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* * Barrels out of Bond * * 1: Prisoners

dormouse
Half-elven


Sep 5 2012, 2:14pm

Post #1 of 7 (543 views)
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* * Barrels out of Bond * * 1: Prisoners Can't Post

(With apologies for the late start, and for overlapping NEB's chapter. Feel free to ignore this until his is complete (or for ever, if you like!) Just thought I ought to make a move...)

Reading from the beginning to 'it was Bilbo who found that out':

Left behind in Mirkwood, hungry and exhausted after their fight with the spiders and in fear for Thorin, Bilbo and and dwarves must now make a move. In trying to find their way back to the path they are confronted by armed Wood elves who take them prisoner - all except Bilbo, who slips on the ring and follows unseen at a safe distance. Blindfold, the dwarves are led at speed through the wood to the forest river, over the bridge and into the elves' underground home. The magic doors close behind them.
The prisoners are led into the King's hall where he orders them to be unbound and questions them, to no avail. Finding them as unwilling as Thorin to speak about their intentions, the King orders them to be locked up separately, fed and taken care of, but kept confined until they feel like talking. He does not let them know that Thorin is also a prisoner - but he in turn does not know that Bilbo is also in his halls.

1. Without ever describing it, Tolkien gives us a picture of what happened when the dwarves and Bilbo awoke and the things that were uppermost in their minds. Just for fun, who do you think the 'eight out of the thirteen' might have been? Do you think Bilbo was one of them? Would it have taken long for them to reach even this much of a concencus, and do you think the other five went along willingly?

2. 'like hundreds of red stars'. In all the years I've known the book I've never noticed this consciously before. Do you think there's any significance to the red torchlight, mentioned here and again further on? I've always thought of elven lights as white, and that's how they're usually portrayed.

3. Capture comes as a relief to the exhausted dwarves and they submit willingly. Why don't they say anything? Would it have made a difference if they had appealed to the elves for help? Were the dwarves aware that Bilbo was not taken prisoner?

4. 'He did not at all like the look of the cavern-mouth...' Why would someone who lives 'in a hole in the ground' not like the look of a cave? What do you think it was about the Elvenking's entrance that Bilbo found off-putting? The Hobbit is full of underground homes - Bag End, goblin cities, the Elvenking's halls, the dwarf halls in the Mountain - what's distinctive about this one, and what, if anything, makes it elvish? And the Elvenking, with his autumnal crown and oaken staff - any feelings about him? Are he and his people different from Elrond and the Rivendell elves?

5. The dwarves refuse to answer questions, just as Thorin did. Is this a strategy agreed between them in advance in case of capture? Or just a feature of dwarvish character?

6. Who was right? Sometimes in discussions on the boards here I've seen posters who view the Elvenking a negative character (here and in the rest of the story). Isn't he in the wrong to imprison the dwarves as he does? It always makes me smile because on first reading the book, aged about 8, I thought the Elvenking was wonderful - and his elves - and the dwarves were rude and grouchy and it was their own fault they were locked up. I was quite convinced that if they had only told the King about the trouble they were in he would have helped them, and I was sure that at some point - until it didn't happen - Bilbo would take of his ring and gain the King's support. In fact, if I'd been Bilbo I would have abandoned the dwarves and joined the elves. Well, I'm not 8 any more, very far from it, and I wonder now, whose side are we supposed to be on in this clash of cultures? Were the dwarves in the wrong? The elves? Or was everybody right from their own standpoint? How does this imprisonment differ - if it does - from the earlier imprisonment at the hands of the goblins? Is the reader meant to feel differently about it?


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 5 2012, 2:40pm

Post #2 of 7 (210 views)
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No apologies needed! [In reply to] Can't Post

Except from me.

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telain
Rohan

Sep 6 2012, 3:13pm

Post #3 of 7 (193 views)
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perhaps I'm still 8... [In reply to] Can't Post

...I still "side" with the Elves in this one.

The Mirkwood Elves have to, well, live in Mirkwood. If it were me, I'd be suspicious of everyone and everything. To top it off, dwarves in Middle-earth were not universally "good", so I have always felt Thranduil, et al were basically in the right to hold them.

I think this imprisonment is mean to be different. First, there is no indication that the Elves are going to eat them (like the goblins surely would have). Second, I tend to think that main characters are more interesting if they step on toes from time to time. Thorin & Co. have transgressed and for whatever reason (stubbornness, greediness, mistrust of Elves, etc.,) don't feel the need to explain themselves. The imprisonment is the punishment for the circumstance, and it is an obstacle for the Party, but they can't simply fight their way out (as in the case of the goblins.) This problem is more interesting and is going to take (as we see) luck and cunning to get them out.


dormouse
Half-elven


Sep 6 2012, 6:37pm

Post #4 of 7 (185 views)
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Oh, me too.... [In reply to] Can't Post

I was just trying to leave the floor open. It still surprises me when I find people who see the Elvenking as a 'bad' character; it's just that now I know they do - as a child I would have been mortally offended or assumed they hadn't read it properly.


telain
Rohan

Sep 6 2012, 8:17pm

Post #5 of 7 (166 views)
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hopefully it will spark discussion! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure there are a few out there that think the Elves were being too haughty, too insular (or whatever...)

I just like the thought of still being 8... Things seemed much clearer then!

(and I adore your avatar...)


sador
Half-elven


Sep 9 2012, 12:51pm

Post #6 of 7 (144 views)
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Late answers [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
With apologies for the late start, and for overlapping NEB's chapter. Feel free to ignore this until his is complete


Will he complete it?

1. Just for fun, who do you think the 'eight out of the thirteen' might have been?

Assuming they went according to clans (i.e. Balin and Dwalin, Fili and Kili...) then the group of eight was either both of the gropus of three and one of the pairs (three possible arrangements) or one of three, two pairs and Bilbo (six possible arrangements).

Do you think Bilbo was one of them?
As shown above, the chances are two to one for it.

But this is irrelevant: had they ever found out whether they were going in the right direction, I am sure "somehow" Bilbo would be among those who guess correctly.

Would it have taken long for them to reach even this much of a concencus, and do you think the other five went along willingly?
Well, once it is a matter of random hunches, it's better to do that than to scatter.

2. Do you think there's any significance to the red torchlight, mentioned here and again further on?

Kind of recalls the baleful red star shining above Rivendell in The Ring Goes South, doesn't it?

3. Capture comes as a relief to the exhausted dwarves and they submit willingly. Why don't they say anything?
The next in seniority is Balin, and he is out of his depth.

Would it have made a difference if they had appealed to the elves for help?
Balin? Never!

Were the dwarves aware that Bilbo was not taken prisoner?
The more alert ones probably were. Balin might have been, as well as Fili and Kili.


4. Why would someone who lives 'in a hole in the ground' not like the look of a cave?
Too wide. And magical.

The Hobbit is full of underground homes - Bag End, goblin cities, the Elvenking's halls, the dwarf halls in the Mountain - what's distinctive about this one, and what, if anything, makes it elvish?
The magic.

And the Elvenking, with his autumnal crown and oaken staff - any feelings about him?
Seasonal. Seems like a force of nature. A dryad or a naiad rather than a humanoid.

Are he and his people different from Elrond and the Rivendell elves?
I can't imagine Elrond going around those tokens!

5. The dwarves refuse to answer questions, just as Thorin did. Is this a strategy agreed between them in advance in case of capture?
Might have been.

Or just a feature of dwarvish character?
Loyalty. It's Thorin's secret mission, and unless he instructs them otherwise (or is known to be dead) they are not giving it away.

6. Who was right?
Neither, and both.

Isn't he in the wrong to imprison the dwarves as he does?
At least he doesn't set his dogs upon the trespassers, like Farmer Maggot does!


In Reply To
It always makes me smile because on first reading the book, aged about 8, I thought the Elvenking was wonderful - and his elves -


Was that before, or after you saw Ezpeleta's portrait of him? Shocked


In Reply To

and the dwarves were rude and grouchy

That they were. Nothing new about that.


In Reply To
and it was their own fault they were locked up.


Why not go the whole road, and say that this was a scheme of the Elvenking to nourish them while keeping them out of trouble's way, until the Necromancer is dealt with, but without crumpling their egos by making them feel like beggars?


In Reply To
I was quite convinced that if they had only told the King about the trouble they were in he would have helped them,


I personally suspect that he guessed they were sneaking to the Mountain, and that no good will come out of it.


In Reply To
and I was sure that at some point - until it didn't happen - Bilbo would take of his ring and gain the King's support.


Just to remind you, the dwarves did try at first to beg for food.


In Reply To

In fact, if I'd been Bilbo I would have abandoned the dwarves and joined the elves.

Which he did. But eight chapters later.


In Reply To

Well, I'm not 8 any more, very far from it,

I won't ask.

and I wonder now, whose side are we supposed to be on in this clash of cultures?
Tolkien does assure us the elves were good folk, just to make sure we take the right side.

Were the dwarves in the wrong? The elves? Or was everybody right from their own standpoint?
Yes, yes and yes.

How does this imprisonment differ - if it does - from the earlier imprisonment at the hands of the goblins?
Well, they are not about to be eaten, and probably not enslaved either.

Is the reader meant to feel differently about it?
Tolkien underlines the difference, just in case the reader is too dull or too obstinate to get it.


"The portcullis can be dropped right to the river-bed, but, that it's often left open. Why? If this is a fortress and Mirkwood has some very unsavory inhabitants, isn't this rather foolhardy of the elves? Or is it just arrogance?"
- Kelvarhin



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for Barrels Out of Bond!


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 10 2012, 1:08am

Post #7 of 7 (318 views)
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Into the halls of the Mountain - er, Elvenking [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Just for fun, who do you think the 'eight out of the thirteen' might have been?

Lost in the dark! I think that, under normal circumstances, they would have quibbled quite a bit about the right way to go. But considering their physical state, and the loss of Thorin, I'd guess that the majority of eight were Bilbo, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Dori, Nori, and Ori; and most of those seven had no clue but were agreeing with Bilbo.

What is interesting is that in the first draft of the story, Bilbo made a ball of "string" out of the webbing cast by the spider that initially attacked him, and tied an end to a nearby tree; because hobbits are "clever in woods" he found his way back to where they left the path. He then cut the string, tied the new end to a tree, followed the string back into the woods, then went searching for the dwarves, and found them bound by spiders. After the ensuing battle, they all followed Bilbo's string back to the path, and were wandering along that when the Wood-elves caught them.

What do you think of this plot line? Should Tolkien have kept it, or is it better for the story to have them all totally lost in the woods?


2. 'like hundreds of red stars'. Considering that this is torchlight, it would be red, as opposed to the silver lamps of the other Elves. I like sador's comparing these to the red star Frodo sees in Rivendell.


3. Why don't they say anything? Would it have made a difference if they had appealed to the elves for help? Were the dwarves aware that Bilbo was not taken prisoner?

Curious, isn't it, that we read of none of these dwarves wondering where Bilbo is - but then again, maybe that's simply due to sheer exhaustion. Which only added to their grumpiness at being held captive by frissy Elves. Ask an Elf for help? How humiliating for a dwarf!


4. What do you think it was about the Elvenking's entrance that Bilbo found off-putting? ...And the Elvenking, with his autumnal crown and oaken staff - any feelings about him? Are he and his people different from Elrond and the Rivendell elves?

It's that gate. Metal, of course, since it closes with a clang. And trapezoidal: not a nice, pleasant hobbity round entrance (Tolkien's illustration here).

And these are more "rustic" Elves, not the "refined" Elves of Rivendell (and Lorien). They're closer in culture to the Elves which Frodo meets in the Woody End. An interesting parallel with the Elvenking and Thorin: one bears an oaken staff, the other is called "Oakenshield".


5. The dwarves refuse to answer questions, just as Thorin did. Is this a strategy agreed between them in advance in case of capture? Or just a feature of dwarvish character?

Never trust an Elf! Although they could have signed non-disclosure agreements before embarking on this quest.


6. ...I wonder now, whose side are we supposed to be on in this clash of cultures?

Everybody's grumpy, nobody's happy, both sides distrust each other. I can't blame the Elvenking for dumping the dwarves in prison, although after a while he probably began to hear some complaints from his people about how much it was "costing" to host thirteen dwarves, and why didn't he just free them and have spies follow them. But stories don't work that way. Anyway, at this point I'm only on Bilbo's side, the rest are just being foolish! Wink


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

"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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