The Hobbit – Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

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The Hobbit – Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

Postby starlin » Sat Jan 31, 2004 11:24 am

Welcome to the first month of discussing The Hobbit in Virtual Tolkien Study Group. If you're new to this forum, please take a look at the Hobbit OOC: sign on, ask questions and chat thread before you post. As usual, I will also ask you to feel free to contribute. As we all know, simple questions and observations are just as welcome as huge deep insightful posts. Discussing The Hobbit will undoubtedly require a little bit different approaches than The Silmarillion so since we are all eager to see how it works, let’s not speak much and get started!

In February’s study session we will cover the first chapter of The Hobbit. In this summary I’m looking at the plot of the chapter itself, and at some history of writing the book.

A Hobbit’s Tale, by Ronald Tolkien

It was in the summer of 1928 that J.R.R.Tolkien wrote the famous first sentence on a blank examination page: In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. He then set the paper aside and continued writing this marvelous story during the following years. Tolkien read parts of the story to his children all through this period. In the winter of 1932, the draft was read by C.S.Lewis, though the typescript apparently still lacked the final chapters. One of Tolkien’s former students convinced a friend, Susan Dagnall, who worked for the publishing house of Allen and Unwin, to consider the book for publication. The Hobbit was reviewed by 10-year-old Rayner Unwin, the son of the publisher. He wrote that it ‘should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9’. However, The Hobbit, finally published on September 21, 1937, proved to be interesting even for the grown-ups. The readers began to insist on ‘hearing more about the hobbits’ and the great labour of writing LotR began.

On March 1 , 1938 The Hobbit was also published in America, by Houghton-Mifflin company. They included four colour illustrations drawn by Tolkien himself. In the british edition, there were 11 black-and-white illustrations.

Even though The Hobbit from the outset wasn’t meant to be connected with the stories which later became The Silmarillion, it seems that Tolkien could not resist including some details, like Elrond, Gondolin, elves in general. The Necromancer, dragon, Gollum and, of course, the Ring later proved to be a successful background to the epic of The Lord of the Rings.

When writing his novel, Tolkien used other sources as well. For example, the dwarves’ names are taken from a section of the Elder Edda, the Völuspá. This section is known as the Dvergatal, or “List of Dwarves”. The name of Gandalf is so described in the UT, ‘The Istari’:

Gandalf is a substitution in the English narrative on the same lines as the treatment of Hobbit and Dwarf names. It is an actual Norse name (found applied to a Dwarf in Völuspá) used by me since it appears to contain gandr, a staff, especially one used in "magic," and might be supposed to mean "Elvish wight with a (magic) staff."

In fact, the Unfinished Tales section ‘The Quest of Erebor’ gives us interesting information about the very beginning of the adventure and I imagine it would be worth reading before the discussion.

Some plot patterns of the novel include archetypal religious or mythological actions. Bilbo’s going under the mountain and overcoming Gollum there might be interpreted as a genuine ‘rite of passage’, or initiation. As every fairy tale in the world, this ‘children’s story’ appears to be far more difficult than it might look from the first sight. However, these topics belong to the later discussions, so now let us look at the first Chapter.

Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

The chapter begins with an introduction to the story, which includes thorough descriptions of Bag End, Bilbo and hobbits in general. As an interesting fact it is mentioned that Bilbo has a ‘Baggins’ and a ‘Tookish’ side, one decently hobbitish, the other naughtier. The action starts one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green. Gandalf comes to Hobbiton and sees Bilbo standing at his door smoking. After some playful remarks about the marvelous morning Gandalf says he’s looking for someone to share in an adventure and Bilbo clearly dislikes the idea. After actually remembering Gandalf’s fireworks he has seen in his youth (and adored them, apparently), Bilbo invites him for a cup of tea hoping he will never come, and utterly forgets his promise later. Gandalf draws a sign on his door, meaning Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward. On Wednesday the dwarves begin to come to Bag End one by one – first Dwalin, then Balin, Fili, Kili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and Thorin Oakenshield. They all bow low, say At your service, hang their hoods and head for the table. With the last comes Gandalf. Bilbo is so overwhelmed that doesn’t resist and does as the rules of hospitability require – makes sure his guests feel comfortable and completely satisfied. And what would you do, if an uninvited dwarf came and hung his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?

During this unexpected party, Bilbo gets a chance to hear some songs and a story about Erebor, Smaug and dwarven gold, and to see the map of Thror which shows the secret entrance to the mountain, never before known even to Thorin. He discovers that this party is planning to regain the treasure that the dragon has stolen and… that he is expected to be the burglar of the company. Gloin expresses the opinion of all dwarves by telling he disliked Bilbo the first time he saw him bobbing and puffing on the mat, and claims that he looks more like a grocer than a burglar. However, then Bilbo’s pride begins to work and he discovers that the Took inside him yearns for adventures. Eventually Bilbo agrees, even though later, half-asleep, he is no more certain whether the party was real or not. The chapter abruptly ends on the morning of the next day, when Bilbo wakes up long after the break of day.

Questions for the discussion

Here are a few points I’d like to rise for the start, and some questions. Have fun in the discussion!

1. Where did Tolkien get the name ‘hobbit’? **Tolkien himself suggested that he may have been subconsciously influenced by Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt, the eponymous hero of a classic story of bourgeois mentality. However, in 1979 a former editor of the OED announced that he had tracked the word "hobbit" to an early nineteenth-century collection of Yorkshire folklore known as The Denham Tracts, where hobbits appear in a list of supernatural creatures that includes more famous bogies such as barguests, lubberkins, cauld-lads, and more. The character of Hobbits as developed by Tolkien, however, has nothing to do with these sinister sprites -- as Tolkien the linguist understood, the word and the thing are not identical. [taken from one Internet site] ** Homo+rabbit=hobbit
However ridiculous the latter may seem, what else do you know about these versions? Are there any other versions you could share?

2. Ok, I know you have been waiting for this one: The Hobbit was written as a children’s book, and rated as being suitable for children between 5 and 9, but aren’t there any more complex issues raised in the book?

3. A short survey-like question: at what age did you first read The Hobbit and at what age would you recommend to read it?

4. There And Back Again was ‘written’ by Bilbo Baggins, being a part of the Red Book of Westmarch. However, the position of the narrator of the story often shows us that the author is one of our times, e.g.: I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us; when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along; et cetera.
The reason to this is explained in the rune-sentence which appears at the very beginning: The Hobbit or There and Back Again, being the record of a year's journey made by Bilbo Baggins; compiled from his memoirs by J. R. R. Tolkien
Did Tolkien already then, years before the completion of The Lord of the Rings, think of that way of writing that he later explained in his letters: he simply ‘recorded’, not ‘invented’? Maybe the idea of Bilbo’s world and the world of Silmarillion being the same wasn’t so alien to him after all? Maybe he already imagined the Quest of Erebor being a later event of the same world? Or was this just a playful remark suitable for children’s book?

5. Everything starts one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green. What are the biggest differences between our world and that of the fairy tales? What do you think are Tolkien’s purposes of describing it like this?

6. How is the character of Bilbo described through the first chapter?

7. Dark for dark business! – say the dwarves when Bilbo intends to bring some light. Why ‘dark business’? Overall, how do the dwarves feel about the quest that awaits? Anxious? Afraid?

8. Answering Bilbo’s ‘good morning’, Gandalf says: What do you mean? <…> Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is morning to be good on? This humorous passage reminds me of Tolkien’s passion for linguistics. Doesn’t he use that annoying method which I think belongs to the psycholinguistics: to look at the deeper meaning of simplest words? What did Gandalf want to achieve with these words? Was it a way to carry on a conversation? a slight mocking of the hobbit? an essay to test Bilbo’s wits and awareness? an attempt to cause confusion? or an arrogant showing of Gandalf’s own intelligence?

9. Now let’s have a look at the Prologue to LotR where hobbits are described. What bothers me is this: did hobbits end having tough soles because they refused to wear shoes, or did they refuse to wear shoes because in the course of evolution they obtained tough soles? :roll: This a matter of cause and effect, if you catch my thought…

(Edited to change the OOC url)
(21.6.4 edit: tags and url updated)
Last edited by starlin on Mon Jun 21, 2004 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby greenleafwood » Sun Feb 01, 2004 4:36 pm

<b>Starlin</b>, thank you for the thought provoking first post! I think and hope there will be a lot of lively discussion on <b>The Hobbit</b>. We all will agree it is a marvelous work, on the outside seemingly simple (often “erroneously” acclaimed as child’s book!) and jaunty, but there are definitely opportunities for in-depth and insightful expansion.<BR><BR>1. <i>hobbit</i>: When I first heard and saw this word, I immediately thought of homo+rabbit, so it may not seem so ridiculous! The hobbit being a hole-dweller, it seems to make sense. <BR>However, in <b>Letters</b> nr.25, Tolkien replied to a letter from <i>The Observer</i> asking if hobbits might have been suggested to him by Julian Huxley’s account of “furry little men” seen in Africa: <i>I do not remember anything about the name and inception of the hero…I have no waking recollection of furry pigmies (in book or moonlight); nor of any Hobbit bogey in print by 1904. I suspect that the two hobbits are accidental homophones, and am content that they are not synonymous. And I protest that my hobbit did not live in Africa, and was not furry, except about the feet. Nor indeed was he a rabbit…</i><BR><BR>2. I don’t know. Tolkien wrote it originally for his children. In Letters nr. 15, he wrote: <i>My eldest boy was thirteen when he heard the serial. It did not appeal to the younger ones who had to grow up to it successively…the MS (manuscript) certainly wandered about, but it was not, as I know, ever read to children, and only read by one child (a girl of 12-13), before Mr Unwin tired it out…</i><BR>Since Tolkien was the author, it is unavoidable that much of his ideals and beliefs are wound into the story, so it has also appealed to older and adult readers for that matter. Children’s books can be manna for grown-ups, with truths interpreted in child’s honesty. Children probably read the book in a way that differs from the expectations of an adults. I’m sure there are complex issues in the book, especially if the later works are taken into account.<BR><BR>3. I read the book as an adult, way after LOTR. I would recommend it to a child of 10 and upwards, which I have. A younger child with a good reading skills may find it enjoyable.<BR><BR>4. It sounds impressive, and lends an air of reality to the story – not wholly faery, but with one foot in our world, which makes the geography of the stage come a little closer. Tolkien always wanted to write a mythology for England. Personal taste, I enjoy reading stories with references like the way Tolkien did it, eg. Washington Irving (<i>The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker</i>).<BR><BR>5. Tolkien was dismayed at the rapidly vanishing traditional culture of rural England. It is explicitly interpreted, I think, with regards to the aggression against Fangorn forest in LOTR.<BR><BR>7. <i>”We like the dark,” said the Dwarves</i>. I don’t suppose Dwarves crave sunlight and light as much as hobbits do, even though both are ‘hole’ (cave) dwellers. It could mean grave business, for it was an errand that would lead them far from their respective homes, <i>”…a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us may never return.”</i><BR><BR>8. a lively way of knocking up conversation, and also to test Bilbo’s wits. I suspect it was also Tolkien’s passion for linguistics that got it put on paper!<BR><BR>9. I’ll go with the evolution. Running around barefoot is supposed to be good for blood circulation. <BR><BR><BR>So now I’ll stop my rambling and make way for other posters.<BR><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>greenleaf<BR>
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Postby Arvegil » Tue Feb 03, 2004 6:17 pm

I will start by addressing a small point:<BR><BR><i>Did Tolkien already then, years before the completion of The Lord of the Rings, think of that way of writing that he later explained in his letters: he simply ‘recorded’, not ‘invented’? Maybe the idea of Bilbo’s world and the world of Silmarillion being the same wasn’t so alien to him after all? Maybe he already imagined the Quest of Erebor being a later event of the same world? Or was this just a playful remark suitable for children’s book?</i><BR><BR>Some of the Silmarillion material, including the Fall of Gondolin, dates back to 1916-17. So, the outlines of what would become the mythological background for Bilbo's times already existed well before "The Hobbit" was written. There is even a character overlap in the person of Elrond.<BR><BR>So, while Bilbo's journey might have started off as essentially a side trip from the main narrative direction that Tolkien saw in Middle-Earth, it was part of that world. Since the "new myth" fiction applied to the earlier work, I suggest it had to include <i>The Hobbit</i>.
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Postby starlin » Wed Feb 04, 2004 8:02 am

Thank you for your remarks, now I'll try to add something...<BR><BR>As for question number 2, I agree with <b>greenleafwood</b>:<BR><i>Children’s books can be manna for grown-ups, with truths interpreted in child’s honesty.</i><BR>Let us remember fairy tales. At least in my country we analyse folk tales at school and we're always tought to observe the symbols appearing there. The fairytales often resemble very ancient mythological structure of the world and contain certain archetypes. The same with The Hobbit being a 'children's tale': it can be read as a simple bed time story, however, one can dig deeper if one will.<BR><BR>3. I believe I read The Hobbit at the age of six or seven, and I enjoyed it. Later on, I kept on returning to this book until LotR was finally published in my language. As for recommendations, I think a child should read it himself (not be read by parents or granny), as probably any other classical book. It's the matter of personal interpretation. I don't think a child of 5 would understand everything but he certainly can enjoy it and be caught by it.<BR><BR>I'll return to the other questions later, now I'd like to comment the post by <b>Arvegil</b>: yes, I know that <i>some of the Silmarillion material, including the Fall of Gondolin, dates back to 1916-17</i>, and even back to 1914, I presume (Beren and Luthien... or am I mistaken?). But I thought that when writing The Hobbit Tolkien never thought of it as a possible continuation of his Lost Tales. He might have used the toponym Gondolin just so - never hoping that his tales of the Elder Days would be read by anyone. And was the character of Elrond truly present in the Silmarillion tales before writing The Hobbit? Here I'd like to remember the Prologue to the second edition of LotR, where Tolkien claims that already in The Hobbit there were some glimpses of the older and more dangerous matter: Gondolin, Elrond, Necromancer. And only later he understood the significance of these glimpses...<BR>I don't have any facts for backing, but this is an interesting issue, an illustration of how Tolkien's thought about ME and Arda was changing throughout the years. Any ideas?
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Postby rowanberry » Wed Feb 04, 2004 10:47 am

Just a couple of short answers for a start - I'll have to print your questions, and reread the first chapter with them at hand.<BR><BR>2) In my opinion, what makes The Hobbit a children's book is rather the style in which it is written, than the story itself. There are themes like death, greed, and pity, which you don't find in the garden-variety fairytales.<BR><BR>3) I was already thirtysomething when I read The Hobbit for the first time; my daughter read it at 11. I don't think there's any <i>right</i> age to read it - but, I think that I would have greatly enjoyed it already as a 7- to 8-year-old.<BR><BR>9) I'm for the theory that, the hobbits developed tough soles and furry feet in the course of evolution so, they simply didn't have any need for shoes.
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Postby Harpist_of_Rohan » Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:41 pm

GREAT Summary and questions, Starlin. It's been busy around here, so I'm just now getting to read it and respond. <BR><BR>1. I was thinking of all the words we use that include similar syllables...especially those that are thought of as more British usage and older. How about "hobby-horse" and "hob-nob"? Maybe there are others, but those two in particular sort of give me a "hobbit" sort of feel...so could it be that those syllables just came together out of a general concept engendered by other words that gave the "feeling" of what a hobbit was supposed to be? Can anyone think of other words of the genre that might contribute to this theory?<BR><BR>2. Many complex issues ARE raised in the books...but children are people, right? And so they will meet with the common experiences of people. Therefore a book written for them should not necessarily shy away from those deeper, more complex issues, especially if healthy resolution of those responses is modeled for them in the books...more is "caught" than "taught", as we all know. I personally have read The Hobbit and LOTR to my children even in infancy (ok, so the infant was eating/sleeping in my arms while I read to the other, older children) and while the younger children did not always catch all the complexities, they enjoyed the story just the same, and it often sparked rather deeper conversations between us which were very profitable.<BR><BR>3. See above as far as what age I would recommend it...I think parents should enjoy reading The Hobbit to even their very young children for lots of good reasons, many of which I did not mention above. I personally was introduced to Tolkien while in college (WAY too many years ago) by my future husband. For which I married him. <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0><BR><BR>4. Probably others on this list have much more knowledge of this issue than I. But just imho, I don't think that it is an accident...such a complex, intricate history of these stories was created by Tolkien that he had to have some kind of history of it in his head, if not in notes already. Besides, it adds a wonderful, imagination-tickling sense that hobbits <i>just might still exist</i> and that grabs the reader's attention right at the start. I love it...it's so quaint.<BR><BR>5. The biggest differences are quite obvious...our world is more crowded, more industrious, has less clearly defined morality. I disagree that it is less green...only that the green is less accessible than it once was, and we don't go looking for it like maybe we ought, being busy with our industriousness.<BR><BR>6. I'll leave my answer to this one for a later date when I have more time, if no one gets to it before I do and does a better job <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR>7. Well, the dwarves, no doubt, already realize that this quest is going to be no piece of cake! I think they feel all the things any "fellowship" feels when setting about the mission: the mission is dangerous, but worth it; they have prepared the best they can, but there's always the chance of something they didn't prepare for coming up...excitement and anticipation mixed with fear and determination. But dwarves being dwarves, used to the dark...and perhaps they didn't really want everyone in the Shire to know that they were meeting in Bilbo's house? I mean, hobbit-holes have windows, as we know. So perhaps it was more on the lines of not letting the neighbors know...on the other hand, what do you need light for when you're just talking?<BR><BR>8. Partly I think this is a way that Tolkien chose to begin filling out Gandalf's character...we know right off the bat that he is no ordinary old man, that he can be a bit crotchety and somewhat nitpicking, but is highly intelligent. But as to the reason a real Gandalf might have spoken this way to a real Bilbo...well, of course because he's not ordinary and IS a bit crotchety and nitpicking at times. BUT I don't think it was really a test...I think Gandalf knew exactly which hobbit best fit his purposes, and was only using this ploy as a way to start a conversation while beginning to show Bilbo that he couldn't remain in his cozy little comfort zone of traditional greetings and pipe-smoking and really LIVE.<BR><BR>9. That depends, of course, on whether you assume evolution as a component of the establishment of Middle Earth. Must we do that? I don't think the evidence supports it. However, remember that the hobbits started living in plain, dirt holes. So maybe they also just never got in the habit of using shoes, either, and their feet were of such character that they were never tempted to.<BR><BR>This is fun!<BR>TWE<BR>Oh DRAT! I was logged in as my dd. Gotta watch that...I'm TheWidowEglantine, not Harpist. Sorry.
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Postby Gamil_Zirak » Thu Feb 05, 2004 4:43 pm

Just a thought and semi-parallel: <i>Alice in Wonderland</i> and <i>Gulliver's Travels</i> were written as complex satires for adults. Ironically, they have become huge hits as shildren's books. How odd, or fitting perhaps, the a British author's children's book would become a setting for so many complex adult themes.
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Postby Arvegil » Thu Feb 05, 2004 4:52 pm

Starlin:<i>I don't have any facts for backing, but this is an interesting issue, an illustration of how Tolkien's thought about ME and Arda was changing throughout the years. Any ideas? </i><BR><BR>Perhaps The Hobbit might be considered less of a continuation, than as a side journey within the same world, at its conception. Even if Elrond was not a major figure at that point, Glamdring was Turgon's sword.<BR><BR>Think of it as possibly, in its conception, a book-sized Tom Bombadil- an amusing diversion tangentially related to the main story arc.
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Postby starlin » Sun Feb 08, 2004 8:56 am

Returning to <b>TheWidowEglantine</b>'s thoughts about <i>dark for dark business</i>. In some aspects the dwarves also feel this mission is their <i>duty</i>. The gold was lost and they want to regain it because they can't stand the others stealing their precious possessions, that's true. But also - the gold was stolen from their fathers and grandfathers. It's a matter of pride. If they don't regain it they'll remain a wandering homeless folk (even though they have their new home, it's not the one inherited from the ancestors which is extremely important in such society as ME's). So the business maybe isn't so "dark" in this sense. Perhaps this word can then be interpreted as "obscure, not clear".<BR><BR>However, we know that Tolkien used the light-dark symbology very often, dark resembling evil. What's so evil in this particular mission? 1) The future of the dwarves - they may die and gain nothing or gain something and still die; 2) They might be obliged to commit some evilness on their trip. Perhaps cheat, kill... 3) Maybe there <i>is</i> some connection with the story of the Silmarils? At least the concept seems to be very close: they journey to regain what was once theirs, and they feel it is a matter of pride to do this. There was no oath for them, but maybe this particular element came into Tolkien's mind only later, when writing Quenta Silmarillion. An oath is surely a reason much more serious than simple pride of the dwarves. But the stories are slightly parallel, aren't they?
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Postby Arvegil » Mon Feb 09, 2004 12:12 pm

I would distinguish the quest for the Silmarils and the quest for Erebor. The quest for the Silmarils was an act which resulted in a fall from grace; it was doomed from the start as it had the condemnation of the Valar. Erebor, on the other hand, lacks the element of "divine disobedience;" to the contrary, as the relevant essay in <i>Unfinished Tales</i> shows, the Dwarves were acting according to the plan of the only divine force available (Gandalf).<BR><BR>Without the "original sin" aspect, or the corrosive effects of the Oath, real "end justifies the means" evil is lacking in the quest itself, except in terms of Thorin's attempt to keep all the treasure of Erebor.
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Postby starlin » Wed Feb 11, 2004 8:47 am

You are right about the "lack of divine disobedience". However, I'm not saying the two are <i>wholly</i> similar, I think there are <i>some</i> similarities in the plot. Let's look: 1) The purpose of the journeys is to regain an object; 2) these objects were acquired by them in their long labours; 3) the objects were of great value and desirable; 4) regaining these objects was a matter of pride as well; 5) in the end some of them died due to the lust for the object.<BR><BR>Of course, the matter that a Maia was with the dwarves opens a big chasm between two stories. So maybe we can speak about <i>similarities of the plot-situation</i> and <i>differences of the reason-situation</i>.<BR>
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Postby jaspur » Wed Feb 11, 2004 9:30 pm

Perhaps the similarities were intentional , but we must not forget that even though The Silmarillion was the original work, from which The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings evolved so to speak ; The Silmarillion was never truly completed to the extent which I feel certain Mr. Tolkien would have taken it. I feel certain that much more storyline continuity would have been in place had Mr. Tolkien lived long enough to complete The Silmarillion to his satisfaction.<BR><BR>I submit as evidence for this theory: the continuity between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings , both in characters and plotlines.<BR><BR>But I digress back to The Hobbit and the dark business topic. It was a dark business to atempt to journey through the perilous wilds to face a dragon hoarding Thorins family`s treasure , and not only to reclaim their treasure , but his rightful kingdom , and his home. All of which he would have inherited had Smaug taken it from the dwarves.<BR>To atempt to reclaim a stolen herritage by force , at the peril of posible death of self , friends , and family would be a dark business indeed in my opinion.<BR><BR>Those are my observations , I hope they add insight. <BR>
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Postby starlin » Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:43 am

Thank you for your opinion, <b>jaspur</b>. I think you are write -'darkness' might have marked that the journey would be extremely perilous and its end vague. However, concerning your thoughts about the continuity of the stories, it is as we see them now that we can claim there is continuity. As I have already mentioned above, it is possible that Tolkien started writing the Hobbit and only in the course of time found himself including older material (e.g. Gondolin, Elrond, Glamdring as mentioned above) and the hobbit became involved in the Great Story (LotR or its outline still not in existence!). As <b>Arvegil</b> said, we might consider it as a <i>side journey within the same world</i>. It is evident also from the 'childish' style, not resembling that of the Silmarillion. Maybe, if Tolkien had thought of Hob as a continuation from the outset, he might have chosen a different style.<BR><BR>Well, these thoughts are an attempt to draw some conclusion, and now I'd also like to move to another question, not previously mentioned: Bilbo's character in the first chapter. The first time we meet a character in a book, we must get some opinion about him, therefore first descriptions are always important. I personally liked it that Tolkien did his description not trying to hide it under the plotline, but straightforwardly. It's the first description, the main features we have to know. The others we will find out later. Surely Tolkien had to do some serious explanation about creatures not heard before - hobbits. And he emphasised that Bilbo was not a very typical hobbit... Did anyone notice that fact that one of Bilbo's ancestors had been said to have taken a fairy as a wife? Overall, how did you find Bilbo after reading his first description?
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Postby rowanberry » Sun Feb 15, 2004 12:50 pm

<i>Overall, how did you find Bilbo after reading his first description?</i><BR><BR>Bilbo is an everyman who deep in his heart dreams of doing something extraordinary, but is too accustomed to his ordinary everyday life to give it a go. Actually, there's much familiar in his character - I feel that, I'm very much like Bilbo myself.<BR><BR>But, Bilbo does get an opportunity, and finds the courage to seize it; quite hesitantly at first, reluctant to leave the comfort of his home, and afraid of losing his good reputation in a community that doesn't encourage anything unusual. (How often do we ourselves act only in a certain way, because breaking the norms gets frowned upon?) He also feels that, he's not fit for the task that's planned for him; but, when the dwarves start to suspect it as well, he decides to show them - and, that settles it... Pride is indeed an efficient incentive.
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Postby holbytla » Sun Feb 15, 2004 8:23 pm

Okay first time here, so go easy on me.<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR>I'll try and tackle the list of subjects one at a time.<BR><BR><OL><li>Where did Tolkien get the name ‘hobbit’? </OL><BR><BR>Well I can answer that in a couple of ways.<BR>First off let me state that I have a brother who is ten years older than me, and he obviously read The Hobbit much earlier than I did.<BR>I remember hearing the word hobbit quite often as a young child, so therefore the word is familliar to me. I remember being intrigued with the sound of the word. For some reason, it evoked a pleasant feeling in me. I probably, like many others, envisioned rabbit when I heard it. Hobbits sort of sound like rabbits in their description.<BR><BR>Many moons later, and after decades of reading Tolkien's works, I can look at the entymology a little differently.<BR>Tolkien purportedly wrote that famous line on a piece of paper, not knowing what a hobbit was, or where the word came from. Most of Tolkien's words come from his languages or others works. He may have got it from "babbit" as has been said. We probably will never know where he truly got it from.<BR>Nevertheless, as a philologist, is was necessary for him to find, or invent an origin or derivation. If I am not mistaken, he traced it back from the Rohirrim, and my favorite word <i>holbytla=hole dweller</i>.<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR>While posting and researching this, I came across this at another website...<BR><BR><BR>...<i>the name 'hobbit' goes back far further than even Tolkien suspected. We're indebted to Mark Blanton for sending along a long list of magical beings collected by a certain Michael Aislabie Denham before the year 1859. In the middle of this list, among the 'boggleboes', 'freiths' and 'wirrikows' lies the term 'hobbits'. Even more remarkably, the list predates even the nineteenth century - it was apparently taken from an even earlier work, Discovery of Witchcraft, dated 1584.</i><BR><BR>The Encyclopedia of Arda has a detailed page on the word hobbit.<BR>Hope it is appropriate to add a link here.???? <a href='http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/h/hobbits.html' target=_blank>Hobbits</a><BR><BR>_____________________________________________________________________<BR><BR>edit to add:<BR><BR><UL><li>Ok, I know you have been waiting for this one: The Hobbit was written as a children’s book, and rated as being suitable for children between 5 and 9, but aren’t there any more complex issues raised in the book?</UL><BR><BR>Well, yes it is perceived to be a children's book. The rating however, was done by Rayner Unwin I believe, when he was nine or ten. Being the son of a publisher probably gave him quite a leg up as far as his reading abilities went. Not many children today can read at that level between 5-9 years of age. Children that age would probably like the story if read to them, but would have a hard time understanding some of the themes and concepts put forth.<BR><BR>Tolkien's choice of narration, in some places, gives the reader the feeling of being told a bed time or fairy tale story. Tolkien "speaks" directly to the reader on a couple of occasions, and thereby gives the feeling that this story was intended to be read aloud by a parent to his child.<BR><BR>Tolkien has cleverly written this work, to be enjoyed by adult <i>and</i> child. There are themes, greed, valour, etc. that younger children may not grasp, but that adults will enjoy. The fantasy and fairy tale nature of the story is appealing to children.<BR><BR>It may be a children's story, but there is a large crossover. It also provides an introduction to LOTR.
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Postby miles2go » Tue Feb 17, 2004 4:34 pm

Okay, everyone, I'm throwing in my hat here, even though I am not quite as well prepared as I would like. I do have some thoughts however.<BR><BR>Let me first ask, regarding Bilbo having some "faerie" in his background--where did these fairies come from? I've read the Sil, Hobbit and LOTR and I don't remember this coming up anywhere else. My Tolkien Companion says that "faerie" refers to the elves. Can anyone elaborate on this for me? If in fact Tolkien is not throwing a new species at us out of nowhere, then why did he phrase it that way? <BR><BR>Dwarves are very interesting creatures. They were not created by Iluvatar/Eru but instead by Aule. Eru didn't get mad, but he made Aule put the Dwarves to sleep until after the coming of The Firstborn: The Elves. Dwarves, like Ents and hobbits, were really always separate from the "goings on" of Middle-earth, as the histories refer more to Elves and Men. Yet it was because they came out of their own "holes in the ground (caves)" that the Ring of power was found and the events of the LOTR take place.<BR><BR>I think that this is "dark business" because it requires a divergence from the norm, it is very dangerous, and because revenge is one of its motivations. Revenge is always dark business--it is morality on the edge--and conducting it in darkness gives their mission a certain secrecy and blurs the issue of justification.<BR><BR>Just a thought,<BR>Miles
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Postby rowanberry » Wed Feb 18, 2004 6:35 am

In my opinion, the use of the word "fairy" as referring to Elves in this part of the story is to point out that, the rumour about Bilbo's fairy ancestry really isn't more than a rumour. I also think that, "fairy" and "Faerie" are used because at the time of his adventure, Bilbo didn't have such a knowledge about Elves as he had at the time of the LOTR, after having been in contact with them for decades. Remember, this is a "retelling" of the story originally written by Bilbo.<BR><BR>But, maybe someone who has read the early sketches of the mythology in the HoME can tell if these words appear anywhere else?
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Postby Faramond » Thu Feb 19, 2004 1:28 am

What follows is my general impression of the opening chapter.<BR><BR>Despite the oddness of the setting, the opening chapter of The Hobbit is remarkably conventional and straightforward. The main characters are introduced and the problem of the story to come is fully set up. All that awaits in the later chapters are the complications on the way to the goal and the choices the characters make while getting there. Put another way, the first chapter serves as a complete foundation for the Hobbit. This is not critism; indeed I believe it is evidence that Tolkien was a master storyteller.<BR><BR>Of course the greater evidence for Tolkien’s brilliance are in the details of the chapter, of how he makes the characters and situation seem real, and from this perspective I would not call chapter one conventional. <BR><BR>Gandalf’s challenge of Bilbo’s “good mornings” has already been discussed, yet I think this is only one part of a general pattern. Consider how the characters speak in the chapter, and how it reflects the nature of their lives. <BR><BR>Language tells; it shows the state of the characters. Bilbo begins the story wrapped in the safety of civilization, removed from any real danger or adventure. Hence he speaks with with polite empty phrases and roundabout sentences. The meaning of the words he says barely matter.<BR><BR>Gandalf speaks directly, or not at all. This is the language of the wide world outside the Shire, where danger demands clarity and brevity of speech. Perhaps more importantly, Gandalf challenges Bilbo’s empty and indirect speech. He exposes the “good mornings” and “beg pardons” for what they are. This is directly parallel to Gandalf’s primary function in the larger story: to challenge Bilbo’s choice of a dull, sheltered life and push him out into the wider world.<BR><BR>Of course it is Bilbo’s utter politeness that leaves him open to Gandalf’s influence. After a somewhat direct (for Bilbo) refusal of adventure, he feels compelled to offer a ritual invitation to Gandalf for tea. When the dwarves stay longer than Bilbo wants, he feels compelled to ask them to stay for dinner. Because Bilbo is a proper gentlehobbit, Gandalf is able to lead him to his crucial decsion.<BR><BR>Tolkien has already made the nature of this decision clear, through the use of the Baggins and Took halves of Bilbo. And while Bilbo is led up to the decision as if he had no control, Tolkien makes it clear that Bilbo is choosing to step out into the wider world of his own volition. Gandalf can bring him to the point of seeing the choice, but no more. Bilbo’s choice is the crucial moment of the first chapter, and it establishes a pattern to come: Bilbo will make the clearly defined choices that largely drive the rest of the story.<BR><BR>When Bilbo does make his decision to become the burglar, he marks it with direct and concise speech. For the first time he speaks plainly and to the point, and says exactly what he means. He has decided on adventure, and his language has changed to reflect that. Of course he gradually slips back into his usual indirectness as his resolve starts to flag, even prompting the narrator to explains what Bilbo really means at one point. <BR><BR>What about the dwarves? Thorin is their primary speaker, and he often talks like a lawyer, in long sentences that exist only to draw attention to the importance of the speaker. The narrator even remarks on his style of speaking at one point. And as with Bilbo and Gandalf, his style of speech suits his character, because above all Thorin thinks of himself still as King under Mountain, and more importantly, he thinks this title truly means something in the real world. Because of this, the only danger Thorin truly acknowledges is the dragon, and only that because he must, since he personally experienced its terror. Thorin is arrogant, and slightly delusional, and Tolkien has already in the first chapter shown what the nature of Thorin’s downfall will be.<BR><BR>-Faramond
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Postby starlin » Thu Feb 19, 2004 7:44 am

<b>Faramond</b>, a very insightful post you wrote. Quote: <i>Of course it is Bilbo’s utter politeness that leaves him open to Gandalf’s influence. </i> I agree with this. The following words about the 'choice' - do not they resemble 'The Matrix'? Or, should I ask, does 'Matrix' not resemble this particular element of the 'Hobbit'? I would also like to emphasise that Bilbo's is not the only choice. Gandalf also had to make one: whether to help the dwarves or not. But he was sensible and foresighted, therefore he decided to help Thorin and include Bilbo in his company.<BR><BR>Now about these fairies. A strange fact: in Lithuanian translation 'fairy' is translated with the same word as 'elf', either because there is no other more precise translation, or because the translator was influenced by the later story, where Bilbo meets the Elves, and chose this variant. I think the usage of this word shows that Shirefolk are rustic and not familiar with the Outside World. Therefore the Outsiders become mythical figures to them. Sorry for being ignorant, but is anyone more familiar with elves and fairies in English mythology: is there any mythology-based reason why Tolkien chose 'elf', not 'fairy' for his race? Because in this particualr case it seems that 'fairy' is used in the sense of showing how narrow-minded the hobbits might be...
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Postby Arvegil » Thu Feb 19, 2004 1:13 pm

To Starlin: Gandalf's motives are covered in more detail in "The Quest for Erebor," in Unfinished Tales. Gandalf felt that he didn't really have a choice, as Gandalf was already contemplating how to deal with Smaug.<BR><BR>Or, could that be some later, post hoc rationalizing by Tolkien?
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Postby Faramond » Fri Feb 20, 2004 11:31 pm

Thanks for the compliment, Starlin. I never thought of Bilbo's choice in terms of Neo's choice in the Matrix. It's been years since I saw that movie, but from what I remember, I think the comparison is a valid one.<BR><BR>Regarding Gandalf: of course Gandalf makes a very important choice regarding aid to the dwarves. Yet it is an off-stage choice; by the time the reader becomes involved, Gandalf has made his choice, and there is never really any indication that he might have done otherwise.<BR><BR>Bilbo's choice is the only one the reader is really in on. I believe this remains essentially true throughout the Hobbit; Bilbo makes a number of crucial choices, (though perhaps none more crucial than his first) all of which the reader has some intimate knowledge of.<BR><BR>I think this is an excellent tactical decision on Tolkien's part. It keeps the structure of the book fairly simple, and allows him to give the complexity to the settings and moral situations that he does. <BR><BR><BR><i>Or, could that be some later, post hoc rationalizing by Tolkien?</i><BR><BR>This is an interesting point in general, especially when concerning what he did regarding the ring and chapter five. I think we'll be coming back to it in a few months in a big way.<BR><BR>But to take this concept of deciding what something means or why it was after the fact in a different direction--<BR><BR>Consider this "dark for dark business" discussion. I think it's most likely that Tolkien never really thought about what Thorin meant by dark business; it was just the natural thing to say after saying "we like the dark." Of course that doesn't mean we can't debate what Thorin really meant. I just doubt that Tolkien himself ever really thought of it.<BR><BR>-Faramond
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Postby Arvegil » Wed Feb 25, 2004 5:55 pm

How much did Tolkien think of it? Good question, which runs back to "how important were the conne ctions of The Hobbit to the rest of M-E myth when first conceived?"
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Sat Mar 06, 2004 8:37 am

While the first appearance of the word '<em>hobbit</em>' has been traced back to 1895 in <em>The Denham Tracts</em>, there is no evidence to suggest that JRRT had knowledge of this and he always believed that he had 'invented' the word.<BR><BR><em>The Denham Tracts</em>, were a collection of information related to English folklore in several volumes; the term '<em>hobbit</em>' appears in the second volume, where it is (by Professor Shippey's count) 154th on a list of 197 different types of supernatural creature. The Index to <em>The Denham Tracts</em> defines '<em>hobbit</em>' as "a class of spirit", but other than the name and the index entry there is no other information. <em>Hobbits</em> are grouped with 'boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, <em>hobbits</em>, hobgoblins, brown-men' so presumably were thought to be a similar type of creature.<BR><BR>Apart from <strong>Letter 25</strong> (cited in the opening post), JRRT discusses the origins of the word 'hobbit' in <strong>Letters 316</strong>, &<strong> 319</strong>).<UL>For the moment this is held up, because I am having the matter of the etymology: 'Invented by J, R. R. Tolkien': investigated by experts. I knew that the claim was not clear, but I had not troubled to look into it, until faced by the inclusion of hobbit in the Supplement. In the meanwhile I submit for your consideration the following definition:<pre></pre><UL>One of an imaginary people, a small variety of the human race, that gave themselves this name (meaning 'hole-dweller') but were called by others halflings, since they were half the height of normal Men. <strong>†</strong></UL><pre></pre><BR>This assumes that the etymology can stand. If not it may be necessary to modify it: e.g. by substituting after 'race'<pre></pre><UL>; in the tales of J. R. R. Tolkien said to have given themselves this name, though others called them . . .</UL><pre> -------------------------</pre><UL><strong>†</strong> This definition was used, prefaced by the words 'In the tales of J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)', in the 1976 <em>Supplement</em> to the Dictionary.</UL><pre></pre><strong>Letter 316</strong>, (1970).</UL>And see also<UL>The Ox. E. D. has in preparation of its Second Supplement got to <em>Hobbit</em>, which it proposes to include together with its progeny: <em>hobbitry, -ish</em>, etc. I have had, therefore, to justify my claim to have invented the word. <strong>My claim rests really on my 'nude parole' or unsupported assertion that I remember the occasion of its invention (by me)</strong>; and that I had not <em>then</em> any knowledge of <em>Hobberdy, Hobbaty, Hobberdy Dick</em> etc. (for 'house-sprites')<strong>†</strong>; and that my 'hobbits' were in any case of wholly dissimilar sort, a diminutive branch of the human race.<pre></pre><UL><strong>†</strong> I have now! Probably more than most other folk; and find myself in a v. tangled wood – the clue to which is, however, the belief in <em>incubi</em> and 'changelings'. Alas! one conclusion is that the statement that <em>hobgoblins</em> were 'a larger kind' is the reverse of the original truth. (The statement occurs in the preliminary note on Runes devised for the paperback edition, but now included by A & U in all edns.)</UL><pre></pre><strong>Letter 319</strong>, (1971).</UL>The OED is revising its entry to take into account the earlier appearance of the word. (Thanks to <strong>Unwin</strong> for this link : <a href='http://www.oed.com/newsletters/2003-12/wordsofchoice.html' target=_blank>OED Newsletter</a>).
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Postby truehobbit » Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:57 am

Let me start by saying congratulations on starting off with The Hobbit and keeping the VTSG running! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>I know I'm a month late, but I've finally started to re-read The Hobbit, and find myself enjoying it.<BR><BR>I never read any Tolkien as a kid and the first time I read The Hobbit was shortly after reading LOTR, so I kept feeling a bit disappointed with it. It's possible I might like it a bit better now.<BR><BR>I'd like to comment on a few of the original questions, although they've already been discussed very nicely.<BR><BR><em>The Hobbit was written as a children’s book, and rated as being suitable for children between 5 and 9, but aren’t there any more complex issues raised in the book?</em><BR><BR>There are some complex issues raised in the book, but IMO they are the same that are raised in traditional fairy-tales. These, too, confront the children with questions of death, greed and pity (to quote rowanberry's list), but both The Hobbit and the traditional fairy tale deal with these in a somewhat predictable, simple way. There's hardly anything of the ethical complexity with which we are faced in LOTR in The Hobbit.<BR>The Hobbit is deeper than most modern children's books, but I think it only rarely goes beyond a normal fairy-tale attitude to values and their representation in a story. (If and when it does go deeper is something I hope to re-discover as I go on reading it.)<BR><BR><em>Dark for dark business! </em><BR><BR>I agree with what has been said about this referring to the possibility of their having to do things that aren't particularly moral or good in order to attain their goal.<BR>I also think it refers to the way in which they entered on this quest. They were "fey", to use the language of LOTR or the Sil, they went into it, knowing there was a great likelihood they'd die in the attempt, and that there wasn't much realistic hope of their succeeding. They also would have been aware that it was not a particularly glorious quest. They did not go to rid the world of some great evil for the good of everybody, they went to get their own stuff back. They were in a grim, angry state of mind. Someone before used the word "revenge", which is quite correct, I think.<BR>All this makes it dark business, I think.<BR><BR>Faramond, I loved your explanation of Gandalf's dissection of Bilbo's "Good Morning" - your analysis of everybody's speech was spot-on, I thought.<BR><BR>Finally, I'd like to add one or two questions and aspects, hoping that people still look into last month's thread.<BR><BR>This goes into the question of Bilbo's character but raises a more general question, I think:<BR>Where The Hobbit does go beyond fairy tales, I think, are the characters, which I find really odd for a children's book.<BR>They are all old men, you could say, and the main character, Bilbo, is rather disliked and held in contempt by the dwarves, and treated in a somewhat patronizing way by Gandalf.<BR>On the whole we get the impression that Bilbo, although he's very likeable, is really the "weakest link" in the connection of adventurers.<BR><BR>I wonder whether that appeals to children because it mirrors the way they must feel themselves when faced with the adult world? People who might be taken along on a journey, but nobody expecting that they'll be a great asset.<BR><BR>But wasn't it daring of Tolkien to expect children to identify with a character who especially to them must have appeared slightly ridiculous? Someone who is such a wimp, he doesn't leave the house without a hanky and a walking-stick? That's a way to behave for extremely settled folk (I certainly can identify with that!), which Bilbo is, but which children can't really be expected to take a liking to.<BR><BR>Another two minor points:<BR><BR>Now, this might have to do with my not knowing enough about Tolkien's other writings, but it puzzled me when Gandalf said he rescued Thrain from the dungeons of the Necromancer (is it correct that at that time Tolkien had not yet made the connection Necromancer=Sauron?). How had Thrain come to be his prisoner? What did Sauron/the Necromancer hope to gain from imprisoning Thrain? <BR>Is anything known about that?<BR><BR>And finally:<BR><em>"they [dragons] can't make a thing for themselves, not even mend a little loose scale of their armour."</em><BR><BR>I might be getting something wrong here, but it sounds to me as if Tolkien was saying that dragons wear armour like humans, as an external piece of clothing, rather than the scales being part of their body, which would, I think, be the common idea about dragons.<BR>What do you all think? Is he making a joke at the expense of dragons? Is this something like the Balrog-wings question?
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Postby rowanberry » Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:41 pm

<em>Now, this might have to do with my not knowing enough about Tolkien's other writings, but it puzzled me when Gandalf said he rescued Thrain from the dungeons of the Necromancer (is it correct that at that time Tolkien had not yet made the connection Necromancer=Sauron?). How had Thrain come to be his prisoner? What did Sauron/the Necromancer hope to gain from imprisoning Thrain? Is anything known about that?</em><BR><BR>There is a bit more about Thráin in Appendix A of the LOTR, in the chapter "Durin's Folk", and one paragraph in Unfinished Tales, in the appendix to "The Quest of Erebor". Sauron wanted him only because he had one of the Dwarven rings.
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Postby starlin » Mon Mar 15, 2004 6:39 am

I can't quote it exactly, but the Foreword to the Second edition of LotR claims that "the story [of the Hobbit] already contained things darker than could be understood at first: the Ring, Necromancer, Durin, Gandalf. Understanding the significance of such glimpses led me to the story of the Lord of the Rings."<BR>It goes more or less so. Well, in my opinion Tolkien here states that he only later connected these things to one another.
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Postby miles2go » Mon Mar 15, 2004 10:37 am

<em>On the whole we get the impression that Bilbo, although he's very likeable, is really the "weakest link" in the connection of adventurers.<BR><BR>I wonder whether that appeals to children because it mirrors the way they must feel themselves when faced with the adult world? People who might be taken along on a journey, but nobody expecting that they'll be a great asset.</em><BR><BR>For me, one of the over-riding themes of both The Hobbit and LOTR is that the smallest, most unlikely person can be the one who makes the biggest difference. The hobbits make wonderful heroes because they do not like questing. They are never driven by their own greed to accomplish the mission. Bilbo and Frodo both set out because someone tells them they must. Bilbo doesn't become driven by lust for his "salary" from Smaug's treasure, nor does he ever harbor any thoughts of taking more than is his fair share. In order for the great "evils" to be overcome--that is Smaug in the Hobbit and the Ring in LOTR--the protagonists cannot have any desire for power over others. That is why Gollum, though disgusting, made such a good ring bearer. He loved the Ring, was consumed by it, but never tried to use it to gain power over others. He used it to surprise and kill his food, but that is all. <BR><BR>Gandalf knew this. He knew this all along. He knew that a hobbit needed to be the dwarves' burglar, because only a hobbit would not want the treasure all to himself, nor would he battle with Thorin over leadership of the group. I think he also knew, in his heart, that it would have to be a hobbit who would take the Ring to Mt. Doom, once he realized they had it.<BR><BR>Tolkien admired big people, I think, like kings and such, but it was the little people who were in his heart.<BR><BR>P.S. It is obvious why Gandalf cared so much about the quest to destroy the Ring; after all, his whole reason for being was to help the good folks of Middle-earth battle the bad guys. But why did he care so much about the dwarves regaining their treasure?
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Postby rowanberry » Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:07 am

<em>But why did he care so much about the dwarves regaining their treasure?</em><BR><BR>Have you read <em>Unfinished Tales</em>? It's very well explained there, in the chapter <em>The Quest of Erebor</em>: The main purpose of the whole operation was to get rid of Smaug, before Sauron could use it against Mirkwood, Rivendell, and the human settlements in the north. A possibility to regain their lost treasure was a good motivation for the dwarves to take action.
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Postby miles2go » Tue Mar 16, 2004 5:51 am

Thanks, rowanberry.<BR><BR>No, I haven't read the <em>Unfinished Tales</em>. I can see it would be very helpful though, so I'll put it on my list.<BR><BR>Miles
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Postby qwertymoo » Fri Apr 02, 2004 8:53 am

Sorry for being two months behind here (or maybe it’s that you’re all just two months ahead :-))<BR><BR>Thought I’d put in my two cents with the discussion of chapter one. Might as well take these in order as I’m not really that far behind.<BR><BR>#1<BR>Not being a linguist or a Tolkien historian, I’m best to leaving Item 1 alone.<BR><BR>#2<BR>Now regarding the <em>more complex issues raised in the book</em> - the chapter itself raises a number of issues. I’ll start off with the whole “good morning” conversation. I think to a lot of people, that phrase is one that’s taken for granted, much like, “Hi, how are you?” When someone says that to me, I honestly think (and on occasion have asked), “Are you just making small talk for ‘small talks’ sake, or do you have an hour or so that I can explain for you ‘How I am’.” You know what, when confronted - it’s just small talk to fill in time and space. It’s almost an automatic response.<BR><BR>Now in the chapter, Bilbo said these words and Tolkien tells us ‘he meant it’. Yet Gandalf proceeds to undermine what most might consider small talk and force us to honestly think about what’s being said there. There’s really a lot going on in those 2 little words. It’s something that’s probably cute to the 5-9 YO, but yet a concept that’s foreign to them at this stage in their lives. Their inquisitiveness may help them see this, but also there’s society already engraining them how to take things for granted.<BR><BR>Pride (or maybe better false pride/showboating). I refer to Bilbo blowing smoke rings, thinking that he was quite clever about what be was doing in the presence of (though he didn’t know it yet) Gandalf. Then when he witnesses Thorin and Gandalf sending rings chasing each other through his dwelling, he realizes how foolish he was.<BR><BR>I think it’s important for children to learn early on to take pride in their work or skills, but to show off thinking they’re more than they really think - that becomes a fine line, especially when you don’t know within who’s company you may be performing. That little bit is almost like an Aesop fable type moral being taught. Don’t know how many children are going to catch on to that, but it’s there nonetheless.<BR><BR>Manipulation - something of which Gandalf seems to be quite adept at. Bilbo finds his comfy little existence intruded upon and he’s taken out of character, and before he knows it his own manners are being used against him in order to compel him toward an adventure that “he didn’t want in the first place”. About the same as a sports team that does well to get to the championship game, and the coach tries to tell his players to not be taken out of their game plan, to play within themselves and control their own destiny. Well, Bilbo was caught unawares and innocently manipulated (with Gandalf sending the dwarves - much the same as he does with Beorn later in the book).<BR><BR>For a child knowing one’s environment and capabilities and using self-control are not concepts easily understood. That and fine art of manipulation take a bit of forward thinking and planning - other concepts that they would lack until later om.<BR><BR>Revenge - dark business (although they are trying to right a wrong unto their people); death - “may never return” from the adventure.<BR><BR>Stereotyping people - Gandalf and the dwarves labeling Bilbo as a “burglar”. Bilbo doesn’t appreciate this title, just because he has a talent (the art of being quiet and stealthful) doesn’t make him a burglar, it just makes him useful. That and “first impressions making lasting impressions” as Gloin had already set his impression of Bilbo based upon how they were greeted at the door, he didn’t come off very well at all - though the poor fellow had been caught completely off guard, he was in his element, but yet taken out of it as well.<BR><BR><strong>thewidoweglatine</strong> I appreciate how you put the “caught” not “taught” phrase in your answer to this. I agree with that for the most part. We learn a lot through experience, and if we’re lucky (or smart enough) through the experiences of others’ mistakes (the caught part). <BR><BR>#3<BR>I eventually read ‘The Hobbit’ in college. The first time I tried to read ‘The Hobbit’, it took me forever and subsequently never finished it (that was in high school). Then I happened upon a role playing group that partook the adventures within ME and I found it necessary to read through that and the LotR Trilogy in order to be up to speed with the others. I found the books fascinating. I don’t know why that never struck me as such prior to that. Guess I never really got into reading for the fun of it as I do now. :-( Sad childlife, eh….<BR><BR>#4<BR>I think it’s a subtle way of conditioning our minds to let the story play out as if it could have actually happened. A bit of subliminal suggestion to let our minds live in that world while we read about it. Adds more believability for children (who are that much more impressionable). No, I don’t think it was mistake or playful remark. <BR><BR>#5<BR><em>less noise and more green</em>… That’s a tough one. I mean on its face we could certainly imply Tolkien talking about industry even then (more green…less industry and visa versa). But, I also look at the less noise from the standpoint of us living a ‘less’ fast paced life. We really don’t take the time anymore to appreciate some of the simple beauty in the world. We’re always rushing to make that house payment, get to work, raise the children. yada yada yada. We take a lot for granted (hey, we’re circling back to #2 and the “good morning” bit again). Less noise, less distraction - TV, news, video games. More time to read books and encourage the mind to thinks rather than have all of our thinking done for us.<BR><BR>#6<BR>Bilbo to me is a person (hobbit <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>) that seems very sure of himself and his surroundings, but yet has lived with the same repetitious patters for so long, that if something (or someone) were to come along that would take him out of pattern for any too long, he’d be like a fish out of water. He keeps pulling at loose threads trying to tie it all back together again, only to find that that fabric of his cozy little pattern of life is starting to fray and come apart. He can do nothing better than to go along with it.<BR><BR>#7<BR><em>dark for dark business</em>. I think I kind of covered this in #2 (albeit briefly - okay very briefly). It’s revenge the dwarves are after. There’s likely to be killing and possibly their own deaths at hand. The dwarves talk about ‘not returning’ a number of times, but it doesn’t seem to change their attitude about the quest. They almost have that invincible type of attitude/character about them - for they haven’t really met their foe yet. Although you’d think Thorin should know better, knowing what Smaug had done first hand.<BR><BR>#8<BR>Definitely answered in #2 above. I think it’s Gandalf’s way to start breaking down Bilbo’s comfortable defenses. After all Bilbo said it and ‘meant it’, but yet here’s Gandalf politely punching holes in his defenses. For as Gandalf says later that, ‘now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and it won’t be <strong>good</strong> till I move off’. And uses that logic to his advantage even further when he finally reveals his identity to Bilbo - flustering him all the more (taking him way outside of his comfort zone).<BR><BR>#9<BR>Okay I’ll bite on this chicken and the egg thing. I lean more toward the evolution theory. The hobbits got tougher soles because of their lack of shoes in the first place. Much the same as Eskimos have a lesser need for snow goggles (for snow blindness) as through time their eyelids and foreheads became such that it lets in lesser amounts of light from the reflective sun than does with our eyes. Hence we would go snow blind quite quickly. (anybody, feel free to correct me on this one)<BR><BR>I’m glad a ran into this thread forum. This is a lot of fun (and typing and thinking - my brain hurts). Sorry if I was a bit long winded, or am I missing the gist of this.<BR><BR>I’m off to look at Chapter 2!!<BR><BR>qwertymoo <BR>
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