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** Inside Information ** Part I – The Building of Bilbo


Sep 24 2012, 11:16am

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** Inside Information ** Part I – The Building of Bilbo Can't Post

When last we left Bilbo and the dwarves they were on the doorstep, staring down a yawning maw of vaporous darkness revealed when they finally managed to open the secret door. And as with all such auspicious moments in the story, this gave Thorin Oakenshield a chance to pontificate, this time on the duties and various addenda of one contracted burglar, that being Bilbo Baggins.

1. The omniscient narrator intervenes in Thorin’s lengthy speech, reminding us of the dwarf’s Ciceronian style. Do you find the familiarity and impositions of the narrator to be distracting, or does it add the charm of the story?

Yet Bilbo seems to be one changed hobbit, doesn’t he? He snaps at Thorin rather insolently, reminding the dwarves, “I have got you out of two messes already” (i.e., the spider attack and imprisonment by the elves), which were not in the burglar’s original terms of service.

But the group dynamic has changed along with Bilbo’s newfound pomposity. Whereas once the dwarves - and Thorin in particular - treated Bilbo with disdain and extra Bagginsish baggage on the trip, they now timidly acquiesce to his harsh tone. When Bilbo asks for volunteers to join him in the passage, the dwarves suddenly become cowards, with only Balin meekly agreeing to go part way.

Tolkien now describes the dwarves in a series of unflattering comments and backhanded compliments.

“The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they would all have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it. . . . There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.”

2. Does this description jibe with Tolkien’s later description of steadfast and brave Gimli in The Lord of the Rings? If it does not (and I would suggest it doesn’t), why are Gimli’s words and actions so different from his kin?

3. We are again reminded that some dwarves “are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots”, harkening back to the “wicked dwarves” Tolkien describes in Chapter IV, who made alliances with goblins (orcs). Are these references the genesis of the idea that some dwarves marched with Sauron’s forces in the War of the Last Alliance?

Tolkien again differentiates Dwarven architectural practices from the goblins and “rough wood-elves cave”, indicating the dwarves’ extraordinary building abilities and the smoothness of the passage, but then he also says that such abilities were completed at “height of their wealth and skill”, implying those skills have now been lost, a recurrent theme about the dwarves throughout the book.

But whereas the dwarves are suffering a notable decline in prestige, abilities and personal bravery, Bilbo is undergoing a renaissance. After a brief internal argument, the Tookish side of him overcame his sedentary and fearful Hobbitish nature and pushes on. Going onward from there as the narrator points out, “was the bravest thing he ever did”.

4. Although the One Ring (which Bilbo has slipped on his finger) does not necessarily have the same effects the Ring would later produce in Lord of the Rings, if we were to include the later canonical effects, does the Ring bolster Bilbo’s courage? Does it offer any special powers for Bilbo other than invisibility?

As Bilbo progresses a sound of “bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble of a gigantic tom-cat purring” throbs in Bilbo’s ears, growing to the “unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring”.

5. Do you gurgle when you snore? Is “gurgling” the right description of the noise of snoring? I don’t know why, but this description has always bothered me.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.

Subject User Time
** Inside Information ** Part I – The Building of Bilbo Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Sep 24 2012, 11:16am
    Answers sador Send a private message to sador Sep 24 2012, 12:47pm
    History Solicitr Send a private message to Solicitr Sep 24 2012, 4:49pm
    Sweet little kitty-purr dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Sep 27 2012, 2:53am
        So Smaug, in essence, is a vast tea kettle.... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Sep 27 2012, 4:13am
            He's a giant teapot dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Sep 27 2012, 4:08pm


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