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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Discussion -- The Hobbit, Chapters 1 & 2

Belenos                     (belenosstormchaser.magic)
AelKennyr Rhiano 
Shawn Daysleeper 
Lihan Taifun           
Flion Firehawk       
Aredhel Firehawk  (aredhel.starflare)
Leowen Landar       

The Hobbit was composed roughly between 1929 and 1936 in Oxford, England. It was first told to Tolkien's children. It was first published in 1937. It is a much lighter and more entertainingly-written book than the Silmarillion.

Bilbo is a classical "unlikely hero" – an ordinary person thrust into unusual circumstances. The "respectable" Baggins side of his personality – modeled after English villagers Tolkien was familiar with – wars with his "adventurous" Took side. Bilbo comes from wealthy and influential ancestry. Hobbits take their family trees seriously. Hobbits value simple pleasures, and respectable, predictable, conformist behavior.

A major source of inspiration for The Hobbit's plot – and other details – was the body of ancient epic literature that Tolkien studied, particularly Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon epics like Beowulf.

"Pipeweed" seems to be an unspecified "smokable plant."

We don't know whether is was unusual that Bilbo didn't marry. He was 50 at the start of his adventure, but that is not as old for a hobbit as for a human. From the sake of the story, it would have been very awkward for a hobbit with family responsibilities to go off on a long adventure. Might Bilbo have been secretly hoping for an adventure, and not wanting to get himself tied down to a family?

Already in the first chapter we get a lot of insight into dwarvish nature, in their interactions with Bilbo. They tease Bilbo about breaking the dishes, but the dwarves in fact do the work of cleaning up. They do leave the breakfast dishes for Bilbo the next morning, but they may have thought that was an equitable division of labor: They were getting the expedition ready, and Bilbo could do the part within his abilities, which was the breakfast dishes. Is there a "stereotypical" dwarf personality? And if so, do these dwarves fit it?

Bilbo, and hobbits in general, seem to have known something about dwarves, elves, wizards, trolls, and other races. A lot of this information may have been from stories. But the hobbits were not completely isolated.

Next Book Discussion: Tuesday, April 17, Chapters 3 &4
Tolkien Discussion Group: Tuesday, April 3, topic Varda/Elbereth

Belenos:                      I've never been to a bookclub before.. so I have no clue what one does at one
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ok...just to remind everyone. This story was composed roughly between 1929 and 1936 in Oxford, England. It was first told to Tolkien's children. and it was first published in 1937   :)   So...everyone got to read first two chapters?
Belenos:                      yes, just
Lihan Taifun:            yes
Shawn Daysleeper:  yes
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Great!'s talk about the chapters overall. Did you like them? Dislike them?
Lihan Taifun:            this is a fun book
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Much lighter than the Silmarillion.
Lihan Taifun:            lol, almost anything is!
Belenos:                      I was really struck by the difference between them and what I'd read of the Silmarillion.. it was very entertainingly written
Shawn Daysleeper:  Yes I liked it
Belenos:                      with a real sense of fun, it seems
{Flion and Aredhel arrive. Greetings.}
{Lihan, who is recording this transcript, crashes and relogs.}
AelKennyr Rhiano:  But you know...What happens to Bilbo in the course of the novel is the stuff of Epics.

Tolkien tested out The Hobbit as he wrote it by reading it to his sons, and the manner of narration is, at times, very much like a children's story. Its style is extremely playful and conversational, with frequent asides and jokes directed at the audience, including one famous quip about how an ancestor of the Tooks invented the game of golf when a goblin's head he had chopped off in battle rolled into a hole.
Belenos:                      oh yes.. I picked that up when I was reading it.. I said to Shawn that I could almost hear Gandalf as the narrator..

Flion, aredhel, we are discussing the first two chapters of The Hobbit.. have you read it?
Aredhel Firehawk smiles "a long time ago"
AelKennyr Rhiano smiles.
Flion Firehawk:        it had been a long thru the 1st chapter again today
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yay, wonderful.
Shawn Daysleeper:  smiles
Flion Firehawk:        forgot...biblo's mom was a took,,,,poor bilbo
Aredhel Firehawk:   lol
Lihan Taifun:            Poor Bilbo because his mom was a Took?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Oh yes...his ancestry is very important. Bilbo's ancestry is somewhat noble by hobbit standards: his father was from the well-to-do, conventional Baggins family, but his mother was from the Tooks, a wealthy, eccentric family infamous for their unhobbitlike tendency to go on adventures.
Belenos:                      I loved the bit where the Took side of him wars with the Baggins side
Shawn Daysleeper:  So that is why he has an adventrous attitude sometimes
AelKennyr Rhiano:  nod nod nod   That Took Blood....:P   He is a very unlikely epic hero, isn't he?
Belenos:                      I like how Tolkien brought out that hobbits like and respect quiet conventional lives.. it shows you just how extraordinary Bilbo's adventures really were as far as hobbits were concerned..
AelKennyr Rhiano nods.
Flion Firehawk:        a very quiet character in a very commom hobbit shire
Belenos nods nods nods.. oh yes.. sort of quite the anti-hero
AelKennyr Rhiano:  It really does. And the very description of hobbits...not your typical fantasy hero at all... little people, roughly half the size of humans, with thick hair on their feet, round bellies, and a love of good food, comfort, and security.
Lihan Taifun:            the ordiary person pushed into unusual circumstances
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Yes, Lihan...exactly!
Belenos:                      hehe.. and they tend to keep their foot hair well-brushed..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes!
Flion Firehawk:        very unassuming
AelKennyr Rhiano pictures Bilbo with curlers on the tops of his feet.
Belenos:                      omg; and with an appreciation for simple pleasures.. such as good food, a good pipe etc
Flion Firehawk:        smaller the dwarves were hobbits
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Tolkien himself acknowledged that the nature of hobbits was based on the rural, middle-class English people among whom he lived.
Flion Firehawk:        one that does not know his own strenghts
AelKennyr Rhiano:  So I guess he imagined his neighbors with hairy big feet. yes...exactly, Flion
Belenos:                      is perhaps modest enough not to look for them, Flion?.. uncomplicated and not needing to do so; lol
Flion Firehawk:        it is almost like he didnt think about it
AelKennyr Rhiano:  You know what is really interesting to me...that a major source of inspiration for The Hobbit's plot was the body of ancient epic literature that Tolkien studied, particularly Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon epics like Beowulf. Elements of the story originate from literature, including the form of the heroic quest, the dragon's treasure hoard, the importance of named swords, the elves' mysterious magic, and the grim focus on birthright and family lineage.
Lihan Taifun:            not to mention all those dwarf names
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I mean, here is this quiet, unassuming little guy with big hairy feet, who loves to stay home....and this huge epic adventure sweeps him up and forever changes him. oh, yes...the dwarves....definitely
{Leowen Landar arrives. Greetings.}
Belenos:                      I think that may have been the childhood dream of many a young middleclass rural lad, really.. and Tolkien made it happen
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh, yes, , I agree, Belenos. And there was this struggle in Bilbo, between his upstanding Baggins side and his rather unusual Took side. Social position seems to be very important for hobbits.
Belenos:                      social position.. or social acceptance and conformity?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ooouuu...perhaps both?
Flion Firehawk:        good hobbits did NOT go out on adventures
Lihan Taifun:            those seem pretty closely related, for hobbits
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Right
Belenos:                      see, I've always thought of social position as like social status.. a little snobbish... but yes, acceptance and conforming, I can definitely see that in the hobbits..
Flion Firehawk:        they cared for their gardens and pipeweed and drink
AelKennyr Rhiano:  but no snobbery?
Belenos:                      yes, Flion
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I have been meaning to ask...but pipeweed...that is like rabbit tobacco, yes?
Belenos:                      so far the only snobbery i've picked up is an inclination to look down their nose at those who go off on adventures?.... but i don't think towards wealth or stuff like that?
AelKennyr Rhiano nods
Belenos:                      I've thought of it as a way of referring to something smokable without giving it a modern name like tobacco?
Flion Firehawk:        I am not sure it is snobber as much as hobbits where seen to care for them selves and cared for the slower life and the green, and if you went away you could not do those things
AelKennyr Rhiano nods   And their way of life is a very slow moving one...not one with a lot of change in it.
Flion Firehawk:        family also was important it seems
Aredhel Firehawk:   I agree Belenos...I think adventuring was looked down upon because it took you away from you garden and drink and such. The routine comforts of hobbit life.
Belenos:                      was it common for male hobbits to remain unmarried?..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh...good question.
Flion Firehawk:        I am not sure that is ever answered
Aredhel Firehawk:   hm..not sure
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Bilbo was ummarried...and he never had a family of his own.
Belenos:                      and i believe it said he was about 50 at this time?
Flion Firehawk:        but he did raise frodo
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes, yes, he did. So he was already unconventional, perhaps?  Wonder why he never married, though?
Belenos:                      Now if he'd spent his youth off on adventures that would explain it... but he did not as far as i know
Belenos:                      or was 50 still youthful for a hobbit?.. how old do they live?
Lihan Taifun:            I don't thing 50 was as old for a hobbit as for a human
AelKennyr Rhiano:  How long do hobbits live?
Lihan Taifun:            remember, Frodo didn't "come of age" -- become a legal adult -- until age 33
Shawn Daysleeper:  the old took made it to age 120
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh. that's right! yay, Shawn
Aredhel Firehawk:   well wasn't it unsual that Bilbo was like 111 years old by the fellowship of the ring book?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I think he was, Aredhel.
Flion Firehawk:        bilbo lived longer then any hobbit because of the ring
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And yes, in the LOTR, it talks about the influence of the ring upon him, nut just his spirit, but physically, I think.
Aredhel Firehawk:   yes
Lihan Taifun:            and how much he didn't show his age
Flion Firehawk:        I beleive it mentions he did not age until he left the ring with frodo and went to the elves
Aredhel Firehawk:   he did not physically show his age until he left the ring behind
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Right.
Belenos:                      I suppose though, for the purpose of the story, he had to be single.. whereas it's unusual for a hobbit to go adventuring, I'd imagine it would be even more so for one who had family and responsiblities
AelKennyr Rhiano:  and yes, you are quite right...but you I think about it...epic heroes...they are not often married, are they?
Flion Firehawk:        true
Belenos smiles.. that is true..
Aredhel Firehawk:   maybe it was that adventurous Took blood in him...wanted to be free just incase an adventure came his way....maybe he secretly hoped to have an adventure.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ouuuu...that is a very good point, Aredhel.
Flion Firehawk:        well yes..why mention the mother being a Took at all if it did not have some significance
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Some say to explore the rather settled nature of his fellow Brits vs the repressed need for exploration and adventure. The British society of the time was very structured and rigid.

AelKennyr Rhiano:  What about Bilbo's relationship with Gandalf? I thought it was interesting.
Belenos:                      at first he didn't seem too impressed with Gandalf personally.. only what he'd heard of him?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I like how he invites him over for tea sometime, so as not to seem rude. How southern is that :P
Belenos grins.. and then goes inside and wonders why on earth he did it..
Flion Firehawk:        well bilbo met gandalf when he was younger..but did not remember him
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I like how the dwarves arrive at Bilbo's home.
Belenos smiles.. oh yes.. i could just picture it.. it was so funny
AelKennyr Rhiano:  heh heh
Lihan Taifun:            that is a great scene
Flion Firehawk:        it is funny how Gandalf hood wicks bilbo into it
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I love how Bilbo becomes their burglar.
Belenos:                      I actually found I got quite an insight into tolkien's dwarves by how they acted that first night at Biilbo's
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Please...elaborate.
Belenos:                      well... before reading this, my only source of information regarding his dwarves was how Gimli was portrayed in the LOTR movies.. and the factual summaries of how old they live etc.. : but I thought this account showed more of their nature, or at least the nature of this group of dwarves
AelKennyr Rhiano:  They are pretty typical dwarves, you all think?
Belenos:                      they were very blunt and straight forward in what they wanted.. but at the same time teased about bilbo's dishes with their little song when they were cleaning up
AelKennyr Rhiano:  teased? more like tortured!
Belenos:                      they pitched in and all helped tidy up without a word or complaint... it was quite a work hard/play hard sort of thing
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes...I see what you are saying :)
Flion Firehawk:        thorin is a good example of stereotypical dwarf...haughty...self important..but at times held back
Belenos:                      they were sometimes perhaps thoughtless.. leaving the breakfast dishes.. but that may have been because more important things had to be done, like setting up for their expedition, but in the end they were mannerly and left a note thanking him..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Is there a stereotype for dwarves?
Belenos:                      i think so?
Flion Firehawk:        umm..did dwarves clean up?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  They did supper.
Lihan Taifun:            they left the breakfast dishes for Bilbo
Aredhel Firehawk:   guesss they felt doing the supper dishes was enough
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Who cooked breakfast again? AelKennyr Rhiano flips back.
Belenos:                      the dwarves did... he woke after they'd eaten and gone; he had to clean up and cook his own. i thought at the time it as a case of they were there so they did them... but in the morning, they went off to prepare for the trip (which bilbo could not do).. and left him the dishes (which he could do).. so a sensible division of labour
AelKennyr Rhiano:  that's right.
Lihan Taifun:            it would have been sensible from the dwarves' point of view
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Please...does anyone else want to talk about anything in these first two chapters?
Leowen Landar:        How much would Hobbits know about the other races?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Oh, now there is a very good question. They obviously know something of other races, but how much fact and how much fiction?
Flion Firehawk:        yes, for bilbo knew they were dwarves at his door
Leowen Landar:        Especially since they were so self-isolated except maybe for some trade.
Lihan Taifun:            I thought dwarves did sometimes travel through the Shire
Belenos:                      and he knew he would not be mistaken for one because he was not bearded.: yes.. they passed dwarves and farmers on the road on their journey out
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And we know that Gandalf has visited and was known as a wizard.
Shawn Daysleeper:  I think by LOTR time they knew about elves
Flion Firehawk:        they knew of man and elves also
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes...And Bilbo knew of elves.
Belenos:                      and he recognised the trolls as what they were too when he saw them
AelKennyr Rhiano:  So they had a fair bit of indirect knowledge, if nothing else? And if at least the Tooks were prone to adventures, that meant that information from those adventures made its way back into the shire.
Belenos nods.. yes.. and I believe stories of gandalf's exploits too
Leowen Landar:        Maybe as children's stories or fiction since Hobbits did read books since Bilbo wrote one and seemed to think it was important. Then there would have been other books around also. They might not have known as much as was in the Silmarillion though
AelKennyr Rhiano:  People tend to assume that simple country people are ignorant of the world outside their immediate surroundings, but that is not necessarily true. They may not be as informed, not being in the center of events, but still outside influences do reach them sooner or later.
Belenos:                      yes.. I don't get the impression they are ignorant at all.. or uneducated, even though i don't believe anything was mentioned of schools.. but i'd say certainly a people who can read and write, and have read books
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And there seems to be a respect for them, too. At least from Bilbo's and then later Frodo's perspective.
Leowen Landar nods

AelKennyr Rhiano:  Anything else, anyone found interesting or wants to discuss?
{AelKennyr Rhiano gave you The Hobbit...Chapters 1 & 2. Thank you's.}
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I hope you do not think me rude, but I know that we won't discuss the next two chapters until next month, so I thought this notecard may help?
Belenos:                      not rude at all.. but helpful.. *smiles*
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes, I thought it might be a refresher.
Leowen Landar:        When is the next meeting?
Lihan Taifun:            may I put that notecard on the Tolkien Discussion Group website?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Lihan, are you going to post tonight discussion on the Tolkien discussion blog?
Lihan Taifun:            do people want this discussion posted? I can
Belenos:                      I am happy either way
Leowen Landar:        It is fine with me
AelKennyr Rhiano:  It might be a good idea? If everyone wants...
Lihan Taifun:            OK, I will then :)
AelKennyr Rhiano:  thank you!
Shawn Daysleeper:  ok :)
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And we will meet probably on the third Tuesday in april.
Belenos:                      so.. two more chapters for next time?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Is that ok for everyone?
Lihan Taifun:            that works for me
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Would you rather three chapters?
Lihan Taifun:            either way
Shawn Daysleeper:  ok
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I am good with whatever everyone finds reasonable.
Belenos:                      i'm not sure what is ahead in the chapters.. but I thought covering two tonight was just a nice amount of time?..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  It was.
Leowen Landar:        That would be April 17th then.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh, yes, Leowen. And I am good with two, if you all are.
Aredhel Firehawk:   two is fine with me
Leowen Landar:        2 is fine with me.
Belenos:                      I'd prefer two... that way if I am slow to get them read I can still manage it on the day of the meeting
Lihan Taifun:            Does April 17 miss Fantasy Fair?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ok..two chapters...Did this seem to be an ok discussion tonight?
Leowen Landar:        Thank you for allowing me to join in. Leowen Landar nods
AelKennyr Rhiano:  We enjoyed your company :)
Lihan Taifun:            I thought is was a nice discussion
Aredhel Firehawk:   I thought it was a very good discussion
Shawn Daysleeper:  yes thi was a great discussion
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I just wanted to make sure this was enjoyable to everyone.
Belenos:                      I thought so?.. not having been to a bookclub before I don't know what is usually done.. but I can't think what might have bene missing
AelKennyr Rhiano:  and you had fun
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Fantasy Faire is April 21- 29
Leowen Landar:        I like this sort of discussion
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yay
Lihan Taifun:            oh, ok
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I am so glad.
Lihan Taifun:            do we want a Tolkien DIscussion for April? we seemed to be running low on topics
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Yes, I am sure we do..
Flion Firehawk:        they had disscussion on toliken and his writttings in elf circle for some time
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh, really?
Lihan Taifun:            not to mention having so many other things scheduled
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I would like to discuss Varda. :)
Belenos:                      ohh.. now she would be interesting.. :)
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I think that would be fascinating.
Shawn Daysleeper:  nods
AelKennyr Rhiano:  We have had a Tolkien Discussion group for a good while, now. I didn't know there were such groups elsewhere :) I'm glad
Leowen Landar:        Tolkiens works were to form a background for his languages.
AelKennyr Rhiano nods. He was fascinated with language. But there is so much more to his world, too.
Lihan Taifun:            Varda = Elbereth, that is a good topic. the first Tuesday would be next week. Does that work for people?
Shawn Daysleeper:  thank you all, it is bedtime for me
Belenos:                      it works for me.. *smiles*
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Does for me.
Shawn Daysleeper:  yes it does for me Lihan