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This is going to be odd... reading such a classic of fantasy like this! Should be interesting...

Also, I should note that, I'm reminded in reading the preface that this is a "corrected" version, and has the Riddle Game (in chapter 5) changed to reflect how things pan out in Lord of the Rings, or some such. (I'm not really sure how it was before honestly, or what changed!) So I'm wondering if anyone else will have a different version when we get there...

"A very comfortable tunnel without smoke..." do many underground tunnels contain smoke? Hum. Anyhow, reading this description always makes me tempted to have an underground house. :p

You know, I'm wondering now where the inspiration for the hobbits came from. If they were just created whole-cloth by Tolkien, unlike the elves and dwarves which came from folklore, or what. (Of course, it's even harder probably to tell nowadays since they in turn have influenced various things, like halflings in D&D...)

So... I'm guessing Tolkien was a believer of Nature over Nurture. :p Okay okay, it's probably not fair to declare what someone believes based on what they might make use of to tell a story. Anyhow...

Given Bilbo's initial reaction to the idea of adventure, one wonders how things would have turned out in his life had Gandalf never strolled by his hobbit-hole... would a desire for adventure eventually have reared its head regardless? If so, would he have heeded it, or just sat around and been miserable as a "respectable" hobbit? Or would such a taste never have come up, and he'd have been completely content in his respectability? Given how he reacts after Gandalf introduces himself, I tend to lean toward a desire for adventure making itself known somehow, sooner or later, but it's interesting to ponder. Well, I think so. *cough* anyhow...

Geez, reading this chapter is making me hungry. Also: rude dwarves! What do they think this is, a cafe? Even if a couple of them do lend a hand. A very brief one.

And just in case everything seemed to be getting serious, we get told about how a battle was won, and golf invented, all at the same time. :p

"A most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm called Smaug"... I wonder if that superlative description might be just a teeeeny bit biased? Not that I'm going to argue it, if Thorin's story is at all accurate.

Dwarves: Still rude! Seriously, I'm starting to wonder if part of the reason I've never liked dwarves as much as other fantasy races in general has been because of this book, now that I think it over!

Remember, Friday we cover Chapters 2 and 3!


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Sep. 5th, 2012 07:53 pm (UTC)
My take on the smoke line was always that it was meant to indicate proper ventilation, clear flues for fireplaces, etc.

I think there are a few indications that if Gandalf hadn't shown up, Bilbo miiiiiight one day have gone off to have an adventure by himself, because as much as he pretends otherwise he's that way naturally inclined (there's that hilarious line of his to Gandalf, "things used to be quite interes---I mean, you used to disturb things around here"). But there are also many indications that hobbit inertia would have held him down.

As far as I know hobbits are an entirely Tolkien invention. I mean, past the "little people living underground" thing and the obvious parallel to the way he saw the countryside folk of England. The word is his, and if I recall correctly, it all started when he scribbled "in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit" at the back of an essay he was grading or something. (The word "hobbit" was derived from something like "hol-bytla," if memory serves? Meaning hole-dweller?)
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Sep. 7th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
One hopes even hobbits don't smoke enough to fill a whole tunnel!
Sep. 9th, 2012 04:33 am (UTC)
My take on the smoke line was always that it was meant to indicate proper ventilation, clear flues for fireplaces, etc.

When I moved into my first Chicago apartment, I was surprised by the extra-high ceilings and odd covered bits on the wall. As I understand it, they were sconces for gas lights. Given when this was written, that seems plausible to me.

Reading this now, I'm struck as never before by how wealthy the Bagginses are. Kitchens, plural! The most luxurious hobbit-hole to be found around. Bilbo is definitely an old bachelor. It really does make the adventuring seem like a character change, as it ought. (As a kid, I just took that for granted.)

Finally, I was wondering just the other day how tall hobbits were, since my 2-year-old just hit 3'. And ... yeah, that's about how tall hobbits are. Shorter even, if they've half the height of an average person. That's crazy! OK, it makes the part about riding dogs as ponies reasonable (or was that just in D&D?). But she can't reach the sink faucets yet! Farming? House-building -- ahh, maybe that's why they prefer holes instead of frame houses. Adventuring? ... Well, maybe. (But she's more gnome than hobbit.) Having a 3' person running about the house, as graceful as an egg beater, does give me a much different appreciation for all the funny looks the hobbits get in the books.
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Sep. 10th, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
FWIW, Peter Dinklage is 4'5", which is nearly 50% taller than E., so 1.5x-2x taller than suggested hobbits. That's a huge difference.
Sep. 6th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)
In the original version of the riddle game, Gollum really intended to give Bilbo the Ring when Bilbo won the riddle game, and is apologetic when he can't find it. Bilbo knows he has it in his pocket, convinces Gollum to lead him out as a consolation prize, and their parting was, if not amicable, at least not unfriendly. (I looked this up-my original comment was slightly off.)

It's interesting how Gandalf is in this-much more of a jovial figure than he is in LOTR. It's also interesting to note that the tone in the initial chapter is much more comical: the story about the invention of golf could have been in a Discworld novel.

Lots of little nods to Norse and Old English legend-the names of the dwarves being the biggest one.

Edited at 2012-09-06 01:12 am (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
Well, even the tone of the LotR starts out light-hearted, in the Shire. But the Hobbit, as I understand it, came about as bedtime stories Tolkien was making up for his kids, based in the world he started making up in WW I. But as you & desdenova both say, lots of humor here at the start. And I suspect I'll get more of that on this read through. As a kid, I never picked up on the "teaching grandma to suck eggs" thing.

Norse dwarf names?
Sep. 9th, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
I never noticed the "teaching grandma to suck eggs" thing before, and I've read the book dozens of times!

There is a part of the Volupsa called the catalog of the dwarves: you can see Thorinn, Gandalf, and a few other names in it. (Thorinn's name starts with Þ in this.)

Edited at 2012-09-09 05:32 pm (UTC)
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Sep. 7th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think my biggest problem with this book might be just figuring out how all-knowing Gandalf is supposed to be. In some places, it seems like he knows everything and can plan for it, in others, he seems to be totally taken by surprise by things.
Sep. 9th, 2012 04:34 am (UTC)
Reading it with a little foreknowledge, though... the bit about Smaug being too lazy and unskilled to mend his armor kinda jumped out at me.

Very nice!
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Sep. 7th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
I think the narrator is someone generally in our (or Tolkien's, specifically) time, who for whatever reason knows of the Old Things and knows the old stories or whatever. At least, that's the impression I remember getting from this plus the trilogy.

And if golf were invented back then by a hobbit, it wouldn't be an anachronism!
Sep. 9th, 2012 04:22 am (UTC)
And if golf were invented back then by a hobbit, it wouldn't be an anachronism!


I've always -- well, for the past 20 some years, at any rate -- had the mental image of the Hobbit starting out as Tolkien telling stories to his kids. There's a lot I'll forgive a modern narrator sitting around a camp fire that I'd question in a novel taking itself seriously.
Sep. 10th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
True, this is why I try not to get TOO nitpicky with things like this, or the Alice books - because they have that sort of hand-wavey vibe.
Sep. 7th, 2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
As for the Dwarves' rudeness, it is obviously down to a difference in cultural expectations. :) Also, as far as the dwarves are concerned, Bilbo's going to be leaving town with them for an extended period, so they're doing him a favor by helping him eat up all the perishable foodstuffs!

If that's the case, remind me never to put myself at the mercy of dwarven culture. :p And I'm quite sure Bilbo's neighbors would be all too happy to help him out by eating perishables, once they realize he's gone for a while!
Sep. 9th, 2012 05:14 am (UTC)
If that's the case, remind me never to put myself at the mercy of dwarven culture. :p

I think someone said that when we were talking about Dragon Age (#1), too!
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