallowing noise” written as “gollum” is “how he got his name”.
J. Who exactly gave him that name? And does Bilbo really jump to the conclusion that this thing is “named” Gollum, even though the thing never calls himself that?

“He always called himself ‘my precious’.
K. Did Tolkien consider having this guy self-refer as “my dear”, “my sweet”, or “my goodness”, which are near-equivalents? The latter is even more ironical, and also has the same ‘-ss’ ending allowing for the lisping gag.

L. Would a more modern Gollum call himself “babe”?

It turns out that Gollum is “not really very hungry at the moment”, thus explaining his choice to talk to Bilbo rather than kill him on the spot.
M. Is this particularly plausible to you? Because, given the particularly shaky calorie pyramid that Gollum sits at the top of, it isn’t to me.

“I am Mr. Bilbo Baggins. I have lost the dwarves and I have lost the wizard, and I don’t know where I am; and I don’t want to know, if only I can get away.”

Bilbo’s answer is, if you think about it, just as opaque to Gollum as Gollum’s opening is him. “The dwarves”? “The wizard”? And to jump the gun a bit, in the subsequent book Gandalf complains that Bilbo “very foolishly” gave his full name to Gollum.
N. Isn’t it classic Bilbo to give his full name as a dignified introduction, even in the absurd and panicked situation he is in? Is Gandalf being fair?

Gollum asks what the thing in Bilbo’s hand is, “which he did not quite like”. It’s hard to imagine what Gollum could be thinking the thing in Bilbo’s hand is, other than a (glowing?) sword with the point facing him.
O. Is this over-the-top coy writing?

Once Bilbo identifies it as a sword, from Gondolin, Gollum “became quite polite”.
P. Was it the information that, yes, it is a sword – or the information that it came from Gondolin – that changes Gollum’s approach?

Now Gollum, trying to be polite and “appear friendly”, calls Bilbo “ye” instead of “it” or “he”. He asks Bilbo to “sit and chat” and then proposes that they play at “riddles”. This is presented by the narrator as a kind of stalling tactic on Gollum’s part, until he can figure out what Bilbo is. The questions on Gollum’s mind are: is Bilbo really alone; is Bilbo “good to eat”; and is Gollum “really hungry”. The first is reasonable, but the latter two are just gags.
Q. Are you enjoying Tolkien’s mix of quiet comedy and comfy adventure? How does he achieve the balance – what are his methods?

It seems that Riddles is the only game Gollum has ever played in his life – that he liked to ask them rather than guess them – and that he hasn’t played them since “long, long ago” before he entered the mountain caves after he “lost all his friends”. At that time, he played Riddles with “other funny creatures sitting in their holes”.
R. Does this description remind you more of a kind of slimy Wind in the Willows setting, with Gollum, Moley, Frog and Badger, rather than some riverine Shire as was later retrofitted onto this story?

Bilbo agrees to a game, also desiring to stall until he finds out if Gollum is: really alone, “fierce or hungry”; and a friend of the goblins.
S. Is “pity staying his hand”, so that Bilbo doesn’t just stab Gollum now – after hearing the creature’s opening words be a guess whether he’d be a “feast” or a “morsel”?

It is later remarked that Bilbo automatically knows just what the Riddle game is and how to play it.
T. Is it a common game among English children in Tolkien’s time? I certainly never had heard of anyone playing it when I was a kid in the U.S. in the 1960s and was hearing this story for the first time.

Anyway, the game is about to begin. I apologize for the delay in posting this week. I will try to catch up this weekend!



squire online:
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telain
Rohan

Aug 11 2012, 11:21pm

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A. Doesn’t the phrase “old Gollum” convey a kind of folksiness to the character?

Agreed -- I almost think of a character that isn't terribly dangerous, and that is known to people in those parts. But obviously as we read on, neither one of those is true.

B. Is slimy metaphorical or literal here?

I say both.

C. Does this mean he has what we would call black skin (or deep brown, whatever)?

My sense is that he is one who easily hides in the shadows, stealthy. I would also add "dark as darkness" might add an eerie, unsettling quality.

D. Again, is Tolkien being metaphorical or literal here?

Eyes being lamp-like is a fairly common descriptor in literature, especially for any kind of glimmer, glint, shining, etc. I suspect an interpretation along those lines, again, it hints at something going on behind those eyes that might not be completely natural or kind.

E. What other meat does Gollum like? Anything but sweetmeats?

F. What do you think? I think Gollum probably does leave the lake from time to time, otherwise he wouldn't know his way through the goblin tunnels. Thinking outside the Hobbit for a moment: it seems he knows his way well enough around the outside world, so I figure he must visit it from time to time, especially at night.

G. Why doesn’t the Great Goblin, who seems like a rather responsible monarch, show more curiosity, or guts, in solving this mystery?

I am not sure I would classify him as "responsible monarch" -- maybe "practical", but it may be Tolkien's way of showing goblins as ruthless even with their own kind. Perhaps enough goblins didn't disappear to warrant any real inquiry?

H. How does he do that? This place has no light whatsoever.

Intriguing question, and my answer sort of dodges it. Perhaps like other cave- and underground-dwelling creatures -- by smell and/or sound.

I wonder if his eyesight is so sensitive to any light that that is why he curses "Yellowface"? Perhaps other reasons?


telain
Rohan

Aug 11 2012, 11:41pm

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I. Or not … what do you think?

I think some of the most terrifying villains are the ones you don't immediately see as a threat. You don't know whether to feel sorry for them or whether to see them clearly as an enemy. I can't say this idea is what Tolkien was going for, but it certainly makes for a more interesting and terrifying character. It also makes a connection to Gollum's past...

J. Who exactly gave him that name? And does Bilbo really jump to the conclusion that this thing is “named” Gollum, even though the thing never calls himself that?

I have always wondered this! Actually, if I could slightly revise my answer to "A." I would say Gollum perhaps has run into quite a few people over the years...

K. Did Tolkien consider having this guy self-refer as “my dear”, “my sweet”, or “my goodness”, which are near-equivalents? The latter is even more ironical, and also has the same ‘-ss’ ending allowing for the lisping gag.

L. Would a more modern Gollum call himself “babe”?


I think it always harkens to the real "precious" -- Gollum sees himself as part of it.

I don't think "babe" quite fits, even in a modern sense. It certainly would connote a very different sense of "creepy".

M. Is this particularly plausible to you? Because, given the particularly shaky calorie pyramid that Gollum sits at the top of, it isn’t to me.

Gollum might have learned to be quite the deft hunter over the years, even, dare I say, sustainable? He may have also learned to moderate his intake (so less like a dog, which eats whenever food is available, and more like a cat, which I believe Tolkien did use as an inspiration for Gollum to some degree.) So, believable, but not out of the realm of plot device.

N. Isn’t it classic Bilbo to give his full name as a dignified introduction, even in the absurd and panicked situation he is in? Is Gandalf being fair?

Classic Bilbo in his politeness and lack of wits. He's so sheltered by life in the Shire that he doesn't realize the power of giving someone your name (especially someone as sketchy as Gollum...)

O. Is this over-the-top coy writing?

Given his ability to see Bilbo from afar, perhaps...

P. Was it the information that, yes, it is a sword – or the information that it came from Gondolin – that changes Gollum’s approach?

I hate to keep drawing on LOTR/other works than TH, but I think the Gondolin angle is key. Gollum knows all about Goblin swords, but perhaps this differently shaped glowing sword -- and the news that it is Elvish -- disturbs him more.

Q. Are you enjoying Tolkien’s mix of quiet comedy and comfy adventure? How does he achieve the balance – what are his methods?

Perhaps it's just me, but I see it as menacing. That kind of film/book where the audience knows the hero is in danger, but the hero doesn't see it. The comedy highlights the danger for me in a twisted sort of way. Definitely enjoyable.

R. Does this description remind you more of a kind of slimy Wind in the Willows setting, with Gollum, Moley, Frog and Badger, rather than some riverine Shire as was later retrofitted onto this story?

Not necessarily, though I could envision it that way.

S. Is “pity staying his hand”, so that Bilbo doesn’t just stab Gollum now – after hearing the creature’s opening words be a guess whether he’d be a “feast” or a “morsel”?

Or is Bilbo still being polite?

T. Is it a common game among English children in Tolkien’s time? I certainly never had heard of anyone playing it when I was a kid in the U.S. in the 1960s and was hearing this story for the first time.

I can't say for Tolkien's time, but I do remember playing similar games in high school -- not for those consequences though!


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 14 2012, 12:30am

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A. Doesn’t the phrase “old Gollum” convey a kind of folksiness to the character?

This right away removes part of Gollum's potentially sinister nature. "Grandpa Gollum", maybe? Suggested advanced age causes future threats to appear less hostile - or more easily overcome.

B. Is slimy metaphorical or literal here?

Yes. Both. A slimy, tricksy character, slimed with years of living on a "slimy island of rock" in a slimy subterranean pool.

He is “as dark as darkness”. C. Does this mean he has what we would call black skin (or deep brown, whatever)?

Again, I think this is like "slimy": both figurative, and literal - only not necessarily in skin tone, but in ability to "cover" himself with the darkness of the caves.

E. What other meat does Gollum like?

Besides "blind fish" and goblins? I assume there's some kind of regular fish that find their way into that pool, especially if it's fed by a subterranean river. Perhaps there are crawfish also? And the occasional escaped but lost goblin-slave.

Gollum never leaves his lake. F. What do you think? The text does not explicitly state that Gollum never left the lake; I would assume that extreme hunger might force him to "hunt", every few decades or so.

G. Why doesn’t the Great Goblin, who seems like a rather responsible monarch, show more curiosity, or guts, in solving this mystery?

Er..."responsible"? "Reprehensible" is more appropriate! He sends those he'd like to get rid of on "fishing expeditions".

H. How does he [see Bilbo]? This place has no light whatsoever.

Highly developed night vision.

He says “bless us and splash us”, which I have always suspected is an old Christian imprecation based on baptism

Very interesting, I'd never thought of "bless us and splash us" as having any relationship to a baptism! And I'd say it doesn't, as the original text used "bless us and blister us" (HotH, p. 155). Rather, "splash" refers to his paddling around on the lake. Any speculation on the original saying?

All in all, an engaging character who promises us an adventure but who, for many reasons, we can’t take very seriously as a threat to Bilbo’s life. I. Or not … what do you think?

I still can't take Gollum too seriously, after all I don't want to be getting up in the middle of the night when the kids wake with nightmares.

J. Who exactly gave him that name? And does Bilbo really jump to the conclusion that this thing is “named” Gollum, even though the thing never calls himself that?

Who gave Gollum his name? The Narrator, of course! And Bilbo calls him that, to himself, and later to Gandalf and the Dwarves, out of lack of anything more appropriate to use, just as we might call an unnamed dog "Old Howler" or an unnamed too-smart computer geek "Hacker".

It turns out that Gollum is “not really very hungry at the moment”, thus explaining his choice to talk to Bilbo rather than kill him on the spot.
M. Is this particularly plausible to you? Because, given the particularly shaky calorie pyramid that Gollum sits at the top of, it isn’t to me.


Aw, have compassion for the poor lonely creature! Goblins aren't exactly the best at casual conversation, when threatened. And I bet Gollum's done this before, with lost goblin-slaves.

N. Isn’t it classic Bilbo to give his full name as a dignified introduction, even in the absurd and panicked situation he is in? Is Gandalf being fair?

Classic? Particularly it is, with that "Mr." in front of his name - how properly English! And Gandalf's just being crabby, as if he expects more of Bilbo than - wait, Gandalf's always expecting more of Bilbo, isn't he?

Gollum asks what the thing in Bilbo’s hand is, “which he did not quite like”...O. Is this over-the-top coy writing?

No, it's giving his boys a chuckle!

P. Was it the information that, yes, it is a sword – or the information that it came from Gondolin – that changes Gollum’s approach?

Unless Gollum heard about Gondolin while teaching his grandmother to suck eggses, that name would mean nothing to him, so it's the realization that it is indeed a real toad-sticker that puts him on the defense.

Now Gollum, trying to be polite and “appear friendly”, calls Bilbo “ye” instead of “it” or “he”.

Actually, Gollum is calling himself "ye", as confirmed by Rateliff (HotH, p. 187, note 10). He notes this was changed, without "authority", in later editions to "we".

Q. Are you enjoying Tolkien’s mix of quiet comedy and comfy adventure? How does he achieve the balance – what are his methods?

I hesitate to think this, but doesn't this have the feel of a "Disneyfied" Grimm fairy tale at this point?

S. Is “pity staying his hand”, so that Bilbo doesn’t just stab Gollum now – after hearing the creature’s opening words be a guess whether he’d be a “feast” or a “morsel”?

No, actually, it has not yet crossed Bilbo's mind to actually stab Gollum: he said himself that he wants to find out more about this creature, and the Riddle Game is providing the perfect stall. I suppose the question is: if Gollum came within striking distance, would Bilbo strike? I think he'd probably make the attempt, out of sheer terror.

T. Is it a common game among English children in Tolkien’s time? I certainly never had heard of anyone playing it when I was a kid in the U.S. in the 1960s and was hearing this story for the first time.

Must belong to an earlier time, pre-television, when imaginations were more verbally-based.


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

"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




FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 14 2012, 12:01pm

Post #5 of 7 (235 views)
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A. Doesn’t the phrase “old Gollum” convey a kind of folksiness to the character?

Like Old Possum? Yes, maybe. It also conveys the idea that Gollum is very old, a survivor from another time entirely - a legend, maybe, who's come to life. I've often thought that Tolkien might have been inspired by a local folk legend, which often have lurking creatures like Gollum in them, although I don't know of one specifically.

B. Is slimy metaphorical or literal here?

Literal in that he's covered in slime because of his slimy habitat. But I don't read it as meaning that his skin is naturally slimy.

C. Does this mean he has what we would call black skin (or deep brown, whatever)?

I don't think you can tell at this point since it's pitch-dark anyway. But he's described as being like a "black squirrel" in LotR, as I recall. Don't know whether Tolkien changed his conception of Gollum's appearance between TH and LotR.

D. Again, is Tolkien being metaphorical or literal here?

Well I think a lot of Tolkien's "magic" is created mostly by the premodern point of view from which the tale is told. Eyes literally shining would have to be irrational "magic" to us, but not to older cultures, where so much was mysterious that what we call "magic" seemed perfectly natural to them.

F. What do you think?

Gollum lives in the lake but I don't see anything that states that he never leaves his "home" at all. In this first introduction, Gollum is presented as he appears to Bilbo - as a resident of this underground pool. Bilbo has no way of knowing yet what else the creature does.

G. Why doesn’t the Great Goblin, who seems like a rather responsible monarch, show more curiosity, or guts, in solving this mystery?

Why doesn't Sauron do something about Shelob? Sometimes it's handy to have a pet monster somewhere off where it won't bother you but might be a threat to others, I guess!

H. How does he do that? This place has no light whatsoever.

Maybe he is subconsiously helped by other cues, such as the sounds Bilbo makes moving around, or the way he breathes. But there's certainly a impression given that in some prescientific, "magical" way, he can see in the dark.


Quote
He says “bless us and splash us”, which I have always suspected is an old Christian imprecation based on baptism – more charming than terrifying, like an tetchy old priest or nun might say.

Hmm, nice idea but the old priests and nuns I remember from my childhood would probably think it rather blasphemous to talk about baptism like that. But those old priests and nuns, as I recall, were very fond of the holy water, and I can sort of imagine an expression like this being used as a joke when the holy water came out!


Quote
But he uses “choice” and “tasty” which continue the theme of “cute” diction that makes Gollum so odd a villain. All in all, an engaging character who promises us an adventure but who, for many reasons, we can’t take very seriously as a threat to Bilbo’s life.
I. Or not … what do you think?

It depends whether "choice" and "tasty" seem "cute" to you, I suppose. Those words certainly make it clear that Bilbo is being appraised as a meal, which is scary enough in itself - a bit like the trolls discussing their culinary options for the dwarves! In LotR, even Sauron goes in for this type of food terminology ("Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him.") I think it's meant to sound creepy, not cute. But whether it works that way is quite subjective I guess.

J. Who exactly gave him that name? And does Bilbo really jump to the conclusion that this thing is “named” Gollum, even though the thing never calls himself that?

The narrator keeps this nicely vague, but it looks as if as far as this story is concerned, Bilbo gave Gollum the name himself. He never calls Gollum by it to his face, of course. But when he tells the story to the Dwarves later, he must have used this name because Balin repeats it: "Gollum! Well I’m blest!" Of course, in LotR Gandalf claims that Gollum's own people began to call him that, just as Bilbo later did, because of the sound he made - so either the name was so obvious that it was independently arrived at twice, or else Gandalf was just using Bilbo's name for the creature in his story to make Frodo realise who the story was about. It wouldn't be the only time that something Bilbo made up is presented as if it has deeper historical roots - "All that is gold does not glitter" at first seems like an old, traditional verse but turns out to be of Bilbo's making.

K. Did Tolkien consider having this guy self-refer as “my dear”, “my sweet”, or “my goodness”, which are near-equivalents? The latter is even more ironical, and also has the same ‘-ss’ ending allowing for the lisping gag.

"My goodness" means something else already, so I guess it wouldn't really work. Gollum calls Deagol "my love", but doesn't use it for himself. "My precious" is one of Tolkien's great coinages, I think.

L. Would a more modern Gollum call himself “babe”?

An American Gollum might! Cool But the genius of "my precious" is that it can so easily be transferred to the ring. Even though Tolkien didn't know it at the time, it turned out to be one of those lucky chances that seem to be more than mere chance. In the revised chapter "precious" becomes part of the very first mention of the ring: "He had a ring, a golden ring, a precious ring." That's where invention seems to turn into inspiration.

M. Is this particularly plausible to you? Because, given the particularly shaky calorie pyramid that Gollum sits at the top of, it isn’t to me.

Sure, I can understand him wanting to play with his food before he eats it. It's going to give it an extra savour to know he's "won" his treat in a game. It seems to fit in very well with Gollum's impulsive, childish character.

N. Isn’t it classic Bilbo to give his full name as a dignified introduction, even in the absurd and panicked situation he is in? Is Gandalf being fair?

Classic Bilbo indeed! But he is after all only doing what Aragorn does in a similar tight spot - giving himself all his names and titles in attempt to impress his challenger! I think Gandalf just likes to keep reminding hobbits of their natural foolishness, although of course we know he actually has a soft spot for it.

O. Is this over-the-top coy writing?

It does seem a bit odd that Gollum wouldn't immediately recognise a sword for what it is. He certainly never shows any interest in using a weapon himself, but he must have seen them in the hands of goblins. Perhaps he's never seen such a small weapon in the hands of anything small enough to be his prey.

P. Was it the information that, yes, it is a sword – or the information that it came from Gondolin – that changes Gollum’s approach?

The fact that Bilbo says "a sword, a blade" makes me think that he imagines Gollum might not understand the first word. I think it's perhaps Bilbo's confident answer that affects Gollum's approach the most. He sees now that this isn't just some shiny metal object, but one that its owner knows how to use.


Quote
The questions on Gollum’s mind are: is Bilbo really alone; is Bilbo “good to eat”; and is Gollum “really hungry”. The first is reasonable, but the latter two are just gags.

I don't think they're just gags, but they are humorously stated ways of putting what's going through Gollum's mind. I think it means that Gollum is trying to figure out whether this prey is worth the effort of catching it - but also he's whetting his appetite while he plays with his victim. It's told in a fairytale manner, but there's something creepily real behind the psychology here, I find.

R. Does this description remind you more of a kind of slimy Wind in the Willows setting, with Gollum, Moley, Frog and Badger, rather than some riverine Shire as was later retrofitted onto this story?

Well there's a river in Wind in the Willows too - Ratty (not Frog) is a water-rat, after all. I don't get an impression of sliminess from the description of Gollum's original home, that seems to be something he's picked up underground. And even in the original version, it seems that Gollum "
lived with his grandmother in a hole in a bank by a river".

S. Is “pity staying his hand”, so that Bilbo doesn’t just stab Gollum now – after hearing the creature’s opening words be a guess whether he’d be a “feast” or a “morsel”?

Bilbo's pity is very much just a sense of fair play - the inhibition against attacking someone who is defenceless. Even though he's heard Gollum's intention to eat him, he won't use his sword until he has to.

T. Is it a common game among English children in Tolkien’s time? I certainly never had heard of anyone playing it when I was a kid in the U.S. in the 1960s and was hearing this story for the first time.

I remember that riddles were popular when I was a kid, mostly found in comics by that time and pretty simple too - "When is a door not a door?" and that kind of thing.

But perhaps Tolkien was also thinking about the
Anglo-Saxon tradition of riddles when he wrote this.


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



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Aug 14 2012, 12:04pm)


dormouse
Half-elven


Aug 15 2012, 2:33pm

Post #6 of 7 (191 views)
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A. Doesn’t the phrase “old Gollum” convey a kind of folksiness to the character?
I suppose... It could almost have a note of affection in it 'dear old so-and-so'. But I think it also has to do with that sense that Bilbo is moving through landscapes and places with their own long history.
B. Is slimy metaphorical or literal here?
Both. At least, not slimy of its own nature, like a fish or slug, but slimy because he lives in a dark, damp environment and it clings to his skin.
I. Or not … what do you think?
I think Tolkien is giving Gollum a very definite accent here, and more than likely representing the accent he used when he told the story out loud. Gollum is Welsh - hence the sibilance with all those 'sssss's and the speech rhythms. I don't see 'choice' and 'tasty' as in any way cute. Those are expressions that were used about food - not so much now, maybe, but then - and they work for Gollum because again they have that 's' sound which makes the Welsh accent.
L. Would a more modern Gollum call himself “babe”?
Only if he wasn't Welsh! ;-)

On riddles - I can remember playing with riddles a lot as a kid - including some of the ones Bilbo and Gollum use, or something very like them, and riddles came up in school books and children's poetry books and magazines. But mostly it was just riddles for their own sake, as word games, not the folklore ritual of having to answer a set number of riddles to win your way past an obstacle.





(This post was edited by dormouse on Aug 15 2012, 2:36pm)


sador
Half-elven


Aug 19 2012, 4:13pm

Post #7 of 7 (247 views)
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A. Doesn’t the phrase “old Gollum” convey a kind of folksiness to the character?
Yes. But later we learn that he is really old.

B. Is slimy metaphorical or literal here?
Didn't Aragorn describe him as "covered in green slime" when he caught him? You have a better case in ignoring this than in denying balrog's wings, IMO.


C. Does this mean he has what we would call black skin (or deep brown, whatever)?
That's what I assume. As did Bakshi and Jackson. But in LotR he is described as pale.

D. Again, is Tolkien being metaphorical or literal here?
There doesn't seem to be any extranous source of light.

E. What other meat does Gollum like?
Raw.


F. What do you think?
Well, of course he does. As you've pointed out.

G. Why doesn’t the Great Goblin, who seems like a rather responsible monarch, show more curiosity, or guts, in solving this mystery?
Good question!
I also wonder - had Gandalf not rescued the Dwarves and Bilbo so flamboyantly, would the Great Goblin have made bilbo a slave, and sent him off to fish? Maybe he was destined to find the Ring no matter what.

H. How does he do that? This place has no light whatsoever.
That's he's no goblin? Smell. "see" is metaphorical.

I. Or not … what do you think?
I like your UUT that this recalls baptism - although I doubt that Tolkien would have meant that.
And yes, Gollum is cute - which to me makes him more terrifying.

J. Who exactly gave him that name?
His grandmother, or his funny friends with whom he played riddles over the long years.

And does Bilbo really jump to the conclusion that this thing is “named” Gollum, even though the thing never calls himself that?
Okay. Maybe this is just the name Bilbo gave him, and the 'good folk' used after him?

K. Did Tolkien consider having this guy self-refer as “my dear”, “my sweet”, or “my goodness”, which are near-equivalents?
I don't think "my goodness" is slf-refering. And "precious" sounds more like a spoiled brat - which might be just what he originally was.

The latter is even more ironical, and also has the same ‘-ss’ ending allowing for the lisping gag.
But the "dn"in the middle makes it harsh, while "precious" glides softly.

L. Would a more modern Gollum call himself “babe”?
Oy.
I hope not.

M. Is this particularly plausible to you? Because, given the particularly shaky calorie pyramid that Gollum sits at the top of, it isn’t to me.
Unlike the trolls, he had no means of preserving meat.
And after all, fish are plentiful.
And anyway, a long conversation is a good way to build up an appetite.

N. Isn’t it classic Bilbo to give his full name as a dignified introduction, even in the absurd and panicked situation he is in?
Yes. Very comic. And formalities do gain time - as Thorin tried to do just in the previous chapter.
But one wonders, in such a case - how did he learn not to give his true name to Smaug? Or was the "Thief! Baggins! We hates it!" at the end of this chapter a rude awakening?

Is Gandalf being fair?
Is he ever?

O. Is this over-the-top coy writing?
Once again, buying time. Also, he wasn't sure Bilbo quite knew what the sword was, and how to use it; knowing your sword's lineage indicates that you know something about it. (Quite wrongly in bilbo's case, but how would Gollum know that?)

P. Was it the information that, yes, it is a sword – or the information that it came from Gondolin – that changes Gollum’s approach?
The fact that Bilbo knows it.

Q. Are you enjoying Tolkien’s mix of quiet comedy and comfy adventure?
I'm not sure the third is quite a gag - as I've written before, this is a way to whet an appetite.

But yes, i enjoy Tolkien's writing very much.

How does he achieve the balance – what are his methods?
Had I known, I might have tried my own hand at this!

R. Does this description remind you more of a kind of slimy Wind in the Willows setting, with Gollum, Moley, Frog and Badger, rather than some riverine Shire as was later retrofitted onto this story?
Now that you say so, it does.
And it also fits well with the world of Watership Down.

S. Is “pity staying his hand”, so that Bilbo doesn’t just stab Gollum now – after hearing the creature’s opening words be a guess whether he’d be a “feast” or a “morsel”?
Fear is. After all, Bilbo never has used the sword.

T. Is it a common game among English children in Tolkien’s time? I certainly never had heard of anyone playing it when I was a kid in the U.S. in the 1960s and was hearing this story for the first time.
I suppose it belong more to the mediaeaval tradition.



"This chapter seems to be full of movement—slowly and deliberately (then less so) down hills; scrambling up trees-- then up, up, and away into the Eagles’ eyrie; and down, down back to the ground.
Flora, fauna, food, fear, and flight are featured..."
- batik



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