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***The Hobbit read-through: Chapter 6 - Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire

noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 24, 5:31pm

Post #1 of 25 (2106 views)
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***The Hobbit read-through: Chapter 6 - Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire Can't Post

The title of this week’s chapter is a bit of a spoiler, isn’t it? Having escaped from Gollum and the Goblins, I suppose Bilbo is going to hit other difficulties soon!

As usual, here’s a post to start the week’s discussion, picking out a few things that happened to interest me in the current chapter. That leaves plenty of material for other people to post about, so feel free to post about the points that interested you, if that’s different to the points I’ve picked.

Creatures

We are introduced first to the wargs and then to the eagles. We’ve been getting one or more new kind of fantasy creature per chapter, I think. Is that a continuing stream of pleasing novelty for you, helping Middle-earth to seem a rich and complex place? Or is it starting to become a bit programmatic for you, like ‘monster of the week’?

We learn quite a bit more about the goblins – we find out the uncomfortable details of their ability to track by smell, and we see them as the wargs’ opportunistic allies, and something like a raiding force of dark age humans. We get a demonstration of their ingenuity and cruelty (their idea of fordcing the party either to burn alive, or fight a hopeless battle.

‘Eagles are not kindly birds’. These eagles seem to me to be pretty neutral in the affairs of other creatures – a bit like the ents of LOTR, perhaps. They certainly don’t seem to be a cliché of ‘good’ characters. Have they yet to become Manwe’s special emissaries of divine grace, and handy hero rescue service? Are they ‘off-duty’ at present? Would the perennial ‘why don’t the eagles fly the Ring to Mount Doom?’ question come up less if LOTR gave us the sort of closer view we get here in The Hobbit, rather than have them fly in, do something useful and fly out?

Writing
It’s easy to have so much to say about the plot and characters that we don’t get around to discussing Tolkien’s use of language. I noticed an effect I thought interesting in the description of the eagle rescue:


Quote
“There was a howl of anger and surprise from the goblins. Loud cried the Lord of the Eagles, to whom Gandalf had now spoken. Back swept the great birds that were with him, and down they came like huge black shadows. The wolves yammered and gnashed their teeth; the goblins yelled and stamped with rage, and flung their heavy spears in the air in vain. Over them swooped the eagles; the dark rush of their beating wings smote them to the floor or drove them far away; their talons tore at goblin faces.”

I notice that the sentences about the goblins are in a mundane word order, but they alternate with those describing the eagles, which are different:
“Loud cried the Lord of the Eagles” (not “The Lord of the Eagles cried loudly”)
“Back swept the great birds” (not “The great birds swept back”)
“Over them swooped the eagles” (not “The eagles swooped over them”)
The effect for me is to make the eagles seem poetic or heroic – how was it for you?

I also notice that we get some fine description of the eastern slopes of the mountains, especially perhaps the bit with the landslide. While Tolkien could hurry the text along, the effect of his description for me was to make both the pursuit and the landscape seem more realistic.

Are there any bits of the writing you’d like to comment upon?

I also want to discuss what we learn about the characters in this chapter, and have picked out Bilbo and Gandalf. I’ll do them in sub-threads below.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 24, 5:36pm

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**Gandalf sub-thread [In reply to] Can't Post

It is Gandalf’s behaviour in this chapter that has Paul Kocher say that Gandalf needed a ‘nothing short of a total literary resurrection’ before he could become the Gandalf of LOTR (see here for source and longer quote http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=190468#190468 ). I notice that The Hobbit narrator is eager to impress on us Gandalf’s limitations:


Quote

Now you can understand why Gandalf, listening to their growling and yelping, began to be dreadfully afraid, wizard though he was, and to feel that they were in a very bad place, and had not yet escaped at all. All the same he was not going to let them have it all their own way, though he could not do very much stuck up in a tall tree with wolves all round on the ground below."

He said it to make them angry, and to show them he was not frightened of them—though of course he was, wizard though he was. But they took no notice, and they went on singing."


(by the way, note the alliterative ‘wizard though he was’ turning up repeatedly – one of those reminders that we’re in a ‘read-aloud’ book, I suppose. Or perhaps ‘Wizard Zoe Woss’ is the name by which Gandalf goes in certain parts of downtown Minas Tirith….)

In LOTR, Tolkien gives us another ‘surrounded by wargs’ scene for contrast. THE LOTR text, by comparison, builds faith in Gandalf:


Quote

‘My heart’s right down in my toes, Mr. Pippin,’ said Sam. ‘But we aren’t etten yet, and there are some stout folk here with us. Whatever may be in store for old Gandalf, I’ll wager it isn’t a wolf’s belly.’
LOTR, FOTR, A Journey in the Dark


…which is justified:


Quote

"In the wavering firelight Gandalf seemed suddenly to grow: he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set upon a hill. Stooping like a cloud, he lifted a burning branch and strode to meet the wolves. They gave back before him. High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightning; and his voice rolled like thunder. ‘Naur an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!’ he cried. There was a roar and a crackle, and the tree above him burst into a leaf and bloom of blinding flame. The fire leapt from tree-top to tree-top. The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light. The swords and knives of the defenders shone and flickered. The last arrow of Legolas kindled in the air as it flew, and plunged burning into the heart of a great wolf-chieftain. All the others fled.

LOTR, FOTR, A Journey in the Dark


Compare Gandalf in our current hobbit chapter – when rescued, he’s seemingly about to go down in a blaze of glory (literally):


Quote

"Then Gandalf climbed to the top of his tree. The sudden splendour flashed from his wand like lightning, as he got ready to spring down from on high right among the spears of the goblins. That would have been the end of him, though he would probably have killed many of them as he came hurtling down like a thunderbolt. But he never leaped."


He never leaps, so we never find out whether the narrator’s prediction is correct, or whether the wargs and goblins in The Hobbit would have got what Sam in LOTR calls ‘an eye-opener’.

So what is the difference - Gandalf’s character and capabilities, or the assumptions and suggestions about these being made by the narrator? And is the LOTR scene a conscious re-run of the Hobbit warg battle, either to show us what might have been, or to show us how Gandalf has changed?

Why do you think the Hobbit narrator dwells so much on Gandalf being out of his depth – is it just breaking up the pattern we’ve seen so far (trolls and then the goblin king) in which Gandalf will reliably save the day? Or are we being ‘weaned off’ Gandalf as a escort who is bound to be able to fix things?

Only YOU can prevent forest fires, Gandalf! – was Gandalf’s plan of throwing firebombs at the wars always likely to result in being trapped in a tree by the flames, or would he have been safe had it not been for the goblins?

~~~~~~
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 24, 6:58pm

Post #3 of 25 (2033 views)
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**Bilbo sub-thread [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo reluctantly decides that he will go back underground to try and find his companions if he must. Happening on his companions (who are reluctant to go and find *him*) he decides to creep up on them using his invisibility ring, making a showy entrance. Are we seeing here more of Bilbo’s ‘Took side’– brave, impulsive, likes to be the centre of attention, or to do something just to make things happen?

If it amuses you, imagine that Bilbo is half Brandybuck (like Frodo) instead of half Took – how would this affect things? Or is this sort of clannish analysis of personality not very helpful (and of not, then why not)?

Bilbo is reluctant to explain about the invisibility ring. I like the way that this seems to make perfect sense without LOTR– Bilbo has just been given an unvarnished picture of how little the dwarves value him, and he’d rather take the credit for having skills they hadn’t guessed than to suggest he’s nearly as useless as they think, but has obtained a magical gadget by sheer luck.

LOTR readers can of course think that Ring has found a secretive and selfish part of Bilbo’s personality (the Ring as a ‘psychic amplifier’, as Tom Shippey puts it). Or we can see the Ring as a ‘sentient creature’ (Shippey again – you can find the full quote and source here http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=567432#567432 ) and infer it is compelling Bilbo to behave in the Ring’s interests – perhaps it’s eager not to become known to the dwarves or to Gandalf? On the other hand though, does that really make sense – if we assume the Ring wants to return to Sauron’s hand, why would it prefer to remain Bilbo’s secret, rather than to advertise itself? Or was Bilbo was meant to keep the Ring secret, but not by its maker?


Right at the end of the chapter, Bilbo dreams:


Quote

“He slept curled up on the hard rock more soundly than ever he had done on his feather-bed in his own little hole at home. But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find nor remember what it looked like.”


Blogger ‘Never felt Better’ suggests that what Bilbo is looking for is the Baggins side of his personality, which is fading into the background because of this adventure (see https://neverfeltbetter.wordpress.com/...g-pan-into-the-fire/ ) what do you think of this suggestion? Or does it read to you as a dream about the ring – for example the worry of losing it, or the peril of fading?

~~~~~~
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 24, 7:10pm)


No One in Particular
Rivendell


Jun 25, 1:10am

Post #4 of 25 (2019 views)
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Ring? What Ring? I didn't find any Ring down there... [In reply to] Can't Post


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Bilbo is reluctant to explain about the invisibility ring. I like the way that this seems to make perfect sense without LOTR– Bilbo has just been given an unvarnished picture of how little the dwarves value him, and he’d rather take the credit for having skills they hadn’t guessed than to suggest he’s nearly as useless as they think, but has obtained a magical gadget by sheer luck.

LOTR readers can of course think that Ring has found a secretive and selfish part of Bilbo’s personality (the Ring as a ‘psychic amplifier’, as Tom Shippey puts it). Or we can see the Ring as a ‘sentient creature’ (Shippey again – you can find the full quote and source here http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=567432#567432 ) and infer it is compelling Bilbo to behave in the Ring’s interests – perhaps it’s eager not to become known to the dwarves or to Gandalf? On the other hand though, does that really make sense – if we assume the Ring wants to return to Sauron’s hand, why would it prefer to remain Bilbo’s secret, rather than to advertise itself? Or was Bilbo was meant to keep the Ring secret, but not by its maker?


I think both answers are correct. Certainly Bilbo wanted the Dwarves to respect and value him: the Ring probably latched onto that and amplified it for it's own reasons. (For the record, I take the side that the Ring has it's own awareness, although to what amount or extent is unknown.) The Ring would likely have no use for Dwarves; they are a little on the hard side to control.

As for the Goblins, the text strongly implies that the Ring slipped from Bilbo's finger of its own accord, perhaps in a attempt to reveal itself, perhaps not; but Providence seems to have other plans either way. Bilbo found the Ring against all odds, and he is apparently meant to keep it for the present, so perhaps that really is also factor in why he decides to stay mum on the subject and claim the credit for himself.

So you possibly have three different sets of motivations all balled up together. The only thing all parties seem to agree on is that Bilbo needs to keep the Ring a secret, but for wildly various reasons.

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

(This post was edited by No One in Particular on Jun 25, 1:11am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 25, 12:22pm

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Undifferentiated dwarves [In reply to] Can't Post

In this chapter the dwarves mostly roll along as a group, with a roll-call when the story stops to note who is in which tree.

Bilbo isn't even sure which one it was that said 'drat him!' and seemed to be considering leaving him to his fate as chutney in the mountains. My guess is that in that particular instance, the speaker remains anonymous because he's only voicing some of the inner thoughts of all, and Tolkien doesn't want to set up one of the dwarves as the mean one.

But also there's this:


Quote
'Dwarves': you know what they are. Gruff, practical, industrious, stout, gold-loving, blunt-speaking, Scottish-accented, Viking-helmed, booze-swilling, Elf-hating, ax-swinging, long-bearded, stolid and unimaginative, boastful of their battle prowess and their vast echoing underground halls and mainly just the fact that they are dwarves

Our Dwarves Are All The Same http://tvtropes.org/...DwarvesAreAllTheSame


Maybe it's the case that 'nobody differentiates a dwarf!'

~~~~~~
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 25, 2:56pm

Post #6 of 25 (1995 views)
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I'm sure the Blue Wizards had all the fire extinguishers [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing I note about Gandalf is how the narrator is not above picking on him:

Quote
The wizard, to tell the truth, never minded explaining his cleverness more than once


Vain creature, isn't he? But it's charming and not off-putting.

Then to refer back to your point about the wizard's power and resourcefulness, I was thinking of his comment early in the chapter about dealing with the goblin-gate (their "Front Porch") that Thorin & Co had blundered into. This statement hearkens to Gandalf the Caretaker of Middle-earth Security:

Quote
"I must see if I can't find a more or less decent giant to block it up again," said Gandalf, "or soon there will be no getting over the mountains at all."

Given that he makes statements like that (able to get giants to do his bidding to help the Common Good), and given how he could kill goblins with blinding flashes in goblin-town, retrieve Orcrist, lead the dwarves to safety, etc, I am always a bit surprised that he seems relatively powerless in the Warg-glade. Really, the best he can do is set pinecones on fire? And when that fire reaches his tree, he can't put it out? Why is going to kill himself--where's a blinding, goblin-killing blast when he needs one, or is that magic only good at short range?

My own answer is that it's more plot-driven than character-driven, though it can be some of both. If Gandalf could wipe out all the goblins and Wargs with a blinding flash here, then there would be no eagle-rescue, and the eagles need to be introduced here so they don't come out of nowhere at the Battle of Five Armies. (Though I have a little trouble reconciling their only mild interest here in "getting involved" versus their war mission to fly so far from home just to be at the BOFA.) The book's rule seems to be that Gandalf will rescue them most of the time, but not every time, so readers need to get used to that. I also think there's something more gratifying about a surprise rescue (by the eagles) than just more of Gandalf working his usual tricks, so again, that's plot-driven.

Gandalf vs the Wargs in LOTR: on first read, I was really struck by the contrast in the Gandalf vs the Wargs in LOTR and in The Hobbit, though there were other differences I had picked up before that point, of course. It does seem like a deliberate (and honestly, otherwise unnecessary) reenactment by Tolkien to show that LOTR-Gandalf has gained +10 Power over The Hobbit-Gandalf.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 25, 3:13pm

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He does point out the nice ones [In reply to] Can't Post

Dori, for instance, who helps Bilbo get into a tree at great personal risk, and also carried him on his back in the goblin tunnels.

And I don't know how or why I started liking Balin, but maybe it's in this chapter where he's the lookout and bows to Bilbo's superior ability to escape notice (since they assume he remained visible).

But anyway, Gloin never made an impression on me in The Hobbit (so Gimli being his son was no head-start), but when we reach Balin's tomb in Moria in LOTR, I do feel sad that Bilbo lost his best friend among the dwarves and certainly someone who was a nice guy.

Looking ahead in The Hobbit, Bombur will be less likable, and he fares no better in LOTR, where he's described as so fat (and presumably lazy) that other dwarves have to carry him around.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 25, 3:42pm

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Bilbo and the Ring [In reply to] Can't Post

While I am prepared in LOTR to attribute all sorts of calamities to the Ring (including the beheading of Marie Antoinette), I'm reluctant to read much into it in The Hobbit, where using it seems to only help Bilbo and cost him nothing. I see it as his lucky charm. But I think every reader has their own take on that.

I do like this moral contrast about loyalty you point out:

Quote
Bilbo reluctantly decides that he will go back underground to try and find his companions if he must. Happening on his companions (who are reluctant to go and find *him*)

Hobbits do stick by their friends, as we see in LOTR: Frodo in the Barrow and resisting Glorfindel's advice to ride ahead of them to safety, Merry helping Eowyn, and of course Sam throughout. It's an important trait that Tolkien establishes here.

Bilbo's Took side: as I try to think realistically about Bilbo staying with the quest rather than going home, and particularly not jumping ship at Rivendell, I keep thinking that for a spoiled, domesticated aristocrat, he really should have deserted, and it's the Took side of him that fuels his commitment while the Baggins in him keeps complaining about missing meals and how nice it would be to have tea at home. But I may be thinking too much. In children's stories, there could be a boy named Ted, and a blue dog would show up one day and say, "Hi, Ted, do you want to help me save the Golden Princess?" And Ted would say "Sure!", and off they would go on adventure and danger, with Ted never turning back for home. That's just an assumption for the genre, though Tolkien himself messes with the genre by giving Bilbo an inner debate between his wild and domestic sides.

Bilbo's dream: I think the dream can be interpreted to suit the beholder, actually, and I think it's just as likely that he's searching for his Took side, which is buried beneath his surface self of Baggins-propriety. It's a side of himself that he's not familiar with on purpose (so he doesn't know what it looks like), but it's gaining in prominence, and he'll need to draw on it more and more as the story continues.

Or one could say the Ring has already stolen a piece of his soul, or locked it away. It's a bit like interpreting the Oracle of Delphi.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 25, 3:54pm

Post #9 of 25 (1992 views)
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Nice catch on the writing [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Quote
I notice that the sentences about the goblins are in a mundane word order, but they alternate with those describing the eagles, which are different:
“Loud cried the Lord of the Eagles” (not “The Lord of the Eagles cried loudly”)
“Back swept the great birds” (not “The great birds swept back”)
“Over them swooped the eagles” (not “The eagles swooped over them”)
The effect for me is to make the eagles seem poetic or heroic – how was it for you?

I never noticed, and thanks for pointing it out. And yes, the effect is to make the eagles heroic, and, sorry, "above it all," whereas the goblins from the underground seem inferior.

Another bit of writing in this chapter I like is the absurdist humor at the beginning:

Quote
He had lost hood, cloak, food, pony, his buttons, and his friends.

As if one could equate the importance of buttons with the other items in the list!

Then there's the goblin singing, which somehow seems comical even though our heroes are about to be roasted alive. Maybe it's the levity that is a signal to kids that nothing really bad is going to happen, it just looks that way.

As for creatures, Tolkien does seem to introduce them on a sort of conveyor belt, but I don't think it's done clumsily. He makes me expect a new creature around every bend, and they're not predictable. I think what would have been predictable would be if Bilbo were lost in the goblin tunnels, and then he came upon the good fairies who lived at the bottom of the tunnels, and they turned him into a moth so he could fly outside unharmed. Or if here, in the forest-glade, the trees suddenly started talking and, being good trees, they whipped the Wargs with their branches so Thorin & Co could escape. That's what I would expect from a more traditional tale.


sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jun 25, 6:52pm

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Button Button who's got the button? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


Another bit of writing in this chapter I like is the absurdist humor at the beginning:

Quote
He had lost hood, cloak, food, pony, his buttons, and his friends.

As if one could equate the importance of buttons with the other items in the list!


Buttons -- could this be a reference to money? Buttons, especially brass ones, would be symbolic of wealth.

found this ---buttons provided social commentary on the era and often defined social status and wealth. The French King, Francis I (1515 to 1547), is reported to have had thousands of gold buttons on a single coat.

Or perhaps as buttons were ornamental -- maybe a reference to Bilbo being stripped down.

Or the whole business with the buttons and Bilbo slipping out might be a reference to Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit escaping from Farmer McGregor?

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

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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 25, 8:02pm

Post #11 of 25 (1962 views)
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It's actually quite literal. [In reply to] Can't Post

The passage is referring specifically to the buttons Bilbo lost just a few paragraphs back in the previous chapter:


Quote
It [the door] was still ajar, but a goblin had pushed it nearly to. Bilbo struggled but could not move it. He tried to squeeze through the crack. He squeezed and squeezed, and he stuck! It was awful. His buttons had got wedged in the edge of the door and the door-post...

...Bilbo's heart jumped into his mouth. He gave a terrific squirm. Buttons burst off in all directions. He was through, with a torn coat and waistcoat, leaping down the steps like a goat, while bewildered goblins were still picking up his nice brass buttons on the doorstep.


No need for metaphors, analogies or hidden meanings here!

"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 25, 8:28pm

Post #12 of 25 (1959 views)
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And yet at the same time the list is funny [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote

He had lost hood, cloak, food, pony, his buttons, and his friends.


As I read it, that ranks comfort - being warm, dry, fed and not footsore- first. I think that might be a characteristicly hobbit-like prioritisation, and I imagine we’re supposed to see it as such, and smile.

It seemed to me that the brass buttons might indeed have been a high-status item, and so a loss to the fussy Baggins side of Bilbo’s nature. But it would probably also be really inconvenient to have your clothes not fasten, if you have a long hike ahead of you. Not to mention the indignity of nearly getting stuck in the door, Winnie the Pooh- like.

~~~~~~
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 25, 8:54pm

Post #13 of 25 (1953 views)
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Buttons were definitely for status [In reply to] Can't Post

At the very end of the book, when Balin visits Bilbo, he notices that Bilbo has real gold buttons now.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jun 25, 11:01pm

Post #14 of 25 (1941 views)
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Oh, yes indeed. [In reply to] Can't Post

For sure one intent is for humor. And brass buttons do denote a measure of status and there might be some symbolism in their loss; but the mention here is at least mostly in connection to Bilbo's escape from the goblins.

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


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 26, 9:30am

Post #15 of 25 (1861 views)
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Is a hood more or less important than buttons? [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 26, 11:41am

Post #16 of 25 (1846 views)
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I wondered if a hood was more or less important than a cloak. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Mikah
Lorien

Jun 27, 3:00am

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An unexpected pop-in... [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Peeps, it has been a while. I am hoping you are all well. Smile I just wanted to comment on the writing that you mention. I did notice it...the word order, I mean. It does vary here. You know what is interesting about it, is that he also does this in some of the chapters of The Silmarillion as well. I wish I had my copy with me, but am in the process of moving, but do not at this time. Grrrr. You will notice in the history of Middle Earth books, such as Morgoth's Ring, he does this quite a bit as well.
I have wondered if he was experimenting with different writing styles or if this was done intentionally? I also know that I can find a particular needle in a stack of needles and thought there was some chance I was imagining it and it meant nothing. But, I now stand vindicated! Someone else noticed!
I can't help but wonder if he does this to lend a different ummm….voice to a particular character. He is one of the few writers who effectively writes in third-person omniscient point of view. Both The Hobbit and The Silmarillion were done in this manner. I believe he may do this to give a different tone or mood to a particular chapter or character. Do you think this is possible?


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 27, 9:31am

Post #18 of 25 (1734 views)
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I agree - characterisation through writing style [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice to 'see' you, Mikah.

I agree - I see the eagles as different from the goblins partly as a result of these choices in syntax. I strongly suppose that this is intentional on Tolkien's part. At one point I wrote an essay for the TORN Amateur Symposium about this kind of thing. For example:


Quote

As the story [LOTR] proceeds, one notices that different writing styles are used to narrate passages concerning different characters. So for example, a passage focussed on Sam tends to be in fairly simple and everyday language and grammar:

“When thirteen had fallen the rest fled shrieking, leaving the defenders unharmed, except for Sam who had a scratch along the scalp. A quick duck had saved him; and he had felled his orc: a sturdy thrust with his Barrow-blade. A fire was smouldering in his brown eyes that would have made Ted Sandyman step backwards, if he had seen it.”

Fellowship of the Ring - The Bridge of Khazad-Dum

Compare that with the following passage, in which we start with Éowyn, but then see Tolkien shifting style as the focus moves between different characters. :

“Still she did not blench; maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible. A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her and her hair shone in the sunrise.

Out of the wreck rose the Black Rider, tall and threatening, towering above her. With a cry of hatred that stung the very ears like venom he let fall his mace. Her shield was shivered in many pieces, and her arm was broken; she stumbled to her knees. He bent over her like a cloud, and his eyes glittered; he raised his mace to kill.

But suddenly he too stumbled forward with a cry of bitter pain, and his stroke went wide, driving into the ground. Merry’s sword had stabbed him from behind...”


Return of the King -The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

No mere “quick duck” and “sturdy thrust” in that overtly (and gorgeously) Beowulfian first paragraph! The alliterations and the kenning (“steel-blade”) capture Éowyn’s moment in the very Anglo-Saxon manner Tolkien has given her people. But the next paragraph and a half tones that down, until the description of Merry’s surprise attack is everyday modern English, and much more hobbit-like. (One imagines Merry later sitting blushing through a Bard of Rohan’s magnificent alliterative verse rendition of his mighty deeds and muttering “But all I did was stab him from behind...”)

Narrating Middle-earth by NoWizardMe (http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=668923#668923


~~~~~~
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


sador
Half-elven


Jun 27, 3:35pm

Post #19 of 25 (1711 views)
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I love this chapter! [In reply to] Can't Post

I've actually led a discussion of it, nearly six years ago.



In Reply To

We’ve been getting one or more new kind of fantasy creature per chapter, I think. Is that a continuing stream of pleasing novelty for you, helping Middle-earth to seem a rich and complex place? Or is it starting to become a bit programmatic for you, like ‘monster of the week’?


Well, that will continue until the tenth chapter (assuming the wood-elves are significantly different from the Rivendell ones) - and then we will have a chapter before being introduced to Smaug, followed by only the ravens.
These first ten chapters are, after all, a travelogue, or picaresque; in every chapter we come to a new environment, and its habitants. The second part occurs at the Lonely Mountain, and is the coming together of the story's threads.
So I take this stream of new creatures as a feature of these chapters, one I personally quite like.




In Reply To

We learn quite a bit more about the goblins... We get a demonstration of their ingenuity and cruelty (their idea of fordcing the party either to burn alive, or fight a hopeless battle.


The most teliing detail to my mind is their first reaction when coming to the glade - they laugh at the wargs' distress! Some allies.
But yes, their plan is actually quite ingenious - with Gandalf hurling blazing cones at them, they could neither climb the trees nor cut them down. The plan they have is both amusing (to them) and effective.




In Reply To

‘Eagles are not kindly birds’... Have they yet to become Manwe’s special emissaries of divine grace, and handy hero rescue service? Are they ‘off-duty’ at present? Would the perennial ‘why don’t the eagles fly the Ring to Mount Doom?’ question come up less if LOTR gave us the sort of closer view we get here in The Hobbit, rather than have them fly in, do something useful and fly out?


Well, I am pretty sure the Eagles were already the messengers of Manwe at this time. The eagles in The Hobbit seem out of character - which is why many readers claim the Great Eagle was not Gwaihir or any of his ilk, but some inferior kind of eagles. I personally find this separation difficult to accept.
And I like the observation somebody made, that the eagles actually do travel far away from the mountains, to participate in the Battle of Five Armies.




In Reply To

I notice that the sentences about the goblins are in a mundane word order, but they alternate with those describing the eagles, which are different... The effect for me is to make the eagles seem poetic or heroic – how was it for you?


Yes, of course. Or else to make the goblins lower-class.







CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 27, 4:50pm

Post #20 of 25 (1701 views)
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*Waves at Mikah*. Great to see you here!!!! Good luck on the move. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Roverandom
The Shire


Jun 28, 2:27am

Post #21 of 25 (1699 views)
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Words, Words, Words [In reply to] Can't Post

I, too, appreciate your comments on the style used to elevate (pun most definitely intended) the eagles in this chapter. As others have mentioned, it is a clever way for the author to differentiate between the classes of his characters. Can't see him describing the antics of William, Bert and Tom this way, can we? In addition to the examples from LotR already named, I recall another pivotal moment on the Pelennor Fields, when "East rode the knights of Dol Amroth driving the enemy before them" and the alliterative "South strode Eomer and men fled before his face".

The alliteration seems to be contagious, as even the goblins have caught the bug. "Fifteen birds in five fir trees, their feathers were fanned in a fiery breeze." Although the coarseness of the second song in this chapter seems to echo that of the slave drivers on the way to Goblin Town, Chapter 4.

I particularly like the manner in which the author avoids a long, third-person narrative to catch us up on how the company escaped. Instead, he allows Dori to give us a first-person account of the wizard's reappearance, complete with dialogue. I wonder if Dori even does a good impression of Gandalf? Maybe sounding like John Huston, as Gandalf always does when I hear him in my head.

For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the sill of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


sador
Half-elven


Jun 28, 1:31pm

Post #22 of 25 (1683 views)
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"All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff" [In reply to] Can't Post

So what is the difference - Gandalf’s character and capabilities, or the assumptions and suggestions about these being made by the narrator?
I would say it is Gandalf; he will grow and grow further, until in Unfinished Tales Tolkien will even suggest he was Manwe himself.
Which I really don't like.

In the next chapter, Beorn will know Thorin but not Gandalf.


And is the LOTR scene a conscious re-run of the Hobbit warg battle, either to show us what might have been, or to show us how Gandalf has changed?
Well, he wasn't alone on the Caradhras slopes. And burning the whole forest down won't really save them.


Why do you think the Hobbit narrator dwells so much on Gandalf being out of his depth – is it just breaking up the pattern we’ve seen so far (trolls and then the goblin king) in which Gandalf will reliably save the day?
Well, he might have been signaling to the eagles, so he does.
Shades of the moth!


Or are we being ‘weaned off’ Gandalf as a escort who is bound to be able to fix things?
Well, if we look to the end of Queer Lodgings, it doesn't work on the dwarves. Soes it work on the readers?


Was Gandalf’s plan of throwing firebombs at the wars always likely to result in being trapped in a tree by the flames, or would he have been safe had it not been for the goblins?
I doubt it. He might have hoped to chase off the wargs, and then climb down; but it was always a desperate plan - arguably, just trying to die in a blaze of glory rather than as miserable captives.



sador
Half-elven


Jun 28, 2:00pm

Post #23 of 25 (1679 views)
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Not yet the Ring, merely the ring. [In reply to] Can't Post

Are we seeing here more of Bilbo’s ‘Took side’– brave, impulsive, likes to be the centre of attention, or to do something just to make things happen?
Arguably, the Took side might think he could manage by himself and go on to find good people who will take him in.
In short, I don't see it as one more than the other.


If it amuses you, imagine that Bilbo is half Brandybuck (like Frodo) instead of half Took – how would this affect things?
He would probably make better use of his time at Rivendell.
And with Brandybucks being inquisitive - he might have decided to go on.


Or is this sort of clannish analysis of personality not very helpful (and of not, then why not)?
Well, I think it isn't really.


Or we can infer it is compelling Bilbo to behave in the Ring’s interests – perhaps it’s eager not to become known to the dwarves or to Gandalf?
Hardly. If anything, it wants to get on to Mirkwood.


On the other hand though, if we assume the Ring wants to return to Sauron’s hand, why would it prefer to remain Bilbo’s secret, rather than to advertise itself?
Well, it would rather not reveal itself to Gandalf, would it?


Or was Bilbo was meant to keep the Ring secret, but not by its maker?
This is also possible.



But really, I think the point was Bilbo making the moral choice, and then saved by providence from needing to act upon it.


Blogger ‘Never felt Better’ suggests that what Bilbo is looking for is the Baggins side of his personality, what do you think of this suggestion?
I like it better than some of his other suggestions. Tongue
That was just snarky; I actually find his blog most interesting - but he reads and judges in a very different way from me.


Or does it read to you as a dream about the ring – for example the worry of losing it, or the peril of fading?
I don't want to put that much of an emphasis on the ring. Remember, it is still not the Ring.


If you ask me - I might suggest, based on a comment in parentheses in the preceding paragraph, that he suddenly realized that the dwarves had no matches! Remember how he missed them in Riddles in the Dark?
Compare to Sam's dream in Journey to the Cross-roads, in which he missed his pipe.



Or does it read to you as a dream about the ring – for example the worry of losing it, or the peril of fading?







No One in Particular
Rivendell


Jul 2, 2:25am

Post #24 of 25 (1649 views)
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Hmmm... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So what is the difference - Gandalf’s character and capabilities, or the assumptions and suggestions about these being made by the narrator?
I would say it is Gandalf; he will grow and grow further, until in Unfinished Tales Tolkien will even suggest he was Manwe himself.
Which I really don't like.

In the next chapter, Beorn will know Thorin but not Gandalf.]


I agree. I dislike the concept of Gandalf as Manwe. I dislike the Bombadil as Illuvatar theory for similar reasons. It feels wrong.

Gandalf's fame....for all of these many long years Gandalf has been manipulating from behind the scenes, motivating and maneuvering other people to stand against the darkness. We'll continue to see this all through LoTR, but it seems like maybe the events around the Quest for Erebor are the beginning of Gandalf leaving the veil of secrecy behind, at east in a limited fashion. Certainly by the time of Bilbo's party he seems to be more well known; perhaps some of that is due to his becoming more famous after the Battle of Five Armies.

Or perhaps not. Thorin already knew who Gandalf was in the Prancing Pony after all, even though they had never met.

Maybe Beorn only didn't know Gandalf because he, like Bombadil, is pretty much of a home body.

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


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jul 3, 9:08pm

Post #25 of 25 (1614 views)
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One thing about this chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

Is the Woodmen. Or perhaps woodpeople! But Gandalf was scared for them as the Goblins and Wolves where going to make a surprise attack. Now seen as the Woodmen where relations of the Rohirrim as we later find out, I wonder how surprised they really would be. They where probably tough and hardy folk and wise in the ways of the Goblins. They might very well have been aware of the attack or at the least been savy enough that the Goblins where in the mountains and could attack at any moment and had sentinels to spot potential danger from them.

 
 

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