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Old 03-19-2018, 05:50 AM   #2
Overshadowed Eagle
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Huinesoron is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Huinesoron is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
A question:

Given that the links between the play's plot and The Hobbit are pretty tenuous, and given that the only English Literature Tolkien is attested as studying is Shakespeare (per Ms. Seth's quoting of Letter #163), would it not be simpler to assume that Tolkien's use of the word 'Bilbo' comes from Shakespeare's own use of the word?

Originally Posted by The Merry Wives of Windsor: Act III, Scene 5
...I suffered the pangs
of three several deaths; first, an intolerable
fright, to be detected with a jealous rotten
bell-wether; next, to be compassed, like a good
bilbo, in the circumference of a peck, hilt to
point, heel to head; and then, to be stopped in,
like a strong distillation, with stinking clothes
that fretted in their own grease...
The word here means a sword, purportedly named after the Spanish city Bilbao (after which Dekker's character would also have been named). Note that this particular metaphorical Bilbo is shoved into a barrel (a 'peck'), giving it a direct tie to The Hobbit. It's also part of a line spoken by Falstaff, the famous 'fat, vain, boastful, and cowardly knight' - and 'fat, vain, and cowardly' (and comedic) is an excellent description of Bilbo at the start of his adventure (though not the end!).

If we are not going to accuse Tolkien of outright lying about knowing the origin of the name (as Ms. Seth does! She quotes his avowed lack of knowledge, but still ends up concluding intentional parody on his part), then surely it makes more sense to trace it to a word spoken by a character who has vague resonances with Bilbo Baggins, in a play that Tolkien was far more likely to have read (the Bodlean is a very large library, and Jacobean plays were [b]not[/i] his field of study - the possibility of him stumbling upon '... in London' is remote). The word could have rattled around in his head for years, as an unfamiliar term (maybe he had to look it up, to find out what a 'bilbo' was!), before finally working its way out as the name of Mr. Baggins of Bag-End.

As it happens, the word also shows up in Hamlet:

Originally Posted by Hamlet: Act V, Scene 2
Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting,
That would not let me sleep: methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes...
Here the word basically means 'manacles'. Either of these seem far more likely sources than Dekker, since we know that Tolkien read Shakespeare, and we also know that English Literature was not his field, so browsing Jacobean plays would have been distinctly outside the box.

(NOTE: I accept that the superficial links from various parts of The Hobbit to the Dekker play are there - though my King Gollumon message still holds true, you can link anything to anything else. What I don't accept is that they make up for the unlikeliness of Tolkien ever encountering the Dekker play.)

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