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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
History of the Hobbit Book Discussion: Chapter II Trolls

bruinen
Bree


Aug 4 2013, 4:16pm

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History of the Hobbit Book Discussion: Chapter II Trolls Can't Post

The Book: The History of the Hobbit by John D. Rateliff

This Week: Chapter II, Trolls
Next Week: Chapter III, Rivendell

Welcome to The History of the Hobbit!

As other RRoom leaders state: These chapter discussions are open to everyone -- all you need is to have read the book and have an opinion, question, and/or comment. This is absolutely not for experts only - everyone's participation is welcome, whether you are a veteran of the Reading Room or brand-new, and whether you've commented on other chapters or not. Feel very free to jump right in.


Overview: “Chapter II – Trolls”


The early draft begins with Bilbo waking up on the morning after the unexpected party and ends just after the trolls are turned to stone. It corresponds to the chapter titled “Roast Mutton” in the published version. It includes a funny anachronism where the dwarves refer to both policeman and bicycles.

The single most interesting change from this original draft to the version we know today is how JRRT first conceived of the key to Erebor plot device. He drafted the first version 1930-35, and it isn’t until several years later, just before publication, that he rewrites to have the Key handed over with the map in chapter one. The swords are found in the hoard, but they are not immediately identified as elven and are marked with runes no one can read.

Rateliff says, “The trolls’ hoard is almost as interesting as its owners. Baldorthin’s inability to read the runes on the swords is a simple set-up for the scene with Elrond in the next chapter, which was clearly already planned…in terms of plot, the troll hoard can be viewed as a simple means of getting items plausibly into the characters’ hands – most notably the two swords and Bilbo’s dagger. But in the manuscript they find a fourth treasure, ultimately more important than any of the others: the troll-key. This is a major departure from the published text, where the key to the secret door in the Lonely Mountain is given by the wizard to Thorin in the first chapter along with the map, having conveniently been overlooked by the Necromancer’s jailers when they stripped his father and threw him into their dungeons. Tolkien’s original plan was to have the necessary key turn up by chance along the way.”

My opinion is that had he not eventually tightened up this one important plot point, Tolkien’s work would have remained firmly in the league of children’s stories. It’s his hard work in the revision process that led him to reach for legend-like storytelling that added the layers of complexity to the story that we love today.

Better to have a key and go looking for a door, than have a door that you later discover requires a key…which someone conveniently found 200 pages back and has been inexplicably been carrying around all this time.

What do you think?

My Notes:

It’s not necessary to read my further notes (below) but be my guest. Note, this is not a complete summary, just some highlights that might make discussion points. Feel free to pose questions from the notes.

Remember, Gandalf is still named Bladorthin and Thorin is still named Gandalf. They have the map but the key was not part of chapter one.

A) Introductory comments: just a brief note about pagination
B) Footnotes to intro comments: none
C) The first draft manuscript:
--Opening lines

“He jumped up and put on his dressing gown, and went out and saw all the signs of a very hurried breakfast. There was a dreadful lot of washing up in the kitchen, and crumbs and mess in the dining room, and no fires. Nor were there any dwarves or wizard.

“Bilbo would have thought it all a bad dream, if there hadn’t been such a lot of washing up and mess to clear away.”

--Chapter Action:

The meeting place is called “The Great Mill.”

An anachronism: after the light is spotted in the woods, the dwarves argue: “These parts are none too well known, and too near the mountains. Not even a policeman on a bicycle is ever seen this way.” [Hah! JRRT uses a phrase his children would find familiar, but forgets that his dwarves likely wouldn’t have known what either a policeman or a bicycle was…Though it does beg the question whether the blue mountains had dwarven bike cops.]

The talking purse is fully present in the early draft of the scene.

Instead of an open troll cave, they find a large wooden door that they cannot open and Bladorthin’s spell cannot unlock. But they find a large key on the ground that must have fallen out of William’s pocket before he was turned to stone, and it unlocks the door.

“There were bones on the floor and a nasty smell in the air; but there was a deal of coins in earthen pots at the far end of the cave, and a sword or two, and a bunch of curious keys on a nail; and that was all they found.”

Bladorthin (Gandalf), Gandalf (Thorin) and Bilbo all take swords, though they are not identified as elven. Just blades with runes they cannot read.

“Let’s get out of the smell!” said Fili. And so they went, and would have left the keys. [I find this a bit funny, given movie-Fili’s line “if there’s a key, there must be a door” line.]

“Hello!” said Bladorthin. “What are these, do you suppose? There are no other locks or doors in here. These keys were not made for this place.” So he brought them out and hung them on his belt.

The gold coins are buried “very secretly not far from the track by the river, with a deal of spells and curses over them, just in case.” [New examples of dwarven magic.]

The chapter ends with Gandalf (Thorin) saying “Thank you” to Bladorthin (Gandalf) for coming back, same as in the published version.


D) Rateliff’s Notes on the manuscript:
- The Great Mill remains the meeting spot right up until JRRT had page proofs for the initial publication—where he first changed it to The Green Man and then The Green Dragon Inn. He didn’t change the corresponding illustration, however. The original illustration “The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the-water” traces Bilbo’s route to the Mill, not the Inn.


- The “misty mountains” remain a descriptive term rather than the proper noun used in later drafts.

- Bofur and Bombur are the original fire tenders, crossed out at some point and replaced with Oin and Gloin.

- Dwalin is the original lookout, crossed out and changed to Balin.

- Dori and Nori quarrel, later changed to Oin and Gloin quarrel.

- Dwarven magic makes a reappearance in the burying of the troll gold…though “a good deal of spells and curses” in the draft is reduced to “a good deal of spells” in the published version.

Rateliff’s further observations are in two sections, (i) The Trolls, (ii) Bilbo’s Contract

(i) Trolls: Rateliff explains that trolls entered Tolkien’s mythology at some point in the period of 1917-1920s when he was first writing what we now know as The Lost Tales.

a. They appear on the scene after the War against Melkor (Morgoth.)

b. B LT II.283, “”Men came to Tol Eressea and also Orcs, Dwarves, Gongs, Trolls, etc.”

c. A more direct precursor for William, Bert and Tom comes from a poem JRRT wrote while at Leeds (1920-1925), one of the “Songs for the Philologists” originally known as Pero & Podex. It is very similar to Sam’s troll song in FotR “A troll sat alone on his seat of stone.”

d. Trolls turning to stone in sunlight: this is not an English folk tradition. However, Tolkien is credited with “popularizing, not inventing” the motif, sourced from Scandinavian mythology. See the Elder Edda.

(ii) Bilbo’s Contract: in the draft, the text is essentially the same as in the published version. Rateliff points out that “the comic precision of these terms later becomes important in the climax, when fair distribution of the treasure becomes the moral crux upon which the resolution of the story depends.”

E) Footnotes to Rateliff’s observations:

a. Several notes here detailing dialects and word origins.

b. Additional trolls-turn-to-stone references, including the modern stories by Poul Anderson and by Terry Pratchett.

c. Rateliff cites work by a student and friend of JRRT: Helen Buckhurst—“one of the people to whom he presented a signed copy of The Hobbit upon its first publication.” In a 1926 lecture on Icelandic Folklore, Buckhurst retells several stories about “Night-Trolls” who turn to stone at dawn:

‘Dawn now hath caught thee, a stone shalt thou be,
And no man henceforth shall be harmed by thee”
The Night Troll, Saga-book, p. 230

These tales possibly explain the existence of rock formations that look like beings. Including one in which an island is characterized as a “troll cow” flanked by its troll owners.


My Avatar: the desk Tolkien used when he wrote The Hobbit...now on display at Wheaton College.

(This post was edited by bruinen on Aug 4 2013, 4:25pm)


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 5 2013, 3:19am

Post #2 of 13 (196 views)
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The "key" chapter! [In reply to] Can't Post

Strange how there are the two "chance" discoveries of keys developed in this draft: the first, of course, when Bilbo finds the key which has conveniently fallen out of William's pocket (could it be that this happened, when Bilbo attempted to purloin the purse?); and the second, the "bunch of curious keys" hanging on the wall. It's just too random that one of those keys would fit the Door, this removes "believability" from the story.

Did you notice this about Bilbo the traveller: "But he hadn't a gold chain, nor a beard so he couldn't be mistaken for a dwarf, not from close to." The beard I can understand, but - the gold chain? Is Tolkien implying that the Dwarves were bedecked in precious metals?

One of my favorite lines: "But after a time they came to places where people spoke strangely and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before." The foreign accent, the unfamiliar cultures: Bilbo is definitely feeling how much further from home he is now, and the world is becoming a stranger to him.

How argumentative these Dwarves are! Is this lack of leadership on Gandalf/Thorin's part?

And now we see the first signs of brutality: the suggestion that had Bilbo been a "practical" burglar, he would have killed each troll by stabbing in the back, and the idea of holding "his toes in the fire till he talks". This is becoming closer to one of the original Grimm fairy tales.

Tolkien had Tom say "bl**dy"! Swearing in a children's story? Shocked

Now whence came the bread (un-stale) and cheese and ale the trolls had? Somehow I can't see them popping into the nearest town with their coins to make purchases!


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

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






RosieLass
Valinor


Aug 7 2013, 4:58am

Post #3 of 13 (148 views)
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I'm going to jump into the discussion with this chapter. [In reply to] Can't Post

I did read the first chapter, but it was some time ago. I just picked the book up again recently and began with this chapter.

And let me start by saying that The Hobbit is still very much a children's book, and there's not a thing wrong with that. Many wonderful pieces of of my favorite literature are children's books, from Milne to Grahame to Carroll.

The policeman on his bicycle stuck out a mile. Even in a book with steam trains and clocks on mantelpieces, it clanged. Tom Shippey's explanation of the anachronisms in the early chapters is that the Shire is representative of a different, more modern (Victorian?) time and place. But once he's out in Wilderland, he has left "modern" Middle-earth/England, so the policeman's bicycle doesn't fit in.

I'm also glad he changed the key plot. To have the Necromancer's jailers overlook it when they imprison Thrain stretched credibility a bit, but that's easier to swallow than a happenstance stumble-upon.

"BOTH [political] extremes are dangerous. But more dangerous are team fanboys who think all the extremists are on the OTHER side." (CNN reader comment)

It is always those with the fewest sensible things to say who make the loudest noise in saying them. --Precious Ramotswe (Alexander McCall Smith)


sador
Half-elven


Aug 7 2013, 9:14am

Post #4 of 13 (139 views)
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Halt, in the name of Plod! [In reply to] Can't Post

My opinion is that had he not eventually tightened up this one important plot point, Tolkien’s work would have remained firmly in the league of children’s stories... Better to have a key and go looking for a door, than have a door that you later discover requires a key…which someone conveniently found 200 pages back and has been inexplicably been carrying around all this time.
Not even in a children's stories league... this is a plot-twist which beggars belief. The critics would rip Tolkien apart, and rightly so.
This makes sense only as a bed-time story, in which the parent impresses the child by pulling out triumphantly some obscure piece of information, which he had planted a couple of weeks ago and the child has forgotten.

“Bilbo would have thought it all a bad dream, if there hadn’t been such a lot of washing up and mess to clear away.”
Meaning a worse reality. Wink

The meeting place is called “The Great Mill.”

And so it was, that later / as the miller told his tale...

Hah! JRRT uses a phrase his children would find familiar, but forgets that his dwarves likely wouldn’t have known what either a policeman or a bicycle was…Though it does beg the question whether the blue mountains had dwarven bike cops.]

You know, I never knew that Big-ears was a gnome... I thought he was just another dwarf, what with the beard and living in the toadstool. (I've only read a translation of Well done, Noddy!).
So it never really bothered me... what works in Toyland could work in the Blue Mountains as well.

The talking purse is fully present in the early draft of the scene.
It wouldn't miss the opportunity, would it?


But more seriously - doesn't the statement "trolls' purses are the mischief" contradict the earlier assumption that anything could be done to trolls, once you're dexterous and nimble enough?

Instead of an open troll cave, they find a large wooden door that they cannot open and Bladorthin’s spell cannot unlock. But they find a large key on the ground that must have fallen out of William’s pocket before he was turned to stone, and it unlocks the door.
So the key found lying about theme is kept - but at least it this version is reasonable.

“There were bones on the floor and a nasty smell in the air; but there was a deal of coins in earthen pots at the far end of the cave, and a sword or two, and a bunch of curious keys on a nail; and that was all they found.”
It sounds like the Admiral Benbow, but without the chest. Bill Huggins/Billy Bones his fancy, indeed!

I find this a bit funny, given movie-Fili’s line “if there’s a key, there must be a door” line.
Yeah, Tolkien didn't know his Jackson well enough, did he?
Luckily he redeemed this mistake before going to press!

“Hello!” said Bladorthin. “What are these, do you suppose? There are no other locks or doors in here. These keys were not made for this place.” So he brought them out and hung them on his belt.
So he didn't notice them at first? A wizard without his pince-nez is as limited as a burglar without his pocket-handkerchief!

The gold coins are buried “very secretly not far from the track by the river, with a deal of spells and curses over them, just in case.” [New examples of dwarven magic.]

It's nice thinking, isn't it? Putting a deal of dire curses on the hoard, just in case.
Preparing for a rainy day is always good - but a cursed hoard will come back to bite Thorin, won't it? (But it didn't while he was named Gandalf.)

The chapter ends with Gandalf (Thorin) saying “Thank you” to Bladorthin (Gandalf) for coming back, same as in the published version.

Now that we've showed the little boys an example of people with good manners, we can tuck them into bed.


My comments regarding sections D and E will come later.



sador
Half-elven


Aug 8 2013, 8:39am

Post #5 of 13 (129 views)
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Could a troll-cow jump over the moon? [In reply to] Can't Post

Or just over its dark side?

The Great Mill remains the meeting spot right up until JRRT had page proofs for the initial publication—where he first changed it to The Green Man and then The Green Dragon Inn. He didn’t change the corresponding illustration, however. The original illustration “The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the-water” traces Bilbo’s route to the Mill, not the Inn.
Oops!

The “misty mountains” remain a descriptive term rather than the proper noun used in later drafts.

It's interesting, comopared to the Hill and the Water! Or where these lower case, too? I rather suspect that when writing the first drafts, Tolkien didn't bother with capitalisation overmuch. What do you think?

Bofur and Bombur are the original fire tenders, crossed out at some point and replaced with Oin and Gloin.

Any idea why? Is a golf-fan more likely to be a quarrelsome pyromaniac?

Dwalin is the original lookout, crossed out and changed to Balin.

Which is a really odd choice, considering that Balin is described as the oldest (until the LotR appendices). Why chose such a look-out?

Dori and Nori quarrel, later changed to Oin and Gloin quarrel.

Where they also the two who yearned for regular meals, as in the published version?
In that case you can see a shift in the book's focus (and perceived audience? at any rate Tolkien's children grew up) - with the cause for infighting changing from hunger to frustration (once Oin and Gloin are also the firemakers). Interesting.

b. B LT II.283, “”Men came to Tol Eressea and also Orcs, Dwarves, Gongs, Trolls, etc.”

Yes, but that is not quite a characterisation. In BoLT so many creatures are mentioned - who can tell which is important?

c. A more direct precursor for William, Bert and Tom comes from a poem JRRT wrote while at Leeds (1920-1925), one of the “Songs for the Philologists” originally known as Pero & Podex. It is very similar to Sam’s troll song in FotR “A troll sat alone on his seat of stone.”

Yes, it's a good thing Strider used a stick to slap the trolls' back - commendable caution, especially when compared to Frodo's antics when imitating "the cow jumped over the Moon" at the Prancing Pony.

d. Trolls turning to stone in sunlight: this is not an English folk tradition. However, Tolkien is credited with “popularizing, not inventing” the motif, sourced from Scandinavian mythology. See the Elder Edda.

But was it specific to trolls? IIRC, Anderson brings a source in which t is a dwarf which must go underground before dawn.

(ii) Bilbo’s Contract: in the draft, the text is essentially the same as in the published version. Rateliff points out that “the comic precision of these terms later becomes important in the climax, when fair distribution of the treasure becomes the moral crux upon which the resolution of the story depends.”

Well, since Bilbo is basing his claims on a gross misinterpretation of the contract's terms (can the Arkenstone, taken before the treasure is properly won or even counted, count as "cash on delivery, up to and not not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits, if any, in gold and silver"?), he might have a moral leg to stand upon, but no legal one.


Quote
c. Rateliff cites work by a student and friend of JRRT: Helen Buckhurst—“one of the people to whom he presented a signed copy of The Hobbit upon its first publication.” In a 1926 lecture on Icelandic Folklore, Buckhurst retells several stories about “Night-Trolls” who turn to stone at dawn:
‘Dawn now hath caught thee, a stone shalt thou be,
And no man henceforth shall be harmed by thee”
The Night Troll, Saga-book, p. 230


Are there day-trolls as well?

These tales possibly explain the existence of rock formations that look like beings. Including one in which an island is characterized as a “troll cow” flanked by its troll owners.

That's a nice theory, which I've missed in my own reading! Thank you.



sador
Half-elven


Aug 8 2013, 9:05am

Post #6 of 13 (145 views)
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Actually, I can't quite understand. [In reply to] Can't Post

Did you notice this about Bilbo the traveller: "But he hadn't a gold chain, nor a beard so he couldn't be mistaken for a dwarf, not from close to." The beard I can understand, but - the gold chain? Is Tolkien implying that the Dwarves were bedecked in precious metals?
How would anyone see a gold chain on a dwarf? Won't the beard hide it?

One of my favorite lines: "But after a time they came to places where people spoke strangely and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before." The foreign accent, the unfamiliar cultures: Bilbo is definitely feeling how much further from home he is now, and the world is becoming a stranger to him.

But it's all right now. In fact, it's a gas.

(I'm afraid that until Ro will resume the LotR SAST, you'll be subjected to these kind or responses. Actually, I love this line as well.)

How argumentative these Dwarves are! Is this lack of leadership on Gandalf/Thorin's part?
They're being dwarves.

And now we see the first signs of brutality: the suggestion that had Bilbo been a "practical" burglar, he would have killed each troll by stabbing in the back, and the idea of holding "his toes in the fire till he talks". This is becoming closer to one of the original Grimm fairy tales.
Actually, I wonder about Gandalf/Bladorthin's trick. Why didn't he stick a dagger in all the three trolls while they were arguing? Was he so much concerned about his professional pride to risk the lives of all his followers?

Tolkien had Tom say "bl**dy"! Swearing in a children's story? Shocked
Zounds, so he does!

Now whence came the bread (un-stale) and cheese and ale the trolls had? Somehow I can't see them popping into the nearest town with their coins to make purchases!
Well, they did eat a village and a half since coming down from the mountains.
And there is always the troll-cow bruinen mentioned before...
Shades of poor Galathea, and that largest and stupidest of giants!



Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 9 2013, 4:09am

Post #7 of 13 (144 views)
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I suppose [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
How would anyone see a gold chain on a dwarf? Won't the beard hide it?


It would depend on the sort of chain Tolkien had in mind. If it was a simple gold chain it would easily get lost. But if it's something more decorative like a Lord Mayor's Chain, or even this (hey, movie Dwalin...Wink), then one might wear it over the beard, which is tucked into a golden belt in the finished version of the story.

Dwarves, especially if they are gold or silversmiths, might well display their wares a bit. Or perhaps the dwarves have learned their lesson and routinely wear at least a portion of their wealth, thereby making sure to always have it with them in case of an emergency migration.

Silverlode

"Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dűm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone."



bruinen
Bree


Aug 10 2013, 11:22pm

Post #8 of 13 (103 views)
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Mr T! ROFL [In reply to] Can't Post

Love the Mr. T look. Too funny that it's pretty close to young Dwalin. Can't help but wonder how much inspiration it provided. Sly

I always imagined something simpler than The Lord Mayor, but still a bit chunky. I'd think that dwarves, being somewhat wary, would keep them under their coats most of the time. Of course movie Thrain seemed to have it installed in his beard.

The emergency migration point is interesting--there were ancient cultures who hid gold/silver in water flasks and such for the same reason.

My Avatar: the desk Tolkien used when he wrote The Hobbit...now on display at Wheaton College.


bruinen
Bree


Aug 10 2013, 11:28pm

Post #9 of 13 (99 views)
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I agree completely--nothing wrong [In reply to] Can't Post

with being a children's book. Just trying to point out (maybe lamely) that the story's success went far beyond the usual expectations.

I think everyone's in agreement on the "key" motif being much better handled in the published version. Smile

Glad you posted--hope you have time to weigh in on future chapters. Thanks much.

My Avatar: the desk Tolkien used when he wrote The Hobbit...now on display at Wheaton College.


bruinen
Bree


Aug 10 2013, 11:33pm

Post #10 of 13 (97 views)
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isn't this the first night out? [In reply to] Can't Post

and they hear people speaking strangely and find trolls...one day from Bag End?

Good point about the cheese and bread and no believable method for procurement beyond theft...so many "continuity" details for a writer to worry about!

My Avatar: the desk Tolkien used when he wrote The Hobbit...now on display at Wheaton College.


bruinen
Bree


Aug 10 2013, 11:39pm

Post #11 of 13 (93 views)
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Day trolls...hmmmm. [In reply to] Can't Post

If night trolls turn to stone in sunlight and hide in the dark, does a day troll turn to stone in the dark and hide in...the light? Trying to work that one out...would a hearth fire be strong enough? Maybe they'd have to stick close to a place like the Crack of Doom for a light source more on planetary scale...? Interesting idea, Sador!

My Avatar: the desk Tolkien used when he wrote The Hobbit...now on display at Wheaton College.


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Aug 11 2013, 8:15pm

Post #12 of 13 (94 views)
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This covers about the first month of travel [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
isn't this the first night out? and they hear people speaking strangely and find trolls...one day from Bag End?

Good point about the cheese and bread and no believable method for procurement beyond theft...so many "continuity" details for a writer to worry about!



The previous paragraph describes the company's first day of travel. This passage covers the end of April to almost the end of May, about the first month of the journey. Immediately following this, Bilbo provides the appropriate context:


Quote

"To think it will soon be June!" grumbled Bilbo, as he splashed along behind the others in a very muddy track.


'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


bruinen
Bree


Aug 11 2013, 8:27pm

Post #13 of 13 (103 views)
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Yes - you are correct! [In reply to] Can't Post

Covered in two very short paragraphs in the draft...and in one longer one in the published version. Smile

Thanks!

My Avatar: the desk Tolkien used when he wrote The Hobbit...now on display at Wheaton College.

 
 

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