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**Out of the Frying Pan...** Part IV - "Ordinary wolves, hunting for food in the wilderness"


Aug 16 2012, 3:04pm

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**Out of the Frying Pan...** Part IV - "Ordinary wolves, hunting for food in the wilderness" Can't Post

After what seemed ages further they came suddenly to an opening where no trees grew. The moon was up and was shining into the clearing. Somehow it struck all of them as not at all a nice place, although there was nothing wrong to see.

1. Spooky, isn't it? What scene/s in The Lord of the Rings does it recall?

Well, this feeling is completely justified: this is a meeting-place of wolves, howling at the moon.
2. The very moon Gandalf considered to be lucky! Was he proven wrong? Shouldn't he have expected it?

Even Bilbo recognizes the wolves' voice – because of the imitations by a cousin he has heard (now how likely is that?). He even realizes that a magic ring won't save him from there keen sense of smell – he is in deep trouble.

"What shall we do, what shall we do!" he cried. "Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!" he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say 'out of the frying-pan into the fire' in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.

1. As I have once showed, this coining of phrases was actually a trait of Bungo Baggins. Any comments on this elusive character? Does this show that he was not so prosy himself – or are this kind of common-sense nuggets the hallmark of the smug burgeouis?
2. Is there any significance that the wolves remind Bilbo of a Tookish cousin – and he takes refuge in a Baggins-like reaction?
3. Put yourself in the shoes of a translator to a different language. How do you translate such a parable? Literally – or would you chose a parable with the same meaning as "Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves"? In the Hebrew version my son has, the translator used a phrase which means "out of the pitfall into the pit" – quite a nice pun in itself!


'Then let us start as soon as it is light tomorrow, if we can,' said Boromir. 'The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears.'
'True!' said Aragorn, loosening his sword in its sheath. 'But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.'

- A Journey in the Dark

4. What is it in wolves that brings the poetry out of Tolkien?
A last note on this section: even Homer sometimes nods. Even JRRT: in The Ring Goes South, we find the following passage, which contradicts this one:


Except on the high moors of the Northfarthing a heavy fall was rare in the Shire, and was regarded as a pleasant event and a chance for fun. No living hobbit (save Bilbo) could remember the Fell Winter of 1311, when the white wolves invaded the Shire over the frozen Brandywine.

Oops. Unless the wolves somehow stopped at Frogmorton for a few beers in The Floating Log, and went no further West.
So they run to the trees! And surprisingly enough, dwarves can climb pretty well – even Bombur. However, Bilbo cannot.
It is Nori who notices this, and promptly nudges someone else to help Bilbo – Dori. The latter resents being the burglar's porter, but after a command of Thorin's, even goes down and lets Bilbo scramble up his back before jumping up at the trees! Truly a hero!
5. But if he was so agile – and, as we will learn in two chapters' time, the strongest – how come he was the lowest down? Did he help the others up?
6. I love how Thorin asserts his leadership, and provides for, um, Gandalf's darling (per The Quest of Erebor). But what about the wizard himself? Isn't this the second time he leaves Bilbo for his fate, trusting Dori to take care of him?
Another thing I must mention – the way Tolkien laughs at the dwarves… and then takes a side-snipe at the reader:

You would have laughed (from a safe distance), if you had seen the dwarves sitting up in the trees with their beards dangling down, like old gentlemen gone cracked and playing at being boys… And Bilbo? He could not get into any tree, and was scuttling about from trunk to trunk, like a rabbit that has lost its hole and has a dog after it.


Ah, and the rabbit simile again. No matter how stoutly Tolkien denied the connection, it always crops up. More of that in a later thread.

From his vantage position of the tallest tree, Gandalf eavesdrops on the Wargs' talk. Yes, unlike trolls, goblins, eagles or spiders, wargs have their own speech (as do thrushes). Why?
He gains the following information:
· The wargs are in league with the goblins.
· However, recently woodmen have been moving up North and settling the forests.
· The goblins and wargs are planning a raid this very night.
· The wargs think the dwarves are spies of the woodmen.
· The goblins are late, but are coming here!
As Gandalf realizes the trees will not help against goblins, he tries to drive the wargs away by lighting pine cones and throwing them at the wolves. He does not succeed, but we are treated to the following fun description:


Then he set one alight with bright blue fire, and threw it whizzing down among the circle of the wolves. It struck one on the back, and immediately his shaggy coat caught fire, and he was leaping to and fro yelping horribly. Then another came and another, one in blue flames, one in red, another in green. They burst on the ground in the middle of the circle and went off in coloured sparks and smoke. A specially large one hit the chief wolf on the nose, and he leaped in the air ten feet, and then rushed round and round the circle biting and snapping even at the other wolves in his anger and fright.

7. Such fun! But if the chief wolf can leap ten feet in the air – couldn't he reach the trees?
8. What do you think of the woodmen? Who are they, and were do they come from? Why? Are they the same as the Beornings mentioned in The Lord of the Rings?
I'll finish with the questions connected to Tolkien's letters:
In a letter to his son Michael, JRR Tolkien commented:


Though the episode of the 'wargs' (I believe) is in part derived from a scene in S.R. Crockett's The Black Douglas, probably his best romance and anyone one that deeply impressed me in school-days, though I have never looked at it again. It includes Gil de Rez as a Satanist.

- Letter 306 (where, by the way, Tolkien relates his 1911 visit to Switzerland, describing among others an incident which inspired him for the glissade scene I asked about in the previous thread). This scene is reprinted by Anderson (pages 149-151).
9. Do you recognize any other similar scene? I think specifically of Henry's desperate fight in the third chapters of White Fang.

In The Road to Middle-Earth, Prof. Shippey comments the word warg derives from the Old English wearg, meaning both a wolf and an outlaw. This is borne out by a letter by Tolkien to Gene Wolfe, which also suggests an etymology of the word orc, saying the matter is too complicated to explain in a letter.
But don't these words sound similar? Several months ago, I suggested the words might be similar, citing the Russian urka. But more disturbing, the Old Norse word for 'dwarf' is dvergr, and the German zwerg – which also sound familiar!
10. Coincidence?
Do you have any other comments, insights or question regarding this section?
Next time will see expected and unexpected reinforcements arriving.

"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

The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for a somewhat less clever discussion of Out of the Frying Pan-into the Fire!

Subject User Time
**Out of the Frying Pan...** Part IV - "Ordinary wolves, hunting for food in the wilderness" sador Send a private message to sador Aug 16 2012, 3:04pm
    It's open. Too open. dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Aug 27 2012, 1:22am
        Yes, I got the reference sador Send a private message to sador Aug 27 2012, 8:59am


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