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***The Hobbit read-through -The Last Stage (1 of 1)
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noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 23, 8:52am

Post #1 of 43 (2634 views)
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***The Hobbit read-through -The Last Stage (1 of 1) Can't Post

Thanks to Otaku-sempai for introducing last week, and Hello again for the last chapter in the book! It’s the last chapter, but not quite the end of the read-through, as I plan to start a thread next week in which we can have a general discussion about the book, if people are so minded.

In the meantime, let’s look at Bilbo’s homecoming.

Rivendell

Bilbo and Gandalf arrive at Rivendell on May 1st - is this date significant?

‘Bilbo heard the elves still singing in the trees’-what do you imagine here? I wasn’t sure whether to picture the elves sitting amid a group of trees, or whether they had climbed into the trees, or whether there were Lorien-like tree-houses or platforms.

The elves sing a song preferring the ever-renewed delights of nature to those gained by adventure after treasure. What do you think of it? Or the other song, which wakes Bilbo later on?

Tolkien ties up some lose ends by having Bilbo overhear Gandalf and Elrond discuss driving out the Necromancer (thereby revealing the Bilbo why Gandalf had left Thorin’s expedition). We discussed earlier whether this section marks one of those consistency bugbears – when Tolkien originally wrote this passage perhaps this would be news to Elrond as he was in 1e Hobbit, whereas looking back from LOTR Elrond is imagined as being involved in those events, and would hardly need them reported to him. What do you think, now you come to read the passage?

Rivendell to Bag End


Quote
Merry is May-time!” said Bilbo, as the rain beat into his face. “But our back is to legends and we are coming home. I suppose this is the first taste of it.”
“There is a long road yet,” said Gandalf.
“But it is the last road,” said Bilbo.


What do you make of Bilbo’s feelings about coming home? Is there any resemblance to Frodo’s comment at a similar stage that he feels like he’s falling asleep again?

The two travellers recover the hidden treasure looted from the trolls. Gandalf suggests Bilbo might need it more than he thinks he does -what does this foreshadow – e.g. does Gandalf know or guess about Bilbo’s disappearance being likely to require him to buy back some of his possessions?

I think that in an earlier draft Bilbo’s ponies and all his treasure were to be swept away during a difficult river crossing. Maybe this was to leave Bilbo with no material proof or reward for his adventures? -any thoughts on this draft plot idea?

Coming back at last to his familiar landscape Bilbo stops and recites the first version of ‘The Road Goes Ever On…’ Gandalf seems surprised:


Quote
Gandalf looked at him. “My dear Bilbo!” he said. “Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were.


How has Bilbo changed?

An unexpected homecoming

Coming home does not go as Bilbo expects, as he finds he’s been declared legally dead and people have moved on to dispose of his effects.

This seems to me to be a bold thing to do in a children’s book, in which I think the adventurers are usually either welcomed back enthusiastically, or (perhaps through some magical contrivance) have not been noticed to be away.

It also seems as if Bilbo’s unexpectedly difficult homecoming is a smaller-scale, humorous version of the troubles that face Frodo et al. when they come home. What do you make of this theme (if you agree there is one) about coming home being more complex a matter than an adventurer might expect?

At times during this read-through (and in other Reading Room discussions) we’ve talked about things in Middle-earth not going well unless a place or thing has its rightful owner. The Mountain needs a king under it; Gondor and Arnor need an heir of Elendil…does Bag End need a Baggins (or a Gamgee, as rightful heir of Baggins)?

Bilbo settles down contentedly to be the local rich eccentric. Whether he leaves the Shire again is speculation, but he seems to have no more notable adventures (and giving him any more was something at which Tolkien baulked, trying to think up ideas for a sequel). Have Bilbo’s Baggins and Took sides come to a balance or at least a truce? Is Bilbo necessarily done as an adventurer – for example, imagine moving the events of LOTR Shadow of the Past to a mere 10 years or so after The Last Stage: can you see Bilbo rising to the quest of Mount Doom?

An epilogue

Tolkien leaves us with a short scene from a visit by Gandalf and Balin (although Frodo is not mentioned, presumably this is the visit he remembers later, standing by Balin’s tomb).

To me it seems as if this scene largely lets us catch up with the news from Erebor and around. There is also a point about fate and prophecies to ponder:


Quote
They are making songs which say that in his day the rivers run with gold.
“Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.
“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
“Thank goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.


What do you make of this? I think I see two points: Bilbo seems surprised that the prophecy has been achieved as an accidental side-effect of everyone’s actions. Gandalf’s next comment (‘You don’t really suppose…’) seems to disagree with whether it was a side-effect after all. And, of course, it has a further meaning later on, once Tolkien has decided that The Quest of Erebor was really a strategic matter and about the Bagginses being ‘meant’ to have the Ring.

The reference to ‘tobacco’ here is one of several in The Hobbit, but in LOTR Tolkien is almost always preferring ‘pipe-weed’ and ‘tobacco’ appears only once in my LOTR text (i.e. not counting the Prologue or index). Is this a lingering part of The Hobbit having ‘anachronisms’; or does ‘pipeweed-jar’ just sound silly to you?

This is the only post I've planned for this chapter, so now over to you – are there any other points in this chapter you wanted to comment upon, or ask about?

--
PS: Thanks for reading along with us There And Back Again. As I mentioned at the start, I’m hoping to have a sort of ‘pot luck’ general discussion next week, in which everyone is invited to raise anything that we didn’t get around to discussing thoroughly, or which is a general theme of the book and so gets omitted from our chapter-by-chapter discussions. So please do start thinking about anything you might contribute to next week’s discussion

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


sador
Half-elven


Sep 23, 9:43am

Post #2 of 43 (2534 views)
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Do you find the tobacco jarring? [In reply to] Can't Post

No special comments, and no time for a proper, thoruogh answer - so I'll just say thank you for organising this fun discussion.


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 23, 10:17am

Post #3 of 43 (2533 views)
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Taking a pot at the copy-editor... [In reply to] Can't Post

I initially thought that the book might end with the only mention of 'tobacco' but the wonders of eBook search engines quickly showed me I was wrong. Shame in a way: I would have found it amusing to have 'tobacco' as a hapax legomenon that ended the story. Anyway, it seems as if Tolkien had no particular aversion to using the word 'tobacco' in The Hobbit. By LOTR, he seems to have adopted 'pipe-weed' - I suppose because eschewing modern terms and metaphors helps give Middle-earth a far-off tone. The one exception* might be an oversight by Tolkien and his copy-editor (that's what I guess), or it might be significant.

Anyway, I ended up wondering whether 'pipe-weed jar' sounded silly, and thought it would make a lighter question.

I'm glad you've enjoyed the discussion - I have, and feel I've learned a lot. Perhaps I'll say something about that next week. Thank you for joining us, and doing some of the introductions!

--
*I'm not saying as yet where that exception is, yet - I think some folks like hunting for these things. But I'll identify it if my caginess becomes irritating.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 23, 12:02pm

Post #4 of 43 (2519 views)
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Gandalf and Balin visit Bag End [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Tolkien leaves us with a short scene from a visit by Gandalf and Balin (although Frodo is not mentioned, presumably this is the visit he remembers later, standing by Balin’s tomb).


Well, it would be astoundingly difficult for Frodo to recall a visit that took place nineteen years before he was born! I will hazard that he was remembering a different occasion. Laugh

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 23, 12:05pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 23, 1:21pm

Post #5 of 43 (2500 views)
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More than one visit seems the likely explanation:)! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


squire
Half-elven


Sep 23, 1:23pm

Post #6 of 43 (2510 views)
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Hobbits are anti-social creatures? [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing the ending reminds me is that throughout the book Bilbo is absolutely isolated from the society of his homeland. That is, there isn't another hobbit character in the story. We can see the reason for this, in a book called The Hobbit, but it does raise some interesting psychological questions if we care to approach the book in novelistic terms rather than fantastical ones.

Never once in all his adventures, in his many dark moods of despair and loneliness and homesickness, does Bilbo think of or miss the company of a family member or friend from back home. It's always just his house and creature comforts that he misses. This logically follows from the introduction where he lives alone and hosts a party for fourteen and cleans up afterwards, with no servants or companions to help.

Now here at the conclusion we have him returning after an absence long enough to have him declared dead, and we get not a single mention of anyone -- friends, family, employees, town officials -- actually glad to see him alive and home again, only mean-spirited and distant relatives who clearly wished him dead to begin with. The only friendship shown in the epilogue, rather than referred to (i.e., his younger relations) is that of Gandalf and the dwarves represented by Balin.

I am curiously reminded now of a comment I think I once heard, that Bilbo and Gollum "understood one another" as Gandalf puts it in the second book, not because they were both hobbits, but because they were both solitary and misanthropic loners who spent their lives hiding in their holes. It was a joke, I'm sure, but the joke only makes sense in the context of the second book, where the author does somersaults of creative invention to devise an entire hobbit society, the Shire. Friends and family relations explode all over the first few chapters, almost in compensation for their peculiar absence from the first book. In this sense, we might observe, Tolkien had no intention of writing a 'sequel', or 'second Hobbit', from the moment he started it with a huge party of Bilbo's friends and relations.



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CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 23, 2:02pm

Post #7 of 43 (2511 views)
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There and Back Again [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for leading us past trolls, goblins, giant spiders, and fire-breathing dragons, Wiz! It's nice to be home again, or should be if The Lawyers--the most dangerous race of all--hadn't intervened to declare Bilbo legally dead, which is far more a nuisance than the real thing.

May 1st--is that when they set out originally? I couldn't find it by browsing, other than once en route, Bilbo glumly thinks that it will be June soon, so it was close to 1 year that he was gone. The law probably needed him absent for 12 months to be declared dead, which could account for the gratuitously long journey home that Tolkien gave him. (Other dates for May 1 in LOTR are the crowning of Elessar and Sam's marriage to Rosie.) Otherwise May 1 is May Day--was this the start of Communism in the Shire?

Elves singing in the trees: it's quite possible this is literal, given how the Lorien elves live in trees, but I think of it more in the fairy sense of enchanted beings are heard but not seen, so the elves were standing on the ground, obscured by trees, singing away.

Bilbo vs Frodo's return: Frodo had to scour the entire Shire and rehabilitate Bag End, whereas Bilbo only had to deal with his belongings being sold off and missing spoons. But neither of them ever fit into Shire society again and were considered oddballs. What is a little bit surprising is that though Bilbo is popular with his younger Took relatives, their elders disapprove of this association, so he's even done too much adventuring to be a proper Took.

Gandalf and Elrond: we're stuck with a lesser version of Elrond who's more of an inn-keeper like Butterbur, and therefore a convenient literary device to use for imparting news that would be hard to splice into the story elsewhere. Just one of those awkward differences between TH and LOTR.

Bilbo losing all his treasure: that is a common motif in adventure stories, and I can't count the number of movies I've seen where Greedy Rich Older White Man is stuffing his pockets with gold while 1) the tomb they finally discovered is flooding or caving in and/or 2) the monster/mummy/etc guarding the treasure is on the attack, and everyone else is running for their lives and urging the greedy guy that no one likes to leave the treasure behind and save himself. Usually what comes out of it is handsome hero + heroine with only the clothes on their backs but no gold, but at least they have love. Since Bilbo didn't get a wife in the bargain, I'm glad Tolkien gave him something to compensate.

The tobacco-jar: I never thought much about it, except that it shows how grounded Bilbo is in domestic rituals, and he could have just as easily have poured some more tea for Gandalf or refilled his glass of wine or whatever. Even in LOTR, where there's more effort to make the Shire seem less obviously English and modern, Lobelia attacks the ruffians with her umbrella, and umbrellas are never mentioned outside the Shire. It's a rut that Tolkien is stuck in.


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 23, 5:08pm

Post #8 of 43 (2499 views)
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All the single hobbits (All the single hobbits) [In reply to] Can't Post

...oh wait, that's for the song parodies game over on Main ( see http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=949439#949439; though I'm not sure 'if you like it better put a Ring on it' fits...)

I certainly agree - Bilbo's isolation is unrealistic (or un-novelistic), but it does mean he can just run off into the Blue as the plot requires. But a sad chapter of how Bilbo had to leave his wife and kids to undertake the adventure would give the thing a very different tone. Maybe it is partly because it is intended as a story for children - going off on adventure is a little like going out to play, perhaps, and when you return from where the wild things are you'll find that your supper is still hot. But the supper is the interesting thing and not especially the adult who cooked it for you. So that gets left out of the story, for all that it would be important in real life.

LOTR goes a bit further - we need to see that it is a wrench for Frodo to leave his land, and more than one hobbit sets out. But they all appear to be young unattached bachelors ready for adventure (until we find out about Rosie, that is). The heirs to two of the major families, plus Frodo don't appear to have duties, or parents and siblings to miss them etc.

I wonder if this is something to do with Tolkien's time (as well as a convenient shortcut to getting one's hero started in a book that starts out lighthearted)- the War Poets (as in World War One) write of wondering whether there is still honey left for tea, as if they miss their land more than their families. I don't suppose they did, but perhaps the personal was too personal for literary expression?

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Petty Dwarf
Bree


Sep 23, 6:35pm

Post #9 of 43 (2483 views)
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The word "tobacco" also comes from a Native American root. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm too lazy to look it up now, but it's an American word, which is perhaps another reason Tolkien stopped using it, as when changing tomatoes to pickles and referring to potatoes almost exclusively as "taters".

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


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 23, 7:35pm

Post #10 of 43 (2474 views)
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Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

That's what I was hinting at, though I don't know whether Gandalf, Bilbo and Balin were ever all together at the same time after the vision of T.A. 2949. I'm not sure what words spoken at Balin's Tomb convince you that the old dwarf and the young hobbit had met. It is certainly possible, but I'm not sure we can unequivocally say so.

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 23, 7:48pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 23, 7:41pm

Post #11 of 43 (2471 views)
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I was thinking of: [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Frodo thought of Bilbo and his long friendship with the dwarf, and of Balin’s visit to the Shire long ago. In that dusty chamber in the mountains it seemed a thousand years ago and on the other side of the world.


So that could mean that Frodo is remembering something Bilbo told him about, but which happened before he was born.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 23, 8:03pm

Post #12 of 43 (2465 views)
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That might be it. [In reply to] Can't Post

Contextually, that makes much more sense. The line suggests that Balin only returned to Bag End that one time and Frodo is remembering Bilbo telling him about it. However, I won't rule out the possibility that Balin visited Bilbo more than once, perhaps while traveling on business to or from the Blue Mountains (attempting to secure support for his Moria expedition?).

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


Morthoron
Gondor


Sep 23, 9:12pm

Post #13 of 43 (2458 views)
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A couple things.... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Hobbits in the evirons of Bag-end always thought he was an idiosyncratic oddball due to his confirmed bachelorhood and the ever-present perceived weirdness of his Tookish side, and the scandalous nature of his disappearance didn't win him any admirers either.

But, as in winning a lottery, Bilbo's newfound and alleged legendary wealth could have neighbors and relatives suddenly on very friendly terms with the oddball bachelor, Tookish side or no. How forgiving folks become of one's idiosyncrasies if they think you are rich!

That, and I think his adoption of Frodo perhaps actually forced him to be more outgoing in Hobbitish circles. He certainly had admirers among Frodo's friends. It also seems that he hired Hamfast Gamgee after his return from Erebor.

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



Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 24, 12:24pm

Post #14 of 43 (2361 views)
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The Gaffer [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It also seems that he hired Hamfast Gamgee after his return from Erebor.


Yes, though it seems likely that Hamfast's cousin Holman Greenhand was the gardener at Bag End before him. Samwise's father didn't take that position until T.A. 2960 after he reached adulthood.

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


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Sep 24, 9:46pm

Post #15 of 43 (2341 views)
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The Hobbit appendix [In reply to] Can't Post

Was the meeting of Gandalf and Balin with Bilbo the Hobbit equivalent of the appendixes in Lotr? As it served the purpose of tying up a few ends and saying what had happened in the wild since the adventure. Oh, and I wonder if Bilbo did think when he saw the two, 'Welcome, but don't send me on another long death defying journey in the wild this time, I'm not quite in the mood!'


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 25, 11:22am

Post #16 of 43 (2314 views)
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Some more thoughts about Bilbo [In reply to] Can't Post

We don't get much opportunity to find out about Bilbo's life in the Shire pre-adventure, partly because Tolkien almost fires him out of his situation like a pop-gun; in order to get on with the adventure, perhaps..

What I think I see in The Unexpected Party is Bilbo's anxious need to conform to what people expect - both the need to behave as a good host despite having a large uninvited party descend upon him, and his absurd need to go along with the pretence that he is some kind of burglar or adventurer, rather than calling the whole thing out. I see that this is all necessary for the comic aspects of the chapter to work, but Bilbo's behaviour does also seem believable, to an extent.

I've said at various times that I think Bilbo can be interpreted as having a mid-life crisis; that period of mental discomfort occasioned by either realising that time is running out to achieve one's earlier goals; or because of realising that the goals of ones younger self now seem unsatisfactory, no longer so important, or have already been achieved. I think that when Tolkien mentions Bilbo's Tookish side or his Baggins side, he's referring to a division or conflict in Bilbo's personality - a wish to adventure (on the one hand), trying to co-exist with a Baggins' need to be the acme of predictable respectability (on the other). The crisis - if you like that idea- is the Took side demanding some concessions.

Clearly the Baggins-side achievement of being remarkable for being unremarkable is in tatters by the end of the story - nobody has yet taken me up on my question about what else might have changed (or have been uncovered), but it's only Tuesday yet.

Possibly by the end of the story we ought not to see Bilbo as a tug of war (or alliance) between Took and Baggins. A post-LOTR perspective would suggest that Bilbo now carries the One Ring, which has (in Gollum at least) the pathology of becoming a part of its bearer's personality, and a very dominant one, in Gollum's case. The the Ring (as we imagine it having read LOTR) 'wants' to return to its master. But how would it 'achieve' that? Working upon Bilbo until he heads off to Mordor woudl be one option, but perhaps we can imagine the Ring failing to make enough headway on Bilbo to control his behaviour. Alternatively, perhaps the Ring 'decides' to keep quiet - waiting for Sauron's call, or something; or 'realising' that it might do better to stay put and not attract Gandalf's attention until Sauron sends someone to fetch it. (Or all of those at once, or an entirely different scheme.)

Similarly, someone looking back from the vantage point of LOTR or Quest Of Erebor could argue that there's a fourth aspect beyond Took, Baggins and Ring- Bilbo is 'meant' to keep the Ring concealed in the unexpected, unremarkable and far-from-Mordor location of the Shire, until the time is right to get rid of it. That would provide one line of argument why Bilbo does not go adventuring again - he's not 'meant' to take the Ring anywhere near where Sauron, Saruman or other characters might get it, or do anything remarkable enough to cause any comment outside the Shire.

Such arguments are, of course, a retrofitting - as he sent his Hobbit 1e proofs off to Unwins and passed himself the tobacco jar, Tolkien had no idea what Bilbo would come to have in his pocketses. (This is quite clear form HoME - Tolkien tried various ideas for his long-expected sequel, before first hitting on the idea that Bilbo's ring was the cause of a further adventure, and then making the ring more and more awful until it became the Ring.) So anyone wishing to take me up on my question of why Bilbo doesn't seem to adventure again could agree or disagree with the above - or they could take a 1e Hobbit perspective, and try to explain it only from that text.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Sep 25, 11:24am)


squire
Half-elven


Sep 25, 12:29pm

Post #17 of 43 (2312 views)
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What aspect of Bilbo's behavior in later life can't be explained without the ring? [In reply to] Can't Post

None, I would argue.

You have the obvious angle that the book gives throughout: that Bilbo's story is about the conflict between convention (Baggins) and adventure (Took). In the end, the Took side has become dominant, and the newly eccentric hobbit lives happily ever after, "writing poetry and visiting the elves". Not only does this work at a level that even children can understand, it has supported several fine critical works that take The Hobbit apart under Jungian and other mythic lenses, connecting Baggins and Took to various interpretations of childhood and maturity, self and shadow-self, or bourgeois and artist. No Ring is needed at all.

I think using outside evidence to interpret a book works when the book itself contains mysteries that it doesn't fully answer. Our outside evidence, that the ring will become the Ring in a later book, can't get a purchase on Bilbo's behavior here, because there are no unanswered questions for it work on. Tolkien's tortured process of finding a sequel to his 'happily ever after' story, documented in HoME as you note, fortuitously supports this conclusion, but is hardly needed to do so.

Another argument that the Ring explains nothing about the conclusion of The Hobbit, of course, is that the revised second edition, which did famously alter Gollum's presentation for consistency with LotR, does not change a word of this section. Readers might find this odd, given what they read in LotR, but after all, much of the first two chapters of the later book is an awkward struggle to square the circle of an evil and transformative ring lying benignly unused in Bag End for many decades. The Hobbit remains The Hobbit, not a prequel to another (greater) book. Analyzing Bilbo's later life solely from the text is not a '1e Hobbit perspective', as you phrase it, but simply a 'Hobbit perspective'.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 25, 2:11pm

Post #18 of 43 (2303 views)
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none - I agree that The hobbit is a self-contained story [In reply to] Can't Post

It is believable (to me) as I finish The Hobbit that Bilbo might return to the Shire and restrict his further adventures to within its borders. I agree that there isn't a question-mark or plot-hole that requires the effects of the Ring on Bilbo to fill it. My musings about whether the Ring or other Powers make any contribution are only relevant is one is amusing oneself with a speculative retrofitting exercise. Clearly such retrofitting amused or occupied Tolkien from time to time, so it doesn't seem utterly foolish or inappropriate for this board.

While I finish The Hobbit feeling it's credible that Bilbo isn't itching for a further big adventure, I'm not, on the other hand, left with the strong feeling that he'd be incapable of it, if the need was sufficiently pressing.

Which brings me to wonder: perhaps you (or someone else or several people) might like to try another of my so-far-unanswered questions of the week? I'm thinking of the one asking why couldn't Bilbo be the hero of LOTR?

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 25, 2:32pm

Post #19 of 43 (2296 views)
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Bilbo as the Protagonist of [i]LotR[//i] [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Which brings me to wonder: perhaps you (or someone else or several people) might like to try another of my so-far-unanswered questions of the week? I'm thinking of the one asking why couldn't Bilbo be the hero of LOTR?


Oddly enough, that very question is brought up within the latest YouTube video essay from Men of the West: What If Saruman Had Stayed Good? Theory. Basically, the quest to destroy the One Ring kicks off soon after the Quest of Erebor. I have quibbles and questions about some of the conclusions, but it is still an interesting subject.

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


squire
Half-elven


Sep 25, 3:47pm

Post #20 of 43 (2298 views)
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Could or should Bilbo have been the hero of the sequel, LotR? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never forgotten the disappointment I felt as a fairly young boy, when my mother told us that she was going to read us another book like The Hobbit, but Bilbo wouldn't be the one having the adventures. No Bilbo! I wasn't sure I even wanted to hear it, then.

Bilbo could have been the hero of the Ring quest, I think, if he'd done it only a few years after his first adventure. Frodo is (no coincidence) the same age as his cousin was when he sets off for Rivendell. The first and second books are very Hobbit-like in their basic structure, because the original idea was in fact just another there-and-back-again quest of just another dangerous mountain. Clearly Frodo has a bit more growing up to do than Bilbo would have needed on a second road trip, and Frodo's outlook on the world is based on tales he's heard from Bilbo, not from having had Bilbo's actual adventures. But those would be minor differences - the major difference is when the story starts to unfold differently from The Hobbit because of the nature of the Ring and its danger to an entire world.

So sure, a not-very-much older Bilbo could well have discovered he had a few friends to follow him, and the quest could well play out much the same way - with, in the end, Bilbo far more injured and unable to live happily ever after than he was at the end of his dwarven adventure.

And that's ultimately the problem. Tolkien felt quite restricted by having written that Bilbo lived happily ever after, etc. Only a very much older Bilbo could really introduce the new book, if the first book's ending was to remain reasonably accurate. But a much older Bilbo couldn't credibly have survived the quest of Mt. Doom. And even if he had, it would hardly fit the tragic nature of the ending. Middle-aged Frodo has to give up what he's won and leave the Shire after saving it; for an elderly Bilbo near the end of a long life to do that is hardly a tragedy at all.

Tolkien quite reasonably plays the hand he dealt himself, and addresses my and other younger readers' objections as best he can in the second chapters of Books I and II, when Gandalf and Bilbo agree that the Ring has grown larger while Bilbo has grown, if not smaller, then certainly weaker and older.

(We can discount the problem that old Bilbo is shown in LotR to be too attached to the Ring to believably be able to destroy it, whereas Frodo is set up to have held it so shortly and used it so infrequently that he at least has a chance of doing so. That would not have been an issue if Bilbo had been the hero just a few years after the first story; at that point he'd be at the same early stage of enchantment as Frodo was.)



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CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 26, 1:33am

Post #21 of 43 (2199 views)
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Do not ignore the questions of wizards, for they are not subtle and are quick to anger [In reply to] Can't Post

And I for one do not want to be turned into a spotted toad and put into a garden full of snakes. :)

Bilbo as hero of LOTR: on first read, I certainly wanted him to be, and I couldn’t figure out why we were spending/wasting so much time on his nephew. And when he dramatically offered to take on the quest at the Council of Elrond, I half-thought he would, especially with Frodo still recovering from injury.

But I do think the reason why is simply that he was too old for him to credibly be the hero.

That’s the simple reason. I also find that the Bilbo of LOTR was not quite as likeable or admirable as the one in The Hobbit, and what always sticks in my mind is the comparison of writing in the Red Book: Bilbo’s thin, spidery handwriting (mirroring his scatterbrained thinking) and Frodo’s “bold” handwriting, again a reflection of his stronger character and more lucid mind.

If further seems that the affection between the two is imbalanced, with Frodo far more attached to his uncle than the reverse. I think that’s probably a mistaken impression driven by the pseudo-mystery Tolkien weaves about Bilbo’s whereabouts, so that even though Gandalf and Gildor know where he is, no one will tell Frodo, and though Gandalf sees him regularly, still not a single letter from Bilbo ever comes to Frodo, which defies all fridge logic, especially when he has no trouble writing away in Rivendell, making all those translations and working on his book. All this again makes Bilbo seem less admirable and less in control of his wits.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 26, 1:50am

Post #22 of 43 (2193 views)
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Why doesn’t Bilbo adventure again [In reply to] Can't Post

Because there were no more dragon hoards to burgle?

It is a good question. Part of me thinks that as a children’s story, kids usually want finality, so Bilbo comes home to be a rich eccentric bachelor. I think even as a kid I found this odd—he was rich, so why adventure? But shouldn’t he haven’t gotten married? Heroes always do. Then his son could go on adventures. That’s the formula, if there is one. Tolkien twisted it by making Frodo his nephew and adopted son (or heir, at least; no point in quibbling).

I do like speculating with an LOTR-informed mind and wondering if either the Ring was lying low in the Shire until it was time to seek its master—and why not? Both the Ring and its master were immortal, so it could wait practically forever.

Or was the Ring “meant” to lie low in the Shire, owned this time by an incorruptible host unlike Gollum, who was corrupted almost his first 5 minutes of seeing the Ring. Now fate would keep the Ring stifled until the cosmic cogs clicked into place and it was ready to send it off to Mordor. Only that theory doesn’t hold up well. Why not send the Ring to Mt Doom much earlier, before Mordor had the strength to assault Gondor? Unless you want to say that fate was really omniscient and knew that sending the Ring south meant Saruman would likely intercept it (his treachery still unknown), or that Galadriel wasn’t ready for her great test yet?

I’m not certain about Saruman, but if we’re going to talk about things meant to happen, I think Tolkien really thought Galadriel needed to face her desire for the Ring, especially when it was offered freely to her. That whole scene with her feels so pivotal and has so much gravitas, I think once he wrote it, he couldn’t imagine the story without it. Anyway, she was “meant” to face that test, and maybe she needed to know that Saruman of all people had turned to treachery to help her resist—this is what I mean by the cosmic cogs falling into place. Or call it a domino effect if you prefer that. Eru needed to stack the dominoes first. And that meant Bilbo being too old by the time Eru was ready. Look, when you’re immortal, you’re in no hurry.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 26, 2:00am

Post #23 of 43 (2193 views)
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I think it’s also about scale of the story [In reply to] Can't Post

If you think about what’s the worst that can happen in The Hobbit, for most of the book you’d think that the group of 14 all gets killed. The destruction of Laketown was a bit of a surprise. But if Bard hadn’t killed and stopped Smaug, wouldn’t the dragon have gone off to burn Mirkwood next? Only the elves lived underground, so hard to see how much damage he could really do.

Do we ever get a sense that he’ll fly to Rivendell and Bag Eng and burn them down too? No.

But the scale of what’s at stake is far larger in LOTR, so Bag End actually does suffer, and in the Quest for Erebor, Gandalf says Smaug had to be killed to avoid his use in destroying Rivendell (oddly, Sauron once besieged Rivendell for a year and never used a dragon to burn it down, so why the threat now?).

So like your comparison to kids playing and eating supper, we’re not exposed to the larger world, and the Necromancer is practically a throw-away concern in The Hobbit, a nice distraction to get Gandalf off the pages so Bilbo can develop some leadership skills, and then maybe a reminder at the end of the book that there are other stories to tell, so stay tuned for a sequel about Bilbo Burgles the Necromancer.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 26, 3:06am

Post #24 of 43 (2187 views)
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The Mirkwood Elves [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
If you think about what’s the worst that can happen in The Hobbit, for most of the book you’d think that the group of 14 all gets killed. The destruction of Laketown was a bit of a surprise. But if Bard hadn’t killed and stopped Smaug, wouldn’t the dragon have gone off to burn Mirkwood next? Only the elves lived underground, so hard to see how much damage he could really do.


I'm not sure that even a majority of the Wood-elves actually dwelt in Thranduil's underground halls. Many, if not most of them, would have lived in settlements such as the village of the raft-elves, scattered throughout the Woodland Realm. Some might have even lived in talans or some other type of tree houses, like their cousins in Lothlórien.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 26, 8:35am

Post #25 of 43 (2123 views)
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Frodo's character vs. Bilbo's [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that's an important aspect of the question 'could Bilbo have been the LOTR hero'- whether there is something about Frodo's character that is missing in Bilbo's and which is needed for the quest to succeed. My problem here is that while I don't think of the two Bagginses as interchangeable, I'd find it difficult to say succinctly how Frodo's character is different to Bilbo's (so if someone else would like to have a go at that, do go ahead!)

A complicating factor to thoughts about Bilbo taking the Ring to Mount Doom is that some characters who appear in both books - e.g. Gandalf - don't seem quite the same in LOTR as in TH. Perhaps if Tolkien had started out with an adventure for Bilbo then we'd see a somewhat different Bilbo too, reflecting the different tone of the new story. I wonder if he'd have ended up more Frodo-like? Or, of course someone could argue that keeping Bilbo as hero would have ended up producing an LOTR story more like the kind of thing Unwin were initially after - a Hobbit II, with the avuncular narrator and wordplay and lighthearted elements, rather than the darker unexpected, enormous and commercially risky masterpiece they eventually got, and which they decided to take a punt on anyway. So, as in a recurring theme of stories about granted wishes or time travel, one must be careful - quite possibly if Unwins had insisted that Bilbo must be the hero of Hobbit II, we'd have a very second book :)

That is of course the thing that prevents us ever getting to any firm conclusion when imagining alternative LOTRs or Hobbits - a sort of 'butterfly effect' where we imagine Tolkien changing one thing, but then we use our imaginations, not his, to sort out the repercussions. So we'll never reliably know what Tolkien would have done in those circumstances. But I sometimes find the exercise fun and interesting anyway - I think there's a hope of realising that making an apparently small change brings the whole edifice crashing down, which can reveal something about the story I hadn't previously realised. Or, it makes me realise something I feel or think about the story. Of course what I'm advocating here is the thing Gandalf hates - breaking something to find out how it works - so maybe I'll be the one to end up being the spotted toad...

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.

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