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Aug 26 2012, 10:59am
A. What would these tunnels be for? Are they logical aspects of this complex, or are they just plot-devices for “not getting lost/getting lost”?
Why not logical?
B. Why bother to count on both sides? Doesn’t “six left” get you to the same place as “seven right, six left”?
Gollum hasn't been that way for a long time; this is a good way to remember his way.
C. Why would Tolkien tweak like this?
See above. Also adds to the tension.
Does this have to do with some difference between LotR Gollum and Hobbit Gollum?
Probably not; but the tension is important.
D. This poses a difficult obstacle for Bilbo to overcome, but what is Gollum thinking? What advantage does he gain to sit at the entrance to a tunnel that smells strongly of goblin, when he believes that Bilbo has long gone ahead of him?
If they catch Bilbo - game over.
If not, they will just pass by; and Bilbo is likely to be hiding somewhere in the meantime; no time to search.
E. Would a reader of The Hobbit feel that this level of writing – this penetrating sequence of emotions and inner conflicts – is a bit out of place in The Hobbit, based on how Bilbo thinks and reacts in all his other crises and adventures?
I don't think so.
But you didn't remark on how Bilbo's inner conversation reflects Gollum's, earlier in the chapter.
F. How does Bilbo leap so accurately, given that he cannot see Gollum nor the doorway at all?
Another incredibly narrow escape - with which the next chapter is even more abundant!
G. What do you think? Is this scene as it currently stands out of place where it is, even though the reason for its being here is obvious?
As dernwyn noted, the original version streches the definition of the word "unlikely".
And this chapter does not really end with a resolution either way - as the previous one didn't. I beg your pardon, but I think you are trying a bit too hard here.
H. When did Bilbo become an expert in goblin types?
As the narrator shows, he isn't; he just had time to observe the size of both goblins and tunnels on his way down..
I. Is this the first time the reader is advised that goblins in The Hobbit are also known as “orcs”?
acheron answered correctly.
J. For what reasons may we imagine that the tunnels change profile, finish (rough vs smooth construction) and direction?
When were they constructed, by whom, and what for.
Are there any analogues in our real world for an underground labyrinth like this?
I don't know. Probably.
K. Why are they alert? What has been going on since the time the dwarves escaped?
The dwarves didn't escape very long ago, did they?
Yes, I know this is another weak point; but perhaps Gollum's lake was a kind of a short-cut to the Back Door, and Bilbo didn't lie in a swoon for long.
L. When Tolkien sent his famous “specimen of rewriting” of this chapter of The Hobbit (Letter #111) to coordinate it with his later work in LotR, were these smaller changes part of that?
I don't know.
M. Would Tolkien have similarly tweaked all of The Hobbit for vocabulary and style, had he known the publishers would be so accommodating?
In that case, it would have never gone to press on time.
N. Why ascribe consciousness to the ring now, when it never shows such a characteristic again?
This is definitely to accomodate the LotR story.
O. What is the point of the ring’s “trick”, if such it was? Does it want to be found by the goblins, or doesn’t it?
Frodo thought so. And Gandalf replied that there was another power at play.
P. What is the feeling of “fear and loss” that Bilbo is struck by?
Does he ever feel this way again in the story?
This might be reflected in his dream at the end of the next chapter.
Q. Is Tolkien’s intention that the readers of The Hobbit should worry about this capricious ring going forward, with its ability to cause “misery” and to slip on and off fingers at its own will?
Or is he more concerned that readers of LotR should find this foreshadowing in the earlier book if they look back for it later?
More likely, he felt he "discovered the truth about it".
R. Why did Tolkien feel he had to do a slight backflip to reproduce this scene of Bilbo vanishing in the face of the goblins, despite the changed circumstances that Bilbo was already invisible thanks to the capricious ring (if you remember, it had already “slipped” onto his finger when he was escaping Gollum back by the lake)?
The "blind-man's buff" game was too fun to take out.
Just like Tolkien would have loved the dwarf-tossing part, had he thought of it.
S. Is there any scene involving the ring like this in all of LotR? If so, where – and if not, why not?
Frodo's scrambling and hiding behind a barrel in The Prancing Pony.
T. Why does the sun defeat the ring’s invisibility power?
Even the elven torches do!
U. What is the point of focusing on the brass buttons?
Answered by others.
V. After finding out the “true story” (i.e., the revised portions of this chapter) by interrogating Bilbo, just why did Gandalf, the one person in a position to make the necessary connections, not suspect or investigate the hobbit’s “misery-inducing” ring with a mind of its own until after Bilbo’s going-away party?
The last question is better than any answer could be.
Thank, squire, for this discussion!
"In the morning Bilbo misses breakfast. – is this the most unbelievable part of this chapter?"
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