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Tolkien notes: But Richard Armitage is *spoilers*

Laerasëa
Tol Eressea


Feb 18 2013, 3:45am

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Tolkien notes: But Richard Armitage is *spoilers* Can't Post

too hot to die!

For this week, I decided to post about the character builds in The Hobbit.

A couple comments from last week that i want to make clear--

-----My professor does love Tolkien. She actually mentioned this week that she was criticized by the rest of the English department when she started teaching this course almost twenty years ago, and scholars like Tom Shippey and Jane Chance (at Rice University) have helped to legitimize the study of Tolkien in academia. Any criticisms she has are simple to help us think objectively, and better read his works from a more objective academic perspective. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing, but please remember that this is not meant to rile anybody up, but instead, to simply share what I've been taking notes on. (similarly, these notes aren't necessarily my opinion, or even that of my professor, but simply reflective of discussions in class)

------We do talk about Tolkien's own personal/professional life as well as some philological history, but I have decided not to post stuff about that on here, simply because it's stuff that anybody can look up whenever they want. I thought the discussions we have in class, and some of my professors own opinions, might be more interesting, just because it seems like it would be slightly more original on here, and spark more conversation, than a simple history of Tolkien in which I list facts that I learn. If anybody has any alternative ideas, please let me know! Smile

So, at this point in the course, we have read TH, On Fairy-Stories, Beowulf, Farmer Giles, the Poetic Eddas, and Leaf by Niggle. We just started LOTR this week, but haven't gotten far enough for me to make a real post on here, so instead, I will talk about some interesting character stuff in TH.

1. Bilbo. At the beginning of the novel, he comes across as the complete opposite of what a hero *should* be-- basically, utterly complacent with his comfortable life, and completely uninterested in adventure. He is "bourgeois," to use Tom Shippey's word. Interestingly, if we're going to talk about language here, at the end of the novel, Bilbo becomes a "burglar"-- which actually comes from the same root as "bourgeois," meaning "a stockaded town." This parallel is kind of interesting when you think about it, because one can't survive without the other-- the bourgouis need the stockaded town to live in, and a burglar needs the bourgeois to steal from. This kind of play reflects Bilbo's own personality, too-- he has the Baggins side, which, despite all the changes he goes through in the novel, he never loses (for example, note that the last line in TH is about tobacco). But, he also develops the Took side, which arguably first appears while he listens to the Dwarves' song about the Lonely Mountain. In short, Bilbo is able to develop throughout the novel without ever losing his identity.

Do you agree with this-- does Bilbo keep his identity throughout the novel? What are some ways we see two sides of Bilbo? Would you describe it differently?

2. Beowulf, and other heroes. As I said, we also read Beowulf and the Poetic Eddas this week. Some of the inspiration Tolkien draws from these tales-- particularly the Eddas-- is a bit more obvious-- Fafnir the dragon guarding his gold, a broken sword, a Ring, and so on. Some of it is a bit more subtle, though. One question I had, for those that have read Beowulf, was about where we see Beowulf in TH, if at all (because of course it is a major source of inspiration). Is it in Beorn, the berserker whose name-- literally meaning "bear"-- is strikingly similar to "Beowulf," literally meaning "Bee wolf" aka "Bear"? Is it in Thorin, the heroic character we follow most consistently through the novel? Is it in Bard, the hero descending from a great lineage, who ultimately slays the dragon? Someone else? How do you think Tolkien most strongly incorporated Beowulf in TH?

3. Thorin. (having just written an essay on TH and Beowulf, that's what I've been thinking about recently) Could Thorin have been king, or did his greed over the treasure negate that possibility? Did Thorin have to die? We discussed the idea that at this point, we had seen Thorin so corrupted that we couldn't have ended the novel with his being king and consider that a perfectly "happy" ending. I generally dislike "hypothetical" questions, but I do think it is a significant choice that Dain comes in and takes over instead of Thorin-- why do you think this happened? *Could* Thorin have been king?

4. The dwarves as a collective character. They seem to not really measure up to everything they were built to be at the beginning of the novel. They don't want to go back to the mountain to rescue Bilbo, they get trapped by the spiders, they refuse to go into the tunnel in the Lonely Mountain, they get corrupted and overwhelmed by the treasure-- do you agree that there is a disjunct between what we expect from the dwarves at the beginning of the novel, and what they ultimately do, or are we being unfair to expect more from them at the beginning?

5. Aaaand...back to Bilbo. What has he gained at the end of the novel? For those who have read Leaf by Niggle, do you see any connection between Bilbo's ability to compose songs, and Niggle's ability to paint pictures? Why is art so important? A couple of factors that we talked about in class was that the music at the beginning of the novel is what stirs Bilbo to join in the adventure, but it is not until he converses with Smaug that he is able to write any poetry(/riddles) of his own. Also, Bilbo is the one who spots the Eagles, and Beorn, as they show up to the Battle of the Five Armies in the nick of time-- is it significant that he is the first one to see them? The word "luck" seems to follow Bilbo around-- is luck an important factor in this novel, or is it fate? (is there a difference?)

I know I have a lot of questions in here, and if you have anything else you'd like to discuss from here, please feel free to chime in! These are just some of my notes to stimulate some thoughts. I tried to avoid discussing too many other texts in here, but I did want to include them at least a bit, since they were a major source of discussion in our class. Please let me know if I can clarify something, too, or if you have a question about what we talked about-- this is very much a condensed version of my notes (which are over ten pages long at this point!). Tongue

‎"When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's power—upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world
external to our minds awakes."
--J. R. R. Tolkien


Mozart and Chocolate

(This post was edited by entmaiden on Feb 18 2013, 2:27pm)


silneldor
Half-elven


Feb 18 2013, 8:27pm

Post #2 of 8 (217 views)
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I will try. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
too hot to die!

For this week, I decided to post about the character builds in The Hobbit.

A couple comments from last week that i want to make clear--

-----My professor does love Tolkien. She actually mentioned this week that she was criticized by the rest of the English department when she started teaching this course almost twenty years ago, and scholars like Tom Shippey and Jane Chance (at Rice University) have helped to legitimize the study of Tolkien in academia. Any criticisms she has are simple to help us think objectively, and better read his works from a more objective academic perspective. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing, but please remember that this is not meant to rile anybody up, but instead, to simply share what I've been taking notes on. (similarly, these notes aren't necessarily my opinion, or even that of my professor, but simply reflective of discussions in class)

------We do talk about Tolkien's own personal/professional life as well as some philological history, but I have decided not to post stuff about that on here, simply because it's stuff that anybody can look up whenever they want. I thought the discussions we have in class, and some of my professors own opinions, might be more interesting, just because it seems like it would be slightly more original on here, and spark more conversation, than a simple history of Tolkien in which I list facts that I learn. If anybody has any alternative ideas, please let me know! Smile

So, at this point in the course, we have read TH, On Fairy-Stories, Beowulf, Farmer Giles, the Poetic Eddas, and Leaf by Niggle. We just started LOTR this week, but haven't gotten far enough for me to make a real post on here, so instead, I will talk about some interesting character stuff in TH.

1. Bilbo. At the beginning of the novel, he comes across as the complete opposite of what a hero *should* be-- basically, utterly complacent with his comfortable life, and completely uninterested in adventure. He is "bourgeois," to use Tom Shippey's word. Interestingly, if we're going to talk about language here, at the end of the novel, Bilbo becomes a "burglar"-- which actually comes from the same root as "bourgeois," meaning "a stockaded town." This parallel is kind of interesting when you think about it, because one can't survive without the other-- the bourgouis need the stockaded town to live in, and a burglar needs the bourgeois to steal from. This kind of play reflects Bilbo's own personality, too-- he has the Baggins side, which, despite all the changes he goes through in the novel, he never loses (for example, note that the last line in TH is about tobacco). But, he also develops the Took side, which arguably first appears while he listens to the Dwarves' song about the Lonely Mountain. In short, Bilbo is able to develop throughout the novel without ever losing his identity.

Do you agree with this-- does Bilbo keep his identity throughout the novel? What are some ways we see two sides of Bilbo? Would you describe it differently?

I feel from the perspective of his fellow hobbits, that is a no. But how can identity be classified? To Bilbo himself, to the dwarves, to Gandalf? What about 'hidden' identity such as the Took gambit that lies like a sleeping bear waiting.

I feel perhaps from Gandalf's perspective Bilbo 'retains' his identity because he has good inkling of what lies dormant in this quality of hobbit. Bilbo i feel retains his sense of (original) self but it deepens through the surprize of self-discovery. The dwarves knowledge of Bilbo is largely a clean slate so 'perspective change' would not be the right coining. I feel that they just join in, i guess you could say, with Bilbo in his self-discovery


2. Beowulf, and other heroes. As I said, we also read Beowulf and the Poetic Eddas this week. Some of the inspiration Tolkien draws from these tales-- particularly the Eddas-- is a bit more obvious-- Fafnir the dragon guarding his gold, a broken sword, a Ring, and so on. Some of it is a bit more subtle, though. One question I had, for those that have read Beowulf, was about where we see Beowulf in TH, if at all (because of course it is a major source of inspiration). Is it in Beorn, the berserker whose name-- literally meaning "bear"-- is strikingly similar to "Beowulf," literally meaning "Bee wolf" aka "Bear"? Is it in Thorin, the heroic character we follow most consistently through the novel? Is it in Bard, the hero descending from a great lineage, who ultimately slays the dragon? Someone else? How do you think Tolkien most strongly incorporated Beowulf in TH?

With the relative use of word origins it certainly seems so but i have not read Beowulf

3. Thorin. (having just written an essay on TH and Beowulf, that's what I've been thinking about recently) Could Thorin have been king, or did his greed over the treasure negate that possibility? Did Thorin have to die? We discussed the idea that at this point, we had seen Thorin so corrupted that we couldn't have ended the novel with his being king and consider that a perfectly "happy" ending. I generally dislike "hypothetical" questions, but I do think it is a significant choice that Dain comes in and takes over instead of Thorin-- why do you think this happened? *Could* Thorin have been king?
My thought is that in spite of Thorin's entrenched attitudes and lack of perspective, actually added as a catalyst to bring together those forces to deal with the goblin onslaught and in the end caused a major victory that could possibly have happened otherwise. Could that be called providence though Thorin's predictable character? It is a hard call with the aspect of his death that follows. Perhaps there is in the end unknown random determinants. But it does bring perspective through terrible loss, the folly of greed.

4. The dwarves as a collective character. They seem to not really measure up to everything they were built to be at the beginning of the novel. They don't want to go back to the mountain to rescue Bilbo, they get trapped by the spiders, they refuse to go into the tunnel in the Lonely Mountain, they get corrupted and overwhelmed by the treasure-- do you agree that there is a disjunct between what we expect from the dwarves at the beginning of the novel, and what they ultimately do, or are we being unfair to expect more from them at the beginning?
It all seems a bind between the perspective of the dwarves of the lotr's and the Tolkien's children's style base he 1st chose for TH. With TH alone, dwarf nature would not feel at all strange i feel.

5. Aaaand...back to Bilbo. What has he gained at the end of the novel? For those who have read Leaf by Niggle, do you see any connection between Bilbo's ability to compose songs, and Niggle's ability to paint pictures? Why is art so important? A couple of factors that we talked about in class was that the music at the beginning of the novel is what stirs Bilbo to join in the adventure, but it is not until he converses with Smaug that he is able to write any poetry(/riddles) of his own. Also, Bilbo is the one who spots the Eagles, and Beorn, as they show up to the Battle of the Five Armies in the nick of time-- is it significant that he is the first one to see them? The word "luck" seems to follow Bilbo around-- is luck an important factor in this novel, or is it fate? (is there a difference?)
I thought that Beorn arrived unbeknownst to all, and Bilbo was stunned related that fact later on. But i think that because Bilbo is more reflective in nature would apt be to gaze to the horizon more to catch the eagles, besides he had keen eyesight.

What Bilbo has gained is worldly wisdom brought about by 'trail by fire', and a much wider perspective of the workings of M-e without the weight of ego to go with it. The last most beautiful last line of the book tells us that.


I know I have a lot of questions in here, and if you have anything else you'd like to discuss from here, please feel free to chime in! These are just some of my notes to stimulate some thoughts. I tried to avoid discussing too many other texts in here, but I did want to include them at least a bit, since they were a major source of discussion in our class. Please let me know if I can clarify something, too, or if you have a question about what we talked about-- this is very much a condensed version of my notes (which are over ten pages long at this point!). Tongue


Geez Laerasea i hope i passed this test. My parents won't give me my allowance less'en i did, and i need a tube fer my bicycle.;)
Thank you for come back in to usSmile
















dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 19 2013, 2:13am

Post #3 of 8 (187 views)
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LOL! [In reply to] Can't Post

Where's Ro? Wink

Good heavens, you're certainly reading a lot in that class - I'm jealous! Smile (And I apologize for seeming too critical last week, I'm afraid that in my enthusiasm to respond I got carried away! Blush)

1. This is an excellent look at Bilbo's growth arc: does he keep his identity, and what are his two sides! He never does lose that Baggins homebody-ness, does he, with his constant wishing he were back home, and his practical nature. But the Took in him learns bravery, and loyalty, and improvisation, and compassion in difficult situations, No, "learns" is not the right word: I think these things were always deep within him, and this adventure brought them to the surface.

2. How is Beowulf incorporated into The Hobbit - what an intriguing question! I think there's a bit of him in several characters: in Bilbo, who journeys to a strange land and slays a beast (the spiders); in Bard, who slays the dragon; and it seems to me that Elrond has some characteristics, but it's been a while since I last read Beowulf, and I'm not able to pull to mind what those are. Wasn't it some local person, and not Beowulf, who stole the golden cup from the dragon hoard?

3. Could Thorin have been king: I think, had there not been any conflict after the demise of the dragon, that he would have been king - but of a closed, miserly kingdom. And Bilbo would have returned home in unrequited sadness.

4. Those dwarves! I get more and more frustrated with them as the story goes along. They talk the talk, but can't walk the walk. They have no plans, and they forget the most important things! No wonder Gandalf knew they needed a hobbit in their group, or they would have come to no good end many times.

5. I never realized that, that Bilbo does not compose original poetry/song/riddles until he encounters the dragon! Those were old "chestnuts" he gave to Gollum, weren't they. Would the Red Book be considered, then, to be Bilbo's artistic endeavor? Has he gained the insight which allows him to break the staid hobbit mode and expand his creativity?

Oh, to be a fly on the wall during your classes! Laugh


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






Súlimë
Rivendell


Feb 19 2013, 8:05am

Post #4 of 8 (184 views)
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The thread opener made me laugh :D [In reply to] Can't Post

Great thought-provoking questions, btw!

1.Do you agree with this-- does Bilbo keep his identity throughout the novel? What are some ways we see two sides of Bilbo? Would you describe it differently?
I would say that Bilbo has all these 'heroic' qualities lay hidden deep within him. What happens does not exactly 'change' Bilbo, but simply wakes these qualities. For me this is universally true for everyone -- when we are tested, we have the chance to show our true qualities.

2. How do you think Tolkien most strongly incorporated Beowulf in TH?
This is a very interesting question and I have never thought of this before. I read Beowulf a long time ago so I don't remember much, but my impression is that there is a *slight* hint of Beowulf in Beorn, in a 'lore' sense (as opposed to Rohan, which in my mind is closely linked to Beowulf in a 'historical' sense). I have no idea how to put it.

3. Thorin.
I don't think the book-version Thorin would have made a good king. He would be a great king, and his kingdom will most likely flourish, but his neighbors might suffer. However, I don't think he is evil in any way -- and I don't think what he did in the book was even close to irredeemable. After all, he is extremely loyal to his own kin, and despite all the display of his 'greed', I don't think it is any different from someone doing things for their country in the modern world.

I view the whole event more as a political issue than a moral issue. So, while I never personally cared much for book Thorin, I never thought he was so bad that he had to be 'redeemed' by his death.

4. The dwarves as a collective character.
I've always seen them 'through kids' eyes' and they represent the strange and slightly helpless 'adults'. I think children will identify with Bilbo, and I think the point of the story is Bilbo's experience in the weird adult world where there is much pride, greed and politics.

5. Aaaand...back to Bilbo. What has he gained at the end of the novel?
For me: perspective. :)

Really, when 13 dwarves showed up at Bilbo's doorstep, no one expected the story to turn out the way it did.

I think The Hobbit is essentially about going out to see the world. Bilbo is a kid who just learned about the adult world, and there are great things, noble things, terrible things in the adult world. The interesting thing is that Bilbo is not always an active agent in the events that unfold, and that is something a child experiences. Sometimes you are just thrust into the experience and you have to do what you can. It's about growing up. In a way, Bilbo grows through the story, and despite being little and seemingly insignificant, he finds courage, he sticks up for his friends, he chooses to do what he believes is right. It's a story about learning what is out there in the world, and about growing up and finding your place in it. It's also about how you are such a small part of the world, and it teaches you to be humble, but at the same time it empowers you and makes you aware of how much you can do, for yourself and others, in your little corner in the world. :)


sador
Half-elven


Feb 20 2013, 9:59am

Post #5 of 8 (159 views)
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Thank you again! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
My professor does love Tolkien. She actually mentioned this week that she was criticized by the rest of the English department when she started teaching this course almost twenty years ago, and scholars like Tom Shippey and Jane Chance (at Rice University) have helped to legitimize the study of Tolkien in academia. Any criticisms she has are simple to help us think objectively, and better read his works from a more objective academic perspective. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing, but please remember that this is not meant to rile anybody up, but instead, to simply share what I've been taking notes on. (similarly, these notes aren't necessarily my opinion, or even that of my professor, but simply reflective of discussions in class)


But of course! I never thought otherwise. I'm sorry you had the impression that some members were getting riled up, and I hope I wasn't one of those giving the impression.


In Reply To
We do talk about Tolkien's own personal/professional life as well as some philological history, but I have decided not to post stuff about that on here, simply because it's stuff that anybody can look up whenever they want. I thought the discussions we have in class, and some of my professors own opinions, might be more interesting, just because it seems like it would be slightly more original on here, and spark more conversation, than a simple history of Tolkien in which I list facts that I learn. If anybody has any alternative ideas, please let me know!


Anybody could look up - but most won't unless prompted.
Anyway, it's you choice what to post - and so far, you've been doing excellently.

And now to your questions:

1. Bilbo.
I'm not sure about the tobacco as a proof - after all, Bilbo was first hooked on by admiring Thorin and Gandalf's smoke-rings.
However, the very last sentence of The Return Journey indicates that at the end of the adventure, the Baggins side is becoming stronger. Tolkien makes sure we are always aware of these two facets of Bilbo's person - but does he achieve a balance indeed? He prospers, and is happy - but I'm not sure he achieves it.
And LotR indicates that he does not - when he feels strcehed, longs to be elsewhere, and does not marry. Compare this to Sam, who does marry, and becomes whole.

2. Beowulf, and other heroes.
I haven't read Beowulf myself, but Tolkien clearly draws on the Norse sagas quite a lot - even in the dwarves' names. From the little I know, I'm not sure Thorin in any way follows him (although perhaps movie-Thorin does). Could you, or anyone, please enlarge?

3. Thorin.
Oh, I have for a long time argued that Tolkien doesn't play fair with him. And yes, I see no reason to suppose that had Bard and the Elvenking not descended at him to plunder the Mountain (what do you think they would have done, had they found the dwarves alive and the Mountain undefended?), he would have been a fair and generous king. Maybe he wouldn't - but based on his gift to Bilbo (which ultimately saved Bilbo's life) indicates he would.

4. The dwarves as a collective character.
Why would you expect anything from a group which goes travelling in the Wild, not bothering to even arm themselves?
At any rate, it is onmly one dwarf who grumbles against returning to the Misty Mountains for Bilbo - and it was the dwarves who picked Bilbo after the Great Goblin was killed, and once the wolves attack, at considerable risk to Dori. In both cases, Gandalf completely ignores his friend and leaves him behind; not that is a disappointment in my book.

5. Aaaand...back to Bilbo.
I have discussed this at great length only recently.




dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 20 2013, 11:18am

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Oh, that's right! [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo does make up his own poetry before he encounters Smaug: the rhymes he uses to irritate the spiders! So it seems to be the necessity of ingenuity in a tight spot which is bringing out the more creative part of himself.

I am bothered about Thorin as King Under the Mountain. Had Bilbo given him the Arkenstone when he first found it, would Thorin still have succumbed to the gold-sickness? I think so; he was in no mood to share with those in need. "The mere fleeting glimpses of treasure which they had caught as they went along had rekindles all the fire of their dwarvish hearts; and when the heart of a dwarf, even the most respectable, is wakened by gold and by jewels, he grows suddenly bold, and he may become fierce."

And later comes Thorin's unreasonable "But none of our gold shall thieves take or the violent carry off while we are alive." Yet Thorin is the violent one in his dealings with Bard and the elven-king.


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 21 2013, 3:21am

Post #7 of 8 (123 views)
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"Without the weight of ego"! [In reply to] Can't Post

That does show the most inner nature of Bilbo, doesn't it! He has his moments of frustration, and of fear and self-preservation, but never does he give in to ego, to self-centered-ness.

Perhaps one might say, he remains a gentleman through it all?


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 21 2013, 3:24am

Post #8 of 8 (206 views)
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I like that! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Really, when 13 dwarves showed up at Bilbo's doorstep, no one expected the story to turn out the way it did.


So true - we were not prepared at all for what would happen at the Lonely Mountain!


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"





 
 

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