The Hobbit – Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

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Postby pipeweedsmoker » Mon Apr 05, 2004 11:33 am

can i ask u guys the basic summary of the hobbit and what you thought about it (for school project) if you have the time. please within this week
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Postby starlin » Tue Apr 06, 2004 5:40 am

Hello, I suggest you should look at the first post of this thread, and also browse through Books forum. There you may find more generalised information. The VTSG is basically for chapter-after-chapter analysis.
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Postby Hikaru » Wed Apr 14, 2004 4:50 am

I will just answer question 3 for now as I don't have anything brilliant to add to the other responses. <BR>I read the Hobbit when I was 13 or so...years after reading the trilogy when I was 9. I loved Tolkien's work right from the beginning, but I wish I'd read the Hobbit first as the trilogy was a bit of a struggle for a fifth-grader!<BR>That said, the Hobbit is readable for a child but it isn't by any means a childish book. Like many other great works for younger readers, it has enough depth and complexity to appeal to adults as well (OK I lied...I'm answering question 2) Among the things that appeal to grown-up me are, betrayal, adventure, weird, fascinating creatures, long-standing grudges,..and I've never lost my childhood fascination with dragons.
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Deeper & darker threads

Postby scion_arwenevenstar » Tue Jan 18, 2005 6:23 am

Everything has been canvassed beyond both my expectaions & expertise.
However I had a quick comment & question.

I agree with what has been said previously about the themes/ archtypes/ workings of a fairytale being read to children. I would also add that as a child (10 for the Hobbit, 13 for LotR) I also had a raw sort of reaction to deep currents I could not quite understand but still experience as children do. I'm referring to those unspoken things that children sense & react to because they resonate within them even if they do not have an adult's ability to adeqately conceptualise or eloqute them at that point. The beauty of this was that as I grew the books grew with me. Continuing to this very day. So introducing them at any age is a wonderful experience.

On the darkness reference I had a question.
How well developed was the idea of Thrain's ring being taken forcibly by Sauron in Dol Guldur at the time of writing? This adds to Gandalf's motivations for helping Thorin in this little expidition even if LotR was not forseen at this point. It also links the two books via the rings to the later reference in LotR the story being drawn back to deeper & darker things. Maybe Tolkien was experiencing one of those currents I was speaking of above?
I'll have to track down unfinished tales in a hurry now for it will be useful looking at the Hobbit.
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Postby ~WyrtWif~ » Thu Jan 20, 2005 10:19 pm

Excellent summary and questions. I once had a photocopy of an article from the 1960s tucked into one of my copies of The Hobbit which addressed some of these questions quite clearly and I have spent some time searching for it in vain. However, I do still definitely have my 50th anniversary edition of The Hobbit, with the foreword by Christopher Tolkien, which I will reference here a bit.

1. The origin of the word "hobbit" as I understand was simply a made-up word that sounded good to Professor Tolkien, and he later stated he had never heard it previously, or if he had, he was not conscious of it. In the foreword of the 50th anniversary edition, Christoper T. quotes from the letter to W.H. Auden that the Professor wrote to him in 1955: "All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why."

Christopher goes on to say "My brother Michael recorded long after his recollection of the evenings when my father would stand with his back to the fire in his small study ... and tell stories ... and he said that he remembered with perfect clarity the occasion when my father said that he was going to start telling us a long story about a small being with furry feet, and asked us what he should be called - then, answering himself, said 'I think we'll call him a Hobbit.' ... He also remembered that I (then between four and five years old) was greatly concerned with petty consistency as the story unfolded, and that on one occasion I interuppted: 'Last time, you said Bilbo's front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a golden tassel on his hood, but you've just said that Bilbo's front door was green, and the tassel on Thorin's head was silver'; at which my father muttered 'Damn the boy,' and then 'strode across the room' to his desk to make a note."

2. Others here have addressed this question with excellent insight. Traditional fairytales introduce questions of morality and good vs. evil. The Professor himself believed fairytales needed a sense of danger in order to remain plausible to the human psyche, but apparently he was concerned that the direction the tales would lead would not be for children. In fact the exact wording he uses is "that is too dark" regarding the Necromancer (a letter to Stanley Unwin, Oct 15, 1937, quoted in the same 50th anniversary edition foreword.)

3. I believe I was 14. I would recommend it for younger readers, and would judge it based on reading ability rather than age - to read alone, a child would need reading skills at a fifth grade level (that is a U.S. class level most children are in at approximately age 10); to be read to by an adult, I would say age 7 and up.

4. I believe the Professor was very much entranced with Middle Earth. He had already created a language and a history, and to my mind, was simply looking for a way to share the joy of this world that unfolded before him, with his children. He narrated the story to them with no intention of ever putting it to paper, as he did with many other stories he invented for them, until pressed by others who got wind of it. He was simply "seeing" a small side vignette which he thought would entertain his children. And he was right.

And the way this story happened to unfold to him was perhaps as viewing through a window, being drawn into it, less than creating it himself. He had created so much of the background detail it seems to me the story took on a life of its own. His creative side "took over" and told the story to him, thus, this idea that he "simply 'recorded,' not 'invented.'" The story came to him from that creative inner place that is almost separate from conscious being. He only went back and cleaned up the details.

5. Very well addressed by others. Lovely color, there, green. :ent:

6. Bilbo is content at first. And then he is nervous and flustered. There exists a conflict in this chapter between Bilbo's comfort and discomfort. Gandalf is purposefully poking him out of his comfort zone (see #8 ). However, when insulted (so he takes) by Thorin's compliments (so foreign to poor Bilbo), his hackles rise and he gets riled up and "put (his) foot in it." He does not like being thought of poorly.

A side thought on this topic - is this perhaps a warning? That we should not be so concerned about how others think of us? That doing so gets one into trouble? I think this is one of many of the Professor's gentle tongue-in-cheek humorous commentaries on human weaknesses that are sprinkled throughout his books.

7. Dark - this topic is also very well addressed previously. I will note that the Professor loves to contrast light and dark, and this is the theme that resonates throughout all his work. He is constantly bringing his audience to face the conflict of light and dark, not just on the surface, but he also compells us as readers to consider that dark is not always evil, and light is not always good.

8. To me this is very humorous. Tolkien was a linguist at heart. He loved language above all else. This is both a language joke and the first hint of Gandalf prodding Bilbo sharply out of the nest, forcing him to think beyond the surface.

9. I will say they, the hobbits, refused to wear shoes. The country they lived in was beautiful with a mild climate, and they had fur on top of their feet to keep them warm on colder days. I would go barefoot, too.

Answering truehobbit's question regarding the appeal to children: Bilbo's character is familiar and laughable. Perhaps Tolkien's children identified with the character first because of his small stature, secondly, what child anywhere wouldn't find furry feet hilarious? The further into the story, they have a chance to laugh at codgerly ways they may see in their own world, and at the same time finding something in common with those same elders when patronized. Although a child couldn't care less about a hanky and a walking-stick, they might be quite bothered to leave the house without their favorite stuffed toy. And so they can safely laugh at both old codgers in their world, and also laugh at themselves. There is a childlike quality of not taking adult mannerisms so seriously - at seeing past all the pretense and huff-and-puff to see the true nature of a character.

As to the dragon armor, I think of it more as a way of conveying the quality of dragon-scales - that only metal could mend their "armor" of scales. Upon re-examination, this passage is suggestive of metal being a suitable material for mending natural scales. However, as dragons are not interested in men for their metal-working abilities, I believe this is meant more in jest, to demonstrate the low brainpower of the beasts.

Other comments:
More about comfort - Tolkien introduces comfort as something to be kicked out of before we can accomplish anything of value. In relation to the title "An Unexpected Party," unexpected events make hobbits very uncomfortable indeed. Bilbo is a good and proper host, and as Faramond has said, this is used as a weakness against him. Gandalf is able to use Bilbo's own dependency on comfort to take him out of his comfortable spot.

Thorin's story also reinforces the foreign contrast of the world that has crashed into Bilbo's quite suddenly. for the dwarves, "adventurous" was a quality of which to be proud, and in fact it "saved (his) life" as Thorin was out wandering when Smaug came.

One comfort that Bilbo is allowed to keep - music. Music is introduced as a powerful force - a theme that resounds through all Tolkien's works. " sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else." For a very nervous and flustered hobbit, this is quite a strong statement coming after much detailed explanation of Bilbo's extreme discomfort. And so music is defined as powerful, and also the one comfort that Bilbo is allowed.
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Postby Mahima » Sun Jan 23, 2005 11:41 pm

Hi WyrtWif, good to see you back here. :)

Gandalf is able to use Bilbo's own dependency on comfort to take him out of his comfortable spot

Could you expand on this comment? How did Gandalf use it?
Am very curious to know what your reasoning for the same is.
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Postby ~WyrtWif~ » Thu Jan 27, 2005 9:17 pm

Mahima, thank you for the opportunity to exercise my brain. In reading the chapter analytically, my foremost impression was one of Purposefully Leaving Comfort Behind.

I actually jumped to this insight (which you quoted) in light of my initial thoughts on comfort and then in reading Faramond's post pointing out that "it is Bilbo's utter politeness that leaves him open to Gandalf's influence," this is the bridge that led me to my inference that Gandalf uses Bilbo's own comfort:

comfort of habit
comfort of proper behavior
comfort of manners
comfort of the expected

Gandalf used Bilbo's expected manners and thrust this very unexpected party (and adventure) upon him.

More specific words that brought me to believe the initial theme introduces comfort:
" was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort," ends the first paragraph, and Tolkien immediately proceeds to describe this comfortable home:
perfectly round door
shiny yellow brass knob
exact middle (the English are rumored to love precision, correct?)
very comfortable tunnel
pannelled walls
polished chairs

And so on in detail goes the second paragraph of the story. The setting is quite clearly pronounced comfortable. Even further on into the chapter there are more descriptions of Bilbo's comfortable world: "...standing at his door after breakfast smoking..." Ah, what a creature comfort. "..his wooly toes (neatly brushed)..." A sign of civilized behavior and habit.

We are led through all these descriptions of comfort, and then appears the first conflict of the story, Gandalf's challenging of Bilbo's words. The comfortable setting againt the uncomfortable challenge of having one's word's examined too closely: thus the mental image of one being forcibly prodded out of a comfortable spot.
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Postby starlin » Fri Jan 28, 2005 3:41 pm

Very interesting, WyrtWif!

Actually, I've just been looking at HoME VI and in the very Foreword by CJRT I found what he thinks about Tolkien's thoughts how "The Hobbit" could be incorporated into his 'mythologies'. In fact, this belongs to the whole discussion and I wasn't sure where to quote it, so I decided to place it here, in the First Chapter, and we may return to it when we draw the threads together (April, I suppose?).

How my father saw The Hobbit - specifically in relation to 'The Silmarillion' - at the time of its publication is shown clearly in the letter that he wrote to G. E. Selby on 14 December 1937:

I don't much approve of The Hobbit myself, preferring my own mythology (which is just touched on) with its consistent nomenclature - Elrond, Gondolin, and Esgaroth have escaped out of it - and organized history, to this rabble of Eddaic-named dwarves out of Voluspa, newfangled hobbits and gollums (invented in an idle hour) and Anglo-Saxon runes.

The importance of The Hobbit in the history of the evolution of Middle-earth lies then, at this time, in the fact that it was published, and that a sequel to it was demanded. As a result, from the nature of The Lord of the Rings as it evolved, The Hobbit was drawn into Middle-earth - and transformed it; but as it stood in I937 it was not a part of it. Its significance for Middle-earth lies in what it would do, not in what it was.
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Postby Mahima » Mon Jan 31, 2005 7:14 am

Thats really cool, WyrtWif! Thanks for explaning it. The difference between Bilbo's comfortable snug home, and Gandalf's approach becomes very evident with your excerpts. And Bilbo's discomfort with them.

And if Bilbo had not been so used to being who he was, and living the comfortable life he had always lived, I doubt he would have ever left with the dwarves.

Along with comfort, there is also the protective nature of the Shire. If Bilbo had ever known what REALLY happened out in the wild, I doubt he would have taken the step. Ignorance really is bliss. :)
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Postby MisterSlice » Tue Feb 08, 2005 7:05 am

What a lovely place! I've been looking for someone to read along in The Hobbit and other novels with me, and now I've found a whole group. :)

Two things that stuck out to me last night, while reading Chapter 1, were:

1. The humerous way in which Tolkien uses a tale to inform the reader how the game of golf was created was wonderful. I also enjoy the style of writing directly to the reader.

2. The first chapter leaves you pondering why Gandalf chose Bilbo at all. At least, it does me.

Edit: Here are my answers to the some of the questions posted in the first post.

2. I definitely think there are some complex issues in the book that a young child might not understand fully (death, lineage). However, the great thing about The Hobbit is that it is written so that children can enjoy it and so that adults can get more out of it at the same time by digging just a tiny bit deeper.

3. I don't think I ever did read it as a child. I watched a very good old film many times, though. Since I have not actually ever finished the book, I'll withold my age recommendation until I'm further along.

5. All throughout his novels, Tolkien seems to criticize the world through his descriptions of ME. This is just one example of that. "...when there was less noise and more green," is most likely referring to the current war, as well as modernization and the expansion of buildings taking over what used to be beautiful, empty land.

7. The dwarves, to me, seem to have already accepted the possible ramifications of their quest. They know that death is possible, but they also are dedicated to the cause and find it worth risking their lives for. I believe they term it as "dark business" because it is a quest being done in secret. It is also a matter of good versus evil.

8. This exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo was absolutely hilarious. Gandalf has a very sarcastic sense to him, but in a nice way. I'm sure that it was included as a way for Tolkien to play with language (as has been mentioned many times above), but it also shows that Bilbo does not like being challenged. He immediately take on Gandalf and tries to outwit him. This is also shown later when Bilbo becomes angry at the dwarves for talking about how he is unsuitable for the task.
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Re: The Hobbit – Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

Postby heliona » Sat Apr 24, 2010 4:46 pm

starlin wrote: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?

I don't actually know of any other versions or occurances of the word "hobbit" (or something similar) although I was aware of the folklore appearance.

I never got the inference of rabbit, though, as other people seem to have. To me the word "hobbit" doesn't look or sound at all like "rabbit" (apart from the -it part, obviously). Perhaps because I first read The Hobbit when I was quite young (more on that when considering point #3) I suppose I was happy to accept "hobbit" as being a perfectly good word with no link to anything else, and it never occured to me to compare it with "rabbit". It is an interesting thought, but I'd rather continue to consider it as an entirely made-up word by Tolkien (perhaps either consciously or unconsciously poached from the folklore word).

With regards them being similar creatures, perhaps if you are thinking about how rabbits are in literature (specifically I'm thinking of Watership Down) but not as they are in nature in reality. Hobbits are human in the sense that they see more to life than just living, procreating, and then dying. They appreciate art and music, fine food and comfort. Some of them aspire to be explorers and adventurers, which I can't see the regular rabbit doing!

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?

I would say that there are almost always more complex issues - by which I presume to mean issues that society sees as adult: betrayal, fear, courage, lying etc - in children's books and in fact I think it is belittling children to assume that they don't understand them. Why should those issues not be as much as part of a child's life as in an adult's? The Hobbit is quite a dark book in many senses (all the travelling between dangerous encounters, which generally occur in the dark, for instance). Many stories meant for children have dark veins running through them. Roald Dahl's The Twits was another of my favourite books as a child, and I recently reread it and was rather shocked how gruesome it is. But as a child, I loved all of it.

The darker issues of betrayal of trust/friendship (for example, between Thorin and Bilbo) I suspect would be something that children could easily understand. Also, adults read books in a different manner to children, so as an adult, we read more into the actions and events that occur and attempt to draw parallels whereas children merely take the book at face value.

A good children's book is one that both children and adults can enjoy, perhaps for different reasons, but enjoy nonetheless. I've read some rather mundane, boring children's books as a child and although I enjoyed them, I didn't get my teeth into them, so to speak. I didn't really grow to love the characters. Perhaps if there had been more depth, as there is in The Hobbit, which contributes to the more complex issues, then I'd have enjoyed it more.

Certainly all the children's books that I still love reading as an adult have a slightly darker side to them that I can now appreciate more as an adult.

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?

I first read The Hobbit when I was about 5 or 6. I fell in love with it at once and was constantly reading it from then on. My grandmother bought me an abridged books-on-tape of it and I used to listen to it and read the book simulataneously. So I regard it as a children's book - very much so - and the language didn't put me off one bit. However, I was brought up without any television, and one of my few options for passing the time was reading, so I devoured books and my reading age was above that of my actual age.

As for what age to recommend reading it at, that depends entirely on the child. As I said, I read it when I was about 5 or 6, but I was a voracious reader, so it wasn't any problem for me. I would say that nowadays, when in general children appear to read less (apart from Harry Potter books, although they are not a good example of good grammar and are not difficult to read) then probably between the ages of 9-12? The language is quite old-fashioned in many senses now, and I have a friend who read it in her twenties and was adamant that it was definitely not a children's book because she had trouble reading it. I suspect that had more to do with the style of writing that her reading ability (she reads a lot of books!).

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?

I think that perhaps the story of The Hobbit wasn't necessarily initially going to be placed in the world invented (or recorded ;)) in The Silmarillion but as Tolkien had spent so much time thinking about Middle-Earth and the Valar and the history of his world, it became almost second nature to use that world as a base for the travels of Bilbo. Tolkien may not even have thought about it too much, and the inclusion of Elrond and the mention of Gondolin were slipped in because he thought that little nod to his own created world was a good idea.

Certainly I don't believe that the Ring was initially going to be anything more than the magic ring it was in The Hobbit. The idea for it to become a Great Ring of Power probably came later. I know in my own limited experience of writing that something that appears insignificant at the time of writing can later become vital to the story as it develops. It is definitely true that a story evolves almost of it's own volition, and whilst I am nowhere near the writer that Tolkien was, other published authors have said the same thing. I have no doubt that that is what happened with Tolkien.

Using the world he created in the Silmarillion stories for the base for The Hobbit gave it a depth - the mention of the history of Gondolin and Elrond being so old and wise immediately gives it a depth that it otherwise would not have. Perhaps Tolkien put those in for that depth - a reference to a history that he knew about, at least, if no-one else did.

The art of writing as though chronicling events, or as a historian compiling a history, is not new, and as Tolkien had been compiling his own "history" with his other tales, it probably wasn't a difficult decision (and was perhaps unconcious) to write The Hobbit in the same manner.

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?

My first thought that comes to mind with this sentence is that Tolkien is obviously pointing out that this story takes place in our world, not in some other, invented world. And it takes place a long time ago, when there was little industrialisation and definitely no electricity (I once was in a black-out and the incredible quiet when there were no electric appliances running was eerie and made me realise just how much background noise they make and what we have become adjusted to). I won't say times were more simple because why should they have been? The problems people faced were just different.

The differences between our world and that of fairy tales (which is different from that of Tolkien's world - I would not class that as a fairy tale world, really) is that events and people always seem to have a purpose. There never appears to be any description of people just going about their daily business - everyone is charging off left, right and centre on adventures, which isn't very realistic. Tolkien's world, however, is much more realistic in the sense that the main characters are down-to-earth, normal people. Bilbo is a normal "person" (albeit a well-off one). When on their journey, they endure being wet, cold and miserable and it's not much fun. Most fairy tales don't waste time with describing whether anything is or isn't fun.

Tolkien's purpose of describing his world as he did is as I said above, to make the reader understand that we are going to be reading about our own world, but not in a time that we know. Sometime in the past, a past that we definitely don't remember. That makes it more "real." And I think as a child, I enjoyed it more, because it meant that there was always the very small chance I might catch a glimpse of the illusive hobbits. :)

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

Well, he's a bit annoying really at the beginning. I fell in love with Gandalf from the get-go, so I was amused by Bilbo in the same manner that he was. This uptight, full-of-himself hobbit who wanted to show off. But he was also scrupiously polite (hence the invitation to tea) which caused him a great deal of distress when all these dwarves started falling on his doorstep.

He also showed his mettle when presented with all the dwarves and we are given a little bit of insight into his inner strength and determination (and stubborn-ness).

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?

Why "dark business"? Well, they are going to be discussing quite a grim adventure, which they know will probably end in failure and death. Discussing that in a bright light wouldn't feel quite right, somehow. Also, it is a secretive quest, certainly the dwarves don't want the word to get out that they are undertaking such a venture, and most secrets are discussed in the dark, because it seems suitable.

I would say that the dwarves are both anxious about the forthcoming adventure and enthusiastic about it. They do after all go on to sing songs and play instruments, even if the song is slightly grim. The idea of recovering what was lost to them and getting their revenge is obviously an appealing one. I think that perhaps they are not as anxious as they should be considering the dangers they would be facing and are more excited than they should be too. But that is often the case when people set off on a long journey - the reality of quite what hardships might be encountered isn't considered.

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?

Tolkien's way with words and sarcasm that is employed in The Hobbit is something that I have always loved and I think tends to bring a bit of lightness to what is quite a dark story. (One of my other favourite lines is when Bilbo is trotting off to investigate the Trolls and Thorin instructs him to hoot like owls if he got into trouble. "He could no more hoot like an owl than he could fly like a bat." or something similar - I don't have the book in front of me at the moment.) I loved Gandalf saying this and his cleverness which made you think about such a simple phrase that is often uttered without thinking or meaning.

Why did Gandalf say it? I would suggest that it was to gently mock the hobbit. Certainly Bilbo was very full of himself at the time, and perhaps Gandalf wanted to put him in his place slightly. If the conversation had gone slightly differently, maybe Bilbo wouldn't have believed that Gandalf was who he said he was. It is perhaps the first indication to Bilbo that things should not necessarily be taken on face value and that he is getting too comfortable with life. It is subtly lining him up for the shock that is ahead of him. (Or perhaps Gandalf is just being clever. ;))

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.

Hmm, this has never even crossed my mind. I'd go for them always having tough soles and hairy feet to keep them warm.


I have read the whole thread, and hopefully will come back and post thoughts on what other people have posted, but for that I'll need to take some notes first.
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Postby ToshoftheWuffingas » Tue May 31, 2011 2:54 am

A couple of thoughts to this as I have started to examine The Hobbit a bit more closely.

I suspect hobbit and rabbit originally were concepts more closely linked. Holes in the ground, long furry feet, size, and the desire to avoid human contact. For added weight the trolls openly refer to Bilbo in rabbit terms. Understandably as Tolkien grew to admire then love the hobbits he drew back from the idea but I still think a human rabbit was the germ of the idea.

Dragon armour: isn't it made clear much later that Smaug is clad in diamonds and that where some have fallen away is where his vulnerability lies? How he acquired such protection is skipped over though.
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Postby Gollum Girl » Sat Jun 11, 2011 5:57 pm

Some of these questions I am genuinely unable to answer, so I'll just skip to the ones I can answer, if I may. :)

4. 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?

Both, I think. IMO Tolkien perhaps wanted to make children think it was real and make it believable, but at the same time somewhere in his mind he also believed that all the "major" ideas that formed in his head where somehow of the same world.

5. What are the biggest differences between our world and that of the fairy tales?
This seems to me to be a common interpretation, but I think Tolkien was showing his dislike for machines and the rushed world of today's society. I also believe it could be that he was showing off some peace and natural order that appears to be missing in today's world. I don't like to judge the world as a whole so rashly, mainly because I know my knowledge of the world is naive and I refuse to judge it simply because of what the public tells me, and the world is a wide place, and if one part of the world is one thing, it does not mean the entire world is the same. However this is what I believe Tolkien was trying to portray with the green lands.

What do you think are Tolkien’s purposes of describing it like this?
Perhaps to remind the general reader how peaceful life could be, and to show him/her what modern life seems to be missing, to let time take its course and let life be. However it could also be just to show the hobbit's way of life, and his introduction to the reader of his work and ideas. Or there could have been no purpose at all! :) The possibilities are endless.

6. How is the character of Bilbo described through the first chapter?
Your average hobbit. Decent, respectable, and not an adventurer of any sort.

7. Overall, how do the dwarves feel about the quest that awaits? Anxious? Afraid?
Well, I believe it is said sometime in the Hobbit that dwarves are not meant for traveling. I think there is a little quote in Hobbit that sums up my answer to this question:
There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and company, if you don't expect too much."

Based on this quote it seems to me that dwarves are not considered to be very brave or adventures, almost like hobbits. Don't get me wrong, I really do like dwarves, but if they are not too keen on the idea of work on a quest that awaits, it's not so surprising. :)

Doesn’t he use that annoying method which I think belongs to the psycholinguistics: to look at the deeper meaning of simplest words?

Ahhh!! I must be the most annoying person on earth then; my mind, bidden or not, is constantly poking even the simplest ideas. :lol: it's excruciating

What did Gandalf want to achieve with these words?
All the suggestions you suggested are possible. There is no true way to tell the way I see it, however. ;)

9. 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?
I can only answer this question with my own opinion. I believe that hobbits it is a matter of both, that hobbits refused to wear shoes because at the start of their time they already had semi-hard feet, or lived on soft ground and believed they could live without them, more or less. As time grew on, they stubbornly refused to wear shoes, as thus their feet became all the more harder! This is a theory with no backup, but it's a start of a thought, at least.
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Gollum Girl
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