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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
An Update to Bilbo's Contract
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Lacrimae Rerum
Grey Havens

Oct 3 2012, 12:26am

Post #26 of 145 (1845 views)
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I'm not sure it speaks of a fundamental misunderstanding [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's probably supposed to be fun, rather than fundamental to anything.

LR


marcuspaine
Bree

Oct 3 2012, 12:34am

Post #27 of 145 (1789 views)
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I agree with this [In reply to] Can't Post

I think the contract is a great cinematic adaptation of what was in the book, and its additions are not only very cleverly written but also in keeping with what Thorin and a group of dwarves (as I'm sure this extensive contract was a group effort) would have thought of. Like I said, I even think the movie's version is funnier than what Tolkien wrote, with all due respect to his many skills as a writer.


(This post was edited by marcuspaine on Oct 3 2012, 12:37am)


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 12:37am

Post #28 of 145 (1654 views)
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I think it's fun as well [In reply to] Can't Post

But so was the contract in the book - and it was fun while serving other story purposes as well. And on top of that, the contract in the book was a funny way of simultaneously revealing something about hobbits, and something about how the dwarves feel about hobbits (at this point, with sarcasm).

This contract, written up by the dwarves in advance, shows that the dwarves are cautious, legalistic and modern types. And that's just not an accurate interpretation, IMO.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2012, 1:04am

Post #29 of 145 (1681 views)
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Interesting, so dwarves can't be as diverse as humans? [In reply to] Can't Post

How in the world did they put together such vast civilizations under ground?

I think it's possible for there to be legal eagles (or turkeys like the one who drew up the contract) in all the races.

But I really didn't give it that much thought, the movie version wins on absurdity.

King Arthur: You know much that is hidden oh Tim.

Tim: Quite.


DarkJackal
Rohan


Oct 3 2012, 1:17am

Post #30 of 145 (1782 views)
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More fine print [In reply to] Can't Post

So I suppose this means you won't be amused at the mention of a "fire safety officer"? Too bad.



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DarkJackal
Rohan


Oct 3 2012, 1:20am

Post #31 of 145 (1800 views)
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Diversity [In reply to] Can't Post

Since we got to know few dwarves on a personal level in all of Tolkien's works, I say it leaves the door open for variety.



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Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 1:21am

Post #32 of 145 (1773 views)
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It certainly wins on absurdity [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with that. It's also quite funny, in an absurd way.

My only point is that the absurdity of the note, from the book, has a very clear point, and is not there just for fun. It has multiple layers. Tolkien was saying something very pointed about hobbits (the reader), dwarves (representatives of a forgotten age), and their relationship to each other. Two very different philosophies were clashing in Bag End.

The movie contract essentially shows that the dwarves are very similar to hobbits in their prosaic, mundane attention to legalistic detail, and in their modern use of language. This upends the "clash" of worldviews that happens in the book. The prosaic vs. the poetic, the foolishly proud vs the practical, the adventurous vs. the grocer, and the legalistic vs the idealistic.

The book contract was a deliberate mockery of hobbit practices. You can almost feel the sarcasm in that note. The movie contract, on the other hand, is a mockery of dwarven ways that aren't actually dwarven ways! They are hobbit ways. Modern, Edwardian, of the legalistic age, or whatever you want to call it.

That's why I think this change speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of what the dwarves represent.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2012, 1:36am

Post #33 of 145 (1709 views)
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So... [In reply to] Can't Post

Dwarves can't be legalistic?

King Arthur: You know much that is hidden oh Tim.

Tim: Quite.


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 1:41am

Post #34 of 145 (1721 views)
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They shouldn't be, no [In reply to] Can't Post

At least not in the context of this story, which at its heart is about the clash of the prosaic world (a hobbit/the modern reader) and the poetic world (dwarves, the ancient and forgotten past). This mirrors the conflict Bilbo has in himself between Took and Baggins.

If the dwarves are drawing up hobbity contracts, it simply muddies the story, IMO. It obfuscates the whole point of it.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2012, 1:49am

Post #35 of 145 (1750 views)
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That kinda over-simplifies the dwarves in my humble opinion. [In reply to] Can't Post

And the hobbits.

But to each their own.

King Arthur: You know much that is hidden oh Tim.

Tim: Quite.

(This post was edited by Tim on Oct 3 2012, 1:53am)


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 1:58am

Post #36 of 145 (1588 views)
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Perhaps [In reply to] Can't Post

But there's a big difference between simplification, and flipping something on its head.

In the book, the dwarves mock Bilbo for being a "grocer," and for being a tad legalistic. In the film, the audience will mock the dwarves for that quality.

This, to me, reverses the dynamic of Bilbo vs. the dwarves that exists in the book.

I do believe that the dwarves can have different personalities, etc. Indeed, I think they should. However, I don't think that they should be given the characteristics of hobbits. And that's because such a thing damages the core of the story, IMO.

In the end, I imagine this will be the least of my worries. I will probably laugh, and find it all pretty amusing (as I did when watching the trailer). But I will definitely wonder if the film-makers really do understand the book.


GoodGuyA
Lorien

Oct 3 2012, 2:00am

Post #37 of 145 (1683 views)
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Or is it just possible that Jackson is -gasp- taking a different interpretation? [In reply to] Can't Post

I never saw much of anything in the books aside from a few gags which talk much about the Hobbit's legal standards. It's not something which is meant to be taken seriously, and if it were LotR would be even longer. There's a difference between order/class and "highmindedness". Saying that the dwarves completely lack that in their culture is really not understanding the scope of the world, and that's just drawing back on your own self in saying what the films lacked. The fact that they even made a contract to begin with is not all all a demonstration of their knowledge with hobbits, but their own fairness and judgement. So what if this depicts them as being long winded in a different manner, and really only one of them?

I'll bring up the original point about this change: In film, visuals carry more weight than dialogue, no matter how prosaic or clever it is. In a film which is supposed to evoke adventure and franticness, having a scene be essentially grinding to a halt due to the rest of the exposition needing to be given (the song, the quest) just to bring out a really insignificant character element is bad for pacing, plain and simple. It's allowed to have slow moments, but if the entire first half of the movie is devoid of motion because you just want to expound on a character trait like haughtiness, there are certainly better ways to do it. Even in the latest trailer, we hear Richard Armitage's expression when he addresses Bilbo. That's a far better and more clever way to show off this element.


Lightice
Lorien

Oct 3 2012, 2:04am

Post #38 of 145 (1703 views)
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You're misunderstanding plenty yourself [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But there's a big difference between simplification, and flipping something on its head.

In the book, the dwarves mock Bilbo for being a "grocer," and for being a tad legalistic. In the film, the audience will mock the dwarves for that quality.

This, to me, reverses the dynamic of Bilbo vs. the dwarves that exists in the book.


The dwarves never mock Bilbo for being "legalistic". I don't understand where you are getting that at all. The new version of the contract is simply an extension of Thorin's character; he is described as being extremely long-winded and pompous, and willing to speak on endlessly if he gets an opportunity. These qualities are represented in the contract, here. It is in no way turning the characterizations upside down.


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 2:13am

Post #39 of 145 (1595 views)
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It is not at all an "insignificant character element" [In reply to] Can't Post

It is an essential aspect of what it means to be Bilbo. A modern person that has lost touch with his heroic past (or his primordial yearnings). The legalism (and humility and pragmatism) of the Baggins, vs. the adventurousness of the Took. It is, IMO, a huge character element.

But I agree about film being a visual medium. It is why I love flashbacks so much. Show, don't tell, that backstory.

However, there are other ways of doing this on film that is consistent with the book. First, leave out the pre-written contract, and have the dwarves write it for Bilbo after they meet him (off-screen, if need be). Once they realize the kind of guy he is, they can write it in a "mock legalism." That would require a shorter contract to be believable, IMO, but it could still have been shown as ridiculously long, thus preserving the visual comedy, if you like. Then Bilbo could find it in the morning, as he does in the book.

Or, just keep the scene(s) as in the book. No contract until Thorin's short and sarcastic note in the morning. Would take about 10 seconds for Bilbo to read it aloud on film, and would still be very funny.

Ah well. Not the biggest deal. But irritating, nonetheless...


Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2012, 2:14am

Post #40 of 145 (1566 views)
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Where do they mock him for being a tad legalistic? [In reply to] Can't Post

Who's idea is it for the contract? Who draws it up? How does being a grocer = all hobbits love contracts?

What story core would be damaged?

I'm not being argumentative, I'm genuinely curious.

King Arthur: You know much that is hidden oh Tim.

Tim: Quite.


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 2:22am

Post #41 of 145 (1614 views)
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But here you're conflating Thorin-esque long-windedness, with legalese [In reply to] Can't Post

But they are not the same thing at all, IMO. In fact, I think they are opposite sides of the "long-winded" coin. One being that of the mundane modern world, and the other of the pomp and arrogance of an earlier world. As I mentioned previously:


Quote
Thorin's long-windedness is a very, let's say, dwarven nobility thing. There is lots of pride, ceremony, attempts at high-mindedness, and bad poetics, that are associated with that. He is a royal windbag, in other words.

The legalese of the contract is a different thing altogether. It is a joke on Bilbo, not a reflection of Thorin's character. Bilbo is a sort of Edwardian bourgeois, who likes things written down nice and neat, and Thorin is poking fun at this "grocer-like" attribute of Bilbo by writing up this faux-contract.


Sorry, but I haven't misunderstood anything. There is far more nuance in the Hobbit than it is often given credit for. And in the Hobbit, language matters. Even seemingly small differences in language matter. A lot.

-SA
P.S. The idea of hobbits being a tad legalistic also comes up again in FOTR: Frodo's discussion with the Sackville-Baggins about Bilbo's will. The pejoratively-used term "grocer," in the Hobbit, refers to someone who is both timid, and small-minded. Someone who counts beans, and needs everything to be ordered and predictable. That is how one connects "grocer" to the absurd legalism of Thorin's note.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2012, 2:28am

Post #42 of 145 (1619 views)
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Yeah, no offense, but I think you're reading too much into it. [In reply to] Can't Post

We can agree to disagree.

I don't really think it serves the story to limit my thinking on what a dwarf can or can't be - ditto for a hobbit. I would hesitate to take such a small sample of behavior and smack it on every individual of the race.

And I agree with the long-winded point about Thorin and the contract being and example of that.

But heavens I don't think all dwarves are long-winded. Wink

King Arthur: You know much that is hidden oh Tim.

Tim: Quite.


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 2:30am

Post #43 of 145 (1585 views)
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From the book: [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
"Bless me!" said Thorin, "haven't you got a map? and didn't you hear our song? and haven't we been talking about all this for hours?"

"All the same, I should like it all plain and clear," said he obstinately, putting on his business manner (usually reserved for people who tried to borrow money off him), and doing his best to appear wise and prudent and professional and live up to Gandalf's recommendation. "Also, I should like to know about risks, out-of-pocket expenses, time required and remuneration, and so forth" - by which he meant: "What am I going to get out of it? and am I going to come back alive?"

"O very well," said Thorin.


You see, it is Bilbo who insists on the legalese that we see in the book "contract" or note. Not the dwarves, The dwarves, on the other had, thought they had already explained everything to Bilvo by singing a song about the dragon, and reclaiming their gold!

Singing a song vs. writing up a detailed contract? Seems like a big difference to me. And it is a difference which strikes at the core of who the dwarves are vs. who Bilbo Baggins is.

Thorin is long-winded, but he does not do legalese. The contract in the film is an extension of Bilbo's personality, not Thorin's, and for that reason, I find it mistaken.


(This post was edited by Shelob'sAppetite on Oct 3 2012, 2:33am)


DarkJackal
Rohan


Oct 3 2012, 2:33am

Post #44 of 145 (1576 views)
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The dwarves change over the course of the story [In reply to] Can't Post

As you know. You gave me a good reason for it months ago, one that I had not considered, and which helped to rationalize what I thought was a blatant inconsistency in the book. These dwarves have been corrupted by staying too long in the West. It won't be until they revisit their roots in the wild East that they will again act like dwarves of old.

The dwarves that come knocking on Bilbo's door do not act the part of representatives of the ancient past, IMO. They bumble their way in the doorway, hang up their hoods on pegs like school kids, and start ordering food like any hobbit would (that they gradually begin to gain some dignity along the course of the journey, and at the end come out looking like actual heroes, is a wonder given such a poor start). Thorin and the others may sing epic songs, but the rest of the time, I see little difference between Bilbo's, Gandalf's, or Thorin's manner of speaking, or how modernized they are in the first part of the story.



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Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 2:38am

Post #45 of 145 (1671 views)
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That's a very good point [In reply to] Can't Post

The dwarves are, in many ways, shadows of their previous selves. They have been rendered mundane and bumbling, which contradicts with their desire to once again be fierce warrior poets! The dwarf song is more a reminiscence, than a reflection of who they still are.

However, I think the film contract goes way, way too far. In the book, it is Bilbo who insists on those kind of legalistic guarantees, not the dwarves. And that is because Tolkien was making a humorous point about Thorin's perception of Bilbo.

Thorin may have gotten a little soft over time, but he still perceived himself as a proud dwarven King. He would never have stooped to creating something so hobbitish as that contract, unless it were in mockery, as his note was in the book.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2012, 2:40am

Post #46 of 145 (1592 views)
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Again, over generalizing [In reply to] Can't Post

And waitaminute...

This more-funny contract can more than fit into the context you're bringing up - that if *certain members of this group* of dwarves like to poke fun at Bilbo for being a stickler for a contract - it would be hilarious for the dwarves to really poke fun at him by drawing up the ridiculous contract - and it would still keep the simplification of all dwarves that you read out of this whole thing.

Thorin doesn't seem to have a problem with drawing up a contract. Seems like he's done it before. It's not like they gaped at him with open mouth and said "Contract? What's that?"

King Arthur: You know much that is hidden oh Tim.

Tim: Quite.

(This post was edited by Tim on Oct 3 2012, 2:41am)


DarkJackal
Rohan


Oct 3 2012, 2:44am

Post #47 of 145 (1665 views)
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You have a good point about song versus contract [In reply to] Can't Post

But this one point doesn't make me feel there is a huge divide between the two races as much as it does to you. Even if there really is a huge divided between them, it just doesn't manifest itself much in the Unexpected Party.



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Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 2:45am

Post #48 of 145 (1592 views)
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That would make great sense [In reply to] Can't Post

However, as I understand it, the film contract will have been written long before the dwarves meet Bilbo. And if the dwarves have no idea of what Bilbo will be like (as in the book), then they would be in no position to mock him so accurately.

This is why I would be okay with the contract (even a long one) being written up after they meet Bilbo. That would preserve the humor of the scene, while also preserving the Bilbo-Thorin dichotomy.

However, based on the scenes from the trailer, I don't think that is very likely.


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 2:53am

Post #49 of 145 (1583 views)
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Perhaps [In reply to] Can't Post

Though this "debasement of language," as it were, comes out earlier. Gandalf's mockery of Bilbo's multiple uses of "good morning" is a dig at Bilbo's (or modern man's, and certainly, modern Britain's) propensity for sucking all meaning out of words that in the past had real and solid meaning. Bilbo says "good morning," though he means "shove off!" This kind of language use is also partly behind legalese, which is incredibly dry, difficult to discern the meaning of, and mostly devoid of spirit and poeticism. I can imagine Tolkien finding legalese to be the "wraithing" of language. Not dead, but just barely and unnaturally alive.

In an Unexpected Party, I still think the distinction is there. The fact that Thorin thought the song was enough information for Bilbo to go on is clear evidence of that. Bilbo, of course, cannot accept that. He must have it all clear and plain, and essentially, in legalese. But from Thorin's perspective, Bilbo's "plain and clear" probably means "tortured and unclear." He still prefers songs over documents, despite his diminishment in exile.


(This post was edited by Shelob'sAppetite on Oct 3 2012, 2:57am)


DarkJackal
Rohan


Oct 3 2012, 2:58am

Post #50 of 145 (1550 views)
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There are 13 dwarves we can pick from [In reply to] Can't Post

...to assign the blame for this. It doesn't have to be Thorin Wink



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