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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
History of the Hobbit Book Discussion: Chapter II Trolls


Aug 4 2013, 4:16pm

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History of the Hobbit Book Discussion: Chapter II Trolls Can't Post

The Book: The History of the Hobbit by John D. Rateliff

This Week: Chapter II, Trolls
Next Week: Chapter III, Rivendell

Welcome to The History of the Hobbit!

As other RRoom leaders state: These chapter discussions are open to everyone -- all you need is to have read the book and have an opinion, question, and/or comment. This is absolutely not for experts only - everyone's participation is welcome, whether you are a veteran of the Reading Room or brand-new, and whether you've commented on other chapters or not. Feel very free to jump right in.

Overview: “Chapter II – Trolls”

The early draft begins with Bilbo waking up on the morning after the unexpected party and ends just after the trolls are turned to stone. It corresponds to the chapter titled “Roast Mutton” in the published version. It includes a funny anachronism where the dwarves refer to both policeman and bicycles.

The single most interesting change from this original draft to the version we know today is how JRRT first conceived of the key to Erebor plot device. He drafted the first version 1930-35, and it isn’t until several years later, just before publication, that he rewrites to have the Key handed over with the map in chapter one. The swords are found in the hoard, but they are not immediately identified as elven and are marked with runes no one can read.

Rateliff says, “The trolls’ hoard is almost as interesting as its owners. Baldorthin’s inability to read the runes on the swords is a simple set-up for the scene with Elrond in the next chapter, which was clearly already planned…in terms of plot, the troll hoard can be viewed as a simple means of getting items plausibly into the characters’ hands – most notably the two swords and Bilbo’s dagger. But in the manuscript they find a fourth treasure, ultimately more important than any of the others: the troll-key. This is a major departure from the published text, where the key to the secret door in the Lonely Mountain is given by the wizard to Thorin in the first chapter along with the map, having conveniently been overlooked by the Necromancer’s jailers when they stripped his father and threw him into their dungeons. Tolkien’s original plan was to have the necessary key turn up by chance along the way.”

My opinion is that had he not eventually tightened up this one important plot point, Tolkien’s work would have remained firmly in the league of children’s stories. It’s his hard work in the revision process that led him to reach for legend-like storytelling that added the layers of complexity to the story that we love today.

Better to have a key and go looking for a door, than have a door that you later discover requires a key…which someone conveniently found 200 pages back and has been inexplicably been carrying around all this time.

What do you think?

My Notes:

It’s not necessary to read my further notes (below) but be my guest. Note, this is not a complete summary, just some highlights that might make discussion points. Feel free to pose questions from the notes.

Remember, Gandalf is still named Bladorthin and Thorin is still named Gandalf. They have the map but the key was not part of chapter one.

A) Introductory comments: just a brief note about pagination
B) Footnotes to intro comments: none
C) The first draft manuscript:
--Opening lines

“He jumped up and put on his dressing gown, and went out and saw all the signs of a very hurried breakfast. There was a dreadful lot of washing up in the kitchen, and crumbs and mess in the dining room, and no fires. Nor were there any dwarves or wizard.

“Bilbo would have thought it all a bad dream, if there hadn’t been such a lot of washing up and mess to clear away.”

--Chapter Action:

The meeting place is called “The Great Mill.”

An anachronism: after the light is spotted in the woods, the dwarves argue: “These parts are none too well known, and too near the mountains. Not even a policeman on a bicycle is ever seen this way.” [Hah! JRRT uses a phrase his children would find familiar, but forgets that his dwarves likely wouldn’t have known what either a policeman or a bicycle was…Though it does beg the question whether the blue mountains had dwarven bike cops.]

The talking purse is fully present in the early draft of the scene.

Instead of an open troll cave, they find a large wooden door that they cannot open and Bladorthin’s spell cannot unlock. But they find a large key on the ground that must have fallen out of William’s pocket before he was turned to stone, and it unlocks the door.

“There were bones on the floor and a nasty smell in the air; but there was a deal of coins in earthen pots at the far end of the cave, and a sword or two, and a bunch of curious keys on a nail; and that was all they found.”

Bladorthin (Gandalf), Gandalf (Thorin) and Bilbo all take swords, though they are not identified as elven. Just blades with runes they cannot read.

“Let’s get out of the smell!” said Fili. And so they went, and would have left the keys. [I find this a bit funny, given movie-Fili’s line “if there’s a key, there must be a door” line.]

“Hello!” said Bladorthin. “What are these, do you suppose? There are no other locks or doors in here. These keys were not made for this place.” So he brought them out and hung them on his belt.

The gold coins are buried “very secretly not far from the track by the river, with a deal of spells and curses over them, just in case.” [New examples of dwarven magic.]

The chapter ends with Gandalf (Thorin) saying “Thank you” to Bladorthin (Gandalf) for coming back, same as in the published version.

D) Rateliff’s Notes on the manuscript:
- The Great Mill remains the meeting spot right up until JRRT had page proofs for the initial publication—where he first changed it to The Green Man and then The Green Dragon Inn. He didn’t change the corresponding illustration, however. The original illustration “The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the-water” traces Bilbo’s route to the Mill, not the Inn.

- The “misty mountains” remain a descriptive term rather than the proper noun used in later drafts.

- Bofur and Bombur are the original fire tenders, crossed out at some point and replaced with Oin and Gloin.

- Dwalin is the original lookout, crossed out and changed to Balin.

- Dori and Nori quarrel, later changed to Oin and Gloin quarrel.

- Dwarven magic makes a reappearance in the burying of the troll gold…though “a good deal of spells and curses” in the draft is reduced to “a good deal of spells” in the published version.

Rateliff’s further observations are in two sections, (i) The Trolls, (ii) Bilbo’s Contract

(i) Trolls: Rateliff explains that trolls entered Tolkien’s mythology at some point in the period of 1917-1920s when he was first writing what we now know as The Lost Tales.

a. They appear on the scene after the War against Melkor (Morgoth.)

b. B LT II.283, “”Men came to Tol Eressea and also Orcs, Dwarves, Gongs, Trolls, etc.”

c. A more direct precursor for William, Bert and Tom comes from a poem JRRT wrote while at Leeds (1920-1925), one of the “Songs for the Philologists” originally known as Pero & Podex. It is very similar to Sam’s troll song in FotR “A troll sat alone on his seat of stone.”

d. Trolls turning to stone in sunlight: this is not an English folk tradition. However, Tolkien is credited with “popularizing, not inventing” the motif, sourced from Scandinavian mythology. See the Elder Edda.

(ii) Bilbo’s Contract: in the draft, the text is essentially the same as in the published version. Rateliff points out that “the comic precision of these terms later becomes important in the climax, when fair distribution of the treasure becomes the moral crux upon which the resolution of the story depends.”

E) Footnotes to Rateliff’s observations:

a. Several notes here detailing dialects and word origins.

b. Additional trolls-turn-to-stone references, including the modern stories by Poul Anderson and by Terry Pratchett.

c. Rateliff cites work by a student and friend of JRRT: Helen Buckhurst—“one of the people to whom he presented a signed copy of The Hobbit upon its first publication.” In a 1926 lecture on Icelandic Folklore, Buckhurst retells several stories about “Night-Trolls” who turn to stone at dawn:

‘Dawn now hath caught thee, a stone shalt thou be,
And no man henceforth shall be harmed by thee”
The Night Troll, Saga-book, p. 230

These tales possibly explain the existence of rock formations that look like beings. Including one in which an island is characterized as a “troll cow” flanked by its troll owners.

My Avatar: the desk Tolkien used when he wrote The Hobbit...now on display at Wheaton College.

(This post was edited by bruinen on Aug 4 2013, 4:25pm)

Subject User Time
History of the Hobbit Book Discussion: Chapter II Trolls bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 4 2013, 4:16pm
    The "key" chapter! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Aug 5 2013, 3:19am
        Actually, I can't quite understand. sador Send a private message to sador Aug 8 2013, 9:05am
            I suppose Silverlode Send a private message to Silverlode Aug 9 2013, 4:09am
                Mr T! ROFL bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 10 2013, 11:22pm
        isn't this the first night out? bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 10 2013, 11:33pm
            This covers about the first month of travel Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Aug 11 2013, 8:15pm
                Yes - you are correct! bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 11 2013, 8:27pm
    I'm going to jump into the discussion with this chapter. RosieLass Send a private message to RosieLass Aug 7 2013, 4:58am
        I agree completely--nothing wrong bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 10 2013, 11:28pm
    Halt, in the name of Plod! sador Send a private message to sador Aug 7 2013, 9:14am
    Could a troll-cow jump over the moon? sador Send a private message to sador Aug 8 2013, 8:39am
        Day trolls...hmmmm. bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 10 2013, 11:39pm


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