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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**Out of the Frying Pan...** Part VI - 'Sheer cliffs, knife-edged against the sky far above'

sador
Half-elven


Aug 19 2012, 1:06pm

Post #1 of 6 (599 views)
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**Out of the Frying Pan...** Part VI - 'Sheer cliffs, knife-edged against the sky far above' Can't Post


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Poor little Bilbo was very nearly left behind again! He just managed to catch hold of Dori's legs, as Dori was borne off last of all; and they went together above the tumult and the burning, Bilbo swinging in the air with his arms nearly breaking.



1. Now why am I not surprised? However, this does perhaps indicate a growth in Bilbo's initiative. In the two previous times he was saved by Dori – once was Dori's pure initiative, and the other was Thorin's command (although Dori did distinguish himself even there, climbing down the tree above and beyond the call of duty). Here, Bilbo is the one who grabs Dori's feet. Is this significant?


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Now far below the goblins and the wolves were scattering far and wide in the woods... The flames about the trees sprang suddenly up above the highest branches. They went up in crackling fire. There was a sudden flurry of sparks and smoke. Bilbo had escaped only just in time!


That was a narrow one! I must quote here Darkstone, from our previous discussion:


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"Tolkien knows his forest fires! The just described ignition of a crown fire probably dooms all the goblins and wargs in the area. There’s no way they’re going to put that out and it’s going to spread like, er, wildfire."


That is a neat idea! But I have my misgivings, based on Queer Lodgings:


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"…the goblin patrols were still hunting with Wargs for the dwarves, and they were fiercely angry because of the death of the Great Goblin, and also because of the burning of the chief wolf's nose and death from the wizard's fire of many of his chief servants."


No goblins died, and neither did the chief wolf.


2. Darkstone surely knows his forest fires, but does Tolkien? Or did the eminently efficient goblins manage to control this new disaster, like they kept Gandalf's fire under check?

So Bilbo gets his unforgettable flight, moaning about his aching arms, while Dori groans about his poor legs. We are treated to Bilbo's long dislike of heights (which he will recover from soon enough), and to a brilliant description of the mountains.

This scene has been a favourite of fan-artists: the last one I've seen is by our own terrymerry.


3. Do you have any favourite image/s? Post them, please!

Tolkien really loved the Eagles and their eyrie – three eagles silhouetted against the sky appear in the original dustjacket, a drawing named "The Misty Mountains looking West from the Eyrie towards Goblin Gate" is printed even in my Houghton-Mifflin edition, and the 1938 American edition also had a picture titled "Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes", which is also reproduced in colour in several books; however, I haven't seen any picture by him of the actual rescue, which captured the imagination of so many others.


4. Why did he not? Or if he did, why isn't the hypothetical picture more widely known? Going by the book, Tolkien clearly imagined this scene vividly. Or is this a general tendency of his to prefer landscapes, or still scenes? Did he feel less confident in painting dynamic scenes? (compare to Leaf by Niggle).

I haven't yet bought the recently-published The Art of the Hobbit by Hammond and Scull; I would greatly appreciate any input by those who have.

At last Bilbo lets go – of course, at the very moment they reached the eagle's eyrie. Feeling queer in his head, he makes a silly comment:


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"Now I know what a piece of bacon feels like when it is suddenly picked out of the pan on a fork and put back on the shelf!"
"No you don't!" be heard Dori answering, "because the bacon knows that it will get back in the pan sooner or later; and it is to be hoped we shan't. Also eagles aren't forks!"
"O no! Not a bit like storks-forks, I mean," said Bilbo sitting up and looking anxiously at the eagle who was perched close by. He wondered what other nonsense he had been saying, and if the eagle would think it rude. You ought not to be rude to an eagle, when you are only the size of a hobbit, and are up in his eyrie at night!



5. Do you know this feeling, of saying stupid things in the most inappropriate time?
6. What do you think of this series of word-play (to which I would add Bilbo's moaning while Dori is graoning)? What effect does it have on the reader?
7. A last thing – what do you think of Dori's character so far? here is my take, if any are interested.

Bilbo has a further alarm, when he is carried as a 'prisoner' to the Great Shelf; but that turns out to be okay: the eagle summoning him actually meant 'prisoners rescued from the goblins', not that he was a captive or anything; but he does have another fright of being eaten.

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Fortunately, it turns out that the Great Eagle is a friend of Gandalf, and will carry them far from the Mountains to somewhere else, which is safer. This device is repeated in The Lord of the Rings, to an extent that Tolkien called the eagles "a dangerous 'machine'" (Letter 210). It is bound to be seen as a continous alliance between Gandalf and the Eagles, especially after reading Of Aulë and Yavanna in The Silmarillion, and the essay on the Istari in Unfinished Tales, which connect both to Manwë.

This led to the natural conclusion that the Great Eagle is no other than Gwaihir the Windlord. However, Douglas Anderson rebutted this by stating (note 2 to ch. 7, page 162):


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Some Tolkien commentators, including Robert Foster in his Complete Guide to Middle-earth, have been tempted to equate the Lord of the Eagles… with Gwaihir the Windlord… However, this cannot be the case, for in… The Field of Cormallen, Gandalf says to Gwaihir: 'Twice you have borne me, Gwaihir my friend'. The two previous times were demonstratably Gandalf's escape from Orthanc and when Gwaihir bore Gandalf to Lorien.


Before discussing this assertion, I must exult a bit: here we see one of the most respected and serious scholars of Tolkien, bringing this type of proof which one expects to find on a message-board! It is wonderful to find out that even the most eminent scholars, are fans after all. Smile

But as a fan, I must disagree: Gandalf's statement in The White Rider "Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need," I said" indicates this was not only the second time he was carried. Had I really felt the need to give a story-internal explanation, I would have suggested that this was the third time Gwaihir carried Gandalf the White, upon whose weightlessness he has commented (in his answer to Gandalf's statement above); a second time might have been when Gandalf got somehow to the midst of Fangorn. This is actually stated in The Treason of Isengard p. 396, although Christopher Tolkine thinks the concept was later abandoned (ibid. 427).

Anyway, one need not go there: if Gwaihir was in Middle-earth far longer than Gandalf (in the 1937 Silmarillion, Tolkien named him one of the eagles which rescued Beren and Lúthien), and they were old friends, Gandalf might have just been referring to twice in the recent past.


8. What do you think?

A different tack was suggested by dernwyn, who thought that Gwaihir was probably not the Lord of the Eagles, but one of his subordinates (the whole thread there revolves around 'the eagle question' and is very interesting).


9. Really? This idea took me by surprise back then, and I still disagree. Do you?


Another objection was raised by Voronwë_the_Faithful, who felt that the eagles in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion were too remote and holy to be the same as those described in The Hobbit (here).
Well, it is true that this description is a bit undignified:

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Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted. They did not love goblins, or fear them. When they took any notice of them at all (which was seldom, for they did not eat such creatures), they swooped on them and drove them shrieking back to their caves, and stopped whatever wickedness they were doing. The goblins hated the eagles and feared them, but could not reach their lofty seats, or drive them from the mountains.

Although it does speak of eagles in general, and says the best were those of the mountains.
10. Comments?

This goes back to The fall of Gondolin. While in The Silmarillion, Thorondor states that if not for the Eagles' vigilance, Gondolin would have been long discovered (the Ruin of Doriath), it is odd that Turgon gets no forewarning of Morgoth's army. I can only guess that at first the eagles were perceived as neutrals, interefering only when the refugees were attacked next to their very eyries in Cristhorn. However, as early as The Theft of Melko (also in the Book of Lost Tales) they are considered to be foes of the Evil One. But the description of the assault was never amended.
I guess the eagles here reflect the early eagles, before they became special creatures of Manwë. Now this connection was made in the earliest sketches of the Mythology; but I suspect something of their old rôle remained.
However, this quote does seem weird:


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The Lord of the Eagles would not take them anywhere near where men lived. "They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew," he said, "for they would think we were after their sheep. And at other times they would be right. No! we are glad to cheat the goblins of their sport, and glad to repay our thanks to you, but we will not risk ourselves for dwarves in the southward plains."


It's interesting that the eagles would be afraid of traditional longbows, and also that they would live upon stealing sheep from Men. I wonder what Beorn thinks of them! And in the drafts, the Lord of Eagles says more – that they would normally be after the Men's sheep or babies (Rateliff p. 210)! Ewww. That puts them on par with Gollum, doesn't it?


11. Let's be thankful that Tolkien thought better of this! But how could he even consider it? Or was Manwë eager for a Ganymede?

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So finally the plans are laid, and our heroes settle down for a much-needed supper:


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The dwarves managed all the preparations. Bilbo was too weak to help, and anyway he was not much good at skinning rabbits or cutting up meat, being used to having it delivered by the butcher all ready to cook. Gandalf, too, was lying down after doing his part in setting the fire going, since Oin and Gloin had lost their tinder-boxes. (Dwarves have never taken to matches even yet.)



12. Another reminder of Bilbo being a child of the Kindly West! Any other comments on the different worlds Bilbo and the dwarves inhabit?
Or any other comments on this part of the chapter?

The next thread will be rather shorter, and the last one.





"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!


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 27 2012, 2:09am

Post #2 of 6 (275 views)
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That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I do still believe that this Lord of the Eagles and Gwaihir are not the same. Smile

And I've no problem with them stealing sheep - they do have to eat! But I doubt they ever stole any of Beorn's sheep!

As for the original including "babies"...it seems like Tolkien re-used that, in his description of Gollum as a creature who "slipped through windows to find cradles".

Thrice pays for all! Poor Dori is getting the brunt of carrying, it would seem. Something bothers me about Bilbo having to grab Dori's legs for his rescue, and that is: were there only the 12 Eagles, or was Bilbo too hidden in the branches and missed by others? Why didn't Gandalf think to shout up to the Lord of the Eagles that there were 13 more who needed rescuing? This flying-by-the-leg-of-the-pants makes for an exciting story, but the logic of it confuses me! However, we are in Faerie here, and logic tends to shy from this place.

Thus also, the goblins and wargs escape the wildfire.

terrymerry's drawing is fantastic, isn't it? It does capture well the opening scene in the next chapter, when Bilbo and company are clinging to the backs of the Eagles, and not in their talons, as they circle down to Carrock.

"delivered by the butcher and ready to cook"! Oh, how genteel our Hobbit is! Dwarves probably have "butchers", those whose job it is to carve up meat, but I doubt their products would be eye-pleasing neatly-wrapped portions! Laugh


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

"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




sador
Half-elven


Aug 27 2012, 10:13am

Post #3 of 6 (275 views)
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Well, if Curious himself could not persuade you, [In reply to] Can't Post

what are the chances po' li'l me would?

I've long wondered about the fall of Gondolin - how was the city taken by surprise with the eagles around? And preparing this chapter, I've noted how the Eagles showing up at this moment are similar to the Eagles helping Tuor and the escapees only after the City fell.
So I looked in the pre-Hobbit texts to find out whether there is any hint of the less-than-holy Eagles in them, and realized that while The Fall of Gondolin was perhaps the first Middle-earth Tales Tolkien has written, the enmity of Melkor and Thorondor went very far back indeed, to The Theft of Melko (in which the Evil One's desire to learn the art of flying was a prime motive). However, long before Tolkien scribbled his famous line on the empty exam-page, the Eagles were already Manwe's special messengers.

But I wondered - might the less-than-exalted description of the Big Birds in The Hobbit actually rely on that very first Tale?


In Reply To
were there only the 12 Eagles, or was Bilbo too hidden in the branches and missed by others? Why didn't Gandalf think to shout up to the Lord of the Eagles that there were 13 more who needed rescuing?


There were more eagles, I think - some were attacking the goblins.


In Reply To
Thus also, the goblins and wargs escape the wildfire.


Okay. But this run contrary to Darkstone's comment.


In Reply To
terrymerry's drawing is fantastic, isn't it?

Yes!


In Reply To
Dwarves probably have "butchers", those whose job it is to carve up meat, but I doubt their products would be eye-pleasing neatly-wrapped portions!

I wouldn't be surprised if they did - dwarves were second to none in fashioning handy tools, and (from The Hobbit onwards) have a refined aesthetic sensibility.



Thank you for your responses - and for not letting any thread end up without any answers!

"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!

(This post was edited by sador on Aug 27 2012, 10:14am)


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 29 2012, 2:35am

Post #4 of 6 (247 views)
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Fly guys [In reply to] Can't Post

I think any problem with "less-than-exalted" Eagles in The Hobbit stems from that story not really being considered a true part of Tolkien's mythology when he first wrote it. I wonder how he would have rewritten this part, had he continued with the chore in the '60s.

Well, of course the escape of the wargs and goblins from the fire is contrary to Darkstone! He's dealing in reality, this is fantasy, and thank goodness for that!

I don't know about Dwarven aesthetics, they seem so "rough around the edges", yet their crafting skills are unparalleled. But somehow I can't imagine Mrs. Gloin asking her little Gimli to go to the butcher for a nice flank steak, while she heads to the baker's for a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns.

Angelic


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

"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




sador
Half-elven


Aug 29 2012, 7:00am

Post #5 of 6 (247 views)
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Maybe. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think any problem with "less-than-exalted" Eagles in The Hobbit stems from that story not really being considered a true part of Tolkien's mythology when he first wrote it. I wonder how he would have rewritten this part, had he continued with the chore in the '60s.


Tha Carpenter's approach, isn't it? It is supported by several letters of Tolkien himself. However, Rateliff argues otherwise - I'm not sure I am convinced by him. One wonders whether the throwaway references to Elrond and the Necromancer (mentioned already in The Lay of Leithan) are more systematic that Uin (a BoLT character) taking the dogs within sight of Elvenhome in Roverandom.

And personally, I was pretty unhappy with the 1960 rewrite, as far as it has gotten. I'm glad it wasn't continued.

"When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?"
- Dreamdeer



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


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 31 2012, 2:53am

Post #6 of 6 (422 views)
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I think that sentiment is universal. [In reply to] Can't Post

I know of no one who has read the re-write, that likes it.

I would, however, have liked to have seen how Tolkien treated various matters; I'm disappointed he stopped just before the tra-la-la-lally elves! Laugh


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

"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



 
 

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