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Referring to the incident with the dragon

Al Carondas

Jan 19 2013, 5:39pm

Post #1 of 10 (2222 views)
Referring to the incident with the dragon Can't Post

After Bilbo reads the note left by Thorin and Co. accepting his offer of service, there is the following exchange between him and Gandalf:

“That leaves you just ten minutes. You will have to run,” said Gandalf.
“But - ,” said Bilbo.
“No time for it,” said the wizard.
“But - .” said Bilbo again.
“No time for that either! Off you go!”
To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him …"

I’ve read TH more times than I can remember, but I never remember thinking anything more of this passage than that Gandalf simply hurried (perhaps slightly bullied) Bilbo on his way before the hobbit could change his mind. But upon my most recent reading it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps the wizard had done just a little bit more. Does anyone else suspect that a little hocus pocus is the reason that Bilbo can’t remember how he got outside? Was Gandalf’s “little nudge out of the door” (as he puts it to Frodo in the movie FotR) a magical one? Maybe a sort of Maian jedi-mind-trick?:

“You don’t need a second breakfast.”
“I don’t need a second breakfast.”
“You’re not even hungry.”
“I’m not even hungry.”
“The Green Dragon is where you want to be.”…

But seriously, what do you think? Did Gandalf cast a spell on Bilbo to get him out the door? (and has everybody else always read it that way, and I am just now catching on?) Let me know.

"Good Morning!"


Jan 19 2013, 7:39pm

Post #2 of 10 (1358 views)
I never thought of that [In reply to] Can't Post

I never thought of that - and I still don't. Here's why.

I don't think we need to look to Gandalf's "magic" to explain Bilbo's sudden psychological shift from stay-at-home to questing burglar. All the previous evening he was torn back and forth between the two sides of his personality, one expressed in his Baggins respectability, and one latent in his Took adventurism. He went to bed certain he wanted to stay at home, and he woke with the same determination. But when he discovered that the dwarves truly wanted him to come along, and in fact had already left, leaving him with almost no time in which to catch up with them or else lose the last chance for an adventure that had finally come his way, something snapped rather suddenly.

In a way, Bilbo temporarily lost his senses, but not his consciousness. Such an experience is not easy to undergo. It seems to me to be very accurate and perceptive for Tolkien to point out that mind and memory often block traumatic moments like Bilbo's epiphany by his mantlepiece. He forgets the moment of transition so that he can keep the two sides of his self safely separated in his memory and his self-image.

Gandalf's role is to force him to make the decision by reminding him that he has no time left to think: he has only time to follow his real feelings at last.

In my readings of these books, I don't ever feel that Gandalf is not playing fair by using magic that the narrator doesn't invite us to witness. It's just not Gandalf's way to use a "spell" or "hocus-pocus" to make folk do things they should do. In The Lord of the Rings, of course, this principle is stated explicitly: the Istari are forbidden to use force in the struggle against Sauron. Now in The Hobbit, Gandalf is nowhere so grand or magnificent and is more of a "trickster", as Curious so often reminds us here in the RR. But even so, his tricks are those of omission: he disappears, withholds information, refuses to help or explain himself, etc. It's not his style anywhere else in The Hobbit to enchant people, and I can't imagine that we are supposed to think that is what he has done to Bilbo here.

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'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

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Jan 19 2013, 9:42pm

Post #3 of 10 (1344 views)
Squire said it perfectly--agree with all points.// [In reply to] Can't Post



Jan 20 2013, 10:38pm

Post #4 of 10 (1233 views)
Incident with the dragon [In reply to] Can't Post

You may be on to something. If you look at the distance that Bilbo traveled, the whole thing does not make sense. He left Bag End and arrived at The Green Dragon in 10 minutes. If you look at The Atlas of Middle Earth, the distance covered is 5 miles. That would put Bilbo running a 2 min. pace per mile. The problem is that we don't have any Olympic athlete running that fast. I can't picture Bilbo being able to run that pace (maybe Legolas).
I have often wandered how he did it ;possibly was magic.Smile


Jan 21 2013, 1:50am

Post #5 of 10 (1233 views)
"...and so for a whole mile or more." [In reply to] Can't Post

Gee, in the book that Tolkien wrote, Gandalf tells Bilbo he has just ten minutes to get to the Green Dragon, and Bilbo runs the entire distance, "a mile or more", in just that time. I should think that any map drawn to match the text would either show the distance as about a mile, or be judged a bad map - whether it was drawn by Karen Fonstad or Tolkien himself.

Fonstad's map of the Shire in her Atlas simply copies and extends Tolkien's that appeared in Fellowship of the Ring, and her added scale (which Tolkien omitted) does seem to show the distance as five miles, relative to the distances the hobbits later cover to get to Buckland. But that does not mean the text in The Hobbit is wrong and that Gandalf magically sped Bilbo on his way! It's far more likely that Tolkien stretched the scale of his map at the center, to show both Hobbiton and Bywater more clearly; Fonstad herself cites the Hobbit text given above when she states that Bywater was just a mile from Hobbiton (or why would Hobbiton not have an Inn of its own?), without a word about the discrepancy this makes with her own map and Tolkien's.

And there's always the added problem that there are other discrepancies in the geography of the two books (most notably the distance from the Last Bridge to the Trolls' lair) - leading us to the best practice of not using any "facts" from one book to explain or justify questions in the other.

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'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Jan 21 2013, 3:37am

Post #6 of 10 (1203 views)
Magic mile [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, In reality I don't believe Gandalf bewitched Bilbo. It does go against the nature of Gandalf and against my understanding of Tolkiens writings. However, as a runner, I truly find it hard to picture Bilbo running 2 minute mile. My son believes I'm jealous of Bilbo's running abilities.Smile

Al Carondas

Jan 23 2013, 12:28am

Post #7 of 10 (1155 views)
Good points, Squire [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you.

(... but I tell you I still don't trust that sorcerer)

"Good Morning!"

One Ringer
Tol Eressea

Jan 23 2013, 7:30pm

Post #8 of 10 (1137 views)
Beautifully said, and afterall - [In reply to] Can't Post

What would that tell us if the only way we can make a right choice is to have someone force-feed it to us?

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"You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain."

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Grey Havens

Feb 7 2013, 7:27pm

Post #9 of 10 (1094 views)
inspiration [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with what Squire says and I'd like to add a thought. It's sort of Gandalf's MO to inspire characters and groups of characters to action.

I always that that was what Gandalf was doing… that it was his intention from the beginning to inspire action in Bilbo… to get him out of his rut.

But I don't think he used magic. Gandalf is way more subtle than that. Besides, the actions that the people of ME take must be of their own volition and from their heart for them to mean anything… and for them to really work against evil. And using magic to make someone do something is what the Enemy (& the forces of evil) does.

Bilbo has been stuck in a rut and built up all the Hobbity beliefs against "adventures" and stuck in a rut of inaction. So, I agree that Gandalf was trying to keep Bilbo from thinking too much. And from relying too much on his comfort crutches.

Aloha everyone!

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Nienna: “those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta

Al Carondas

Feb 11 2013, 1:49am

Post #10 of 10 (1773 views)
Cool [In reply to] Can't Post

But just for the record, I am not suggesting that Gandalf forced Bilbo to go on the quest. Only wondering if he possibily used magic to get Bilbo outside his door - away from the immediate temptations of his second breakfast and familiar creature comforts, thus granting him a moment of clarity to make his decision.

"Good Morning!"


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