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*** The Hobbit read-through Chapter 8 Flies and Spiders
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Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jul 9, 7:14am

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*** The Hobbit read-through Chapter 8 Flies and Spiders Can't Post

Well, it's dark, dark, dark. The company have taken their leave of Gandalf and are on their own. But as long as they are on the path, they are safe. Now that's a bit of a fairy-tale cliché is it not, don't leave the path. I'm trying to think of other examples. Alice in Wonderland, Hansen and Gretel? I suppose this was a deliberate ploy by Tolkien. And what his opinions where of Lewes Carroll. Anyway, it is really pitch-dark at night. Something we don't often see in the modern-world and definitely not where I live. There is always some light around at night here!
The Dwarves do seem to be a bit geographically challenged. They do know that the lonely mountain is beyond the forest and Smaug, but they do not seem to know percesily where. They think at times that the forest goes on for ever. Obviously this is nonsense, but it might go on for quite a while. How long and how long where the company in the forest for? Has anyone worked this out?
There is also a wide variety of noise in the dark with much different wildlife. I did think that the Dwarves might not mind the dark so much as they are used to working in the dark and really don't mind it, as asking for dark at Bag End at the start of the tale. But then again, the Dwarves are not that fond of all the creatures about. There is an incident with a boat and a stream. Where it is amusing to note that Thorin still refers to the Hobbit as Mr. Baggins. I also note this is one incident when Fili acts on his own without been referred to with his brother. And poor old Bombur falls into the stream. Then we come to the dilemma as they begin to run out of food and Bilbo has to check the layout of the forest, but he does not see the end.
The Narrator does give us hints that the forest is coming to an end but the Dwarves do not see this. Many lights are seen and will the Dwarves investigate even if it means leaving the path?
This is it for this post for the moment. In a couple of days or so time I will post one about the spiders. Feel free for anyone to add any comments of their own on this chapter.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 9, 11:00am

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Mirkwood - not a normal place [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for introducing this week, H G!

If Mirkwood were a real-life big forest with a well-established path across it, then one might expect the party to have a better idea of how many days' march it would be, and to only attempt that route if they could carry enough supplies. They'd probably have a better idea of how far through the forest the river lay, and might have been better prepared to deal with the forest inhabitants.

But I don't think Mirkword is a normal place. It also doesn't seem to me to be quite like The Old Forest or Fangorn in LOTR. Those seemed to me to have a presiding spirit or two (Old Man Willow, Tom B, the Ents). Reading this chapter though, Mirkwood reminded me of other folk-and fairy-tale tropes.

I'm sure it's possible to work out how many days' travel the party does, but I got the feeling that time was maybe working a bit differently in the forest - like folk- and fairy- tales of elf-land or Faerie-land. The experiences of first Bombur and than Bilbo as they fall asleep , dream and then don't like reality, also reminded me of those tropes.

Reading the chapter caused me to think about moral themes - 'don't leave the path' seemed like one of them (and, as we were discussing last week) a good old fairy-tale device - the thing you mustn't do but end up doing anyway.

I also noticed that Thorin's comment to Bombur ("Don't start grumbling against orders, or something bad will happen to you.") comes true with some irony - a bad thing does happen to Bombur, and his expedition comrades are the ones who have to deal with it.

The magic river with its boat reminded me of the Styx, and other mythical rivers into the afterlife.

Possibly it is the starvation and dehydration, or maybe it's the strange environment, but the party seems to be an odd mixture of competence and incompetence. They figure out how to get the boat and then propel it across the river. But the narrator points out their mistakes (that a hunted deer means hunters; and that it's not a great idea to send a scout up a tree just after you've descended into a valley). They also, of course, waste their arrows shooting at teh hart and hind.

I couldn't work out what the dark hart and then the white hind and faun meant, but thought they probably meant something beyond just being distraction that tips Bombur into the river.

~~~~~~
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


Jul 9, 12:48pm

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Travel through Mirkwood [In reply to] Can't Post

Common folk think of Elves as magical and mischievous, with strange powers that can confound travelers. Elf-paths are not to be trusted; they might take ordinary folk along unnaturally long and convoluted routes, adding days or even weeks to their time in the forest. That's what the Woodmen say! Wink

We can deduce two firm dates for the company's time in Mirkwood, one of which is more relevant to the next chapter. They must have entered the Forest on the Shire-date of July 25, after Gandalf departs with the ponies. The other confirmed date is September 21, when Bilbo liberates the Dwarves from the captivity of the Wood-elves and the company escapes from the Woodland Realm, reaching Lake-town around sunset of the next day (September 22, Bilbo's birthday). That is nearly two months from the time they set out on the Elf-path to their arrival at Esgaroth, but for how long were they in MIrkwood before they were captured by the Elves?

I can suggest an approximate timeframe for the length of the company's journey if I apply a travel time estimated from Cubicle 7's The One Ring Roleplaying Game and Adventures in Middle-earth setting for D&D, modified by terrain. The Journey rules for both games provide a base Rate of Travel on foot of 20 miles per day. Any road or path through Mirkwood is considered to be a Daunting terrain that modifies travel time x3. Thorin & Company might have traveled for approximately 150 miles before encountering the Enchanted Stream after 24 days of travel (around August 19). They traveled, burdened by Bombur for another week before the sleeping dwarf woke up (August 26?). That night they encounter the feasting Wood-elves; Thorin is taken by the Wood-elves and the rest of the dwarves fall victim to giant spiders. Bilbo rescues the company from the spiders the next day only for the dwarves to be captured by again and taken to Thranduil's Halls.

The late Karen Wynn Fonstad, in The Atlas of Middle-earth, estimated that Bombur fell into the Enchanted Stream on August 16. She further suggests:
- the company leaves the path on August 22.
- on August 23 Thorin is captured by the Wood-elves while the other Dwarves are caught by the giant spiders.
- the rest of the Dwarves are captured by the Wood-elves and taken to the Elvenking's Halls on August 24.

Even if Fonstad's guess's are nearer to the mark, I think she made at least one error in her timeline of events. Bilbo climbs the oak on the sixth day out from the stream (August 22). Bombur awakens the next morning (August 23) and it is that evening that the company leaves the path to encounter the feasting Wood-elves. The remaining events are unchanged. Either way, we get a timeframe of about a month in Mirkwood before the company is captured by the Wood-elves.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 9, 1:02pm)


Petty Dwarf
Bree


Jul 9, 1:17pm

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The strangeness of Mirkwood [In reply to] Can't Post

It makes me think a bit of Nan Dungortheb (spelling?). And I wonder if it has anything to do with Elvish magic mixing with the foulness that the spiders bring with them.

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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 9, 10:58pm

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"Don't leave the path" [In reply to] Can't Post

I continue to think there's a profound departure in Tolkien's use of this device vs. the standard use, with the latter usually a moral lesson against 1) disobeying one's parents/elders, or 2) forgetting offered wisdom akin to not reading the user's manual, or 3) giving into temptation, when your rational mind says "don't eat the apple" but the serpent says, "oh, isn't it lovely and sweet and your heart's desire?"

When the company leaves the path, it is in fact the best decision to make because staying on it means certain death by dehydration & starvation. Yes, they were warned not to leave it, but in fact, it works to their advantage in the long run (eucatastrophe) since they are fed by their Elven captors (vs feeding their arachnid captors). And we later learn in "Barrels Out of Bond" that the only safe route to between the Elven kingdom and Laketown is via the river, with all the land routes overgrown and ending treacherously in swamps, so again, getting captured by the Elves was the best thing to happen to safe the quest, and that only happened because they left the path. Rather than being punished, they are rewarded for breaking that rule.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Jul 9, 10:58pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 9, 11:14pm

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An odd mixture indeed [In reply to] Can't Post


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Possibly it is the starvation and dehydration, or maybe it's the strange environment, but the party seems to be an odd mixture of competence and incompetence. They figure out how to get the boat and then propel it across the river. But the narrator points out their mistakes (that a hunted deer means hunters; and that it's not a great idea to send a scout up a tree just after you've descended into a valley). They also, of course, waste their arrows shooting at teh hart and hind.


I'd say throughout the book they seem just competent enough to keep the quest going but never competent enough to deal with the problems they encounter (such as blundering one by one into the trolls, having no weapons but instead having musical instruments, etc). And in this particular case, I wonder why they didn't tie a rope to a tree on the path and tie all their ropes together, then space themselves out between the path and the glades where the feasts were. But that's probably imposing too much logic.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 9, 11:29pm

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How dangerous were the forest creatures? Also, who was singing & laughing? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for leading this chapter, Hamfast!

It's certainly creepy to read the description of the eyes watching them at night, and how a fire only attracts more eyes. What I wonder is if their isolation exaggerated their fear, or if they really were being stalked by predators who just never worked up the nerve (or hunger) to make a charge into the group and bite on a haunch for a meal?


Quote
At times they heard disquieting laughter. Sometimes there was singing in the distance too. The laughter was the laughter of fair voices not of goblins, and the singing was beautiful, but it sounded eerie and strange, and they were not comforted, rather they hurried on from those parts with what strength they had left.

The singing in a way sounds like a siren's call, a beautiful song to lure sailors to their deaths upon deadly reefs. Is this some anomalous race, similar to Beorn and Bombadil, that doesn't fit into the regular scheme of Tolkien races? Or is it elven singing? If it's beautiful, and beauty in Tolkien is nearly always a sign of goodness, why is it disturbing? It is because dwarves don't like elves? But Bilbo likes elves, so wouldn't it appeal to him?

Then there's the question of who was doing the hunting in what sounded like a very standard hunting party: horns blowing, and dogs barking. Was it Woodmen or Thranduil? The list of candidates seems rather narrow.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 10, 12:46am

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Straying from the path. [In reply to] Can't Post

"So this is it. We're going to die!" - Arthur Dent, on numerous occasions

I do think that #2 ("forgetting offered wisdom") applies here. Although they did not realize it, the company was not in fact in imminent danger of certain death. We are told that they were actually quite near to the eastern end of the path. And it was only the old Dwarf-road farther south that had been made impassable by the encroaching marsh; there is no indication that the Elf-path was similarly affected.

There might be another reason, however, why their capture by the Elves was fortunate. If Thorin and Company had bulled through and reached Lake-town on their own, they would have arrived nearly a month earlier and might have overstayed their welcome among the Men of Esgaroth. On the other hand, they probably would have departed for Erebor much sooner after having more time to make their plans, perhaps even devising a strategy for dealing with Smaug (as doubtful as that seems).

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 10, 12:49am

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Wood-elves, most likely. [In reply to] Can't Post


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Then there's the question of who was doing the hunting in what sounded like a very standard hunting party: horns blowing, and dogs barking. Was it Woodmen or Thranduil? The list of candidates seems rather narrow.


It seems unlikely that a hunting party of Woodmen or even Men from Lake-town, would be found that deep within Mirkwood or that near to the borders of the Woodland Realm. Wood-elves seem much more likely.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 10, 12:51am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 10, 10:49am

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Paths and white hinds [In reply to] Can't Post

This has me wondering about the hart and then the white hind and fauns the party see during the river crossing.

Their situation at that point is that a dark-coloured deer has just appeared and leapt over the party as they finish their river-crossing. Bombur has just fallen into the river when startled by the deer, and they've lost the boat while preventing him from drowning. They then see some white deer - the only white animals they've seen. They shot at them without success.

White deer have some significance, I've been reading:


Quote

White deer hold a place in the mythology of many cultures. The Celtic people considered them to be messengers from the otherworld; they also played an important role in other pre-Indo-European cultures, especially in the north. The Celts believed that the white stag would appear when one was transgressing a taboo, such as when Pwyll trespassed into Arawn's hunting grounds. Arthurian legend states that the creature has a perennial ability to evade capture, and that the pursuit of the animal represents mankind's spiritual quest. It also signalled that the time was nigh for the knights of the kingdom to pursue a quest. In English Folklore, the white hart is associated with Herne the Hunter.

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_stag

[The article then goes on to provide an interesting quote about these animals that is contemporary to Tolkien:]

The White Hart was the badge of King Richard II of England, who probably derived it from the arms of his mother, Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent", heiress of Edmund of Woodstock. It may also have been a pun on his name, as in "Rich-hart".[6] Richard's White Hart is recumbent and wears a gold crown as a collar, attached to a long gold chain, symbolising both the suffering of Christ and Richard's burden of kingship, both noble and enslaved. It associated Richard's rule with piety and asserted his divine authority. The emblem features prominently in a notable piece of late 14th-century religious art known as Wilton Diptych (National Gallery, London), which is thought to be the earliest authentic contemporary portrait of an English king; in the diptych paintings, Richard II is depicted wearing a gold and enamelled White Hart jewel, and even the angels surrounding the Virgin Mary all wear White Hart badges. On one of the reverse panels, there is a White Hart seated on a bed of rosemary, symboising remembrance and sorrow. [7]

The white stag has also been invoked in contemporary society for its symbolism. Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement, spoke to Scouts at the 1933 World Jamboree in Gödöll;, Hungary, about the white stag:

'The White Stag has a message for you. Hunters of old pursued the miraculous stag, not because they expected to kill it, but because it led them in the joy of the chase to new and fresh adventures, and so to capture happiness. You may look on the White Stag as the true spirit of Scouting, springing forward and upward, ever leading you onward to leap over difficulties, to face new adventures in your active pursuit of the higher aims of Scouting.'

—Baden-Powell's farewell speech to the Scouts, [8]

ibid


So it seems to me that a possible reading goes that this is the point at which the party was 'supposed' to leave the path, following the white deer.

Of course, short of the 'Chose Your Own Adventure' version of the Hobbit being discovered, we don't get to find out what would have lain down these alternative narrative paths. But I'm finding it interesting to think about these possible twists to the breaking-the-injunction trope.

~~~~~~
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


Jul 10, 11:56am

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Black harts, white hinds and fawns. [In reply to] Can't Post


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...it seems to me that a possible reading goes that this is the point at which the party was 'supposed' to leave the path, following the white deer.


If that is so then the sign was badly misread. The company did not leave the path at the stream after sighting the white hind and fawns, but continued on it for another full week.

It might be that the black hart (sounds like black heart?) represents the fell forces of Mirkwood bringing bad fortune to the company. Perhaps the white doe and fawns are from the Woodland Realm (the nearest thing to the realm Faerie that is actually encountered in the tale) and appear to provide hope and a message of perseverance. In The Annotated Hobbit Douglas Anderson speculates that Tolkien's 'fairy hunt' in the book was inspired by the fourteenth-century Middle English poem "Sir Orfeo". Tolkien's own translation was published posthumously in 1975.

There often by him would he see,
when noon was hot on leaf and tree,
the king of Faërie with his rout
came hunting in the woods about
with blowing far and crying dim,
and barking hounds that were with him;
yet never a beast they took nor slew,
and where they went he never knew.

(lines 281-88)



"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 10, 12:10pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 10, 12:19pm

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A long time ago in a life far, far away [In reply to] Can't Post

I read an anthology of old folk tales, and one was about people hunting The White Stag. My very fuzzy memory of it was that 1) it was basically immortal, 2) it could and would fight back (gore the hunters) under certain conditions, and 3) it was a sort of protector of the forest, or maybe the animals of the forest, or both. (Yeah, fuzzy memory only goes so far. I think it also had a huge laser that blew up planets for an emperor.)

Anyway, it wasn’t just another night of venison for dinner but was magical/symbolic. My memory seems to contradict what you cite below, because I think hunting it was morally wrong and led to bad outcomes, but greed led people to hunt it for a pelt worth a ton of gold. While it was killable, the white stag also enjoyed enchanted protection, so “See deer. Shoot deer. Kill deer.” didn’t work as with other deer. Which may be why Thorin could kill the dark deer, but the arrows against the white ones were all in vain.

But I think you’re right to hit on the white deer as symbolic of something in a forest where all the animals appear to be dark if not outright black like the squirrels. I’ve never thought about them before until you brought them up; they seemed like more random bad luck for the dwarves (an opportunity to lose all their arrows) to add to the list of things going wrong that day.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 10, 2:08pm

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There is definitely a faerie feel... [In reply to] Can't Post

...to this chapter. It is missing (it seems to me) from the description of the Sylvian elves in LOTR. They seem to me to be more like their Rivendell or Lorien cousins.

~~~~~~
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


Jul 10, 8:10pm

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Fairy feel of The Hobbit vs LOTR [In reply to] Can't Post

That seems to come up especially with 1) the feasting fires all going out instantly, as if by magic, including magic sleeping spells being put on the intruders, and 2) the gates to the king’s halls opening and shutting by magic.

I’m trying to think of the magic of Rivendell and Lorien and can only think of the Ford of Bruinen’s flood for Rivendell and Galadriel’s Mirror, unless you’d like to add the Nimrodel river singing with a voice of its own. The magic seems grander and less parlor-tricky in LOTR.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 10, 9:46pm

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The elf-road was no good either [In reply to] Can't Post

From "A Warm Welcome":


Quote
The elf-road through the wood which the dwarves had followed on the advice of Beorn now came to a doubtful and little used end at the eastern edge of the forest; only the river offered any longer a safe way...
So you see Bilbo had come in the end by the only road that was any good.


What remains murky is how the elf-king transported his army to Erebor for the Battle of Five Armies. Hard to imagine they all went down by raft to Laketown, but I think Tolkien glosses over things like that.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 10, 10:38pm

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Okay. [In reply to] Can't Post

It's easy to overlook that passage and I had forgotten it.


In Reply To
What remains murky is how the elf-king transported his army to Erebor for the Battle of Five Armies. Hard to imagine they all went down by raft to Laketown, but I think Tolkien glosses over things like that.


I suspect that the Wood-elves would have maintained secret paths that would have left the Forest north of the marshes into the northern Dalelands and the Desolation of Smaug. They were marching toward Erebor before they turned south to give aid to the folk of Lake-town. They must have skirted the edge of the marshland. The Company of Thorin wouldn't have known about such paths out of Mirkwood and so could not have taken advantage of them.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jul 11, 11:25pm

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Now for the eight-legged freaks! [In reply to] Can't Post

So, we continue this read-through. Bombur wakes up after falling into the enchanted stream and is not amused to discover that he hasn't been feasting, there is no food and he does not remember anything after Bag End, which must be something of a shock. We never do really hear things from his point of view, but I wonder if he actually was called into the stream rather than accidentally diving into it! I also wonder if his lose of memory was temporary or if he ever did remember the events after a while. Interesting dilemma, though isn't it? They are supposed to stay on the path, but what is the use of that if they will starve to death as Bilbo and Bombur point out. But if Gandalf was there, would he have said anything else of use? Is there anything Gandalf could have advised at this point?
Anyway, hunger drives the party on and they try to beg for food from the feasters. Hmmm, some struggling and starving people crossing a country's border and begging for food out of desperation, now what modern indeed current events does that remind me of? O-er, getting a bit political! Still, this tale does get a little political from now on. Anyway, the Dwarves possibly make a mistake here. They do not seem to have learned from Gandalf and go together in one go rather than, say, sending Bilbo first, then going forward in twos like they did with Beorn. Maybe as a result of this, the Elves are alarmed and kick up the fires.
So, now we come to the Spiders and the part where Bilbo comes into his own. He starts of really on his own having to beat of and slay a big spider all by himself, but big spider, scary! Mind, I must say that the rest of the fight is one of the few parts of the tale where I do look and think that the good Prof is taking our faith a bit too far. I mean, all right Bilbo might be good at throwing things and playing darts and possibly Cricket, but it is one thing to say this and quite another for him of all the company to turn into a psychotic giant-spider killer! Even if he is invisible. I actually do think the same with Sam and Shelob in Lotr. I do wonder how much of an advantage been invisible was as it was pitch dark anyway and I presume that Bilbo was wearing dark clothes. Plus would the Spiders hunt as much by smell and feel anyway? Mind, to be fair, Bilbo does show considerable leadership ability in a crisis!
One other point I could make. Suppose that things had gone astray and the company had been mostly slain by the spiders or hunger. Maybe two or three could survive. But seen as later the Lotr company do not have any of these characters, even Gandalf is not their how would this have affected the rest of the legendruim apart from been a personal tragedy for these people of course!
Now Bilbo does taunt the Spiders with his singing. Now obviously his songs would have no effect on us, but it does show that the Hobbit is not above taunting his enemies if necessary. It does sound a little to me like gang members singing to others, 'Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.
Now, reading this part of the chapter with Dwarves tied up in the dark and nearly been eaten by huge, scary hairy creatures, do you know what series of horror/sci-fi movie franchise this reminds me a bit of? The alien series! Also is something of the terror of the Spiders exist because they are in dark and can't be seen probably​? The Hitchcock effect. If it was in day, maybe the Spiders wouldn't so terrifying. Or maybe they would!
The Dwarves with Bilbo do temporary win a fight with the Spiders, but are only really saved because they come to an enchanted patch of the forest used by the Elven-folk. When they realize that someone is missing. Onto the next chapter. Apart from one more question by me. The title of the chapter. The Spiders are obvious, but who are the flies?


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 12, 12:48am

Post #18 of 50 (2301 views)
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Spiders and Flies [In reply to] Can't Post

The circumstances of Bombur's dunking make it clear to me that he was accidentally knocked into the water and not lured into entering it. I don't think that it's ever clear whether Bombur eventually recovers the gaps in his memory.

Gandalf's presence might have been helpful at the site of the Elven feast. If anyone could have acted successfully as a liaison between the company and the Wood-elves it would have been Mithrandir (if we can indeed equate Gandalf of The Hobbit with Mithrandir of The Lord of the Rings). Actually, I wonder if the Elves would have reacted even more favorably to Radagast?

The forest had lightened a bit by the time we get to the spiders, having shifted to mostly beeches ("There was the usual dim grey light of the forest-day about him when he came to his senses"). Bilbo proves to be a fearsome foe against the spiders really because of necessity--there is no one else! Sure, Tolkien could have had the Wood-elves come then and rescue the company only to take them captive again, but that would not have given Bilbo his moment to prove himself and to take more of a leadership role. From a story-telling perspective, Bilbo had to stand up.

Tolkien could have made one or more of the dwarves into casualties here, but most of them have to at least reach the Mountain so there is a reasonable chance of seeing the quest fulfilled. We do have the dramatic revelation of Thorin's disappearance, having already been captured by the Woodland Elves.

Tolkien's spiders could certainly have been one of the influences behind H.R. Giger's xenomorphs. I'm not so sure that he might have inspired Hitchcock at all, but you never know. I'm fairly sure that the whole sequence did take place during the day, though the thickness of the trees kept the light pretty dim. I'm not sure where you are coming from with your last question. Of course, Bilbo and the dwarves are the flies of the chapter title. Who else could it be (even if Bilbo does transform a bit into a wasp)?

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 13, 6:08pm

Post #19 of 50 (2265 views)
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You have a point about Bilbo becoming Master Tactician literally overnight [In reply to] Can't Post

I’ve always accepted it as a combination of his Took side taking over plus desperate times and isolation bring out the hero in someone. Yet it remains remarkable how in charge of the situation he remained at all times, how confident he was in his fighting ability (never used a sword before), how he never seemed afraid, and generally how he didn’t lose a single life or limb.

Then compare that to his more Baggins behavior in the Wood-king’s halls of feeling sorry for himself, feeling overwhelmed, feeling pessimistic, afraid of this and that. Even in Barrels Out of Bonds he was back to his feeling of being marginal: always afraid of discovery, not quite sure what to do once the barrels were released, how to steal a meal and stay out of sight and suffer with a cold. His first glimpse of Erebor was not excitement but depression.

Well, I guess giant spiders just make heroes out of us.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 13, 6:13pm

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Those hostile elves [In reply to] Can't Post

What always seems odd is that they INSTANTLY kill the fires and raise up smoke to blind the dwarves (who number barely a dozen) and stop their feast dead in its tracks, and they do this repeatedly, even when a lone hobbit or dwarf invades their glade.

This may be the traditional behavior of fairy folk, who disappear once you stumble upon them, but what about having a bevy of guards on hand to arrest the intruders and get them out of the way so that the merriment can continue? Surely they outnumber the dwarves and have weapons, which the dwarves don’t, so why the paranoid, panicked reaction each time?


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 13, 8:31pm

Post #21 of 50 (2262 views)
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Faerie behaviour [In reply to] Can't Post

The elves vanish as if by magic, only to appear further off. Stepping into their run causes someone to fall asleep, waking up reporting dreams of feasting. It happens 3 times. All tropes of faerie, I think.

~~~~~~
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


squire
Half-elven


Jul 14, 12:35am

Post #22 of 50 (2251 views)
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I'm not sure such logic belongs in Faerie [In reply to] Can't Post

As NoWiz just noted, these episodes are traditional, not original to Tolkien. As such, setting out a guard to arrest trespassers so the party can go on uninterrupted is much too rational a course for Elves in an enchanted forest. Counting heads and weapons, to see who can outnumber and outfight whom, is likewise contrary to every convention of Faerie folklore and romance. And 'paranoid' -- what place can a word like that have in a story of the ancient days?

As I've always understood this part of the book, the Elves disappear instantly in order to punish and repel the intruders. The reassembly of the party a few rods off is not really a big deal. It's more like a disturbance in the Force than an invasion by a foe.

Not that they liked being disturbed -- the Elven King asks Thorin why he "tried to attack my people at their merrymaking" -- attack?? But the thrust of the story seems to be that the Elves live in a slightly different world, and simply want to be left alone rather than to fight it out with intruders.

I am never quite sure why and how we moderns feel so compelled to apply our logic and science, if not our actual politics at times, to recreate or evoke pre-logical or alter-logical stories and cultures. In the case of the fantasy genre (not that I'm really very read up on it. Corrections requested!), it seems to me that most modern stories attempt to apply layers of irony and 'realism' to the old conventions and tropes, to disconcerting effect. Yet they are, I guess, quite popular with a large portion of the modern fantasy audience. One of the reasons I do like Tolkien is that he navigated this treacherous sea more surely than most of his successors (and yes, he did have to navigate it. All of his fantasy works are simply crawling with modernisms and up to date inventions of style and form. But deftly, deftly done.)



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


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Morthoron
Gondor


Jul 14, 4:21am

Post #23 of 50 (2228 views)
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The danger of fairy rings.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Or elferingewort in Middle-English. Said to be caused by Elves/fairies dancing and reveling. The rings, usually a circle of mushrooms, but also daisies, are taboo for mortals and a violation of fairy prohibitions (a folklore motif in Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The interloper is either cursed, turns invisible to those outside the ring, is knocked unconscious, or worse, forced to dance in circles to the point of madness or death.

There is a long list of tales regarding fairy rings, and certainly Tolkien would know them intimately. The white deer and stag in Mirkwood are another Celtic motif (in the Welsh Mabinogion and Arthurian Cycle) -- a sure sign of the presence of Faery.

Also, as you alluded, the sudden vanishment of fairies when a mortal nears is found in tales throughout the British Isles.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



(This post was edited by Morthoron on Jul 14, 4:25am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 14, 4:37pm

Post #24 of 50 (2183 views)
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applying 'realism' to the old conventions and tropes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

I am never quite sure why and how we moderns feel so compelled to apply our logic and science, if not our actual politics at times, to recreate or evoke pre-logical or alter-logical stories and cultures. In the case of the fantasy genre (not that I'm really very read up on it. Corrections requested!), it seems to me that most modern stories attempt to apply layers of irony and 'realism' to the old conventions and tropes, to disconcerting effect. Yet they are, I guess, quite popular with a large portion of the modern fantasy audience. One of the reasons I do like Tolkien is that he navigated this treacherous sea more surely than most of his successors (and yes, he did have to navigate it. All of his fantasy works are simply crawling with modernisms and up to date inventions of style and form. But deftly, deftly done.)


I'm not the expert of fantasy you request, but do have some thoughts. Mostly that I feel invited, when reading Hobbit or LOTR to apply realistic models at least until I see that they don't work.

I think the modern interpretations you mention are in part because of what Tolkien is doing in his 3rd Age adventures - blending older storytelling forms with styles that come from more modern romances and novels. So for example I see the elves here are very faerie, but come the Battle of Five Armies they seem to me much more like real-world troops. That trick of suddenly vanishing and reappearing further off leaving your enemies fast asleep would be, you would think, a very valuable tactic on the battlefield. But it feels that Tolkien doesn't work like that.

Tolkien can move subtly from 'realism' to the old conventions and tropes and back again, often without me noticing. For example Book III of LOTR starts with a military section, the pursuit of the orcs and their destruction and (from the other point of view) the struggle between the officers of Mordor and of Isengard. Suddenly though we have ents and Gandalf's resurrection, before rushing off back into 'realism' with Helms Deep, a siege that relies very little on magic until the end, and the vanishing of the fleeing orcs into the huorns. Then back to the ents, a confrontation between wizards that relies upon persuasion and charisma rather than fireballs, and then a fantastical crystal ball.

Just sometimes it breaks down and I boggle. For example, I remember some puzzlement over the behaviour of the Black Riders at Bree and at Weathertop. Why not press the attack? I used to think. That might be what an elite military unit might do - seize the objective now, at any cost - but the Riders are too ghostly and ghoully. Older modes are at work at this point (I now think).

~~~~~~
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


Jul 14, 6:37pm

Post #25 of 50 (2171 views)
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Someone is missing! - but it takes a while to realise [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems to take the party a very long time after the spider episode to realise that someone is missing (and not just someone, but their prince and leader). They've had a long conversation about Bilbo's ring first.

I doesn't seem all that likely to me.

It seems familiar from another Tolkien chapter at the end of LOTR Book II- it takes the Fellowship a strangely long time, sitting around debating, for anyone to realise that Boromir has slipped off after Frodo.

~~~~~~
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

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