Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
***The hobbit-read-through: Ch4 – Over Hill and Under Hill
First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 Next page Last page  View All

sador
Half-elven


Jun 10, 12:04pm

Post #1 of 79 (3707 views)
Shortcut
***The hobbit-read-through: Ch4 – Over Hill and Under Hill Can't Post

Welcome, and greetings to all.
It is a pleasure to lead again a Reading Room discussion. Thank you to nowizardme for organizing this!
This discussion is different from the one I was used to. I have tried to trim it down and not overdo it, but it seems I have not succeeded. So I will divide this discussion in four, posting (God willing) the next parts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, as replies to this post. This post will be specific to this chapter; the next parts will be about general topics which will (or at least, can) come up in nearly every chapter: the place of The Hobbit within the greater legendarium, and the conceit of the whole legendarium as an imagined history of our world; the development of the characters and the reader’s conception of them; and the voice of the author/narrator.
And now to the chapter!


Quote
'Twas in another lifetime one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue, the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness a creature void of form
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."



We should begin with the chapter’s title: Over Hill and Under Hill. Considering what we know about the Misty Mountains, it seems a bit of an understatement!
After trying to go over the mountains, the company finds itself going under the hill, into the heart of the mountain, and eventually will emerge on the other side. This seems to be a recurring theme in Tolkien’s work: in LotR, crossing the Misty Mountains much to the south will take the same route – trying to go above Caradhras, the Fellowship are forced by the weather to go beneath it. Arguably, Frodo will do them same when crossing the Ephel Duath to Mordor, and another underground passage will appear in the Paths of the Dead. In my opinion, the best descriptions are in Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin, published in Unfinished Tales – both on the way to Gondolin, and even more in his coming to Nevrast.
What is the meaning of this theme? And how does it apply here?
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo will take Mr. Underhill as his travelling name. do you think this is a coincidence?

This chapter is from beginning to end a roller-coaster. The company begins ascending the paths over the Misty Mountains, and Tolkien describes in detail the tricky and dangerous mountain pass Gandalf had picked. Going up, the get caught in a thunder storm, and see the stone giants playing with throwing rocks at each other. They find a cave, and take shelter in it for the night.
Any mountaineers among you? Does Tolkien’s description seem familiar and/or realistic to you? (If you’ve never been fleeing from stone giants, you can replay about the rest).

Camping in the cave, without leaving a guard, turns out to be an amateurish mistake. While they are sleeping, goblins come and take them prisoner – all except Gandalf. Bilbo was having nightmares, and woke up just in time to see the crack opening in the wall. He yells, and Gandalf wakes up just in time to concote a large explosion and kill those who come to grab him. He slips behind them just in time before the crack closes, and follows them unseen.
Has he vanished? Both here and in the episode with the trolls in Roast Mutton, he keeps out of sight. I have assumed he had some way of becoming invisible (like Bilbo will soon find) – but perhaps he just managed to evade being seen? What do you think?
As I’ve written, I used to think it was a kind of magic; but now I tend more to the second option, that this was just a matter of skill – such as Aragorn claims to have in Strider.

Being taken underground, the prisoners are brought before the Great Goblin. He interrogates Thorin, and upon seeing the sword Orcrist which was taken by the goblins, loses his temper and seems about to murder Thorin – but is stopped by Gandalf, who kills him, frees the prisoners, and sets off with them.
I for one can’t help finding the goblins delightful – not to meet, naturally, but to read about them. Even their torturing of the prisoners is told in a playful, almost funny language. Do you also find them amusing? Does this take away from, or mitigate, the terror of this episode?
What about the ponies? They are not rescued, and there seems to be no doubt about their end. Do you stop to gives them a thought?
I note that there will be two more sets of ponies which Thorin and his company will mount in this book; only Beorn’s will return safely home.

Gandalf does not rescue the ponies, but he does retrieve Orcrist. It turns out that both swords are well known by the goblins, and even given names by them. Not only the goblins know the swords – apparently the swords know the goblins, burning with rage when goblins are near.
How do you like this bit of magic?
Did you notice that the goblins’ names for the swords are shortened forms of the elvish names? Is this a coincidence, or can you come up with an in-story explanation?

Wielding their swords, Gandalf and Thorin beat back an assault by the goblins. But in their second attempt, the goblins take the company by surprise. Bilbo (who, being unable to keep up with the dwarves’ pace, was being carried by the dwarves throughout the chase), falls down and rolls into the darkness.
The story will continue next chapter when Bilbo returns to his senses. But we leave the dwarves in mortal danger. Do you give them a thought? Has Tolkien managed to get the reader to care about them, or not yet?


And a bonus question, for movie-firsters, and fans of Jacksons’ films in general (Full Disclosure: I did enjoy the films, but not enough to re-watch them, and they seem to me as too far from the book – so I have no answer myself):
Does the movie portrayal affect, or inform your reading of this chapter? In so, how? Or do you keep the two strictly separate?


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 10, 3:19pm

Post #2 of 79 (3515 views)
Shortcut
Amusing and horrifying goblins [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for doing this week, sador! And please don't feel that you have to do a chapter differently to how you would like to do it, in order to keep with some new 'house style'. I think that the person who has been good enough to introduce/lead the chapter can do it their way!

I was thinking about the goblins and my reactions to them too. The story seems to me to have got more Middle-earthy to me now. I think it's partly that more attention is being given to the landscape - which you might say means Tolkien has introduced one of his favourite characters, Middle-earth itself. Also, when I compare the goblins to the trolls of 2 chapters ago, I find an interesting contrast. We discussed that the trolls, with their mockney accents seemed (to me at least) like a stock character: the stupid criminal who is dangerous, but not really. I don't, myself, see the goblins as being played for laughs, but I do notice the narrator doing lots of 'tell' rather than 'show', which keeps me from taking it as seriously as I might. Being tortured or being kept as slave labour until one dies of overwork is of course pretty grave subject matter - and as Tolkien was writing Hobbit, such things were of course going on in Nazi Germany and in Stalinist Russia.

To be clear - I'm not claiming that Tolkien modelled the Goblin King on a Despot of the period, either consciously or unconsciously ('unconsciously' pretty much means 'unprovably', I think, anyway). But starting a train of thought about 'if the Goblin King were a storck character, who might he be' me wonder whether there is a flicker of Great Dictator about the Goblin King - leader of a bellicose and suspicious nation, who is dangerous, unreasonable, but also (if you're safely away from the danger) risible too. They are a bit useless, aren't they - so busy singing about horrid fates for their captives that they haven't even patted Bilbo down competently enough to find Sting!

~~~~~~
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


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 10, 3:54pm

Post #3 of 79 (3509 views)
Shortcut
Traveling in the Realm of the Dead [In reply to] Can't Post

Many cultures tend to bury or entomb their dead, so it's not very hard to see traveling underground as navigating the realms of the dead. We see many instances of this in Tolkien's works. Melkor's underground fortress Utumno is literally called Udûn (Hell). Again, this is taken almost literally both when the Fellowship passes through Moria and when Aragorn and the Grey Company traverse the Paths of the Dead. Tolkien does not place as much emphasis on this theme when the Company of Thorin enters Erebor though Peter Jackson explores it further when Bilbo and the Dwarves come across the corpses of Longbeards who had been unable to escape the Mountain after the coming of Smaug. Here, in Goblin Town and the tunnels underneath, we see the idea explored through the experiences of Bilbo that one cannot enter the realms of the dead and return unchanged.

Sometimes, though, Tolkien's underground realms seem more inspired by legends of fairy mounds: the thousand caves of Menegroth; Thranduil's underground palace; and the dwarven realms of Moria and Erebor in more peaceful times.

I think that Gandalf's choice of Underhill as a traveling name for Frodo is undoubtedly inspired by Bilbo and his conversation with Smaug. Tolkien might have meant it as a little in-joke referencing his earlier work.

Tolkien's mountain sequences were informed by his own experiences hiking through the Alps. If I remember correctly, this also influenced his description of Imladris and the valley of Rivendell.

Yes, Gandalf's lightning attack was very effective against the goblins that came against him in the cave. I don't think the wizard was able to become invisible; however, he might have learned to cast a Glamour that made it hard for enemies to perceive him-- perhaps a trick learned from Radagast?

Ponies have it hard in Tolkien's tales, unless Tom Bombadil is nearby. At least Bill made it safely back from Moria.

I suspect that some Orcs were aware of the elvish names of the swords from Gondolin and that the goblin-names for them reflect this.

It's funny, but when I read "Riddles in the Dark" for the first time (in Fourth Grade), it was as an excerpt fully divorced from the rest of The Hobbit. As such, my mind was fully engaged in Bilbo's predicament and I didn't know enough yet about his companions to give them much thought.

As someone who read the book long before the films existed, I try to put Jackson's version out of my mind when I re-read The Hobbit. I don't imagine Goblin Town as a place of catwalks and bridges though Jackson seems positively obsessed with such imagery.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 10, 4:04pm

Post #4 of 79 (3498 views)
Shortcut
Going Underground - gaining and losing things [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
After trying to go over the mountains, the company finds itself going under the hill, into the heart of the mountain, and eventually will emerge on the other side. This seems to be a recurring theme in Tolkien’s work: in LotR, crossing the Misty Mountains much to the south will take the same route – trying to go above Caradhras, the Fellowship are forced by the weather to go beneath it. Arguably, Frodo will do them same when crossing the Ephel Duath to Mordor, and another underground passage will appear in the Paths of the Dead. In my opinion, the best descriptions are in Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin, published in Unfinished Tales – both on the way to Gondolin, and even more in his coming to Nevrast.
What is the meaning of this theme? And how does it apply here?


It does seem a bit of a theme - and, presumably, one notable enough to give us 'Dungeons and Dragons' as a Tolkien-inspired game, rather than (say) Woodlands and Worlocks, or Moorlands and Monsters.

I expect there would be Freudian and Jungian explanations, and also one that points out tales of 'A Hero's Journey' often involve the hero going to some very unusual place to face and learn from dangers. But I don't feel qualified to discuss those options. I will note, however, that an underground adventure often results in a significant shift in fortunes, with our heroes either gaining something or pitched into a crisis.

Here, Bilbo emerges with the useful ring of invisibility, which will be key to many of his future exploits. In LOTR, Aragorn dares the Paths of the Dead and both gains his temporary ghostly army,as well as taking the short-cut that enables him to relieve the siege of Minas Tirith in the nick of time.

In LOTR, the passage of Moria results in the (apparently disastrous) loss of Frodo's mentor and the company leader, Gandalf. As a result, Aragorn is torn between going to Gondor or Modor, and I think this contributes to the chaotic break-up of the Fellowship (which of course in hindsight will turn out to have been essential).

Frodo and Sam go through Shelob's lair which results in the apparent loss of Frodo. Again this is an apparent disaster, which causes Sam to step forwards as a leader, and (I could argue) Frodo's temporary capture and the orc-on-orc battle it causes is the only way Frodo and Sam would have been able to get past the frontier guards of Mordor.

Bilbo's adventures in the underground Elvenking's Halls later on in Hobbit don't fit his pattern completely, though if I recall, Bilbo emerges as a much more respected member of his party a a result of staging the dwarves escape - at times after that, he seems to eb the leader.

~~~~~~
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


Jun 10, 5:01pm

Post #5 of 79 (3495 views)
Shortcut
Swords 'burning with rage' [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think we again see the swords so anthropomorphised in Hobbit or LOTR? Sting seems a much less emotional at any rate: in the next chapter it's a very useful glow-stick as Bilbo finds his way around underground, a generally superior blade for cutting things, and by LOTR, it seems more like a piece of technology than a personality: a handy Geiger-counter for goblins (and orcs, if they be different).

It sounds more like Turin's sword Anglachel (later reforged as Gurthang) ...


In Reply To
"There is malice in this sword. The dark heart of the smith still dwells in it. It will not love the hand it serves, neither will it abide with you long."

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XXI: "Of Túrin Turambar"


~~~~~~
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


Jun 10, 6:24pm

Post #6 of 79 (3485 views)
Shortcut
"There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something" [In reply to] Can't Post

Do I hear the voice of a frustrated parent - either JRR or Edith to their children, or something JRR heard as a child when he'd taken only a cursory look around for a lost thing, before calling for adult help?

I think there are elementary particles - 'kids bosons' - which cling to any object in which a child has lost interest, rendering it quite invisible to them, even when (an adult would say) it is in plain sight. But I have yet to be offered a Nobel prize for this idea...

~~~~~~
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


Meneldor
Valinor


Jun 10, 6:41pm

Post #7 of 79 (3484 views)
Shortcut
Anthropomorphic swords? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I don't think we again see the swords so anthropomorphised in Hobbit or LOTR?

At Khazad-dum, the Balrog's "red sword leaped flaming. Glamdring glittered white in answer." Obviously the wielders had a lot to do with what their swords did, but it isn't really written that way, is it?


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 12:10am

Post #8 of 79 (3465 views)
Shortcut
It also sounds like something the Gaffer would say. [In reply to] Can't Post

One of those self-evident things, like "the job that takes longest is the one you never start."

Parents' exasperation with their children is timeless. Smile


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 12:12am

Post #9 of 79 (3464 views)
Shortcut
Yes, I've always taken this to mean Glamdring is sentient [In reply to] Can't Post

or close enough. That Glamdring is answering the challenge of the Balrog on its own, not merely channeling Gandalf. I could be wrong, of course, but that's how the passage feels. And it's really cool to think that when Gandalf is all alone in that fight on the bridge, his sword is a sort of trusted ally and not a mere object.


No One in Particular
Rivendell


Jun 11, 2:29am

Post #10 of 79 (3452 views)
Shortcut
Way waaay under hill.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf is stealthy. Smile I do not think he turns invisible; but I could easily conceive that he could use "old Jedi mind tricks" to convince any goblins who catch sight of him that he isn't the droids they're looking for.

Swords would be more useful than ponies in the tunnels under the mountains, even assuming the ponies weren't already goblin chow by this point.

Stone giants-in my head I have always pictured something like exceptionally large and strong trolls, not the over-sized monstrosities Jackson came up with. Frankly, I would have simply left them out of the movie altogether rather than what he did.

The goblins are portrayed in a playful manner as befits the more fairytale-esque tone of the story. They threaten and bluster a lot but never really do all that much. Contrast that to the scene where Shagrat kills Gorbag in a fit of rage-fueled violence, then licks the blood from the blade after it's over. No playfulness at ALL.

I do feel that the almost silly portrayal of the Goblins in The Hobbit detracts from their feeling of menace; but that's exactly what the author intended, or so I feel. It's a story being told to children, after all.

As to move vs.book, I just separate them in my head. Jackson's vision of Goblin-Town is not at all what I have pictured in my head for decades. My vision was always a tad more...claustrophobic. Smile

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


squire
Half-elven


Jun 11, 11:48am

Post #11 of 79 (3438 views)
Shortcut
It's the Hero's Underground Journey Eastwards - and other cheerful stuff [In reply to] Can't Post

A. After trying to go over the mountains, the company finds itself going under the hill, into the heart of the mountain, and eventually will emerge on the other side. This seems to be a recurring theme in Tolkien’s work... What is the meaning of this theme? And how does it apply here?
As others have noted, this is a legendary convention that has been dissected by Jung, among others. Anyway, I read about it here: The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien, and the Archetypes of Middle-earth, Timothy O'Neill, 1979. It's the Hero's Underground Journey Eastwards. It evokes two mystical ideas: one, that when the sun sets in the west, it clearly travels beneath the earth in order to rearise in the east the next morning; and two, death and subsequent burial underground can lead to redemption and recovery of a new life, symbolized by the light of the sun being seen again after time in the eternal darkness below.

So, in the story, the hero descends below the ground, travels east, and re-emerges to greet the rising sun. You're right that Tolkien really plays this one hard, starting here in The Hobbit and with greater force and meaning in The Lord of the Rings (along with the episodes you mentioned, we have the hobbits in the barrow, released and revived by Tom and the rising sun. In The Hobbit, along with these two chapters, there is the descent into Erebor via the western door and emergence out of the Main Gate; and the journey through eternally dark Mirkwood and the subterranean Elven Halls, coming out into the daylight on the Lake.

How it applies in this particular episode is that Bilbo symbolically dies, overcomes Gollum in a version of the contest with the Devil, and finds his way out on the Eastern side as a stronger and now magically empowered character. Note that the dwarves and Gandalf travel almost the same journey, but are not transformed in any noticeable way, because they are not the heroes of this story.

B. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo will take Mr. Underhill as his travelling name. do you think this is a coincidence?
No. But it's not a strong one. Even in this book, not to say LotR, it's clear that Bag End is the original "under Hill" location. "I come from under the hill, and under hills and over the hills my paths led" is how Bilbo riddles Smaug. The first 'under the hill' refers to Bag End; the second 'under hills' refers to both the Misty Mountains adventure and the Elven halls. So Gandalf's gag name for Frodo has both meanings. The first one is reinforced by the fact that they are in Bag End when Gandalf invents it, not to mention the witty detail that Frodo encounters actual Underhill hobbits in Bree. We are invited to realize the name is evidently a common one in a rustic subterranean-living culture that never even thinks about the Mountains.

C. Any mountaineers among you? Does Tolkien’s description seem familiar and/or realistic to you? (If you’ve never been fleeing from stone giants, you can replay about the rest).
Rereading this for the first time in a long time, I noted with surprise the narrator's emphasis on the idea of there being many passes, many caves, and many dangers in the Misty Mountains. That never comes back; in LotR I remember Gimli saying the Beornings keep open 'the High Pass' as if that's the only one, and Aragorn explaining there are 'no passes' south of the Redhorn Gate. In general, I felt a strong pull of recognition for the Caradhras episode in LotR -- there is a lot of overlap in the descriptions. At times like this one feels (not for the last time) that in writing LotR as the 'sequel' to The Hobbit, Tolkien was not wrong when he protested to his publishers that "I squandered so much on the original 'Hobbit' (which was not meant to have a sequel) that it is difficult to find anything new in that world" (Letter 24).

It's fairly well known that Tolkien hiked the Alps when a young man, and based most of his 'mountain' writing on that experience (plus other reading and imagination, obviously). The bit about the boulders being loosed from the snow by the midday sun, and rolling down the slopes towards hiking parties, apparently really happened to him. But I have always liked the 'stone giants' playing cricket or soccer or whatever, leading to Thorin's remark that they are in danger of being kicked across the valley as 'footballs' if they don't find better shelter. This is the kind of writing we don't see in LotR, and it's part of what I cherish about The Hobbit.

D. Has [Gandalf] vanished? Both here and in the episode with the trolls in Roast Mutton, he keeps out of sight. I have assumed he had some way of becoming invisible (like Bilbo will soon find) – but perhaps he just managed to evade being seen? What do you think?
I don't believe he could ever make himself invisible, whether literally or via some kind of mind-trick spell. That would weaken the device of the Ring, not to mention the sense that Gandalf's powers are distinctly limited, so that he is in mortal danger along with everybody else. In this episode which takes place in near to pitch darkness, it's easy enough for me to imagine that he just just crept along, you know—very carefully and quietly.

I am more curious about the crack in the back wall of the cave. Apparently, it opens and closes rather elastically. How the heck does that work with solid stone?

E. I for one can’t help finding the goblins delightful – not to meet, naturally, but to read about them. Even their torturing of the prisoners is told in a playful, almost funny language. Do you also find them amusing? Does this take away from, or mitigate, the terror of this episode?
Right on. I love the goblins. Delightful and amusing, absolutely, quite in contrast to the Orcs of the later book, who torture their enemies to death rather than enslave them. I love it when the narrator assures us that Thorin doesn't really mean "at your service"! The interview between Thorin and the Great Goblin is exquisite parody, right up there with the more famous (because more significant) dialogue between Bilbo and Smaug.

Now, does it 'take away from, or mitigate, the terror of this episode'? Ah, I guess we have to decide if this is a terrifying episode, or rather, if it is meant to be a terrifying episode. I think it is meant to be suspenseful. The reader is apprehensive and nervous, not scared to death. The witty tone is reassuring, to balance the straight-out scary stuff about whips, enslavement, and dying from lack of light and air. I'd say that's what marks this as a children's book, if I didn't recognize a lot of the same balance between horror and comedy in the supposedly more serious Lord of the Rings. Even in that book, clearly an adult work, the terror is implicit and on a moral plane, while the physical tortures are euphemized or diminished with appropriate doses of hobbit pertness.

F. What about the ponies? They are not rescued, and there seems to be no doubt about their end. Do you stop to gives them a thought?
What ponies? That's like asking what happened to Bruce Willis' car at the end of a Die Hard movie.

G. ... apparently the swords know the goblins, burning with rage when goblins are near. How do you like this bit of magic?
I love this stuff. As usual, the Prof regularizes and depersonalizes his excesses in the second book, where the blades just glow, with no emotion suggested.

H. Did you notice that the goblins’ names for the swords are shortened forms of the elvish names? Is this a coincidence, or can you come up with an in-story explanation?
As others have said, it's not at all unlikely that the goblins/orcs of the First Age would have known enough Elvish to figure out what to call the swords. What I want to know is the nature of Goblin culture and society, such that its enemy's blades are named and memorialized by later generations.

I. The story will continue next chapter when Bilbo returns to his senses. But we leave the dwarves in mortal danger. Do you give them a thought? Has Tolkien managed to get the reader to care about them, or not yet?
I cannot resist citing the (in my opinion) world's best treatment of the question:
"The party was ambushed in the Mealey Mountains by a roving pack of narcs, and in hurrying to the aid of the embattled dwarves, Dildo somehow lost his sense of direction and ended up in a cave a considerable distance away. Finding himself at the mouth of a tunnel which led rather perceptibly down, Dildo suffered a temporary recurrence of an old inner-ear problem and went rushing along it to the rescue, as he thought, of his friends. ... [Goddam] challenged Dildo to a riddle game to gain time. Dildo, who had a sudden attack of amnesia regarding the fact that the dwarves were being made into chutney outside the cave, accepted." - No citation needed. You know the source. Admit it.

To this day, I cannot hear the word chutney without thinking of Thorin and company. But seriously, the dwarves' mortal danger is not the point here. It's Bilbo's mortal danger, and his 'death' and recovery as per Dr. Jung, that we're absolutely enthralled by.

J. Does the movie portrayal affect, or inform your reading of this chapter? In so, how? Or do you keep the two strictly separate?
I've spent years on the problem, and I'm happy to report that by now I have almost completely forgotten the movie.



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'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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


sador
Half-elven


Jun 11, 12:49pm

Post #12 of 79 (3374 views)
Shortcut
"A merry troop of fools!" [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Gimli laughed suddenly. 'A merry troop of fools we shall look!'


- Lothlorien

I need to change a the order of the sub-discussions a bit: in this post, I will consider what we learn about the separate members of the company. The next post will be about The Hobbit and its place within the wider scope of Tolkien's work; it will revolve around the new peoples (the proper word cannot be written in an open forum…) we encounter in this chapter: the stone giants, and in greater detail, the goblins.

1. Bilbo
In this chapter, Bilbo's usefulness is proven – but not out of his own volition; he wakes up because of a nightmare, and this turns out to be beneficial, as he wakes Gandalf up. However, this is only needed because no sentries were posted.
Was Bilbo simply sleeping lightly, so that he was more affected by the surroundings – noise, the sensation of the walls opening, a sudden draught of air, possibly the smell of goblins? Or is this some higher Power looking after them, with Bilbo being its unwitting agent?

Later, Bilbo is reduced to a mere appendage to the dwarves. The goblins do not know what he is, do not even consider him worthy of a search (which is probably why they never found Sting) – and after the dwarves are rescued, he becomes a burden to be carried by them.
However, Bilbo has one very interesting passage in this chapter, when they are climbing the Mountain-pass:

Quote
"The summer is getting on down below," thought Bilbo, "and haymaking is going on and picnics. They will be harvesting and blackberrying, before we even begin to go down on the other side by this rate." And the others were thinking equally gloomy thoughts…

Is Bilbo a spokesman for all the others? Or just for himself? Or for the reader?

2. Gandalf
In a way, in this chapter Gandalf comes into his own – as a magic-worker, as a warrior, and as a pathfinder. In Tolkien's words:

Quote
Gandalf thought of most of things; and though he could not do everything, he could do a great deal for friends in a tight corner.

The only gripe I have towards him is going to sleep in an unexplored cave, without posting sentries.
Is this a serious failure? Or is he simply letting Thorin run things? Does this justify this kind of omission?
In the same vein, is he somehow responsible for the company setting out unarmed? Perhaps this isn't much of a problem – once the goblins surprise them while sleeping, they would have taken their weapons any way – but how come Gandalf and Thorin never bothered with arming the company, and why didn’t Elrond insist on selling them some?
Just consider this passage, when describing the company setting out from Elrond's Home in high spirits:

Quote
Only Gandalf had shaken his head and said nothing. Dwarves had not passed that way for many years, but Gandalf had, and he knew how evil and danger had grown and thriven in the Wild… and the goblins had spread in secret after the battle of the Mines of Moria.


3. Thorin
I got the idea that Gandalf somehow leaves leadership to Thorin is based on Thorin being the one instructing Fili and Kili:

Quote
There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something (or so Thorin said to the young dwarves). You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.




Which hearkens back to this authorial remark, in An Unexpected Party:


Quote
This was Thorin's style. He was an important dwarf…



Is Gandalf actually laughing up his sleeve at Thorin? Is the author? Is the reader?

Another quite revealing instant is when he is interrogated by the Great Goblin: Thorin offers his service, and then tells a long tale



Quote
… not quite knowing what to say all at once in a moment, when obviously the exact truth would not do at all.


Do you find this amusing? Or do you appreciate Thorin's skill in a tight place?
How does this compare to Throin's interrogation by the Elvenking? His talk with Bard? Going to The Lord of the Rings, with Dain's conversation with the Fell Messenger?

4. Other dwarves
Four of Thorin's followers are mentioned by name (and no, Bofur is not one of them).
Fili and Kili, the two youngest dwarves, are sent to explore; and come back having found a cave (which is later discovered to be the goblins' Front Porch):

Quote
"Have you thoroughly explored it?" said the wizard...
"Yes, yes!" they said, though everybody knew they could not have been long about it; they had come back too quick.


So they did a lousy job of it; yet everybody was delighted with the news, and hurried ahead. Does this absolve Fili and Kili from blame?

After that, two dwarves are mentioned as carrying Bilbo: Dori, Bombur, and then Dori again. But there is a difference between the way Tolkien treats them: Dori is considered to be "a decent fellow", probably because of his gumption and presence of mind in taking Bilbo. However, Bombur is made fun of:

Quote
"Why, O why did I ever leave my hobbit-hole!" said poor Mr. Baggins bumping up and down on Bombur's back.
"Why, O why did I ever bring a wretched little hobbit on a treasure hunt!" said poor Bombur, who was fat, and staggered along with the sweat dripping down his nose in his heat and terror.

Do you enjoy this comic description?
Is it fair? I agree that Dori deserves the most praise, thinking of Bilbo when even Gandalf did not – but shouldn't Bombur receive some credit for assisting in the carrying?
I note that in Roast Mutton as well, Bombur is shown as doing more than the other dwarves:

Quote
"That'll teach 'em," said Tom; for Bifur and Bombur had given a lot of trouble, and fought like mad, as dwarves will when cornered.

So perhaps Bombur was not obese, but rather well-fed and strong? Later on, he will become a sad, pathetic figure; but is he so at this moment? Or does the comic description of "the sweat dripping down his nose in his heat and terror" reveal his true character?
I have written more about Bombur here and in the post that one replied to.

Before taking my leave for today, I must repeat my last question from yestreday:
Do you feel at this stage any connection to the dwarves? Are you concerned for them, or just for Bilbo? After all, the first chapter assures us that Bilbo will survive his adventure; but we have no such assurance regarding his companions!


(This post was edited by sador on Jun 11, 1:01pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 11, 1:53pm

Post #13 of 79 (3360 views)
Shortcut
The other dwarves, and Bilbo's nightmare [In reply to] Can't Post

As we've commented before, they're a poorly differentiated bunch. I've recently been reading blogger 'Never Felt Better', whose blogged read-through of Hobbit puts it well, I think:


Quote
If The Hobbit has a consistent flaw, it’s that it’s rare we get a feel of the company as individuals, just conversing with each other and defining their relationships. This seems like a perfect moment to include some dialogue between the dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo, and Tolkien even has an obvious starting point: what they would all do with their share of the gold (and again note that the point of the quest is financial, not to liberate a homeland). Why not let, Fili, Kili, Dori, Oin or Dwalin talk about what they would do with one fourteenth of what Smaug has, or let Thorin bring up the Arkenstone, or let a dwarf posit to Bilbo what someone like the hobbit would do with such riches? Then they could converse, poke fun, outline some glorious visions. Yet the moment passes, as quickly as one of Gandalf’s smoke rings.

...[and later]...

Character wise though, “Over Hill And Under Hill” is a weak enough one. Gandalf is occasionally grumpy, but decisive when it comes right down to it; Thorin knows when to speak and when to swing a sword, Dori is nice enough to help the less fortunate out if he can, while Bombur does it begrudgingly; Fili and Kili have the impatience of youth; and Bilbo is a man who recognises that some adventures are too big to be easily tackled. While there is plenty to infer and extrapolate, it’s still all a bit shallow, and large parts of the company remain as just names without any bit of character to them.

'Never Felt better's review of this chapter https://neverfeltbetter.wordpress.com/...hill-and-under-hill/


I like that point abut Dori helping willingly, Bombur more grudgingly. I also note that fat characters are often regarded as weak and/or risible and OK to make the butt of jokes (something you notice in children's literature if you're a fat child yourself!).

Another idea I like from that essay concerns the way that the company can't help themselves shelter in the cave, despite the danger:


Quote
Just as in “Roast Mutton”, it all becomes too much, and the decision is taken to seek shelter somewhere, despite the obvious dangers of the general area. Like the light in the distance in the wilds, the temptation to seek some manner of comfort is just too great, and the dwavren inability to learn from what has come before is a sort of comedic and moral hook here, a recognition that we are in a children’s story where a certain amount of humorous repetition is inevitable, and that continued disregard of Gandalf’s advice will lead to trouble. ...

Fili and Kili search out a cave, but all too quickly. Importantly, Gandalf guesses at the reality –“…that caves up in the mountains were seldom unoccupied…” – but he does not object to entering the cave when it comes right down to it, as wet and miserable as anyone else.

ibid

I wonder whether Gandalf's worrying about what might be at the back of the cave (he explores the cave 'from end to end') is what triggers Bilbo's nightmare of the back of the cave opening up - which is of course exactly what then really happens!

Higher Powers - it's never disprovable of course. Maybe someone is blowing on the dice to get Bilbo to where he can find that Ring, and so helping the company to be caught, but not in such a way they can't escape. Such a reading would make this capture like the Breaking of the Fellowship, where a 'sort of madness' descends on the Fellowship, allowing them to scatter to their various proper fates.

~~~~~~
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 Jun 11, 1:54pm)


sador
Half-elven


Jun 11, 1:54pm

Post #14 of 79 (3352 views)
Shortcut
The landscape. [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't quite see the landscape as being "introduced" here; there is quite a bit in the previous two chapters, including the only description we have of the surroundings of Rivendell (not named yet, IIRC).
However, the landscape in chapter 2 needs to be reconciled with that of LotR, and here we are treated to a view frim above! It is indeed far more impressive.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 11, 2:07pm

Post #15 of 79 (3349 views)
Shortcut
You’re right... [In reply to] Can't Post

...we’ve had landscapes before; I just wasn’t paying attention Blush .

Perhaps that’s because the landscape now begins to pose serious problems, where’s before it feels Bilbo is just following along, so it felt like being a child in the back of an adult’s car: they may be struggling to navigate but the child’s just wondering “are we there yet!” ( will some action start soon?)

~~~~~~
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 Jun 11, 2:21pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 11, 2:23pm

Post #16 of 79 (3352 views)
Shortcut
The rising sun? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So, in the story, the hero descends below the ground, travels east, and re-emerges to greet the rising sun. You're right that Tolkien really plays this one hard, starting here in The Hobbit and with greater force and meaning in The Lord of the Rings (along with the episodes you mentioned, we have the hobbits in the barrow, released and revived by Tom and the rising sun. In The Hobbit, along with these two chapters, there is the descent into Erebor via the western door and emergence out of the Main Gate; and the journey through eternally dark Mirkwood and the subterranean Elven Halls, coming out into the daylight on the Lake.

How it applies in this particular episode is that Bilbo symbolically dies, overcomes Gollum in a version of the contest with the Devil, and finds his way out on the Eastern side as a stronger and now magically empowered character. Note that the dwarves and Gandalf travel almost the same journey, but are not transformed in any noticeable way, because they are not the heroes of this story.


That works symbolically, but not quite as well in the literal sense. When Bilbo emerges from beneath the mountains, he is indeed on the eastern side of them, but the sun is already sinking into the west!


In Reply To
Rereading this for the first time in a long time, I noted with surprise the narrator's emphasis on the idea of there being many passes, many caves, and many dangers in the Misty Mountains. That never comes back; in LotR I remember Gimli saying the Beornings keep open 'the High Pass' as if that's the only one, and Aragorn explaining there are 'no passes' south of the Redhorn Gate. In general, I felt a strong pull of recognition for the Caradhras episode in LotR -- there is a lot of overlap in the descriptions. At times like this one feels (not for the last time) that in writing LotR as the 'sequel' to The Hobbit, Tolkien was not wrong when he protested to his publishers that "I squandered so much on the original 'Hobbit' (which was not meant to have a sequel) that it is difficult to find anything new in that world" (Letter 24).


There seem to be up to three well-known passages through the Misty Mountains: 1) The High Pass that follows the path of the old East-West Road; 2) an unnamed mountain pass (the Gladden Pass?) west of the Gladden Fields; and 3) the Redhorn Pass near Moria. However, I'm not sure if the Gladden Pass is canon or if it is a convention of the One Ring Roleplaying Game. In the later part of the Third Age there seem to be no surviving settlements near that pass; the west end comes out in the Lone-lands between Rivendell and Hollin. It also seems likely that the forces of Angmar in its day would have kept a pass open south of Gundabad.


In Reply To
H. Did you notice that the goblins’ names for the swords are shortened forms of the elvish names? Is this a coincidence, or can you come up with an in-story explanation?
As others have said, it's not at all unlikely that the goblins/orcs of the First Age would have known enough Elvish to figure out what to call the swords. What I want to know is the nature of Goblin culture and society, such that its enemy's blades are named and memorialized by later generations.


I'm guessing that the swords' glow in addition to their appearance is what gave them away. Rankin/Bass' animated Hobbit takes the idea even further, suggesting that the Great Goblin might have even seen Orcrist in the past. Could he be one of Tolkien's 'Boldogs', Ainu or other spirits incarnated in Orc-shape and long-lived?

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jun 11, 2:33pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 4:14pm

Post #17 of 79 (3339 views)
Shortcut
Goblin-town as "claustrophobic" and playful goblin villains [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting that you chose that word; I didn't think of it, but it rings solid for my own conception of what the underground goblin city/town would be like. I never get the sense from the book that there are wide open spaces anywhere.

The goblins are nowhere near as menacing as the orcs of LOTR, but I was thinking ahead, and burning up people in trees is more frightful. Then go all the way to the end of the book, and there's nothing humorous at all about the Battle of Five Armies. The goblins there are much closer to the bloodthirsty, kill-them-or-be-killed orcs of LOTR. But in this chapter of The Hobbit, just lopping off the head of the goblin king and then running away is all you need to really think about for ending their threat.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Jun 11, 4:14pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 4:29pm

Post #18 of 79 (3335 views)
Shortcut
Mountains, storms, and stone giants [In reply to] Can't Post

I grew up in a valley and could watch summer thunder storms ignite fires on the mountainside with lightning strikes, while the lightning flash itself would dramatically illuminate the mountain walls. But we had no stone giants (alas), and I've never been quite sure why Tolkien's thunder storms in the mountains are supposed to be so different from those on the plains (where you get tornadoes, which I also lived through). But if there's a storm right above you in a mountain valley, the booms of thunder will echo and seem louder because of the noise bouncing off the rock walls, so maybe Tolkien remembered alpine storms as louder than what he'd experienced in Oxford.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 4:40pm

Post #19 of 79 (3327 views)
Shortcut
Goblin king as Great Dictator [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien does make the modern connection with goblins in general:

Quote
It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once.

Weapons of mass destruction, otherwise put. Not nice people at all.


But the Goblin king does seem plausibly aggrieved when he's angry about the dwarves being on his "Front Porch" (which sounds so homey) and when he makes the accusation: "Spying on the private business of my people, I guess!" So, the goblins are victims of outside aggression, and anything you do in self-defense against invading barbarians is of course excusable. Who cares if you create WMDs, you're still entitled to privacy like everyone else. >>> It reads like the propaganda handbook of every 3rd-rate dictator, whether he had anyone specific in mind or not.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 4:56pm

Post #20 of 79 (3325 views)
Shortcut
Connection to the dwarves? [In reply to] Can't Post

No, not really. I think I would like to feel a connection to them, but they are so thinly sketched that I would call them "easily expendable." They could all be Star Trek redshirts who get killed off one by one on the way to the end, all except Thorin, who seems likely to survive somehow (so his death caught me by surprise).


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 5:06pm

Post #21 of 79 (3330 views)
Shortcut
Luck vs higher powers [In reply to] Can't Post

I think children's stories are usually fueled by luck and magic which have no discernible source. "Luck" is a nice plot device for authors for making things happen when logic might dictate otherwise.

Though on a larger scale, I don't think The Hobbit holds up to analysis well, nor is it meant to. Why didn't they post guards, why don't they have weapons, why did the dwarves travel with large, bulky musical instruments? -- I don't think those questions are meant to be asked in a children's story, and I don't think children spend much time asking them.

Just think of the really big question: how is one Burglar supposed to steal a huge treasure from a dragon? Or how are 13 unarmed dwarves and one non-action-hero hobbit supposed to defeat the dragon and get rich? It doesn't make any sense at all. But as a child, you spend a lot of your life doing what adults tell you to do and going in the direction they point you in, and they'll explain things to you as needed, and they know more than you and can pull tricks you'd never think of, etc. So, as a child you just go along for the ride in a story and wait to see what happens, hoping you'll enjoy it.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 11, 5:21pm

Post #22 of 79 (3323 views)
Shortcut
Leadership [In reply to] Can't Post

Good points about who's really in charge. I would say Thorin is in charge but he defers to Gandalf as needed and in whatever areas of expertise Gandalf is strongest in.

Gandalf is too much of a free agent to be the formal leader. Certainly abandoning the dwarves without any explanation when they were in troll-country isn't what a leader would do, and it's hard to imagine Thorin acting the same way. I would expect a leader to say, "I'm going to bravely scout ahead. You stay here in this hollow until I come back." Then the followers might disobey and have more adventures on the side--that's how stories usually go--but the original authority would have told them to stay put.


sador
Half-elven


Jun 11, 9:40pm

Post #23 of 79 (3241 views)
Shortcut
Did the goblins hear the swords' names? [In reply to] Can't Post

I used to be puzzled by this, both because of the extraordinary longevity the goblins seem to have (more on that soon), and because I didn't think the elves used to announce their swords' names mid-battle. I might be wrong, at least on that latter point.

Only recently, I thought there might be a simple explanation - if the names were inscribed on the swords, and a balrog or orc-chieftan read them aloud, perhaps in order to terrorise other orcs.

A last question regarding the swords - if indeed Glamdring was Turgon's sword, how come it didn't perish with him when the tower fell?
And more to the point, whose was Orcrist? The natural assumption would be it was Maeglin's, but again it should have fell to the abyss with him; so perhaps it was the sword left at Nevrast for Tuor - but then, why would he ever lose it?


sador
Half-elven


Jun 11, 9:47pm

Post #24 of 79 (3237 views)
Shortcut
True about Anglachel. [In reply to] Can't Post

But I wonder why Anduril was not invested with more of a personality. Has he skill of the Ekven-smiths diminished?

And I note that in The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, the author speculates that the unknown smith who had forged Merry's sword would have been glad it hit tgw Witch-king of Angmar - not the sword itself.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 11, 10:01pm

Post #25 of 79 (3236 views)
Shortcut
Weapons of Renown [In reply to] Can't Post

Glamdring and Orcrist do seem to have been legendary blades with reputations that have persisted through the centuries. Tolkien doesn't say how their legends were passed down by the goblins; we are expected to just accept that this was the case. Perhaps the two swords taken as trophies in the fall of Gondolin or were passed on to serve other Elves of Beleriand only to be lost later in the battles against Sauron in the Second Age or the Witch-king in the Third Age.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 Next page Last page  View All
 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.