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**On The Doorstep** - 2. No sign was there of post or lintel or threshold…; yet they did not doubt that they had found the door at last.

squire
Half-elven


Aug 1, 2:08am

Post #1 of 14 (1112 views)
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**On The Doorstep** - 2. No sign was there of post or lintel or threshold…; yet they did not doubt that they had found the door at last. Can't Post

Welcome back to the second part of our discussion this week. Having reached the western arms of the Lonely Mountain, and seeing no sign of the dragon beyond some ambiguous vapors at the Front Gate, the dwarves and Bilbo must now try to find the hidden back door on Thorin’s map. Again, I ask you only to answer questions of mine that you find interesting, or to ask some of your own that I’ve missed!

Synopsis – 2a.
The scouting party returns to the main group, and the entire company falls into a kind of dispirited apathy: “They were alone in the perilous waste without hope of further help… None of them had much spirit left”. Only Bilbo manages to stay focused and forward-looking. He ponders the map and its moon-letters, and he drives the dwarves to actually shift camp to a valley between two western spurs and begin looking for the secret door, which must be among the steep cliffs high above. The setting is a bit more hopeful, being further from the dragon’s gate. Day after day they search for paths leading up the slopes, but in vain.

One day the dwarves are on top of the world, the next they’re down in the dumps so deep that the hobbit has to take charge again. I thought dwarves were phlegmatic and used to hardship and tough problems.
A. Why are these dwarves so mercurial in temper?

Bilbo “ponders over the runes and the message of the moon-letters Elrond had read”.
B. Wouldn’t he conclude that he should be observing things at every sunset to see where in the month they are, and talk over with the dwarves what to do when the new moon finally arrives?

In this narrow western valley, there are “fewer signs of the dragon’s marauding feet” and “some grass for their ponies.” Yet we were told that the Desolation of the Dragon had ruined all the lands around as far as where the dwarves ascended the river from the lake.
C. Why is there less “desolation” at the very foot of the mountain itself, albeit on a side different from the Front Gate?

D. Is it meaningful, in the cosmology of the greater legendarium that Tolkien had long since built, that the less desolated and slightly greener location was on the western flank of the mountain?

Much of this part of the story reminds me of mountaineering expeditions I’ve read of from this same period in English history, with multiple numbered ‘camps’ and much attention to logistics and climbing paths and techniques.
E. Instead of looking for trails, why don’t the dwarves attempt to ascend the cliffs where the secret door “must stand … if the map was true” by using ropes, axes, and technical climbing gear?

Synopsis – 2b.
There comes a day when Bilbo, accompanied by Fili and Kili, finds some rough steps at the foot of the valley, hidden behind a pillar-like stone. They follow a narrow and dangerous trail up and across treacherous ledges to a small bay in the cliffs, unnoticeable from the valley below. At the head of the grassy bay they see a flat and featureless ‘wall’ of mountain stone, which they immediately know must certainly contain the hidden door. They pound on it and try speaking opening-spells, but to no avail. By evening they leave to descend back to their camp.

Here are two sketches by Tolkien of the western frontage of the Lonely Mountain:


F. Is there any information of interest in the lesser-known right hand sketch (from The History of the Hobbit, Plate II), compared to the very familiar image from Thror’s Map?

G. Based on the sketches, is this mountain volcanic, in the author’s imagination?

H. What is the meaning of the ‘great stone that stood alone like a pillar’, behind which Bilbo ‘creeps’ to find the lost path?

I. Where else in Tolkien’s writings do characters experience a harrowing trail at the top of sheer cliffs overlooking a valley far below, where they had been earlier?

J. Likewise, where else do we find an entryway into a mountain or hillside that is a recess or bay in the mountainside, enclosed and almost hidden by steep cliffs?

I don’t have to ask this one, because it’s too obvious.
K. How does this door itself, hidden in plain sight on a flat wall of rock, relate to the West Gate of Moria in The Lord of the Rings?

One of the few changes I found in this chapter between the first and second editions of The Hobbit, and later editions, is this: the flat wall of the door is “as smooth and upright as masons’ work” in the 1937 and 1951 versions; but that was changed to “as smooth and upright as mason’s work” in later editions, I don’t know when exactly. Yes: the apostrophe changes the possessive from many masons to one mason. (For what it’s worth, the HotH draft says “as smooth and upright as man’s work”.)
L. Any ideas why that would bear changing, presumably by Tolkien?

Fili and Kili (I guess – surely not Bilbo?) beat, push, yell and intone at the wall, “and nothing stirred”. Then “at evening” they get up from resting and begin their descent back to the camp.
M. As with my (B.) above, wouldn’t they, or Bilbo at least, have taken a peek at the setting sun to see about a chance of it being Durin’s Day, before leaving just at dusk?

Synopsis – 2c.
The other dwarves are excited by this discovery, and they relocate their operations to the hidden embayment in the upper cliff. Two of them, Bofur and Bombur remain at the base camp with the ponies and stores, and the rest ascend the trail and inch along the final ledge. It’s too narrow for them to carry any packs, but they bring rope. With this they haul up their equipment, and in time they use the rope to lower or raise one of the dwarves to give Bofur a chance to see the new site. Only Bombur will not climb up or take a lift from the ropes; he says he is too fat and heavy to risk it.

Here are two renderings of the dwarves’ final camp in the grassy bay. Again one is by Tolkien but this time a simple sketch from HotH, and the other is one of Alan Lee’s fine paintings.


N. Any comments on either artist’s decisions about how to illustrate this part of this chapter?

I get oddly curious about logistics around this time. In the Mountain illustration by Tolkien (first pictures, above at F.), the ‘second camp’ is marked by what looks like a pointed tent. At this point in the story, the dwarves haul up ‘what they needed’ from the stores that Bombur and Bofur were left to guard in the valley – and those stores are said to be ‘such as they had brought with them from the river’, implying that that depot back at the river had material they still do not seem to need.
O. Are the 14 of them, dwarves and the hobbit, camping in tents, or sleeping in the open? Are they cooking their food or eating cold preserves – for 14, 3 meals a day, for several weeks? If they are cooking, what fuel are they using, either in the valley or in the grassy bay? Where are they getting fresh water, especially up in the bay? How much mining equipment did they bring, and what was its intended use in defeating Smaug? How much of all this did they haul up 150 feet to the grassy bay?

P. Why did they even bring Bombur, who has been trouble due to his overweight and sloth the entire time and now declares that he has no ability or intention of following his comrades on the next stage of their adventure?

Q. How does he, or the others, know the ropes could not bear his weight? Haven’t they been hauling large bundles up that would weigh something like what an overweight dwarf weighs?

The narrator comments, “Luckily for him that was not true, as you will see.” This is the first time in this chapter than our chatty and omniscient old uncle or babysitter has addressed us this way.
R. Did you miss the old coot?

Synopsis – 2d.
A few of the dwarves find a path beyond the bay. They don’t follow it very far, for it leads only to the eerily quiet and deserted upper heights of the mountain, where it feels like “danger brooded in every rock.” The others try to work out the secret of the door. They ignore the instructions on the map, for they are “too eager”; instead they try to break their way in using picks and mining tools. These prove utterly useless, breaking and bending on the hard flat face. They soon give it up, and fall back into depression once again. Remembering Bilbo’s words back at Bag End, they realize he and they are all just sitting on “the doorstep”, trying glumly to think of what to do next.

S. What is the point of the path that leads beyond the ledge to the upper, creepy, and hostile reaches of the mountain? I mean, why even mention it? What is it in the story for? (and sure: does it remind you of anywhere else in the Tolkienverse?)

The dwarves waste their time, risk arousing the dragon, and ruin their tools trying to crack a magic door made by their own people, all out of ‘eagerness’ and a rash inability to even think through the implications of the instructions on the map.
T. Why does Thorin, after sending the scouts to the Front Gate, take no apparent further leadership role in any of this chapter’s proceedings?

The dwarves call the grassy bay “the doorstep”, and this is said “in fun”, as a reference to Bilbo’s fussy description of the basic problem back in Bag End:
“Well, I should say that you ought to go East and have a look round. After all there is the Side-door, and dragons must sleep sometimes, I suppose. If you sit on the doorstep long enough, I daresay you will think of something.” – TH I.

U. “In fun” – did the dwarves really just display a sense of humor and irony?

Here is a charming sketch by ‘Riana’ to conclude this part of the chapter.


Bilbo is clearly frustrated and pensive.
V. But does this capture our final sentence for today: “And sit and think they did, or wandered aimlessly about, and glummer and glummer they became.”?

That’s all for today, gang. Thanks for your attention and (expected) thoughts and ideas and questions. I will conclude this discussion on Thursday, when you-know-what happens!



squire online:
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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 1, 3:38am

Post #2 of 14 (1048 views)
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Only a few responses. [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo “ponders over the runes and the message of the moon-letters Elrond had read”.
B. Wouldn’t he conclude that he should be observing things at every sunset to see where in the month they are, and talk over with the dwarves what to do when the new moon finally arrives?
The approximate date of the next new moon is easily predictable, so there is no need to keep a night-by-night vigil for it.

C. Why is there less “desolation” at the very foot of the mountain itself, albeit on a side different from the Front Gate?
If I had to guess, I would say that the grass might have been sustained by a mountain-stream (perhaps ultimately feeding into the River Running) while the arms of the Mountain might have given this small valley some protection from the poisonous secretions of the dragon.

E. Instead of looking for trails, why don’t the dwarves attempt to ascend the cliffs where the secret door “must stand … if the map was true” by using ropes, axes, and technical climbing gear?
The map is only of very limited help here. The symbol for the Secret Door isn't even drawn onto the mountain face. The dwarves are probably also unwilling to risk themselves beyond what is necessary.

F. Is there any information of interest in the lesser-known right hand sketch (from The History of the Hobbit, Plate II), compared to the very familiar image from Thror’s Map?
The sketch indicates the location of Ravenhill, something not shown on Thror's map. The sketch also shows where the path to the Secret Door begins and the approximate location of the door.

H. What is the meaning of the ‘great stone that stood alone like a pillar’, behind which Bilbo ‘creeps’ to find the lost path?
There is likely no significance to the stone except that it served to conceal the beginning of the path.

I. Where else in Tolkien’s writings do characters experience a harrowing trail at the top of sheer cliffs overlooking a valley far below, where they had been earlier?
Off-hand, I am reminded of the path to Shelob's Lair.

J. Likewise, where else do we find an entryway into a mountain or hillside that is a recess or bay in the mountainside, enclosed and almost hidden by steep cliffs?
The Paths of the Dead?

K. How does this door itself, hidden in plain sight on a flat wall of rock, relate to the West Gate of Moria in The Lord of the Rings?
Gee, I wonder! Tongue

M. As with my (B.) above, wouldn’t they, or Bilbo at least, have taken a peek at the setting sun to see about a chance of it being Durin’s Day, before leaving just at dusk?
Same reason as before; it will be obvious when they are close to the new moon.

P. Why did they even bring Bombur, who has been trouble due to his overweight and sloth the entire time and now declares that he has no ability or intention of following his comrades on the next stage of their adventure?
Bombur seems discouraged by the difficulty of the path; he probably feels he can be of more use by caring for the ponies and looking after the remaining supplies.

Q. How does he, or the others, know the ropes could not bear his weight? Haven’t they been hauling large bundles up that would weigh something like what an overweight dwarf weighs?
None of them did know that, especially as it proves not to be true.

S. What is the point of the path that leads beyond the ledge to the upper, creepy, and hostile reaches of the mountain? I mean, why even mention it? What is it in the story for? (and sure: does it remind you of anywhere else in the Tolkienverse?)
We never do learn the purpose of the upper path, but it seems likely that it leads to a watch-station of some sort. Maybe Tolkien anticipated some narrative use for it but changed his mind.

The dwarves waste their time, risk arousing the dragon, and ruin their tools trying to crack a magic door made by their own people, all out of ‘eagerness’ and a rash inability to even think through the implications of the instructions on the map.
T. Why does Thorin, after sending the scouts to the Front Gate, take no apparent further leadership role in any of this chapter’s proceedings?
Thorin did presumably order the moving of the camps, even if they were according to the suggestions of Mr. Baggins. I will note that the dwarves quickly abandoned their attempts to break into the Mountain, partly out of fear of arousing the dragon.

U. “In fun” – did the dwarves really just display a sense of humor and irony?
This is hardly the first time that the dwarves display such a sense of humor. We can go back all the way to the Unexpected Party and Bilbo's dishes.

V. But does this capture our final sentence for today: “And sit and think they did, or wandered aimlessly about, and glummer and glummer they became.”?
Yes, the drawing seems to capture the general mood pretty well.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 1, 8:17am

Post #3 of 14 (1031 views)
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Don't just do something, sit there! [In reply to] Can't Post

I notice a contrast in this part of the chapter between the dwarves, ruching around without all that much to show for it, and Bilbo who seems to be taking his Unexpected Party comments literally (he said "If you sit on the door-step long enough I daresay you will think of something.") It's not entirely like that, of course - it is Bilbo who finds the start of the path up to the secret door.

The sitting about will pay off in the end of the chapter, of course. I wonder whether Tolkien's making a point here - in lots of problem-solving work, too much frantic activity can be counterproductive, because one can be to busy 'working' to notice the first hints of the answer.

I agree though that it is curious that Bilbo doesn't earlier try interpreting the moon runes literally, and work out when to watch for thrushes.

~~~~~~
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 Aug 1, 8:32am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 1, 8:30am

Post #4 of 14 (1033 views)
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Holy great stones that stand alone like a pillar, Batman! [In reply to] Can't Post

Just how secret is the secret side door, again? It has a recognisable though not totally obvious path up to it (still clear, 171 years after the dwarves left), and seems to have a marker stone as a landmark for its start.

It's not exactly the Adam West Batman series (in which there was a running gag that everything was clearly labelled), but it's not as secret as one might expect.


[Caption - still from the 1960's TV series Batman, in which there was a running gag that things were excessively labelled. This image shows the Batmobile in front of a run-down factory, which has a sign over the door 'Run Down Factory'.

I remember all this with fondness, having enjoyed the TV series most uncritically as a child, and then a bit, more ironically, with my children. Reading those labels before they went off-screen helped speed up my sight reading as a child.
A large collection of these gags can be found here: https://twitter.com/BatLabels. ]
]

~~~~~~
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 Aug 1, 8:31am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 1, 9:00am

Post #5 of 14 (1030 views)
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Bombur - bit of a lazy stereotype really [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Bombur's supposed to be funny, but it doesn't work for me. I think the idea is to make him fat as a shortcut to creating a character who is to be seen as lazy, self-centred and timid. He does it again with 'Fatty' Bolger in LOTR, by which time Bombur is so morbidly obese that (Gloin tells us) he has to be carried about. Other examples of one-note fat characters from children's literature include Augustus Gloop from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", or Dudley Dursley in "Harry Potter". Compare, perhaps Samwell Tarly from the Game of Thrones stories - both fat and (initially) timid, but written as a rounded character in more than just body type.

What's the betting that Bombur will have to flee from some sort of crisis soon: always good for a laugh, apparently. (The 'old coot' narrator makes his only appearance to make sure we're paying attention to this joke being wound up for launch).

Perhaps applying realism excessively, how fat could Bombur reasonably be at this stage? The expedition starved in Mirkwood and then spent time in jail, most likely on adequate but not excessive rations. They've then had a short time of recovery in Lake Town. Shouldn't Bombur be more like Fredeager Bolger at the end of LOTR: the slimmed-down through-adversity resistance-hero?

~~~~~~
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 Aug 1, 9:12am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 1, 10:23am

Post #6 of 14 (1028 views)
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Bilbo as the '"me" character' and some other observations [In reply to] Can't Post

I enjoy this chapter (just in case that's lost in my picky comments today Smile ). It doesn't stand up to heavy scrutiny, perhaps, but I think the three-part nature of it (reflected in squire's structuring of this week's discussions) brings us through the downer after the gaiety on Long Lake, through this section of exploration and frustration to the breakthrough on the point of despair (in squire's next section). It's also good to get out heroes back into action after last week's R&R and politics session.

I notice that Bilbo is very much the star of this chapter, around whom all the other characters are satellites. Bilbo is responsible for, or involved in, everything that works. That's a contrast to last week, in which he just seemed to be sitting around while the narrator told us about Thorin and the Master.

We've discussed before that the dwarves are not very well characterised , and I think that's a general property of this story. Dwarves come forward into the spotlight when something is needed from them, or do something en masse, but Bilbo is clearly the '"me" character' - the one with whom a child reader is invited to identify. That's why, I think, Thorin drops out of command role on this middle part of the chapter. He's presumably busy organising things, but we don't really care because the chapter is working up to Bilbo making another decisive intervention. It works, obviously - there's the usual issue that saying 'Tolkien should have done it differently' is presumptuous when he's one of the great fantasy authors of modern times and none of us is (I presume). 'Tolkien could have done it differently, I wonder why he didn't?' is legitimate though, I think.
It's all long ago now, but I think I remember as a child finding it very satisfying to latch onto a '"me" character' for the duration of the book, and possibly even a bit confusing if I couldn't. The character need not be all-powerful (fantasy alter egos such as being Batman, or - at the end of childhood - James Bond). They could be apparently powerless (as one is as a child) but nonetheless end up solving the group's problems - Lucy Pevensie in the early Narnia books, or Roland Watson, the youngest of the quartet of child protagonists in Alan Garner's Elidor. I see similarities with Bilbo, in our current work.

The blogger 'Never Felt Better' has a series of chapter-by-chapter posts about The Hobbit, to which I've referred before, and which I continue to recommend. (his discussion of On The Doorstep is here https://neverfeltbetter.wordpress.com/...ter-on-the-doorstep/ ) I disagree with him on his idea that this short chapter might have been merged with its predecessor. I think that would have resulted in a quick transition from captivity to Smaug. It works for me to have the exposition and elation of Warm Welcome separate from the realism and gloom of the first two parts of this chapter.

~~~~~~
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


elostirion74
Rohan

Aug 1, 2:32pm

Post #7 of 14 (1013 views)
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a few observations [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems natural and realistic to me that the dwarves would be weighed down by spending time in the Desolation of Smaug. For those who actually were present when Smaug attacked Erebor, seeing the destruction brings back painful memories. For those who have come to Erebor for the first time the landscape is a stark reminder of what Smaug is capable of and what a formidable adversary they are actually up against. And knowing it intellectually and being confronted with it directly are two very different things. We don't know much about what the dwarves are thinking at this stage, but it's not unlikely that a strong sense of doubt about the entire affair has taken hold for some of them.

I like the fact that Tolkien takes time to show how waiting, not knowing what to do or lacking a clear goal can cause apathy. Some people handle this kind of situations by having a clear routine and finding practical tasks to focus on, while others quickly lose motivation if there is no noticeable progress or attainable goal to motivate them. Group psychology also kicks in under these circumstances to the effect that idleness in.a few individuals quickly can spread.

I suppose the company have brought freshwater from The River Running. As for food I suppose they are eating cram, dried meat and some conserves.

Questions D and H. I don't think there's any particular significance to the stone or the slightly greener area being on the western flank of the Mountain. First of all because it doesn't contribute to my understanding or appreciation of the story if I try to find meaning and complete cohesion in every detail. Secondly The Hobbit is a different story than LoTR and the Sil, so imbuing details with a lot of cosmological significance when the tone of the story doesn't lend it itself to it seems a bit out of place to me.

I think Thorin ordered the move of the camp as well as organizing several other things, but as far as characters go the focus of the story is on Bilbo, Bilbo's observations, Bilbo's emotions. And in many ways Bilbo has become the leader of the company now - it's from him they are looking for answers and suggestions. It adds a lot of realism to Bilbo's character that he doesn't immediately accept these expectations and wants to escape, thinking of his home and looking back to the lands they have left behind.

I love the link between this part of the chapter and the events of chapter 1. At the start of the story there is such a sense of hope and expectation, but now we are in a much more serious part of the story, where doubt and somber reality has set in.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 1, 4:00pm

Post #8 of 14 (1008 views)
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The Last Moon of Autumn [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I agree though that it is curious that Bilbo doesn't earlier try interpreting the moon runes literally, and work out when to watch for thrushes.


It's curious that none of the company seem to be conscious of the approximate date of the Dwarves' New Year's Day. The phases of the moon are easily observed and predictable. If Thorin's comment, "Tomorrow begins the last week of autumn," means anything in regards to the Shire calendar then the Durin's Day of 2941 should fall on either October 22 or (at the latest) October 29. Of course it is possible (even likely?) that the Dwarves reckoned the days of the week differently from Hobbits and their week began on a different day.

Tolkien himself seemed to favor the date of October 19 for the Durin's Day of The Hobbit, though he also estimated the company's departure from Lake-town on October 5, which is actually a bit too early (At the end of a fortnight Thorin began to think of departure.). They had to have left Lake-town after October 6 and probably no later that Karen Wynn Fonstad's estimate of October 9.

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


sador
Half-elven


Aug 2, 2:34pm

Post #9 of 14 (972 views)
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Men are from Mars, Dwarves are from Mercury [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Why are these dwarves so mercurial in temper?
Well, they did leave Lake-town with high hopes; Bilbo was ill and miserable, so now he is returning to health and has what to do - so his spirits revive.

B. Wouldn’t he conclude that he should be observing things at every sunset to see where in the month they are, and talk over with the dwarves what to do when the new moon finally arrives?
They only said what would show the keyhole; but he sort of expected to find hint as to the whereabouts of the door.

C. Why is there less “desolation” at the very foot of the mountain itself, albeit on a side different from the Front Gate?
It is not so accessible for a full-sized dragon.

D. Is it meaningful, in the cosmology of the greater legendarium that Tolkien had long since built, that the less desolated and slightly greener location was on the western flank of the mountain?
I would not be surprised at all, if it is.

E. Instead of looking for trails, why don’t the dwarves attempt to ascend the cliffs where the secret door “must stand … if the map was true” by using ropes, axes, and technical climbing gear?
I guess they assume there must be a clear path, possibly covered with rubble.





F. Is there any information of interest in the lesser-known right hand sketch (from The History of the Hobbit, Plate II), compared to the very familiar image from Thror’s Map?
Well, the camps. Ravenhill, and where the path begins.

G. Based on the sketches, is this mountain volcanic, in the author’s imagination?
It looks so.

H. What is the meaning of the ‘great stone that stood alone like a pillar’, behind which Bilbo ‘creeps’ to find the lost path?
Based on hindsight, it appears to be put there on purpose.

I. Where else in Tolkien’s writings do characters experience a harrowing trail at the top of sheer cliffs overlooking a valley far below, where they had been earlier?
You seem to think of Cirth Ungol; but I am reminded more of Harrowdale.

J. Likewise, where else do we find an entryway into a mountain or hillside that is a recess or bay in the mountainside, enclosed and almost hidden by steep cliffs?
The dry river which leads to Gondolin; Tuor's way to Nevrast; Moria; the Paths of the Dead.
Tolkien loves this kind of paths!

K. How does this door itself, hidden in plain sight on a flat wall of rock, relate to the West Gate of Moria in The Lord of the Rings?
It appears to be of the same technique; however, in Moria the doors can be seen by whoever knows the right words.

L. Any ideas why that would bear changing, presumably by Tolkien?
Because of Narvi's doors? Perhaps that gave Tolkien the idea of a master mason who is in charge.

M. As with my (B.) above, wouldn’t they, or Bilbo at least, have taken a peek at the setting sun to see about a chance of it being Durin’s Day, before leaving just at dusk?
They probably knew there would be no new moon. I mean, how ignorant can they be?





N. Any comments on either artist’s decisions about how to illustrate this part of this chapter?
Lee gives a better picture; Tolkien's is more schematic.
One gets the feeling that Lee was basically improving on the author's work.

O. Are the 14 of them, dwarves and the hobbit, camping in tents, or sleeping in the open? Are they cooking their food or eating cold preserves – for 14, 3 meals a day, for several weeks? If they are cooking, what fuel are they using, either in the valley or in the grassy bay? Where are they getting fresh water, especially up in the bay? How much mining equipment did they bring, and what was its intended use in defeating Smaug? How much of all this did they haul up 150 feet to the grassy bay?
Good questions. I do not have the time now to ponder them; if I come up with anything, I will add another answer.

P. Why did they even bring Bombur, who has been trouble due to his overweight and sloth the entire time and now declares that he has no ability or intention of following his comrades on the next stage of their adventure?
Against both the trolls and the spiders, Bombur seems to put up a tremendous fight. And he did carry Bilbo.
If I remember correctly, Dreamdeer suggested once that Bifur and Nori were female, and possibly Thorin's consorts (I think this theory was raised by someone else). In that case, her cousins Bofur and Bombur might have just been brought along. But I never liked this theory.
My theory as that being fat is not necessarily a matter of mere comedy, but a sign of well-being and being well-fed; I argued that Bombur was actually an important dwarf - possibly even Thorin's host om the blue mountains.

Q. How does he, or the others, know the ropes could not bear his weight? Haven’t they been hauling large bundles up that would weigh something like what an overweight dwarf weighs?
He is probably afraid, and the dwarves want to keep someone at the camp below, so they do not mind leaving him there.

R. Did you miss the old coot?
He is nice, but out of place in these chapters.




S. What is the point of the path that leads beyond the ledge to the upper, creepy, and hostile reaches of the mountain? I mean, why even mention it? What is it in the story for? (and sure: does it remind you of anywhere else in the Tolkienverse?)
Why does it need a function in this story? It sure had a function at some time - possibly it led to other gates (a path leading nowhere would be awfully suspicious for an invader or besieger), but it does not need to do anything in this story.
I don't have any mind any clear parallel.

T. Why does Thorin, after sending the scouts to the Front Gate, take no apparent further leadership role in any of this chapter’s proceedings?
He probably does, but the author focuses on Bilbo.

U. “In fun” – did the dwarves really just display a sense of humor and irony?
Dwarvish humour is always so underappreciated!

V. But does this capture our final sentence for today: “And sit and think they did, or wandered aimlessly about, and glummer and glummer they became.”?
They look like the blokes in Three Men in a Boat.



Roverandom
The Shire


Aug 2, 5:38pm

Post #10 of 14 (966 views)
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The Path and the Door [In reply to] Can't Post

My thoughts on this part of the chapter:

D, Everything good comes from the West (Valinor, Captains assailing Mordor, the "quiet blue land" from whence Bilbo comes and often misses). Didn't Tom Bombadil caution the hobbits to pass the barrows on the western side? The setting sun also makes for some nice imagery in this chapter, sinking as their spirits sink, and that requires a western exposure.

E. The map that Gandalf gives to Thorin only shows that a secret door exists somewhere between the western spurs of the mountain. I don't recall any mention of its precise location, with regards to elevation. Only the unpublished version gives specifics. I think it's just as reasonable to assume that the door comes out of a secret, lower level of the dwarf-halls, so why wouldn't they start their search at or near ground level before working their way up?

S. The upper portion of the path is reminiscent of the closed door beneath the haunted mountain, where the bones of (presumably) Baldor of Rohan lie. Another view into a distance never explored, and, like all such places in Middle-Earth, as delightful as it is enigmatic.

T. I have to say that I thought the dwarves were rather foolish, bashing away at the magic door, the first time or two I read the book. They've already been told that nothing short of the last sliver of daylight on Durin's Day and a knocking thrush will open it. Upon further review, I suppose that desperation has set in, after all.

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.


elostirion74
Rohan

Aug 3, 2:57pm

Post #11 of 14 (896 views)
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realism of emotions and behaviour vs logistics and landscape features [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's interesting to note all the questions about logistics and the realism and purpose of specific natural features. It says a lot about the level of realism and detail which is expected of Tolkien in what is essentially a fairy tale, although not without its modern elements.

While not all of the features of the landscape or all the logistics in the chapter may hold up to a close scrutiny, I believe Tolkien's main concern in the story is to present the reader with a sense of emotional and behavioural realism. How different peoples and characters react to specific circumstances is the most central thing to present realistically to make the Hobbit work as a story, including all the instances when characters don't behave according to heroic conventions and expectations.

This chapter is quite apt at showing how thoroughly and quickly people in a group can lose motivation and hope and also how it affects their behaviour, including the helpless attempt to break through the magic door. In the previous chapter you've got the contrast between the shift in the attitude of the dwarves towards Bilbo and the various positions from euphoria/nostalgia and cautious scepticism among the inhabitants of Lake Town. And in yet other chapters I similarly find myself noticing how instantly familiar and understandable the reactions, emotions and mistakes of various characters appear. In this chapter the dwarves could plan all they wanted to, but still it would require a very strong sense of discipline and clear thinking to remember or follow the plan when you're confronted with massive destruction, being isolated, painful memories, lack of progress and the abscence of certain information.


Meneldor
Valinor


Aug 3, 10:19pm

Post #12 of 14 (825 views)
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S. What is the point of the path that leads beyond the ledge to the upper, creepy, and hostile reaches of the mountain? [In reply to] Can't Post

Discomfort and unease. It's clear to me that JRRT didn't want the characters to feel comfortable and secure at their camp. An unexplored path leading in adds one more element of tension. Who, or what, uses that path? How often is it used? When should they expect the pathwalker to come strolling or charging into their camp?

Obviously none of those things happened, but the fact that they could only increases the sense of imminent danger.


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


sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Aug 4, 5:29pm

Post #13 of 14 (773 views)
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Logistics... who needs logistics [In reply to] Can't Post

(well obviously I would do better with a few -- Was reading in order parts 1/2/3 so did not realize that most of my comments below fit better with questions from part 3 -- anyway... they're here, not there... drat and apologies)

Yeah the whole how in the world do they have fires with no fuel thoughts boggle the mind the longer you think on them....simply having a group of 14 is going to create supply issues... so just shrug and skip on by...

Just think ... if the Elves hadn't kept them prisoner for so long they would have had to spend weeks sitting on the side of the mountain waiting for the right moon to show up. I have serious issues with doors that only appear at certain times of the year.... Moria's Gate at least opens when you say the password though the moon letter decoration only appear in moonlight.... Also one would think that Thorin has heir to all of this should have been shown the secret door and have had some vague idea where it is.

Are the dwarves too "helpless"? Yes, Bilbo is our hero and he gets to solve the problems but every single time? It boggles the mind that 13 adult dwarves don't come up with a strategy for seaching every inch of that mountain side.Bilbo says "It is always poor me that has to get them out of their difficulties." Is this just due to this being Bilbo's POV?

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)




(This post was edited by sevilodorf on Aug 4, 5:32pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 4, 8:08pm

Post #14 of 14 (765 views)
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Logistics Dwarven Secrets [In reply to] Can't Post

Firewood and other fuel (fish oil for lamps) might have been included in the supplies sent up from Lake-town. And I'm sure that more wood could be procured from the fringes of the Desolation. Plus I expect that much of the food, like the cram (which they certainly had), was preserved and could be eaten cold.

Yes, outer access to the Secret Door was very limited (once a year at best and maybe less). Presumably there was some method of opening it from the inside at will; a secret escape route would be fairly useless otherwise. Remember that Thorin was still quite young by dwarven standards when Smaug attacked Erebor, he had only reached his twenty-fourth year. The royals of the Longbeards might have had a tradition of withholding such secrets until young adulthood--say when a young Dwarf-lord turned fifty years old. Given the propensity of Dwarves to keep secrets, that seems reasonable to me.

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

 
 

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