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Old 08-02-2012, 12:38 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Ring Hobbit2 - Chapter 09 - Barrels Out of Bond

It's unusual for Tolkien to choose a chapter title that almost gives away the end of the chapter. I wonder why he did so here? (The reason could be something so mundane as that nothing better occurred to him...)

Normally, both here and in LotR, Elven realms are safe havens for those travellers who come there. However, Dwarves are an exception - captives here, and even in Lothlorien later, Gimli's eyes had to be blindfolded. Still, I think the Dwarves' lives were saved in this case, since they escaped Mirkwood and had food and drink during their captivity.

Bilbo could have had a more enjoyable stay in other company, but since he was the only one who was able to find an escape, this episode is crucial to his personal development. I imagine the upcoming movies will make a good deal more of this chapter - it does have possibilities! His use of the ring is crucial to the plot at this point - without invisibility, he could not have helped the Dwarves.

The escape ends with a cliffhanger - did the Dwarves survive their flight alive? I won't answer - wouldn't want to spoil it for you!


The previous discussion can be found here.
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Old 08-02-2012, 01:22 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
It's unusual for Tolkien to choose a chapter title that almost gives away the end of the chapter. I wonder why he did so here? (The reason could be something so mundane as that nothing better occurred to him...)
Well, Flies and Spiders was pretty suggestive itself.

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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Normally, both here and in LotR, Elven realms are safe havens for those travellers who come there. However, Dwarves are an exception - captives here, and even in Lothlorien later, Gimli's eyes had to be blindfolded. Still, I think the Dwarves' lives were saved in this case, since they escaped Mirkwood and had food and drink during their captivity.
I don't think there's any doubt the wood-elves saved the lives of Thorin and Co.
In the context of The Hobbit, without knowing a great deal of the history of elves in general, I think the actions of the wood-elves are more a contrast to the earlier treatment the company received at the hands of the goblins than anything else.

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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Bilbo could have had a more enjoyable stay in other company, but since he was the only one who was able to find an escape, this episode is crucial to his personal development. I imagine the upcoming movies will make a good deal more of this chapter - it does have possibilities! His use of the ring is crucial to the plot at this point - without invisibility, he could not have helped the Dwarves.
Invisibility certainly made the escape possible. Bilbo is not only using his own resources to help his friends, but he makes use of what seemed to him to be merely a useful tool.
It's interesting though, the way the Ring becomes so crucial to Bilbo's success so quickly, almost as if it were itself suggesting he use it.
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Old 08-03-2012, 12:40 PM   #3
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This chapter is purposely light. Neither dwarves nor the hobbit are in deadly peril and the dwarves would probably be able to free themselves just by clearly explaining why they were in Mirkwood.

The elves treat the uncooperative dwarves reasonably well. The elves might easily have refused food to the dwarves or even refused them food and water until the dwarves gave an account of themselves. The elves might have resorted to more direct torture. The elves did not. But the treatment of simple imprisonment worked sufficiently that Thorin, ignorant of the whereabouts of the other dwarves and Bilbo, was at last ready to tell all, until Bilbo got to Thorin.

So really the dwarves’ predicament was mostly their own fault and almost all Bilbo accomplished was to gain the dwarves’ freedom in a more complicated and dangerous fashion than was necessary.

Still, in the end, Bilbo’s plan worked and left the elves very puzzled.

In the chapter “Flies and Spiders″ Tolkien tells of the dwarves hearing the sounds of an elvish hunt including “the sound as of dogs baying far off.″ But dogs are not mentioned again. Presumably the dogs are housed in huts outside the elvish fortress and the hunters first ride to the huts. At least no mention is made of Bilbo facing any peril from suspicious hounds scenting him in the elvish fortress.

The mention of “air-holes″ in the barrels raises the problem that any holes would seem to create the danger of water rushing into the holes and drowning the occupants. The air-holes must have been all on one side of each barrel and one of the tasks of the occupant of a barrel must have been to keep his body on the side of the barrel away from the air-holes so that the barrel floated with the air-holes on top.

How were the air-holes created? Were there augers lying about where the barrels were stored?

The song beginning “Down to the swift dark stream you go …″ is a nice surprise. It is very elvish and very memorable.

John D. Rateliff in his The History of The Hobbit mentions,
The idea of hiding in barrels or crates is of course an ancient one (cf. the story of Ali Baba) that needs no specific source.
One of many possible sources is Le Charroi de Nîmes (‘The Wagon-Train of Nîmes’) in which Count William conquers the city of Nîmes by disguising himself as a merchant and entering the city in peace with his men hidden in a thousand barrels which supposedly contain his merchandise. Each man has a mallet which he may use to break open the barrel when he hears the sound of William’s bugle. So Nîmes is conquered in this tale which is not based on history. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charroi_de_N%C3%AEmes .

Tolkien’s tales is far less violent and avoids the treachery in this possible source. I am unaware of any source in which the protagonists do something so dangerous as floating down a river in barrels.

Tolkien’s illustration “Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves” is excellent for its own sake but differs markedly from the text in which the barrels comes to the huts before morning. Indeed, apparently this occurs hours before morning as Bilbo then has time to wander invisibly into the huts and steal a loaf, a leather bottle of wine, and a pie with which he spends “the rest of the night″.

As a child, when reading this, I was bothered by the discrepancy and decided that the sun seen in the picture must really be supposed to be a full moon rising or setting. Of course, I now see that this interpretation does not stand up. Bilbo is looking east and so the supposed moon must be a rising moon, and if full then it must be facing a setting sun, setting the scene just after sunset which would be impossibly early. Besides, the sky is too bright to be a night sky.
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Old 08-13-2012, 04:58 PM   #4
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I always found the Elves in this chapter very interesting, even more so after reading Lord of the Rings. If the Elves are these incredibly wise, all-knowing and intelligent creatures why do they imprison the Dwarves? They must know that they are not going to be any real threat, especially within the home domain of the Elves. Yet these Elves are quick to anger, love treasure in a similar fashion to the Dwarves and shut the Dwarves up somewhere rather than engaging them in discussion.

Really the chapter gives more information about the inherent distrust and dislike the Elves and Dwarves have for each other. Or rather, an implicit understanding that these races just do not get on. Reading Lord of the Rings after this and the chapter in which Gimli must be blindfolded to enter Lothlorien, despite the Dwarves having had no real negative dealing with the Elves in years and the fact that Sauron is at large in the world - it is an interesting little extra detail in the story. Old hatreds continuing with no reason.

One thing I love here is the 'breaking the fourth wall' aspect that pops up. When Tolkien mentions to the reader that we have probably figured out the flaw in Bilbo's plan - he has no barrel! The feeling of secret, inside knowledge it gives you as a reader makes you enjoy the chapter even more. It makes you worry for Bilbo because you are then more involved in wanting to know how he is going to get out! It's a very effective little one liner.
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Old 08-13-2012, 07:30 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by jallanite View Post
John D. Rateliff in his The History of The Hobbit mentions,
The idea of hiding in barrels or crates is of course an ancient one (cf. the story of Ali Baba) that needs no specific source.
One of many possible sources is Le Charroi de Nîmes (‘The Wagon-Train of Nîmes’) in which Count William conquers the city of Nîmes by disguising himself as a merchant and entering the city in peace with his men hidden in a thousand barrels which supposedly contain his merchandise. Each man has a mallet which he may use to break open the barrel when he hears the sound of William’s bugle. So Nîmes is conquered in this tale which is not based on history. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charroi_de_N%C3%AEmes.
A noteworthy mention. I can think of a number of stories (both historical and myths) where people get into walled and guarded cities with the help of barrels (or waggons or giant wooden horses), but very few where people use these things to get out!

The escape is unique and original. The reader expects Thorin&co to escape eventually, but such a fashion is completely unexpected! Bilbo's plan more than satisfies the reader's lust for a miraculous, lucky, and ingenious solution.
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