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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Were there 144? or more?

Israfellius
The Shire

Nov 12 2013, 9:51am

Post #1 of 9 (269 views)
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Were there 144? or more? Can't Post

In the chapter "Long-expected party" Tolkien writes:


Quote
“The invitations were limited to twelve dozen (a number also called by the hobbits one Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use of people); and the guests were selected from all the families to which Bilbo and Frodo were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated friends (such as Gandalf ).”


This would seem to infer that the total number of people in the pavilion was 144. The total number of hobbits invited would then be X = 144 - F, where F is the number of "special unrelated friends." Yet later in the chapter, when Bilbo vanishes in front of the party, Tolkien writes:


Quote
“One hundred and forty-four flabbergasted hobbits sat back speechless.”


Which would seem to infer that there were more than 144 people at the party: 144 hobbits + F = total attendees.

So did the gross include the non-hobbits? or not?


(This post was edited by Israfellius on Nov 12 2013, 9:53am)


FaramirFan
The Shire

Nov 12 2013, 10:25am

Post #2 of 9 (165 views)
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this keeps you awake? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm just sitting here laughing. I worry about stuff too, like "what happened to those other two Istari?"

But basically you just identified a mathematical ambiguity in the text. If we say "everything written by Tolkien must be true", some gate crashers snuck into the tent or some hobbit children were included in their parent's invite, etc. yep - We need a few extra hobbits here.

ps - Now go figure out what happened to my other wizards! Smile


Israfellius
The Shire

Nov 12 2013, 10:39am

Post #3 of 9 (173 views)
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Can't sleep [In reply to] Can't Post

I posted the question more as a humorous dig at the things Tolkien fans think and chat about, rather than a serious need to know the answer.

If Tolkien had written "141 flabbergasted hobbits sat back speechless" it probably would have caused more confusion and interrupt the flow of the reader, as the reader would then stop think, rather than reading on. It's almost better that the error is there, otherwise to fix it, Tolkien would have had to say something like "141 hobbits, 2 dwarfs, and one wizard sat back speechless..."

If Tolkien was still alive, I'd send him the question. I wonder if he'd revise the text.

I like to believe the blue wizards found their calling selling chocolate pies in the far east.


Darkstone
Immortal


Nov 12 2013, 4:08pm

Post #4 of 9 (134 views)
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Early proof of the hand of Providence influencing the story. [In reply to] Can't Post

Apparently by happy coincidence exactly just as many non-invited hobbits snuck in as there were invited non-hobbit "special unrelated friends (such as Gandalf )”, and that may be an encouraging thought.

******************************************
“Indeed if fish had fish-lore and Wise-fish it is probable that the business of anglers would be very little hindered.”
-JRR Tolkien


RosieBaggins
Rivendell


Nov 12 2013, 5:28pm

Post #5 of 9 (115 views)
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I always assumed someone snuck in. [In reply to] Can't Post

What hobbit could resist coming to such a feast? :D

Beware the shiny
They are there to steal your heart.
You must just say no.

On another note, wonder what obscure holiday it is today? No? Of course you do! That is why I have created This calender to tell you! Enjoy. I take suggestions if I missed your favorite holiday.


Brethil
Half-elven


Nov 12 2013, 5:40pm

Post #6 of 9 (113 views)
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Chocolate pies...maybe! Or maybe those lost Blue wizards found music... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

I like to believe the blue wizards found their calling selling chocolate pies in the far east.






And welcome Israfellius!

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!





elaen32
Gondor


Nov 12 2013, 5:45pm

Post #7 of 9 (99 views)
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Shouldn't that read "On a Mission from Eru"?// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!



Brethil
Half-elven


Nov 12 2013, 5:56pm

Post #8 of 9 (97 views)
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Quite right! Fixed it! [In reply to] Can't Post



Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!





FarFromHome
Valinor


Nov 13 2013, 2:41pm

Post #9 of 9 (105 views)
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"With the addition of..." [In reply to] Can't Post

"The invitations were limited to twelve dozen ... and the guests were selected from all the families to which Bilbo and Frodo were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated friends (such as Gandalf)."
That sounds to me like Gandalf and the other "friends" were added onto the 144, and not counted in the "one gross" of formal invitees. I think that's basically what Tolkien/the narrator/Bilbo is getting at with his little linguistic joke about "one gross", anyway. Things you get "by the gross" are by implication common and ordinary, with every item the same as all the others. When Bilbo spells out the "one gross" joke in his speech, the hobbits are understandably insulted at being treated in this interchangeable way, "feeling sure they had only been asked to fill up the required number, like goods in a package."

The way I see it, whenever the narrator mentions the one hundred and forty-four hobbits dreading the speech, or being flabbergasted or whatever, I don't think it's really about the specific number (who's counting by that point anyway?Tongue) - it's about the metaphor behind the number, i.e. "one gross" - of boring, ordinary, dime-a-dozen hobbits. Gandalf, the dwarves, Frodo and anyone else who's there but isn't dull and boring doesn't count!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


 
 

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