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***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 1 - An Unexpected Party
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noWizardme
Valinor


May 20, 9:51am

Post #1 of 64 (4077 views)
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***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 1 - An Unexpected Party Can't Post

Welcome to the 2018 read-through of The Hobbit. The plan is to discuss each chapter in order, taking a week over each chapter. Each week will start off with an introductory ‘starter post’ – like this one, but they won’t all be done by me, and will probably vary in format. No starter post could possibly cover everything that is interesting about a chapter, so please do post replies that include new questions, comments or thoughts. That is, there’s no need just to react to what you see here: it is only intended to get things started.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. …”
The chapter is told in a light-hearted way, with the narrator making asides about the difficulty the ‘Tookish’ (adventurous) side of Bilbo’s personality is having emerging from the more stolid and respectable Baggins shell. I felt I was also being invited to smile at Thorin’s tendency to be proud and pompous. The narrator (who calls themselves ‘I’ and addresses the reader as ‘you’) strikes me as a fairly unusual way of writing outside of works for quite small children, and may be quite dated now to boot (or are there many examples I don’t know about?) Does anyone particularly like or dislike this narrator character, and if so would you care to explain why?

I’m a bit baffled why Tolkien includes the longish section in which the dwarves come in a few at a time, and the main detail is the colour of their hoods. It’s probably been a boon for generations of teachers setting comprehension quizzes, but I don’t think it’s working for me. The dwarves here seem like Disney dwarves from Snow White than – I think it’s the coloured hoods and that the sequence ends in the slapstick of a pile of dwarves on the hall floor, with Thorin having made an undignified entrance. Does anyone who likes this part want to try and explain what I’m missing?

It reads to me as is this chapter’s Gandalf has a trickster streak, which is one of the ways in which he feels (to me at least) to be a bit different from his LOTR character. A current example is that his way of engineering the start of Bilbo’s adventure (trickery) seems very different to what he does to Frodo (persuasion). What do you think – does Gandalf feel different to you and if he does, does it matter?

Of course there are very many other things we could talk about: from diamond studs to were-worms, to why it’s ‘poor Belladonna’ to the story about the invention of golf. Please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!

Now, over to you...

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

(This post was edited by noWizardme on May 20, 9:52am)


CuriousG
Half-elven


May 20, 2:34pm

Post #2 of 64 (3851 views)
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A Long Expected Read-through [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for starting us off Wiz!

The narrator: for my part, I've always liked the narrator in The Hobbit because of his sense of humor and his generally sympathetic tone to the plight of whomever he's talking about. That makes me overlook the more silly extremes, such as when the dwarves sing humorously about smashing Bilbo's crockery, and the narrator refers to such deeds as "dreadful things," which makes him sound like some pompous, elitist twit who finds a worm on the sidewalk "atrocious." This is, after all, a story where some truly "dreadful things" will happen by the end of the book.

I'm fast-forwarding, but I always appreciated the narrator's remark when Bilbo is in Thranduil's halls putting the dwarves in barrels to escape, and Bilbo suddenly realizes the weak point in his plan (there's no one to put him in a barrel or let him out if someone did). "Most likely you saw it some time ago and have been laughing at him" --nope, I never saw that coming on first read, and it made me feel like I should be a more attentive, less passive reader.

The dwarves' arrival: this scheme is reminiscent of introducing them at Beorn's home, isn't it? So Gandalf recycles his tricks. But at least in this first chapter, I think the introduction of the dwarves in little groups (and conveniently when their names are similar in each group), and distinguishing them by the colors of the hoods is his attempt to wrestle with the information overload on readers of having 12 characters thrown at them where only one of them (Thorin) has a distinctive personality, the rest seeming pretty interchangeable, besides Bombur being fattest. I certainly agree it has a Disney Snow White feel to it.

The nature of Gandalf: I must admit I am heavily influenced by the Gandalf of LOTR, the deeply insightful chess-master who has a macroview of situations that others lack. So yes, he tricked Bildo into this adventure, but I tend to think that he thought Bilbo was indeed suited to the job, and it resonates with one of LOTR's themes that deep inside the fattest and most timid hobbit is a seed of courage waiting to blossom when an emergency requires it. So he's almost like a life coach or parent to Bilbo, throwing him out of the bird's nest where's he's gone soft and lazy to force him to fly and start thinking for himself instead of being a person who only does what society expects him to do.

But overall, yes, this is lower-scale Gandalf than the wise wizard of LOTR or even the end of the book at The Battle of Five Armies, where he functions at a higher level. I wouldn't be surprised in this chapter if he had a stall set up in a market and told fortunes, or performed "magic tricks" with people's money and replaced their money with counterfeit.


CuriousG
Half-elven


May 20, 3:04pm

Post #3 of 64 (3849 views)
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An introduction to all of Tolkien in one chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

If someone were to teach a course on Tolkien, I think this is the chapter that encapsulates much of his writing patterns, so it would be a better intro than his grander and earlier works like the Fall of Gondolin. In particular:

Dialogue/word play: I love the exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo about the various meanings of "Good morning," including the fact that Bildo isn't backed against a wall by the wizard's cunning questions and rebuts with "All of them at once!" This kind of word play and sparring within dialogue will be seen over and over in all of Tolkien.

Love of food and comfort: plainly.

Hobbits as neither heroes or antiheroes: it strikes me that in the general description of hobbits on page 2, "they are inclined to be fat," this is something you never read in traditional stories about heroes, who are always strong, athletic, doing brave things, and are presumably like heroes in comic books with no body fat and gym-perfect physiques. Also, while Bilbo only reluctantly gets involved in the quest, it's clearly over his head what he's really getting into.

"Long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green": this is the unspoken foundation for every setting, everywhere, that yearning for pastoral peace and environmental conservation vs. industrialism.

Group solidarity and loyalty: there may be disagreements and squabbles within Tolkien's groups, but they always stick together. These dwarves even seem to think Bilbo unqualified for the job, but they're willing to take him along based on Gandalf's word, and they stick by his side throughout despite their reservations (and vice versa). Compare this with many modern stories, written or filmed, where there are two alpha males getting into fist fights (or worse) for the group's leadership, and groups splinter into factions that have lots of drama before they reconcile. I can't think of any group like that in Tolkien. (Which is why the LOTR movie's "Go home, Sam!" sticks with me as totally un-Tolkienesque.)

"You will notice already that Mr. Baggins...was very fond of flowers": of course he is, because so is the author! And anything that's green and growing. I would admit that Tolkien's themes of reverence for trees and the sea aren't present in this chapter, but you can find a whole lot else if you look for it.


noWizardme
Valinor


May 20, 5:14pm

Post #4 of 64 (3828 views)
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Dreadful things, and the narrator (who is the narrator, anyway?) [In reply to] Can't Post

He's doing a lot of things, that narrator... (BTW I assume 'he' because when I first read the book I supposed the narrator to be The Author, who I knew to be a bloke. Someone with fond memories of the book being read to them by a woman might beg to differ, especially if she (the older person reading them the book) did a memorable performance of the narrator, the Trolls' voices etc. We could, perhaps discuss who we each thought the narrator was and why - I can think of several assumptions it would be reasonable to make).

He's doing a lot of things, that narrator. His first entrance is to impart information (what are hobbits etc.) in a way that is quite like a footnote. By 'dreadful things' though, I think he's being a bit mocking - blunted knives, cracked plates and spillages might indeed seem dreadful to Bilbo right now, but as you say he'll soon gain more context.

I remember a time when didn't like the narrator. I would have said I found him 'patronizing'. I'm not sure I can now explain quite why that was - perhaps the suspicion that there was humour here that I didn't understand, and that it might be the author exchanging a wink with any adults reading the book aloud, over the head of the child audience.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


May 20, 5:29pm

Post #5 of 64 (3825 views)
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unlikely heroes [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking that not only are hobbits unlikely heroes, but this particular hobbit might seem a very unlikely character to put into a children's book as the character with which the reader is to identify. Apart from the general factors that make hobbits seem unheroic, this particular hobbit is middle-aged, fussy and boring or so he's made to seem at this point, before the story gets to work on him.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


sevilodorf
Grey Havens


May 21, 12:45am

Post #6 of 64 (3787 views)
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Of Narrators and Dwarves and.... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Hobbit -- General comment -- I came to The Hobbit after LOTR -- in 8th grade (12/13 years old) after reading Narnia to shreds.

Narrators -- The avuncular narrator voice of The Hobbit is not my favorite. In fact, it’s much like fingernails on chalkboards (which dates me tremendously). It is not a narrative voice used much now though Lemony Snicket used it with tongue firmly in cheek in his Series of Unfortunate Events which my granddaughter (now 24) loved and listened to on road trips. (Hmmmm… wondering if Deadpool’s constant breaking of the fourth wall to talk to the audience could be considered in the same style) I remember reading many books with that “voice” (some more extreme than others) Pinocchio, Lewis’ Narnia books, Alice in Wonderland, Five Little Peppers, Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, many of Roald Dahl’s (and I may be the only person on earth who really doesn’t like Dahl), Eleanor Estes The Moffats series, George MacDonald’s the Princess and Curdie books, Nesbit’s and Eager’s books as well…. Most of which are on the shelf behind me with copyright dates before my birth.

Now that paragraph seems to be a contradiction… I don’t like that voice but obviously I read a lot of it….and enjoyed them as the covers are mostly falling off… but I think what happened for me is that I outgrew it. I didn’t want an aunty or uncle telling me how to look at the characters, how to judge the events and most of all the constant feeling of being talked down to. The whole “dear reader” “your devoted author” voice was I believe fairly common throughout literature in the 1800’s but has gone out of fashion (thank goodness). Whenever I do a reread of The Hobbit (and it is less frequent than my rereads of LOTR) I tend to grit my teeth and skip the author asides.

Dwarves --- and for that matter Elves… certainly evolved greatly from The Hobbit to LOTR to The Silmarillion. It has always boggled the mind as to exactly how they traveled with viols, clarinets and drums. (the harp and flute are somehow more acceptable to me --- and I let the fiddles slide as I had an uncle who took his everywhere) But the real problem with the instruments is I don’t believe they are ever mentioned again. As anyone who has examined Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle Earth knows the Dwarves and Bilbo took an awfully long time to cover the same distance Strider basically force marched the hobbits over… surely they spent some of those many evenings playing music...but never is it mentioned.

Gandalf -- Reading between the lines and perhaps applying motives that were not necessarily meant at the moment of writing but work rather well in hindsight… Gandalf is manipulating the heck out of all of them. Subtly and not so subtly but still they all dance to his tune to a point.

A bit that does confuse me is when Gandalf and Bilbo are “good morninging” each other…
Bilbo says, “I haven’t asked for anything.” Gandalf replies, “Yes, you have! Twice now.”
The only hint Bilbo gives of wanting adventure that I see is about two paragraphs before that when he says, “Bless me, life used to be quite inter..I mean…”
Where is the other time he asked?


“Poor” Belladonna -- I so want to know the story… is there a hint anywhere? But this does bring up one point that cemented Tolkien into my top authors for years… This is a world… we don’t know everything but it’s there. These characters have history. Their history has shaped their world. I think it all shocked Tolkien too. Robert Heinlein’s theory that the universe is being created by blissfully unknowing authors or authors that somehow tap into other parts of the multiverse.

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Ithilisa
Bree

May 21, 4:56am

Post #7 of 64 (3762 views)
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Both of you make some excellent points about the dwarves. [In reply to] Can't Post

I hadn't thought about how they do in their introduction resemble Disney's dwarves to some extent. Quite surprsing when I think about it given Tolkien's loathing for Disney's style.

"I name you Elf-friend; and may the stars shine upon the end of your road!" - Gildor

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."- Thorin


noWizardme
Valinor


May 21, 6:44am

Post #8 of 64 (3750 views)
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Letting go of the narrator’s hand [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think what happened for me is that I outgrew it. I didn’t want an aunty or uncle telling me how to look at the characters, how to judge the events and most of all the constant feeling of being talked down to.


That’s what I remember too! I also read The Hobbit after Narnia and before LOTR. I’m now wondering whether my discomfort with the avuncular narrator is to do with how I felt then, wanting to move on the literature that I believed was more mature.

I remembered an addition to your list of older titles that use this narrator- Kipling’s Just So Stories. I recall being read some by a teacher as a child, and finding them patronising. But an audiobook became a bedtime favourite for my daughter later; perhaps because of Geoffrey Palmer’s performance. Read that way, I didn’t hear a slightly bored mocking adult; I heard an adult with a warm relationship with their own daughter, to whom they were telling the tale which we were overhearing.

So maybe it depends on the circumstances of first reading? Is there anyone here who first read Hobbit to children, or otherwise cane to it as an adult? I wonder whether that affects how one sees the narrator?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


InTheChair
Lorien

May 21, 5:54pm

Post #9 of 64 (3702 views)
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Maybe Tolkien should have made Gimli carry some small instrument. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
scheme is reminiscent of introducing them at Beorn's home, isn't it? So Gandalf recycles his tricks.


Was it Gandalf who made the Dwarves arrive in small groups to Bilbos house? I don't remember it stated. Though I also don't remember any explanation at all why they travelled in such a fashion to his house, but thereafter always travelled as one group.


Quote
it has a Disney Snow White feel to it


They at least share the same surface elements. Though Tolkien must have written and read the Hobbit to his children before they had a chance to see Snow White.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

May 21, 9:33pm

Post #10 of 64 (3666 views)
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Gandalf's trickery [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf can be quite tricky in Lotr as well! Think of his dealings with Theoden for example it can almost be called manipulative or with Frodo sometimes like with Moria he nudges Frodo to say the right thing or even at the end I am not always sure that he is saying everything he could to the captains at the last debate! And of course he tries to be tricky with Denethor, but Denethor isn't playing!


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

May 21, 9:48pm

Post #11 of 64 (3665 views)
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There is quite a lot going on in this chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

We do go from an idyllic fairytale place to a dangerous adventure in double-quick time. One minute we are fussing about the possibility of cutlery been broken then a few pages later we are suddenly informed that the Wild is very dangerous and increasing and by the way that is where the people are going on an adventure and there is the likelihood of death! Which I do sometimes think that Bilbo is very eager in agreeing to and I wonder if he ever regretted this. Or if sometimes people might have said, 'Oh, the likelihood of death, well, now that you mention this Mr. Gandalf, i might just pass!' Im not sure that it would make them any less heroic. Or possibly so.
Actually the society here in ME is interesting. We are introduced to an ideal pre-industrial ruling class person. Well pre-industrial with some of the best bits of industrial society thrown in like Post Office and a boiling kettle. As we don't wish to be too uncomfortably rural do we Mr. Tolkien!


hanne
Lorien

May 21, 11:09pm

Post #12 of 64 (3643 views)
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Love that way of looking at it! [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are indeed core Tolkien themes. One more is the hints of a fully-realized world, with lots of other stories going on around the edges without any explanation: poor Belladonna, the Necromancer, the Battle of the Green Fields, Moria...


hanne
Lorien

May 21, 11:18pm

Post #13 of 64 (3642 views)
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There definitely is. [In reply to] Can't Post

Hamfast Gamgee

Quote
One minute we are fussing about the possibility of cutlery been broken then a few pages later we are suddenly informed that the Wild is very dangerous and increasing and by the way that is where the people are going on an adventure and there is the likelihood of death! Which I do sometimes think that Bilbo is very eager in agreeing to and I wonder if he ever regretted this.


That's why I like it though. When Bilbo gets fierce and volunteers, it has resonance because you know he had to forget his comforts and routines and step into a larger self. That's what makes him a hero...so I think some of the fuss and domesticity is needed for contrast. I also love that it was the Dwarves's song that helped him reach that part of himself, because to me that is the first tonal shift and the first real feeling of depth, the first feeling that this story is going beyond kindly narrators and colour-coded Dwarves to something epic. The movies did that song very well!


InTheChair

Quote
Maybe Tolkien should have made Gimli carry some small instrument.

Although, Oin and Gloin seem to be the only ones without instruments, so maybe Gimli didn't inhert the musical gene either. The Dwarves run together so much, not going much beyond their initial colour-coding, so I like it when we get a detail like that!


sevilodorf

Quote
Dwarves --- and for that matter Elves… certainly evolved greatly from The Hobbit to LOTR to The Silmarillion.


Indeed. I think this chapter has perhaps more of the non-Middle-Earth references than others (LOTR has of course the famous express-train). But this one also has "tunnel without smoke" (took me years to realize he was talking about old-fashioned railway trains!), elephants, tobacco, coffee...

And there is so much magic mentioned here that we don't see later in the Lord of the Rings: the self-fastening diamond studs, Thorin's smoke rings that go where he tells them, jewelry made of light...the magical toys here I think become just marvellous toys by the time Bilbo is giving them out at his Party.


squire
Half-elven


May 22, 3:03am

Post #14 of 64 (3633 views)
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Gandalf needs "nothing short of a total literary resurrection". [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Does anyone particularly like or dislike this narrator character, and if so would you care to explain why?
I love the narrator for the same reason I love The Hobbit: it is a tale from my earliest childhood, read to me and my brother by my mother when I was probably about six or seven, and read by me as I learned to read. More inclusively, the voice of the narrator captures an entire Anglophilic literary nursery culture that was far more prominent in its time than it is now, but which featured largely in my New England childhood. It includes Mary Poppins, Beatrix Potter, Alice in Wonderland and even Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Oddly enough, we never read Wind in the Willows, but I understand it shares with the others much of the same homey, safely dangerous adventures mixed with archly humorous parodies of upper middle class English life from the days of the Empire.

In other words, it’s not really about The Lord of the Rings at all. It’s not about that side of Tolkien. Granted, there’s plenty of overlap, as Tolkien changes his tone in the latter part of the book. But the earlier and far more memorable chapters mix humor with satire and broad insight into a child’s perspective on what it means to become an adult, and how an adult might recover childhood’s sense of wonder. The narrator is our conductor into that world, and without him even today I’d feel a little lost. I have always understood perfectly the comment of whoever it was that told Tolkien, as he edited the narrator and most of the other silly and childish magic out of the book, in his 1960 stab at making it into a consistent prequel to LotR: “this is wonderful, but it’s not The Hobbit.” (John Rateliff’s paraphrase).

B. Does anyone who likes this part want to try and explain what I’m missing?
It’s meant to be silly and humorous, and I think it succeeds. It’s not the most artful part of the book, but it does provide a fine slapstick introduction to the suddenly darker and more dangerous ending of the chapter. I never understood the hoods either, and I never figured out who any of the Dwarves were besides Thorin (the boss), Balin (Bilbo’s patron), Bombur (the fat one), and Fili and Kili (the two kids).

Anyone who doesn’t understand this “longish section” should try reading it, with appropriate acting out and good voice work, to a 9-year old child or two. It never misses. And I think that’s the point, much as it is of many another section that fails to impress an adult who has discovered The Lord of the Rings, by the same author and with many overlapping characters and settings.

C. What do you think – does Gandalf feel different to you and if he does, does it matter?
Yes, indeed. I have always loved Paul Kocher’s observation about this question, in his chapter ‘The Hobbit’ in his fine book of critical essays about Tolkien, Master of Middle-earth (1972). At the risk of pedantry, I’ll offer a longish quotation:
"Tolkien’s abrupt leap from a children’s tale to an epic of heroic struggle requires a radical elevation of stature for all of them [the recurring characters in both books]. As the Necromancer of The Hobbit is not yet Sauron, Gandalf is not yet Gandalf. The wizard of the child’s story, who ‘never minded explaining his cleverness more than once,’ who is ‘dreadfully afraid’ of the wargs, who tricks Beorn into accepting thirteen unwanted dwarves into his house, and the like, needs nothing short of a total literary resurrection to become the messenger sent by the Valar to rally the West against Sauron." (Kocher, 31-32. I have bolded the phrase that leapt to my mind when I read your question.)

One other note, as I re-read this chapter: I have noticed far more anachronisms and contemporary turns of phrase than we ever see in LotR – again, for the obvious reason that this is not yet “Middle-earth” of either the later book, or really, of the already existing Silmarillion. It is an educated fairy tale aimed at children. For instance:

  • “magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone until ordered”

  • “a big jug of coffee”

  • “’open the door like a pop-gun’”

  • green smoke rings hovering over the wizard’s head making him look “positively sorcrerous”

  • “very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel”

  • the famous invention of the game of Golf

  • “he looks more like a grocer than a burglar”

  • “shields [in these parts are] used as cradles or dishcovers”

  • “the leisure to make beautiful things just for the fun of it, not to speak of the most marvelous and magical toys”

  • “they [dragons] usually have a good notion of the current market value”

  • the dragon used to “carry away people, especially maidens, to eat”

  • “fried not poached, and mind you don’t break ‘em”

  • I kind of cherish stuff like this, as silly as it seems in retrospect, because as per my feelings above, it helps to separate the two books to a proper and respectable distance. LotR is certainly a sequel to The Hobbit. But The Hobbit is in no important way a ‘prequel’ to LotR.



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    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 11:42am

    Post #15 of 64 (3577 views)
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    More Gandalf’s trickery [In reply to] Can't Post

    Great examples, Hamfast.

    And now I’m reminded of Wiz’s read-through of The Council of Elrond chapter in LOTR when, to paraphrase him (perhaps inaccurately from memory) he said the whole council was one where Gandalf pretended it was a debate but it was really like one of those company meetings many of us have been to where a manager manipulates everyone during a long meeting to come to the conclusion the manager had when they started out, they just wanted buy-in and the pretense of unanimous consent, a sort of pseudo-democracy. Tricksy he is!


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 11:49am

    Post #16 of 64 (3572 views)
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    That's tricky [In reply to] Can't Post

    I agree with you - LOTR Gandalf has an agenda, and is not above withholding information from people.

    I do think there's a difference though.For example I think I'm intended to be amused by Gandalf's effrontery of his Unexpected Party trick of scratching 'Burglar for Hire' on Bilbo's door, or of how (looking ahead) he handles the trolls. There's nothing cheeky or amusing that I can see about Gandalf's handling of the situations you describe (except, perhaps him getting his staff admitted to Theoden's chamber).

    Perhaps there is some common ground though - it could be argued that Gandalf forces people into situations where they must make a choice. If Gandalf is an ambassador of the Valar, then they are being asked to make the Right choice. They might not like this, but I think the choice is, in the end, theirs.

    For example - when last we read through The Council of Elrond the consensus view seemed to be that Frodo freely chooses to take the Ring onwards (though people also argued convincingly that the meeting had been set up to lead Frodo to the conclusion that this was essential).
    Or, one might say about Denethor that he agreed to send his son with what turned out to be a summons to the Heir of Isildur. Now he refuses to follow that path.

    Perhaps the pattern holds for Bilbo - he could, theoretically, throw the dwarves out or decide (as he thinks he has by the end of Chapter 1) to oversleep deliberately and let them go off without him. In that case perhaps Gandlaf would have had a further trick to get Bilbo going - or perhaps not.

    Even Hama, when he admits Gandalf with his staff, makes a choice (and says he's done so). As I read it, the choice is the point here, not the trick.

    Gandalf's dealings with Frodo in LOTR are something that we could, doubtless debate. My own reading is that Gandalf (and other 'wise' characters such as Gildor, Elrond or Galadriel or Aragorn) are eager not to tell Frodo what to do or manipulate him into something: they conclude that he must choose, because only he can choose correctly.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 11:51am

    Post #17 of 64 (3576 views)
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    'Facilitated' [In reply to] Can't Post

    I think it was Darkstone who knew all about tricksy people at meetings....
    Oddly enough I posted at the same time you did, also remembering our Council of Elrond read-through - see below.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 12:37pm

    Post #18 of 64 (3564 views)
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    I am sure Darkstone "facilitated" you into thinking that it was your idea. He's tricksy too. // [In reply to] Can't Post

     


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 12:43pm

    Post #19 of 64 (3575 views)
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    "it’s not really about The Lord of the Rings at all" [In reply to] Can't Post


    In Reply To
    In other words, it’s not really about The Lord of the Rings at all. It’s not about that side of Tolkien. Granted, there’s plenty of overlap, as Tolkien changes his tone in the latter part of the book. But the earlier and far more memorable chapters mix humor with satire and broad insight into a child’s perspective on what it means to become an adult, and how an adult might recover childhood’s sense of wonder. ...

    ...I kind of cherish stuff like this, as silly as it seems in retrospect, because as per my feelings above, it helps to separate the two books to a proper and respectable distance. LotR is certainly a sequel to The Hobbit. But The Hobbit is in no important way a ‘prequel’ to LotR.


    That might be an interesting area for discussion. One point of view might be that a reader wants to see Middle-earth as a consistent ; playing the game of imagining it is all real, and enjoying making satisfactory 'in-world' explanations for any omissions or inconsistencies.

    An alternative view would be to feel that The Hobbit should not be borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth - inconsistencies might exist, but to solve them would lose as much as one gains. (I think that's what you are arguing, squire?)

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 12:44pm

    Post #20 of 64 (3570 views)
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    Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

    Yes.

    This means something.
    Wink

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 12:55pm

    Post #21 of 64 (3582 views)
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    why it’s ‘poor Belladonna’ [In reply to] Can't Post

    My theory is that someone made her sit through all three Hobbit movies back-to-back.

    OK, I'm joking of course. My serious answer is that I think Gandalf rather approved of the likely-to-go-off-on-adventures person that Belladonna once was, and felt that marriage smothered her.

    But other suggestions, serious or frivolous, are welcome!

    Meanwhile, I must quickly work on a pitch for a TV series that cover the adventures of Belladonna Took. I imagine her roving Middle-earth and raiding tombs for artefacts, defending herself with her trademark weapon, a combination polearm-crossbow. Later of course the family hushes up this scandalous behaviour, and the only clue left is the name she gives her son...

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 5:16pm

    Post #22 of 64 (3531 views)
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    Or maybe Bilbo declared her mentally incompetent and collected his inheritance early, [In reply to] Can't Post

    thus leaving her penniless and literally poor Belladonna. The Hobbit is supposed to be about his redemption for being so cruel to her, but he just got richer and forgot about her. It's really like Orwell's Animal Farm: it appears to be a children's story, but it's all about economics and how the 1% exploit the rest of us.


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    May 22, 5:22pm

    Post #23 of 64 (3526 views)
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    I heard she had a freak accident with a bedside lamp [In reply to] Can't Post

    ...it had a deadly night shade.

    ~~~~~~
    Where's that old read-through discussion?
    A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


    Darkstone
    Immortal


    May 22, 5:42pm

    Post #24 of 64 (3530 views)
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    "He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce" [In reply to] Can't Post

    In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. …”

    "Your first line sells the book. Your last line sells the next book."

    At least that's what Mickey Spillane says, and he should know.


    The chapter is told in a light-hearted way, with the narrator making asides about the difficulty the ‘Tookish’ (adventurous) side of Bilbo’s personality is having emerging from the more stolid and respectable Baggins shell. I felt I was also being invited to smile at Thorin’s tendency to be proud and pompous.

    The intrusive narrator was used quite commonly by 19th century novelists such as George Eliot and Leo Tolstoy. David Lodge in The Art of Fiction notes "Around the turn of the [19th] century, however, the intrusive authorial voice fell into disfavor, partly because it detracts from realistic illusion and reduces the emotional intensity of the experience being represented, by calling attention to the act of narrating. It also claims a kind of authority, a God-like omniscience, which our skeptical and relativistic age is reluctant to grant anyone"


    The narrator (who calls themselves ‘I’ and addresses the reader as ‘you’) strikes me as a fairly unusual way of writing outside of works for quite small children, and may be quite dated now to boot (or are there many examples I don’t know about?)

    The intrusive narrator has returned in post-modern metafiction where the author is not so concerned about realism but rather storytelling and language. In his writing Tolkien explored the same two constructs, as well as concepts regarding history, myths, meaning, etc. that predated today's Poststructuralists such as Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault by decades. Tolkien demonstrates that he is way ahead of his time, and more meaningful and instructive than ever.


    Does anyone particularly like or dislike this narrator character,…

    I like him.


    …and if so would you care to explain why?

    He feels homey. I always like it when we meet him again in LOTR when he asks the reader: “Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?” I also liked him in Canterbury Tales and Don Quixote.


    I’m a bit baffled why Tolkien includes the longish section in which the dwarves come in a few at a time, and the main detail is the colour of their hoods. It’s probably been a boon for generations of teachers setting comprehension quizzes, but I don’t think it’s working for me. The dwarves here seem like Disney dwarves from Snow White

    Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit was published on September 21, 1937. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in Los Angeles on December 21, 1937. It didn’t reach the UK until it premiered in London on February 24, 1938. Thus any connection would seem impossible. And note that since Tolkien’s much noted “heartfelt loathing” for Disney is quoted from a letter dated May 13, 1937 that emotion also would have nothing to do with the film “Snow White”.


    – I think it’s the coloured hoods and that the sequence ends in the slapstick of a pile of dwarves on the hall floor, with Thorin having made an undignified entrance. Does anyone who likes this part want to try and explain what I’m missing?

    This is a set up for later when Tolkien does a powerful reversal of the narrative technique of “breaking frame”. In Frame Analysis: An essay on the organization of experience Erving Goffman (considered by many to be the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century) defines a “frame” as a set of rules, expectations or stereotypes about a particular situation. In both film and literature artists sometimes “break frame” towards the end of their work to reveal that the story is just actors in front of the screen, or made-up characters in the writer’s imagination. Towards the end Tolkien reverses frame by reorienting the playful children’s story of Bilbo and the Dwarves into something morally dark and tragic. Amazing! Masterful storytelling!!


    It reads to me as is this chapter’s Gandalf has a trickster streak, which is one of the ways in which he feels (to me at least) to be a bit different from his LOTR character. A current example is that his way of engineering the start of Bilbo’s adventure (trickery) seems very different to what he does to Frodo (persuasion).

    In Myth and Middle-earth Leslie Ellen Jones compares Gandalf with trickster Loki. Both are associated with fire and magic, both set events in motion and then remove themselves from the situation, both are seen as troublemakers, etc. Jones notes that Loki helps or hinders depending on which course of action is most amusing to him at the time. Compare to Gandalf:

    ”In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.”

    BTW the philologist Eldar Heide seems to have solved the puzzle of the meaning of Loki’s name. He found that “loki” seems to derive from the Icelandic word for “knot” or “tangle.” Spiders are sometimes referred to as “loki” in a metaphorical sense as their webs are compared to the fish nets that Loki makes in certain Viking myths.

    Note that Pippin compares Denethor to a spider:

    There Denethor sat in a grey gloom, like an old patient spider, Pippin thought...
    -Minas Tirith

    And Pippin compares Denethor to Gandalf:

    He turned his dark eyes on Gandalf, and now Pippin saw a likeness between the two…
    -ibid

    Thus if Denethor is like a spider, and Gandalf is like Denethor, then Gandalf is like a spider, and so Gandalf is like Loki.

    QED


    What do you think – does Gandalf feel different to you and if he does, does it matter?

    There’s a progression from Gandalf the Grey in The Hobbit to Gandalf the Grey in FOTR to Gandalf the White in TTT and to Gandalf the Even More White in ROTK. I’m not sure he transmogrifies as much as simply grows:

    Gandalf: Akk! I’m dead! Varda, will you help me? Can you give me more power?

    Varda: You don't need to be helped. You've always had the power to save Arda.

    Gandalf: I have?

    Manwe: Then why didn't you tell him before?

    Varda: He wouldn't have believed me. He had to learn it for himself.

    Aule: What have you learned, Gandalf?

    Gandalf: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Bilbo and Frodo — and it's that — if I ever go looking for Arda’s saviors again, I won't look any further than the Shire’s backyard and for the exaltation of the humble. Is that right?

    Varda: That's all it is!

    Manwe: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you!

    Yvanna: I should have felt it in my heart!

    Varda: No, he had to find it out for himself. Now that magic ring will take you back in two seconds!

    Gandalf: Oh! And Boromir too?

    Mandos: Nope, sorry. Boromir stays dead.


    Of course there are very many other things we could talk about: from diamond studs to were-worms, to why it’s ‘poor Belladonna’ to the story about the invention of golf.

    Or Lilliputians, the Gobi Desert, Wild Wire worms of China, policemen on bicycles, and Bilbo being part goblin, except this is the third edition, right?


    Please go ahead and raise any other points about this chapter that you’d like to discuss!

    Pie!

    “And mince-pies and cheese,” said Bofur. “And pork-pie and salad,” said Bombur.

    ******************************************
    “Did you say 'You Shall Not Pass' or 'You Shall Not Sass'?" asked the Balrog.

    "I said 'You Shall Not Pass,'” replied Gandalf; "and I wish you wouldn't keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy."

    "All right," said the Balrog; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of its wings, and ending with its shadow, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

    'Well! I've often seen wings without a Balrog,' thought Gandalf; `but a Balrog without wings! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’

    -The Adventures of Gandalf in Middle-earth Land




    CuriousG
    Half-elven


    May 22, 6:18pm

    Post #25 of 64 (3517 views)
    Shortcut
    Doggoneit, Darkstone, was enjoying your story, but your last line was a total downer. Not going to buy your book now. [In reply to] Can't Post


    In Reply To
    Gandalf: Akk! I’m dead! Varda, will you help me? Can you give me more power?

    Varda: You don't need to be helped. You've always had the power to save Arda.

    Gandalf: I have?

    Manwe: Then why didn't you tell him before?

    Varda: He wouldn't have believed me. He had to learn it for himself.

    Aule: What have you learned, Gandalf?

    Gandalf: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Bilbo and Frodo — and it's that — if I ever go looking for Arda’s saviors again, I won't look any further than the Shire’s backyard and for the exaltation of the humble. Is that right?

    Varda: That's all it is!

    Manwe: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you!

    Yvanna: I should have felt it in my heart!

    Varda: No, he had to find it out for himself. Now that magic ring will take you back in two seconds!

    Gandalf: Oh! And Boromir too?

    Mandos: Nope, sorry. Boromir stays dead.


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