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Tolkien notes: But Richard Armitage is *spoilers*

Tol Eressea

Feb 18 2013, 3:45am

Views: 452
Tolkien notes: But Richard Armitage is *spoilers* Can't Post

too hot to die!

For this week, I decided to post about the character builds in The Hobbit.

A couple comments from last week that i want to make clear--

-----My professor does love Tolkien. She actually mentioned this week that she was criticized by the rest of the English department when she started teaching this course almost twenty years ago, and scholars like Tom Shippey and Jane Chance (at Rice University) have helped to legitimize the study of Tolkien in academia. Any criticisms she has are simple to help us think objectively, and better read his works from a more objective academic perspective. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing, but please remember that this is not meant to rile anybody up, but instead, to simply share what I've been taking notes on. (similarly, these notes aren't necessarily my opinion, or even that of my professor, but simply reflective of discussions in class)

------We do talk about Tolkien's own personal/professional life as well as some philological history, but I have decided not to post stuff about that on here, simply because it's stuff that anybody can look up whenever they want. I thought the discussions we have in class, and some of my professors own opinions, might be more interesting, just because it seems like it would be slightly more original on here, and spark more conversation, than a simple history of Tolkien in which I list facts that I learn. If anybody has any alternative ideas, please let me know! Smile

So, at this point in the course, we have read TH, On Fairy-Stories, Beowulf, Farmer Giles, the Poetic Eddas, and Leaf by Niggle. We just started LOTR this week, but haven't gotten far enough for me to make a real post on here, so instead, I will talk about some interesting character stuff in TH.

1. Bilbo. At the beginning of the novel, he comes across as the complete opposite of what a hero *should* be-- basically, utterly complacent with his comfortable life, and completely uninterested in adventure. He is "bourgeois," to use Tom Shippey's word. Interestingly, if we're going to talk about language here, at the end of the novel, Bilbo becomes a "burglar"-- which actually comes from the same root as "bourgeois," meaning "a stockaded town." This parallel is kind of interesting when you think about it, because one can't survive without the other-- the bourgouis need the stockaded town to live in, and a burglar needs the bourgeois to steal from. This kind of play reflects Bilbo's own personality, too-- he has the Baggins side, which, despite all the changes he goes through in the novel, he never loses (for example, note that the last line in TH is about tobacco). But, he also develops the Took side, which arguably first appears while he listens to the Dwarves' song about the Lonely Mountain. In short, Bilbo is able to develop throughout the novel without ever losing his identity.

Do you agree with this-- does Bilbo keep his identity throughout the novel? What are some ways we see two sides of Bilbo? Would you describe it differently?

2. Beowulf, and other heroes. As I said, we also read Beowulf and the Poetic Eddas this week. Some of the inspiration Tolkien draws from these tales-- particularly the Eddas-- is a bit more obvious-- Fafnir the dragon guarding his gold, a broken sword, a Ring, and so on. Some of it is a bit more subtle, though. One question I had, for those that have read Beowulf, was about where we see Beowulf in TH, if at all (because of course it is a major source of inspiration). Is it in Beorn, the berserker whose name-- literally meaning "bear"-- is strikingly similar to "Beowulf," literally meaning "Bee wolf" aka "Bear"? Is it in Thorin, the heroic character we follow most consistently through the novel? Is it in Bard, the hero descending from a great lineage, who ultimately slays the dragon? Someone else? How do you think Tolkien most strongly incorporated Beowulf in TH?

3. Thorin. (having just written an essay on TH and Beowulf, that's what I've been thinking about recently) Could Thorin have been king, or did his greed over the treasure negate that possibility? Did Thorin have to die? We discussed the idea that at this point, we had seen Thorin so corrupted that we couldn't have ended the novel with his being king and consider that a perfectly "happy" ending. I generally dislike "hypothetical" questions, but I do think it is a significant choice that Dain comes in and takes over instead of Thorin-- why do you think this happened? *Could* Thorin have been king?

4. The dwarves as a collective character. They seem to not really measure up to everything they were built to be at the beginning of the novel. They don't want to go back to the mountain to rescue Bilbo, they get trapped by the spiders, they refuse to go into the tunnel in the Lonely Mountain, they get corrupted and overwhelmed by the treasure-- do you agree that there is a disjunct between what we expect from the dwarves at the beginning of the novel, and what they ultimately do, or are we being unfair to expect more from them at the beginning?

5. Aaaand...back to Bilbo. What has he gained at the end of the novel? For those who have read Leaf by Niggle, do you see any connection between Bilbo's ability to compose songs, and Niggle's ability to paint pictures? Why is art so important? A couple of factors that we talked about in class was that the music at the beginning of the novel is what stirs Bilbo to join in the adventure, but it is not until he converses with Smaug that he is able to write any poetry(/riddles) of his own. Also, Bilbo is the one who spots the Eagles, and Beorn, as they show up to the Battle of the Five Armies in the nick of time-- is it significant that he is the first one to see them? The word "luck" seems to follow Bilbo around-- is luck an important factor in this novel, or is it fate? (is there a difference?)

I know I have a lot of questions in here, and if you have anything else you'd like to discuss from here, please feel free to chime in! These are just some of my notes to stimulate some thoughts. I tried to avoid discussing too many other texts in here, but I did want to include them at least a bit, since they were a major source of discussion in our class. Please let me know if I can clarify something, too, or if you have a question about what we talked about-- this is very much a condensed version of my notes (which are over ten pages long at this point!). Tongue

‎"When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's power—upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world
external to our minds awakes."
--J. R. R. Tolkien

Mozart and Chocolate

(This post was edited by entmaiden on Feb 18 2013, 2:27pm)

Subject User Time
Tolkien notes: But Richard Armitage is *spoilers* Laerasėa Send a private message to Laerasėa Feb 18 2013, 3:45am
    I will try. silneldor Send a private message to silneldor Feb 18 2013, 8:27pm
        "Without the weight of ego"! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Feb 21 2013, 3:21am
    LOL! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Feb 19 2013, 2:13am
    The thread opener made me laugh :D Sślimė Send a private message to Sślimė Feb 19 2013, 8:05am
        I like that! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Feb 21 2013, 3:24am
    Thank you again! sador Send a private message to sador Feb 20 2013, 9:59am
        Oh, that's right! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Feb 20 2013, 11:18am


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