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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
History of the Hobbit Book DIscussion: Chapter Three - Rivendell

bruinen
Bree


Aug 11 2013, 8:28pm


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History of the Hobbit Book DIscussion: Chapter Three - Rivendell Can't Post

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

This Week: Chapter III, Rivendell
Next Week: Chapter IV, Goblins

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.


Remember, the character we know as Gandalf is called “Bladorthin” in this early draft, and the character we know as Thorin is called “Gandalf.” They have the map, which Bladorthin gave to Gandalf at Bag End; and they have a random set of keys which Bladorthin picked up from the troll hoard and is carrying on his belt.

Overview: “Chapter III – Rivendell” in the early draft manuscript begins just after the troll scene and ends when they depart Elrond’s “last homely house.” The most interesting thing here is we see Tolkien’s very first description and characterization of Elrond in TH/LOTR context…and he is not yet named “half-elven.” I think it’s phenomenally interesting to see this first reveal of a character who went on to be such a major character in the overall story of Middle Earth. (Though as we'll see in the notes, Elrond did already appear in The Book of Lost Tales.)

The second most interesting thing: in the first draft, Elrond’s home is first called “the Last Decent House,” and the name “Rivendell” is not mentioned at all. (JRRT hadn’t yet conceived the name.) Bladorthin (Gandalf) states that they are expected because he had just been there (implying that this is where he was while the dwarves were dealing with the trolls.) Their arrival is much the same as in the published version (complete with tra-la-la-lally song) and as they approach, JRRT changes names in the draft and calls it the “Last Homely House” for the first time towards the end.

Here is JRRT’s first draft description of the valley, NOT yet named Rivendell…

They asked him (Bladorthin [Gandalf]) where he was making for. “You are now at the very Edge of the Wild” he answered. “Somewhere ahead is the Last Decent House – I have been there already and they are expecting us.”

Here’s JRRT’s first ever description of Elrond, much the same as in the published text:

“The master of the house was an elf-friend—one of those people whose fathers came into the strange stories of the beginning of history and the wars of the Elves and goblins, and of the brave men of the North… He was as good to look at (almost) as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as Christmas. And his house was perfect, whether you liked food or sleep or work or storytelling or singing or just sitting and thinking best. Bad things did not come into the valley.”

And just as in the published version, we don’t get to actually meet Elrond until several days later when the dwarves are fully rested and preparing to leave the next day, on midsummer’s morning. Here’s the early draft of Elrond’s first bit of dialog as he looks at the swords from the troll lair. Note that Elrond gives them an origin, but in this draft, they are not named.

“….he looked at the swords they had brought from the trolls’ lair, and he said:

“These are not troll-make. They are old swords, very old swords of the elves that are called Gnomes, and they were made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars. They must have come from a dragon’s hoard, for dragons it was that destroyed that city many ages ago.” He looked at the keys and he said “these are troll-keys, but there is one in the bunch that is not. It is a dwarf-key.”

“So it is,” said Gandalf (Thorin) when he looked at it. “Now where did that come from.”

“I couldn’t say,” said Elrond. “but I should keep it safe and fast if I were you.” And Gandalf (Thorin) fastened it to a chain and put it round his neck under his jacket."

He goes on to identify and explain the moon-letters, and reads the hidden message:

“Stand by the grey stone where the thrush knocks. Then the [rising, changed to] setting sun on the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upong the key hole.”

Then Elrond hands the map back and goes “down the water to see the elves dance and sing,” and the next morning the dwarves ride away “with their hearts ready for more adventure, and a knowledge of the road they must follow over the mountains to the land beyond.”

Curiously, both the map and key are present in this scene, yet none of the characters (neither Bladorthin, Elrond, nor Gandalf) associate the two…though I suspect that JRRT was dangling these for his audience…dropping the hints and expecting that the listeners will feel smarter than the characters here and will be thinking, “I know what that key’s for!”

What do you think?



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

My Notes on Chapter 2:

A) Introductory comments: just a brief note that the draft continued without break.

B) Footnotes to intro comments: none

C) The first draft manuscript: as noted above.

D) Rateliff’s Notes on the manuscript:

- The Misty Mountains are so-named for the first time by Balin, same as in the published chapter “A Short Rest.”

- An anachronism: Elrond described “as kind as Christmas.” In the published version, this line is changed to “as kind as summer.”

- Gnomes? The line, “very old swords of the elves that are called Gnomes” is crossed out and penciled in is: the elves that are now called Gnomes, but were once called Noldor,” and Rateliff speculates that this change (along with the other penciled changes) dates a few years after the draft was written. The published draft (of course) says, “They are old swords, very old swords of the High Elves of the West, my kin.” (Gnomes being completely deleted from the story forever more.)

- There’s a long note about how JRRT and Allen & Unwin discussed ways to best represent the moon-writing on the map. First choice was to incorporate a watermark into the book, but this was too expensive. Second choice was to put the moon-writing in reverse on the next page—so that when held up to the light, the moon-writing would show through to good effect. Ultimately, Allen & Unwin elected to use the map on the endpapers, glued to the inside front and back cover, so they settled on the moon-writing being drawn in outline.

- Rateliff on the key: “It is noteworthy that Gandalf’s (Thorin’s) hiding the key under his jacket enables him to keep it through the goblin and wood-elf encounters that are shortly to follow, suggesting that one or both of these plot-elements had already been anticipated.”

Rateliff’s further observations are in two sections, (i) The Last Decent House, (ii) Elves in the Moonlight, (iii) Elrond, and (iv) Durin’s Day.

(i) The Last Decent House: Rateliff states, “This brief chapter contains the most explicit references yet linking The Hobbit to the mythology out of which it grew. Elrond and Gondolin come directly from the Silmarillion tradition, which the ‘Last Decent House’ (renamed the Last Homely House before the end of the chapter) is clearly inspired by the Cottage of Lost Play that had appeared in the frame story of The Book of Lost Tales, where ‘old tales, old songs, and elfin (sic) music are treasured and rehersed.’ (BLT I.20) – a description strikingly like that of Elrond’s house…”

(ii) Elves in the Moonlight: Rateliff draws the initial vision of the singing elves as parallel to the stereotypical dancing faeries of Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature. Tolkien did write some poetry and the original Tale of Tinuviel in the 20s which leaned “fairy,” but Rateliff states that “Tolkien later came to disavow the idea of elves as cute little fairies and moved his own elves firmly in the direction of medieval elf-lore.” It is important to note that the more Faerie antics which accompany the “tra-la-la-lally” song, while echoed on Bilbo’s return journey, are never seen in LOTR.

(iii) Elrond: Rateliff states that the most important character in this chapter comes directly to The Hobbit from Tolkien’s earlier work—specifically from “The Sketch of the Mythology,” HME IV.38, written about 1926. Rateliff details the history very closely in this section. I leave it to you to read through it!

(iv) Durin’s Day: Rateliff states, “By contrast with the elvish material, Durin’s Day represents a new element in the mythology.” Rateliff speculates that the origin is either the Jewish calendar, also lunar in nature with a new year in September or October, or (when Durin’s Day was shifted from the first to the last new moon of autumn) with the Celtic calendar, which began the new year on 1st November. Rateliff noted that there were inconsistencies in the published version (between Chapter III and Chapter XI) that weren’t completely corrected until 1995.

E) Footnotes to Rateliff’s observations:

a. The name “Rivendell” does not appear anywhere in the drafts but is slipped into the typescript prior to the first edition.

b. Lots of notes about the Victorian faeries, children’s poetry, and eventual dislike of them.

c. Several notes about Elrond’s story as told in HME IV.38 “Sketch of the Mythology” and HME IV.150, etc. “Quenta.”

d. Note re: “The Fall of Gondolin” written 1916-17 (BLT II.146) but not published until BLT vol. II came out in 1984.


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 11 2013, 8:37pm)

Subject User Time
History of the Hobbit Book DIscussion: Chapter Three - Rivendell bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 11 2013, 8:28pm
    The Homely Elrond sador Send a private message to sador Aug 12 2013, 1:51pm
        Hmmmm... bruinen Send a private message to bruinen Aug 12 2013, 3:35pm
    Moonlighting sador Send a private message to sador Aug 13 2013, 10:51am
        Moon-writing and page-turning dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Aug 15 2013, 2:59am
    From feeling to smelling dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Aug 15 2013, 3:07am
        Good catch about the key-holes! sador Send a private message to sador Aug 15 2013, 5:09am

 
 
 

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