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** Inside Information ** Part IV – A Bird, Bladorthin and Baubles

Morthoron
Gondor


Sep 27 2012, 4:07am


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And so Bilbo escaped the dragon scorched, singed and frizzled but still alive. The old thrush returned and eyed the proceedings from a rock, its head cocked to the side. Bilbo, annoyed as he was by his burns (and his unnerving conversation with Smaug), flicked a stone at the spying bird, who merely dodged the stone and alighted back on his perch. As always in such times of peril, this is cause for either a song or a history lesson by Tolkien. Thorin opts to inform Bilbo without rhyme or basso-baritone polyphony:

“Leave him alone!” said Thorin. “The thrushes are good and friendly-this is a very old bird indeed, and is maybe the last left of the ancient breed that used to live about here, tame to the hands of my father and grandfather. They were a long-lived and magical race, and this might even be one of those that were alive then, a couple of hundreds years or more ago. The Men of Dale used to have the trick of understanding their language, and used them for messengers to fly to the Men of the Lake and elsewhere.”

Now, given Tolkien’s English heritage, this thrush is most likely a song thrush (or throstle in some parts of Britain), because they have the habit of using a stone (usually a favorite they return to often) as an anvil to break open the shells of land snails. One wonders if the word escargot originated in Esgaroth, Sorry, rambling.

1. This question is for the birds. In The Hobbit, we have eagles, ravens and thrushes that either speak or understand mannish speech. Then we have crebain with the same ability in LotR. Can you recall another Tolkien tale that had a character conversant with fowl friends?

But Bilbo eventually ignores the thrush and comes clean regarding his little tête-à-tête with Smaug, his regret over mentioning “Barrel-rider” and the one valuable piece of reconnaissance he gleaned from the conversation, “the bare patch in the old Worm’s diamond waistcoat.” The thrush, having heard enough dwarvish blather regarding feints, stratagems, frontal assaults, stabs, jabs and undercuts that Thorin’s troop would obviously never employ to defeat the dragon, flew off when it was sure that nothing of further import was forthcoming.

2. In a story riddled with deus ex machina, would you rate the thrush’s or the eagles’ contribution higher?

But let us skip ahead and discuss something REALLY important: King Bladorthin. You may know that, according to Humphrey Carpenter, “Bladorthin” was the grey wizard in the original Hobbit manuscript, and “Gandalf” was the chief dwarf, which makes sense because in the Old Norse Völuspá, Gandalf was a dwarf as well (nearly all dwarf names in The Hobbit were derived from the Völuspá). But the name Bladorthin was later changed to Gandalf (and thank Eru for that!).

The name Bladorthin itself contains two Elvish elements: the first, blador which is found in blant= “open” or “expansive”, bladwen = “ plain”, or Bladorwen = “wide earth” or “mother earth”, which is another name for Yavanna; and the second, the suffix –thin = “grey”. Thus, Bladorthin could be taken to mean “Grey Pilgrim” or “Grey Wanderer” (but again, thank Eru for Mithrandir!).

But who was this King Bladorthin, precisely? No one knows! Robert Foster seems to think he was an elf, while Douglas Anderson considers him a man. Various theories have him as a king of Dale, Dorwinion or Rhun. That he was a man and not an elf seems consistent with the phrase “King Bladorthin (long since dead)”. Question # 3468 I would like to ask Tolkien.

And then there is the bauble. “The Arkenstone! The Arkenstone!” murmured Thorin. Ah yes, the debatable Arkenstone. “It was like a globe with a thousand facets; it shone like silver in firelight, like water in the sun, like snow under the stars, like rain upon the Moon!” Astronomy lesson, Thorin: there is no rain on the moon. Or gravity to hold clouds, for that matter. In fact, there is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.

3. Tolkien conspiracy theory: the Arkenstone was a Silmaril, true or false. Like Eru in the corporeal disguise of Bombadil, this theory never seems to go away.

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 IV – A Bird, Bladorthin and Baubles Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Sep 27 2012, 4:07am
    Answers fowl and fair dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Oct 1 2012, 2:58am
    birds, names and trinkets of desperate desire elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Oct 3 2012, 4:54pm
    "Rain upon the moon" justbennett Send a private message to justbennett Oct 4 2012, 8:06pm
    Late answers sador Send a private message to sador Oct 9 2012, 9:22am
    Bladorthin and Knifeorfat CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 11 2012, 12:01am

 
 
 

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