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


Sep 26, 9:03am

Post #26 of 43 (626 views)
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Bilbo's presence in LOTR [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm also finding it interesting to think about your comments re Frodo's relationship with Bilbo. It's making me realise that Bilbo is much more present in LOTR than one might think:

Frodo is only able to bear setting out from Bag End because of thoughts of following Bilbo (both literally, I think and in the sense of having adventures like his hero-mentor's).

Tolkien works in an encounter with the petrified trolls, which gives a rest from the bleak mood of the story just then, and causes Merry and Pippin to realise that old Bilbo's stories might be true after all).

Bilbo has fed Sam's appetite for tales and poems - I think this gives Sam a concept of heroism and of the place of the current adventure in a much longer tale. I think that's an important influence on Sam.

The scene of Frodo beside Balin's tomb in Moria (which has come up elsewhere in this discussion) quickly causes Frodo to think about Bilbo (as he did in the previous chapter, when the mithril shirt is discussed). Naturally, having Balin in the tomb has an effect on readers of TH: Balin's the only surviving one of Thorin's company who was much characterised in TH (Thorin, Kili and Fili are already dead and Bombur is something of a one-note joke about being fat). I wonder whether that is one factor causing Tolkien to decide it's Balin who is buried in Moria and Gloin who was the emissary to Rivendell, rather than the other way around or some other arrangement. For me, it adds some pathos for the failed Moria expedition to have been led by Balin. But I think it's significant that the story takes Frodo's point of view here, and Frodo's thoughts turn so quickly to Bilbo. I get the sense that Frodo is comparing his adventure with Bilbo's (or 'comparing it to Bilbo's adventure' perhaps).

There are probably many other references to Bilbo - to avoid a tedious list, I'll mention the one that might be the most important: Bilbo's decision not to kill Gollum unnecessarily has a crucial effect on Frodo's actions.

I notice that these examples are things that contribute to the LOTR story - they don't seem to me to be a game of making links for established fans to enjoy finding, and which is overlaid on the story, perhaps to its detriment.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 26, 11:53am

Post #27 of 43 (608 views)
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twisty thoughts about timelines [In reply to] Can't Post

Reading your post I found myself thinking about the LOTR timelines. All set out in detail in the Appendices they (and other information such as family trees) look like history, and for the purpose of enjoying the story here, they are treated as if they were history. (As a topical example, Frodo can't possibly personally remember Balin's visit to the Shire because it happened before he was born).*

But in origin, the timelines were part of Tolkien telling his story and trying to solve the various problems it threw up, without introducing irritating logical impossibilities or plot-holes. So your suggestion seems very feasible - we end up with the long gap between TH and LOTR because Tolkien wants to honour his 'lived happily ever after' statement about Bilbo, and decided that he would do this by having the new adventure happen to Bilbo's heir, in Bilbo's old age. Various other things happen in consequence (for instance, some work is needed to explain why Gandalf has been so slow to work out what Bilbo's ring is). In another reply today I've said it's like a 'butterfly effect' in which small causes build up to very big effects.

Possibly that's a very facile observation (apologies if so), but it certainly gets my brain into a twist sometimes, trying not to muddle up what is established by the time the work is finished, compared with what was up in the air earlier. For example, I've sometimes found my self thinking things like 'Frodo must set out when he does, because he arrives exactly in time for the Council of Elrond'. But that's confusing the finished story with the one Tolkien was building. In the finished story, Elrond seems to think it is significant that all the essential guests have turned up simultaneously - it must be that this is the group 'meant' to decide to do with the Ring. So simultaneous arrival is (or has become) important. Had Tolkien wanted to bring the Ring to Rivendell earlier or later though, I don't see why he couldn't have synchronised the other arrivals for this new date.
In a way, perhaps this is similar to the recurring issue we've had in the read-through, in which looking back on The Hobbit from the vantage point of LOTR or Sil. is different to thinking about the text as a standalone story.

I suppose that, if Tolkien had decided to replace Bungo/Frodo with Bilbo at a late stage in writing LOTR, then some timeline solution would have been possible - perhaps simply make many of the events listed in the Appendix start earlier, or happen faster (for events about which there was already some dating in The Hobbit). Perhaps the actual text (as opposed to the Appendices) would need only light correction. I'm not saying that Tolkien should have done this - I like LOTR as it is - I'm just saying that I can't think of any reason why he couldn't have done this had he decided it was necessary. It's an option he has because of working within a feigned history rather than within a real one. And those are just his options without an extensive re-write.

An earlier decision by Tolkien to start Bilbo out for Mordor while he was still hale might have had other consequences. At that point in Tolkien's own real-life timeline, many people and places now familiar in Middle-earth (Galadriel and Gondor, Aragorn and Saruman for example) didn't exist (c.f. the looking back from LOTR view which says of course they must logically have existed during the events of The Hobbit, in order for them to exist later.) Maybe Tolkien would have invented much the same people and places anyway, or maybe the story would have taken a different form.

What's interesting (to me anyway!) is that the long gap between TH and LOTR seems sometimes to have given Tolkien problems to solve (e.g. how can the Ring stay unrecognised for so long?) and sometimes it seems to serve the themes of the story - for example the ones Gandalf puts forward in The Last Debate (and elsewhere) about the fight against Sauron and his like being an endless task, and every generation needing to do whatever lies before them in a great ongoing tale.


--
*Then again, maybe Tolkien was intending in FOTR that Frodo does remember this visit and made an error in the Appendix? Then it's an example of the supporting material backfiring on the author - his eagle-eyed maven readers can now spot a contradiction that would have been impossible to detect without the author offering so many dates ;)

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 26, 12:41pm

Post #28 of 43 (607 views)
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But I think there's still a difference in scale [In reply to] Can't Post

...even if we imagine a Smaug attack on Mirkwood doing a lot of damage to everything elvish that remained above ground, it's a local disaster. It's not a disaster for the whole of Middle-earth, such as Frodo contemplates when he believes his orc captors have taken the Ring:


Quote

He cowered on the floor again with bowed head, as his own words brought home to him the fullness of the disaster, and despair overwhelmed him. ‘The quest has failed, Sam. Even if we get out of here, we can’t escape. Only Elves can escape. Away, away out of Middle-earth, far away over the Sea. If even that is wide enough to keep the Shadow out."

ROTK - The Tower Of Cirith Ungol


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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 26, 1:09pm

Post #29 of 43 (609 views)
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Balin, definitely [In reply to] Can't Post

He seemed Frodo’s only or closest friend among the dwarves, and Bilbo mentions ruefully to Frodo in Rivendelll that when he visited Erebor after his birthday party, Balin had gone away, and Bilbo lost his zest for further travel. I’m sure he was expecting a happy reunion.

When Gandalf read the book from the Chamber of Mazarbul about the ill-fated expedition, I barely remembered who Ori and Oin were (though reading about them was like Easter eggs). But when they come to Balin’s tomb and Frodo says, “I feared it was so,” and Gimli casts his hood over his head, I felt genuine grief over the death of a character. If it had been Gloin or anyone else, I would have had a more superficial, “Oh, that’s too bad” reaction. I think it’s the sense that Bilbo and Frodo have lost a friend, here in this place that is both an amazing testament to ancient Dwarven glory and a creepy evil place on a par with a sewer. Something about Moria just magnifies emotion the way it magnifies echoes.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Sep 26, 1:10pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 26, 2:19pm

Post #30 of 43 (597 views)
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Smaug and Mirkwood [In reply to] Can't Post

The other part of this is that Smaug has no reason to specifically target the Woodland Realm in any particular hurry. A newly awakened and revitalized dragon would certainly turn his attention to nearby Mirkwood eventually and I'm sure that he would find pleasure in harassing the Wood-elves. However, unless he is under the control of a greater power such as Sauron he has no reason to give them any special attention, not knowing what part they played in the quest of Thorin and Company. Even Bilbo's riddling talk didn't bring them up unless I misremember.

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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 28, 4:51pm

Post #31 of 43 (574 views)
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Frodo vs Bilbo [In reply to] Can't Post

One distinguishing trait in Frodo is that he’s much more Took and less Baggins than Bilbo, thus braver and more ready to attack. He wavered in the Barrow, but did attack the wight. In Moria, he was the first to attack the troll. On Weathertop, though terrified, he did slash the Witch-king’s garments. At the Ford of Bruinen, though beaten down by illness from his wound, he still dared to defy the combined Nine. In Cirith Ungol, he led the confrontation with Shelob.

It’s hard to see Bilbo showing the same courage. But your salient point resonates here that since Gandalf isn’t the same between books, there’s no reason why Bilbo couldn’t have been beefed up in the bravery department like Frodo.

My intuitive feel for Frodo as a character is certainly deeper than mine for Bilbo in The Hobbit, and I don’t think of him as Bilbo #2 or Bilbo Jr. Tolkien had the advantage of starting with a clean slate with Frodo and weaving him into the epic fates of the Ring, the Elves, and the Dunedain kingdoms. Bilbo might have had too much baggage for that to work.

And maybe one crucial reason for starting with a new character in LOTR as hero is the whole “why did this happen to me?!?!?” I think readers can identify with Frodo being stuck in a situation over his head and that he certainly had no responsibility for. It increases his moral stature that he takes on the Quest even though it’s made very clear it’s *not* his responsibility.

If Bilbo were the hero, and he complained to Gandalf or Gildor, “Why are these Black Riders after me? Why should Sauron care about an innocent hobbit in the Shire?”, the obvious retort is, “Because you stole a magic ring in a game where you didn’t quite play fairly.” If the LOTR quest was more about Bilbo making amends for his past actions, that could have worked, but it wouldn’t have the dramatic impact of the Innocent Ordinary Guy stepping forward to save the world at great personal cost.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 28, 5:03pm

Post #32 of 43 (565 views)
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One advantage of the long gap between TH and LOTR [In reply to] Can't Post

Is that it deepens the sense of history underpinning the story. Contrast the books we have with a hypothetical LOTR that starts with, “Bilbo had hardly settled down in Bag End, and was still missing many of his beloved spoons, when the next spring there appeared on his doorstep Gandalf accompanied by a Man, the Elven-King’s son, and Gimli, the son of Gloin.”
“Bilbo,” Gandalf said gravely, you must come with us and leave at once, for the Necromancer has sent fell riders to kill you and steal your magic ring. No time for pocket handkerchiefs! Your gardener and cousins are waiting for us in Bywater for a new adventure.” ...

Feels rushed, right? There isn’t the feel of things fermenting quietly like they did in the published works. I think it would be harder to establish the epic feel if things happened too quickly.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Sep 28, 5:03pm)


squire
Half-elven


Sep 28, 6:24pm

Post #33 of 43 (559 views)
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Excellent points about Frodo's role as a hero compared to Bilbo's. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 



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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 28, 7:23pm

Post #34 of 43 (556 views)
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What Man would Gandalf bring? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Contrast the books we have with a hypothetical LOTR that starts with, “Bilbo had hardly settled down in Bag End, and was still missing many of his beloved spoons, when the next spring there appeared on his doorstep Gandalf accompanied by a Man, the Elven-King’s son, and Gimli, the son of Gloin.”


For that matter, what Man could Gandalf call upon between the Battle of Five Armies and the following year? Arathorn II would be dead and his son Aragorn would still be a child being raised in Rivendell. Bard would have had his own problems and concerns, as would Beorn. Surely there would have been other Dúnedain whom the wizard might enlist, even brave Men of Gondor, but none of them would be the Heir of Isildur.

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


squire
Half-elven


Sep 28, 8:40pm

Post #35 of 43 (556 views)
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Any man he wanted - Aragorn, Boromir, Bill Ferny, etc. [In reply to] Can't Post

Unless I'm misunderstanding, this scenario is Lord of the Rings rewritten from scratch. All of Aragorn's story, including the very existence of lost Arnor and surviving Gondor, was only invented once the writing of Bingo's (to be Frodo's) journey was well underway.

Aragorn, if I remember, started out as Trotter, the mysterious Ranger hobbit at Bree, and he remained so until he found himself unable to help the other hobbits in the deep snows of Caradhras...

Tolkien rethought the character as being a Man at that point, and went back and rewrote the entire book from Bree onward. It had become clear that while having a Hobbit 'Hero' sounded like a great idea for a 'Hobbit' sequel, it was actually an ongoing contradiction in terms!

Fun stuff, reminding us of just how contingent all of Tolkien's magnificent invented world, detailed back-story, and realistic-sounding saga stuff really was.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 29, 12:42am

Post #36 of 43 (538 views)
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We could do that. [In reply to] Can't Post

I was trying to come up with something that worked without making major changes to existing characters within the legendarium. However, I still wonder if CuriousG had anyone in particular in mind.

Along those lines, if we don't want to make any major changes to The Hobbit itself (with the possible exception of "he remained very happy to the end of his days"), we could pick up the story with Gandalf and Balin at Bag End in T.A. 2949. After Gandalf returned with Bilbo to Bag End following the Battle of Five Armies, the wizard found that he was not satisfied by Saruman's assurances that Sauron could not again pose a threat for many years. He was also bothered by the mystery of Bilbo's magic ring. Rather than letting it lie Gandalf began researching the Rings of Power; he also became interested in locating and interrogating the strange creature Gollum.

To track down Gollum, Gandalf enlisted the help of one of the Elves. This could have been a member of Elrond's household such as Glorfindel or Gildor Inglorion. It might have been Legolas Greenleaf, son of Thranduil. Eventually they find Gollum in Wilderland, he is questioned by Gandalf and imprisoned in the Woodland Realm, never making it to Mordor.

In 2949 Gandalf visits Minas Tirith and reads the scroll of Isildur. In the autumn and accompanied by the dwarf Balin, he visits Bilbo at Bag End. After the trio share news of Wilderland, Erebor and Dale, Gandalf finds time to be alone with the hobbit. They speak for a bit about the Great Rings, the Shadow and Gandalf's suspicions, and Gandalf asks Bilbo to bring out his ring for a final test: throw the ring into the lit fireplace. Perhaps Bilbo can comply; perhaps Gandalf must snatch the ring into his own hands and toss it into the fire himself. Either way the Ring reveals its inscription and Gandalf's fears are confirmed.

Gandalf takes Bilbo to Rivendell where Elrond arranges for a meeting of the White Council Much debate ensues and much depends upon Saruman as the head of the Council. This is a Saruman who has kept secrets but has not outright betrayed the Council at this time. The possibility exists that he could yet keep faith with his mission in Middle-earth. At the same time, he is certain to want to study the Ring and perhaps perform some experiments with it, even attempt to forge a Ring for himself. Would he go along with a plan to destroy the Master Ring? Or would he recommend some other course of action?

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 29, 12:43am

Post #37 of 43 (538 views)
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Or epilogue? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a bit like the epilogue Tolkien wrote for The Lord of the Rings but was convinced to drop.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 29, 1:36pm

Post #38 of 43 (478 views)
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Yes, I think so too. // [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.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 29, 3:24pm

Post #39 of 43 (472 views)
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Thank you! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 30, 2:42pm

Post #40 of 43 (351 views)
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That is a good illustration of my point about twisty timelines, I think [In reply to] Can't Post

For fun, one can assume that everything in the LOTR Appendices are fixed, and see whether an alternative plot can be made to stand up (as O-s did). Interesting possible conclusion - the Ring has to hang around in the Shire for a while because Frodo's quest has to co-incide with the proper heir of Isildur being around for his quest too.
By extension, a Quest of Erebor Gandalf might perhaps make exactly that point.

The other way of looking at it is the one squire gave as an example - allowing into the alternative plot game the idea that it's all literature, and that characters in Middle-earth are therefore surrounded by a confected history and geography that has been designed by Tolkien to make his plots plausible. (As a further level of 'recursion', it's possible to infer from the text that Powers might be manipulating middle-earth history in that way to make certain events possible, whilst still relying upon heroes to make the right choices). So by that view, Tolkien could have had Aragorn appear earlier, to meet his new plot needs, or have made any other change.

And now I realise that I might be busy explaining further an idea that everyone has already understood, so I'll stop now :)

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 30, 3:57pm

Post #41 of 43 (351 views)
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More Frodo vs. Bilbo as heroes [In reply to] Can't Post

I came across this idea recently:


Quote
"In her essay ‘Existentialists and Mystics’ (1970) Murdoch contrasts the existentialist hero –‘powerful, self-assertive’ –with the mystical hero –‘an anxious man trying to discipline or purge or diminish himself’. ‘The chief temptation of the former is egoism, of the latter masochism.’"

The Bell (Vintage Classic Iris Murdoch Series)" by Iris Murdoch, with an Introduction by A S Byatt, Vintage Classics 2004. This quote is from the Introduction.


It's pretty easy to find some existentialist heroes in TH or LOTR: Thorin, Bard, Boromir... The 'mystical hero' sounds like Frodo to me, and a way in which he differs from Bilbo, as I understand the two characters.. I'm not sure I can see Bilbo fitting readily into either category (which is fine - Murdoch and Byatt aren't saying that all heroes must fit the categories, as far as I can see).

A related thought (though perhaps only by a circuitous route) is that if an older Bilbo had to turn out to destroy the Ring, he might resemble Beowulf. Beowulf's feats of killing Grendel and then Grendel's mother happen in his prime, but it's as an old king that he must go and face he dragon. And face it he must, regardless of his expectation that he will die, because he's the king and that's his responsibility. Perhaps Bilbo isn't existentialist hero enough for that to seem credible or necessary (c.f. Theoden turning out to fight even though he is old). Bilbo is, we've just been informed in this chapter, "only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all." (to which his reply is "Thank Goodness!")

~~~~~~
"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 30, 5:05pm

Post #42 of 43 (340 views)
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Indeed. [In reply to] Can't Post

If we posit that the Heir of Isildur and the reunification of Gondor and Arnor are essential to the overall plot then we can imagine Aragorn (and perhaps other characters as well) born a generation earlier or even substitute his father Arathorn in a similar role instead of consigning him to an early death. We still have a different situation with a Sauron who has only had a few years to consolidate power after returning to Mordor and a Saruman who might not yet be under the Dark Lord's sway and might make different decisions.

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


Roverandom
The Shire


Oct 4, 7:45pm

Post #43 of 43 (284 views)
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Closing Arguments [In reply to] Can't Post

First and foremost --- thank you, all, for a thoughtful and enlightening last few months, for welcoming me into the circle, and for looking past my spotty attendance. Outside world demands have kept me from posting as often as I would have liked. Thanks, especially, to noWiz, who took on the daunting task of organizing the discussion, encouraged me, and led by example.

As for this week, I agree with those who come down on the side of the Rivendell elves singing from a place within the trees, rather than anything resembling Lorien flets. I like the contrast of the Elves' song regarding the pleasures of the valley to the recurring tune sung by Thorin and Company. As for the remainder of the journey home, I'm quite satisfied with Bilbo living "happily ever after to the end of his days", and I'm sure he is, too! Frodo seems better suited to the darker journey to Mount Doom. Generally speaking, I prefer keeping the broadly drawn world of The Hobbit separate from Middle-Earth of LotR. For me, they are each perfect settings for their respective stories and for different reasons. To conclude, the visit by Gandalf and Balin feels very much like an after-thought to me. Could it have been a late addition?

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.

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