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***Favorite Chapters – Roast Mutton (The Hobbit)
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uncle Iorlas

Dec 11 2019, 5:00pm

Post #26 of 34 (993 views)
links and cuffs [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed this is so, I'd forgotten, but I have my Hobbit ready to hand as I need to prep for another chapter in a month's time... and so I notice, glancing at the first chapter, and getting ensnared myself in Gandalf's dialogue for a moment, that there's another barest stub of a pattern here, maybe: to think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took's son, as if I were selling buttons at the door! Buttons at the door, indeed! And later Bilbo will lose his buttons to an overly aggressive door—only to have them replaced by considerably more glorious buttons which are mentioned in the final chapter as a sort of bookend. Or cufflink. I'll have to keep me lids peeled for any other door-button conjunctions that show themselves within and without the text.

(And look, now, on one hand this feels a little thin to be placing much significance on, but it's as good as much of what passes muster with the people who argue, for example, that every blessed word of Deuteronomy is part of a continuous string of echoes and chiasms so as to be really more than half an epic poem rather than prose.)

To the cufflinks and the purse we might add the toys handed out at Bilbo's eleventy-first, "some of them obviously magical," straight from Dale where Gandalf's cousin Kringle has his shop. Perhaps not all the whimsy has been sucked out of this setting even when the ink is dry on LOTR.

Rounding up more repeating motifs, you mention the roll call, and it definitely deserves a place, if only because (as now) it so often immediately precedes the captivity of the dwarves, sorted then sacked. But not always: indeed the professor gets away with two whole scenes whose comedic engine is precisely the arrival of the dwarves one or two at a time, with much reciting of names and bowing and doffing of hoods, first at Bag End then at Beorn's immense apiary. Which is a good moment to pause and say yes, actually at least sometimes the repeating pattern works to the author's advantage. The recitation of the dwarves' names has a tremendous power to make the young reader giggle, and in more or less pure form, it recurs a lot: maybe in part because the author is so relentlessly specific about keeping track of everybody's shoes and packs and supplies and would never let a dwarf slip from his logistical notes even if most of them are little more than names. So even a bit of description, like the dwarves hiding in trees, can begin to read like a list.

Is there any underlying significance to the times their piecemeal arrival works out well, as opposed to badly? Because they call on the trolls one by one, too, but it doesn't come off so well. Maybe because Bilbo goes first? Wait lemme check Mirkwood... no, it's more complicated there; first they all walk into the elves' cookout at once, then Bilbo the second time, then Thorin the third.

And that's an exception worth noting (I did promise cuffs after all): the king is set apart. What a piece of work is a dwarf! Thorin walks knowingly into a trap set by multiple trolls and warns them he’s coming—and still it seems he could just as easily have won that fight. Could Aragorn have done this? Could Bard? (Then again he also sets out to battle a dragon for a kingdom, also unarmed, with a few unarmed relatives, marking him as perhaps a better fighter than a planner. Weren’t they just working for years as blacksmiths?)

Once he has got a weapon in hand, he's effective, as this chapter establishes firmly and early. Dori's offhand description of Thorin's jackhammer combat during their escape through the tunnels is less obvious, but I daresay the author would have presented that in glowing terms if he'd narrated it directly. At any rate they seem to have won and he and Gandalf were the only ones armed so he couldn't have done too badly. And then of course there's the final battle.

Which involves another parallel, maybe: note that when Thorin goes missing in Mirkwood, which is handy for the author so he can give Bilbo a transformative adventure without the sheltering presence of an established war hero, and they don't notice til the spiders are routed, we're surprised to find that we've forgotten Thorin (since his absence is carefully not made quite explicit). And later, in the Five Armies, once again he'll be lost in the shuffle: "they had forgotten Thorin!"

How does one forget a king, after all? Especially in a world where kingliness is so reified and consequential? But in Tolkien it happens all the time. Twice in this book alone, and twice more in the sequel that outgrew it.

uncle Iorlas

Dec 11 2019, 5:46pm

Post #27 of 34 (985 views)
if I could spell the sound of Scooby's laugh it would be the subject now [In reply to] Can't Post

Dear God in Heaven, my wife has recently introduced my three-year-old to vintage Scoob, and so I've seen an episode for the first time since I was a kid myself. Friends, it is bad. It is so very bad. Formulaic, yes, and yes that helps organize your thoughts if you're spinning stories off the cuff, and fershure the TV people rely on such formulae to this day, as I've been learning of late.

But man, they also just had no standards whatever about their plots and schemes making sense. In the one I watched there's a sort of yeti who keeps being shown flying along ten feet off the ground, across canyons, over the heads of snowmobile drivers, and in the end these feats are explained away with "transparent plastic skis!" My brain is still crying out with reasons why that is nothing short of blithering.

On the upside, I did confirm in the credits that Shaggy was voiced by Kasey Kasem. I knew there was something about that guy's voice.


Dec 11 2019, 7:52pm

Post #28 of 34 (980 views)
Ka-ching! // [In reply to] Can't Post


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.


Dec 13 2019, 5:23am

Post #29 of 34 (899 views)
Interesting change [In reply to] Can't Post

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.

While its interesting that Tolkien went back and changed this up a little, the newer version doesn't seem that different in terms of tone and content. The only thing i feel is that the "sound" of the new version is much better to me. So maybe just a case of Tolkien Improving on himself

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." Gandalf, "The Last Debate."

Forum Admin / Moderator

Dec 15 2019, 3:23am

Post #30 of 34 (842 views)
What! You need inquire? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tim: "I've brought four with me to crash,
So now's the time to pass the stash."

Hashberry: "Then celebrate and take a toke,
To make us giggle, gag and choke!
Hither come and suck a pipe,
Turn thy brains to cheese and tripe!"


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

Forum Admin / Moderator

Dec 15 2019, 3:35am

Post #31 of 34 (843 views)
Or maybe another character? [In reply to] Can't Post

"Then you are the boggie of whom Goodgulf spoke, the Ringer?"
Frito nodded.
"Do you have it with you?"
"Would you like to see it?" asked Frito politely.
"Oh, no thanks," said Gimlet, "I had an uncle who had a magic tieclip and one time he sneezed and his nose fell off."
Frito nervously touched a nostril.


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


Dec 15 2019, 9:43am

Post #32 of 34 (819 views)
Better late than never (I hope) [In reply to] Can't Post

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?
This has been discussed in great length - and by people who have greater familiarity with English dialects than myself.
But I can contribute to the discussion by linking to a post by someone who knows far_more than me.

In Reply To

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?
I do not know enough about Tolkien’s contemporary world - but isn't Bilbo himself a Tolkien contemporary who finds himself thrust into the world of the legendarium?
I guess we could rationalize the using of well-recognized tropes as Bilbo mapping his memories of his adventure on his own early 20th century sensibilities - but do we want to

Is this kind of patterning a weakness or strength of a book of serial adventures like this?
It seems cartoonish, in a way. How many episode of Road Runner can you watch before fatigue and boredom settle in?
But Tolkien does it very well, and far less obvious.

Also, this patterning gives the reader a sense of predictability in new bewildering surroundings, and reassures him/her/it that things will come out well, in the end. (Well, there is the opening paragraph which indicates that everything will be all right - but I'm not sure how many remember that, in the excitement of the moment! Also, there is not such assurance regarding the dwarves)

So I think it is overall a strength.

What are the contradictions – and what are the possible solutions?
I think we've discussed this at great length before. Being short of time, I'll take a pass.

What themes or story-facts has Tolkien changed, and what has he kept the same?
First, "respectable country" has become exclusively "hobbit-lands"; perhaps Bree is included in that as well.
I note that the first edition version gives a list of "decent folk" - and dwarves are not in it! I guess Tolkien was still working within the world of the early Silmarillion texts, where dwarves are evil, or ambiguous at best. (But then, neither are farmers...)
I wonder why he chose to omit the tinker?
The time-frame feels different: first it was "quite a good while... But after a time they came to places"; then it became "At first they had passed... Then they came... Now they had gone". Three stages, but it actually seems to deteriorate far more quickly.
We miss the wonderful "Inns were rare and not good" - it is replaced by the flat "No inns".
The hills have become dreary. And the roads grow steadily worse.
The castles have an evil look - once Rhudaur was introduced to the Eriador history. In the first edition, they seemed malignant as well - but in a more fairy-tale (or early Silmarillion drafts) manner: "many (not all!) looked as if they had not been built for any good purpose".
There is far more of an emphasis on the weather changing in the latter text - this does remind me of Curious and his questions regarding the weather; but perhaps it is just a matter of changing the order of phrases? I do not have the first version here.

Which Hobbit do you prefer?
Well, that depends on whether you want to read The Hobbit as a separate book, or as a prelude to The Lord of the Rings.
The latter version is better (but still not quite) adjusted to the larger legendarium. This might lose some of the original charm - but on the other hand, would I have read The Hobbit as often had it been a standalone book? Probably not.

5. Finally, what’s up with the talking purse?
May I quote myself, from an earlier dissussion?


Really? What are chances of there being such a thing?
Trolls purses are the mischief, as you probably know.

And just a couple of sentences before, it is stated that picking trolls' pockets is very easy and usually profitable! Do you still trust the narrator?

Does this go one step further than the many talking animals in The Hobbit?
I guess so. But so is Gurthang.

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 even fits in the world of The Children of Hurin!
And was the "talk like dustmen" an oblique reference to "the stuff of the mountains they are made of", or even to "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return"?

If you could have one talking object in The Lord of the Rings, what would it be?
There is the fox - but he is clearly a subject.
And many have thought that it was the Ring channeling Frodo, who spoke at Mount Doom: see question M; also, check FarFromHome's answer to question O - in which case, we do have one.

And there is "the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone" in The White Rider - after which, I personally need no more.

Thank you, squire, for this thought-provoking discussion!


Tolkien was just using familiar language to set people in their class, something readers would easily relate to, at least in the generation he was writing LOTR in. So even though I'm American, I hear a Cockney accent from the movies when Sam says, "Lor", which may not be strictly what Tolkien was getting at but tells me as a reader that Sam is of a lower class and using slang.

- RIP_a.s.

Thinking about things I don't understand

(This post was edited by sador on Dec 15 2019, 9:44am)


Dec 15 2019, 5:03pm

Post #33 of 34 (786 views)
Subject [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
There is far more of an emphasis on the weather changing in the latter text - this does remind me of Curious and his questions regarding the weather; but perhaps it is just a matter of changing the order of phrases? I do not have the first version here.

I think the weather emphasis is simply better to prepare the night of the troll-encounter, when it's pouring rain and not even Oin and Gloin can get a fire going, hence their gravitating toward the trolls'

The Shire

Dec 15 2019, 6:18pm

Post #34 of 34 (777 views)
Questions Answered and Answers Leading to a Question [In reply to] Can't Post

First of all, thank you for presenting this chapter, Squire. I always enjoy your take on the story.

1. I won't delve too deeply into the class distinctions of the Trolls' dialogue. The words were written by a linguist, so it's certainly possible that, like all the other examples you mention, this is just the author flexing his scholastic muscles. I wouldn't presume to know how this would have been received in England at the time, and I defer to those of you Brits who have already commented with regards to modern sensibilities. It only takes the briefest of second looks at an old favorite like the original Dumbo and its Jim Crow crows to understand that not everything in one's cherished past deserves permanent enshrinement.

2, 3 and 5. I'll lump these together, because each of them can be answered by a version of "because The Hobbit is a children's story, where The Lord of the Rings is not".

Reading to a child at bedtime, as I have been doing with The Hobbit for the past few years, is easiest when safety or comical events follows quickly after the serious and scary. That's why it's fun to read the Great Goblin as a blustering leader of knuckleheads instead of the deadly army of the Dark Lord. It's also why the narrator, like the grandfather in The Princess Bride, is constantly interrupting himself at tense moments to remind us that Bilbo "does not get eaten by the eels at this time". Talking purses keep the story light. Repetition of names, patterns of behavior and difficult chapters followed immediately by relative calm are comforting plot devices that make it easier for children to keep up with things without being overwhelmed. Which is why I think...

4. The Hobbit that I prefer is the one that doesn't try to fit into the Middle-Earth that comes after, in LotR. They are both great, but for somewhat different reasons.

I promised a question at the end of my answers, and here it is: as we are discussing the use of voices in this chapter, what does everyone think of the end of the Trolls? The passage reads: "Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!" said a voice that sounded like William's". Why didn't it just sound like Gandalf? When I read it aloud to my daughter (in John Huston's voice from the Bakshi LotR) it sounds much more dramatic! Wink

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 threshold of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.

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