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* * On the Doorstep * * Part 3: Escargot served at sunset

dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 21 2012, 3:13am

Post #1 of 9 (947 views)
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* * On the Doorstep * * Part 3: Escargot served at sunset Can't Post

This covers to the end of the chapter.

Now the dwarves, having apparently given up finding the secret door, begin to grumble about the passage of time while they sit there. And some start to think that Mr. Invisible Baggins ought to pass through the Front Gate and spy things out for them. This, of course, Bilbo overhears, and finds upsetting. He has a fitful night, and the following day he gets a "queer feeling" that he was "waiting" - but, for what?

1. Is this "queer feeling" mere wishful hoping on Bilbo's part, or a reaction to the possibility that he would be made to do some spying; or is it that Bilbo truly is prescient?

Bilbo watches the westering sun, and goes to the opening of the bay - when suddenly, behind him on the stone, he hears a sharp noise, and sees a huge thrush cracking open a snail for supper.

We have not heard of the thrush before now! The previous birds have been all black, unfriendly crows. This bird is new, and is engaged in an activity which is typical of its kind. Rateliff states:

"Out of the many thrush species native to England, the Lonely Mountain thrush is clearly a song thrush (T. philomelos), a species particularly noted for its diet of snails and its habit of crushing their shells on a rock. Many song thrushes in fact choose a favorite rock as their 'snail anvil' and return to it again and again, making the clue on Thror's Map a plausible application of real-world avian behavior to the fantasy story. Song thrushes are also, as the name suggests, noted singers, whose voices can carry a half-mile, and often hold their head to one side as if listening..." (HoH, p. 490)

Rateliff calls this bird "an extremely minor character without whom the major events of the story could not occur".

2. Do you agree with Rateliff? Did the thrush, or did it not, have some inherited knowledge of what was written in the Moon-letters? If it did, what assurance did it have that the Moon-letters had been read? And if not, how did it know to grab a meal right at the sunset hour? And in that place? Would it have done this, had Bilbo and the dwarves not been there? Or was this bird's action entirely coincidental?

"Stand by the grey stone..." Your turn! What other Moon-letters could have been written on that Map, and what might they have said? Could other birds or animals have been "assigned" certain "duties", depending on the time of year or who was present?


Now the lightbulb appears above Bilbo's head. He hails the dwarves, who come running or are quickly hauled up (except for Bombur). After the hobbit explains that what was written in the Moon-letters has come to pass, they watch the sun...and watch...and watch, as it slowly sinks. It goes behind a cloud, and all but Bilbo lose heart. Then - lo! A single ray of sun does a Stonehenge impression, the thrush does a soprano solo, and with a crack a flake of rock falls and reveals a hole.

So what do the dwarves do? Why, they push. Push? Against the door? With a keyhole suddenly made visible, their first inclination is to push?

3. At this point, are you wishing the dragon would fly out and make an end of them? Why on earth has Tolkien made his dwarves so seemingly stubbornly stupid?

But Bilbo calls for Thorin and the key. He has to shout at Thorin to make him comprehend that he's got to pull out the key on its chain, and use it. It would appear that Thorin has never associated the idea of a "keyhole" with "key belonging to map with the word 'keyhole' on it". But he does insert the key into the hole, turn it, it snaps, the sun sinks, the moon disappears, and it is evening.

Note of interest: in the original story, no key is produced with the map; instead Gandalf finds a ring of keys in the Trolls' cave, and saying it may be important gives it to Thorin. When the light shines on the key-hole, Bilbo says "A key...we need a key", at which point he remembers that Gandalf gave Thorin the ring of keys. Thorin steps up, inserts the only key on the ring small enough to fit the hole, and it turns.

4. Is this a plausible story-line? Would it "work" better than the final version?

Now that the door is unlocked, it can be opened by pushing, and "A door five feet high and three broad" is outlined.

5. The runes state "five feet high the door and three may walk abreast". Are the runes in error, or do they refer to the passageway inside being wide enough for three, not necessarily the door into the passageway?

6. The last sentence reads: "It seemed as if darkness flowed out like a vapour from the hole in the mountain-side, and deep darkness in which nothing could be seen lay before their eyes, a yawning mouth leading in and down." Is this awesome imagery, or what?



Thank you for lurking and/or participating this week, and for letting me have some fun with this chapter! What other comments, queries, and observations would you like to make?


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






(This post was edited by dernwyn on Sep 24 2012, 1:29am)


Auraran
Lorien

Sep 22 2012, 7:29pm

Post #2 of 9 (385 views)
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The old, old thrush [In reply to] Can't Post

Excellent observations and questions! Here are a few of my thoughts, at least to your first three questions:

In answer to your first question, yes, I definitely believe that the “queer feeling” that Bilbo had was because he was prescient. Perhaps the dwarves might have been more in tune to what was about to happen had they not been so overcome with discouragement and depression. Bilbo, being more emotionally detached and serene, was able to lean more to his intuition.

2. Did the thrush, or did it not, have some inherited knowledge of what was written in the Moon-letters? If it did, what assurance did it have that the Moon-letters had been read? And if not, how did it know to grab a meal right at the sunset hour? And in that place? Would it have done this, had Bilbo and the dwarves not been there? Or was this bird's action entirely coincidental?

Not necessarily inherited knowledge, but direct knowledge. As Thorin tells Bilbo in the next chapter, “this [thrush] is a very old bird indeed ... They were long-lived and magical race, and this might be one of those that were alive then, a couple of hundreds of years or more ago.” I realize that this may be controversial, but I believe that Tolkien is dropping a heavy hint here that this very same thrush was there the day that Thorin’s father, Thrain, together with his grandfather Thror, exited from the secret door. The dwarves are eminently practical, so I believe that Thrain plainly told this thrush what he would write as a clue in the Moon-letters. (And he probably instructed this thrush to pass on this information to his offspring, were he to die before the dwarves returned.)

Thus, when the dwarves showed up at the mountain again, a century and a half later, and stood before the very same secret door that this thrush had seen Thrain and Thror exit from, he knew that it was time to do his part. This is my answer to your third question, “Could other birds or animals have been "assigned" certain "duties"...?” As to how this thrush chose that exact moment to crack open snails, when it was improbable that it would have known that it was Durin’s Day, I believe that it too had some intuition and was in tune with the magic of the moment.

You asked, “what assurance did it have that the Moon-letters had been read?” It could understand the Common Speech, and undoubtedly Bilbo and the dwarves talked about the map, not noticing the old thrush, or paying any attention to the fact that it was listening.


demnation
Rohan


Sep 23 2012, 3:31am

Post #3 of 9 (407 views)
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We come to it at last [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Bilbo has given more thought to this whole thing than any of the dwarves. His feeling is concrete proof of that, I think.

2.I find Rateliffs' comment amusing. I also agree with it. I think the bird is smarter than it lets on.

3. I think to show up Bilbo as the true leader of the group and the real hero of the story.

4. Never knew that! I think I like the current version better, though. It gives Thorin another connection to his lost father.

5. The inside of the passage.

6. It's great!

Use Well the Days


sador
Half-elven


Sep 23 2012, 4:14pm

Post #4 of 9 (399 views)
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"The moon was shining sulkily, [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
...Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"




1. Is this "queer feeling" mere wishful hoping on Bilbo's part, or a reaction to the possibility that he would be made to do some spying; or is it that Bilbo truly is prescient?
Last time around, a certain member suggested a nearly-natural explanation for the events of this chapter. I can do no less than provide a link.


2. Do you agree with Rateliff?
Minor?
Only if you think it was a different thrush from the one who tells Bard about Smaug's missing bit of armour. For instance, telain assumed they were the same, and I never thought otherwise.

At any rate, this makes Bilbo's throwing a stone at the thrush pretty wierd.

Did the thrush, or did it not, have some inherited knowledge of what was written in the Moon-letters?
See the link above.

If it did, what assurance did it have that the Moon-letters had been read?
What else would this party be doing for so long in the bay near the secret door?

And if not, how did it know to grab a meal right at the sunset hour?
It gets cooler, and the snails get out. It's their own fault.

And in that place?
That's where one finds snails. Where the grass is.

Would it have done this, had Bilbo and the dwarves not been there?
Would the snails be there? That seems the deciding factor.

Or was this bird's action entirely coincidental?
Not a leaf falls by happenstance. Neither O'Henry's, nor Niggle's.


3, "Stand by the grey stone..." Your turn! What other Moon-letters could have been written on that Map, and what might they have said?
I'm sure that had Elrond looked at the Map with a different Moon, he would have found something else. Perhaps an easier way in, or a list of obsceneties directed at Elves.

Could other birds or animals have been "assigned" certain "duties", depending on the time of year or who was present?
I'm sure if the thrush wouldn't be around, it would be an hedgehog.
They love snails, you know.

3. At this point, are you wishing the dragon would fly out and make an end of them?
What makes you sure the dwarves saw the keyhole? They just saw the outline of the door.

Why on earth has Tolkien made his dwarves so seemingly stubbornly stupid?
So that his boys would feel superior to them.

4. Is this a plausible story-line?
Even less than the final one.

Would it "work" better than the final version?
work-schmork. I'm sure Tolkien would find something to make the Dwarves look stupid either way.
Remember, this is based on Bilbo's memoirs, which are known to be a piece of self-justifying manipulation of true events.

5. The runes state "five feet high the door and three may walk abreast". Are the runes in error, or do they refer to the passageway inside being wide enough for three, not necessarily the door into the passageway?
Maybe the dwarves are a foot broad each (except for Kili, of course).


6. The last sentence reads: "It seemed as if darkness flowed out like a vapour from the hole in the mountain-side, and deep darkness in which nothing could be seen lay before their eyes, a yawning mouth leading in and down." Is this awesome imagery, or what?

It's Smaug.

Quote

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!



What other comments, queries, and observations would you like to make?
I had one, but it eludes me now.
If I remember it, I will post later. In the meantime, thank you for this discussion!


"Throughout The Hobbit our accomplished author often ignores the basic convention of writing to "show, not tell." Is the age of his audience the reason? The age of his sources?"
- ElanorTX



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for On the Doorstep!


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 24 2012, 1:26am

Post #5 of 9 (336 views)
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Understanding speech [In reply to] Can't Post

Good point about the Thrush being able to understand what Bilbo and the dwarves were saying. Hanging around them, once they found the bay, it would soon have learned all it needed to know about them - and kept itself out of sight until the right moment.

But it certainly must have been so tempted to crack open one of those snails, while it waited! Laugh


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 24 2012, 1:33am

Post #6 of 9 (337 views)
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Yes, I'm glad that [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien changed the back-story of the key. It's far more meaningful, as you said, for its' source to be within Thorin's own family!


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 24 2012, 1:54am

Post #7 of 9 (366 views)
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Hey - no fair [In reply to] Can't Post

having me answer my own question (great answer though it is)! Laugh I'm trying to get YOU folks to do a bit of brainwork! Wink

Re-reading that link to telain's post (thank you!) brought this little gem to mind, which Tolkien claimed was scribbled in a margin of the Red Book near where Bilbo comments about the Fellowship leaving from Rivendell as winter sets in:

"The wind so whirled a weathercock
He could not hold his tail up;
The frost so nipped a throstlecock
He could not snap a snail up.
'My case is hard' the throstle cried,
And 'All is vane' the cock replied;
And so they set their wail up."

That poor thrush, watching all those juicy snails slither about, and having to wait for just the right moment...

Interesting ideas on what else might have been inscribed on the Map in moon-letters...maybe it's just as well they weren't a long time in Rivendell, Elrond might have requested to look at the Map by other moon-phases...

"I'm sure if the thrush wouldn't be around, it would be an hedgehog": how about a platypus?

"What makes you sure the dwarves saw the keyhole?" Well, they didn't rush to push open the door until they saw the flake come off from the wall and reveal a hole!

Why on earth has Tolkien made his dwarves so seemingly stubbornly stupid?
"So that his boys would feel superior to them." Yep, and there's nothing like a good laugh at bed-time!

Hmm, now you're making Bilbo's memoirs sound like Darkstone's Elvish revisionism! Laugh Where has the old dude been, anyway? I did like his "cookies".

Amazingly appropriate, that Lewis Carroll bit of poetry and the gaping maw of that door! And you're quite welcome.


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






telain
Rohan

Sep 25 2012, 3:27pm

Post #8 of 9 (340 views)
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metaphysical storytelling [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Interesting ideas on what else might have been inscribed on the Map in moon-letters...maybe it's just as well they weren't a long time in Rivendell, Elrond might have requested to look at the Map by other moon-phases...


What an interesting foray into the metaphysics of myth/legend/storytelling... It reminds me of the oft-told trope of a character questioning their actions becasue they are part of a prophecy "If I do "x" now, will that negate the prophecy or is that essential to fulfilling the prophecy?"

I can just imagine the Valar behind the scenes as Elrond reads the map: "Quick, Varda, what phase is the moon in now? We need to make sure they take exactly "x" number of days to reach Esgaroth -- start planning emergency obstacles and escapes!"

(sometimes the imagination doth runneth over...)


Solicitr
Lorien

Sep 25 2012, 3:37pm

Post #9 of 9 (880 views)
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During every other phase of the moon [In reply to] Can't Post

...letters are visible which read

"To get in, use the hidden door to the left of the main gate. Works 24/7/365 without the Durin's Day nonsense."

"Oh, and shoot Smaug in the hollow under the left breast. He's unprotected there. And the Arkenstone is right on top of the pile."


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Sep 25 2012, 3:38pm)

 
 

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