Book Lore Study - The Hobbit Chapter 4

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Nieliqui Vaneyar 10/Dec/2006 at 09:47 AM
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Chapter 4 - Over Hill and Under Hill

Little Bilbo, Gandalf and Dwarves have now had a nice long rest and informational meeting with Elrond and are back on their way.  All Bilbo can see is endless climbing up mountains that get bigger as he goes.

As we read and discuss this chapter, here are some ideas to consider - the differences between light and dark, as we meet the Goblins (and perhaps the stone giants), the differences between good and evil. Also we can consider some questions such as why does Bilbo still get knocked out even with Gandalf’s lighted staff.

So, off we go into caves filled with all sorts of baddies - As Little Orphan Annie would say - ’An the goblin’s ’ll getcha if ya don’t watch out.

Kirinki54 10/Dec/2006 at 03:05 PM
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This is the chapter where the famous Stone-giants appear. I was a bit surprised to discover (which I did not remember) that they were not only mentioned in the text but also talked about by Gandalf et al. So they are quite difficult to explain away in "giant debates" except perhaps by the nature of The Hobbit. Clearly the play of those Stone-giants were also instrumental in bringing the Company into the next adventure with the Goblins - and also other pivotal events which occurred later... Where they the cause of the thunderstorm, or did the  come out to play because of it? Obviously they were mischivous - thus Evil - but the following results would in a sense benefit Good in ME.
Nieliqui Vaneyar 10/Dec/2006 at 03:58 PM
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Kirinki, Stone giants and/or giants are actually mentioned seven or so different times in the text of The Hobbit.  Gandalf later suggests that he should find some giants to cover up the Goblin exit from the mountain.  So they are not exactly totally evil.  I personally think they were added (externally) to give some additional characters to the story.  Internally, they may have been related to the trolls already covered or the trolls later in LoTR, similar but different also.

If you want to check out these other references, I created an Index to The Hobbit which is ’sort of’ in the Library and can only be found here.  I indexed by Chapter and paragraph rather than page because of the myriad of different editions and versions.  Look up ’giant’ or ’stone-giant’ and you will see the various chapters.

Brandywine74 10/Dec/2006 at 09:26 PM
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On another topic, this is the chapter where Bilbo and the Dwarves get captured. I’ve always wondered about the moment when they get caught. Bilbo wakens from a dream where he dreamt that the crack at the back of the cave is opening and when he wakes it is opening- Bilbo gives a shout and Gandalf is roused and manages to get away while the others are taken. What I’ve always wondered is where the dream comes from. Is this another subtle influence from Eru of the Lords of the West to get the ring found and eventually destroyed? Or just good luck?
Kirinki54 11/Dec/2006 at 02:33 PM
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NV, I am having some problems in accessing that Library reference right now; hope to do so later. (To simplify; can you provide a link?)

 

Giants per se are mentioned in several chapters; that is undeniably true, but one can also glean from the contexts in other chapters that Stone-giants likely is a certain type/species of giant. Where Stone-giants are referred to, they bear the full name (except when just discussed as ‘Stone-giants’, thus abbreviated).

 

It is interesting to note that, while you are right on certain similarities there are indeed also differences from the trolls. At one point Tolkien (according to Christopher Tolkien) wrote in a note (in HoME 7: Treason of Isengard):

 

“Difference between trolls - stone inhabited by goblin-spirit, stone-giants, and the ’tree-folk’. [Added in ink: Ents.]

 

This is obviously to distinguish giants per se from the only giant race to finally appear in the LotR; the Ents – after Treebeard/Fangorn had been remodelled from giant to Ent.

 

Thus Tolkien could find use for the Anglo-Saxon word ent.

 

The Ents seem to have been a success generally (even with Muir); but A. is a better critic. As usually with me they grew rather out of their name, than the other way about. I always felt that something ought to be done about the peculiar A. Saxon word ent for a ’giant’ or mighty person of long ago — to whom all old works were ascribed. (Letter 157)

From the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer, 87: ’eald enta geweorc idlu stodon’, ’the old creations of giants [i.e. ancient buildings, erected by a former race] stood desolate.’ (note in The Letters)

 

Was this the first inkling of the use of A-S as a key to unlock the plot as it later evolved; the culmination being the invention of the Mark? However, this thread ought to relate to The Hobbit, not to the LotR...

Nieliqui Vaneyar 11/Dec/2006 at 03:04 PM
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Here is the full link - http://lotrlibrary.com/index-alpha.txt

 

Kirinki54 12/Dec/2006 at 01:27 PM
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Well, I had a peek and it was quite impressive! You obviously have studied The Hobbit quite thoroughly. I am glad we have such a worthy moderator for this thread!

In Ch 4 Tolkien made a rather detailed description on how to Goblins/Orcs organised or ran their community, and of their nature. It seems to me they are so to speak more anthropomorphically depicted than for example in the LotR. And

They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. /…/ It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.

This is another passage that is often referred to when discussing Orcs. There is certainly food for applicability if one looks for contemporary comparisons, or what do you think?

Nieliqui Vaneyar 15/Dec/2006 at 09:57 AM
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a worthy moderator Thank you, Kirinki, tho, I doubt if I’m that.  Sometimes it’s like I just see a possible ’need’ and try to fill it, not always thinking of responses or consequences, sort of a literary challenge, since I enjoy expressing myself in venues like this.

But back to the discussion - I read in one analysis of The Hobbit (Spark Notes)

The uniform wickedness demonstrated by the goblins in Chapter 4 affirms the connection between race and moral tendencies in Tolkien’s fantasy world. The different races of Middle-Earth possess specific moral characteristics, so that goblins, who are infamous for their ability to make cruel weapons and instruments of torture, are evil, and elves are good. There are no exceptions

I wonder about this as we do seem to have exceptions in Middle-earth - Feanor the best example.  ’Men’ of course are all over the map it seems.  Tho I doubt one can find a ’good’ goblin.

Kirinki54 16/Dec/2006 at 02:55 AM
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That statement on the uniformity of races is indeed a bit too sweeping, but perhaps it has the most relevance on Goblins. There is indeed no Orcs in any story that can even begin to be called good.

 

On Orcs, even Tom Shippey wrote (The Road): There can be little doubt that the orcs entered Middle-earth originally just because the story needed a continual supply of enemies over whom one need feel no compunction – ’the infantry of the old war’, to use Tolkien´s phrase from ‘Monsters’ (P. 264).

 

No wonder Orcs are cursorily depicted and without nuances (though there are some passages in LotR, especially the Cirith Ungol scenes, that are a bit deeper). But Shippey has also commented that Orcs likely viewed themselves in moral terms as being on the right side; they saw for example the Elves as bad persons. And they had a certain code of solidarity and companionship among themselves though it was weakly manifested and easily transgressed. We all in RL recognize the discrepancy between values we hold as members of a society, and the relative ease with which individuals transgress those values; it seems the Orcs simply had this trait manyfold. And of course their empathy approached zero. They seem to be very id-dominated…

Nieliqui Vaneyar 20/Dec/2006 at 11:17 AM
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Another discussion (Sparknotes) of The Hobbit suggests that Bilbo’s heroism is ’somewhat dubious’, especially in the beginning such as in this chapter where he ’accidently’ awakes and is able to warn at least Gandalf of the danger approaching (the crack getting wider), which allows Gandalf to escape and come back and rescue the others.

I have always wondered about this little piece, and I would guess that his awakening was not completely accidental.  Now whether he was only lightly sleeping and perhaps Hobbits can do that, or if there was some outside force at work, which we know from LoTR and other writings, sometimes happens is something for discussion.

There is no direct reference that Hobbits are light sleepers, and we don’t know if Tolkien was suggesting this early that Eru/Valar (take your pick) would get involved in this story.  Yet, it does seem that Bilbo’s luck is just a little more coincidental then one would expect.  I’m not a big believer in the idea of continuing luck.

So, was this coincidence (luck) or was something else going on here?

Kirinki54 25/Dec/2006 at 02:18 PM
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Perhaps that analysis refers to the (seemingly) un-heroic character of Bilbo in the beginning adventures? Thus, any lucky coincidences would seem to come by because of external factors. I would not agree. Bilbo did have lucky brakes but as the tale continued his heroism grew with his growing overall stature. But the core was there from the start, as Gandalf had perceived. But I also think there is nothing wrong in assuming he had some ’help’ on the way, though I doubt that at this stage Tolkien actually had the Valar or Eru in mind. Even the cusp when finding the Ring took on its grave importance in a later perspective; in the internal logic of The Hobbit it seems to have been just another adventure (though obviously giving Bilbo the tool to manage many coming difficulties).
Nieliqui Vaneyar 29/Dec/2006 at 04:16 PM
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As we near the end of discussion of this chapter, I found in The Annotated Hobbit, in Chapt. 4, a listing of an early Tolkien poem, ’Goblin Feet’. (around or before 1915). Here is the first verse (more or less)

I am off down the road
Where the fairy lanterns glowed
And the pretty little flittermice are flying:
A slender band of grey
It runs creepily away
And the hedges and the grasses are a-sighing.
The air is full of wings,
and the blundering of beetle-things
That warn you with their whirring and their humming.
O! I hear the tiny horns
Of enchanted leprechauns
And the padding feet of many gnomes a-coming!

Anderson seems to be saying in his discussion of this that Tolkien had a positive view of goblins "Tolkien held very different views on the nature of goblins and the feelings stirred in one’s heart by the padding of goblin feet...magical"  Except for the title, I’m not sure this poem is about goblins as even he might have seen them, for he also uses ’gnomes’ (which he used originally as a term for the Noldor, I believe) and leprechauns.  In a book (by Dora Owen, 1920) where this was published, a drawing by Goble accompanied it and it shows what we now think of as garden gnomes walking down a forest path.

(Tolkien also seemed to try to distance himself from this poem later, yet did include this in a later unpublished collection)

geordie 29/Dec/2006 at 05:27 PM
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Yes, that’s an odd little picture. I have a copy of the Dora Owen book; [and Oxford Poetry 1915 too, as it happens] - I much prefer the other Goble llustrations in the Owen book!

On 27th October 1971 Tolkien wrote to Allen and Unwin [in reply to a request to reprint the poem ’I wish the unhappy little thing... could be buried forever’ and added, on a copy of the letter he sent, that the poem was reprinted in the Own book with a a picture by Warwick Goble ’who accorded my ’poem’ a picture as bad as it deserves’.
[Scull-Hammond: JRR Tolkien: A Companion and Guide, Vol.I p.757]

I don’t much like Goblin Feet - it seems to me that Tolkien was aiming for something along the lines of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, which is _much_ better than Tolkien’s poem. Tolkien only wrote it to please Edith it seems; she liked all that pretty fairy lark which was so popular at that time.

Mind you, Goblin feet ain’t half as bad as Tinfang Warble! I can’t believe Tolkien came up with something so trite!

Kirinki54 30/Dec/2006 at 02:40 PM
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GOBLIN FEET

 

                      I am off down the road

                      Where the fairy lanterns glowed

And the pretty little flittermice are flying;

                      A slender band of grey

                      It runs creepily away

And the hedges and the grasses are a-sighing,

                      The air is full of wings,

                      And of blundering beetle-things

That warn you with their whirring and their humming.

                      O! I hear the tiny horns

                      Of enchanted leprechauns

And the padding feet of many gnomes a-coming!

 

O! the lights: O! the gleams: O! the little tinkly sounds

                      O! the rustle of their noiseless little tobes:

O! the echo of their feet – of their little happy feet:

O! their swinging lamps in little starlit globes.

 

                      I must follow in their train

                      Down the crooked fairy lane

Where the coney-rabbits long ago have gone,

                      And where silverly they sing

                      In a moving moonlit ring

All a-twinkle with the jewels they have on.

                      They are fading round the turn

                      Where the glow-worms palely burn

And the echo of their padding feet is dying!

                      O! it´s knocking at my heart -

                      Let me go! O! let me start!

For the little magic hours are a-flying.

 

O! the warmth! O! the hum! O! the colours in the dark!

                      O! the gauzy wings of golden honey-flies!

O! the music of their feet – of their dancing goblin feet!

                      O! the magic! O! the sorrow when it dies!

 

This is the full poem (wrote it down once for a post) of which Christopher Tolkien wrote:

 

The idea of the Cottage of the Children was already in being in 1915, as the poem You and Me shows; and it was in the same year, indeed on the same days of April, that Goblin Feet (or Cumap pa Nihtielfas) was written, concerning which my father said in 1971: ’I wish the unhappy little thing, representing all that I came (so soon after) to fervently dislike, could be buried for ever.’  (HoME 1)

 

Have to say I agree with Tolkien, except for the historical value! But the poem had been accepted by Blackwells for the annual volume of Oxford Poetry, according to Douglas Anderson. His first publication, it seems.

Nieliqui Vaneyar 30/Dec/2006 at 03:54 PM
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Kirinki, and as Anderson (and I above) has pointed out, as late as the 1930’s it was still considered as possible for inclusion in an unpublished book.  If that were truly the case, Tolkien must not have disliked it all that much.

Kirinki54 31/Dec/2006 at 03:05 AM
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I was talking about Tolkien´s final assessment, right? The one I quoted from 1971? I see no large amounts of ambiguity on part of Tolkien there - his disapproval seems pretty clear to me. Do you think his words can be interpreted differently?
geordie 01/Jan/2007 at 09:58 AM
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Kirinki, I agree with you - perhaps it would be valuable for the discussion to quote Anderson’s piece in full [as far as Tolkien’s attitude to the poem goes].

’In volume one of The History, The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Christopher Tolkien notes that in 1971 his father said of ’Goblin Feet’ "I wish the unhappy little thing, representing all that I came [so soon after] to fervently dislike, could be buried forever". [p.32].

Yet Tolkien’s phrase "so soon after" needs to be carefully considered, for as late as the mid-1930s Tolkien did include the poem in a planned colection of his poetry [the collection did not achieve publication], and elements showing the whimsy of the dancing elves do appear in The Hobbit.

It seems that Tolkien’s dislike of this poem and of the type of beings it describes probably dates to the mid-to late 1930s, around the time of the first publication of The Hobbit and when he was beginning to work on The Lord of the Rings’.

[Douglas A.Anderson: The Annotated Hobbit revised ed 2002, p.114]

So, I conclude that obviously Tolkien had liked the poem well enough, once - after all, he thought well enough of it to offer it to T.W.Earp for inclusion in Oxford Poetry 1915 [and it was also reprinted in Oxford Poetry 1914-16; and the Dora Owen book; and further, in a book called Fifty Poems for Children, pub. by Basil Blackwell in around 1921. there were at least two printings of this.]

But, as we know, he went off that sort of thing - in his letters, he later said he regretted the style of The Hobbit, because it was ’talking down’ to children - and it was this feeling that he wrote to Allen and Unwin in 1971, in the letter I quoted above, with the revealing [previously unpublished] remark which Scull/Hammond have found.

Doug Anderson says he thinks that Tolkien feels that Tolkien’s dislike of the poem began around the time he wrote TH, and began to work on LotR. I think that’s very likely.