nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,
nancylebov
nancylebov

Rereading the Hobbit

I've reread the Hobbit, and enjoyed it more than when I read it as a kid, mostly due to reading more carefully.

I did a series about it on Facebook. I'm reposting my posts here to make them easier to find and get further discussion, but there are good comments at the Facebook links.

https://www.facebook.com/nancy.lebovitz/posts/10221497714854725

I'm rereading The Hobbit. It's been a long time, and it's better than I remembered. There's a difference between enjoying a book and realizing how good it is.

Anyway, I'm curious about providence and LOTR. I know it's a topic which has been explored, and I'm finding it interesting that Gandalf insisted on Bilbo accompanying the Dwarves, even though he had no idea where the Ring was, let alone that Bilbo would find it. Or that Gollum would be crucial to the destruction of the Ring, and it was Bilbo's personal qualities which kept him from killing Gollum.

Anyone want to take a crack at it? Or have a good source on the subject?

https://www.facebook.com/nancy.lebovitz/posts/10221557986401476

Still rereading The Hobbit. I'm impressed with the amount of thought-- economics, practicality, and geography/geology that Tolkien put in just so the party had a way to escape from the Elf King. (I'm talking about the barrels, the water-gate, the river, and the barrels.)

It's good to be reminded of ancient days when a water gate was a gate for water and not a shorthand for a political scandal.

It's interesting that Bilbo at home didn't slaughter or butcher his own meat-- it was delivered in packages from the butcher. How far back does that sort of thing go? I'm pretty sure the turkey Scrooge bought was at least plucked.

So I'm just barely out of Mirkwood, with the Lonely Mountain looming threateningly in the distance. I'm surprised at how much of the book is problems with Mirkwood rather than getting close to the treasure and the dragon.

I'm not the only one who's noticed the alternation between safe places and threat.

The trolls and the giant spiders of Mirkwood might be as sentient as orcs, but I haven't seen anyone worry about them.

(The FB thread includes a lot about the history of butchering and kosher butchering.)

https://www.facebook.com/nancy.lebovitz/posts/10221588208517010

I've finished rereading The Hobbit, and as before, I've found plenty to like, much of which I didn't notice on the first reading or didn't appreciate as much.

One thing I'm noticing is what I'm calling parsimony. While there are Dwarves and Elves, and Goblins and wizards and magic eagles, the story is centered around one dragon and one dragon treasure. It's possibly a result of this being intended as one novel rather than an indefinitely extended series.

One thing I appreciated more this time around is how much went into how terrifying Smaug is and how strong the appeal of dragon treasure is.

It's interesting to see how frightening Goblins are. They're not the bottom of the ecosystem the way they are in D&D and Jim Hines' series.

There's some interesting use of alliteration, a thing borrowed from Norse poetry. We're used to rhythm and rhyme, they used rhythm and alliteration.

"Bare is back without brother behind it".

"“A sword age, a wind age, a wolf age. No longer is there mercy among men.”
― Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda"

So when we see "He bent his bow for the last time" and
"The black arrow sped straight from the string, straight for the hollow by the left breast where the foreleg was flung wide. In it smote and vanished, barb, shaft and feather, so fierce was its flight.", the alliteration isn't on every stress, but it's there-- and it's much more present in battle scenes.

Have another topic-- part of the fun and sophistication of the book is what I'm going to call social comedy. While it's only a moderately cynical book, people frequently have mixed motives and they're trying to get what that want without telling the whole truth. I don't know if Tolkien got this from Austen or what. Maybe there's more of it in the classic texts than I realize.

There are repeated mentions of Bilbo being lucky-- I have no idea where that fits with the metaphysics of the book or the series.

Something I don't like is Bilbo's size is something I'd call the marked state. The marked state is the opposite of the unmarked state, the usual which doesn't need to be mentioned. Thus, Bilbo is described as having "a little head" when all that's needed is mentioning his head.

Here's an example: "He was trembling with fear, but his little face was set and grim." Why not have it as "his face was set and grim"?

There's a lot about negotiation, about appropriate concern for interests vs. just insisting on one's own side. Negotiation in fantasy, but failed and successful, is a large subject and probably worth a book-length treatment.

I paid more attention to the aftermath about the dragon-hoard and the battle than previously, so I have appreciation for Beorn and the eagles, not to mention how dangerous dwarves are. And the good work Bard did caring for the Lake people. This entry was posted at https://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1113580.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
Tags: butchering, marked state, the hobbit, tolkien
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