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* * * The Hobbit read-through: Chapter 12 - Inside Information (Part One)

Roverandom
The Shire


Aug 5, 8:14pm

Post #1 of 18 (1413 views)
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* * * The Hobbit read-through: Chapter 12 - Inside Information (Part One) Can't Post

Welcome back! In this exciting chapter, we shall finally meet the cause of all the fuss; but please bear with me for just a bit longer. I'm going to try something a little different. My plan is to have two posts this week. The first will cover most of the events of Inside Information, and the second will focus on the main conversation with Smaug, as well as thoughts about the dragon himself.

Chapter XII begins directly where Chapter XI left off, on the threshold of the secret door, staring down into the darkness. Most of the other chapter breaks so far have involved at least some passage of time, but here the continuation is immediate. What do you think of this narrative strategy, and what, if anything, does it say about the importance of what we are about to read/hear?

Thorin next takes the opportunity to make yet another speech, similar to his introductory remarks in Chapter One, but cut quite short this time by Bilbo. I find the next few paragraphs to be among the funniest in the book, what with Bilbo's sarcastic retort and the narrator's classroom lesson on the nature of dwarves. How did you react to this? Gallows humor, a nice break in the gathering tension, or something else?

Bilbo leaves his companions and all safety behind, descending into what is presumed and is soon proven to be the lair of the beast. After a description of the sleeping dragon and his hoard, Bilbo seizes the opportunity to show his burglary skills by making off with a large, two-handled, golden cup. Does that image make you think of anything in particular?

The dwarves react to the theft, but so does the dragon, and Thorin & Co. soon change their tune, with regards to their burglar. Eventually they calm down and ask for both pardon and advice. Does this pattern sound familiar, gentle reader? Have you had enough of the dwarves by now, or does their repeated, weathervane behavior serve a purpose?

After the pivotal conversation with Smaug ends in fire, Bilbo returns again to his companions, and the roles seem to be reversed. Bilbo is angry, concerned, and edgy --- it's up to the dwarves to do the cheering up. As they draw him out, Bilbo posits that he may have found the dragon's Achilles Heel. Balin seems to think so, too, and the thrush becomes extremely attentive. The talk turns to "dragon-slayings historical, dubious, and mythical". If this were a murder mystery, here might be the point at which Ellery Queen would break the fourth wall and issue his challenge to the reader. Do we have all the clues? Should we be able to put two and two together, as to how the matter of the dragon is going to be resolved? Not to spoil future discussions of Chapter XIV, but when you first read this chapter, did you solve the mystery, or was what happens at Lake-Town a complete surprise?

Bilbo insists that they seek the slightly better shelter of the tunnel. They talk about the treasure in the caverns below, dwelling on several items in particular. One might well think that these are all just "glimpses over the horizon" (who doesn't wonder about the identity of the great King Bladorthin and where he might have ruled?), but how did you react when you found that Girion's necklace and especially the Arkenstone took on added importance later on? Does anyone have any idea what became of the cup of Thror?

Well, Bilbo's dire predictions come true in the end, and they barely escape Smaug's sudden onslaught by sealing themselves in the tunnel. Who else felt bad for the little, grass-walled bay, the thrush's enigmatic stone, and the snails? Last question (for now): Where do we read of a similar occurrence?

The chapter ends with a brief glimpse into the mind of the dragon, what surely sounds like trouble for Lake-Town, and his flying away southwards.

Up next: "The Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities".

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.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 6, 6:24am

Post #2 of 18 (1319 views)
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Weathervane dwarves [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for leading us off, Roverandom! I agree the dwarves are a varied lot in the way they are described. Iím struggling to reconcile:



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"there is no knowing what a dwarf will not dare and do for revenge or the recovery of his own."

Warm Welcome


...with this less dashing portrait in our current chapter:


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"The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they would all have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it, as they did in the case of the trolls at the beginning of their adventures before they had any particular reasons for being grateful to him. There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you donít expect too much."


The best reconciliation I can manage in my head is that Tolkien thinks his readers will now imagine the expedition are all in it together, and so an explanation is needed for them wanting Bilbo to go in alone. But then again, this is what the dwarves contracted Bilbo to do. So maybe, from their point of view, itís like hiring a plumber and then not expecting to be asked to help them fix the plumbing?

~~~~~~
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


Aug 7, 10:41pm

Post #3 of 18 (1283 views)
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Bilbo takes charge [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for taking the lead again, Rover!

Good point about the chapter transition. I think Tolkien is picking up the pace here as we've left the "leisurely" preamble behind, and he's probably in a hurry himself to get to that dratted dragon. Still, I'm not sure that any chapter ending line in The Hobbit has the emotional impact of the simple line in LOTR, "The Choices of Master Samwise": "Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy." And then Tolkien makes you wait 170 pages to find out what happens next!

So here we plunge into the dragon's lair with remarkable resolve by our hobbit hero. I like how Balin accompanies him part of the way out of friendship and despite his own fear--it says a lot about Balin, and dwarves in general, that I think mitigates the commentary that their main motive in life is money.

Bilbo the Burglar: oh, my, what would other Bagginses think about their relative stealing like, like a thief?! Bilbo feels proud and adventurous again, the way he felt when he led the spider fight and the barrels out of bond. Then he had that odd relapse of his old self while riding the barrel-raft and seeing the Mountain and feeling gloomy, and also feeling pessimistic as they left Esgaroth: "The only person thoroughly unhappy was Bilbo." It seems to me that deliberately or not, Tolkien has Bilbo feel the opposite of what the dwarves feel. So now they're scared, and he plucks up his courage and embraces his role as the professionally hired burglar.

Bilbo and the cup: the one thing I think about this scene is that he's bitten off more than he can chew. Which turns out to be the case. Though anyone in his place would have stolen something and provoked Smaug nevertheless.


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The dwarves react to the theft, but so does the dragon, and Thorin & Co. soon change their tune, with regards to their burglar. Eventually they calm down and ask for both pardon and advice. Does this pattern sound familiar, gentle reader? Have you had enough of the dwarves by now, or does their repeated, weathervane behavior serve a purpose?

Yes, this is a familiar pattern. I think partly because children's lit works that way, where there's a lot of repetition of behavior & events which adults find tiresome but kids find reassuring. I'd say that it's also Tolkien's vehicle for explaining how the grocer-hobbit improbably keeps winding up in the leadership role among these older, more worldly, and more physical dwarves.


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Not to spoil future discussions of Chapter XIV, but when you first read this chapter, did you solve the mystery, or was what happens at Lake-Town a complete surprise?

I was a kid when I read the 1st time, and I had no idea how they'd kill the dragon. I wonder if adults put the clues together?


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Well, Bilbo's dire predictions come true in the end, and they barely escape Smaug's sudden onslaught by sealing themselves in the tunnel. Who else felt bad for the little, grass-walled bay, the thrush's enigmatic stone, and the snails? Last question (for now): Where do we read of a similar occurrence?

It's funny that you ask this, because I thought I was probably the only reader who felt a sense of sadness when this little place was destroyed, and I'm never sure why. It was an oasis in the desolation, and it was also like "the secret garden" that features prominently in children's lit, that special place you hide in with friends and to get away from the adult world, and there's a certain innocence to it. An innocence, plus a resilience and even Eden-like defiance, since somehow it thrives amid the wasteland and right on the doorstep of the creature that caused the wasteland. It's only missing Gandalf's commentary: "I am sorry; for the trees were beautiful, and had stood so long."


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 8, 11:24am

Post #4 of 18 (1259 views)
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the bravest thing he ever did? [In reply to] Can't Post


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"Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait."


I like that bit - it certainly increases the tension of Bilbo descending alone to see what seems almost as much like a natural phenomenon or a great engine as a creature.

Iím also wondering whether there's some significance about this Iím missing, which makes it a climax or pivot point of Bilboís career?

~~~~~~
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


Aug 8, 11:29am

Post #5 of 18 (1259 views)
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Words fail Tolkien- in an effective way [In reply to] Can't Post


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"There are no words left to express his staggerment, since Men changed the language that they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful. Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves; and he gazed motionless, almost forgetting the frightful guardian, at the gold beyond price and count."


I like this bit: it works very well for me when it is basically Tolkien saying he canít say how amazing it is.

I wonder- is it also important that Bilbo in this moment gains some understanding of how it would be to fall utterly in love with a treasure? Does that help him understand Thorin later?

~~~~~~
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


Aug 8, 12:23pm

Post #6 of 18 (1260 views)
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Down the Worm-hole, and what Bilbo found there. [In reply to] Can't Post

What do you think of this narrative strategy, and what, if anything, does it say about the importance of what we are about to read/hear?
Quite often, a chapter ends with Bilbo falling asleep (or losing consciousness) and the next begins with his waking up.
But it is true, that this technique is rare and interesting - it is like the division between The Tower of Cirith Ungol and The Land of Shadow. Something great has been achieved; and now what?

How did you react to this? Gallows humor, a nice break in the gathering tension, or something else?
Tolkien is stacking the deck, and making sure our sympathies lie in the right place.

Does that image make you think of anything in particular?
I have just read Tolkien's translation of Beowulf, so the dragon-hoard at the end comes naturally to mind.

Does this pattern sound familiar, gentle reader?
Just to point out - Bilbo was hired as a burglar; but was it ever specified he should try and steal a cup at a time?
And this does seem familiar - it goes all the way to picking Bill's pocket in Roast Mutton.

Have you had enough of the dwarves by now, or does their repeated, weathervane behavior serve a purpose?
It prejudices the reader against them.

If this were a murder mystery, here might be the point at which Ellery Queen would break the fourth wall and issue his challenge to the reader. Do we have all the clues? Should we be able to put two and two together, as to how the matter of the dragon is going to be resolved?
Well, now we know Smaug's weak spot. Getting to it is a different matter altogether.

Not to spoil future discussions of Chapter XIV, but when you first read this chapter, did you solve the mystery, or was what happens at Lake-Town a complete surprise?
Well, at this point of writing, Tolkien himself did not know how Smaug would be killed. So I would excuse the reader who does not either.

how did you react when you found that Girion's necklace and especially the Arkenstone took on added importance later on?
Well, the importance of the Arkenstone is clear from the beginning. As a matter of fact, if there was any point in sending Bilbo to steal anything, it would be that gem.
Girion's necklace does take a weird kind of importance later - if Bard is Girion's heir, why would he give his most important heirloom to the Elvenking?

Does anyone have any idea what became of the cup of Thror?
No, but you can post a Conspiracy Theories of Scenes From the Hat thread over at Main. I'm sure you'll get some clever, interesting, intriguing and totally useless answers.

Who else felt bad for the little, grass-walled bay, the thrush's enigmatic stone, and the snails?
This hadn't really occurred to me before. Thank you!

Last question (for now): Where do we read of a similar occurrence?
The Doors of Durin, the Moria Westren Gate.

Which answers your previous question - there, it was Gandalf who felt sorry for the trees. I suppose he would do so here as well,



Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 8, 8:16pm

Post #7 of 18 (1239 views)
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Interesting question about the cup [In reply to] Can't Post

Because I for one am not sure what did become of it! I would imagine that if the cup survived that Bilbo would keep it as a souvenir. And perhaps thousands of years later it became a sport trophy!


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 8, 8:27pm

Post #8 of 18 (1233 views)
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Bilbo does discover Smaug's weak spot [In reply to] Can't Post

Which strategically is really the only important thing he does, at least in terms of the Hobbit story. And a bit of a shame that no-one credits him for it, at least according to the Narrator.


Roverandom
The Shire


Aug 8, 10:19pm

Post #9 of 18 (1232 views)
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First Prize [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, Hamfast! That was the image I was going for. Bilbo returns from the dragon's hoard holding a golden, two-handled cup, his "trophy" theft to prove his skill.

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.


Meneldor
Valinor


Aug 9, 12:13am

Post #10 of 18 (1215 views)
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"He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait." [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems to me that JRRT may have been drawing on his experiences in WW1 when he wrote that. Just substitute "trench" for "tunnel."


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


uncle Iorlas
Rivendell


Aug 9, 2:18am

Post #11 of 18 (1213 views)
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Dwarves and dragons [In reply to] Can't Post

I have also mulled quite a bit over the range of interpretations Tolkien had of his dwarrows. Thorin may be regarded as an exception, maybe; his kingliness seems to manifest chiefly in martial prowess and courage (and pompous declamation). But are these thirteen dwarves so different from the very battleready army that will soon arrive from the Iron Hills?


Side note: Bilbo's exchange with Smaug is one of my favorite passages in any book. In the Monsters and the Critics Tolkien says the northern tradition has only two specific dragons in it; I often think Smaug became the third.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 9, 12:37pm

Post #12 of 18 (1148 views)
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Dwarves or Dwarrow [In reply to] Can't Post

Dwarrow is the traditional plural for dwarf, there is no need to add an s. Tolkien popularized his own dwarves.


In Reply To
But are these thirteen dwarves so different from the very battleready army that will soon arrive from the Iron Hills?


Not all of them, but most of the dwarves of Thorin's company do not seem to be disciplined in the arts of war. A few of them, including Thorin, would have been veterans of the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, but I don't know how well (if at all) Tolkien had developed that idea at the time of the writing of The Hobbit.

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


squire
Half-elven


Aug 9, 6:07pm

Post #13 of 18 (1090 views)
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Dwarrows is the word Tolkien imagined. [In reply to] Can't Post

See Appendix F, "Languages: On Translation" in The Lord of the Rings.

"...the dictionaries tell us that the plural of dwarf is dwarfs. It should be dwarrows (or dwerrows), if singular and plural had each gone its own way down the years, as have man and men or goose and geese."

His point is that dwarrows does not and never did exist as a word. He made it up, using general philological principles about English that, in the case of this word, did not end up applying. He was noting that dwarfs, not dwarrows, is the traditional plural. He chose the less-known alternate plural dwarves for his stories as being, not so much more accurate, as more distinctive for his purposes of restoring the nobility of a word demeaned by lawn ornaments and Disney's clowns. He rejected inventing and generally using the word dwarrows, out of courtesy to his readers (!). He used it only once, to construct the proper name Dwarrowdelf for Moria: Dwarf-delving.

I once speculated, in amateur fashion, about why dwarrows actually makes sense if you think about it. We know that -ow as an English word ending is closely related to -ough, and -ough is pronounced -uf as much as it is pronounced -ow or -oh. Take the first option, and suddenly dwarrows is pronounced dwarrufs, And there you are: out of your difficulty at once!



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 9, 10:21pm

Post #14 of 18 (1058 views)
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Sorry. My mistake. [In reply to] Can't Post

I was wrong; my memory played me false and I failed to check my facts. My apologies to uncle Iorlas.

I've read the appendices and still did not realize that dwarrows was a word invented by Tolkien and not an antique/obsolete plural form of dwarf. I did know that he had devised dwarves as an alternative to the usual dwarfs so as to set the mythical race apart from persons afflicted with dwarfism. I am finding sources that indicate that dwarrows can be traced to Middle English.

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Aug 9, 10:32pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 9, 10:26pm

Post #15 of 18 (1057 views)
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I was wrong! [In reply to] Can't Post

Dwarrows does seem to be correct, though the 's' seems redundant to me. As I replied to squire, I did not realize that Tolkien had invented the term, instead thinking that he had revived an obsolete plural form of dwarf. I am sorry, uncle Iorlas, and I regret the error.

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


uncle Iorlas
Rivendell


Aug 10, 4:42pm

Post #16 of 18 (1024 views)
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no trouble of course [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn't have been able to defend its use at all, I was just larking about on a very hazy memory of that mention in the appendices. I had no idea "dwarrow" had ever occurred in the real world, so you both knew much more than I.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 10, 8:17pm

Post #17 of 18 (1010 views)
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I thought it had a military/battlefield sound to it also. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 11, 11:17pm

Post #18 of 18 (969 views)
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It is interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

That just a few pages later we get a slightly less complimentary view of Dwarves from Smaug. Less accurate? Well, we will see!

 
 

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