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**Out of the Frying Pan...** Part V - "Those as can't fly can jump!"

sador
Half-elven


Aug 17 2012, 12:17pm

Post #1 of 7 (537 views)
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**Out of the Frying Pan...** Part V - "Those as can't fly can jump!" Can't Post


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"What's all this uproar in the forest tonight?" said the Lord of the Eagles. He was sitting, black in the moonlight, on the top of a lonely pinnacle of rock at the eastern edge of the mountains. "I hear wolves' voices! Are the goblins at mischief in the woods?"


With this begins one of the few digressions, in which the book leaves Bilbo's shoulder: Thorin's confrontation with the Elvenking, Smaug's dream and boast to himself before flying to Esgaroth, and of course the whole chapter Fire and Water – have I left out anything?
The first thing we learn of the Lord of the Eagles is that he is black. This is followed by his having guards, and the whole species having keen eyes and smell, that they don't like goblins, but know the goblins are in league with the wargs.
1. A Black_Eagle? A Crowned_Eagle would seem more likely. Or is this just a description of his silhouette as it appears – somewhat similar to squire's question regarding Gollum?
2. Is there any point in identifying these Eagles with any real-world birds? After all, the largest known bird of prey is the condor, which weighs about one-fifth of a man's weight. No such bird could carry a hobbit far!

It stands to reason that rather than an actual bird, this should be a symbolic one – mythical, or even religious. Rateliff, in pages 219-224 has a long discussion about eagles in Tolkien, among which he mentions Letter 309, in which Tolkien refer to John the Evangelist as his patron saint; as Rateliff points out, in Christian iconography the eagle is John's emblem.
However, this iconography is based on Ezekiel ch. 1; and as I've once pointed_out, the bird in the Bible is a different one – the Old_World_vulture, a larger bird, with no real sense of smell. Which in Tolkien has a different connotation altogether:

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And as they stood they saw all the Nazgul gathered togother, hovering above he Towers of Teeth like vultures.


- The Black Gate Opens.

3. Was Tolkien aware of the different connotations? After all, the etymology is clear – the Hebrew word for eagle derives from "eye" – a reference to their great sight, and that of vulture from its bald head. Did he not know Hebrew well enough – or did he ignore philology in this case, preferring to keep the Christian tradition?
However, the description of the eagles has some hitches in it, which would better be postponed to the next thread.
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The lord of the eagles… could see the glint of the moon on goblin spears and helmets, as long lines of the wicked folk crept down the hillsides from their gate and wound into the wood.


Hey! Here come the wicked folk! There is no sun to make them wobbly and giddy, so they creep down to the dell – not even looking for the dwarves; after all, the glissade before was quite effective in covering both their trail and their scent.
In the meantime, a forest-fire is taking place – enough to roast alive several hundred wolves (note how this was foreshadowed in the gruesome analogy in Over Hill and Under Hill which Curious_G complained about), and fifteen birds in five fir-trees.
4. Was Gandalf's idea of throwing fireballs successful? Even had the wargs fled, how would the dwarves escape? Should we rationalize it as an attempt to attract the attention of the eagles, or does this destroy the story? Or was this another miscalculation of the wizard's?


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Then suddenly goblins came running up yelling. They thought a battle with the woodmen was going on; but they goon learned what had really happened. Some of them actually sat down and laughed. Others waved their spears and clashed the shafts against their shields. Goblins are not afraid of fire, and they soon had a plan which seemed to them most amusing.


5. What do you think of the goblins' reaction? Some laugh at their allies' plight, others seem to challenge and threaten (from a safe distance) Gandalf and the Dwarves, and then they find an amusing plan. What kind of behavior does this remind you of?

Well, if they are laughing, it seems that the wargs will eventually have their revenge:

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'Grevious is the fall of your men; but you shall see that at least the wolves of the mountains do not devour them. it is with their friends, the Orcs, that they hold their feast: such indeed is the friendship of their kind.'


- Gandalf to Théoden, The Road to Isengard.

6. Any comments? On the "poetic justice", on the friendship of the kind? Or on Gandalf's heightened language, and the stylistic difference between the two books?
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The goblins turn out to be responsible fellows: first they put out anything which might become a wildfire, while others calm the wolves, and others feed the fire next to the trees in which the dwarves are. Then they taunt the dwarves, dancing and singing.
The first song is pretty well known:


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Fifteen birds in five firtrees,
their feathers were fanned in a fiery breeze!
But, funny little birds, they had no wings!
O what shall we do with the funny little things?
Roast 'em alive, or stew them in a pot,
fry them, boil them and eat them hot?



7. Roasting, stewing, frying and boiling. That's after the trolls considered making a pie of them, slowly roasting them for later, mincing and boiling, and making a jelly out of them. Isn't this a bit too much for a children's book? Or should we be thankful that Bilbo was spared broiling, pickling, stewing and being made sausages of!


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"Go away! little boys!" shouted Gandalf in answer. "It isn't bird-nesting time. Also naughty little boys that play with fire get punished." He said it to make them angry, and to show them he was not frightened of them-though of course he was, wizard though he was.


Commenting on The Hobbit, the author Arthur Ransome took issue with the describing of the goblins as 'naughty boys'. Tolkien (Letters no. 20) agreed the phrase was regrettable, and suggested oaves would be a better word (the plural form would fit well with elves and dwarves). However, in further editions he did not correct it.


8. What do you think of Ransome's criticism? Of Tolkien's reply? Would oaves really work better?
9. Comparing to the description I quoted in the previous post: "You would have laughed 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" – isn't the 'boys' motif quite striking here? What do you make of it?

Ignoring Gandalf, the goblins begin a second song:


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Burn, burn tree and fern!
Shrivel and scorch! A fizzling torch
To light the night for our delight,
Ya hey!

Bake and toast 'em, fry and roast 'em
till beards blaze, and eyes glaze;
till hair smells and skins crack,
fat melts, and bones black
in cinders lie
beneath the sky!
So dwarves shall die,
and light the night for our delight,
Ya hey!
Ya-harri-hey!
Ya hoy"


This is a bit more complicated. Perhaps it took the goblins longer to make it up. And they've added baking to the mix!


10. What do you think of the goblins' songs? Consider also Clap! Snap! from Over Hill and Under Hill. How do the three compare to each other? Which do you like best? Why?

I must point out that in The Choices of Master Samwise, the orcs' 'harsh singing' is mentioned, as well as the exclamation ' Ya harri hoy!'; and in the third edition of The Road to Middle-earth, prof. Shippey calls them 'great jokers' (ch. V, note 14). These are the "infantry of the old war" (Shippey again; I think this is based on something Tolkien himself said, but can't find a reference).


11. Are the goblins in The Hobbit essentially different from the orcs in The Lord of the Rings? Or did the naughty boys of this chapter grow up to become the mindless rank-and-file of the Dark Lord's war?

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Then Gandalf climbed to the top of his tree. The sudden splendour flashed from his wand like lightning, as he got ready to spring down from on high right among the spears of the goblins. That would have been the end of him, though he would probably have killed many of them as he came hurtling down like a thunderbolt. But he never leaped.

Just at that moment the Lord of the Eagles swept down from above, seized him in his talons, and was gone.


The following paragraph describes the rage of the wargs and goblins, and the eagles' attacking them and picking up the other dwarves. But I want to stop with this last image.


12. In the nick of time indeed! Is this another case of the extraordinary luck which follows Bilbo, Gandalf et. al.? Is Gandalf a widow's son (see the first chapter)? Is Bilbo? Or was it the "sudden splendour" coming from the top of Gandalf's tree that gave the Lord of the Eagles the cue as to where he was?
13. And a last thing – the despair of Gandalf, as well as his fear of the goblins mentioned earlier, seem to be out of line with the wise Mithrandir (or Olórin!) of the subsequent books. Are they so indeed? What would have the 'upgraded' Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings done? What will Jackson's do?

"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!


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Aug 17 2012, 10:40pm

Post #2 of 7 (222 views)
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Answers and some more questions [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, everyone knows the song,

1. Must be a very strong silhouette
2 Eagles of middle-earth are very powerful birds. After all they can carry Dwarves, Gandalf a few times, Elves in desperate trouble. They'd be good in the Eagle olympics. Are there any examples of Eagles carrying mortal man?
3. Eye,eye. An all seeing eye. Reminds me of something.
4 Hanging around with Gandalf is dangerous. Still is been roasted by a fireball worst than been roasted by a Gobins pot?
5. Good point. Initially the Goblins do little more than just laugh at others misfortune. But when the more experience ones arrive they put the more general nastiness to a bigger picture. Always pays to see thic bigger picture.
6 Can't think of any though I'm sure some sort of poetic message is been transmitted. Despite Tolkiens denials
7 Well, no wonder people like me grow up with a slightly odd view of life and art.
8 No
9 Again, maybe the older and wiser,mor more evil Goblins are taking charge. Actually this reminds me a bit of Mordor where some of the Orcs were been driven unwilling to the Wars, others revealed in it. Who were the more evil?
10 I'd rather not
11 I think they were slightly different breeds and more independent perhaps. After all in Lotr the Orcs mostly died and gave up life simply because Sauron was vanquished but these ones seemed not too. After all, even after the Necroamcer was defeated they were still able to muster an army large enough to almost capture the lonely mountain. Oh, and tactically these Goblins could do something which the soldier orcs of Mordor and in particular the Uruks seemed to have problems doing. Anyone guess what it was?
12. Yes, indeed. Of course, I Might suggest that maybe Gandalf did see Radagast, maybe at Rivendell, and Radagast managed to put out a message to the Eagles his friends to look out for the party, and perhaps this should be included in the movies, but as not many seem to like my movie suggestions I won't
13 Well, I'm not sure of what other plan Gandalf had in mind. A bit like the Balrog of Moria perhaps?


In Reply To


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 19 2012, 6:48pm

Post #3 of 7 (179 views)
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About the eagles [In reply to] Can't Post

1. A Black_Eagle? A Crowned_Eagle would seem more likely. Or is this just a description of his silhouette as it appears – somewhat similar to squire's question regarding Gollum?

Yes, a silhouette, I think. Or at the very least, it's the moonlight that makes him appear black - "black in the moonlight" is what we're told. I'm inclined to imagine a Golden Eagle - and it appears from the photo here that they have a lot of black in their coloration as well.

2. Is there any point in identifying these Eagles with any real-world birds? After all, the largest known bird of prey is the condor, which weighs about one-fifth of a man's weight. No such bird could carry a hobbit far!

Just to be awkward, I have to point out that Middle-earth is the real world - our world, although seen from a mythic perspective. So no scientific identification can probably be made, since this wasn't how people thought at the time. However, "real-world" eagles can indeed carry much greater weights than you might think - this video shows an eagle carrying off a sheep. One comment below the video claims that the golden eagle can carry up to 70 pounds, although I've no idea if this is accurate. But enough, you'd think, to carry a hobbit.


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It stands to reason that rather than an actual bird, this should be a symbolic one – mythical, or even religious.

The eagles may become a religious symbol at the end of LotR, but I don't think they are here. The eagle has always been a powerful symbolic image, which is perhaps why it was given to John the Evangelist, along with three other Biblical symbols for the other evangelists. But I would think most people would think of the eagle first and foremost as a military symbol of the Roman army. British children tend to know some Roman stories (it's part of British history, after all), so even young readers might make this connection.

3. Was Tolkien aware of the different connotations? After all, the etymology is clear – the Hebrew word for eagle derives from "eye" – a reference to their great sight, and that of vulture from its bald head. Did he not know Hebrew well enough – or did he ignore philology in this case, preferring to keep the Christian tradition?

Thanks for the explanation of the Hebrew meanings - it's interesting to see how translations change the way we interpret things. I doubt whether Tolkien was thinking of the Hebrew meaning of the beast in Ezekiel at all, since the medieval Christian symbolism of the Eagle for John, depicted as such and not as a vulture in illustrated manuscripts, would have been his point of reference. And anyway, at least in The Hobbit, I don't think John really comes into it. The eagles aren't sacred, they are just a very powerful military force, as far as we can see. The Roman connection seems more appropriate to me.


(Sorry I don't have time to answer more of this post, or any of the other interesting questions you and squire have been raising. Just finding the time to read, let alone write an answer, is a challenge for me at the moment!)


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



Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Aug 19 2012, 7:12pm

Post #4 of 7 (248 views)
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New Zealand's Haast's Eagle [In reply to] Can't Post

The largest of all of the eagles was the extinct Haast's Eagle of New Zealand. Their primary prey was the large, flightless moa.


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Haast's Eagles were the largest known true raptors, slightly larger even than the largest living vultures. Female eagles are significantly larger than males. Females of the Haast species are believed to have weighed 10–15 kg (22–33 lb) and males 9–12 kg (20–26 lb). They had a relatively short wingspan, measuring roughly 2.6–3 m (8 ft 6 in–9 ft 10 in). This wingspan is similar to that of some extant eagles (the wingspan now reported in large specimens of Golden Eagles and Steller's Sea Eagles). Even the largest extant eagles, however, are about forty percent smaller in body size than the size of Haast's Eagles.



Link

"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." - Aragorn


sador
Half-elven


Aug 23 2012, 9:53am

Post #5 of 7 (148 views)
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Answering your questions [In reply to] Can't Post

2 Eagles of middle-earth are very powerful birds. After all they can carry Dwarves, Gandalf a few times, Elves in desperate trouble. They'd be good in the Eagle olympics. Are there any examples of Eagles carrying mortal man?
You mean Tolkien's Eagles? Hurin and Huor to Gondolin, Beren after he flees from Angband..


4 Hanging around with Gandalf is dangerous. Still is been roasted by a fireball worst than been roasted by a Gobins pot?
Never tried either. Don't want to.


9 Actually this reminds me a bit of Mordor where some of the Orcs were been driven unwilling to the Wars, others revealed in it. Who were the more evil?
Well, this seems to be a case of cowardice rather than moral compunction, so I won't give poor li'l Snaga the benefit of it.


11 Oh, and tactically these Goblins could do something which the soldier orcs of Mordor and in particular the Uruks seemed to have problems doing. Anyone guess what it was?
Riding wargs?


Well, Saruman did deploy wolfriders against Rohan. But perhaps they weren't ridden by Uruks.

12. Yes, indeed. Of course, I Might suggest that maybe Gandalf did see Radagast, maybe at Rivendell, and Radagast managed to put out a message to the Eagles his friends to look out for the party, and perhaps this should be included in the movies, but as not many seem to like my movie suggestions I won't
This actually seems not unlikely, based on the little I know of the adaption.

But you're right: they will need to do it really well for me to like it.

13 Well, I'm not sure of what other plan Gandalf had in mind. A bit like the Balrog of Moria perhaps?
According to the book, this seems to be a kamikaze mission.

"In the morning Bilbo misses breakfast. – is this the most unbelievable part of this chapter?"
- Elven



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for a somewhat less clever discussion of Queer Lodgings!


sador
Half-elven


Aug 23 2012, 10:12am

Post #6 of 7 (141 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

This video might be even more relevant to our topic. Scary stuff!

Yes, a Golden Eagle seems correct, as in Tolkien's own illustration "Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes" (Reproduced by Anderson; when I last looked, a few images floated around the web, but I doubt that the were legal).


I am not sure the eagles were not a religious symbol for Tolkien. In the 1926 Sketch of the Mythology he already paints the Eagles in glowing colours, as being made especially by Manwe and directly connected to him. Which makes the more sinsiter references to them all the more puzzling.

"In the morning Bilbo misses breakfast. – is this the most unbelievable part of this chapter?"
- Elven



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for a somewhat less clever discussion of Queer Lodgings!


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Aug 23 2012, 10:47pm

Post #7 of 7 (348 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought of Hurin and Huor almost just after I posted the post! And, yes, the Uruks couldn't seem to ride Wargs. Or at least the Wolves of Saruman didn't seem to be at either the capture of Merry and Pippin, Wolves might have just made it that more difficult for Eomer and his boys or at Helms deep as far as I can make out. Maybe the breed of Sarumans wolves were not as good as travelling as those of the wild north.

 
 

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