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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
* * Barrels out of Bond * * 4: The forest river


Sep 10 2012, 10:28am

Views: 621
* * Barrels out of Bond * * 4: The forest river Can't Post

Reading from 'Out they went under the overhanging branches' to the end of the chapter.

Bilbo is in the water now, clinging to a barrel and pulled along by the current until he has the chance to climb onto the top of his barrel. At last the current carries them into the main Forest River where the trees thin, the sky appears, and the barrels are carried to their destination by a pier on the north bank, where people are waiting to haul them to shore to be counted and roped together ready for the next stage of the journey in the morning. Bilbo is free and able to steal a supper, and though his sniffing and sneezing gives him away, thanks to the ring he can't be found. Next morning the barrels are made up into a raft and he manages to scramble on board as the raft elves set off for the Long Lake.

1. Almost submerged in cold water and at risk from the jostling barrels, Bilbo wonders 'whether he should risk the chance of letting go and trying to swim to the bank.' Thinking of Hobbits, and what you know of there likes and dislikes, is there anything that strikes you about this - something else that marks Bilbo out as unusual among his kind?

2. Bilbo's barrel ride is difficult but possible, we are told, because his barrel is a big one which has 'shipped a small amount of water', making it more stable. In an earlier draft of the story this barrel was actually Bombur's. Why do you think Tolkien changed this and which version do you prefer?

3. The illustration of Bilbo on the barrel has to be one of the most familiar images of The Hobbit - and for me it's one of Tolkien's best paintings. Do you see it in your mind when you think of this part of the story and does it affect your mental picture of the scene and the edge of Mirkwood?

4. 'There were people on the look-out...' Are these men, or elves, or a mixture?

5. It's understandable that, once on dry land, Bilbo would look for warmth and food (I always have to smile at that rather proper little remark that the pie he took 'did not beling to him'), but does it surprise you that he makes no attempt to communicate with the dwarves during the night?

6. In the early drafts of this part of the story, Tolkien had some problems trying to work out how the prisoners would escape. Maybe Bilbo would go back to look for help from the wizard (whose name in those days was Bladorthin), be frightened by a big bear and found by the wizard, who would return with him to negotiate with the Elvenking. Maybe the captivity would last months, the dwarves would be made to work and it would be Bilbo who would escape in a barrel, find Medwed/Beorn and have a message sent by eagle to the wizard. How would that have affected the story? Do you like this version better?

7. Notice anything about the closing sentence?

8. Thanks for reading this far, for posting if you have, and if I've missed anything, do mention it!

Subject User Time
* * Barrels out of Bond * * 4: The forest river dormouse Send a private message to dormouse Sep 10 2012, 10:28am
    a cliff-hanger to be sure telain Send a private message to telain Sep 10 2012, 10:11pm
    Answers sador Send a private message to sador Sep 11 2012, 11:43am
    Soaked to his furry toes dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Sep 14 2012, 2:57am


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