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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
An Update to Bilbo's Contract
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Bombadil
Half-elven


Oct 3 2012, 6:02pm

Post #101 of 145 (1599 views)
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Well Well Wellington? [In reply to] Can't Post

DJ Thang YOU.. very Bunch &
all our Board Partiscipants..

Maybe it's sum Elvish Genome
Bomby has?

My eyes sorta Glaze-over
Legalize verbage.

Isn't very Westron ta me?

Im simple &love simple
Sentences.

Gotta Go
Opps? Soups..on..
(Goldberry makes a Killer.. Dandilion & Hemp Soup!)


(This post was edited by Bombadil on Oct 3 2012, 6:03pm)


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 6:03pm

Post #102 of 145 (1627 views)
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You misinterpreted my post. Apologies if I wasn't clear. [In reply to] Can't Post

1. I'm not obfuscating, just clarifying. The dwarves, according to that quote, were not "modeled" on Jews. They simply share some characteristics of the Jewish people. That's all. Wasn't being combative here at all.

2. I wasn't ascribing anti-Semtic motivations to your post. I was simply implying that it wouldn't be in Peter Jackson's interest to perpetuate such a stereotype. Apologies for not being crystal clear.

3. There are opinions, and there are facts. However, I do not pull this interpretation out of my posterior. Those with intimate knowledge of Tolkien, and the English language, such as Professor Tom Shippey (and Tolkien himself) have made the very same assessments of the contract, and the hobbit, within the context of Middle Earth (and the dwarves). I find it a tad frustrating when some people just write it off, as if it is just some silly, pedantic opinion. It is, as far as I can tell, quite possibly very close to the truth of what Tolkien was intending.

I don't mind if people choose to interpret the contract as reflecting Thorin's character, even though I think it is way off base. But I do mind if that is presented as a more legitimate opinion than one that is likely closer to the mark, which is that it was Bilbo who asked for such contractual details, and Thorin who (mockingly) delivered. That comes straight from the book, and not from anyone's interpretation. It is in the quote I posted earlier.


(This post was edited by Shelob'sAppetite on Oct 3 2012, 6:04pm)


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 6:06pm

Post #103 of 145 (1619 views)
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Yup. I'm aware of that quote [In reply to] Can't Post

And as I stated earlier:


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There are certain aspects of the dwarves that contain echoes of the history and culture of the Jewish people, and Tolkien mentioned as much, but that is different from being "modelled" after Jews.



SirDennisC
Half-elven


Oct 3 2012, 7:06pm

Post #104 of 145 (1771 views)
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Is that an oxtail soup recipe scribbled in the margin? [In reply to] Can't Post

And a note that oxtail is actually beef tail?

ps Thank you for your diligence DJ.

Angelic


Lacrimae Rerum
Grey Havens

Oct 3 2012, 7:16pm

Post #105 of 145 (1572 views)
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Oh I shouldn't think they will spend any explicit time on that. [In reply to] Can't Post

And I can't find that this represents anything in the region of "serious" on my own spectrum.

I doubt that the motivation for the form of contract will be raised, nor the options (of which legalism is only one) be discussed. Similarly the question of the dwarves' natural approach to contracting is really, in my view, neither here nor there. The primary character interest is really in relation to Bilbo and in the slightly self-aggrandising style of the dwarves' ultimate product (which is maintained happily in the film version).

I also have to say I don't read the same things into Thorin's post song incredulity. He is exasperated that Bilbo has not already obtained the info that he needs and as a result tells the lengthy tale. The contract doesn't enter into Thorin's response at this point.

But to rerturn to the original thought, on reflection, I remain impressed at the genuinely funny, and very appropriate piece of work here.

LR


DarkJackal
Rohan


Oct 3 2012, 8:14pm

Post #106 of 145 (1580 views)
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I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

Most soup is a poor substitute for food, except for baked potato soup.

Edit: Sorry, I realize I am being too harsh in my critique of soup. It is IMO only.



The Hobbit Photo Gallery

(This post was edited by DarkJackal on Oct 3 2012, 8:24pm)


AlatarVinyamar
Lorien

Oct 3 2012, 10:23pm

Post #107 of 145 (1619 views)
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No worries [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be curious to see the supporting text from Shippey and Tolkien that supports your claim. I'm pretty well read on Tolkien also, although far from an expert, and I don't recall seeing them before. I would have expected it at least in Rateliff's "History of the Hobbit" or Doug Anderson's "Annotated Hobbit", neither of which support your reading.


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 3 2012, 11:38pm

Post #108 of 145 (1676 views)
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Off the top of my head [In reply to] Can't Post

See the chapter "The Bourgeois Burglar" in Shippey's The Road to Middle Earth. I will try to dig up the exact quotes in the meantime, unless someone else (Voronwe...) gets there first! Smile


burgahobbit
Rohan


Oct 4 2012, 12:12am

Post #109 of 145 (1510 views)
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Haha! I sort of skimmed over that part the first time. Very funny! [In reply to] Can't Post

But still, Bilbo did sign it. His name, in his writing, is at the bottom of the contract. It seems far fetched to me that, Bilbo, already skeptical of the dwarves and the adventure, would actually sign a contract that said all that.

Oh well! Maybe I should just take this as a funny contract that the film-makers made and not let it effect the rest of the story. Wink


(This post was edited by burgahobbit on Oct 4 2012, 12:22am)


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 4 2012, 12:37am

Post #110 of 145 (1500 views)
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True [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I also have to say I don't read the same things into Thorin's post song incredulity. He is exasperated that Bilbo has not already obtained the info that he needs and as a result tells the lengthy tale. The contract doesn't enter into Thorin's response at this point.


But it is very, very revealing of Thorin's character (and the character of the dwarves) that they consider the song to be clear information about the quest! To Bilbo, it was an evocative song, that made his mind wander across Middle Earth. To Thorin, it was straight up information-sharing!

Bilbo then asks, very explicitly, for "plain and clear" information, including "out-of-pocket expenses" and "remuneration."

After Bilbo asks for those things, Thorin gives him a prosaic account of what happened, what's to be done, and what Bilbo's role would be. And even then, Bilbo does not quite accept that he's actually expected to go on the journey, telling the dwarves that he will see them off in the morning (only to be corrected by Thorin, who clarifies that Bilbo is going as well).

It is not until Bilbo sees Thorin's note, which is written out for Bilbo "plain and clear" - in legalese as he asked for it the night before - that Bilbo accepts his role in the quest, and runs out the door (without his handkerchief...)

IMO, based on this, it is crystal clear that Thorin's note/contract, in the book, is written in the idiom of the hobbit. I still think this could be preserved in the film, and hope it is. If it is portrayed as "the sort of thing dwarves do" then PJ will have unnecessarily missed the mark on a wonderful bit of subtlety in the story.



(This post was edited by Shelob'sAppetite on Oct 4 2012, 12:39am)


Phibbus
Rohan


Oct 4 2012, 1:25am

Post #111 of 145 (1500 views)
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Shippey quote [In reply to] Can't Post

Shippey's discussion of the contract uses it as an exemplum of a slightly different but related point. It does come from "The Bourgois Burglar" chapter of The Road to Middle-earth, the main theme of which is the contrast between Bilbo's modern mindset and that of the heroic-age world which he inhabits:

Quote
The early moves of The Hobbit depend very much on this tension between ancient and modern reactions. It begins almost as a satire on modern institutions, with Mr. Baggins language particularly taking some shrewd knocks: the more familiar it seems, the more fossilized it is. […] Against this the dwarves' ceremonious style of salutation—'At your service!' 'At yours and your family's' 'May the hair on his toes never fall out!'—may seem pompous and indeed be insincere, but at any rate, it is about something, not just semantically empty. Similarly Bilbo, trying to be business-like, flees to abstractions, only to have the narrator expose them: '"Also I should like to know about risks, out-of-pocket expenses, time required and remunerations, and so forth"—by which he meant: "What am I going to get out of it? And am I going to come back alive?" THorin, though long-winded enough, does not talk about calculations, but things†: the dwarf-song which opens their conclave centres on the misty mountains cold and grim, on harps, necklaces, twisted wire, pale enchanted long-forgotten gold. […]

†The contract which he finally does deliver on p. 33 is typically more practical than Bilbo at his most business-like had thought. It covers profits, delivery, travelling expenses, but also defrayal of funeral expenses, 'by us or our representatives, if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for'. This means, 'you or all of us may die, and also be eaten'. [pg. 73 in the 2d ed.]

While he focuses on Thorin's preoccupation with solid specifics vs. Bilbo's nebulous nothings, he takes it for granted in the note that the contract is a response to the latter. I, like you, have always assumed that he was poking fun at Bilbo with the language.

Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream.


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 4 2012, 2:58am

Post #112 of 145 (1632 views)
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That's the one [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for digging it up. Thorin is long-winded, but what he is long-winded about is key. He talks and talks and talks about reclaiming his birthright, gems and gold, pride and dignity. Bilbo, on the other hand, talks about practical, business-like subjects, such as pay and expenses.

And yes, it is very clear that Thorin is poking fun at Bilbo with the note in the morning. If you don't see the sarcasm in "Thinking it unnecessary to disturb your esteemed repose" then you're not looking!


Lacrimae Rerum
Grey Havens

Oct 4 2012, 7:39am

Post #113 of 145 (1460 views)
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I agree with almost all of this. [In reply to] Can't Post

But as this suggests (and Shippey vaguely touches upon) the character pointer within the humour is towards Bilbo (not about the legalism of dwarves as earlier suggested) and in film we should be able to establish the same middle class rather than Middle Ages feel for Bilbo through the visuals and the performance long before we get to the contract. I would be very surprised if we did not, given what we have seen already.

LR


AlatarVinyamar
Lorien

Oct 4 2012, 10:09am

Post #114 of 145 (1461 views)
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Honestly? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think its a stretch. Yes, it can be read that way, and yes, its a valid argument. However, I don't believe it was intended as such. People often read their own motives into Tolkien's works and are often wrong. Please don't suggest that because I disagree with you it must be because I am "not looking". I am perfectly capable of making my own judgements with my own faculties. The "esteemed repose" can be seen as poking fun, or overly polite (which is also in keeping with the Dwarven fascination with formality and service), but even if that were poking fun, it does not follow that the preceding contract is an elaborate joke. You state that Thorin believes that the song has clarified everything but conveniently leave out Thorin's own speech immediately prior to Bilbo's outburst.


Quote
"We are met to discuss our plans, our ways, means, policy and devices. We shall soon before the break of day start on our long journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us (except our friend and counsellor, the ingenious wizard Gandalf) may never return. It is a solemn moment. Our object is, I take it, well known to us all. To the estimable Mr. Baggins, and perhaps to one or two of the younger dwarves (I think I should be right in naming Kili and Fili, for instance), the exact situation at the moment may require a little brief explanation-"
This was Thorin's style. He was an important dwarf. If he had been allowed, he would probably have gone on like this until he was out of breath, without telling any one there 'anything that was not known already.


How does that gel with your assertion that everything to be said was already in the song and only Bilbo needed it clarified further. Tolkien quite clearly states here that it is Thorin who would go "on like this until he was out of breath, without telling any one there anything that was not known already". This is Thorin's character, and is completely in keeping with the contract.

Finally, you stated that you had corroboration from Tolkien also. I'd be curious to see it. Also, I would prefer if its something relatively clear rather than something we all have to read between the lines in the exact fashion you have chosen to.

I'm not saying this to be combative, but it seems to me that much of your argument is interpretation, and you do not seem to understand that other interpretations are equally valid.


Fàfnir
Rohan


Oct 4 2012, 1:30pm

Post #115 of 145 (1456 views)
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I just had an medieval history class this morning [In reply to] Can't Post

and, as I read your debate yesterday, I remarked that contract were something very present in relationships between knights and counts and kings, and even peasants wanted everything to be wrote down at a point, about taxes and duties to their lord... Contract is not such a modern thing, and I wouldn't be surprised if dwarves, who are in some way more serious people than hobbits, give it some place in their culture, especially when they're about to get a burglar near of their treasure


Fardragon
Rohan

Oct 4 2012, 2:07pm

Post #116 of 145 (1608 views)
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Well, there was that Magna Carta thingy [In reply to] Can't Post

that the British PM seems to know nothing about...

A Far Dragon is the best kind...


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 4 2012, 2:09pm

Post #117 of 145 (1546 views)
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Agreed as well [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that Bilbo's anachronistic bourgeois nature will be established in a number of other ways, both in terms of visuals, dialogue and character. We have already seen a lot of that already

What I do worry about, though, is the suggestion that the dwarves are also beorgeois. So I hope the contract is portrayed as the dwarves aping a hobbit's style, rather than their own peculiar way.


Foromir
Rivendell


Oct 4 2012, 2:11pm

Post #118 of 145 (1413 views)
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Scene from the Trailer could support this view. [In reply to] Can't Post

Looking at this still from the second trailer (alternative ending) you can almost hear Thorin saying to a chuckling Balin: "See, I told this would be necessary when dealing with a Hobbit!" while handing Bilbo the contract with blatant nonchalance.[/img]

This is of course no proof at all how the scene will actually be played out, but maybe a bit of speculative fuel to this very interesting discussion.



In Reply To
I will find it perfectly acceptable. If after singing the song, and after Bilbo asks for more details, Thorin says something like:

"Here's the contract. Maybe you'll understand that better, hobbit."

I will embrace it.

But if the contract is played as a peculiarly dwarven characteristic, or as an extension of Thorin's windbaggery, I will find it hard to stomach, and certainly a misinterpretation of the book.



(This post was edited by Ataahua on Oct 4 2012, 6:43pm)


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 4 2012, 2:11pm

Post #119 of 145 (1533 views)
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The Magna Carta is a very modern document [In reply to] Can't Post

Compared to what Tolkien was aiming for with most of the non-Shire Middle Earth, which was a deeper, forgotten, mythic age.


(This post was edited by Shelob'sAppetite on Oct 4 2012, 2:11pm)


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 4 2012, 2:13pm

Post #120 of 145 (1549 views)
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Good observation [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope you're right!


Fardragon
Rohan

Oct 4 2012, 2:34pm

Post #121 of 145 (1597 views)
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Not that forgotten. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks to people like Tolkien, we now know a lot more about Anglo-Saxon and Bronze age Britain.

But yes, the Magna Carta, and the legalism that went with it, was a Norman.

But it was written only 149 years after the end of the Saxon period.

And the Normans where themselves descended from "north-men" AKA Vikings, which was one of the cultures Tolkien based his dwarves on.

A Far Dragon is the best kind...


Shelob'sAppetite
Valinor

Oct 4 2012, 2:41pm

Post #122 of 145 (1436 views)
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All true [In reply to] Can't Post

But though the Normans were descendants of Norse conquerors, they very much adopted many of the legalistic norms of the European continent (norms that mostly derived from old Roman law, followed by papal law, followed by the laws of Frankish Kings...) The Norman conquest of Britain was part of why, in Tolkien's view, England's mythology (or the mythology of the Anglo-Saxon) was almost completely obliterated.

Giving Tolkien's dwarves Norman (or post-1066) characteristics would be quite wrong, IMO. Giving those modern characteristics to the hobbits, on the other hand, is perfectly fine.

Though it is funny to note that "Bag End" is a dig at Norman/French influence, being, as it is, an anglicized version of cul-de-sac... Smile


Lightice
Lorien

Oct 4 2012, 2:55pm

Post #123 of 145 (1433 views)
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Speaking of mythology [In reply to] Can't Post

Lets talk of mythical dwarves for a moment. The mythical fair folk of Norse and Celtic origin often put a great importance on agreements. For example, many could not break their word once they'd given it, but could interpret their words with extreme creativity, and twist their meaning in cunning ways. For example, when the Norse god Loki made a bet with a dwarf with his head as the wager. After losing, he cleverly noted that his neck was not part of the bargain, and thus the dwarf could not actually remove his head. The dwarf responded by sewing his mouth shut. The various kinds of bargains are the staple of mythology and fairy tales involving dwarves. The overly complicated agreement in the movie seems to be designed to avert the typical tendency for dwarves to end up on the losing side over some loophole or special term. They've had a lot of time to learn about their mistakes, and come up with something that will definately stick, no matter what.

To me the contract seems extremely dwarf-like, not something made to please a hobbit, who don't seem to have any interest in legal matters outside inheritence disputes, considering the small size of their law enforcement and legislature.


DanielLB
Immortal


Oct 4 2012, 3:07pm

Post #124 of 145 (1503 views)
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I bet the majority of Brits don't know what it is! / [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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Fàfnir
Rohan


Oct 4 2012, 3:10pm

Post #125 of 145 (1427 views)
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Since I'm no Brit... [In reply to] Can't Post

...I'm not ashamed to ask.
What is this thing ?

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