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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Discussion - Hobbit, Chapters 3 & 4

AelKennyr Rhiano 
Zakar Zamin           
Belenos                    (belenosstormchaser.magic)
Shawn Daysleeper 
Lihan Taifun           

Gandalf is portrayed in The Hobbit as a much less powerful and learned figure than he appears in Lord of the Rings.   For example, it is Elrond, not Gandalf, who recognizes and reads the Elvish runes on Gandalf and Thorin's swords.

The Five Wizards – originally Maiar from Aman – have been in MiddleEarth nearly 2000 years at the time of events in The Hobbit.   Lord of the Rings takes place 68 years later.   So, from Gandalf's perspective, there is not much elapsed time between events in those two books.

Was the change in how Gandalf is portrayed simply because Hobbit was written first, and as a light children's story, before the character of Gandalf crystalized into what it became in Lord of the Rings?  Was Gandalf "holding back" in The Hobbit, not using his full powers, and letting others take center stage?  Did Gandalf actually mature quite a bit in those 68 years?  Is Tolkien showing the difference between "book learning" (which Gandalf brought with him from Aman), vs.  learning from life experiences (which Elrond had more of, and Gandalf was gaining in MiddleEarth)?

Tolkien and C.S.  Lewis, who were good friends, were both members of an informal literary discussion group, The Inkling, associated with the University of Oxford, England, in the 1930s and 1940s.   Members of the group read aloud from the books they were writing.   This leads to a lot of speculation on how much influence they had on each other's writing styles.

The Elves of Rivendell also are portrayed in The Hobbit as primarily teasing the dwarves.  This may be in part because Elves, being immortal, do not have the same sense of urgency as mortal races, which can lead them to appear frivolous to mortals.  And foreshadowing the conflicts, or at least different viewpoints of Elves and Dwarves.

We find the modernisms, like the stone giants "playing football" jarring.   Also the use of little spoilers (like "That would be the last time they use their ponies").   These fit more with the style of telling a children's story aloud.   Are we seeing a deliberate choice of styles on Tolkien's part, or did he learn, between the writing of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, to be "a writer rather than a teller of tales"?

Are the "goblins" in Hobbit the same as "orcs" in Lord of the Rings? Probably.   But we will discuss orcs in more detail next week.

AelKennyr Rhiano:  So...tonight is chapters 3-4; anyone want to start? anyone need the notecard from last time?
{Last month's notecards are distributed.}
Lihan Taifun:            I was noticing how much Gandalf grew between the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Please elaborate, Lihan
Lihan Taifun:            well, in the Hobbit, we have Elrond reading runes to Gandalf, and explaining ancient history, as though Elrond were MUCH more learned than Gandalf. that just wouldn't happen in LotR , they would be equals at least
AelKennyr Rhiano: you mean the literary development...
Lihan Taifun:            yes, the "character" of Gandalf is not nearly so well formed as it is in LotR
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Oh, I agree.
Belenos:                     well.. is it that Elrond IS much more learned than Gandalf or the 'thinks' he is?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  It might be, too, because of the difference in the writer's purpose for each of those books?
Zakar Zamin:            Or maybe the time gap between publications? Middle Earth seems to always have been a work in progress up until his death.
Belenos:                     yes.. it's hard to re-write something once it's already published if later books don't quite align with it
Lihan Taifun:            I agree about all that
AelKennyr Rhiano:  The LOTR and later the Sil...those are much more serious works. There is a lightheartedness in the Hobbit that does not exist in LOTR triology
Shawn Daysleeper:  yes I agree
Zakar Zamin:            Ael, I wonder if that is Lewis' influence with his Narnia stories.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Please, elaborate?
Zakar Zamin:            Also, how long had Gandalf been in ME at this time?
Zakar Zamin:            Tolkien, Lewis and one or two others who's names I can't remember were part of a group called the Inklings.
Shawn Daysleeper:  Gandalf and the other 4 wizards arrive in 1050 of third age, the hobbit takes place in 2941, so some 2000 years
Zakar Zamin:            Thanks Shawn
Lihan Taifun:            thank you, Shawn
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh..yes, Shawn thank you. I think that is important to note.
Shawn Daysleeper:  lord of the rings occurs in 3019, only 68 years later so gandalf learns a lot quickly
Lihan Taifun:            :P
Zakar Zamin:            While Tolkien did not like the allegorical style of writing that CS Lewis used in Narnia, still they collaborated.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  when you say, "collaborated," do you mean on literary works?
Lihan Taifun:            Tolkien and Lewis were good friends, but "collaborated" sounds like too strong a word
Zakar Zamin:            Lewis' writing was aimed at young children as evidenced by his introduction to the Lion, Witch & Wardrobe. Maybe collaborated is too strong. : As I understand it, they would read chapters to each other for the others to critique. So with the beginnings of ME in Tolkien's mind and Lewis writing at a child's level, it is not unreasonable to suggest an influence.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  The Inkling an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England, for nearly two decades between the early 1930s and late 1940s. They did read aloud each other's works, and there has been debate on whether that exposure influenced each, but to my limited knowledge, none of them collaborated.
Lihan Taifun:            I would think a bigger influence was that the Hobbit derived from bedtime stories he told his children
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I think I get what Zakar is trying to say, but I think also I would urge caution in making that leap, because the Inkling was NOT just Lewis and Tolkien...Let me list who was involved...thank you, Wiki :P : J. R. R. "Tollers" Tolkien, C. S. "Jack" Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Tolkien's son Christopher, Lewis' elder brother Warren or "Warnie", Roger Lancelyn Green, Adam Fox, Hugo Dyson, R. A. "Humphrey" Havard, J. A. W. Bennett, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill. : But I am sooooo glad you brought up the Inklngs, Zakar. AelKennyr Rhiano smiles
Zakar Zamin:            I knew there was more than the two. And, from your kind comments, I'll limit it to "influence"
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I didn't know if everyone knew. I thought it is helpful to share. It's soooo easy to skip over the influence of others. : As I said, thank you for bringing to our attention. Those writers had alot in common.
But Shawn made some great comments too, about Gandalf. : He did grow very wise in a short amount of time, didn't he?
Belenos:                     yes..he definitely did
Zakar Zamin:            One possibility (and I am relying on memory at this point) is that he was hiding himself, letting Elrond take center stage.
Belenos:                     I think perhaps that was because Tolkien simply decided to take his character in a different direction to where he began in the Hobbit.. he needed Gandalf to be wiser and more knowing..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  You know, I had to wonder that myself, Zakar. Oh, Belenos, good point. or maybe Elrond WAS older and wiser.
Lihan Taifun:            I agree with Belenos too
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Wasn't Gandalf a Maia?
Belenos:                     he was.. *smiles*
Zakar Zamin:            I don't think Elrond was wiser and certainly not older.: and Elrond was half human, as I recall the geneology
AelKennyr Rhiano:  he was, indeed, Zakar. Well, if I can submit something for consideration?
Belenos smiles. yes please..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Well, it's this: perhaps whether consciously or not, Tolkien was saying something about knowledge gained through living and experience as opposed to knowledge gained merely through years of existence.
Belenos:                     that's quite possible too.. : just being alive and existing doesn't make one wise.. it's what one does and learns in that time..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Gandalf is a Maia. They, as a race, do not live as part of Middle Earth. They are not part of it. Not like elves, not like humans. Elrond is both elf and human. He is completely part of Middle Earth. He has experienced it, lived it, gained his knowledge....what she said!
AelKennyr Rhiano grins
Belenos grins back
AelKennyr Rhiano:  heh heh
Zakar Zamin:            There is that. I believe Hebrew has two words for knowledge: one from learning and one from experience. I would have to look it up to clarify the definitions.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I think you are right? : not sure, but that sounds close if not spot on :)
Zakar Zamin:            And the elves did love learning.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And both elves and humans experience the world first hand. Until Gandalf was sent among the children, he did not.
Zakar Zamin:            I suspect it is not spot on, but close, Ael.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  close is good  :)   Does Elrond change too, between the Hobbit and LOTR?
Lihan Taifun:            I didn't notice much change in Elrond himself, but the other elves of Rivendell seem pretty frivolous in the Hobbit,: not that we see much of them
AelKennyr Rhiano:  and Elrond was also descended from Melian, right? so he is not simply half-elven.
Lihan Taifun:            from Melian, yes
AelKennyr Rhiano:  His mother was Elwing the White
Zakar Zamin:            Somewhere I read that elves can seem frivolous at times to mortals.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh, and they so are in the Hobbit.
Shawn Daysleeper:  yes I remember the elves in the hobbit seem much different than in LOTR
Lihan Taifun:            can you explain that more, Zakar?
Zakar Zamin tries to dredge more out of his memory.
Zakar Zamin:            As I can recall, because elves don't die, they don't have the same sense of urgency that the mortal races to. Another thought
Lihan Taifun:            hmmm interesting
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Well, I can see where long life would give them a much different perspective.
Zakar Zamin:            LOTR dealt with more serious events and the elves could have acted appropriatly.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  LOTR were more serious in nature overall, too. : Maybe the elves were being frivolous because they knew that from this point on, Bilbo and the dwarves would have a hard journey?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  "Lighten up, dudes. Sucks to be you in two weeks, but hey, tonight, party on?"
Zakar Zamin:            lol
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Well, was a thought :P
Belenos:                     elves, frivolous?.. *thinks of our partyloving teleri*.. never.. *grins*
AelKennyr Rhiano:  heh heh They did rest there for...was it 10 days or so?
Lihan Taifun:            I'd love to see the Hobbit Movie showing the dwarves as the important people to be taken seriously, and the elves as the comic relief
Belenos:                     but i think that's a valid point, Ael.. about why they were being frivolous while the dwarves were there..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  if they follow the book, I don't think neither race would be taken quite seriously
Shawn Daysleeper:  I notice that the use of modern words seem interesting like when Thorin thinks the mountain giants might kick them around like footballs
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh, I caught that too. I forgot he did that.
Lihan Taifun:            oh yes
Belenos smiles.. yes.. it's a trap a lot of writers fall into..
Zakar Zamin:            Also, Dwarves and Elves were not best of friends so this could be a bit of taunting on the elves' part
Lihan Taifun:            yes, I thought it sounded more like "mean teasing" on the elves part, rather than trying to cheer the dwarves up
AelKennyr Rhiano looks at Zakar with his jaw hanging open. What? Elves? Taunt? Why we would never ."  :P
Belenos pokes Ael
AelKennyr Rhiano squirms
Zakar Zamin:            I was looking at the wikip page on Tolkien, and the books were published 18 years apart
AelKennyr Rhiano:  that is a big lapse of time.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  You know, Shawn, I have often wondered about the purpose of the stone giants playing football. It just seems to stick out like a sore thumb to me.
Zakar Zamin:            same reason angels bowl.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Angels bowl?
Zakar Zamin:            it's where thunder comes from
AelKennyr Rhiano:  really?
Lihan Taifun:            it is
Zakar Zamin:            Steeerrrriiike
AelKennyr Rhiano:  omg...I have never heard that  heh heh heh
Lihan Taifun:            DON'T ask where rain comes from
Zakar Zamin:            I remember my dad taking me to the bowling ally one night when I was very young
Belenos:                     when my grandson was little he thought it rained because god was crying
AelKennyr Rhiano:  My grandmother told me the ancestors were weeping to give the earth life.
Shawn Daysleeper:  there are also places where he spoils the story a little, like "That would be the last time they use their ponies" even before they fell asleep in the shelter cave before they were caught
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh yes, yes, he does!
Belenos:                     yes.. it shows the hallmarks of it being a children's story being told to them, rather than a book being written
Shawn Daysleeper:  or when he finds the ring "that is a turning point in his carreer"
Lihan Taifun:            that does sound like a "children's story" style
AelKennyr Rhiano:  it does.
Shawn Daysleeper:  ok
Zakar Zamin:            Which is who it was written for:
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I agree with Shawn..There are several "spoilers"
Zakar Zamin:            wikip: "by sheer accident a book called The Hobbit, which he had written some years before for his own children, came in 1936 to the attention of Susan Dagnall, an employee of the London publishing firm George Allen & Unwin, who persuaded Tolkien to submit it for publication"
Lihan Taifun:            as well as the stone giants playing football, and the golf joke
Belenos:                     i think that may be why there was such a delay between this and his other books... in the meantime he was learning to be a writer rather than a teller of tales..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  thank you, Zakar :)   and he was deciding what to do with this world he was creating.
Shawn Daysleeper:  in French the title is Bilbo le Hobbit, it is different in English
Belenos:                     yes... worldbuilding is a VERY time consuming task for a writer
Zakar Zamin:            Not to mention that ME was taking shape
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I read somewhere that Tolkien was not much of a self-starter.
Belenos giggles.. you know.. few writers are..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  nod nodnod
AelKennyr Rhiano gave you The Hobbit-- Chapters 3 & 4.  {hands out current notecard}   I thought this might help as we move forward...blushes
Zakar Zamin:            Which gives value to a group like the Inklings, give you a reason to get something done.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  literary groups are very very important.
Belenos:                     you have to watch that thought though zakar. sharing your work with others, and having it critiqued can also daunt the usually fragile confidence of a writer.: it can actually slow you down as you constantly second guess yourself..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  You have to have a secure relationship and alot of literary groups are very tight knit
Lihan Taifun:            if the group survives reading their works-in-progress to each other, they become tight knit?
Belenos:                     yes
AelKennyr Rhiano:  usually, they have something in common long before they become a literary group...usually, not always

AelKennyr Rhiano: for next time, Chapter 5-6?
Belenos:                     yes please.. *smiles*
Lihan Taifun:            sounds good
Shawn Daysleeper:  ok 5-6
Zakar Zamin:            Anyone have a view on the difference between orcs and goblins?
Belenos:                     size?
Shawn Daysleeper:  I thought they were the same
AelKennyr Rhiano:  they are the same, according to tolkien.
Zakar Zamin:            One place I read suggested that "goblin" was Hobbitish and "orc" common.
Shawn Daysleeper:  on the back of my copt the summary says Bilbo has to comfront orcs, wolves, spiders, etc
Belenos:                     i've always thought goblins were not as tall.. skinnier..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I believe that is D&D
Zakar Zamin:            hmmm... mine too, Shawn. : I think you're right Ael.
Belenos giggles.. possibly.. or maybe i'm thinking of the difference between goblins and those mega-orc things that were created
Lihan Taifun:            I always thought they were the same, just Tolkien changed his terminology between the books
Zakar Zamin:            Urik'hai??
Belenos:                     that's it: sorry.. my brain is not firing on all cylinders today
AelKennyr Rhiano:  "Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places but is usually translated goblin (or hobgoblin) for the larger kinds..." That is from Tolkien's prologue.
Shawn Daysleeper:  oh ya orcs and urik are different
Zakar Zamin:            and, slightly off subject, hobgoblins in myth are very different than in D&D
Shawn Daysleeper:  Uriks were created by saruman I think, after he becomes more evil
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh, yes to both
Belenos:                     yes.. i believe so, Shawn
Zakar Zamin:            That seems right... Saruman trying to make a bent and broken race "better".
AelKennyr Rhiano:  or worse, depending upon your view :P
Shawn Daysleeper:  orc /ôrk/
(in fantasy literature and games) a member of an imaginary race of humanlike creatures, characterized as ugly, warlike, and malevolent.
ORIGIN late 16th cent. (denoting an ogre): perhaps from Latin orcus hell” or Italian orco “demon, monster,” influenced by obsolete orc [ferocious sea creature] and by Old English orcneas [monsters.] The current sense is due to the use of the word in Tolkien's fantasy adventures.
Shawn Daysleeper:  according to my mac dictionary giggles
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Go, Shawn!
Belenos grins.. go Mac Dictionary
Shawn Daysleeper:  goblin /ˈgäblin/
a mischievous, ugly, dwarflike creature of folklore.
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French gobelin, possibly related to German Kobold (see kobold ) or to Greek kobalos “mischievous goblin.” In medieval Latin Gobelinus occurs as the name of a mischievous spirit, said to haunt Évreux in northern France in the 12th cent.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Go mac Dictionary!
Shawn Daysleeper:  those sound a lot different
Zakar Zamin:            Reading the last para of your NC makes me think of "Providence"
AelKennyr Rhiano:  you mean, pure blind luck, Zakar?
Zakar Zamin:            no... Providence, or heaven, or the hand of God. : often capitalized: divine guidance or care
Shawn Daysleeper:  Goblin seems a lot different from orc, but I think tolkein intends they are the same
AelKennyr Rhiano:  That could definitely be discussed
Shawn Daysleeper:  there is the sword Orcrist too
Lihan Taifun:            "Orcrist" is an Elvish name
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes, I think Tolkein does, too, Shawn.
Belenos:                     Yes, it sounds like it Shawn.. :)
AelKennyr Rhiano:  This was a great discussion :)
Shawn Daysleeper:  providence /ˈprävədəns, -ˌdens/
the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power : they found their trust in divine providence to be a source of comfort.
( Providence) God or nature as providing such care : I live out my life as Providence decrees.
timely preparation for future eventualities : it was considered a duty to encourage providence.
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French, from Latin providentia, from providere “foresee, attend to” (see provide ).
Belenos nods nods nods
Shawn Daysleeper:  giggles

AelKennyr Rhiano:  Any last comments, thoughts, observations?
Shawn Daysleeper:  I am finished
Lihan Taifun:            this was a good discussion  :)   thank you
AelKennyr Rhiano:  no, no, please, it is just that I know it is late for some people.  and it was a great discussion.
Shawn Daysleeper:  eeek ya bedtime for me
Zakar Zamin:            Given the hour, I'll hold my peace.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Remember, too, Lihan is always looking for topics for the Tolkien Discussion group
Lihan Taifun:            oh, we dont' have a topic for Discussion Group
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Snap! lol
Lihan Taifun grins! NEXT WEEK   and we don't have at topic. oh, Zakir, can you leverage what you don't have time to say now into a topic for that discussion?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  what about orcs? omg...yes
Shawn Daysleeper:  you started provedence so maybe Valinor as Tolkein's providence or something, oops typos
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Shawn that was very well put :)
Zakar Zamin:            I was going to comment on the NC's description of the races being morally homogeneous, but I'm not sure that would take that long. hmmm
AelKennyr Rhiano:  with us? you would be surprised.
Zakar Zamin:            probably
AelKennyr Rhiano:  :P
Zakar Zamin:            well, how about: Is ME monotheistic or polytheistic?
Lihan Taifun:            does that tie back to orcs?
Zakar Zamin:            did I miss a post?
Lihan Taifun:            does the "morally homogeneous" tie back to orcs?
Zakar Zamin:            yes,
Lihan Taifun:            orcs for next week? and providence/luck on the waiting list?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  that would work for me
Zakar Zamin:            fine with me
Belenos:                     works for me
{We confirm that Book Dicussion – Hobbit, Chapters 5 &6 – is Tuesday, May 15, 7 pm.
Tolkien Discussion Group – Topic: Orcs – is Tuesday, May 1, 7 pm}