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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
** Flies and Spiders: 1. "huge bats, black as a top-hat" **

N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 31 2012, 6:21am

Post #1 of 5 (574 views)
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** Flies and Spiders: 1. "huge bats, black as a top-hat" ** Can't Post

Bilbo and the dwarves find the forest gloomy and oppressive, and eerie at night, and after an unspecified period of travel, find that even their carefully rationed food and water are running low.

What makes the forest so gloomy?

Was Tolkien drawing on any experience in wooded wilderness?

How does Tolkien's portrayal of this forest compare to that in other works, by him or different authors?

Was C.S. Lewis influenced by the "quiet ... so deep" and "everlastingly still and ... stuffy" forest when creating the wood between the worlds in The Magicians' Nephew?

It seems to the expedition that "all the trees leaned over them and listened". Should this motif have been further developed?

"There were black squirrels in the wood." When shot, the squirrels taste awful. Is Tolkien's color symbolism in The Hobbit more or less interesting than in The Lord of the Rings?

For what purpose do the eyes in the night stare at the party?

How much water could the party possibly carry? Enough not to refill for more than a month, as seems to be implied by the text?

Are there top-hats in this proto-Middle-earth?

Isn't it contradictory for the forest that brings feelings of being "suffocated" to also have an "enormous uncanny darkness"?

Does the party stray even a little from the path, so narrow they must walk it in single file? They only get to taste squirrel after shooting one on the path, but do they all sleep on the trail itself?

Further thoughts on this section?

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titanium_hobbit
Rohan


Sep 1 2012, 12:38am

Post #2 of 5 (213 views)
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colour of animals [In reply to] Can't Post

I have not linked the colour of the squirrel and the taste! Interesting.

However, I took the bad taste to mean that squirrels just aren't good eating.

The colour: we know that animals are selected to have the colour of their environment (spotted deer matching dappled light) and so having black animals really emphasises how dark Mirkwood is.

RE the gloom: how old are those one breed logging forests (pine, usually) that you see along the road in Scotland, etc. Would Tolkien know of these? They are dark and oppressive.

Trees leaning over and listening- you've already mentioned Lewis- this reminds me of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe where Mr Beaver warns them to not talk in the open as the trees are listening. However Lewis borrowed the idea of dryads from Greek Myth and I believe Tolkien preferred not to 'mix myths' so I think this might be more poetic rather than actual evil spirited trees.


Hobbit firster, Book firster.


Have you explored all of TORN's forums?


sador
Half-elven


Sep 2 2012, 4:33pm

Post #3 of 5 (216 views)
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Answers [In reply to] Can't Post

What makes the forest so gloomy?
The dark, and perhaps the shapes of the trees.

Was Tolkien drawing on any experience in wooded wilderness?

Not that I know of.

Of course, the name Mirkwood (Myrkvidr) is well-known in Germanic mythology.

How does Tolkien's portrayal of this forest compare to that in other works, by him or different authors?


Quote
'Yes, it is all very dim, and stuffy, in here,' said Pippin... Look at all those weeping, trailing, beards and whiskers of lichen! And most of the trees seem to be half covered with ragged dry leaves that have never fallen. Untidy. I can't imagine what spring would look like here, if it ever comes; still less a spring-cleaning.'
'But the Sun at any rate must peep in sometimes.' said Merry. 'It does not look or feel at all like Bilbo's description of Mirkwood. That was all dark and black, and the home of dark black things. This is just dim, and frightfully tree-ish. You can't imagine animals living here at all, or staying for long.'


Was C.S. Lewis influenced by the "quiet ... so deep" and "everlastingly still and ... stuffy" forest when creating the wood between the worlds in The Magicians' Nephew?
That's a nice idea!

It seems to the expedition that "all the trees leaned over them and listened". Should this motif have been further developed?
It will be in the Old Forest.

Is Tolkien's color symbolism in The Hobbit more or less interesting than in The Lord of the Rings?
It is simpler.

For what purpose do the eyes in the night stare at the party?
Ther spiders might be stalking them for prey. The other animals - fear, or curiosity.

How much water could the party possibly carry? Enough not to refill for more than a month, as seems to be implied by the text?
Yes, that sounds a lot. Another less-than-realistic detail.

Are there top-hats in this proto-Middle-earth?
Why not? If Bilbo receives his morning mail - why wouldn't he be familiar with those items?

Isn't it contradictory for the forest that brings feelings of being "suffocated" to also have an "enormous uncanny darkness"?
Not quiet; compare to Shelob's Lair.

Does the party stray even a little from the path, so narrow they must walk it in single file?
I suppose so. The cobwebs on the sides should be frightening enough.

They only get to taste squirrel after shooting one on the path, but do they all sleep on the trail itself?
As above - it's probably the best.

Further thoughts on this section?
Was the river really black - or did it just look so?


"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!


telain
Rohan

Sep 5 2012, 1:30am

Post #4 of 5 (206 views)
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I'm not sure Tolkien ever met a black squirrel... [In reply to] Can't Post

...having lived for a time in Ontario, where black squirrels are very common, and quite attractive creatures!

On straying from the trail

I had the impression it meant "straying out of sight of the trail," so as long as the squirrel fell nearby, they'd be more or less fine.

On "suffocating" v. "enormous" forest

Oh, I definitely see no contradiction here. A very large, dense forest would indeed be suffocating, as very little air would circulate. I just went for a hike this weekend through a fairly open forest and while "inside" the air was quite still, but once the forest opened up to the ocean, the wind picked up. Air can become very stagnant and "thick" in a forest especially if it is -- as Tolkien describes Mirkwood to be -- very dark (sunlight helps keep damp and mould at bay.)


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 7 2012, 1:12am

Post #5 of 5 (295 views)
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By the skin of their...er, skins [In reply to] Can't Post

Waterskins, that is. That's a good point about the water! How much would each have had to carry, to get by for nearly a month? Karen Wynn Fonstad, in her "Atlas of Middle-earth", worked out that the dwarves and Bilbo probably entered the wood on July 26 and were captured by the Wood-elves on August 23, making a total of 28 days (in Shire-reckoning).

Even getting by on as little as a quart of water per day (the actual need, for humans hiking, is at least twice that), that comes to 7 gallons, and at 8.33 lbs/gallon, that's nearly 60 lbs/27 kg, and we have not yet even added the food, blankets, clothing, etc.!

Hardy are the dwarf-folk! Tongue


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

"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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