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***The hobbit-read-through: Ch5 – Riddles In The Dark
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noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 17, 9:01am

Post #1 of 54 (1819 views)
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***The hobbit-read-through: Ch5 – Riddles In The Dark Can't Post

Thanks to sador for last week's fun, and here we go with this week's chapter! It's an important and memorable chapter – Bilbo’s first independent adventure, and one which has major repercussions.

As usual, I’ll suggest some of the possible things we might spend the week discussing – there are quite a lot of those this week! Please feel free to think about any number of these that you want to. And if I haven’t mentioned something that interests you, then please do write a post raising it – quite likely other people would lie to discuss that too. Fine to do that instead of picking up any of the prompts I've provided - the important thing is to have things to discuss!

With a lot to think about in this chapter, and so to organise things a little, I’ll put my actual discussion prompts into sub-threads, as follows:

1) Bilbo in the dark
2) Gollum
3) Riddles
4) Tolkien’s changes to this chapter for the 1947 the second edition

If you’d like to read an, essay-like introduction to the chapter, then I think this 6000-word one, written by blogger ‘Never Felt Better’ is excellent. https://neverfeltbetter.wordpress.com/...riddles-on-the-dark/

~~~~~~
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 17, 9:04am

Post #2 of 54 (1661 views)
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**'Bilbo in the Dark' subthread [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo starts the chapter at a low ebb. His ability – eventually – to face going on as the only sensible choice seems like a Tolkien theme to me: doing what you have to do, even if you’d prefer a different menu with nicer options. Does anyone else see this as an important moment in Bilbo’s development?

None of Bilbo’s thoughts seem to be about his companions, who for all he knows are being ‘made into Chutney’ at this point (as the authors of the Blue Book of Harvard version of the tale point out). Should Bilbo – one of the only three armed members of his expedition – give more thought to attempting a rescue? I notice that rescuing others is exactly what he does think about when the rest of the company is in trouble in future chapters - is that contrast an example of ways in which this chapter marks a change in Bilbo?

I notice that the sword that will later be named Sting provides both actual light to see by, and a comforting connection with heroes from the Old Tales – is it like Galadriel’s phial and how it supports Frodo and (perhaps especially) Sam both physically and morally (spiritually?) at Shelob’s Lair and Cirith Ungol?

Bilbo goes deeper, beyond the areas the goblins frequent and the narrator tells us to expect other inhabitants – ‘older and fouler things’ (as Gandalf will call them in Moria, in LOTR). Any thoughts as to why Tolkien used this device at least twice (here and in Moria)?

Bilbo’s adventure ends when he takes a mighty (impossibly mighty?) leap, and returns to the light of the part open doorway (why would the goblins keep it part-open?). I notice that a lighter tone returns - the chapter ends almost in comedy, with Bilbo playing a deadly game of ‘blind man’s buff’ with the goblin guards, and escaping with the loss of his brass buttons. Is this a way of settling down the intended child-at-bedtime reader with a little more gentle material after a tense chapter? Does it fit symbolically, or in other ways?

To what extent is the whole chapter a riddle? The narrator makes sure that we notice Bilbo getting the ring, by saying it will be the turning point of his career. But it is some time before we find out what this means.

~~~~~~
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 17, 9:07am

Post #3 of 54 (1669 views)
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**Gollum subthread [In reply to] Can't Post

Last week, we touched on a Jungian interpretation of Bilbo’s current adventure:


Quote
So, in the story, the hero descends below the ground, travels east, and re-emerges to greet the rising sun. ...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.

squire, explaining ideas from The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien, and the Archetypes of Middle-earth, Timothy O'Neill, 1979 - see here for more: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=945836#945836



If Gollum is diabolical (for the purposes of this interpretation) is it fitting that Bilbo has to save himself by a trial of wits rather than by force or fleetness of foot? And what to make of Bilbo doing this without realising he has something absolutely diabolical in his pocketses?

Compare and contrast Gollum and the Balrog. To me the balrog comes across as something to which the only responses are fight or flight. One contrast is that, because the riddle contest requires Gollum to talk extensively, we see much more of his character – essential I suppose if we are to understand Bilbo’s eventual decision to spare Gollum.

(Another obviously interesting compare/contrast would be with Bilbo’s encounter with Smaug – but let’s not do that in so much detail that we've exhausted it by the time we get to Smaug!)

Gollum is given a very characteristic way of speaking (compare the stock-character mockney of the trolls, which fades out as soon as the reader has been cued to understand what kind of character they are). How does this contribute to how you read his character?

Back to symbolism again. The great Ursula Le Guin (RIP) once suggested that Tolkien’s handling of evil (and Gollum especially) is distinct and possibly archetypal:


Quote

Take [Tolkien’s] handling of evil: his villains are orcs and Black Riders (goblins and zombies; mythic figures) and Sauron, the Dark Lord, who is never seen and has no suggestion of humanity about him. These are not evil men but embodiments of evil in men, universal symbols of the hateful. The men who do wrong are not complete figures but complements: Saruman is Gandalf's dark-self, Boromir Aragorn's; Wormtongue is, almost literally the weakness of King Theoden. There remains the wonderfully repulsive and degraded Gollum. But nobody who reads the trilogy hates, or is asked to hate, Gollum. Gollum is Frodo's shadow; and it is the shadow, not the hero, who achieves the quest. Though Tolkien seems to project evil into "the others", they are not truly others but ourselves; he is utterly clear about this.

This is part of a review by Le Guin of "The Dark Tower by C S Lewis" and was originally published in The New Republic, 1977. It is anthologised in "Dancing at the Edge of the World (Grove Press 1989)



I’m wondering to what extent Gollum is Bilbo’s shadow – is Gollum what Bilbo fears he might become, should he never get out of the mines and yet decide to continue living by whatever means? Is this what makes Gollum disturbing (rather than terrifying, like a Watcher or Balrog or some ferocious animal)?

Is Gollum Bilbo’s shadow (what Bilbo might become) once Bilbo realises what the ring does?

Reading this chapter of The Hobbit (rather that ‘the trilogy’) do you hate, or feel you’re asked to hate Gollum?

And, actually, is Gollum ‘evil’ on the evidence we have from this chapter (that is, set aside our post-LOTR knowledge that he’s a murderer)? Or is he a hungry carnivorous creature who is now unwilling or unable to leave his underground life, but no more evil than (say) a real-life wolf, bear or lion?


If Gollum started out looking something like a hobbit, he has changed a great deal physically. What do you imagine has caused that?

~~~~~~
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 17, 9:10am

Post #4 of 54 (1656 views)
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**Riddles subthread [In reply to] Can't Post

On my first reading I couldn’t solve any of them and would soon have been eaten! Who else tried to solve them on your first reading (i.e not just reading on until you got the answers) and how did you get on?

Do you think the characters of Bilbo and of Gollum are illustrated by the riddles they choose –if so, then how? What other significance, if any, do you see in the riddles Tolkien chose?

For handy reference, here are the answers to the riddles (with a few comments by me):

--
Gollum --> Bilbo: Mountain (guessed easily)


Gollum now suggests a formal game, and the riddles go as follows:

B--> G: teeth (because Bilbo is thinking about being eaten)

G--> B: wind, often as a destructive force

B--> G: sun on the daisies (made up on the cuff, it seems probably Bilbo’s best effort)

G --> B: dark (in reaction to painful memories of sunshine and overground etc.)

B--> G: egg (asked by Bilbo to gain time, but turns out to be a ‘nasty poser’. Food-related again!)

G--> B: fish (Gollum expects this to be easy, because this is *his* favourite food, but Bilbo is unable to answer and is saved by luck when Gollum wades ashore and a fish jumps out of the lake. Gollum refers back to this and provides some more lines when guiding Frodo and Sam.)

B--> G: “fish on a little table, man at table sitting on a stool, the cat has the bones”. (Asked quickly to drive Gollum back into his boat, and the narrator suggests that carrying on the ‘fish’ theme is a mistake. Note Gollum must know about furniture and cats).

G--> B: time, again as a destructive force (Bilbo saved by luck, when he can't say 'give me time' and just says 'time')

Stuck for any riddle, Bilbo asks ‘what have I got in my pocket?’

--

Bilbo is repeatedly saved by ‘luck’ – it helps him solve the ‘fish’ riddle and the ‘time’ riddle, and causes Gollum to miss him (when Bilbo stumbles whilst invisible and being pursued). Is that just inevitable – a hero needs some luck so that they can have can have perilous, suspenseful adventures and yet survive? Or do you read it as something we’re supposed to notice, and infer that there is more than regular luck at work?

The issue of cheating at the riddle game is something that Tolkien turned on its head as part of his second edition changes – see that second edition sub-thread (below) for what changed (and, I hope, a discussion about its significance).

~~~~~~
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 17, 9:32am

Post #5 of 54 (1665 views)
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**Tolkien's unusual changes to the second edition, and their significance - subthread [In reply to] Can't Post

For the 1947 Second Edition Hobbit (which from now on I’ll call just ‘2e’) Tolkien made various revisions to bring this chapter in line with his new LOTR thinking about the ring. (At this point LOTR was well under way, but it would not be published until 1953.)

I’ll say briefly what the substantive changes were, so that we can discuss them without requiring everyone to find a text of the first edition. If I miss any changes you think important, please raise them for discussion.

In the first edition (‘1e’), Gollum proposes a riddle game but the prize should Bilbo win is ‘a present’ (rather than being shown the way out). When Bilbo does win, Gollum sets off to his island to get the present (which is his ring). Finding it missing, he’s very upset, but for a different reason:


Quote

For one thing Gollum had learned long long ago was never, never, to cheat at the riddle-game, which is a sacred one and of immense antiquity.

I don't know how many times Gollum begged Bilbo's pardon. He kept on saying: "We are ssorry; we didn't mean to cheat, we meant to give it our only only pressent, if it won the competition." He even offered to catch Bilbo some nice juicy fish to eat as a consolation.

The Hobbit, 1e


SO, in 1e, Gollum is principally afraid of the consequences of cheating at the riddle game. Thus when Bilbo proposes that Gollum is ‘let off on one condition’ (that he shows Bilbo the way out) Gollum is compelled to agree. Compare Gollum’s furious, even insane, reaction when he finds that his ring is lost in 2e, and the speed at which he suspects the truth; that Bilbo has his Ring.

In 1e, Gollum explains what his now lost magic ring did (never realising that Bilbo has it in his pocketses). This saves Bilbo (and us readers) having to work it out. Gollum shows Bilbo the way out as promised, and they part amicably. I suppose all this would never do once Tolkien had ‘realised’ that 'A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. (Gandalf to Frodo in LOTR/Book 1 Ch2, Shadow of the Past).

It is of course Gollum’s inability to give up his ring in 2e that forces Bilbo to chose between killing him and sparing him (a decision which will of course have very big consequences in LOTR).


This business of cheating in’ a sacred game of immense antiquity’ is something that Tolkien handles differently in 2e, I notice:


Quote

"Both wrong," cried Bilbo very much relieved; and he jumped at once to his feet, put his back to the nearest wall, and held out his little sword. He knew, of course, that the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it. But he felt he could not trust this slimy thing to keep any promise at a pinch. Any excuse would do for him to slide out of it. And after all that last question had not been a genuine riddle according to the ancient laws.

Hobbit 2e



That is, it’s possible that Bilbo was the one to cheat, but Tolkien is ready with a loophole:


Quote

“The Authorities, it is true, differ whether this last question was a mere ‘question’ and not a ‘riddle’ … but all agree that, after accepting it and trying to guess the answer, Gollum was bound by his promise".

LOTR Prologue



In another rather clever bit of back-filling, Tolkien suggests that the 1e version of the story is the one that Bilbo told the dwarves, and the true (2e) version only came out later. Bravo!

The business of ‘cheating comes up again in LOTR Ch 2 when our current adventure is reprised. Frodo doubts that Gollum could ever have been anything at all hobbit-like, and suggests Gollum was intending to cheat anyway (so ‘cheating’ back was justified?) Anyway ‘hobbits don’t cheat’ so (Frodo assumes) Bilbo can’t have:


Quote

‘They understood one another remarkably well, very much better than a hobbit would understand, say, a Dwarf, or an Orc, or even an Elf. Think of the riddles they both knew, for one thing.’

‘Yes,’ said Frodo. ‘Though other folks besides hobbits ask riddles, and of much the same sort. And hobbits don’t cheat. Gollum meant to cheat all the time. He was just trying to put poor Bilbo off his guard. And I daresay it amused his wickedness to start a game which might end in providing him with an easy victim, but if he lost would not hurt him.’

LOTR Ch2 Shadow of the Past



I think that Frodo's 'Hobbits don't cheat therefore Bilbo can't have' is the kind of bad argument known as a 'genetic fallacy' (like arguing 'English people take tea at 4pm, so no English person could have committed a burglary at that time'.)

I also wonder what would have happened had Bilbo lost the riddle game fairy – did he really intend to surrender his neck passively to Gollum’s throttling fingers? Or do you think he would have tried to save himself (and if so would that make it fair to say ‘Bilbo meant to cheat all the time’)?

Do you find these defence of Bilbo's behaviour convincing? Are they intended to be convincing?

Why does Tolkien make so much of this business of cheating (intentional or excusable or neither) and of false accounts?


How seriously ought I take the idea that the riddle game is ‘sacred’ – would cheats expect to be cursed– as in damned or doomed? Does Tolkien seem to take this idea any further (do you think anything bad happened to Gollum or Bilbo because they cheated)? Or is it a plot device used to explain the lack of more flagrant cheating, and then forgotten?


Another change to 2e is to include some subtle hints that Bilbo is already affected by his ring. For example, when surprised in visible form by goblins:


Quote

A pang of fear and loss, like an echo of Gollum’s misery, smote Bilbo, and forgetting even to draw his sword he struck his hands into his pockets. And there was the ring still, in his left pocket, and it slipped on his finger.



As I understand it, such big revisions in a new edition were an unusual thing for Tolkien to be allowed to do. Apart from the whole business of making substantive changes to the story, there would have been a cost factor. In those days of hot metal typesetting (physical letters cast in lead that were fitted into a frame to make the page, and then stamped onto the paper) it meant that many pages would have to be broken up and rebuilt - much more labour than making similar changes today. Tolkien was asking his publisher to react as if Hobbit were a textbook, and substantive new information had come to light, requiring it to be updated. Does this tell us anything interesting about Tolkien’s attitude to inventing (or discovering) Middle-earth? Are we grateful to Unwins for allowing Tolkien to behave in this eccentric and expensive manner?

The changes are important from the point of view of consistency with LOTR, and so will automatically be welcome for those who prize that. But imagine that you are reading Hobbit without any knowledge that LOTR is to come: did Tolkien’s changes improve the storytelling of this work?

~~~~~~
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 17, 9:39am)


Petty Dwarf
Bree


Jun 17, 6:10pm

Post #6 of 54 (1618 views)
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The phial and the sword... [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems to me that it makes sense that the phial and the sword would have similar properties. They are both of Elvish make, and quite possible are both light of the Two Trees. The phial, of course, is of the light of Earendil, which is the light of a Silmaril, which light comes from the Trees; and I don't know why, but I always assumed that the light of Elvish weapons was captured moonlight, and the moon is a fruit from the Silver Tree.

There's probably nothing in the text to support that, but it's what I've always assumed.

"No words were laid on stream or stone
When Durin woke and walked alone."


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 17, 7:08pm

Post #7 of 54 (1602 views)
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Interesting- a technological link in that case, as well as a thematic one? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
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

Jun 17, 8:59pm

Post #8 of 54 (1589 views)
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They are both of Elvish make, and quite possible are both light of the Two Trees. [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder. If Sting was made in Gondolin like the other two swords (though not mentioned to be perhaps) then it seems more likely to be derived from starlight. Only if it was the star of Earendil could it contain the light of the two trees, but so far as I can tell that star did not enter the skies until after the fall of Gondolin.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 17, 10:22pm

Post #9 of 54 (1581 views)
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I didn't get any of them either! [In reply to] Can't Post

Even the ones that the Narrator assured me where chestnuts. BTW why are chestnuts easy as well, I was thinking!Smile


elostirion74
Rohan

Jun 18, 4:04pm

Post #10 of 54 (1557 views)
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a few comments on Gollum [In reply to] Can't Post

"I’m wondering to what extent Gollum is Bilbo’s shadow – is Gollum what Bilbo fears he might become, should he never get out of the mines and yet decide to continue living by whatever means? Is this what makes Gollum disturbing (rather than terrifying, like a Watcher or Balrog or some ferocious animal)?"


I wouldn't say that Gollum is Bilbo's shadow - their relation is too short-lived to justify this kind of analysis. What makes Gollum particularly disturbing is his mix of quite human and relatable traits with a strongly animalistic and unpredictable nature. He is someone you can play a game with and to some extent understand, but not trust. He is even someone you wonder if you could talk with about experiences from childhood and yout, but at the same time someone who has lost many of the cultural aspects we associate with ordinary human life as a result of prolonged isolation and addiction. His behaviour is the result of someone who has lived a completely self-centered existence of mere survival for a very long time. It's pitiful, scary and slighly repulsive at the same time.


"Reading this chapter of The Hobbit (rather that ‘the trilogy’) do you hate, or feel you’re asked to hate Gollum?"

I feel that he's a presented as a person you can be equally fascinated by and repulsed by, someone you should be wary of and not altogether trust, but at the same time someone you can pity. And to some extent he's presented as a greedy child mixed with the strength and cunning of an adult person.


"And, actually, is Gollum ‘evil’ on the evidence we have from this chapter (that is, set aside our post-LOTR knowledge that he’s a murderer)? Or is he a hungry carnivorous creature who is now unwilling or unable to leave his underground life, but no more evil than (say) a real-life wolf, bear or lion?"

Gollum is not typically evil, but I would certainly say he seems malicious and difficult to trust. The conscious scheming we see from Gollum in this chapter sets him apart from other carnivorous animals, although his behaviour in other respects resemble them.


"Gollum is given a very characteristic way of speaking (compare the stock-character mockney of the trolls, which fades out as soon as the reader has been cued to understand what kind of character they are). How does this contribute to how you read his character?"

His way of speaking makes him much more of an individual and unique character than the trolls.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 18, 9:21pm

Post #11 of 54 (1505 views)
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New from John Rateliff: "I was wrong about Tolkien's start date". [In reply to] Can't Post

Pardon a brief diversion; I didn't want to start a new thread just about this point, but since The Hobbit is under discussion, here's some news that may be of interest.

There's a big new Tolkien exhibit at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and it's accompanied by the publications of two catalogs. John D. Rateliff, author-editor of The History of The Hobbit, noted on his blog yesterday that his order just came in the mail. Quickly skimming the books, Rateliff mentions the following:

"One particular highlight for me is conclusive evidence that Tolkien had already started work on THE HOBBIT before summer 1930, which I had argued was the no-earlier-than-by date. Thanks to a mention in Fr. John Tolkien's diary for 1930 we know know JRRT was several chapters into the book by New Year's Day, a few months earlier. So I was wrong about Tolkien's start date, a topic important enough that I'd like to devote a separate post to it."

Treason doth neuer prosper? What's the Reason?
for if it prosper none dare call it treason.


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noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 6:21am

Post #12 of 54 (1452 views)
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Thanks for adding this! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
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


Jun 19, 12:01pm

Post #13 of 54 (1441 views)
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Hobbits and cheating/ethics [In reply to] Can't Post

I’m mullling over the ethical questions you posed, drawing on our only other source for hobbits—LOTR.

1. Lobelia stole Bilbo’s spoons (or someone did, and probably her), plus Frodo found her stealing items from Bag Eng and hiding them in her umbrella. She wasn’t stealing out of poverty but either out of malice or entitlement. OK, this isn’t “cheating” but it’s stealing, and the ethical flaws are related.

2. For Bilbo’s birthday party, there were guests who did cheat by trying to enter more than once to get extra door prizes.

3. When Sam angrily confronts Faramir in Ithilien, he uses the tone reserved for mischievous hobbit-children stealing from Bag End’s orchards.

So hobbits aren’t always ethically up to snuff. (Bad news for Frodo; I’m reminded that in the Scouring of the Shire he asserted that hobbits don’t kill hobbits, but that one seemed to be true and stay true.)

I really like your question about Bilbo agreeing to be eaten as part of the deal—no, he wouldn’t have carried through with it, and yes, that makes me conclude he entered the game with cheating intent on his side. Though I think that’s really more of a fast ball by the author zipping past readers—I’m not sure we’re meant to stop and think about its moral implications of the rules of this riddle-game of antiquity that none of us knows about, and it was more likely written out of comedic horror: look, kids, if Bilbo loses, he gets eaten! That also tells readers that of course that won’t happen.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 5:23pm

Post #14 of 54 (1400 views)
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Getting it in the neck - riddles in the dark ages [In reply to] Can't Post

This article, about possible dark age sources for the riddles, might be of interest. It includes the idea of 'neck riddles' - unguessable
riddles asked to save one's neck


Quote

Archer Taylor [a noted scholar of riddles] identifies five different types of riddle in the Exeter book, one of which is the “neck riddle”, so named because it is used to save one’s neck. Neck riddles are unfair because there is no way for the person guessing the riddle to know the answer. Bilbo’s final question is a neck riddle, “what have I got in my pocket?”

But Tolkien’s use of a neck riddle is just as likely to be the result of Viking influence as Anglo-Saxon. He seems to have used several Old Norse sources for "Riddles in the Dark”. In the Vafþrúðnismál from the Elder Edda and in the Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, the god Odin adopts a disguise before entering into a riddle contest. His final riddle is “What did Odin whisper in Baldr’s ear before Baldr was burned on the funeral pyre?” No one except Odin himself can know this, so it’s just as unfair as Bilbo’s riddle. In each Viking tale, the answerer finally realises that the riddler is Odin himself; Tolkien combines the reactions of Vafþrúðnir, who concedes defeat and Heidrek, who attacks Odin, making Gollum acquiesce at first but then attack Bilbo later.

Riddles in the Dark Ages, by Thomas Rowsell
http://www.medievalists.net/...es-in-the-dark-ages/


~~~~~~
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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 19, 5:35pm

Post #15 of 54 (1394 views)
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Tolkien once delivered a paper titled "A Neck-verse". // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Treason doth neuer prosper? What's the Reason?
for if it prosper none dare call it treason.


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Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
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noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 5:42pm

Post #16 of 54 (1399 views)
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I think it's also possible to see Frodo's furious defence of Bilbo... [In reply to] Can't Post

Good examples - I also wonder whether all hobbits were entirely honest during the stresses of The Scouring.

I think it's possible to see Frodo's furious defence of Bilbo as being more than loyalty to his race or his kinsman. For me, his reluctance to believe that the degraded and repulsive Gollum could possibly be any sort of hobbit reflects the ignorance of the Shire folk, who after many years of good fortune have come 'to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk' (LOTR Prologue). It's a handy point of view if you'd like an excuse for not helping anyone who does not enjoy peace and plenty - it's bound to be their fault somehow. Gandalf, of course, has just suggested that Gollum's 'sad story' 'might have happened to others, even to some hobbits that I have known'.(LOTR, Bk 1 Ch2)

Another possibility is that Frodo is thinking defensively about the legitimacy of Bilbo's claim to the Ring, which is of course the sole basis of his own claim to it.

~~~~~~
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 19, 5:45pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 19, 5:44pm

Post #17 of 54 (1395 views)
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Can't imagine Tolkien doing a paper round... [In reply to] Can't Post

...oh wait; I see....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

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 19, 5:46pm)


squire
Half-elven


Jun 19, 7:03pm

Post #18 of 54 (1380 views)
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I have always seen another angle to Frodo's outrage [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you're right as to the story-internal motivation. But Frodo also speaks for the Hobbit-readers, who are suddenly being asked to completely reconsider who Gollum is. I remember my shock, even as a kid, at first reading Gandalf's line here. Frodo spoke for me, and I imagine, many others. I think this outburst, petulant and angry, reflects Tolkien's awareness as he wrote of just how radical a change he was imposing on the existing story.



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'.
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sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 19, 9:29pm

Post #19 of 54 (1358 views)
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Sting [In reply to] Can't Post

- while it is a dagger to men... isn't it a sword to hobbits? How then do you wear it inside your breeches? Ouch??

As for the glow -- are elves not afraid of giving away their location by the glow of the sword? -- Or do they look for the impression it makes on the enemy to make up for that? -- and Gollum in LOTR says the sword is bright and hurts his eyes but doesn't mention it here (yes yes evolved character) Does the ring hide the glow of the sword as it gets brighter with the proximity of the orcs/goblins?

Bilbo in the dark -- though it is here that he makes a decision that affects everything - he shows compassion -- a sense of fairness and does not kill Gollum -- though of course that appears here to be simply self preservation as Gollum is his only way out. --

And the ring is up to tricks --

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

(Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 19, 9:41pm

Post #20 of 54 (1356 views)
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Gollum -- tangential thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

Gollum talks like those who have no one to listen but themselves -- Later in LOTR this is expanded to show his two "minds" -- how much is the madness and how much is simple loneliness.

Gollum is very intelligent -- he's not been caught for years and it's not all due to the ring as he leaves it on his island for long periods of time. It preys on him, but it can't really connect or entice him (as it does later with Sam) because Gollum's wants are very narrow -- get away from others, and food.

Riddles are said to be what he played long ago and it's amazing that he remembers any of the them.... envision Gollum having riddle contests with himself -- or perhaps trying to have them with the orcs he captures.

Gollum as Bilbo's shadow -- evil mirror -- perhaps -- though ultimately both Gollum and Bilbo carry that ring for longer periods of time while withstanding or totally oblivious to its evil enticements.

And as LeGuin says -- it is Gollum who achieves the quest in the end. So perhaps the lesson is don't count anyone out.

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

(Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 19, 9:54pm

Post #21 of 54 (1361 views)
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Riddles --- [In reply to] Can't Post

honestly can't remember if I knew any of the answers when I first read it or not.

I would assume that Tolkien was familiar with the Anglo Saxon Riddles from the Book of Exeter --

In those first days my father and mother
left me for dead: there was no life yet,
no life within me. Then a kindly kinswoman
faithfully covered me with her own clothing,
held me and cherished, kept me warmly,
even as gently as her own children—
until beneath her, as my destiny willed,
I waxed into life with my alien fellows.
My friend and protector nourished me then
till I grew and grew able to go forth by myself.
Because of this now her own dear children,
sons and daughters, were fewer, alas.

Obviously much wordier than the riddles used by Gollum and Bilbo


Four dilly-dandies
Four stick standies
Two crookers
Two lookers
And a wig wag


Both are animals.

As to What do I have in my pocket --- it's not a riddle so Bilbo cheated (and he knew it or he wouldn't have allowed three chances to guess)... might this be the ring's first subversion of Bilbo?


And yes it all worked out nicely as to Bilbo tells the tale one way at first and then changes it --- amazing that his editors let him do that.


(Answers are cuckoo and cow)

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

(Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 20, 12:42am

Post #22 of 54 (1345 views)
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Sting. Bilbo and Gollum [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
while it is a dagger to men... isn't it a sword to hobbits? How then do you wear it inside your breeches? Ouch??


Yes, a sword to Bilbo, but a short sword. Not quite so hard to conceal as you might have thought.


In Reply To
As for the glow -- are elves not afraid of giving away their location by the glow of the sword?


Not so revealing if kept in its sheath. But, yes, I imagine that the glow could be very disturbing to orkish foes.


In Reply To
Bilbo in the dark -- though it is here that he makes a decision that affects everything - he shows compassion -- a sense of fairness and does not kill Gollum -- though of course that appears here to be simply self preservation as Gollum is his only way out.


Yes, though Bilbo confronts the question of showing mercy to Gollum after he has already been shown the way out and Gollum is between him and escape.

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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 20, 11:05pm

Post #23 of 54 (1234 views)
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Good points [In reply to] Can't Post

And I suppose my gut feeling about Frodo denying Gollum's hobbitness is from a feeling of horror that there could be any connection between them. It's far more comfortable for Frodo to think of Gollum from somewhere on the family tree of orcs, dragons, vampires, ghouls, whatever, than to think they could have any close cultural/racial connection.

And maybe that's also foreshadowing that Frodo, without realizing it in Bag End, will by the time he meets Gollum in person realize that he too could become a hobbit corrupted by the Ring, and therefore he finally finds the pity in his heart Gandalf had urged on him earlier. (vs. "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature.")


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 20, 11:14pm

Post #24 of 54 (1239 views)
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Tolkien's changes from a publisher's perspective [In reply to] Can't Post

When I was a new editor for university textbooks, I remember someone submitting a whole list of errors in one of our books, which I promptly forwarded to the production/reprint/manufacturing dept to implement. These were little typos here and there, mind you, not entirely new paragraphs, though there were probably 50 or so total.
What followed was a small earthquake in the company that the rookie editor had dared issue a call for so many budget-breaking changes in the archived film (which replaced printing plates but is still pricey to reproduce), and an educational meeting with me on how you can make that many changes unless you declare a complete revision of the book, which we weren't ready to do. So, I had to settle with fixing only the most egregious errors and living with the others. One of those cases of business triumphing over perfectionism.
All that is to give personal context that yes, it was a very big deal that Tolkien's publisher allowed such a substantial rewrite that wasn't necessary for the sales of The Hobbit itself.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 20, 11:33pm

Post #25 of 54 (1232 views)
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Gollum vs the Balrog--wait, is this the Arena? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Compare and contrast Gollum and the Balrog. To me the balrog comes across as something to which the only responses are fight or flight. One contrast is that, because the riddle contest requires Gollum to talk extensively, we see much more of his character – essential I suppose if we are to understand Bilbo’s eventual decision to spare Gollum.

I think the fact that Gollum is alone, talks a lot, and has no supernatural power puts him in a wholly different category than the balrog (oh, and Gollum doesn't have wings, either Wink). The balrog, as you point out, is 100% Big Menace, and there's nothing amusing about him, while Gollum is perhaps more of a danger than the trolls (because Bilbo is alone and rather childlike with no one to rescue him this time), but Gollum is still somewhat comedic and lightens the mood with his insane prattle. He seems part monster, part absent-minded/eccentric professor.

Then there's the fact that Tolkien develops Gollum enough that Bilbo finds an ounce of pity for him, whereas no one ever pities the balrog. I think the balrog represents pure evil whereas Gollum is a conflicted character, and at this point, we don't know he was ever a hobbit, but from a glimpse of his memories, we can sense he wasn't always this bad, and maybe he's just a hermit gone crazy (and murderous) from excess isolation. He does seem to feel genuinely wounded in a pitiable way when he loses the Ring and ineffectually calls after Bilbo "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!" It's the aggrieved and powerless rant of a victim who's been wronged and has no hope of justice setting things right. (Though of course Bilbo didn't steal the Ring and just got lucky finding it, so the rant isn't fair. The point is just that we see Gollum in very raw pain.)

While Gollum is Frodo's shadow in LOTR, I don't think I can picture him as Bilbo's shadow in The Hobbit. To me, Gollum is just another creature encountered along the way and left behind: trolls, Elrond, the Goblin-king, and soon the Eagles and Beorn. That's the episodic nature I'm used to in fairy stories where the protagonist meets a variety of colorful characters in unending succession, all to make a good story.
Jumping ahead, I think Bilbo is more disturbed later in the book that he might become treasure-obsessed like Thorin, and giving up the Arkenstone in the cause of peace to avoid becoming greedy like Thorin was perhaps his equivalent of Frodo hoping to throw the Ring into the Crack of Doom and avoid becoming like Gollum. But, that's a long ways off.

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