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'The Fellowship of the Ring' Discussion, Chapter One: A Long-Expected Party
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Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Dec 7 2014, 12:30am

Post #1 of 187 (5177 views)
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'The Fellowship of the Ring' Discussion, Chapter One: A Long-Expected Party Can't Post

Welcome one and all to the Fellowship of the Room! I am glad that so many of you have made it here at the start of one of the grandest adventures in Middle-Earth. I look forward to your thoughts and insights as we follow Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, Sam, and other favourite characters in their own Quests.

First of all, a special welcome to our newest travelling companions! Do not be at all worried if this is your first time participating in such a literary quest--all of us had to join up at some point. Just remember: 'It's the job that never gets started as takes longest to finish', so jump right in and make yourself heard!

Requirements:

1. While prior knowledge of plot and characters is helpful, it is by NO means required. If you don't know a Halfling from an Ent, or Elf from Dwarf, don't worry! Treebeard has a lovely song to help you keep them straight!

2. If you do not own a copy of the books, I would suggest a trip to your local library. Just be sure to return them.Wink

3. The only other thing you need is an opinion
.


Well, these don't seem much like requirements do they? Really, there are none!!

And so, armed with book and opinion, I have one last message:

Arise, arise Fellowship of the Room!
Adventures await: heroes and villains!
Page and paragraph, chapter and line,
New insights and daring deeds ere the tale be ended!
Read now, read now! Read fellow TORnsibs!!

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?

(This post was edited by Rembrethil on Dec 7 2014, 12:38am)


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Dec 7 2014, 12:32am

Post #2 of 187 (4496 views)
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The Germ of an Epic. (A note on the inspiration and writing of the tale) [In reply to] Can't Post

Everything starts somewhere, no matter how small or humble. The germ of the epic 'The Lord of the Rings' (Often and erroneously referred to as a trilogy) sprouted early in the life of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Possessing a life-long love of both Mythology and Language, he used his creative genius to craft his own grand tales and a world where his created languages would be spoken by living, breathing heroes. This work continued privately throughout his entire life, always expanding, but never likely to see the light of day.

Many years later, a former student with connexions to a publishing house was able to read the manuscript of a story he had written. Thoroughly pleased, she recommended it to her employer for consideration. It would later be published as The Hobbit.

In the wake of its success, another book-- an intended sequel-- was commissioned by his publishers. At first, Tolkien submitted part of his extensive mythos (It would later form the basis of the Silmarillion), but it was rejected because it lacked the thing that had made the first book so successful--Hobbits. Despairing that he could not think of anything for Hobbits to do, it seemed as if nothing might come of it. However, inspiration struck and the first few pages of what would become ‘A Long-Expected Party’ were penned, but it was quite different from what would be published:

The tone was more in line with The Hobbit’s light-hearted fun and humour.

The whole account of the Party and its planning was finished within the first two pages.

Bilbo’s dramatic disappearance was preceded by the announcement that he was leaving and going to be married(!).

The original plan was for the story to follow Bilbo’s son. (Named Bingo)

Beginning the tale was the hardest part. No less than six main drafts and several more abandoned versions of the first chapter exist. It underwent very many changes, before the final order of events was settled upon. In development, Bilbo regained and finally lost his status as the main character, the previously absent Gandalf became involved, and other changes too numerous to recount, occurred. (If you wish to read for yourself, please refer to Volume VI of HoME; The Return of the Shadow)

Through all the drafts, the intended plot was very uncertain. What lay between the final storyline and the first draft would be many months and three complete re-writes. The element that catalysed this final evolution also became the most vital link between this new book and the Hobbit, namely Bilbo’s ring.

Over time it became a more sinister object. From a simple magic ring, it soon became a deadly talisman that gave the wearer a sense of restlessness, prolonged life, forced the owner to lose it or else be forever lost themselves, gave them an intense greed for dragon-gold, or several of these things at once. Once the writing reached Rivendell, only then was it revealed to the author that it was the One and belonged to a Dark Lord Sauron, previously known as the Necromancer. Taking on this slightly darker tone, the story began to resemble the tale we know today.

What do you think of these plot developments? Could you see the tale being as popular if it included older plot-lines? Do you see The Lord of the Rings as a sequel to The Hobbit? What parallels and/or contrasts to The Hobbit do you find in the first chapter?

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Dec 7 2014, 12:34am

Post #3 of 187 (4482 views)
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It’s Party time! [In reply to] Can't Post

To most of us, the beginning of the story seems quite familiar-- a party--, but there is always a meaning behind the setting of a story. At the beginning of a story, plot is still to be developed, characters introduced, and what usually confronts us first is setting. What do you think about it?

Why choose the Shire as a starting point? Is this a relic of a time when the story was solely of a Hobbit’s adventure? Why a party to introduce the book? We saw very little of the Shire in the Hobbit, and Bilbo as the main representation of the people. If you read The Hobbit first, did this chapter influence the way that you see Hobbits? Do you see development of their portrayal from The Hobbit? What do you think of the call-backs to the events of The Hobbit? Distracting and unnecessary for the tale that stands alone, or contributive to a larger backdrop?

As the chapter continues, it seems to focus on developing the setting even more, before all else. Names, dates, ages, and history are given with little explanation.

Why such an interest in the scenery before the action begins? What are your thought on the Shire itself?

Frodo is introduced by way of the Gaffer and his audience in the Ivy Bush. His parents killed when a child, and taken to live with his mother’s relations until he is adopted in his ‘tweens’ by Bilbo.

What do you think of his circumstances? His parents are never mentioned again, nor any other mentor figure, so did Bilbo take the place of a father? What about his childhood in Brandy Hall? Why do you think he was willing to leave his friends? Is this special upbringing necessary to prepare him for his later role as a hero?

Gandalf is the next main character to be introduced, and we are quickly drawn into a plot. Bilbo plans to leave for a ‘holiday’.

What do you think of this first plot point? Is Bilbo merely planning a short trip at this point, or not? When do you think he decided to leave for good? Is this a relic of the idea that Bilbo was intended to be the hero and go on an adventure?

Preparations for the Party begin in earnest, and on a scale that rivals anything I have seen. Once it begins, it truly seems an elaborate affair that cost no small fortune.

How much do you expect the whole event cost? How does it tally with the Gaffer’s account of Bilbo’s wealth? (Some big bags and a few chests) Does it seem too little? If so, does it mean that his treasure was highly valuable, that the Shire had a very small living expense, or that perhaps much of the Party was financed by the favours of friends? Perhaps Bilbo, already wealthy, lived on his inheritance and only used his fortune for extravagances?

Gandalf’s pyrotechnics closed the party at dusk.

Why do you think Gandalf made them? Why practise the art? Is it a hobby to relax? How would it help fight evil? Is this a relic from the time he was simply a wandering wizard in The Hobbit before he became Olorin the Maiar? What is your favourite part of the party?

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Dec 7 2014, 12:37am

Post #4 of 187 (4479 views)
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Now you see me… [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo, the hero of the day, then mounts a chair and makes his speech to those gathered in the tent.

What do you think of the speech? At first it seems to be formal and courteous—the expected thing to say. Then it takes a turn to flattery of the hobbits. Do you think he really enjoyed life in Hobbiton, amongst all the whispers and suspicions? What kept him happy while he knew that the world was much larger than the Shire? Do you think he ever felt confined and exasperated at the ignorant hobbits and their petty ways?

Then the speech singles out Frodo and his birthday for the grand occasion.

Do you think Bilbo chose the year that Frodo ‘came of age’, so that he could inherit Bag End legally? Have his plans been put on hold, waiting for this day and the right time?

Lastly, it comes time for Bilbo’s announcement. He seems rushed in his announcement.

What emotions do you read in his words? Hesitation, relief, sorrow? I know how the films portray this announcement, but what do you see?

Frodo and the hobbits are left in an uproar. Frodo is left quietly sitting, feeling contradictory inside. On one side enjoying the joke on the hobbits, and on the other, saddened by the realisation that Bilbo is gone.

How do you think he felt? They had probably said their good-byes before this, and it had been expected that they would not meet again. Do you think that they believed their parting to be permanent with no planned rendezvous? Frodo’s amusement seems to reflect Bilbo’s attitude towards the hobbits—a bit of condescension maybe? His knowledge gained from Bilbo has opened his eyes. How do you think this has affected him, losing the only one who he could share thoughts and knowledge of places beyond the Shire?

At the end of his speech, Bilbo reappears in Bag End making preparations to go, taking his sword and old clothes.

Where do you think he meant to go? Why take the sword? Is he planning to go somewhere dangerous? Is his final destination set in his mind or not? Is it only now he decides never to return? What must he be thinking about leaving Frodo?

Before he goes, he starts to talk about his inner unrest.

What did you think the trouble was at first? Did you associate it to the Ring? What can we infer so far as to its sinister nature?

In the exchange that ensues, Bilbo reveals a deep attachment to the Ring.

Do you think it strange how possessive he feels, given that it is only a simple magic ring at this point?

Gandalf continues to prod Bilbo into leaving it, but he makes a curious statement when Bilbo calls the ring ‘precious’. He says that it has been called that before.

How much do you think he learned about Gollum? Bilbo seems eager to establish ownership. Is this because he feels guilty about taking it? He then says it feels like ‘an eye’ watching him. Direct Sauron reference? After being convinced to leave it, Dwarves appear from other rooms. How much did they hear? Why, in the intricate detail of M-E, are they not named? Who do you think they are?

Frodo returns and is saddened to learn Bilbo really is gone. He said he hoped it was a joke.

If he really wanted to catch Bilbo, why not leave earlier? Did he think it was a joke?

A good bit of the rest of the chapter is spent in dealing with the intimate dealing of Hobbits and the humour we find in it.

What do you think of this detailed account of the doing of the Shire?

After the dispersion of presents and things begin to settle, Gandalf issues a warning to not use the Ring.

What do you think set off his suspicions?


Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


squire
Half-elven


Dec 7 2014, 6:01am

Post #5 of 187 (4454 views)
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But Tolkien - who knows what Tolkien can do? [In reply to] Can't Post

A. What do you think of these plot developments?
As fans, we may find the origins of the LotR plot fascinating, but really how often are readers privileged (or cursed) to read an author’s drafts?
What I remember from this story is that Tolkien felt a bit put upon, having to come up with a sequel to a fairy tale, which by tradition do not have sequels. “Lived happily ever after” means just that! In one letter, if I remember, he protested to his publisher that in The Hobbit he had “used up” all of his narrative devices and inventions! The general sense of thrashing around that we see in the drafts of “The New Hobbit” (as he called it for years) comes from an author looking for a way out of an ironclad contract: “[Bilbo] remained very happy to the end of his days.” (Hobbit, Chap. 19)
B. Could you see the tale being as popular if it included older plot-lines?
Well, I’m not sure I remember too many “plot-lines” in all those early attempts. The variations on the Party, and on the question of who was going away and for what reason (Bilbo; his son; marriage? Etc.) were mostly attempts to get around the ending of The Hobbit. Why anyone was going away was less clear. The Ring came up early, but even before that was the idea of the dragon-spell emanating from the treasure in the store-rooms of Bag End, or (from the opening of The Hobbit) the desire for adventure and even seeing the Sea that was latent in the Tooks.
Could a tale built on those ideas have rivaled The Lord of the Rings as it was finally produced? Maybe not – but your question was about popularity, not quality. I can well imagine a New Hobbit by Tolkien based on dragon-lust, or adventure-lust, rather than ring-anti-lust, that might have grabbed the popular imagination. Tolkien is Tolkien – his mind was engaged by certain themes and questions, and the stories followed his mind rather than the other way around. He was at the height of his powers and story-telling experience at this point. Whatever he wrote might well have been the greatest thing he ever wrote, as LotR is.
C. Do you see The Lord of the Rings as a sequel to The Hobbit?
Oh sure.
D. What parallels and/or contrasts to The Hobbit do you find in the first chapter?
The main thing I notice, and I think Tolkien wanted it this way, is the far more intense development of hobbit society. The “Shire” doesn’t exist in The Hobbit; nor do a host of other details we now take for granted, retroactively, in thinking about Bilbo at the time of his original adventure.

Another thing I’ve always enjoyed is the deliberate contrast between an expected, and unexpected, party. In The Hobbit, Bilbo hosts an impromptu house party of thirteen dwarves and the wizard, in his own hole. In the sequel, he hosts a vast catered affair involving all of his relatives and friends from miles around, with invitations, etc.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd & 4th TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion and NOW the 1st BotR Discussion too! and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 7 2014, 2:12pm

Post #6 of 187 (4431 views)
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It's an opening that has defeated a lot of people I have recommended the story to... [In reply to] Can't Post

A reader has to progress through several pages of seeming trivia about the life of hobbits before there's much excitement. It's only later that it seems appropriate to spend so much time on the Shire: it explains why the hobbits are rooted enough to do what they do.

I notice that both the Peter Jackson film and the 1980s BBC radio dramatization start with something more exciting first beforemoving to the happy hobbits of the Shire.

Thanks for getting it off to a great start, Rem! More from me later I hope

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


Neldoreth
The Shire


Dec 7 2014, 4:35pm

Post #7 of 187 (4430 views)
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Good point…if you don't know what's coming [In reply to] Can't Post

It's easy to look at the opening as an unstructured prelude to a long tale of life in a small, rural community. It occurred to me this last read-through that the opening is very much in the same tone as The Hobbit. It is light, cheerful and full of small jests. I find it quite enjoyable, but it gives the reader very few clues as to where the story will eventually go. I agree that it seems the main point is Bilbo's leaving, but the reader is not led even to know if the story will focus on Bilbo's new adventures or on Frodo, who is left behind.

The conversations between both Bilbo and Gandalf and later Frodo and Gandalf do start to draw one in as to what the real story is about the ring.

Didn't Tolkien write the first chapter shortly after being asked to write a sequel? Does anyone know if there was extensive revision on the opening as the story began to unfold for him?


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 7 2014, 5:09pm

Post #8 of 187 (4406 views)
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A lot of Re writing, but as far as I know the story always started at the Shire [In reply to] Can't Post

... Never with Isildur, say, or with Sméagol finding the Ring, or some other "wider world" thing. And no starting in the thick of it and then using flashbacks.

I don'tt know whether Tolkien thought of these things& rejected them, Or whether, having found a beginning, he got quickly attached to it. Anne Dillard has a lovely essay about the struggles writers can have to tear up their story's beginning: you can be so grateful to have fOund it, you see. Maybe that was at work here. Also I think I read that Tolkien found it amusing to write about the everyday life of hobbit folks, & it was his circle of test rreaders who warned him that this could get out of hand...

But, now that I do know the story well, I'm not sure that I would want it to start differently....

Tough on a first time reader though:'my mother never came to Rivendell, and missed a dark and dangerous journey - thwarted by that first chapter, and then the stylistic swerve into recap of legends in Chapter 2.

Welcome Neldoreth, great to have you along!

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Dec 7 2014, 6:52pm

Post #9 of 187 (4413 views)
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The first several chapters meander badly. [In reply to] Can't Post

It's clear from reading The Return of the Shadow (the volume of HoME covering drafts that became FotR) that most of the journey to Bree, at least, was written before Tolkien had any idea where the plot was heading, or even who the characters would be. Yes, once the plot became clear he went back and edited it extensively (adding, for example, most of The Shadow of the Past, which we'll get to). I suspect nowadays an editor would have been rather more ruthless. I often tell first-time readers to skip from The Shadow of the Past to The Prancing Pony. They can enjoy the Old Forest and Bombadil on their re-reads.

Of course, in my re-reads I find much of the extra meandering delightful, and even see how it contributes to the plot (though subtly), but meandering it is.








Bracegirdle
Valinor


Dec 7 2014, 6:56pm

Post #10 of 187 (4401 views)
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Quick thought [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Tough on a first time reader though:'my mother never came to Rivendell... -noWizardme


No first time reader should be advised to start with The Long-expected Party (not meaning you did such). If one cannot “get into” Hobbits by reading The Hobbit or at a minimum the prologue to LOTR (wherein both lie the foreshadowing of gold) then we can consider them a lost cause. If a first time reader finds ANY of this “tough reading” they, at the very best, will be extreme skimmers; or more likely non-Tolkien readers, and go back to their usual reading habits.

We on this site are all of a like-mind. We love Tolkien and (what turns out to be) the complexity of his wonderful tale(s). It’s easy to forget that there are millions who cannot get into it (or won't even try) and consider it balderdash and a waste of time.

Interesting reading from all so far, and a great start Rem – Thanks!

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
But, sneaking off in daylight takes much more cunning.



squire
Half-elven


Dec 7 2014, 7:30pm

Post #11 of 187 (4413 views)
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"I know nothing about jools." [In reply to] Can't Post

There is always a meaning behind the setting of a story.
A. What do you think about it?
I like it. It immediately ties the reader to the genre of genteel English country fiction, which Tolkien and his readership at the time were intimately familiar with.

B. Why choose the Shire as a starting point?
Because Bilbo was the hero of the book that this is a sequel to. That book started in Bag End and ended in the same place (There and Back Again), and it’s perfectly logical and appropriate to pick up a new story where the other one left off.

C. Is this a relic of a time when the story was solely of a Hobbit’s adventure?
Well, yes, of course. But at all times as we read the opening chapters of LotR, we should remember that Tolkien revised all the writing that he thought needed revision, after he completed the mammoth epic that this story became. A “relic”, to me, suggests a story element from a draft that doesn’t belong or is out of place in the context of the entire story. There are relics in this chapter, and in all of Books I and II, to be sure. But choosing to open the story with Bilbo at Bag End is certainly not one of them.

D. Why a party to introduce the book?
I think it’s a very clever reference to the “Unexpected Party” that began The Hobbit – as this chapter’s title helpfully points out to us.
Additionally, the idea of a birthday party is one that appeals far more to children than to adults, and opening the story with a promise of a “birthday party of special magnificence” definitely aims at children, the initial audience for this new story. Since in revision it’s clearly not a children’s story (or not one in the usual sense), the childishness of the hobbits’ delight in presents, food, parties, gossip, tall tales, etc. remains because – just as in The Hobbit – it becomes a metaphor for the childish part of our own adult selves. This is one of the biggest themes in both books, and the reason why the hobbits remain one of the most successful inventions in the history and prehistory of fantasy: they address and moderate the modern-day separation of children from adults in literature.

We saw very little of the Shire in the Hobbit...
E. If you read The Hobbit first, did this chapter influence the way that you see Hobbits?
Well, of course. In The Hobbit, there’s only one hobbit. The story refers to others so that Bilbo can be described as being of a kind, but we never meet any others as characters. There is no Shire, so-called, for instance in The Hobbit; Bilbo’s land is simply called “respectable country” which is ruled by a king and even has policemen.

F. Do you see development of their portrayal from The Hobbit?
By a factor of about a hundred. As became clear when the drafts were published in History of Middle-earth, for about the first six months of his attempts to write the ‘New Hobbit’, Tolkien made up for writer’s block regarding a new plot, by inventing in staggering detail a hobbit-society for Bilbo to belong to.
But, if you read the opening attentively, you notice that the hobbits are not really very strange people at all. If the Prologue had not given some necessary help, all one could conclude about hobbits is that they are English country folk who unaccountably live in furnished holes and live to older ages than humans usually do. Page after page of dialogue and description are not particularly fanciful or exotic, but are rather quite real. What is idealized is the way the author sticks to the convention that there are no social conflicts, no unpleasantness, and no difficulties that the hobbits have to deal with, except for the mystery of Bilbo’s wealth. Only after the party, in the scene about the ring, do things begin to get interesting as far as plot goes and even then the hobbits remain as close to human as can be.

G. What do you think of the call-backs to the events of The Hobbit?
I’ve always liked them, but then I read, or rather had The Hobbit read to me first, as a child, and had The Lord of the Rings read to me, as a slightly older child. Precisely as Tolkien initially imagined, you might say, in that he expected to finish the second book just a year or two after the first one so as to reach the same audience. In his foreword to LotR he kind of apologizes to his readers for taking so long, recognizing that they had grown up in the time between the two books. But of course, he was using his own children as markers for his audience, and could see right at home that as the ‘New Hobbit’ became the more adult Lord of the Rings, the children readers of The Hobbit would be all the more ready for a far more adult book the longer he took to spin it out and get it right.

H. Distracting and unnecessary for the tale that stands alone, or contributive to a larger backdrop?
Definitely the latter. We shouldn’t forget that the Prologue is specifically written to help readers who haven’t read The Hobbit, or not in a long time, what the background is to the current story and its leading character.

Names, dates, ages, and history are given with little explanation.
I. Why such an interest in the scenery before the action begins?
I’ve speculated before that Tolkien was treading water with much of this. But again, he chose to keep it; the usual explanation is that he realized the value of world-building to give his epic its famous depth. This kind of detail is typical of his huge earlier production of The Silmarillion, most of which predates this chapter. But here the scenery and past history is far more mundane and folksy, and that will prove to play off extremely well with dramatic contrasts when we finally do meet the Sil’s characters and concerns later on in the book.

J. What are your thoughts on the Shire itself?
When I finally saw some English countryside years after reading these books, it helped me realize just how real the book must seem to its initial audience, Tolkien’s contemporaries.

…Frodo is adopted in his ‘tweens’ by Bilbo.
K. What do you think of his circumstances?
I’ve never understood this fully but I believe it’s been covered in detail by people who study folklore. Heroes and heroines are very very often portrayed as orphans, being raised by aunts and uncles. My best guess is that psychologically, children cannot imagine going on adventures when they are under the care of their parents – it transcends too many barriers. Free the child by giving his or her hero to a loving aunt or uncle, and the child more willingly puts himself into the story, and grows up a little more in doing so.

L. His parents are never mentioned again, nor any other mentor figure, so did Bilbo take the place of a father?
As above.

M. What about his childhood in Brandy Hall?
It’s never mentioned in detail in all the hundreds of pages in which we get to know Frodo. I don’t think Tolkien really gave a darn about this part of Frodo’s life, any more than he cares to explore his lack of a romantic relationship. I think the Brandy Hall thing was invented to, 1) continue the ‘abandoned orphan rescued by a loving relative’, a la Dickens etc., and 2) explain why Bilbo is not raising Frodo when Balin and Gandalf come by at the end of The Hobbit.

N. Why do you think he was willing to leave his friends?
The implication is that he had no friends, any more than Harry Potter or Dorothy Gale did, and for the same narrative reasons.

O. Is this special upbringing necessary to prepare him for his later role as a hero?
Yes, definitely. But I don’t think Tolkien was working this in as self-aware a way as my comments might imply. This is fairy-tale 101 stuff.

Bilbo plans to leave for a ‘holiday’.
P. What do you think of this first plot point?
This section smells of foreshadowing to me, but I’ve read the story many times. I don’t know how it strikes first readers.

Q. Is Bilbo merely planning a short trip at this point, or not?
“Holiday” implies a time off with a return at the end. It’s somewhat contradicted by Gandalf’s and Bilbo’s immediate restatement of it as a “plan”, that has been long worked up by the two of them. Gandalf’s remark, “Very well. It is no good saying any more,” has always struck me as difficult: since he follows immediately with stern advice about sticking to the “whole plan, mind”, I can never decide what “more” Gandalf contemplated saying, and then thought better of.

R. When do you think he decided to leave for good?
It says “months ago”, and this is restated in more detail in the critical conversation after the party.

S. Is this a relic of the idea that Bilbo was intended to be the hero and go on an adventure?
Yes, I believe so. But once again, ‘relic’ is difficult; Bilbo’s departure works perfectly for the story as it is.

Since you’ve put some focus on the story’s origins as shown in HoME, can we ask why Bilbo couldn’t, the entire time, have been Frodo? That is, why not have “Bilbo the silly hobbit” take the Ring to Rivendell, accompanied by some friends? Why not put him on the road to Mt. Doom, with Aragorn for company, etc.? In this story, he is said to be too old and too attached to the Ring, but none of that need be so. It’s Tolkien’s story to write. And who is Frodo, really, if not another Bilbo: the “most excellent hobbit in the Shire”, just as Bilbo was in the first story. Can anyone decode why Tolkien, after some dithering, strongly voted against having his sequel feature the same well-beloved hero from the first adventure?

I wonder this now, for the first time in a long while. I distinctly remember crying to my mother back in about 1964 that I didn’t want to hear the next book if it didn’t have Bilbo in it.

The Party … truly seems an elaborate affair that cost no small fortune.
T. How much do you expect the whole event cost?
It’s impossible to talk about money in this story. We just don’t know enough. All I’ve ever thought about it is that this is a typical example of how the wealthy classes in England were really wealthy, so rich that it made no sense to even try to guess how much money they had compared to ordinary folk.

U. How does it tally with the Gaffer’s account (Some big bags and a few chests) of Bilbo’s wealth?
It does and it doesn’t. We don’t know if Bilbo invested his capital in Sandyman’s Mill and reaped the profits over the past 60 years!

V. Does it seem too little?
Do you mean the wealth that Bilbo returned to his hole with? Or the cost of the farewell party?

W. If so, does it mean that his treasure was highly valuable?
Hmm. “If so” apparently agrees with “too little”. “Too little” in the sense of “too little to pay for the party 60 years later” cannot by definition be equated with “highly valuable”.

X. …that the Shire had a very small living expense?
That’s the same question: “valuable” and “too little money” can only be stated in relationship to costs. Remember, there’s no international exchange rate in Middle-earth. All money is local and worth what people will give for it.

Y. …or that perhaps much of the Party was financed by the favours of friends?
Interesting angle, but there’s absolutely no suggestion of anything like this. The whole thrust of the story is that Bilbo has long been regarded as, somehow, fabulously wealthy. This party is clearly meant to show that, from the hobbits’ point of view, he still is – at least enough to cater the biggest party they’ve seen since who knows when.

Z. Perhaps Bilbo, already wealthy, lived on his inheritance and only used his fortune for extravagances?
Again, an interesting line of speculation. We’ve debated before on this board whether we should be imagining the Bagginses, Tooks, Brandybucks, etc. as large landowners on the feudal or semi-feudal model: taking in rents in kind from a large array of tenant farmers or possibly serfs. Taking it to the furthest extreme allowed by Tolkien in his latter-day, post-LotR notes (like Quest for Erebor in UT), the landowning class then traded surplus food and agrarian products to the Dwarves and some Men, in return for manufactured goods and perhaps luxury items or even cash metal like gold and silver.
That is one way to say that Bilbo “lived on his inheritance”: Bag End was a manor house (hole), and he inherited it and its rental income. It would be less accurate probably to project our more modern idea of living on an inheritance, where there is money invested in securities that pay interest – that’s way too mercantilist, much less capitalist, for this story as it’s presented to us.
But we know from The Hobbit that the Bagginses were already wealthy, and then Bilbo’s father married a Took, from one of the wealthiest and most influential families in the entire Shire (so called). The Sackville-Bagginses are consistently said to covet Bilbo’s estate since before he returned from the Smaug adventure.
Did he only use his “fortune” (wealth acquired by luck, i.e., from the dragon) for “extravagances”? It’s really unclear. The way the townsfolk talk, Bilbo’s wealth is associated more with that treasure than his pre-existing estate. Later in the book we are told – rather improbably, I’ve always thought – that Bilbo actually “gave it all away” as he felt it was stolen. At the end of the story, Bilbo endows Sam with a bag of gold, “the last of the Smaug vintage”, which slightly contradicts it all having been given away already.
So, in the end we really do not know the nature or amount of Bilbo’s estate – as inherited by Frodo at the beginning of this story. The suggestion is that Frodo will, in fact, be quite well off living in Bag End; certainly he becomes a “gentlehobbit” who doesn’t work for a living any more than Bilbo did. Yet the wealth Bilbo brought back from his adventure is said to have long since been “given away” (except for a bag of gold). The best conclusion I can draw is that this entire party, as extravagantly as it’s painted, was not all that expensive for a hobbit of Bilbo’s means. He never complains about its cost, its impact on his desire or ability to leave town, or his endowment to Frodo of a comfortable living to the Sackville-Bagginses’ rage. His wealth as inherited from his father, most probably in the form of land-rents, must be as extraordinary compared to the average farmer as the estates of the greatest British dukes were to the average farmer of Tolkien’s youth (before the Liberals instituted the … income tax!)

Gandalf’s pyrotechnics closed the party at dusk.
AA. Why do you think Gandalf made them?
To amuse and excite the hobbits.

BB. Why practise the art?
To get better at it.

CC. Is it a hobby to relax?
Quite possibly. One isn’t sure how Gandalf really spends all that time he has during the centuries that pass between significant events in the Third Age Tale of Years.

DD. How would it help fight evil?
Lets you incinerate Goblin King’s court; light up pine cones; start fires in blizzards; fend off nine Nazgul; roast wargs; light up dark caverns; defeat slime-Balrog on mountain top; scare off fell-beasts who are chasing Gondorian cavalry. Possibly can zap witch-King at gate of Minas Tirith, but it never comes to that.

EE. Is this a relic from the time he was simply a wandering wizard in The Hobbit before he became Olorin the Maiar?
Well, he never becomes Olorin the Maia until Tolkien rewrites the Silmarillion after LotR was completed. In LotR itself, he says he was Olorin, not that he is Olorin. That is consistent with most of the writing on the Istari (Wizards): they were incarnate as Men and had their bodies’ weaknesses, as well as “exhibiting eminent knowledge of the history and nature of the World.” (UT, ‘Istari’ essay) Gandalf in LotR is certainly a greater figure in character and stature than he was in the first book, but the fireworks gag proves useful even if it originated with the “wandering conjuror” from The Hobbit. Certainly it is more useful than the Ring’s invisibility power, which Tolkien seems to regard in LotR as if it were an annoyed tarantula, quickly negating it by declaring that in this book, it actually makes you more visible to the bad guys.

FF. What is your favourite part of the party?
Proudfeet, and the springle-ring. I actually have to admit being torn between the way the party is rendered in Bored of the Rings and the way Peter Jackson staged it in the New Line film. One is parody, and one is respectfully light-hearted. I love them both, and have a hard time reading this section now without one (“Come! And sing and play and…”) or the other (“the gaffer’s home brew?” – or Gandalf dancing) overwhelming the actual text.



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Magpie
Immortal


Dec 7 2014, 7:43pm

Post #12 of 187 (4397 views)
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I'm not sure if I'm following you effectively [In reply to] Can't Post

I find that I comprehend people accurately less and less often as I age.

But are you saying that people who start but can't effectively engage in the story of "The Hobbit" or the first chapter(s) of LOTR are lost causes?

Because that's exactly what happened to me. I had read all four books in the 60s. When I intended to reread them for the first time again in 2000 (in anticipation of the movies) I figured I would start with The Hobbit. I tried and failed three times.

Finally I gave up and jumped to LOTR. I am a skimmer at heart and I heartily skimmed through the first third of LOTR. Once the action picked up in terms of moving the overall plot, I was completely engaged and I count that reread of LOTR to be one of the most moving and significant events of my lifetime. It literally changed my life. (and, as Elizabeth suggested, I immediately reread the book and didn't skim one bit of those early chapters)

So I would have been one of those lost causes. Had I listened to the advice of many of my fellow Tolkien fans and insisted upon myself that I must read The Hobbit before starting LOTR (some fans go as far as to insist a new reader must start with the Sil which I think is misguided foolishness to the extreme) I would never have picked up LOTR.

As I began proselytizing LOTR to any friend or acquaintance who would listen, I often suggested that, if they got bogged down in those first chapters, they feel free to skim or skip and engage in earnest at the Council of Elrond. (remember, by this time, most has seen the movies so they new the gist of the story before that point.)

If they still couldn't engage by the end of FOTR then perhaps it wasn't their kind of book or perhaps it wasn't the right time for them to engage in it. But they couldn't effectively determine what the entire story was about by those first chapters so they couldn't effectively decide if the story *was* their kind of story by those first chapters. If they did engage, they could always go back and reread those chapters that would wait patiently for them. That payoff of engagement would completely be worth the cost of some early skimming/skipping.

All of them were not "extreme skimmers." They were, in fact, very avid readers in general. It isn't that The Hobbit or or the first chapters of LOTR are 'tough reading' in terms of one needed advanced reading skills, intellectual capability, or focused attention span.

They are tough reading for some because of how the story is structured. Not being able to engage in TH and early LOTR chapters isn't necessarily the fault of the reader. It's a matter of that being a style not suited to all readers whereas later chapters of FOTR (and the other two books) are, perhaps, suited to them.

I guess, as a teacher of many subjects for many different ages and many different learning styles... I am always looking to find a way to facilitate people becoming engaged in a subject manner. I will try all sorts of things. I would have LOTs of tricks up my sleeves in terms of getting anyone engaged in LOTR before considering them a lost cause. :-)

and fwiw: I think I did finally go back to read the Hobbit but I never really fell in love with it. I would reread LOTR 10 times before trying again with The Hobbit.


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a.s.
Valinor


Dec 7 2014, 8:51pm

Post #13 of 187 (4400 views)
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The Shire stands for all that may be lost [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Quote
Why choose the Shire as a starting point?




I understand that Tolkien was working this part of the book out as he went along, so leaving aside plot: we need to see the Shire in detail, we need to love the Shire and see the quiet, orderly, sometimes silly but at heart brave and sturdy folk who live there. Because the Shire stands for all that may be lost, should Sauron succeed. And, more importantly, it's what will keep Frodo and Sam (but especially Frodo) putting one foot in front of another up Mount Doom, in the end: the thought of saving The Shire both literally and as a metaphor for the world of good folk living small lives well.


It also has to start at the Shire because it ends at the Shire, and at Frodo's loss of the Shire, despite his bravery and apparent victory. We need to know what the Shire is like from the inside view, to understand it's more than what a sentimental Ranger has to say about the little folk and their ignorance of the bigger folk who keep them safe, etc. If we don't experience a few chapters in the Shire, we will hear about it "as told by" someone, because the Shire is important. The best way to make us love the Shire, I think, is how Tolkien does it: inhabit it for awhile with Bilbo and Frodo and all. How could we ever feel as sad at hearing Frodo wonder if he will ever see this valley again, if it's just a tale that someone remembers later on?


a.s.

"an seileachan"


Through any dark time, I always remember Frodo's claim on the side of Mt. Doom that he "can manage it" because he must.
Sometimes, I have to manage it, too, as do we all. We manage because we must.




Bracegirdle
Valinor


Dec 7 2014, 9:46pm

Post #14 of 187 (4393 views)
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Can't say as I blame you, I find it hard to comprehend me too [In reply to] Can't Post

I’m saying that people who don’t become interested in learning more about Hobbits after reading The Hobbit, OR after reading the PROLOGUE (which contains a short “Cliff’s Notes” of The Hobbit) are probably a lost cause (too harsh?) as far as becoming Tolkienophiles as are we. Anyone who reads and enjoys the first chapters of LOTR would not fall into my ‘lost cause’ category. We should realize that, as I said obtusely, there are millions who consider SF or fantasy in any of its forms unsophisticated and steer clear.

Yes, I would have put you in a similar, yet not so harsh, category as ‘lost’; as you say you read the four books in the ‘60s and then some 30-40 years later decided to reread only(?) because of anticipation of the movies? You must have enjoyed the books in the 60s or you wouldn’t have read them all. My first enjoyment was in ’69; I was enthralled with every word (I’m not a skimmer); I was hooked. I knew nothing of any fandom. I only knew that HERE was something special. I have read and reread TH & LOTR non-stop at the least 50 times from that day in ’69 until today. BTW, I always read TH first as it’s a quick easy read and puts me in the mood. So, perhaps you are exceptional as you read them so long ago and put them aside until along came Jackson. Welcome back.

As for proselytizing, I, years and years back would make the attempt with some minor successes. But found a very few as enthusiastic as I (no, make that "none" - lots of blank-eyed stares). Today I simply tell them the four books are my favorites and they should give them a try. No doubt the Jackson films will bring many into the fold.

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
But, sneaking off in daylight takes much more cunning.



Magpie
Immortal


Dec 7 2014, 10:01pm

Post #15 of 187 (4413 views)
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I have to admit... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sensing some subtle bragging rights going on.

It impresses me not.


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noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 7 2014, 11:10pm

Post #16 of 187 (4371 views)
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I think that this is a lot to do about the way in which different readers read (as Bracegirdle has raised)... [In reply to] Can't Post

It's taken me many readings, but now I think the start is well-done. But I think I'm reading the work of someone who did not read like I naturally read.

What does happen to begin with? Well, to start with, some old-timers have a gossip in a pub. Sounds exciting? It's actually a pretty clever way of giving us a lot of information (the tricky "infodump situation for a writer - how to have characters explain things to the reader while credibly seeming to explain them to each other?). It's done in such a way that an alert reader can infer a lot about life in the Shire from the way the plot matter is revealed. For example, an accidental drowning of many years ago is still interesting gossip because we infer not much happens in the Shire. We also infer that the inhabitants of the Shire are parochial to a comical degree (and we can also guess at many other things about them).

If you like the portrayal of people , you're happy already - it's a good piece of writing. If you like the rich sonic possibilities of the English language, Tolkien has you at "well-tilled earth" (or thereabouts: your mileage may vary!). But if you read predominantly for plot, then Not Much Is Happening, & you can quickly join Frodo in the assessment that the inhabitants of the Shire are too stupid and dull for words and [that] an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them (And you might start thinking: could this earthquake or invasion of dragons happen soon please, or I shall choose another book).

I'm a terrible plot-guzzler myself, and I guess I contrast with Tolkien who I strongly suspect must have "heard" his writing very clearly and carefully. Only lately have I learned to slow down & enjoy the scenery (or the language, let alone the poetry: I'm sorry if I shock some people by this confession, because they cannot comprehend how they & I differ Smile).

Luckily I read LOTR for the first time as a pre-teen, in those flat-lands of boredom that only a pre-teen can experience (or so pre-teens think: I re-read LOTR for the first time as an adult while settling a chronically fractious baby of a night - that would otherwise have been pretty boring too). So I stuck with my first reading, thank goodness. For several re-readings, I confess I tended to start at Rivendell (and I will remember that as good advice for aspirant LOTR readers who dislike the first chapter. )

It's a general problem, by the way. The author needs to be rewarding before the reader's patience runs out. But is that "rewarding" , a linguistic pleasure; a shared memory of the countryside; a pleasure in a tightly-written or exciting plot? It depends upon the reader! For example, I remember reading Frank Herbet's Dune series (at least the first 3 books), also as a pre-teen. Herbert is even less accommodating that Tolkien - he throws you into his fictional world & relies upon you picking up what things mean by inference (what's a "Bene Gesserit"? - you'll have to wait & figure it out by context, no direct explanation will be offered. ). The effect can either be intriguing (in my first reading it felt as if I had been landed in a foreign culture and was trying to learn as I went), or just exasperating (I tried to re-read this a few years ago & decided I didn't have the patience.)


There MIGHT also be an issue that authors used to assume more patience on the part of their reader (or I might be just getting old Smile). My recent non-Tolkien reading has included Moby Dick and Ivanhoe, both of which take a while to start their main plots. And (although it is anecdotal, and therefore dismissable) some of the childrens' books I enjoyed in the 1960s & 1970s I've considered as possible readings for my own children & been surprised at the slow start. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe might be a good contemporary example - it takes some time to get the wardrobe door open, and the proverbial earthquake or invasion of dragons underway. It might be relevant that The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe movie solves this problem by blitzing London & having Edmund nearly die by trying to save a photo of his father- the equivalent of Peter Jackson's FOTR Battle of the Last Alliance prologue, perhaps?

Happily, in the end there is room for all reading styles: the extreme skimmer (I'm sure that wasn't meant pejoratively) who canters Shadowfax-like through the book can come back for a re-read; the reader who subvocalises his or her way through each carefully-crafted sentence is still on his or her way to Moria at that time (but is having an enviably rich experience on the way).

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 7 2014, 11:21pm

Post #17 of 187 (4368 views)
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From party to party [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the great start, Rem! We knew we could count on you. Great to have both the background on the writing of the book in addition to the chapter itself.

Why choose the Shire as a starting point?
As A.S. said, starting with the Shire anchors us in what's at stake. I find it amusing enough to read on its own, and I think it draws readers in because though it's a happy place, it's not a perfect one. Hobbits can be petty (such as revisiting the party line to get extra presents, or borrowing books and not giving them back, or even stealing spoons), but they're lovable. What's significant to me is that though Shire-folk can be both charming and petty, the four that LOTR focuses on are devoutly loyal to each other and conscientious at every turn, so we may see their roots, but they're not stuck in that land.

I read The Hobbit first, so on my 1st read of this chapter, I appreciated all the information about the Shire. It almost seems absurd that Tolkien got away with writing TH *without* all this background--who was that Bilbo guy the book was about, anyway? But it worked and left me hungry for more, so it wasn't too absurd.

Somehow JRR makes the Shire feel like home. I think it was Dame Ioreth who said a few months ago that Lorien was nice, but it didn't seem like you'd be allowed to sit on the furniture there. Equally Rivendell is enchanting, but how does Bilbo make it home, or would the average person feel at home there? (Even if it's a homely house.)

What about his [Frodo's] childhood in Brandy Hall?
I often wonder about that too. Aren't we missing a chapter here? What else did Frodo do besides trespass on Maggot's farm as a youth? Was he afraid of boats since that's how his parents died? Did the Brandybucks object to Frodo going off to live in a queer part of the Shire? And why are Bilbo and Frodo both only children with no immediate family in sight? That seems to set them up to play the adventuring hero, but usually the bachelor hero returns home and gets the princess bride and becomes a king, and I expected that the 1st time, and certainly expected Frodo would come back to live happily ever after in this happy land he saved.

How much do you expect the whole event cost? How does it tally with the Gaffer’s account of Bilbo’s wealth? (Some big bags and a few chests)
OK, what's a hobbit party worth? Bilbo was perhaps very good at economizing over the years, or maybe he was a shrewd investor with great returns, or maybe he was richer than the Gaffer thought, or maybe everything was incredibly cheap in the Shire. He started off with money from his parents and never needed to work, and had only one child to support, but how much does it cost to import toys from Dale? I figure Gandalf did his fireworks pro bono, and maybe the gifts and Dwarf-labor were free as gifts of gratitude from Dain. Or maybe the guy was very rich. Sam went on to have a big family based on his inheritance from Frodo, and they seem to have risen economically to be on a par with the Tooks and Brandybucks, so though the hill wasn't full of jools, I wonder if the estate was worth more than Bilbo's modesty allowed but less than rumor inflated it to be.


Bracegirdle
Valinor


Dec 8 2014, 1:13am

Post #18 of 187 (4359 views)
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Sorry you feel that way Magpie [In reply to] Can't Post

This becomes too personal and we need to get back to the subject of Rem's chapter.

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
But, sneaking off in daylight takes much more cunning.



Kim
Valinor


Dec 8 2014, 3:59am

Post #19 of 187 (4335 views)
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Agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

I’m one of those readers who read primarily for the story (ie plot). I like the characters to be introduced and described, and then for the story to get moving. I’ve only read TH and LOTR twice, and I have to admit, the details didn’t stick upon first reading. I was left with vague impressions of a very wordy writing style, and a few key characters and scenes. Now that I know the basic story from the movies (don’t freak out, I know there are differences Wink), as I start this re-read, I find myself more interested in the meanderings a bit more. And the references to The Hobbit stand out much more this time too.

#OneLastTime


SamBerry
The Shire

Dec 8 2014, 4:11am

Post #20 of 187 (4368 views)
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The Speech [In reply to] Can't Post

What do you think of the speech?
Bilbo is definitely good at sending mixed messages. Maybe because he finds it amusing to startle the hobbits out of their mindsets. He gives it in clearly defined sections, and speaks in socially conventional terms at times, but shifts to unconventional.

I. Welcome – For the most part, conventional
II. Attitude toward hobbits
.....A. Conventional: “I am immensely fond of you all… eleventy-one years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.”
.....B. Unconventional: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
III. Details of gathering
.....A. Conventional: “To celebrate my birthday. I should say: OUR birthday . For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew, Frodo. He comes of age and into his inheritance today.”
.....B. Unconventional: “Together we score one hundred and forty-four. Your numbers were chosen to fit this remarkable total: One Gross, if I may use the expression.”
.....C. Unconventional: References his birthday in Esgaroth and the events in The Hobbit
IV. Announcement of departure – Very unconventional and startling for the hobbits

At first it seems to be formal and courteous—the expected thing to say. Then it takes a turn to flattery of the hobbits. Do you think he really enjoyed life in Hobbiton, amongst all the whispers and suspicions?
What kept him happy while he knew that the world was much larger than the Shire?

Comfort. Maybe Bilbo was content with being rich and significant locally. He later said that he wished he had seen more of Middle-earth, but that if he’d delayed, the auction would’ve taken place. Besides, Bilbo seems like the kind of guy who’d keep himself busy with Frodo's education and writing and enjoying the land around him.

Do you think he ever felt confined and exasperated at the ignorant hobbits and their petty ways?
Probably, yes. But he did have Frodo around to keep him amused. Maybe it’s because I’m currently reading Pride and Prejudice, but Frodo and Bilbo kind of remind me of Elizabeth Bennett and her father. Both of them are sensible, even though they are surrounded by “silly” people. They have an understanding, though, and keep each other grounded. I imagine Frodo and Bilbo can see the pettiness of their fellow hobbits, but keep each other sane by finding amusement in the ignorance of the others.

Do you think Bilbo chose the year that Frodo ‘came of age’, so that he could inherit Bag End legally? Have his plans been put on hold, waiting for this day and the right time?
It does seem like the perfect time, with 111 and 33 being significant milestones. More likely, he was growing unsatisfied with the Shire and felt 111 was a good time to move on.

What emotions do you read in his words? Hesitation, relief, sorrow? I know how the films portray this announcement, but what do you see?
To me, the speech seems sort of facetious. I can’t really tell if Bilbo’s discontented, but he seems like it at the end.


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 8 2014, 9:44am

Post #21 of 187 (4336 views)
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Mixed messages indeed! [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome to the Reading Room SamBerry! Nice analysis of Bilbo's speech - and the comparison of Bilbo to Mr Bennett (of Jane Austin's Pride & Prejudice) is a very interesting one.

I think the mixed messages come from two sources - firstly because the party is the first and most spectacular of a series of jokes Bilbo is playing on his community, and second because I think that Bilbo himself is somewhat conflicted:

In our current chapter, Gandalf and Bilbo admire the garden of Bag End before the party:


Quote
'How bright your garden looks!' said Gandalf.
'Yes,' said Bilbo. 'I am very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear Shire; but I think I need a holiday.'
'You mean to go on with your plan then?'
'I do. I made up my mind months ago, and I haven't changed it.'
'Very well. It is no good saying any more. Stick to your plan -- your whole plan, mind --and I hope it will turn out for the best, for you, and for all of us.'
'I hope so. Anyway I mean to enjoy myself on Thursday, and have my little joke.'
'Who will laugh, I wonder?' said Gandalf, shaking his head.
'We shall see,' said Bilbo,


I see Bilbo's speech as the crucial build-up to the 'punchline' of his joke: his disappearance. In the movie Ian Holm does the 'I don't know half of you as well as I should like..' as tipsy (which I thought worked well) I wonder whether it isn't Bilbo being deliberately intellectual, knowing that this won't go down well with his audience - indeed the whole speech moves from the conventional to the socially embarrassing ('They all feared that a song or some poetry was now imminent; and they were getting bored. Why couldn't he stop talking and let them drink his health?' That passage tells us a lot about how Bilbo is perceived by his neighbours, I think.)

The labelled presents that Bilbo leaves behind continue his joke & also tell us how Bilbo views his friends and relations. Some of the covering notes are just a little barbed. Bilbo is having a bit of a parting shot, knowing that he won't now have to face the consequences. How do those joke-presents strike everyone else, BTW: funny, or a bit passive-aggressive? What did it feel like to be on the receiving end, I wonder?


So there are mixed messages from Bilbo loving 'the dear old Shire' on the one hand, but being fed up with its petty society (and his treatment by it ). And deeper things are at work too - I think the 'whole plan' mentioned in the conversation I quoted is a reference to giving away the Ring - something which is harder to do than Bilbo currently expects, but which Gandalf later says was 'the only point I ever saw in the affair.'

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 8 2014, 10:06am

Post #22 of 187 (4325 views)
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“Very well. It is no good saying any more” - what is Gandalf's implied reservation about Bilbo's 'plan'? [In reply to] Can't Post

My guess is that Gandalf is uneasy that Bilbo plans to leave the Shire in such a spectacular fashion, especially by literally disappearing. We're to assume that Gandalf does not yet at this point have much or any idea what Bilbo's ring really is: but I think he's uncomfortable with Bilbo leaving clues about it.

Bilbo's public magical disappearance will, indeed cause some trouble in a later chapter- Frodo's need to stop Pippin recounting this at Bree precipitates Frodo's own 'accidental' disappearance whilst speech-making. And that (as Butterbur comments) pretty much gives away who Frodo is & what he is carrying.

~~~~~~

"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!"

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CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 8 2014, 12:13pm

Post #23 of 187 (4342 views)
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Speechifying [In reply to] Can't Post

Great analysis of the speech, Sam. It rocks back and forth and keeps the hobbits guessing what will be next: conventional or unconventional, as you illustrate.

A lot of this chapter shows us Bilbo and Frodo as others see them, with Biilbo's point of view shown the minority of the time, usually while talking to Gandalf. We can only guess what Bilbo was thinking himself during the speechj, but it seems to me he was saying to the Shire, "Yes, you've always said I'm eccentric, and now here's the proof of it." Almost punishes them with his eccentricity (and how they dreaded his bits of poetry they'd have to suffer through).

Should the chapter be titled instead, "Bilbo's Revenge"? It almost seems that way. As Wiz says, his gifts all involve parting shots that aren't too subtle, like he was storing up things to say to his relatives after 111 years, and he was sure to get the last word. Is this Bilbo finally turning to early stages of Gollumism?

It's all done in jest, with a deeper layer that the Ring has him tired and restless, so I suspect even if surrounded by adoring admirers, he would have wanted to get away from it all and go somewhere, anywhere else.


a.s.
Valinor


Dec 8 2014, 12:42pm

Post #24 of 187 (4314 views)
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passive-agressive, or is Bilbo feeling the influence of The Ring? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Some of the covering notes are just a little barbed. Bilbo is having a bit of a parting shot, knowing that he won't now have to face the consequences. How do those joke-presents strike everyone else, BTW: funny, or a bit passive-aggressive? What did it feel like to be on the receiving end, I wonder?






Although I suspect Bilbo (as written) has always been rather crotchety, and is now at an advanced age and feeling "stretched thin", so I'm not sure the jokes are too out of character for an old and crotchety hobbit, I wonder if we aren't seeing a Bilbo altered by the Ring itself? He uses the Ring, he claims ownership of the Ring, and is bound to be affected by it. Even if this extraordinary hobbit actually relinquishes it, eventually, with "relief and a smile".


Just a thought.


a.s.

"an seileachan"


Through any dark time, I always remember Frodo's claim on the side of Mt. Doom that he "can manage it" because he must.
Sometimes, I have to manage it, too, as do we all. We manage because we must.




squire
Half-elven


Dec 8 2014, 12:54pm

Post #25 of 187 (4319 views)
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Thanks, that makes a lot of sense.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 



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