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The "History of the Hobbit"

 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 2:50 am    Post subject: The "History of the Hobbit" Reply with quote

Last year, John Rateliff published a two volume set entitled “The History of the Hobbit”. Volume one was “Mr. Baggins”, volume two was “Return to Bag-end”. Basically these are written in the same vein as Chris Tolkien’s “History of Middle-Earth” series, but with rough drafts for “The Hobbit” instead (duh). I wanted to post some thoughts here about them as I read them, basically ‘cause I get really excited about this kind of stuff, and no-one that I spend time with off the Watch gets this at all. I’m hoping at least someone out there will be a little interested (please? Smile) and maybe have some interesting discussion as I go along. Oh, BTW, I’m not going to spoiler anything here. These are more reference books, so don’t really lend themselves to spoilerage. There are also lots of references to Hobbit, LOTR and Silm. which I’m also not going to cover up. If you haven’t read those, you have no business being here, anway. Wink

I never really understood why these writings weren’t included in the HME series, and, unfortunately, Rateliff doesn’t comment on it, so that was a little disappointing.

The first segment is something that Rateliff calls the Pryftan Fragment. The manuscript starts abruptly with the dwarves singing after dinner at Bilbo’s, and ends with the dwarves leaving for the night. The opening section is presumably lost. It’s called Pryftan Fragment because here, Pryftan is the name of the dragon (not Smaug), though in the next take of the tale, this changes. There are other significant name changes as well, notably the chief dwarf is Gandalf (not Thorin) and the wizard is call Bladorthin (a name that I think we’re all happy was changed  ). The other interesting aspect here is that real world locations (Gobi desert, China) are referred to by the dwarves, showing that JRRT was placing this story (like others in his legendarium) in the “mythic past” of our world.

Next is a transcription of a typescript copy of the Pryftan element. This piece gives us the whole first chapter of the book, but again using Pryftan, Bladorthin, and Gandalf (for the dwarf) as names. So much of this very early form is, word for word, what appears in the final version that it was fairly surprising to me. So many of the phrases, descriptions and wording are the same (including the two songs – “crack the plates” and “over misty mountains cold”) that when something different does come along it’s even more surprising. Aside from the name changes, the biggest surprise to be in this version was the “golf” joke, where Bilbo’s ancestor had defeated a goblin army and created the game of golf at the same time. Here, the goblin king’s name is given as Fingolfin – presumably because of “golf” being part of the name. But Fingolfin as an elven king already existed in the Book of Lost Tales, so it’s odd to see it used to refer to a goblin.

A part of this book that I found myself enjoying considerably are the series of brief essays that Rateliff writes after giving each portion of text (w/copious footnotes). The most interesting in the opening section was on the tone of the narrator, something I hadn’t paid much attention to previously. The voice used is very much that of a storyteller, and give the narrator an actual character himself, and Rateliff points out several ways where this is used to further engage the reader.



Ok, that's it for tonight. More may be forthcoming in the next few days, depending on my reading schedule. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, so the next several chapters are restarting from the beginning, in a more finalized typescript form. Again Bladorthin (for Gandalf) and Gandalf (for Thorin) are used. These names are used until we get to Lake Town, quite a ways through the final book. Over the next few chapters there are only a few major changes from the book we know. One of these is that Bladorthin gives only the map of the Lonely Mountain to Gandalf, without a key. Later the key to the secret door is conveniently found in the Troll’s hoard, though its importance isn’t known at the time. There eventually appears a rather convoluted explanation of how it got there, which was dropped later.

Initially, Tolkien seemed to have the intention to make the dwarves stand out more as individuals. He gave dialogue to different dwarves and tries to give several a more distinct personality than they later have. The decision to change this and make the majority of them essentially ciphers (aside from Thorin – leader, Balin – kind, and Bombur – fat) was probably a streamlining done for simplicities sake.

Not too many differences arise in the next several chapters, through Rivendell and the goblin capture. Again, here the fascinating thing was how close the initial rough draft is to the final form. But then we get to Gollum. This section, as alluded to in the forward published in current versions of “The Hobbit”, is drastically different from what it later became. The version in the rough drafts here very closely mirrors that in the published first edition of the novel. But this section was significantly revised by JRRT by the time of the second published edition, which coincided with the writing of LOTR. This of course, left JRRT the problem of two different published versions of his story, and the foreword to the second edition was his solution. Rather than go through all the changes, I’ll just show you.




This original version is very similar to the familiar one. When Bilbo “opened his eyes, he wondered if he had…” he finds the ring lying on the ground, pockets it, and screws up his courage the same way.

JRRT wrote
Quote:
“Go back?” he thought – “no good at all! Go sideways – impossible! Can’t be done. Go forward – only thing to do.”



The text is very similar until the start of the riddle game. When Gollum says:

Quote:
“Does it guess easy? – it must have a competition with us, my precious. If precious asks, and it doesn’t answer, we eats it my precious. If it ask us and we doesn’t answer, we gives it a present: Gollum”


Even though the ring is most certainly not The One Ring at this point, Gollum’s habit of referring to himself (and it) as “my precious” was present from the beginning, as is his abnormal speech patterns, though here he flows between third and first person much more fluidly than he later does.

The riddles are almost verbatim as in the modern version, until the “String – or nothing!” guess of Gollum’s. But here the text begins to vary:

Quote:
“Both wrong!” said Bilbo very much relieved – and jumped to his feet and held out his little sword with his back to the wall. But funnily enough, he need not have been frightened. For one thing the Gollum had learned long long ago was never to cheat at the riddle-game. Also there was the sword. He simply sat and blubbered.

“What about the present?” said Bilbo, not that he cared very much; still he felt he had won it, and in very difficult circumstances too.

“Must we give it precious; yes we must – we must fetch it precious, and give it to the thing the present we promised.”



The implication the Gollum wouldn’t cheat is surprising. And certainly no one in Middle-earth would “not care very much” about The One Ring.

Quote:

I don’t know how many times Gollum begged Bilbo’s pardon. And he offered him fish caught fresh to eat instead (Bilbo shuddered at the thought of it); but he said “No thank you” quite politely.

He was thinking, thinking hard – and the idea came to him that he must have found that ring, that he had that very ring in his pocket. But he had the wits not to tell Gollum. “Finding’s keeping” he said to himself; and being in a very tight place I think he was right, and anyway, the ring belonged to him now.

But to Gollum he said: “Never mind, the ring would have been mine now if you could have found it, so you haven’t lost it. And I will forgive you on one condition.”

“Yes what is it, what does it wish us to do my precious.”

“Help me to get out of these places”, said Bilbo.

To this Gollum agreed, as he had to if he wasn’t to cheat, though he would very much have liked to have just tasted what Bilbo was like. Still, he had lost the game; and there was the sword, and also Bilbo was wide awake and on the look out, not unsuspecting as the Gollum liked to have things which he caught.



Bilbo discovers that the ring gives invisibility by placing it on his finger, then noting that Gollum can’t see him. They proceed up the passageway until:

Quote:
“Here’s the passage; it must squeeze in, and sneak down, - we durstn’t go with it, my precious, no we durstn’t: Gollum!”

So Bilbo slipped under the arch, and said goodbye to the nasty miserable creature, and very glad he was.



And that’s it. No “Baggins! We hates it forever!” No “What has it got in it’s pockets?” No menace (or at least very little) from Gollum. In fact Gollum almost comes across as more honorable and sympathetic than Bilbo. Gollum is quite determined not to cheat (against his instinct to eat Bilbo), whereas Bilbo seems to have no problem with it (finder’s keepers!). Even more interesting, the narrator agrees with Bilbo. Very different.

As it stood, this was a good scene, but the revisions JRRT made for the second edition, published in 1947 (as opposed to the 1937 original) were needed to make this section one of the most powerful and memorable in the book.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the excellent analysis of these first sections.

I find this kind of "before and after" study of Tolkien very interesting.

Regarding the use of "Bladorthin": I think that a similar name was briefly mentioned as a historical king (in the Hobbit). I may need to check it out later.
Hopefully I will have some more helpful thoughts to contribute soon!

Keep them coming!
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reave wrote
Quote:
Regarding the use of "Bladorthin": I think that a similar name was briefly mentioned as a historical king (in the Hobbit). I may need to check it out later.



Yeah, that sounds familiar to me, too, but I haven't come across it yet.

(And thanks for your comments. It's good to know someone else is reading this stuff. Smile Of course, I'd probably keep writing even if no one was reading, just cause I think it's fun.... Wink )
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2008 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And continuing on….. Smile

Bilbo rejoining the dwarves, the treeing by the wargs and goblins, and the subsequent rescue by the eagles are very much the same, down to the “Now I know what a piece of bacon feels like..” airborne dialogue. The following section is also not changed much, except for the substitution of the name Medwed for the character we know as Beorn. The entrance to Mirkwood and the departure of our wizard (still Bladorthin) are the same as well, though in side notes, it becomes clear that not only did the dwarves not know where the wizard was going, JRRT didn’t either. He just needed the wizard to disappear for a while. The same brief references to the Necromancer had appeared earlier in the story, but it wasn’t until much later that JRRT tied his wizard’s departure to the Necromancer.

There are some interesting suggestions in rough notes, that after the fight with the spiders and the capture by wood elves, Bilbo would escape alone, hunt for Bladorthin and Medwed, and the wizard would then show up in the wood elves’ hall and demand the release of the dwarves. At which point Bladorthin would leave again, allowing the dwarves and Bilbo to complete the journey alone.

The actual earliest text continues, again very similar until the point where Bilbo comes down the tree after his scouting climb. Immediately thereafter, they see the wood elves fires and advance toward the banquets, off of the path. The river, boat and sleepiness of Bombur are absent. After trying to get to the elves, they are captured by spiders. Much of the rescue from the spiders is similar, except that here, Bilbo gathers a large ball of spider thread to use as a guide to follow back to the path. “Attercop” “Tom-noddy” and “Lazy Lob” all appear, as does the slaying with the rocks and his sword (which, interestingly, does not receive its name of “sting”). Bilbo’s ball of spider-thread breaks, they note Gandalf’s (for Thorin) disappearance, and are exhausted when caught by the elves. But Bilbo slips away (care of the ring).

Shortly after the Mirkwood chapter was completed, the “enchanted stream” episode was written and marked for insertion into the text proper. The boat, and the interruption by the hart all appear. Bombur falls in, and falls asleep for four days before waking. He had been dreaming of food, but had forgotten everything that occurred since they left Bilbo’s house. Rateliff makes an interesting observation here, namely that in LOTR, we are told clearly that hobbits have a strong dislike of water travel, but even in the published version of “Hobbit”, Bilbo seems to have no issue with the water crossing here, or even the barrel-riding later.

Here the text breaks off into notes again. But from this set of notes it becomes clear that the end of the story was conceived very differently from what emerged. There is little difference in the escape from elves or the arrival at Laketown. After arriving at Lonely Mountain and finding the secret door, Bilbo was to have multiple trips down to steal small bits of treasure. After the on in which he converses with Smaug, the dragon then rampages on the mountain side and town. No character of Bard existed. Smaug returns to the mountain, exhausted and falls asleep. Whereupon Bilbo was sneak in again, grab a spear, and slay the sleeping dragon himself. The men from town were to join with the wood elves and demand treasure for the repairing of their town. Bilbo, through the use of what was originally called the “Gem of Girion” (later to be the Arkenstone) negotiates a truce. (No Dain and his dwarves from the Iron Hills). Bilbo then departs with the wizard and the elven army, with his share of the treasure, for home. After reaching Medwed (Beorn’s) home (the elves stayed with them) they are met by an army of wargs and goblins in the Battle of Anduin (elves, Medwed and his men (whomever they were) vs. goblins and wargs) with the eagles again saving the day. Even in this short, notation form, this section is pretty interesting in its differences.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A minor point but interesting that Medwed and Beorn both mean "bear" in Russian and Old English respectively.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

amanibhavam wrote:
A minor point but interesting that Medwed and Beorn both mean "bear" in Russian and Old English respectively.


I'll confirm that and add the pronunciation: "myehd-VYEHD"; also the name of the next Russian president. (-ov/-ev endings in Russian work like '-son' endings in English; ie, "Ivanov" = "Johnson")
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, so I know ya’ll are dyin’ to read the next part…. Wink


Bilbo follows the elves with the captured dwarves, and just when they reach the bridge into the elven realm, his spider thread trail that he had been leaving gives out. The thread trail does not come back into the story. The captivity period is mostly the same; the interview with the king, the finding of Thorin (here still Gandalf) imprisoned separately, Bilbo’s rescue plan and its execution are all present in their familiar form. Rateliff makes an interesting suggestion that the elven-king in Mirkwood was at one point, conceived to be king Thingol, then from the unpublished Book of Lost Tales and early drafts of what were to become the Silmarillion. The elven-king doesn’t receive his name, “Thranduil”, until LOTR. Several similarities are pointed out, and the obvious “bad blood” between elves and dwarves makes sense here, if this elven king was present at the ruin of Doriath, which was due, in part, to dwarves. Of course, in those first age legends, Thingol is slain in the ruin of Doriath, but as Rateliff points out, these works were unpublished at the time, and JRRT was constantly changing their conception, so the idea that at one point, this elven king could indeed be one of the major first age characters was not entirely out of the question.

Upon arrival at Lake Town, our lead dwarf becomes Thorin Oakenshield, and would stay that way through the remainder of the tale. The description of Lake Town, the interactions with the Master, (“Thag you very buch.”) the re-supplying, and setting off to Lonely Mountain are essentially unchanged. During the journey, comments are made by Balin indicating significant distrust of ravens – the idea of the ancient friendship between the dwarves and ravens had not emerged. They journey up the side of the mountain, and their frustration is the same when they are there stymied. Finally the keyhole appears and is opened, though here, the key is the one from the troll hoard at the start of the story. The thrush, whose presence shows the door, initially had no further part in the story, and was not envisioned to bring news to Bard (who did not exist as yet) nor introducing Roac to provide news of Smaug’s demise.

Another series of plot notes follows, and here Bilbo is still indicated as the slayer of Smaug. Bilbo was to creep in, wearing the ring, while Smaug was sleeping, and stab him in the open patch on his breast with his elven knife. At the end of these notes, they were crossed out, and an underlined passage reads “Dragon killed in the battle of the Lake” – the first indication that a new dragon slayer was needed.

The text proper continues, again very much the same from the final version. Bilbo descends into the tunnel, the conversation and riddle-talk with Smaug are mostly the same, and he flees back up the tunnel (“Never laugh at live dragons…”). Here is the first recurrence of the thrush, listening to Bilbo’s description, and now the dwarves indicate a history of friendship with both thrush and ravens.

The text initially proceeded with the “Fire and Water” chapter, detailing the attack on Lake Town and the death of Smaug, then continued with the “Not At Home” chapter wherein the dwarves explore the mountain in Smaug’s absence. JRRT apparently flipped the sequence of these chapters several times, before reaching the final form that we know, where the explorations of the dwarves proceed without knowledge of the dragon’s fate.

An interesting point is that despite JRRT’s love of dragons (evidenced in part by the number of pictures he drew of them) only two dragons in the history of Middle-earth actually develop into characters; Smaug and Glaurung. There are others mentioned (Scytha, Ancalagon the black, the cold drakes) but no personality exists for them. JRRT’s Smaug is the most fleshed out, and much of what popular culture thinks of as a “dragon” comes from these brief chapters.

The dragon attacks the town, and our battle is similar. The thrush speaks to the bowman, who lets fly the black arrow, and the dragon crashes down. Only at the time of his death (real initially, but then only apparent in revisions) was the bowman actually given his name, Bard. The master’s turing of the people against the dwarves is still present, as is his deflecting of the mob’s desire for a king of Dale again. Bard’s companions begin to march north, and the elven-king begins to set forth as well. The introduction of Bard now as both dragon slayer and heir of Dale had major ramifications for the ending sequence of the book compared to what had been conceived prior in plot notes.

A new set of plot notes, however, reveals again JRRT’s intention to have the difficulty between the small party of dwarves and the men of Dale be resolved by Bilbo, and no battle present. Again, the major battle was to be at the Anduin river, with elves and goblins occurring on Bilbo’s return journey.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My HotH came today!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool, wayfriend! Enjoy! Cool
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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Slowly (very slowly) but surely moving on…. Wink

We return to the dwarves, who are hiding in the mountain, unaware of the death of Smaug. Bilbo again goes down the tunnel and this time, finds and pockets the great gem, here called the Gem of Girion (the Arkenstone to us). Bilbo’s light goes out, the dwarves rescue him and they proceed, now armored, to the front gate.

Rateliff introduces an interesting essay here, postulating that, at one time, the Arkenstone was linked to, or may even have been, a Silmaril. From a philological standpoint (Rateliff states – I have no knowledge of Old English Wink) when some of the Silmarillion legends were translated into Old English, the Silmarils became precious/holy stones – the term for which is Eorclanstanas or Arkenstones. The physical description of the Arkenstone is very much like the physical description of the Silmarils. And in the Silmarillion conception, one of the Silmarils is indeed cast into the bowels of the earth, where it could have been found by the dwarves in their mining of middle-earth. It’s just speculation, of course, as in the final version, it seems clear that the Arkenstone is simply a jewel, however wonderful. But it is interesting speculation…..

Returning to the story, the ravens arrive, bringing the dwarves news of the events of Lake Town. This is followed by a set of plot notes, which contains the first reference to the Battle of the Five Armies at Lonely Mountain. The text resumes when Bard and his party are joined by the elvenking and approach the mountain, and there is little difference in Thorin parley with them. Bilbo sneaks away from the camp and delivers the Arkenstone to Bard to use as ransom. The following morning, the battle ensues, with the timely arrival of the goblins and wargs to prevent bloodshed amongst the men, dwarves and elves. The end of the battle, it’s aftermath, and Bilbo’s return home are much like we’ve known them. This was the end of the story, and was the version originally published. But wasn’t the end of “The Hobbit”’s history.

JRRT then made a series of revision in 1947, while he was working on LOTR. These alterations largely concerned the changes in the Gollum chapter, and were incorporated into published versions of The Hobbit in 1951. This is the version that we all have read.

JRRT revisited the material again, for what would be published as “The Quest Of Erebor”. This was written in 1954 and published in Unfinished Tales. It gives details of the conversation Gandalf had with Thorin prior to the events which open The Hobbit. But even this wasn’t the last time JRRT would return to this material.

This next section was probably the most fascinating section of the book for me. In 1960, after LOTR was published, JRRT again began revisions of The Hobbit, presumably to bring the narrative tone and import of events more in line with the tone achieved in LOTR. He actually rewrote significant passages of the story, up until the arrival at Rivendell, before abandoning it, but essentially creating wholly new chapters. Through this section, the narrative tone is much more serious, without the comic asides that are sprinkled in the text we know. Both Gandalf and Thorin are given more gravitas, and Bilbo is reduced in stature accordingly, looking more foolish than before. A new adventure regarding crossing a river when a bridge is out is added prior to the trolls episode. Changes were made regarding the timeline as well, bringing Bilbo’s trek more in line with the geography of Frodo’s. Here Rateliff relates a story that, after completing these first three chapters, JRRT loaned the work out to a friend for an opinion. The reported response was positive, but “it wasn’t The Hobbit”. And I’d agree. Fascinating and different, but not the same story.

And that’s essentially it, aside from some appendix material. Thanks for reading! Big Grin
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: the Arkenstone

I have to say that THOTH was very illuminating in terms or relating the Hobbit to the Silmarillion as it stood in 1930. There was a lot there that I was completely unaware of until Rateliff pointed it out.

Re: The 1960 revision

So glad that that was never published!

But what strikes me more is how free Tolkien was in reimagining his world. People are offended by what was changed from the book to the latest movie. If only they knew how much Tolkien himself changed things, moved things -- nothing was sacred to HIM!
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating. I've got to get this. I would very much like to see the new, missing chapters from the 60s. Were they really that bad? I think the beginning of the Hobbit is it's weakest part (except for the Unexpected Party). The tra-la-la Elves are horrid. There is a clear change in tone after the Misty Mountains, and I wish the entire book had this tone. It's clear that Tolkien was feeling his way about, then finally hit his stride with the Misty Mountains.

Of course, that's when they cross that line on the map, "Edge of the Wild" or something. So perhaps the change in tone is appropriate.

MR, thanks for the detailed notes! I've read every word, and enjoyed them immensely. Your time and effort was not in vain.

Your posts made me remember how much I love the Hobbit, and what an impression that book made on me when I was 13. It truly is magical, and my life wouldn't have been the same without it.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, glad you enjoyed it! Smile

I don't know that the 60s chapters were "bad" per se, but they do certainly feel different than the original text. I agree that portions in the beginning are lacking, tone wise, and that the book certainly changes in tone as it goes on becoming more serious. But I suspect that the tonal change may be deliberate, as you pointed out - as events get more serious (or are perceived by Bilbo as more serious) then tone changes accordingly. "Fellowship" did this to some extent as well - (the talking fox as the hobbits leave the Shire?)

Actually, the more I think about it, it may just be my more adult perpective on the opening tone that thinks it's lacking - cause I remember loving the opening when I first read it at a much younger age (maybe 8 or 9?). It might just be my adult desire to get to the dark, challenging meangful stuff....

And I agree with Wayfriend's earlier point as well - clearly these texts weren't sacred to Tolkien - even after publishing, which seems a very forgien concept (imagine if SRD rewrote the intro chapters to LFB!? That would not be recieved well....) It gives the impression that this is his world, that he is willing to share, rather than the idea that he was writing for his audience.

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It truly is magical, and my life wouldn't have been the same without it.


Mine either. (And I suspect that would be the response from many of our members) Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The tone in the Hobbit is different from LOTR, but I don't feel that in any way it is wrong. I think it is perfect the way it is, right down to songs about broken plates and elves singing tra-la-la. Why? Because it's a story of leaving a small, closed, safe world, for a big, wide-open dangerous world, and all the internal growth that goes with it.

E.g. I don't think the elves in the Hobbit are in any way different than the ones that we meet in LOTR. I think what we see in the Hobbit reflects what Bilbo is aware of. They probably also sing songs about the woes of the First Age and the Dimming of the Light; but poor Bilbo only hears the ones with the catchy tra-la-la, and ignores the rest.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2008 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:
Fascinating. I've got to get this. I would very much like to see the new, missing chapters from the 60s. Were they really that bad? I think the beginning of the Hobbit is it's weakest part (except for the Unexpected Party). The tra-la-la Elves are horrid. There is a clear change in tone after the Misty Mountains, and I wish the entire book had this tone. It's clear that Tolkien was feeling his way about, then finally hit his stride with the Misty Mountains.

Of course, that's when they cross that line on the map, "Edge of the Wild" or something. So perhaps the change in tone is appropriate.

MR, thanks for the detailed notes! I've read every word, and enjoyed them immensely. Your time and effort was not in vain.

Your posts made me remember how much I love the Hobbit, and what an impression that book made on me when I was 13. It truly is magical, and my life wouldn't have been the same without it.


Hey Malik!
Something I can totally agree with you on!
Ditto that post. Smile
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really interesting, Mortice... Thanks for all that. I'm really intrigued by the Arkenstone / Simiril connection.
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