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***Favorite Chapters – Roast Mutton (The Hobbit)
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squire
Half-elven


Dec 9 2019, 5:50am

Post #1 of 34 (1228 views)
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***Favorite Chapters – Roast Mutton (The Hobbit) Can't Post

Welcome to another exploration of a favorite Tolkien chapter, this week’s being the first one not from The Lord of the Rings. I admit I can’t really call this my favorite Hobbit chapter, because I don’t think of the books that way. But here are some of the ways this could be my favorite Hobbit chapter for this week, at least.

1. One reason I wanted to discuss this one is because lately I’ve been wondering about the trolls’ voices. Why do they speak in English working-class dialect? Was Tolkien drawing from some local workingmen whose voices his children would have recognized, or was he just using a convention of middle-class humor at the time?
Many of the other antagonists in the story also have distinctively comic voices: the bombastic Goblin King, the simpering infantile Gollum, the bluff coarse Beorn, the suave but sly Elven King, and the aristocratic Smaug. How do these voices from the popular genres of Tolkien’s contemporary world interact with his many references to past mythologies, fairy tales, and his own legendarium?

2. Another thing I noticed, on re-reading for this week, was how many ways this first adventure sets a pattern for many of the later ones.
a. The Dwarves are miserable and starving, and go “off the road” to find relief, following what turns out to be a deceptive signal (fire on the hillside, cave in the mountains, elven feast in the woods).
b. The villain or villains interrogate the hobbit or Dwarves as to their purpose and reason for trespassing (trolls, goblin king, Gollum, Beorn, Elven king, Smaug).
c. The Dwarves are confined one by one and suffer miserably until released by Bilbo (mutton sacks, spider webs, dungeon cells, barrels).
d. Gandalf rescues the Dwarves by using verbal skills (deceptive voices for trolls; flattery for the eagles; tall tale for Beorn).
e. Bilbo grows as a hero when separated from the Dwarves (pick-pocketing and negotiating with trolls; winning ring from Gollum; rescuing them from the spiders and the Elves; sitting by the hidden Door; outwitting Smaug; bartering the Arkenstone, etc.).
Is this kind of patterning a weakness or strength of a book of serial adventures like this?

3. Then there’s the puzzle that this chapter is the only part of the journey that is literally repeated by Frodo and the gang in the sequel: walking from Hobbiton to Rivendell, along the great Western Road. As has been shown by several critics and many attentive readers, and as Tolkien worried himself about, the two books’ geographies don’t quite match up. Fonstad in her Atlas of Middle-earth lays the problem out with the help of her maps.
What are the contradictions – and what are the possible solutions?

4. Another quaint aspect of this chapter’s being most closely duplicated by The Lord of the Rings is that, when written, The Hobbit did not occupy the fully imagined world we now know as Middle-earth in the Third Age. This is because there was no such world yet – it came into being later, as LotR expanded in every direction from TH. Looking back today, there are some noticeable differences in setting, culture, and tone.
It’s pretty well known that Tolkien semi-accidentally revised the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter for the second edition of The Hobbit in 1951, to get the Ring and Gollum in line with what they became in the sequel. But he didn’t touch the rest of the story at the time. He did attempt a full LotR-style rewrite around 1960, but he abandoned it on the advice of friendly readers. In 1965, to reassert his paperback copyright in the USA, he revised The Hobbit again, for a third edition, and used the opportunity to get it at least a little more closely aligned to the later tale. We see the results especially in this chapter; here is a comparison of one of the most extensively changed paragraphs.
This is the original from 1937:
Things went on like this for quite a long while. There was a good deal of wide respectable country to pass through, inhabited by decent respectable folk, men or hobbits or elves or what not, with good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf, or a tinker, or a farmer ambling by on business. But after a time they came to places where people spoke strangely, and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before. Inns were rare and not good, the roads were worse, and there were hills in the distance rising higher and higher. There were castles on some of the hills, and many looked as if they had not been built for any good purpose. Also the weather which had often been as good as May can be, even in tales and legends, took a nasty turn. TH II, 1st ed.

(I’ll skip the far more extensive changes in the 1960 rewrite, which was never completed or published. It can be read in Rateliff’s History of The Hobbit. Hint: this one paragraph becomes three; they stay at the Prancing Pony at Bree, and even pass the Forsaken Inn!)
The paragraph was rewritten this way in 1965:
At first they had passed through hobbit-lands, a wide respectable country inhabited by decent folk, with good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf or a farmer ambling by on business. Then they came to lands where people spoke strangely, and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before. Now they had gone on far into the Lone-lands, where there were no people left, no inns, and the roads grew steadily worse. Not far ahead were dreary hills, rising higher and higher, dark with trees. On some of them were old castles with an evil look, as if they had been built by wicked people. Everything seemed gloomy, for the weather that day had taken a nasty turn. Mostly it had been as good as May can be, even in merry tales, but now it was cold and wet. In the Lone-lands they had been obliged to camp when they could, but at least it had been dry. TH II, 3rd ed.

What themes or story-facts has Tolkien changed, and what has he kept the same? Which Hobbit do you prefer?

5. Finally, what’s up with the talking purse? Does this go one step further than the many talking animals in The Hobbit? Is it one step too far, or is it acceptable in a world where trolls with names like Bill Huggins and who talk like dustmen are also turned into stone by sunlight?

If you could have one talking object in The Lord of the Rings, what would it be?


This has been fun, revisiting a single Tolkien chapter. I hope you will have some fun with these thoughts and queries.



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


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noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 9 2019, 2:19pm

Post #2 of 34 (1122 views)
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Troll voices [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
1. One reason I wanted to discuss this one is because lately I’ve been wondering about the trolls’ voices. Why do they speak in English working-class dialect? Was Tolkien drawing from some local workingmen whose voices his children would have recognized, or was he just using a convention of middle-class humor at the time?


I think it's a convention of the period- Tolkien's conjuring the stock children's story character of Stupid Criminal, Liable To Be Defeated By Plucky Child Protagonist. Hence the 'mockney' accent (an exaggerated, theatrical version of the 'cockney' accent of East London). When I was growing up in 1960s and early 1970s England, you'd still sometimes see this done in British-made TV, radio, comics or books. But that all seems very dated now.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


Solicitr
Rohan

Dec 9 2019, 2:40pm

Post #3 of 34 (1121 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

and I also think it has the function of positioning Bilbo in the world: Shippey called him, aptly, "the bourgeois burglar." Middle-earth does reflect the British penchant (back then, at least) for stratifying society, and Bilbo is not quite at the bottom of the pecking order (by his own Shire terms he's moderately toffy). Part of the humor of the unexpected party, at least to its original readers, is this passel of Dwarves ordering a respectable country squire about like a servant! The Hobbit is driven as much as anything by clash of cultures, fish out of water and big fish/little pond > little fish/big pond.

So the Trolls serve to put somebody into the books whom Bilbo (and through him the presumptively bourgeois reader) can feel superior to- they are big and dangerous, certainly, but also both churlish and stupid.

(However, I rather suspect that had Tolkien written the book later in his writing career he would have given them West Country or broad Yorkshire accents- these hill-trolls are yokels, not eastenders!)


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Dec 9 2019, 2:43pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 9 2019, 4:35pm

Post #4 of 34 (1110 views)
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Must say, I don't like the idea of *any* regional or class accent for fantasy characters [In reply to] Can't Post

Apart from snobbery issues, matching fantasy characters of peoples to accents in English drags me out of the story. I want to think of elves as elves,and trolls as trolls, not elves as Kiwis or Japanese, and trolls as Cockneys (or whatever).

Besides, my family comes from London, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire among other places, so you're trolling me Wink
(Nah, not personally offended really. But I feel a queasy side of cartoonish regional accents to suggest stupidity and criminality. I wonder whether it comes across in the same way to readers who aren't British.)

In LOTR, I don't read the speech of the major characters as being forced into any distinct accent. And yet in, say The Council of Elrond, Tolkien manages to make each of the many different speakers sound distinct. I prefer it that way. So maybe that is the direction Tolkien was going.

Squire mentions that Tolkien began a thorough re-write of The Hobbit in 1960, but abandoned it. I don't know whether it has revised trolls (I don't have a copy of Rateliff’s History of The Hobbit, in which this appears). I would be interested now to know whether Tolkien decided to change the trolls' accents.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 9 2019, 5:28pm

Post #5 of 34 (1104 views)
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The burglar's bourgeois, the trolls are proles [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
and I also think it has the function of positioning Bilbo in the world: Shippey called him, aptly, "the bourgeois burglar." Middle-earth does reflect the British penchant (back then, at least) for stratifying society, and Bilbo is not quite at the bottom of the pecking order (by his own Shire terms he's moderately toffy). Part of the humor of the unexpected party, at least to its original readers, is this passel of Dwarves ordering a respectable country squire about like a servant! The Hobbit is driven as much as anything by clash of cultures, fish out of water and big fish/little pond> little fish/big pond.

So the Trolls serve to put somebody into the books whom Bilbo (and through him the presumptively bourgeois reader) can feel superior to- they are big and dangerous, certainly, but also both churlish and stupid.


I forgot to say in my earlier post that I agreed with this! It's one of the bits of the story that has not dated so well.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


Solicitr
Rohan

Dec 9 2019, 5:33pm

Post #6 of 34 (1105 views)
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Which reminds me of [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But I feel a queasy side of cartoonish regional accents to suggest stupidity and criminality. I wonder whether it comes across in the same way to readers who aren't British.)


An Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him.
The moment he talks, he makes some other Englishman despise him!


(Written by an American channeling an Irishman)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 9 2019, 8:58pm

Post #7 of 34 (1089 views)
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This American's view on British accents [In reply to] Can't Post


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But I feel a queasy side of cartoonish regional accents to suggest stupidity and criminality. I wonder whether it comes across in the same way to readers who aren't British.

I think I recognized as a child that in cartoons and movies a "cockney" accent was an uneducated, blue collar, rather uncouth British person, but it just seemed "cute" to me and nothing more. In "Mary Poppins," it wasn't hard to contrast Dick Van Dyke's "cockney" accent (which apparently made no sense to the British) with those of proper governess Mary and her upper crust employers. But it all seemed foreign to me anyway, so it wasn't rubbing any salt in the wounds of class conflict.

American TV doesn't rely on accents so much for criminals unless it gives them a New Yorker accent full of bad grammar and pronunciation, mafia slang, and obscenities or at least vulgarities, even if they're nowhere near New York. Even without the New York accent, they have a speech pattern that's rough, reflecting how rough and tough they are.

One thing that had to be pointed out to me as an adult was the standard fare of animal cartoons we all grew up with: a cartoon cop nearly always had an Irish name ("Officer O'Leary") and slight accent, and for whatever reason, if there were a bunch of female chickens knitting and gossiping, for example, they had women's Jewish/Yiddish/New York accents. It washed over me as a kid, and I think it's more of a reflection of the bias of the cartoon makers than anyone else.

One other observation: if an American regional accent is going to be used to suggest ignorance and boorish behavior, it's usually a Southern accent, though across the US South, of course, the accents vary, so there's no single Southern accent. The only other pejorative one I can think of (out of fashion now) is the San Fernando Valley Girl accent, which meant blond and dumb, even though that's a very small part of California and not a "region." There was even a pop song about it in 80s or 90s.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 10 2019, 1:46am

Post #8 of 34 (1070 views)
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accent ague [In reply to] Can't Post


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Apart from snobbery issues, matching fantasy characters of peoples to accents in English drags me out of the story. I want to think of elves as elves,and trolls as trolls, not elves as Kiwis or Japanese, and trolls as Cockneys (or whatever).

Apart from whose snobbery issues? The reader's or the author's? As a matter of fact my last two times through out loud to kids, I've found myself playing Breelanders as Irish, to the best of my miserably limited Yankee ability, and I find that rather enjoyable. But I am by no means consistently meaningful about all that, either, and the whole book would sound a hundred times better if I were only English myself of course.

But as for the author's snobbery, now...


In Reply To
I feel a queasy side of cartoonish regional accents to suggest stupidity and criminality. I wonder whether it comes across in the same way to readers who aren't British.

He may not write it into major characters but then there's the question of the orcs. I'm not the first to suggest that his easy association between the working classes and congenitally brutish minions of evil reflects on his own worldview pretty starkly. (I have always enjoyed his delicate intimation that if he were really translating for the orcs, everything they said would be laced with profanity, so of course he won't.)

Bringing it back to the trolls, I'm afraid I find it enjoyably effective, even if it is terribly classist.


squire
Half-elven


Dec 10 2019, 2:50am

Post #9 of 34 (1062 views)
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“What the ’ell Ronald was a-thinkin of to write us these parts at all, beats me." [In reply to] Can't Post

Good question about the 1960 re-write. I just checked and it's clear the trolls' dialogue was left quite unchanged - except for the introductory scene where they briefly mention that they were the ones who broke the bridge, to force travelers to detour closer to the their lair. Yes, in 1960 Gandalf and the dwarves find the great stone bridge broken, which features in Frodo's quest but is not mentioned at all in The Hobbit.
The other small change to the trolls' dialogue is at the very end, where one of them sensibly urges haste in deciding how to eat the dwarves because he can smell the dawn coming -- just before Gandalf calls on the sunrise to strike them solid.



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


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noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 10 2019, 11:46am

Post #10 of 34 (1022 views)
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Happy with 'classist issues' rather than 'snobbery issues' [In reply to] Can't Post

Happy with 'classist issues' rather than 'snobbery issues' - if those two are distinct, I probably didn't mean the distinction.

Other than that I think I have little to add. I think we understand each other but have different views. But to recap, in case anyone would like me to clarify anything:

I've tried to answer squire's question (why the trolls are written in an attempted accent, and why I think it's that one)

And I've explained why that, for me, has a distancing and dating effect, making it harder for me to enjoy the story. Naturally, other people will feel differently about it.

I pointed out that my response to it might be due to me being English meaning that I have experience which would be different if I'd lived elsewhere (or elsewhen). So my intention was to explain to someone who might not have that context (I was answering squire's question after all!). If Tolkien had been an American, using an American accent for humour or stereotyping here, then I'd be the one at a disadvantage. If I have given the impression that my understanding of Tolkien is superior to anyone else's (a possible interpretation of uncle I's 'whose snobbery?',) then that wasn't what I intended, and is not what I think.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Dec 10 2019, 11:52am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 10 2019, 3:12pm

Post #11 of 34 (1005 views)
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" they have a speech pattern that's rough, reflecting how rough and tough they are." [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
American TV doesn't rely on accents so much for criminals unless it gives them a New Yorker accent full of bad grammar and pronunciation, mafia slang, and obscenities or at least vulgarities, even if they're nowhere near New York. Even without the New York accent, they have a speech pattern that's rough, reflecting how rough and tough they are.


I suppose that this rough speech pattern is what Tolkien ends up with for the LOTR orcs. I don't mind that so much as I mind the trolls, and I think it's because the orcs don't speak with a particular real-world accent (or a stagey version of one) as far as I can detect. Orc speech seems to be something Tolkien has worked on and composited a bit. Also, we end up seeing some orcs as characters rather than cliches. For example, I find it hard not to have a sneaking respect for Ugluk's loyalty to his evil boss, and his fighting bravely at the end. Some of us here have also

I suppose I feel a bit similar about the hobbits of The Shire - the peasantry is a bit Mummersetty ('Mummerset' being the stage exaggeration of a West Country accent). But again, Tolkien develops them so that they seem part of Middle-earth rather than an import from a BBC comedy radio programme of the day.

My other eye-roll as far as dialogue is Ghân-buri-Ghân. Him speak-um Tonto. Him heap-big cliche. White man get dialogue from Westerns, Ghân-buri-Ghân thinks. Of course Ghân-buri-Ghân's a sort of composite 'native' (in the colonial era sense - and that for me has also dated very badly). But in speech at least, maybe he's Tolkien's only attempt at rendering an American - funny thought! Just as well Tolkien didn't go for American trolls, perhaps.

I suppose I can't help wishing that Tolkien - usually so sure footed in making Middle-earth seem a distinct place with carefully imagined peoples - had worked harder to make the trolls and Ghân-buri-Ghân seem like Middle-earth residents, rather than imports from other media.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


squire
Half-elven


Dec 10 2019, 8:12pm

Post #12 of 34 (991 views)
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Are The Hobbit's trolls and the Druedain from the same world? [In reply to] Can't Post

"I can't help wishing that Tolkien...had worked harder to make the trolls and Ghân-buri-Ghân seem like Middle-earth residents."

I agree that both in their ways stand out a bit with their heavy dialects reflecting tropes of our popular literature. But the trolls are fitted much better into The Hobbit, because that world isn't really the same as the Middle-earth of Lord of the Rings, in many ways. The avuncular narrator, the comically singing elves and goblins, the riddling and puzzling exchanges of dialogue, the absurdity of the dwarves, etc. are all examples of this, to be set in contrast with the many other ways in which LotR clearly finds its origins in The Hobbit.

As I noted in my post, the trolls aren't the only ones who speak with distinctly "real-world" or "real-world genre literature" styles. Gollum's speech is even odder than the trolls: a spoof of a simple-minded old nursemaid, if you read it without reference to how Tolkien developed it in the second book into a sign of his domination by the Ring. The goblin king is ridiculous; Beorn is a caricature; Thorin is a take-off on the self-important politician; Smaug is, as Tom Shippey put it, "a colonel in a railway carriage, spoken to by someone to whom he has not been introduced." In this comic sequence of voices, the trolls actually fit right in.

Ghan-buri-ghan does not fit in as well in his book, because Tolkien has toned down his act considerably in LotR. He still plays with verbal styles to distinguish his characters and races, but within much stricter limits of standard English. In this setting - the "Middle-earth" of your complaint above, I think - old Ghan is indeed rendered crudely with hints of more insensitive pop-culture racism that we are comfortable associating with Tolkien. I notice that, after he invented the Drugs in LotR, he went back and inserted them into the First Age, as documented in Unfinished Tales. In those writings the 'native' patois is considerably toned down!

Imagine Ghan-buri-ghan saying this to Theoden: “I hope you are rested,” it said, “but if you wish for more sleep, I beg you to move to the other one. He will never need to stretch his legs again; and I find your cloak too hot in the sun.” - Unfinished Tales, "The Druedain".



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.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 10 2019, 8:48pm

Post #13 of 34 (982 views)
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good heavens, no [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm afraid I was the one being unclear. I only meant something like "I am not sure whether your reference to 'snobbery issues' is a good-humored dig at yourself, which would seem in character, or whether it opens a legitimate discussion of our dear author's very real classism, which deserves examination."

If it needs to be said, I go out of my way to read all your posts, which I enjoy for their ready humor and nigh-constant wordplay not unlike the professor's own. Though I confess you have once or twice gotten too deep in the weeds for my poor noggin to follow. Usually (as in this instance, where I am simply not able to track the subtleties of dialect on your side of the pond) you shed a welcome light on the text.

Maybe I compounded things by saying I'd read the book better if I were English, actually? But that was all too sincere. I am something of an incompetent anglophile, that's all.

I remember an Onion headline from years ago that still makes me chuckle whenever I think of it: "US Finally Gives Up On Trying to Impress England." But like most Onion headlines, it wasn't true.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 10 2019, 10:18pm

Post #14 of 34 (976 views)
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questions of structure [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
2. Another thing I noticed, on re-reading for this week, was how many ways this first adventure sets a pattern for many of the later ones.
a. The Dwarves are miserable and starving, and go “off the road” to find relief, following what turns out to be a deceptive signal (fire on the hillside, cave in the mountains, elven feast in the woods).
b. The villain or villains interrogate the hobbit or Dwarves as to their purpose and reason for trespassing (trolls, goblin king, Gollum, Beorn, Elven king, Smaug).
c. The Dwarves are confined one by one and suffer miserably until released by Bilbo (mutton sacks, spider webs, dungeon cells, barrels).
d. Gandalf rescues the Dwarves by using verbal skills (deceptive voices for trolls; flattery for the eagles; tall tale for Beorn).
e. Bilbo grows as a hero when separated from the Dwarves (pick-pocketing and negotiating with trolls; winning ring from Gollum; rescuing them from the spiders and the Elves; sitting by the hidden Door; outwitting Smaug; bartering the Arkenstone, etc.).
Is this kind of patterning a weakness or strength of a book of serial adventures like this?


Last question first, it could cut either way really, but I do think it tells you something about what kind of models are operating in the author's mind. I was recently noticing some of this sort of material in the Hobbit myself, in prep for going over another chapter next month—though I am started and a bit chagrined that I hadn't noticed a lot of what you point out here! The dwarves' repeated confinement, for example, and particularly the fact that Bilbo is taking an early developmental step as an adventurer in the troll encounter. It's significant. It's here that we're told he has some book-knowledge of all sorts of adventurous doings and he deserves credit, after all, for deciding that he simply must take the plunge with a real live troll if he is to be claiming to be a burglar. Even though nothing about this goes particularly well, he shows us that his given word is good, and he's committed to doing some adventuring now, for better or for worse.

I was going to say, though, I found myself thinking of Old Testament story structures, which are kind of in a class by themselves—or, well, Italo Calvino and a few other experimenters would build story structures this way maybe, but the Bible is such a dense multigenerational hairball of the work of deeply obsessive people, one after another after another, that it's crisscrossed layers deep with structures built into its events, even though their meaning is often unclear and these structures get forgotten, lost, broken by later editors, rediscovered long after... the starkest example I know of is a grand chiasm extending at least from the parting of the Red Sea to the crossing of Jordan, but scholars seem to discover samples of this kind of behavior all over the text, both great and small.

I'm inclined to think if anybody would be aware of this sort of scholarship, it'd be Tolkien; he's devout, a scholar of translation, and he described the Bible as the archetype of all storylines. Isn't he exactly the sort of person who might have written some byzantine underlying structure into a story? But all that said, I haven't found anything quite so esoteric going on.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 10 2019, 10:35pm

Post #15 of 34 (975 views)
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the purse also speaks with an accent [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Finally, what’s up with the talking purse? Does this go one step further than the many talking animals in The Hobbit? Is it one step too far, or is it acceptable in a world where trolls with names like Bill Huggins and who talk like dustmen are also turned into stone by sunlight?

It's a unique instance, but the landscape of the Hobbit is one wherein unique phenomena aren't so remarkable. This is a map with the edges left off; it's a sort of Arthurian fairytale setting in which you spend a lot of time lost, even the well-travelled characters don't know much about how things currently are in many of the regions they've been to, and if you go snuffling into any obscure corner you're not unlikely to turn up someone strange and supernatural who lives there. The trolls themselves are about, not far from the main road, not really far from Hobbiton; there are giants in the mountains, and goblins under them, and a strange little inexplicable guy beneath the goblins, and Beorn is something else again, a little like a Celtic giant but also a bear; anything might happen in Mirkwood, enchanted streams and dreamlike supernatural hunts and a sense that there are any number of other oddities in the darkness off the path. Rumors of a Necromancer, not to mention Gandalf's cousin who's also a wizard, and that's leaving aside that dragon infestations are still a current issue, if not so common as one gathers they once were. An enchanted map to an enchanted door and blades of ancient legend we just happen to find left in a hole. Oh and some people can talk to birds.

One gets the impression that the map keeps rolling on, and that all the events of the story play a fairly minor part in its affairs overall. One more chance reference to a magical possibility that nobody mentions before or after—like "I had to use a Word of Power"—is par for the course. Perhaps Bilbo, like the reader, didn't know until he picked the wrong(ish) pocket that an enchanted talking wallet was a hazard burglars might encounter. Well, he knows now, I guess.


Solicitr
Rohan

Dec 11 2019, 1:15am

Post #16 of 34 (962 views)
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Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

certainly was aware the the literary use of regional accents for comic or artistic effect goes way back. He published a paper in 1934 (actually presented in 1931), "Chaucer as a Philologist: The Reeve's Tale", in which he makes the case that Chaucer here deliberately gave the Reeve a very distinctly northern dialect of Middle English -- and even wrote that Chaucer's intent was to "pander to popular linguistic prejudices—ranking with what passes for Scotch, Welsh, Yorkshire, or American in supposedly funny stories of to-day."


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Dec 11 2019, 1:16am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 11 2019, 10:17am

Post #17 of 34 (914 views)
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Glad to know I'm not being annoying! [In reply to] Can't Post

And thank you for those words of encouragement! Heart

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 11 2019, 11:48am

Post #18 of 34 (912 views)
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Well no, and yes (and yes and no)! [In reply to] Can't Post

Are The Hobbit's trolls and the Druedain from the same world? Well no, and yes!

YES: If we want to imagine Middle-earth as a place, then it must all fit together somehow into one imagined world - especially these trolls who Tolkien specifically includes again in LOTR. And it seems to me that in his later life Tolkien became absorbed, even obsessed, with getting it all neat and tidy and consistent and complete.

NO: If Tolkien couldn't get it all squared away, who can? And I think you've effectively already answered the question, squire. That's because in your OP you say 'The Hobbit did not occupy the fully imagined world we now know as Middle-earth in the Third Age. This is because there was no such world yet – it came into being later, as LotR expanded in every direction from TH. Looking back today, there are some noticeable differences in setting, culture, and tone. ' I agree with that.

But I think there's more to it than fans being grumpy about not having one single, beautifully-polished canon. Middle-earth in Hobbit is written in ways that I think just would not work for LOTR Middle-earth. So try to run the Hobbit 'code' on the 'computer' of LOTR Middle-earth and it crashes.

The Hobbit - particularly in these early chapters - is in a rather relaxed-seeming, throw-in-the-kitchen-sink kind of fantasy world. If Daddy can do a knock-out cockney accent then in it goes. (And it worked - I believe this was the Tolkien children's favourite chapter at one time? Or so I think it says in Annotated Hobbit, a book I don't have.) Similarly, Hobbit has amusing roll-calls of dwarf names, slapstick, mocking asides from the narrator, and word-play including outrageously cooked-up puns. We haven't yet got Middle-earth as the solid and seriuous milieu for a story that asks to be taken thoroughly seriously.

In LOTR we do have that and the believability (if that's a word) of Middle-earth is for me one of the strong things Tolkien has got going. But that's at the cost of it being as fragile as a soap-bubble as well as being as solid as stone. For me, such a fantasy world can contain humour inside it. But it's best for the humour to be one that a Middle-earther could see and report. For a writer who has constructed such serious and believable imagined world to stand outside it and make jokes about it is risky, I think. It pops the soap-bubble of suspending belief and imagining myself in that world. There's a similar risk if the storyteller uses their imagined world too overtly to comment upon the real world. And such a world can no longer support too obvious an allegory, because it then becomes a device with which to explore the real world. I think Tolkien saw that, and it explains his allergy to allegory.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld stories might be a good contrast here. The first couple of books are pretty straightforward parody - firework boxes of fantasy, science fiction and popular culture tropes into which the author nonchalantly lobs some lighted matches. Later Sir Terry began to include some very deep and thoughtful themes. And yet if feels to me that he kept Discworld as a set of of distorting mirrors that are funny to look in, and yet allow us to see the real world more clearly through satire. By contrast Middle-earth (in LOTR) seems to me to construct more of an illusion of independence from the real world. And I don't think it's supposed to be funny.

So yes - probably the best way to enjoy The Hobbit is to forget about LOTR Middle-earth, imagine mysefl being a child, and enjoy the story.

But no - after the world of LOTR Middle-earth, returning to The Hobbit's trolls is a bit of a jolt for me. Or to express my disorientation in another way:

Old Tolkien was a tinkerer
Who tarried with his publishing;
At length he built up Middle-earth
For characters to travel in;
His prose at last was silver-fine
With woods and rivers deftly made;
Proud hereoes wrote he, Oxford Don
And gor blimey trolls - flippin 'ek wot's them doin'? Sumfings not right 'ere.
Yer takin' the mick, mate? It don't even bleedin' rhyme no more.


~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 11 2019, 11:53am

Post #19 of 34 (911 views)
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Wow - How hard-core is that?! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I notice that, after he invented the Drugs in LotR, he went back and inserted them into the First Age,...


How hard-core is that?! Some authors take drugs, Tolkien invents them!

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


squire
Half-elven


Dec 11 2019, 12:39pm

Post #20 of 34 (907 views)
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Pretty hard-core, but he was an old hand at that kind of thing by then. [In reply to] Can't Post

"Toke-a-lid! Smoke-a-lid! Pop the mescalino!
Stash the hash! Gonna crash! Make mine methedrino!
Hop a hill! Pop a pill! For Old Tim Benzedrino!"



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


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noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 11 2019, 12:48pm

Post #21 of 34 (915 views)
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I like that idea! [In reply to] Can't Post

So maybe the purse is what remains of Middle-earth-as-it-might-have-been, in which magical items are resonably commonplace. In fact, didn't one of Bilbo's relatives have some magical cufflinks back in Unexected Party? Or am I misremembering?

At some point though, Tolkien presumably changes his mind. Magical items become rare indeed in Middle-earth (and 'magic' is often confused anyway with superior technolgy or advanced artistry).

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 11 2019, 2:14pm

Post #22 of 34 (915 views)
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Maybe thinking of the Old Took? [In reply to] Can't Post

In The Hobbit, Gandalf gave the Old Took a pair of diamond studs that stuck together upon command. (I'm never quite sure why that was useful.)


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 11 2019, 2:45pm

Post #23 of 34 (904 views)
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Patterns - crikey, where to start? Scooby Doo, where are you? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm glad you've got us started on this question Uncle I: I've been looking at it and wondering where to start.

I suppose a pattern enables the audience (especially children, perhaps, as a less expereinced audience for stories) to understand what is happening, and enjoy anticipating what is going to happen.

Maybe it also makes it easier to turn out similar adventures quickly, if you're a Dad with a day job and kids who are eager for the next chapter of this 'Hobbit' story you've started?

I suppose the patterning is a strength if it helps the storyteller but the audience doesn't notice it. And it's a strength if the audience notices and enjoys it. But it's a weakness if the audience notices it and isn't enjoying it.

I'm remembering that when I was a child I liked watching the TV cartoon series Scooby Doo. Does anyone else remember it? It had lots of repeating elements, and I used to see that as an enjoyable feature. Each week somebody said 'let's split up and look for clues!; the monster chased people; Velma nearly worked it all out; and then the monster would be caught in an elaborate trap baited by Shaggy and Scooby. Finally (and most importantly for me as a timid child), the monster never was an actual monster you needed to be scared of. In the final scene it would always be unmasked as Old Man Masters the Janitor (or someone similar), who'd been dressing up as a monster to scare people for some reason. Later series changed a lot, with real monsters and the arrival of a more heroic character, Scrappy Doo. That missed the point of it completely, I thought. (Someone at Hannah Barbara must have thought so too, because later still they reverted to the 'classic' formula.)

Of course storytellers can also establish a pattern and then subvert it. Maybe that happens in this chapter. Shouldn't we expect from fairy tales that the trolls would be under the bridge? Remembering that threes turn up a lot in fairy-tales, shouldn't Blbo get caught on his third and most over-ambitous effort at 'burglaring' the trolls? But maybe it goes wrong immediately just to underscore that Bilbo is a total novice as a burglar.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 11 2019, 2:46pm

Post #24 of 34 (901 views)
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Ah yes, that is what I was thinking of - thanks! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 11 2019, 2:47pm

Post #25 of 34 (905 views)
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Far out and groovy, Man! Is that 'Bored of the Rings', or you, squire? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Dec 11 2019, 2:52pm)

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