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?
That was a narrow one! I must quote here Darkstone, from our previous discussion:
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 is a neat idea! But I have my misgivings, based on Queer Lodgings:
"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."
No goblins died, and neither did the chief wolf.
"…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."
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:
"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.
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):
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.
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:
Although it does speak of eagles in general, and says the best were those of the mountains.
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.
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:
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?
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."
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?
So finally the plans are laid, and our heroes settle down for a much-needed supper:
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..."
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!