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TORn AMATEUR SYMPOSIUM ESSAY : "Bilbo- All That is Gold" by Dame Ioreth

TORn Amateur Symposium
Bree


Nov 26 2013, 11:05am

Post #1 of 22 (313 views)
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TORn AMATEUR SYMPOSIUM ESSAY : "Bilbo- All That is Gold" by Dame Ioreth Can't Post

Welcome to November 2013 TORn Amateur Symposium, the second TAS!

We are very pleased to present the next essay for TAS2:

"Bilbo-All That is Gold" by Dame Ioreth

Abstract:
As a linguist and historian, I’ve often wondered if J.R.R.Tolkien, saw something of himself in Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit turned adventurer turned historian he created. Certainly, his writing of these tales and the creation of Middle Earth was a major part of his life’s work. Originally, he presented it as a prehistory of his own native land - legends and stories written by Bilbo and other historians, translated by Tolkien himself.
It is very easy to find individuals here on TORn who have read The Hobbit and LOTR and immersed themselves in the world of Middle Earth, finding new and wonderful sights and sounds to share with their fellow travelers. We sit around virtual campfires telling stories, spinning tales, and retelling that same prehistory. Dates and times, places and events become the building blocks of conversations. Some gravitate towards the more concrete, some towards the more ethereal. I would like to focus on one individual and attempt to determine his motivations for writing a particular piece, the All that is Gold poem written by Bilbo Baggins through the lens of his character.


To view the essay, please click on the link above.

Our authors have written essays and analyses that are concerned, in some way, with the legendarium of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. These essays may be philosophic opinions, scientific theories, or analytical approaches to understanding or highlighting some facet of Tolkien's writings and world. These pieces are written with the goal of amateur scholarship at their core - thus inspiring our Symposium title. Authors may choose to include citations or footnotes, but they are by no means required. Keeping in mind the dual spirit of enjoyment and inquiry that we believe in (as much as we value cheer and song), and which is of paramount important to both the TAS team and our authors, we fully encourage discussion of the essays presented.We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy posting it. The TAS is open for discussion, and any comments, questions or thought you wish to share about this essay can be posted in this response to this thread.

We have two more essays to come after this one- which will be posted on Friday 29th November and Sunday 1st December. If you would like to read or comment upon any of the essays so far, these are all still open for discussion.
So please, go forth and enjoy all of the works we have posted for this 2013 November Session. The entire TAS Team, (Elaen32, DanielLB and Brethil), is both delighted and proud to present the essays our TAS members have crafted, relating their interests and skills to the world of JRRT that we all love; a world most intricately crafted, and one that "takes hold of us, and never let's go.


elaen32
Gondor


Nov 26 2013, 12:01pm

Post #2 of 22 (186 views)
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I love your ideas and imagery here Ioreth [In reply to] Can't Post

Firstly, in your abstract- I really liked the notion of a "virtual campfire" around which we are all sitting- that's a really nice concept. And a comforting thought....

The comparison of Thorin and Aragorn is an interesting one- as you say, there are many parallels, but Thorin fails because he does not see beyond the love of gold for its own sake, to what he has achieved in other ways, for his people. Or rather, he does not value these things. Why he is so gold-obsessed may be a discussion for another time. However, there are other characters who seem to value the "flashy", the "worldy" and the more superficial things of life, over the deeper things. Denethor springs to mind, with his rejection of Faramir in favour of the more obvious heroism of Boromir. He only realises Faramir's worth when it appears too late. Saruman does not value the powers and the remit that he already has as one of the Istari- he wants to rule everything, to his ruin, not realising that had he stuck to his original mission, he would have at least survived to return to Valinor. Eowyn appears to value the more obvious trappings of "valour" and "renown" at first, rejecting her own personal skills as being unworthy. She thinks she loves Aragorn for the above reasons, but it is not clear whether she sees any deeper as far as he is concerned. It is only by the love and patience of Faramir that she comes to recognise and love the worth of the seemingly less glamorous and to give herself worth.

Aragorn is steeped in his people's history and this is a burden. One could argue that he doesn't have the luxury of just seeing the more superficial side of life, but it does not seem to be in his nature, which is more in keeping with the early Numenorean kings such as Elros and after the Fall, Elendil, than with his more immediate ancestors. I am not sure that he is so much reluctant as cautious, realising that everything has its time and that showing his hand as far as the Kingship goes, could be disastrous.

Thanks for a lovely essay Ioreth- I'll be back later to add more!Smile


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!



Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 26 2013, 1:06pm

Post #3 of 22 (184 views)
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Yes, I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a very Tolkien-like theme, isn't it, to value what one has instead of chasing after the flash.

The fact that Aragorn is removed by tens of generations from his family's fall from power I think was a factor in how he reacts to the flash. His personality was also shaped by elves not men. It's interesting that you mentioned Elros because of course, Aragorn was practically raised by Elros' twin. The "job" was he chooses is decidedly UN-flashy, too. The more I think about it the more I wonder if he were being groomed for kingship. Did Elrond see the fading and understand that elves would be leaving ME soon (soon in elf time that is)? As stewards of ME, had he been looking for a suitable man of Elros' line to train? If I were walking around Middle Earth at the time, maybe with a certain Grey Wizard, would I have seen this would be king and encourage him? Aragorn's time did seem to be a time of convergence of many great things.

I can imagine Bilbo wondering about Aragorn's lineage and researching it as much as possible in Rivendell. Would his views of the family have changed had he had access to the information in Minas Tirith? Or would they have strengthen his admiration for a man who he saw as capable of overcoming his misgivings about his lineage and becoming a great king?

So many Pippen-ish questions!

Bilbo would make a fine addition to the Reading Room. (Do they make kilts in Hobbit sizes?)

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




elaen32
Gondor


Nov 26 2013, 5:01pm

Post #4 of 22 (175 views)
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Elrond & Elros.. [In reply to] Can't Post

I often wonder how Elrond felt at his brother's choice to embrace mortality. And also what he later thought as he watched his brother's descendants fall into evil, being seduced by Sauron. I think that must have been heart breaking for Elrond, remembering how his brother and parents fought so hard against evil.

IIRC- there were some portents etc foretelling that Aragorn would one day reclaim the throne. Even Gilraen had this degree of foresight and was afraid for her child. I imagine Elrond must have discussed Aragorn with Gandalf at some stage, and also with Galadriel. Interestingly though, not with Saruman- who was also a member of the White Council and trusted at that time.


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 26 2013, 5:48pm

Post #5 of 22 (183 views)
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What a great insight this piece is [In reply to] Can't Post

A great read and I love the central idea in your piece, that events are remembered by the characters in such a telling and significant and very 'real' way. Bilbo's life-altering experience of the Quest with Thorin would not be something he ever forget. It helps I think to recognize that the 'little people' that JRRT was so fond of in the Hobbits, (and who seem to be our proxy in LOTR) are not simply accepting of the grand adventures and sweep of the tales. Its a change to them, and even a relatively 'small' adventure like the Quest looms massive in Bilbo's memory: as it should! By having Bilbo still remembering Thorin so many years later I think it brings that point home.

I like your points about how Aragorn would have grown up among the Elves of Rivendell: Elrond 'kind as summer' is still Elrond Half-elven, and he lives as an Elf. Aragorn's family history would have been presented to him from that perspective: I agree, the failing of Isildur would have been a burden to him as, once he learned the truth, it would have really marked Aragorn as 'different' and marked and not in a good way. The perfect climate to form an unlikely friendship: the gentle Hobbit he meets in Rivendell. A great illuminating of exactly how their relationship would have been so close. Its a new light for me to consider it in; admittedly when I read the chapter, it does strike one that this sort of grim, silent Man is somehow off in the corner song-writing with little Bilbo, and that there is such an air of familiarity between them.

The line about 'Not all who wander are lost' in relation to Thorin is intriguing. He never did, as you say, acknowledge the land or the lifestyle of the exiled dwarves as 'home'. I think he did see them as wandering, and lost - the trappings of comfort, stability and wealth could not make up for the loss of the homeland and the pride of the Dwarves.

Wonderful piece! I really enjoyed reading this!Angelic

The second TORn Amateur Symposium is running right now, in the Reading Room. Come have a look and maybe stay to chat!





Darkstone
Immortal


Nov 26 2013, 7:08pm

Post #6 of 22 (169 views)
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All that is purple, blue, or pink... [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, all that is gold does not glitter. Finely divided gold can be purple, ruby, or even black.

The color known as "Purple of Cassius" in glass and glass enamel is created by incorporating a colloidal suspension of gold nanoparticles, a technology in use since ancient times.

There is little doubt Aragorn is "born in the purple", i.e., is of royal blood.

(BTW, gold metal beaten thin enough to be transparent is blue. So, blue blood.... )

Gold is used to color glass pink, such as, say, in the famous Rose Windows of York Minister cathedral.

Tolkien spent the earliest days of his marriage living in the small village of Roos, just outside of Kingston Upon Hull in Yorkshire. During this period Tolkien and Edith went out for a picnic and she sang and danced for him in a meadow. This seems to have formed the inspiration for The Lay of Lúthien.

******************************************


May 1910: The Nine Kings assembled at Buckingham Palace for the funeral of Edward VII.
(From left to right, back row: Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, Manuel II of Portugal, Wilhelm II of Germany, George I of Greece, and Albert I of Belgium. Front row: Alphonso XIII of Spain, George V of England, and Frederick VIII of Denmark.)


DanielLB
Immortal


Nov 26 2013, 8:13pm

Post #7 of 22 (154 views)
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Some random musings... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I often wonder how Elrond felt at his brother's choice to embrace mortality. And also what he later thought as he watched his brother's descendants fall into evil, being seduced by Sauron. I think that must have been heart breaking for Elrond, remembering how his brother and parents fought so hard against evil.


I think we can speculate, given that we (as people) know when a sibling, parent, or friend makes the wrong decision. And something which is difficult as that, would certainly be heartbreaking.

I wonder what would have happened had Elrond *also* made the decision to become mortal ... the repercussions would've been huge!



DanielLB
Immortal


Nov 26 2013, 8:20pm

Post #8 of 22 (165 views)
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Lovely essay, thank you. :-) [In reply to] Can't Post

Your essay just makes me wish Tolkien had written a mini series of "The Adventures of Aragorn and Bilbo". They make quite a team. Smile

Your analysis also shows Bilbo's (personal) development during the time of The Hobbit compared to The Lord of the Rings. I think the admiration between the characters is two-way.



Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 27 2013, 12:38am

Post #9 of 22 (138 views)
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Gold salts [In reply to] Can't Post

...are also used to treat arthritis. To bad Thorin didn't have some of his gold for Scene 88.

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 27 2013, 2:25am

Post #10 of 22 (131 views)
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Thank you for the encouragement to write it [In reply to] Can't Post

I learned a really great technique in theater class or English class (can't remember) called the kitchen table. In your imagination you sit at a kitchen table and talk to a character over coffee (or tea). It is a great way to find out things that you may not have thought of when writing a character or to look for a motivation for a line that may not be apparent in the dialogue given.

Rivendell, "the last homely house east of the Sea", was a place where I immediately felt at home. I could see Bilbo padding around looking at things, picking up books, or tucked up at a desk. Elrond would have made sure he had quills and paper. I can even see Elrond steering some of the better singers or storytellers his way. Aragorn would have been able to rest and recuperate there, the adult child coming home. Here they would be free of the cares of the outside world.

Imagine sitting down at Elrond's kitchen table, chatting with Bilbo, who has never gotten over the habit of Elevenses. He tells you about the song that one of the elves sang last night that was called the Lay of Luthien, or this ranger he met who is very intriguing or how far along he is in his writing (it's the chapter about the Thorin first seeing Erebor again). He is full of ideas and has so much he wants to write!

It's fun to follow the characters "off stage" so to speak, outside the scope of the grand events written by Tolkien but still in his magical world, and most importantly, still in character as Tolkien wrote them. After reading Richard Armitage's latest interview by Greendragon, I can see him wandering around Erebor in much the same way.

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 27 2013, 2:36am

Post #11 of 22 (127 views)
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I think you are correct, Daniel [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn must have seen something in the scholarly Hobbit who turned up at Rivendell. Elrond doesn't open his house to just anyone and It's a rare Hobbit who is found outside of the Shire.

I wonder, how much did Elrond tell Estel (young Aragorn) about Thorin's quest? Did Aragorn's mother use it as a cautionary tale of chasing after a kingship? When would Aragorn have heard the whole story? It was most likely big news in Middle Earth. And when he first met Bilbo, would he have put the hobbit in front of him together with the hobbit from the Thorin's quest?

And thank you for the kind words!

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




Kim
Valinor


Nov 27 2013, 2:55am

Post #12 of 22 (126 views)
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Really enjoyable read [In reply to] Can't Post

I really like the way you compared Aragorn and Thorin's separate stories and how Bilbo might put the two together in his mind to create this poem. I especially like the part about how Thorin wasn't able to see the value in the time spent wandering, but instead just obsessed about getting back what was taken from him, which then contributed to his downfall. And how this would have been fresh in Bilbo's mind as he came to know Aragorn.

Thank you! Smile


Kim
Valinor


Nov 27 2013, 2:59am

Post #13 of 22 (123 views)
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That's a really interesting technique [In reply to] Can't Post

and it seems to have served you well here!

I could totally picture RA wandering around Erebor "off stage". Smile


Brethil
Half-elven


Nov 27 2013, 3:18am

Post #14 of 22 (123 views)
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This is a great technique [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I learned a really great technique in theater class or English class (can't remember) called the kitchen table. In your imagination you sit at a kitchen table and talk to a character over coffee (or tea). It is a great way to find out things that you may not have thought of when writing a character or to look for a motivation for a line that may not be apparent in the dialogue given.

Rivendell, "the last homely house east of the Sea", was a place where I immediately felt at home. I could see Bilbo padding around looking at things, picking up books, or tucked up at a desk. Elrond would have made sure he had quills and paper. I can even see Elrond steering some of the better singers or storytellers his way. Aragorn would have been able to rest and recuperate there, the adult child coming home. Here they would be free of the cares of the outside world.

Imagine sitting down at Elrond's kitchen table, chatting with Bilbo, who has never gotten over the habit of Elevenses. He tells you about the song that one of the elves sang last night that was called the Lay of Luthien, or this ranger he met who is very intriguing or how far along he is in his writing (it's the chapter about the Thorin first seeing Erebor again). He is full of ideas and has so much he wants to write!

It's fun to follow the characters "off stage" so to speak, outside the scope of the grand events written by Tolkien but still in his magical world, and most importantly, still in character as Tolkien wrote them. After reading Richard Armitage's latest interview by Greendragon, I can see him wandering around Erebor in much the same way.




for developing a character's voice and story. I may find myself using it, so thank you!

So glad you wrote this! Angelic

The second TORn Amateur Symposium is running right now, in the Reading Room. Come have a look and maybe stay to chat!





Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Nov 28 2013, 2:06am

Post #15 of 22 (100 views)
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Nice Ideas!! [In reply to] Can't Post

I could see the events unfolding as you say.

That comparison of Aragorn/Thorin caught me off guard, but I liked it!! A nice surprise!

Love the whole idea here1

Call me Rem. Rembrethil is a lot to type!!


noWizardme
Grey Havens


Nov 28 2013, 2:27pm

Post #16 of 22 (80 views)
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me too - never thought of the Aragorn/Thorin comparison, but see it very clearly now. Great essay! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


sador
Half-elven


Nov 28 2013, 10:26pm

Post #17 of 22 (99 views)
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Lovely. Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

The next stage is to consider what Gandalf saw in this poem, and why he chose to write it to Frodo.
It does, oddly, serve as a way for Aragorn to show he is the true Strider - but it is too subtle, so it flies below the hobbits' radar (Merry might have got it, but he was tramping around Bill Ferny's house at the time, foolishly following Black Riders).
Anyway - thank you for this essay! While one might argue regarding both Aragorn and Thorin, this poem seems highly consistent with (at least) Bilbo's perception of both. A very neat idea, written clearly and lucidly!


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 29 2013, 3:28pm

Post #18 of 22 (71 views)
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I wonder if Gandalf [In reply to] Can't Post

thought Frodo would recognize it as something Bilbo wrote and serve as a sort of letter of introduction from him also, which is what is was meant to be, but from Gandalf.

My other thought was that Gandalf erroneously thought that Frodo had Bilbo's poets' soul and would not need and anvil dropped on his head to understand the message being sent. Frodo did love the stories, but he lacked something that I have never been able to name. (Full disclosure: He's not my favorite character.) The Ring affected him quicker than it did Bilbo, but that could have been because Sauron was gaining strength. It is a hard thing to tease apart. Still, part of me wants to think that Bilbo, with his writer's mind, was more in tune with things and felt the Ring's influence changing on him.

As an aside: I wonder what Aragorn thought of Frodo at first sight, not fully understanding the message being sent. We always talk about how Aragorn does not measure up to one's expectations of what a would-be would look like. We rarely talk about Aragorn's expectations for what Frodo would be like. He knew and, I assume, held Bilbo in great regard for many reasons. I wonder how Bilbo's heir measured up at first sight in Aragorn's mind?

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




cats16
Tol Eressea


Nov 30 2013, 12:23am

Post #19 of 22 (75 views)
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Very nice, Ioreth! [In reply to] Can't Post

A very refreshing look at the relationship between Bilbo and Aragorn/Thorin.

An observation I made about the poem:

The line, "Deep roots are not reached by the frost", to me, could also be connected to Thorin and the Lonely Mountain. It reminds me of that quote near the end of The Hobbit, that says something like 'And no one has touched Orcrist or the Arkenstone on the body of Thorin Oakenshield at the Roots of the Mountain.' (I'm sure that is bad paraphrashing; I'm away from the book at the moment). Perhaps this line also honor's Thorin's death, and his tomb within the Mountain?

Love your breakdown of the poem, btw! This is a great exploration of Bilbo--and Aragorn, too.


squire
Valinor


Nov 30 2013, 3:15am

Post #20 of 22 (62 views)
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What an excellent perspective to bring to that poem [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for picking such an interesting detail in Tolkien’s legends to write about: Bilbo’s composition of the “All that is gold” poem. I think the idea that Bilbo’s experience with Thorin may have informed his understanding of Aragorn’s odyssey is a rich one that you’ve tackled with a wonderful sense of reflection and verve.

I’m not sure I agree with your characterization of Aragorn at the point in his life when he first met Bilbo on the hobbit’s retirement to Rivendell. You paint a dim portrait of Aragorn’s attitude towards his royal heritage:
He learned of the history of Middle Earth from an Elvish perspective, and more notably from Elrond, who had seen first hand the potential for the corruption of Man. It is not difficult to imagine a young Estel having a rather dim viewpoint of men and their failings.
…The trip north begins Aragorn’s “wanderings” and he is described more than once as a reluctant heir. Looking at his character’s back story, we can see why he may be hesitant to claim any kind of rightful leadership. His ancestors failed in so many ways to protect the whole of their people. His day-to-day tasks were enough for him to think that taking on the entirety of Middle Earth, claiming his place as king of both the North and the South kingdoms was a task too large to contemplate. With his childhood spent at Rivendell, he was also divorced from any kind of pride of place that a group of men would have given him. There were tens of generations between him and the last reigning king in his family’s history. The trappings of kingship were long gone. He had no need of them himself. His family’s wandering in a kind of exile and his own wanderings on the northern border had given him a unique viewpoint on power and kingship. He did not crave it, nor did he need it.

This seems to echo the characterization of Aragorn that is presented by the New Line films: that Aragorn was “reluctant” to assume his role as the heir to the Throne of Men. He may be described that way “more than once” by Tolkien, but I can’t at this time recall where that is suggested in the author’s writings. The only source I know of for any of this part of Aragorn’s life is the “Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” in LotR Appendix A.I.v.:
Elrond looked at him and was pleased, for he saw that he was fair and noble and was early come to manhood, though he would yet become greater in body and in mind. That day therefore Elrond called him by his true name, and told him who he was and whose son; and he delivered to him the heirlooms of his house.
‘ "Here is the ring of Barahir," he said, "the token of our kinship from afar; and here also are the shards of Narsil. With these you may yet do great deeds; for I foretell that the span of your life shall be greater than the measure of Men, unless evil befalls you or you fail at the test. But the test will be hard and long. The Sceptre of Annúminas I withhold, for you have yet to earn it."

These words of Elrond’s are the first we have that relate to how he fostered the young Aragorn. Of course, they don’t indicate whether Elrond is taking a different line now that he is revealing the truth about the young man’s heritage, than he did when he was protecting the boy’s identity. But “looked at him and was pleased”, “saw that he was fair and noble”, “token of our kinship from afar”, “you may yet do great deeds”, and “you have yet to earn it” all suggest to me that Elrond is proud of Aragorn’s character and sees him as worthy of his great heritage. Nothing conveys the idea that Aragorn has been led by Elrond to have a “rather dim viewpoint of men and their failings”.

How does Aragorn receive the news that he is of the most noble blood a mortal man can claim? He is proud enough to go head to head with the Lúthien-like Arwen, whom he has fallen for at first sight:
‘The next day at the hour of sunset Aragorn walked alone in we woods, and his heart was high within him; and he sang, for he was full of hope and the world was fair.
...
‘ "Estel I was called," he said; "but I am Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, Isildur’s Heir, Lord of the Dúnedain"; yet even in the saying he felt that this high lineage, in which his heart had rejoiced, was now of little worth, and as nothing compared to her dignity and loveliness.

It’s touching to see how he accepts the humility her very presence imposes on him, but I think it’s telling that, before meeting her, "his heart was high within him; and he sang, for he was full of hope" and “his heart had rejoiced” at his “high lineage”. There’s a bit of fairy tale going on here, naturally, but Aragorn is behaving as any True Prince Just Now Revealed would behave in a setting where rank and nobility are seen as positive and desirable traits. There is no sign here, I think, that he had “a unique viewpoint on power and kingship. He did not crave it, nor did he need it.” Tolkien is trying to tell us that with royalty in Middle-earth, it was not a question of whether one craved or needed it. One simply accepted it as one’s right, and tried to live by the obligations it implied while also demanding the respect it deserved.

I agree that it is tempting to try to imagine Bilbo’s train of thought when he meets Aragorn during his residence in Rivendell, although such speculations must remain fanciful and unsusceptible of criticism. But when it comes to the text we do have, the actual language of the “All that is gold” poem, I don’t see the references to Thorin that you do – at least not in the fairly specific way that you outline. I agree that Bilbo’s experience with Thorin certainly adds to our perception of Bilbo’s impression of Aragorn, because Aragorn and Thorin have some commonality in the themes of their adventures – The Lord of the Rings is richer for the way it repeats and enlarges upon a large number of ideas and relationships in The Hobbit. But, for what it’s worth, I would suggest that Aragorn, in most ways, is more akin to Bard than to Thorin, and that if the poem were to be projected from Bilbo’s adventures in The Hobbit, it would apply rather more neatly to Bard than to Thorin.

We’re in agreement here, when you point out that with regard to Thorin, the first stanza can only be interpreted as not applying to the dwarven king:
Bilbo, with his old companion’s [Thorin’s] mistakes in mind, therefore wrote partly a cautionary tale to Aragorn in that first stanza. He is saying, “I’ve seen what can go wrong when a crownless king tries to reclaim a kingdom, but you are not that king. You have the strength and the wisdom to succeed.”

In fact, though, I would say there’s too much projection here, given the text. I suggest there’s really nothing in the first four lines that, in themselves, bring Thorin to mind. The poem is about Aragorn, clearly enough. Every line restates the key theme of true royalty hidden but not diminished. I think there are no ambiguities or double-meanings in the text that point to how Thorin, specifically: valued only gold that glittered; felt he was lost during his wandering years; was the victim of a withering in his ancient family’s strength; or had roots that did die due to the frost of greed and bitterness. To go this route seems to be saying that whenever a poem may be read as being about something, we may say it is also and equally about anything that is not that something, simply by contrast - which is a position that is too general to further our understanding of a problematic text.

I think your reading of the second stanza is cleaner, showing how Bilbo anticipates Aragorn’s restoration in contrast to his present state. But again, I don’t really see the conclusion that you give as an understood subtext: “You will not make the mistakes of another crownless king I knew. Where his history and strength failed him, yours will not.” As I noted before, rather than try to ‘prove a negative’, one might just as well argue that the poem is meant to remind Aragorn of the triumph of the heir of Girion of Dale: “You will succeed just as did another crownless king I knew. Where his history and strength proved unbroken by exile and obscurity, so too will yours!”



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Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Dec 2 2013, 4:46am

Post #21 of 22 (36 views)
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Thank you for taking the time to read and respond [In reply to] Can't Post

I knew that there would be more learned TORn folks out there with all the answers! I think it's wonderful that you are able to pull together all the textual clues. I agree that there are many interpretations of the poem. My attempt to put the two together is merely another look, as you said.

I don't see Aragorn as ready, willing and able to claim the kingship though so maybe we can make allowances for a spectrum of opinion on where along that path he actually is a the time he meets and befriends Bilbo. Like most of Tolkien's writing, it affects us all differently depending on which buttons are pushed by each scene and each character. LOTR does not explicitly say he is reluctant but then you state that Tolkien mention the possibility at other times. My reading of the text gives me a sense of that reluctance, so maybe I (and possibly SPJ too) feel something in the text of that reluctance that Tolkien had in mind but didn't state "out loud". It's all interpretation, isn't it?

And yes, the whole essay is fanciful; it's meant to be. If, by attempting to see the poem through the eyes of the fictional author makes for a better discussion that points back to what Tolkien wrote, then I think that's wonderful! But I think I will respectfully disagree that I have over projected what I see in the text. That again is a matter of interpretation, although I allow that I am not a scholar and therefore may not have supported my theory as fully as someone more learned. Just as I see reluctance in Aragorn of the book, I see Bilbo connecting Thorin's last words with Aragorn's non-flashy version of a king-in-waiting. It is my interpretation only and it may have a wider latitude but I believe it is just as valid.

Thank you for taking the time to read and critique - I appreciate the feedback!


Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 2 2013, 5:05am

Post #22 of 22 (46 views)
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The reluctant king metaphor [In reply to] Can't Post

come up fairly often and I waver on how and if the text shows it or not. I do tend to hear JRRT's voice in the subject...

"Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity." (Letter # 52, 1943)

...and wonder if that doesn't bleed through in subtle ways via Aragorn? Perhaps this is some of the 'vibe' you picked up on? Of course Aragorn *is* the one-one-a-million, but does he know it 100%?

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