Discussing The Hobbit

Discussion of The Hobbit: a good place for Tolkien beginners to start
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Riv Res
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Discussing The Hobbit

Post by Riv Res » Mon Aug 08, 2005 2:44 am

Image
Bofur, Balin and Bilbo at Bag End

© Iolanthe



The Hobbit
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
I could tell you that in 1929 at the age of 37, Tolkien started telling stories of Bilbo to his four children. That he completed The Hobbit seven years later and it was published in 1937. This book however, was not the first endeavor to write down the stories of Middle-earth. It all started in 1916 written in a notebook entitled “The Book of Lost Tales” which later became The Silmarillion. However, you probably already know this information.

What you don’t know is as I read this book for the first time to my children (at seven years of age) they hung on every word. Bilbo was small but courageous. The dwarves were colorful, brave and silly. Gandalf was the guardian of them all. The trolls were large and scary. Beorn was wild and mysterious. Smaug was a worm to fear. And most of all, magic was real. Anything could be true; talking birds, elves, giant spiders all were real because they were all right there in one book.

Later, my daughter started to make connections with the images in my Tolkien desk calendar. The goblins were truly ugly and Gollum could be seen as evil or sad.

In the spirit of young children, here is a place we can discuss the going and coming back again of Bilbo Baggins. Of his adventures with dwarves, wizards, great eagles and one mean dragon. As always, please remember the House Rules. And lastly some words of advice from the Professor.
"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."
Last edited by Riv Res on Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

librislove
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Post by librislove » Mon Sep 19, 2005 3:10 am

Something that has always intrigued me about The Hobbit is the rather abrupt change in tone the work undergoes when we get the end of the story at the Lonely Mountain, when Smaug has died and Thorin and Co. seem determined to defend the treasure from all comers, even those like Bard's folk who have rights in the matter. We go from this ugly impasse to the Battle of Five Armies and Thorin's death--which while they have their moments of heroism and sentiment, and take the heroes into the larger world in positive roles that help us forget their earlier greed, nevertheless seem suddenly very "adult" for a children's story. Do you think Tolkien is asking his readers to grow and to grow up the way Bilbo has? Is he presaging the LOTR? Why the abrupt change in tone, with all the earlier essential silliness of the adventure suddenly gone? Thoughts? :shock: :D :twisted:
Many live who deserve death; some die who deserve life--can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be so quick to deal out death in judgment. Even the wisest cannot see all ends.

Merry
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Post by Merry » Mon Sep 19, 2005 5:18 am

Yes, great point, librislove! I have read The Hobbit to only a couple of children. It would be interesting to know if, in general, they like the more serious style or not. I know when it read Hobbit and LOTR at age ten, I loved the high medieval sort of language and serious themes, even though I didn't understand it all.

There are some remarks in the Letters that indicate that JRRT had come to regret the kind of silly style with the asides to the reader, etc. that he did in imitation of children's books in Hobbit and a little bit at the beginning of LOTR. He didn't think that it respected children's intelligence enough. And he didn't think it hurts children at all to be exposed to hard words of which they don't know the meaning.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Philipa
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Post by Philipa » Mon Sep 19, 2005 1:31 pm

librislove you are spot on with the tone change. I can tell you my children (who were seven) did not like from the battles on. I was reading ahead by a chapter to see if I needed to paraphrase bits and pieces (for the British lingo) and realized the kids were going to have difficulty understanding and sitting through to the end.

Merry interesting insight into Tolkien's thought about children dealing with heavier tones. I'm sure he was spared none as a child. But I can say my kids would have loved the silliness to continue to the end.

bruce rerek
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Post by bruce rerek » Mon Sep 19, 2005 4:06 pm

I will offer this:
Never laugh at living dragons.
Not exactally childish is it?
Bruce
Mornie utlie
Believe and you will find your way
Mornie alantie
a promise lives within you now

Merry
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Post by Merry » Mon Sep 19, 2005 4:58 pm

I would have had a better week at school last week if I had followed that advice!

I'm sure some of this depends on the age of the children. But weren't a lot of the original, folklore kinds of fairy tales pretty grim? (I always thought the Brothers Grimm were aptly named.)
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

librislove
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Post by librislove » Mon Sep 19, 2005 8:42 pm

Probably whether the child likes the end of The Hobbit depends on age/maturity level and presentation, as all of you have indicated, along with care on the part of the adults reading it. But Tolkienseemed, as a couple of you have indicated, to repudiate his own silliness with the abrupt change. I am not well-versed in the order in which he wrote the mythology, having concentrated on the LOTR and Hobbit only, but I seem to remember that some or most of the Sil came first. Could he have begun to feel that he was betraying his own serious work? That it truly was not meant for children? That it needed to go another way to another level to set up the next stage of the story? That he needed to elevate the story's tone?
Many live who deserve death; some die who deserve life--can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be so quick to deal out death in judgment. Even the wisest cannot see all ends.

Merry
Varda
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Post by Merry » Thu Sep 22, 2005 2:18 am

Hey, my MSN 'what happened on today's date?' entry today was that The Hobbit was published on Sept 21, 1937!
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Philipa
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Post by Philipa » Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:26 am

librislove wrote:

Could he have begun to feel that he was betraying his own serious work? That it truly was not meant for children? That it needed to go another way to another level to set up the next stage of the story? That he needed to elevate the story's tone?
Well, we know that some of this material was for Christopher and co. perhaps as they got older the content matured with them. Of course, I imagine most of the book is added in to the original Christmas stories to make it more detailed. But the storyline itself took years to write in between his real life duties....right? So time must have played in big party of the maturity of tone in the book.

Any input would be appreciated. :wink: :D

bruce rerek
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Post by bruce rerek » Thu Sep 22, 2005 3:56 pm

It has always been my intuition that as Tolkien developed his languages the landscape of midle Earth grew to the task of creating a living place for these tongues. In Tree and Leaf, we do get a glimpse of how intent Tolkien was about not creating a fairy tale but a fairy story (see: Recovery, Escape, and Consolation.) There is a very detailed discussion about the nature of what children could and could not comprehend or relate to, so that this mature vocie is still consistant with his philosophical underpinnings for writing his opus.
The actual language that speaks to these concepts if fairly complicated but worth going into if our fellow inkings would care to step into the implications of eschatology.
IMHO, I rather think we sell our children short when we determine in advance as to what they can or cannot understand. They may well not know the ins and outs of metaphysical concepts, but they are much less likely to have the closed mindedness of adults.
Any takers?
Bruce
Mornie utlie
Believe and you will find your way
Mornie alantie
a promise lives within you now

Cassandra
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Post by Cassandra » Thu Sep 22, 2005 7:18 pm

bruce rerek wrote: IMHO, I rather think we sell our children short when we determine in advance as to what they can or cannot understand. They may well not know the ins and outs of metaphysical concepts, but they are much less likely to have the closed mindedness of adults.
Wasn´t this the Professors opinion also? That´s why the Hobbit became more serious in the last chapters. But I guess it´s a thin line, not to demand to much from our children, but on the other hand also not to underestimate them.

Cassandra

Merry
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Post by Merry » Thu Sep 22, 2005 9:20 pm

Bruce, give me a couple of days to reread the essay: it has been a few years. Then you can talk eschatology to me all you want!
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Riv Res
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Post by Riv Res » Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:14 pm

Bruce I tend to agree with you about selling children short on their comprehension and intuition in storytelling and in many other things in life. I honestly think that (in the right environment) the analogy of children's minds being atune to sponges is very apropos. I societies where we coddle children and protect them, they naturally remain quite innocent. In places where children are exposed to harshness and brutality, I believe they mature very quickly in order to survive.

Having said that...one comment about Tolkien the philologist (and I think I even read this somewhere, and have to agree with it)...I think Tolkien was a master storyteller with this incredible knowledge of language and linguistic origins. In that respect, I believe that Tolkien invented all those languages because he knew how to...because he could...and...inserting them into this VAST tale from Silmarillion to Hobbit to Lord of the Rings was his way of having fun and showing off.

To quote Bruce...any takers? :wink: :D

Varda
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Post by Varda » Fri Sep 23, 2005 2:31 am

Riv Res~ I don't know about ..."having fun and showing off." I think Tolkien so enjoyed what he created that writing was the best way of sharing it with others. But showing off implies some conceit about your ability, and I don't think that was Tolkien. He never cared for the fans that found his home and came knocking on the door for autographs. I have often thought about how he would have felt w/ all the hoopla the LoTR movies garnered and the attention it has brought his writings. Would he have enjoyed it, I think not.

Riv Res
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Post by Riv Res » Fri Sep 23, 2005 3:32 am

Varda wrote:Riv Res~ I don't know about ..."having fun and showing off." I think Tolkien so enjoyed what he created that writing was the best way of sharing it with others. But showing off implies some conceit about your ability, and I don't think that was Tolkien. He never cared for the fans that found his home and came knocking on the door for autographs. I have often thought about how he would have felt w/ all the hoopla the LoTR movies garnered and the attention it has brought his writings. Would he have enjoyed it, I think not.
Varda, I would not want to imply conceit on Tolkien's part, but I think I read somewhere that he invented the languages simply to help him embellish on and tell these wonderful tales (mythology) that he created. I think they lent authenticity to his stories far much more because of his background in philology. But, I also do not believe that the Professor was above having some fun as if saying..."Hey! Look what I can do with language." IMHO :D

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