Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
** Flies and Spiders: 3. "the dead leaves of countless other autumns" **

N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 2 2012, 4:03am

Post #1 of 7 (768 views)
Shortcut
** Flies and Spiders: 3. "the dead leaves of countless other autumns" ** Can't Post

Thorin & Co. hear the sounds of a hunting party far to the north, then see white deer on the trail ahead. All their shots at the deer miss, and their arrows are lost. For four days they carry Bombur, and pass through brighter beech woods and then a broad valley of oak trees. Occasionally they hear eerie laughter and song. Growing desperately short of food, they have Bilbo climb a tree to see how far they are from the edge of a forest. He enjoys the breeze and sunlight, but he sees no end to the trees, not realizing that this is because they are in a low spot.

The deer can of course be explained by the hunting party, but they might have crossed the path at any number of points -- why do our heroes see them just after they've crossed the stream?

The narrator says that the dwarves should have realized that the sight of deer meant they were approaching the end of the woods. Explain that.

Do the dwarves know that there is an elvish kingdom at the east side of Mirkwood?

Should the party call out to the hunters, or to the voices?

How far do the hunters have to go to reach home, anyway? (The map shows the trail crossing the stream about halfway through Mirkwood.)

Why do the elves apparently never use the trail?

At the darker west end of the path, the forest was dark and choked with undergrowth. Now under the beeches, there is more light and yet there is no undergrowth. Isn't that backwards?

"There was a breath of air and a noise of wind, but it had a sad sound." Why sad?

Do the large cobwebs seen earlier in the chapter, Bilbo's fear of large spiders here, and the chapter's very title (not to mention the spiders on the map!) weaken the impact of the giant spiders' actual appearance?

Here is the description of Bilbo at the tree-top:


Quote
In the end he poked his head above the roof of leaves, and then he found spiders all right. But they were only small ones of ordinary size, and they were after the butterflies. Bilbo's eyes were nearly blinded by the light. He could hear the dwarves shouting up at him from far below, but he could not answer, only hold on and blink. The sun was shining brilliantly, and it was a long while before he could bear it. When he could, he saw all round him a sea of dark green, ruffled here and there by the breeze; and there were everywhere hundreds of butterflies. I expect they were a kind of 'purple emperor', a butterfly that loves the tops of oak-woods, but these were not purple at all, they were a dark dark velvety black without any markings to be seen.



Last week I purchased The Art of Ruth Lacon: Illustrations Inspired by the Works of JRR Tolkien. Ms. Lacon comments on many of her illustrations. Regarding her interpretation of this passage, she writes:


Quote
With apologies to Tolkien, these butterflies are painted partly purple, because nothing in nature is such a deep unrelieved black as he describes. 'Black' birds and butterflies often have purple or green sheen, and black cats are very dark brown, if seen with the sun behind their fur. The real Purple Emperor, Apatura iris, a species which does in fact prefer treetops just as Tolkien says, has white and pink markings on wings bordered with black and filled with very dark purple or blue, with the body being black as well. So I painted the Mirkwood butterflies as black and very dark purple, with no markings and white sheen only where the light strikes their glossy forms. Having introduced one set of insects, and needing to have their felatives the spiders in there as well, I decided to add other species. There are earwigs, caterpillars, a dragonfly, a shieldbug, a bumblebee and a beetle, together with two other butterflies, a dark-blue Hairstreak and a dark-green Emerald geometer moth.



What do you think about that?

In the first chapter, Bilbo remembered that the "mad aventures" that Gandalf would sometimes inspire hobbits to take incuded "climbing trees". Now he gets his chance. (He had been thrown to the top of some bushes back in the fight with the trolls, though.) How "mad" is that (apart from examples like this)? Is tree-climbing something that Tolkien included specifically for children?

Couldn't Gandalf have given them more specific information about how long it would take to travel the forest? Was he deliberately withholding information?

Further thoughts on this section?

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


Morthoron
Gondor


Sep 3 2012, 4:36am

Post #2 of 7 (361 views)
Shortcut
Nice overview, NEB! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The narrator says that the dwarves should have realized that the sight of deer meant they were approaching the end of the woods. Explain that.


From a hunting perspective, white tail deer are not found in the deep woods, preferring to stay along the forest eaves or in swampy areas with access to meadow and pasture for grazing. Deer can't graze where there aint no grass, and there aint no grass in the middle of a forest. Bucks, however, follow different patterns than does, and depending on the season may venture into the deep woods until rutting season draws them out.


In Reply To
Do the dwarves know that there is an elvish kingdom at the east side of Mirkwood?


Interesting question. One would think that at least Thorin and the older dwarves like Balin would remember an Elvish kingdom adjacent to Esgaroth; after all, there is a mithril mail shirt in Erebor for an elf-prince, is there not?. The younger dwarves, having been out west for perhaps most of their lives would not know.


In Reply To
Why do the elves apparently never use the trail?


Increased spider traffic?


In Reply To
At the darker west end of the path, the forest was dark and choked with undergrowth. Now under the beeches, there is more light and yet there is no undergrowth. Isn't that backwards?


Tolkien knows his trees. Beeches have a very dense canopy that casts heavy shade and the leaf fall causes a dense carpet that does not allow undergrowth. Interestingly enough, many species of butterflies and moths eat beech leaves.


In Reply To
"There was a breath of air and a noise of wind, but it had a sad sound." Why sad?



A sigh is often sad.


In Reply To
Do the large cobwebs seen earlier in the chapter, Bilbo's fear of large spiders here, and the chapter's very title (not to mention the spiders on the map!) weaken the impact of the giant spiders' actual appearance?


Not really. I can't recall the first reading of this chapter so many decades ago, but I wasn't expecting giant spiders.





In Reply To

Quote
With apologies to Tolkien, these butterflies are painted partly purple, because nothing in nature is such a deep unrelieved black as he describes. 'Black' birds and butterflies often have purple or green sheen, and black cats are very dark brown, if seen with the sun behind their fur. The real Purple Emperor, Apatura iris, a species which does in fact prefer treetops just as Tolkien says, has white and pink markings on wings bordered with black and filled with very dark purple or blue, with the body being black as well. So I painted the Mirkwood butterflies as black and very dark purple, with no markings and white sheen only where the light strikes their glossy forms. Having introduced one set of insects, and needing to have their felatives the spiders in there as well, I decided to add other species. There are earwigs, caterpillars, a dragonfly, a shieldbug, a bumblebee and a beetle, together with two other butterflies, a dark-blue Hairstreak and a dark-green Emerald geometer moth.



What do you think about that?


Sounds a bit too anal for me. This is a fantasy, after all. Wink


In Reply To
Couldn't Gandalf have given them more specific information about how long it would take to travel the forest? Was he deliberately withholding information?



I am thinking he had far more on his mind than acting as a travel agent and setting the itinerary for the dwarves and Bilbo. Besides, it fits in with Gandalf's fey nature in The Hobbit, disappearing and reappearing at the drop of a hat, and really being quite unreliable.

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



(This post was edited by Morthoron on Sep 3 2012, 4:39am)


sador
Half-elven


Sep 4 2012, 6:03am

Post #3 of 7 (304 views)
Shortcut
Answers [In reply to] Can't Post

The deer can of course be explained by the hunting party, but they might have crossed the path at any number of points -- why do our heroes see them just after they've crossed the stream?
They have entered into Elfland.

The narrator says that the dwarves should have realized that the sight of deer meant they were approaching the end of the woods. Explain that.

They should have known they were nearing the wood-elves domain.

Do the dwarves know that there is an elvish kingdom at the east side of Mirkwood?

It is on Thrain's Map.

Should the party call out to the hunters, or to the voices?

Yes. But it would do them no good at all. Like Looney.

However, crying out for help might be good for you, even if it is immediately useless. At least in Middle-earth, Varda always hears.

How far do the hunters have to go to reach home, anyway?
Where is home? I don't think all live inside the Elvenking's halls.

Why do the elves apparently never use the trail?
They do; they just don't show themselves.

For the feasts, of course, they need a wood-clearing.

At the darker west end of the path, the forest was dark and choked with undergrowth. Now under the beeches, there is more light and yet there is no undergrowth. Isn't that backwards?
Yes - but it might mean that here it is more tended.

"There was a breath of air and a noise of wind, but it had a sad sound." Why sad?
Once you are alone, hungry, overburdened and see no sign of an end of the dark, dank forest - every noise which isn't frightening would sound sad.

Do the large cobwebs seen earlier in the chapter, Bilbo's fear of large spiders here, and the chapter's very title (not to mention the spiders on the map!) weaken the impact of the giant spiders' actual appearance?
Like Morthoron, I'm pretty sure I wasn't prepared for it.

What do you think about that?
Sounds like a Jackson apologist.

How "mad" is that (apart from examples like this)?
For a hobbit?

Is tree-climbing something that Tolkien included specifically for children?
I don't think so. Tolkien seems to have loved the tree-clombing motif, however in The Book of Lost Tales he gave it twice to evil persons (Tevildo and Melko) as well as making a tree Tinuviel's prison.

Tolkien might have been "on the side of the trees" as he put it - but was he so from the outset?

Couldn't Gandalf have given them more specific information about how long it would take to travel the forest?
Probably not. And anyway, carrying Bombur slowed them down.

Was he deliberately withholding information?
Perhaps, but I think it unlikely.

Further thoughts on this section?
It is odd that the spiders cross the River into the wood-elves territory, isn't it? Even on the Map the two realms are seperated.

After reading The Lord of the Rings, we can connect it to the attack upon Dol Guldur - fugitives from Mirkwood, as Faramir would say. But it still seems wierd.


"When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?"
- Dreamdeer



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for a somewhat less clever discussion of Flies and Spiders!


telain
Rohan

Sep 5 2012, 4:55pm

Post #4 of 7 (376 views)
Shortcut
on trees and disseminating useful information [In reply to] Can't Post

I am really enjoying the opportunity to add my various hiking/walking in forests experiences to the discussion -- thank you N.E. Brigand...

In more mature hardwood forests, you don't get much undergrowth. Morthoron is quite right (I have several beech trees in my backyard and know well their habits...) beech trees do have a dense canopy and the interesting thing about their leaves, when they fall, is that they take a very long time to decompose. This makes them a rather perfect mulch. I once read that beech leaves were once used to stuff mattresses because of the same characteristic.

I also find it not coincidental that the Party enters a somewhat more pleasant part of the forest (giant spiders notwithstanding) and that this more pleasant part is inhabited by Elves. Given their eye to aesthetics and horticultural stewardship it makes sense to me.

What doesn't make sense is that someone should have known about the Mirkwood Elves. Surely Gandalf, Thorin, or Beorn would have known they lived there and might have shared that piece of information. Gandalf might have given them something like a letter of introduction: "Dear Thranduil, Please don't kill these particular dwarves (and Hobbit). Yours Truly, Mithrandir"


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 7 2012, 1:49am

Post #5 of 7 (301 views)
Shortcut
Letter of "introduction" [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah, but how would Beorn or Gandalf have gotten that letter to Thranduil? Eagle express? Good idea, but considering Middle-earth communications systems, probably not very practical! Wink


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915




telain
Rohan

Sep 7 2012, 12:51pm

Post #6 of 7 (296 views)
Shortcut
actually... [In reply to] Can't Post

Historically speaking, letters of introduction were carried on the person to be introduced. So, in our case Gandalf would have given a letter to Thorin before they parted to present to Thranduil upon, ahem, "capture". (In fact, Gandalf might have thought to give Thorin several depending on which route they would have taken, given Thorin's prickly nature.)


Ruinwen
Rivendell


Sep 11 2012, 12:55am

Post #7 of 7 (682 views)
Shortcut
Hmm [In reply to] Can't Post

Thorin & Co. hear the sounds of a hunting party far to the north, then see white deer on the trail ahead. All their shots at the deer miss, and their arrows are lost. For four days they carry Bombur, and pass through brighter beech woods and then a broad valley of oak trees. Occasionally they hear eerie laughter and song. Growing desperately short of food, they have Bilbo climb a tree to see how far they are from the edge of a forest. He enjoys the breeze and sunlight, but he sees no end to the trees, not realizing that this is because they are in a low spot.

The deer can of course be explained by the hunting party, but they might have crossed the path at any number of points -- why do our heroes see them just after they've crossed the stream?
I assumed they were disturbed or displaced by the hunt. But they are also a sign that they are entering the more magical realm of the wood-elves.

The narrator says that the dwarves should have realized that the sight of deer meant they were approaching the end of the woods. Explain that. Deer don't live in deep forest - indeed, in Mirkwood, practically nothing wholesome does at this time.

Do the dwarves know that there is an elvish kingdom at the east side of Mirkwood? I assume they do, but Thorin's antipathy towards Elves coupled with his arrogance lead him not to factor them into his plans. I get the feeling he just thinks of them as wafty forest things, not relevant to the real world or likely to pose any problems. He was wrong there.

Should the party call out to the hunters, or to the voices? I wouldn't have advised it....what if the voices were deceptive spirits, trying to tempt them off the path? What if they drew attention of a different sort to themselves? Probably the less shouting the better. Later they all run around in the dark shouting, and get swiftly caught by spiders.

How far do the hunters have to go to reach home, anyway? (The map shows the trail crossing the stream about halfway through Mirkwood.) An Elvish hunting party would be very swift, and the hunt could go on a long time. I imagine they did come from near the king's halls, and the feast was their end -of-hunt celebration.

Why do the elves apparently never use the trail? Not sure where the idea that they don't use the trail comes from.

At the darker west end of the path, the forest was dark and choked with undergrowth. Now under the beeches, there is more light and yet there is no undergrowth. Isn't that backwards? As discussed by everyone else, that's what beech woods are like.

"There was a breath of air and a noise of wind, but it had a sad sound." Why sad? Just pathetic fallacy.

Do the large cobwebs seen earlier in the chapter, Bilbo's fear of large spiders here, and the chapter's very title (not to mention the spiders on the map!) weaken the impact of the giant spiders' actual appearance? Not really. It builds atmosphere quite well, but the spiders are still a suprise.

Here is the description of Bilbo at the tree-top:


Quote
In the end he poked his head above the roof of leaves, and then he found spiders all right. But they were only small ones of ordinary size, and they were after the butterflies. Bilbo's eyes were nearly blinded by the light. He could hear the dwarves shouting up at him from far below, but he could not answer, only hold on and blink. The sun was shining brilliantly, and it was a long while before he could bear it. When he could, he saw all round him a sea of dark green, ruffled here and there by the breeze; and there were everywhere hundreds of butterflies. I expect they were a kind of 'purple emperor', a butterfly that loves the tops of oak-woods, but these were not purple at all, they were a dark dark velvety black without any markings to be seen.



Last week I purchased The Art of Ruth Lacon: Illustrations Inspired by the Works of JRR Tolkien. Ms. Lacon comments on many of her illustrations. Regarding her interpretation of this passage, she writes:


Quote
With apologies to Tolkien, these butterflies are painted partly purple, because nothing in nature is such a deep unrelieved black as he describes. 'Black' birds and butterflies often have purple or green sheen, and black cats are very dark brown, if seen with the sun behind their fur. The real Purple Emperor, Apatura iris, a species which does in fact prefer treetops just as Tolkien says, has white and pink markings on wings bordered with black and filled with very dark purple or blue, with the body being black as well. So I painted the Mirkwood butterflies as black and very dark purple, with no markings and white sheen only where the light strikes their glossy forms. Having introduced one set of insects, and needing to have their felatives the spiders in there as well, I decided to add other species. There are earwigs, caterpillars, a dragonfly, a shieldbug, a bumblebee and a beetle, together with two other butterflies, a dark-blue Hairstreak and a dark-green Emerald geometer moth.



What do you think about that? I agree that most black things in nature are actually a very dark brown, blue, purple, green etc, so if she wants to paint her butterflies with purple bits that's fine with me.

In the first chapter, Bilbo remembered that the "mad aventures" that Gandalf would sometimes inspire hobbits to take incuded "climbing trees". Now he gets his chance. (He had been thrown to the top of some bushes back in the fight with the trolls, though.) How "mad" is that (apart from examples like this)? Is tree-climbing something that Tolkien included specifically for children?

For a wealthy, dignified, 50-year-old resident of the shire, it would be considered 'mad' if he suddenly started climbing trees, yes. But I think Bilbo's definition of 'mad' is greatly changed by the time he gets home, and he stops caring at all what the other hobbits think of his behaviour.

Couldn't Gandalf have given them more specific information about how long it would take to travel the forest? Was he deliberately withholding information? I'm sure Thorin & Co. were quite aware of the physical distance they'd have to travel. But you can only carry so much food, and I suppose they thought they might be able to catch some. What they didn't factor in was the depressing darkness, the spirit-sapping influence of Sauron in the forest, and the sheer gloomy despair of the place, which made them lose track of time and space.

Further thoughts on this section? It is strange that Gandalf, at least, didn't think about what might happen if they met wood-elves. Perhaps he just thought they'd all be a bit more polite and the Elves would let them through, if not actually help them.

However my personal theory is that part of Gandalf's plan was that Thranduil would learn of their quest. I don't think Gandalf had an exact plan for how to deal with Smaug - he just wanted to stir up as many people as possible so that SOMEONE would try to kill him, and treasure and feuding is as good a way as any.

 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.