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Old 06-13-2004, 10:04 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR - Prologue

Let's discuss the Prologue to LotR! Fordim Hedgethistle, the initiator of this project, will post his introduction. After that, everyone is welcome to participate. Tell us what you especially like (or don't like!) about the Prologue, what affects you personally, or what puzzles you. We look forward to reading many different contributions!
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Old 06-13-2004, 10:07 PM   #2
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Welcome to the discussion thread for the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings. There is so much to discuss that I will not even attempt to be comprehensive in this initial post. Instead, I will merely point out three passages that I think open the door to themes and ideas that will become extremely important in the book as it proceeds.

Quote:
They possessed from the first the art of disappearing swiftly and silently, when large folk whom they do not wish to meet come blundering by; and this art they have developed until to Men it may seem magical. But Hobbits have never, in fact, studied magic of any kind, and their elusiveness is due solely to a professional skill that hereditary and practice, and a close friendship with the earth, have rendered inimitable by bigger and clumsier races.
This passage clearly sets up a debate between “art” and “magic” that goes to the very heart of what differentiates good from evil in Middle-Earth. On the one hand there is the ‘natural’ (“close friendship with the earth" ) “art” of the Hobbits who can disappear through their “skill”; on the other there is the “magic” of the Enemy whose Ring confers invisibility. The effect of the magic and art is the same (invisibility) but the means are completely different. This passage is extremely dubious about magic insofar as it seems to be a kind of a ‘cheat’ (“may seem magical" ) – instead, this description of the Hobbits would seem to suggest that their abilities are derived from their own efforts. What I find most interesting about this passage is how it begins the book’s exploration of the relation between Hobbits and Sauron (the Ring) not in terms of good versus evil, but in terms of natural skill versus unnatural/deceitful magic.

At the same time, the passage hints rather darkly at a connection of some kind between Hobbits and the Ring, insofar as the magic (or ‘magic' ) of each is defined by the ability to confer invisibility.

Quote:
The Mathom-house it was called: for anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort.
I always like to think of the Ring as a mathom when I read this. It is the ultimate Object for which there is no “immediate use” and yet which anyone who possesses it is “unwilling to throw away.” Unlike true mathoms, however, the Ring is not something that is willingly “passed from hand to hand.” As in the passage I cited above, this one points to the profound and important differences between Hobbits and the Ring, while at the same time hinting at some kind of dark connection. On the one hand, the Hobbits seem to have found the ‘solution’ to the Ring: rather than letting it ‘clutter up’ one’s hole, it is better to “throw away” the Ring. Hobbits, with their desire to live a quiet and simple (elsewhere in the Prologue we hear it is a “well-ordered" ) life, really do have “no immediate use” for the Ring. At the same time, however, while they are willing to give up their mathoms, they are not willing to let them be destroyed or cast away: they end up in the “mathom house.” So even though they are apparently able to rid themselves of the things that threaten to overwhelm them, they are not willing to forsake these objects entirely.

Quote:
For they attributed to the king of old all their essential laws; and usually they kept the laws of free will, because they were The Rules (as they said), both ancient and just.
This is one of those wonderfully simple sentences that Tolkien so often writes that open up into all kinds of complexities when you pay it a bit of closer attention. How, in the name of Eru, can Hobbits keep the “laws of free will” because they are “The Rules”? This would appear to be a contradiction in terms: “free will” would appear to mean freedom, and a lack of constraint – the ability to do as one chooses; but “The Rules” (capitalised no less) would appear to be the precise opposite – one follows rules and does what they say. (Again, there is a dark premonition of how the Hobbits are perhaps connected to the forces of evil at an intrinsic level: when the travellers come back they are upset by all the Rules that Sharkey has put into place. But I am getting ahead of myself by about 13 months!) I don’t think that this really is a contradiction, but it is a very complicated kind of statement, and one that goes to the very nature of the story that is about to be told.

The important point about all three of these passages is, I think, that they are about Hobbits and not about Frodo, Sam, Merry or Pippin. They are all extraordinary people – heroes, even – but their ability to do good in the war against evil is here, I think, being set up as being the result of their Hobbit-natures. The book thus begins with a celebration not of the individuals who will be combating evil, but of the ideals and qualities that can be successfully pitted against the forces of darkness. At the same time, the Prologue seems to acknowledge that connection that exists between the forces of good and the forces of evil – perhaps even acknowledges the co-dependence of light and dark.

One last point to make about the Prologue is, of course, how it works so hard to establish the fiction of the book as being a historical document retrieved and recovered by an editor from older primary works, rather than a fictional story told by an author. It is here that Tolkien makes his most apparent move, I think, into the idea that these events are ‘historical’ and therefore open to interpretation by a community of readers rather than subservient to any single interpretation, be that interpretation authorial or from a single readerly perspective.

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Old 06-14-2004, 01:36 AM   #3
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Here we go...now the fun really begins.

From the start of the Prologue, Tolkien has the same tone that he took on with the First Foreward. The sense of having something fictional explained to you as if it was real, and in such a way that you are at once immersed in the very core of Middle-Earth, and more specifically the hobbits, which as Tolkien mentioned, the book is largely concerned with.

In the first section, Concerning Hobbits, one sees a glimpse of rare hobbit history. The three original groups of Hobbits, the Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides all have different charictaristics, but invariably they all end up in the Shire and intermingle. By the time of Bilbo and Co, the different strains are all mixed, but one can still see the vestiges of the old clans in the prominent hobbit families.

The Tooks, for instance, are obviously decended from the Fallohides, given thier fondness for adventure and elves.

Also, the Brandybuck clan is given as having the Fallohide traits, but they also show a few similarities to the Stoors, like thier liking for water and boats (Smeagol and Deagol come to mind here) and for consorting with men.


In addition, to interesting points on hobbit history, Tolkien gives a small insight into the Dunadain and thier relationship with hobbits. Despite their previous relationships with other races, hobbits grow closer to Men than Dwarves or Elves, even though there are communities of both within easy reach of the Shire. I think this has to do with thier (much) earlier relation with Men, and the fact that they have similar qualities.

Of the second section, Concerning Pipe-Weed, I feel I must quote Gandalf in saying that Hobbits could sit on the edge of ruin and discuss such trifles as pipe-weed. Tolkien mentioned that he was, in all but size, a hobbit, and here he is, proving that fact by devoting an entire section to something as trivial (when compared to the plots of the story) as the origins of this mysterious weed.

In fact, the quote I mentioned above is given in relation to Merry, who spoke in earnest to the King Theoden about pipe-weed. Again, this proves my point made above that Men and hobbits are indeed related, since (as it seemed to me) that Theoden was as interested in carrying on the converstation as much as Merry was.
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Old 06-14-2004, 03:22 AM   #4
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What immediately struck me was the fact we have three 'breeds'' of Hobbits, Three houses of Men, Three branches of the High Elves. Why? Of course, Tolkien did originally set out to create a mythology for England, & England was settled by three peoples - Angles, Saxons & Jutes. Its so blatant that he must have intended something by it, but why always Three 'houses'?

Quote:
Of the second section, Concerning Pipe-Weed, I feel I must quote Gandalf in saying that Hobbits could sit on the edge of ruin and discuss such trifles as pipe-weed. Tolkien mentioned that he was, in all but size, a hobbit, and here he is, proving that fact by devoting an entire section to something as trivial (when compared to the plots of the story) as the origins of this mysterious weed.
As a pipe smoker I must take exception to the history of pipeweed being referred to as 'trivial'. It is, as the Blessed Merriadoc has stated, an 'ART'. This is clearly one of the most important parts of the book, & if Tolkien has let us down anywhere it is in only selectively quoting from the introduction to Merriadoc Brandybuck's classic work.

Quote:
How, in the name of Eru, can Hobbits keep the “laws of free will” because they are “The Rules”? This would appear to be a contradiction in terms: “free will” would appear to mean freedom, and a lack of constraint – the ability to do as one chooses; but “The Rules” (capitalised no less) would appear to be the precise opposite – one follows rules and does what they say. (Again, there is a dark premonition of how the Hobbits are perhaps connected to the forces of evil at an intrinsic level: when the travellers come back they are upset by all the Rules that Sharkey has put into place.
But Rules (even capitalised ones ) are optional - It is customary to keep them, its what ('decent') people do, in a sense, its how you distinguish decent people from 'indecent' ones (ones who go off & have adventures ). All communities have such 'Rules', because they promote social cohesion. Clearly some people are just waiting for the opportunity to break the Rules - Otho & Ted Sandyman for instance.

I do think its interesting the way Tolkien wishes to deny any speculation about 'magic' as regards Hobbits. Maybe he feels that the reader may form the impression that they are supernatural creatures (HOBgoblins, HOBthrusts, HOBhounds - all supernatural creatures from folklore), so he's attempting to disabuse us of the idea, & emphasise their ordinaryness - they're 'relatives of ours'.
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Old 06-14-2004, 04:19 AM   #5
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White Tree Concerning Hobbits

It's interesting that reading the description of Hobbits one can see why 'they were meant' to be the heroes of this book.

1. 'A people of no importance'
First of all, little was known about them by both Elves and Men; their origins and early history are a mystery even to themselves. Even afterwards they appear in very few records. So it is very likely that the Enemy would be unaware of their existance, of their strenghts and weaknesses, and very likely to underestimate the former, once he did learn of their existance.

2. Appearances are deceiving
Although their are fat, small and appear lazy, they are nimble, swift, skilled at bow and arrow and stone-throwing, and 'curiously tough'.

3. The art of dissaapearing versus the magic of dissapearing
As it has already been brought up in this thread, by Fordim and Davem, they are distinct and meant to express opposite things. Whether this is just a well-placed irony (they already can dissapear, so they don't need a Ring to do it), or an attempt to make them more familiar to the reader, it's still debatable. But it's clear that a hobbit's art of dissapearing is closer to nature, similar to an animal's becoming one with the scenery in order to avoid predators.

4. Basic needs and pleasures
The simplicity of their thoughts and desires make them less likely to be usurped by the more sophisticated 'lust for power' that the Ring evoked.
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Old 06-14-2004, 05:12 AM   #6
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to post #2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
At the same time, the Prologue seems to acknowledge that connection that exists between the forces of good and the forces of evil – perhaps even acknowledges the co-dependence of light and dark.
Honestly, it was a really good post up there, Fordim, but it seems that you are taking it too far . I'd be happier if the whole co-dependence of light and dark may be replaced with something like 'dark absence of light', or 'evil as lack of good' maxims. On the whole, I believe Tolkien denies such co-dependence, and is rather in line with Boethius, with a dash of more active rather than passive resistence to Nothing (with capital N for the sake of its personification in Sauron

It is subject of interpretation, really. All quotes you provide us with are as good when interpreted as: Hobbits healthy customs, once perverted, may become that and that

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Old 06-14-2004, 05:20 AM   #7
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One of my favorite things about the prologue is that it gives us insights to the "ordinary" hobbit. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin (and Bilbo) are rather "extra-ordinary" in that they go on adventures and they very much grow from what they were to who they become, and they are not the simple hobbits any more. But the prologue shows us who the average hobbits are.
Quote:
How, in the name of Eru, can Hobbits keep the “laws of free will” because they are “The Rules”? This would appear to be a contradiction in terms: “free will” would appear to mean freedom, and a lack of constraint – the ability to do as one chooses; but “The Rules” (capitalised no less) would appear to be the precise opposite – one follows rules and does what they say.
It is in the nature of hobbits to be peaceful. Frodo says later on that no hobbit has ever killed another. I have to think that this would be more than because there is a rule saying don't do it. In this world, if a person really wants to kill someone, they do it whether there is a rule or not. But hobbits don't really need the rules for living - is seems like they are just there.
Quote:
[The Shirriffs] were in practice rather haywards than policemen, more concerned with the strayings of beasts than of people.
So it sounds like even the Shirriffs weren't very concerned about making people follow the rules: it wasn't necessary. I think that this tells us a couple things about hobbits. 1. They are peaceful, and do not like violence. 2. Hobbits like things that make sense - they kept the rules because they were "ancient and just", meaning that if they hadn't been just in the hobbits' eyes, they wouldn't have kept them. This would be why the hobbits have a problem with all of Sharkey's rulses - they don't make sense and they weren't necessary before. In conclusion to this, of their own free-will hobbits did what was right because that is their nature, and in doing so they followed "The Rules".

On the topic of magic, I have only one thing to add, and that is something Galadriel said: "For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearlywhat they mean; and they seem to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy." Like pipe-weed, the "magic" of disappearing is also more like an Art than anything else.

Quote:
Hobbits delighted in such things if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.
This is my favorite line in the prologue, and in my opinion a very good summary of hobbits opinions on books in general, at least before LotR. As an afterthought, the tone of this line seems very much like that of The Hobbit, as does much of the prologue.
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Old 06-14-2004, 07:04 AM   #8
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Pipe

I'm disappointed that Tolkien doesn't list New England as a place to find Hobbits.

Who else, reading this prologue, tiptoes thru the woods as quietly as possible?

Who else wishes to be "curiously tough"?

Firefoot:
Quote:
{quote}Hobbits delighted in such things if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions. {/QUOTE} This is my favorite line in the prologue, and in my opinion a very good summary of hobbits opinions on books in general, at least before LotR.
And yet this immediately sets some hobbits apart; Bilbo, Frodo, even Sam-- especially Sam. "Elves and dragons! Cabbages and potatoes are better for you." Even before the quest, Sam was unusual.

davem wrote:
Quote:
I do think its interesting the way Tolkien wishes to deny any speculation about 'magic' as regards Hobbits.
I had often thought his insistence a little odd, but considered this way it's quite comforting.

also from davem:
Quote:
Angles, Saxons & Jutes
Call me clueless... Picts? Celts? De Danaan? where do they fit in? I thought it was more complex.
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Old 06-14-2004, 08:33 AM   #9
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Boots Concernin' 'obbits

I think it is a little interesting that hobbits like "a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside." Ordering and farming the land is in a sense dominating it. I realize that this is nothing like what the orcs did to the land, but it is still messing with the original environment.

Perhaps a certain level of domination over one's surroundings is necessary in order to survive?

I don't know if Tolkien ever thought of it this way before.

Quote:
Call me clueless... Picts? Celts? De Danaan? where do they fit in? I thought it was more complex.
Speaking strictly of England, the Picts were in Scotland and the Germans drove most everybody else off to the west.
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Old 06-14-2004, 08:35 AM   #10
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H-I I’m afraid I must stand by ‘co-dependence’ of light and dark for the moment (insofar as we are discussing the Prologue here) – the relation between “magic” and “art/skill” here is not one of simple either-or; the Hobbits can “appear” magical through their “art” so these two terms seem to be connected to one another. Also, the discussion of mathoms is fascinating in that it points to how Hobbits can be possessive and even acquisitive – even as they are being celebrated as the possessors of the heroic traits necessary to combat the darkness (as Evisse points out). Thanks, also, to Firefoot for the quote:

Quote:
Hobbits delighted in such things if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.
This doesn’t sound bad or dark or evil, but it does echo (albeit faintly) the kind of ‘orcish’ thinking that comes to overtake the Shire under the “Rules” of Sharkey; it’s also an echo (perhaps very faintly now) of the way of Mordor in that there is no desire for more knowledge or learning (‘lore’ ) but singularity and conformity (“no contradictions” ). So while I agree with Evisse that the Hobbits are the real heroes (perhaps even more so than the extraordinary four who go forth on the quest?) I think as well that they have the potential for darkness within them (acquisitiveness, desire for singularity and order, desire/ability to become invisible). They are not ‘pure’ manifestations of natural ‘good’ who can be corrupted, but – like ‘us’ – regular and normal people who are capable of both “magic” and “art”, “Rules” and freedom, “order” and “contradictions”, generosity and possessiveness.

I think this is also why (to pick up on Saraphim’s post) the Hobbits are presented here as being like (as amalgams of?) the other races. They are most emphatically not ‘pure’ but a mixture of all the different types and traits that make up the denizens of Middle-Earth: Dwarves, Men and Elves – so easily distinguished from one another in more ways than the merely physical – are all ‘combined’ in some manner in Hobbit nature.

EDIT -- cross posting with Kuruharan: that is an excellent point! It points to the difference between orcs/Mordor and Hobbits/the Shire as being a difference in degree rather than kind.
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Old 06-14-2004, 09:04 AM   #11
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Prologue as Epilogue

Quote:
As a pipe smoker I must take exception to the history of pipeweed being referred to as 'trivial'. It is, as the Blessed Merriadoc has stated, an 'ART'. This is clearly one of the most important parts of the book, & if Tolkien has let us down anywhere it is in only selectively quoting from the introduction to Merriadoc Brandybuck's classic work.
Indeed! It is also a wondrous thing to go back and read the Prologue once the book has just been finished. One finds out where Meriadoc learned parts of his lore, reads vague allusions to the extraordinary growth of "two characters of old" that are dealt with in the following work and exceed the great stature of Bandobras Took, etc. etc. It almost seems as if the prologue is an epilogue as well! It hints at the connections of Meriadoc and Peregrin with Rohan and Gondor, tells us that Frodo indeed lives to complete a history of the War of the Ring and that there are considerations made for the "children of Samwise."

I could probably say more on other points, but, alas, I have litle time! It is great to be joining the discussion, however!

Cheers!
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Old 06-14-2004, 09:40 AM   #12
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Kuruharan wrote:
Quote:
Ordering and farming the land is in a sense dominating it.
To which Fordim replied:
Quote:
It points to the difference between orcs/Mordor and Hobbits/the Shire as being a difference in degree rather than kind.
Only if you believe that any discipline is abuse and that any excercise of authority is subjugation. I certainly don't believe that (and I don't think Tolkien did). There is every difference between maintaining peace, prosperity, and productivity, vice, wrenching and using what is useful (from the land or the people) regardless of the cost or consequences. Intent is key.
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Old 06-14-2004, 10:06 AM   #13
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Fordim

Quote:
I think as well that they have the potential for darkness within them (acquisitiveness, desire for singularity and order, desire/ability to become invisible). They are not ‘pure’ manifestations of natural ‘good’ who can be corrupted, but – like ‘us’ – regular and normal people who are capable of both “magic” and “art”, “Rules” and freedom, “order” and “contradictions”, generosity and possessiveness.
I certainly don't think Tolkien idealised Hobbits in any way. They are meant to be ordinary, with faults. They are incredibly parochial, intolerant & quite smug. Frodo (& Bilbo, Sam, Merry & Pippin, to a lesser extent) outgrows the world of the Shire because of his experiences. Without wanting to jump ahead too far, I think its worth noting that there are some similarities between the Hobbits treatment of the trees in the Old Forest & what the Orcs do to Fangorn. How much of Treebeard can we see in Old Man Willow?

Kuruharan
Quote:
Quote:

Quote:
Call me clueless... Picts? Celts? De Danaan? where do they fit in? I thought it was more complex.
Speaking strictly of England, the Picts were in Scotland and the Germans drove most everybody else off to the west.
This is certainly a difference between the Hobbits who come into a mainly deserted Eriador, & the Anglo-Saxons, who found Britain far from deserted. Whether they 'drove everybody else off to the west' is another question - there is some evidence of it being merely a change of ruling houses. I can speak for both sides as, while being English, my ancestors were from Brittany, & came over (going as far back as possible) with William the Conquerer when he invaded. The Bretons were Britons who had been driven into northern France by the Anglo-Saxons - Hence two 'Britains' - 'Lesser' Britain (Brittany) & 'Greater' (or 'Great') Britain. (Here endeth the lesson
).

It is interesting that Tolkien, if he is indeed trying to draw a conection between the Hobbits & the incoming English, has them coming to a deserted country.

Its interesting also that he presents the climate of the Shire as being suitable for growing a form of Tobacco, though. Apparently England used to have a warmer climate.
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Old 06-14-2004, 10:08 AM   #14
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mark12_30 you wrote:

Quote:
There is every difference between maintaining peace, prosperity, and productivity, vice, wrenching and using what is useful (from the land or the people) regardless of the cost or consequences. Intent is key.
While I agree with this, I could not help but thinking how well this would go over with an Ent if he caught one of the Hobbits hacking down a tree. Even if the Hobbit were cultivating the forest in the most responsible manner and desired to use the wood of the tree only to build a barn. . .I don't think that the Ent would be too pleased!

"Intent" is indeed the key -- but as we learn in the Prologue, there are a number of intents that the Hobbits have in common with Sauron:

Order
Invisibility
'using' the land
Rules

Again, I would argue that the difference is one of degree not kind -- yes, the Hobbits intend to establish order for the sake of a well-regulated life, and intend to use the land for 'good'. So they are emphatically not the same as Sauron, but they do share his desire for the above things.

(Crazy idea: they also echo Sauron insofar as they produce smoke? Mount Doom as the anti-pipe? Desire for pipeweed akin to desire for power? Both are forms of self-gratification that are unhealthy if not taken in moderation. . .???)
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Old 06-14-2004, 10:10 AM   #15
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They are not ‘pure’ manifestations of natural ‘good’ who can be corrupted, but – like ‘us’ – regular and normal people who are capable of both “magic” and “art”, “Rules” and freedom, “order” and “contradictions”, generosity and possessiveness.
Yes, but they do have a degree of innocence that separates them from other races, which makes their 'corruption', or tresspasses, if you will, more significant than a Man's or an Elf's. In their own basic way they have created a paradise in their Shire, which is unequaled by other races they are an amalgam of, so if only in that they are special.
I agree that hobbits are somwhat the 'anti-heroes', (not possessing the qualities one has come to expect in a standard hero). Tolkien plays with our mind in describing them as totally plain, and simple-minded in the beginning, so that later on in the story, he may unravel their qualities. It's like he's giving us a lesson: "Wait and see!" It's a lesson good for life, too.

EDIT: 'crossposted with you guys.
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Mount Doom as the anti-pipe
Whoa! Soon you'll be saying that Tolkien anticipated the dangers of smoking!
But seriously, I for one think that all the points in common you stated here are grounds for contrasting the hobbits with the bad guys, rather than serve to show how they resembled each other. That is, there is a qualitative difference, not only a quantitative one.
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Old 06-14-2004, 10:17 AM   #16
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Like Fordim, I am not even going to try and be organized in my thoughts. I'm just going to talk aloud (talk-type?) for a bit...

From Concerning Hobbits:

Quote:
...they suddenly became, by no wish of their own, both important and renowned, and troubled the counselfs of the Wise and the Great.
Upon reading this quote, I immediately thought back to how we had considered the fact in the discussion of the foreword that Tolkien had expected his small audience to remain small. Though Tolkien most likely had written this prologue before there were any signs of his audience growing larger (I confess that I have no idea if the prologue was written when the book was originally published, sadly.), this was probably part of the Hobbit character. I think it can be added to Evisse's list. But I also believe that that quote came to mean something more.

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Of their original home the Hobbits in Bilbo's time preserved no knowledge.
This, in relation with "the fiction of the book as being a historical document" (Fordim), expresses a common occurrence in history: the lack of preservation of knowledge. It also expresses it's importance. An example of this, in history, is the fall of the Roman Empire followed by the Dark Ages. Still, this is an example of a loss of knowledge through lack of preservation. Was there ever any signs of that in Tolkien's writings? Now, perhaps he thought of the Hobbit's general lack of interest in knowledge as a key aspect of the story...Okay, now, I'm just rambling...

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And in those days also they forgot whatever language they had used before, and spoke ever after the Common Speech...yet they kept a few words of their own, as well as their own names of months and days, and a great store of personal names out of the past.
This is one quote that could be used to make the arguement that Tolkien was 'anti-imperialistic'. But all I believe this is only yet another aspect that makes this book, and especially the prologue, a fictional historical document. This kind of melding of cultures occurs so often in history, but this statement shows how an independence of culture is kept through a preservation of the old.

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They possessed from the first the art of disappearing swiftly and silently, when large folk whom they do not wish to meet come blundering by; and this art they have developed until to Men it may seem magical.
Just think of how funny it is that two hobbits, and a hobbit-like creature, were ringbearers, and used it most often to make a disappearing act. I can only see this as an irony, though it can express so much more. Fordim's idea of "art" vs. "magic" is an interesting one. It reminds me of the Istari and their 'magical restraints'. It was said that they could not do 'magic' outside the natural plane, and when creating this 'magic' they had to use what was found in nature. It was the same with the elves. They never were truly 'magical' beings, it was more that they were so in-tune with nature that they could use all of its secrets and 'magic'. Their relationship with nature obviously came from their ties to the Earth, how they are bound to it until the End. There is much to think about, concerning that topic...

I believe I should collect my thoughts and let my mind rest. It just doesn't seem to be working properly, at the moment.

-Durelin

EDIT: It was inebvitable that I cross-posted with at least three people...
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Old 06-14-2004, 10:32 AM   #17
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Helen, re: no mention of the Hobbits in New England. Perhaps not, but two weeks ago I toured a museum which depicted the "pit houses" of the Indian clans of the West Coast and they were certainly very warm, comfortable and 'smial-like." Also, eastern European immigrants to the Canadian prairiers, for that first winter faced without a house, built homes in hillsides. Just imagine!

I appreciate Seraphim's and davem's defense of the art of pipeweed, the emphasis on art. One of the most delightful traits of this description of the Shire is, to me, the manner in which hobbits appear to appreciate leisure, a lost habit in our hurried times of the Seventh Age.

I would like to add an observation on the point which Heren Istarion and Fordim are discussing. As idyllic as Shire-life is presented here, it is a life I am not completely comfortable with, for the reason which Fordim has pointed out: the Hobbits' dislike of any book which required thoughtful interpretation of tangled threads. There is a view here of their simplicity which makes me feel it is an incomplete or untried goodness.

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there in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less and less the world outsider where dark things moved, until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk. They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians, and of the labours of those that made possible the long peace of the Shire. There were, in fact, sheltered, but they had ceased to remember it.
"A cloistered virtue is no virtue," I think Milton wrote. And before him we have Job, whose virtues were tested and tested again before they were finally proven true. To Fordim's points about the hobbits' conformity and acquisitiveness--wonderful thoughts on [i]mathoms[/b] there!--I would add an ignorance of evil which, to me, limits the attractiveness of their haven. Often in Tolkien I see this sense that goodness must be parcelled off from evil, in Melian's girdle and then in Elessar's final decree that access to The Shire be restricted (yet even this did not ensure the hobbits' open survival to our own day). I'm not sure what to make of this, but it inclines me towards Fordim's thoughts on the lurking possibility of 'co-dependence' of good and evil, that they cannot be separated but must have knowledge of each other. Even Frodo's desire to save the Shire represents his effort to take on the job on behalf of the hobbits rather than allow them to make the horrendous discovery which Job and Frodo himself makes.

One other point which intrigues me relates to the issue of history. The Hobbits appear to have forgotten their history and the elves are "concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men appear seldom and Hobbits are not mentioned at all." Here we have the selectivity of historical record which demonstrates its lack of authoritative voice: each race will have its own perspective and way of remembering. Rather like what I think we are all doing here, giving voice to our own various thoughts, the divesity giving form to a more complete picture than any one of us can, at least initially, make.

EDIT: About this issue of the correct stewardship of the land, and the felling of Ents, there is something in a later chapter which suggests that not all was peaceful in the hobbits' use: The Bonfire Glade in the Old Forest represents a time when the hobbits attacked the trees in the Old Forest. I side with Fordim that the hobbits are neither perfect nor idyllic, but contain within themselves aspects which we need to consider carefully.

And cross posting with Durelin, who seems to have anticipated me in wondering about the ignorance or loss of their sense of history.
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Old 06-14-2004, 10:48 AM   #18
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For they attributed to the king of old all their essential laws; and usually they kept the laws of free will, because they were The Rules (as they said), both ancient and just.
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How, in the name of Eru, can Hobbits keep the “laws of free will” because they are “The Rules”?
I think that's a very good question. Although, for me, Tolkien has made it quite clear. As Firefoot said earlier;
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1. They are peaceful, and do not like violence. 2. Hobbits like things that make sense
I do believe that Tolkien wrote in the Prologue (and later in LotR too, I think) that Hobbits loved peace and quiet. They didn't want to be disturbed by the "outside" world. I can't recall his exact words because my book isn't here.

But the question is how, even though they want peace and quite, they can keep such rules. Maybe they are just disciplined? Maybe it never occurred to them that they could do "otherwise?" As a matter of fact I think Tolkien once mentioned that Hobbits have a strong belief in the ordinary common sense, and that they use it. (I can't recall exactly where I read that, but I'll try and find it.)

Cheers,
Oro

EDIT: Didn't notice the last posts here...sorry.
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Old 06-14-2004, 12:41 PM   #19
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They possessed from the first the art of disappearing swiftly and silently... and this art they have developed.
This is some way strikes me as interesting. 'They possessed from the first...' It seems to me that this hints that this art was, to say, a sort of natural instinct to the Hobbits. In the same way humans have a natural instinct when feeling vulnerable to sort of crouch up to protect their stomach and chest, 'possessed from the first' seems to indicate that Hobbits, when feeling unsafe when going about in the woods, had a natural instinct to 'disappear swiftly and silently.' So then, a natural instinct rather than some hobbit thinking it would be wise and the whole race developing and learning the art. It is stated that they did develop the art, but it seems to imply they developed this 'natural instinct' that they already had. Just an observation and a thought...

Helen, the above quote with the addition of the blundering large folk is the one thing that has distinctly stuck in my mind, though it has been long since I have last read the Prologue. Since then I have never 'blundered' through the woods; I always walk very quietly so perhaps I might see a Hobbit. I also attempt to attract them by aspects of my personality... I exaggerate my delight over the wildflowers, eat hearty meals in the plainest of plain views, sing delightful hobbitish songs, etc. in hope they will consider me someone they do want to meet. After all, it was not said they did not wish to meet anyone but those 'large folk whom they did not wish to meet.'

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And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).
When I was younger the 'six meals a day' led me to believe that this was why they were so stout... but now I reconsider. Despite the six meals a day the hobbits also seem to get much physical exercise, what with their farming, gardening, 'disappearing swiftly and silently,' and so on and so forth. And now I wonder why I have always assumed that hobbits were stout. The Prologue states they were 'less stout and stocky' than Dwarves, not equal nor more. Does anyone here know of instance where it was specifically stated, whether in LotR, the Hobbit, Letters, etc., that Hobbits were particularly stout and stocky? Or would the words of 'less stout and stocky' mean that while they were not as stocky as Dwarves they were yet stocky?

Now I must say that the relationship between Hobbits and Men cannot be distinct at all... After all, while reflecting on the three breeds of Hobbits I find I am not one in particular but a little bit of all!

Now also when the Prologue speaks about the three breeds, was I the only one who found it rather easy to tell just by their descriptions which breeds associated more with which race... Dwarves, Men, and Elves? 'The Harfoots had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times.' When I first read the description of the Harfoots I didn't give a second thought to the fact that they were 'beardless and bootless.' 'Browner of skin' immediately made me think of Dwarves for some reason. The Stoors were 'less shy of Men' and I saw it coming in their phsyical description when it was stated they were 'broader [and] heavier in build.' It was the most obvious that the Fallohides were the closest associated with Elves... fair of skin and hair, taller and slimmer, and lovers of trees and woodlands... I suppose this has nothing to inspire discussion but it was an observation of mine.

I am awful for I have made my own selfish observations and I'm not replying to any others... but I'm already half an hour late for lunch. I will return, and I will reply to previous observations if my mind considers itself intelligent enough.
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Old 06-14-2004, 12:46 PM   #20
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This Old Forest question is niggling at me. We can take a closer look at it when we get there. I thought that the hobbits were essentially attacked and they built the High Hay in self defense? They did have their border quarrels, I am sure, but it wasn't due to hobbits that the Old Forest had been beaten back into a fraction of its old territory, and blaming the anger of the forest on the hobbits hardly seems realistic. It seems to me that men were more responsible for that.

No doubt this will clear up when we get to that chapter...

Regarding Bethberry's point about being sheltered from evil: since Tolkien carefully chooses Shire hobbits for his quest (and not Bree-Hobbits), we never get to learn how a Bree-hobbit might have faced such a quest, or whether they liked books with tangled plots. Too bad...

Nuru, we cross-posted!

In the opening chapter of The Hobbit" it does say that "They are inclined to be fat in the stomach." Also, here is a rough rendition of Gandalf's description of Frodo:

"A stout little fellow with red cheeks. That won't help you much, Barley, it applies to most hobbits. But this one is taller than some and fairer than most; and he has a cleft in his chin. Perky chap with a bright eye."
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Old 06-14-2004, 12:51 PM   #21
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Fordim, post #14

I must disagree with your point about hobbits/Sauron, etc. You say that hobbits and Sauron share some similar qualities, and to an extent I agree with this, but the qualities that you listed (Order, Invisibility, 'using' the land, Rules) all seem to me to be portrayed in a completely different manner.

Order: Hobbits like to have everything ordered, in that their holes are neat, everything is set out fair and square with no contradictions, well-ordered countryside, and this quality goes has much to do with agreeing and getting along with other hobbits. Sauron, on the other hand, wants Order and dominion over all other beings. He wants to control everything else and have them ordered under him. Using Sam as an example: "The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command."

Invisibility: Hobbits use this quality to disappear "when large folk whom they do not wish to meet come blundering by" and it comes from "a close friendship with the earth". Sauron's invisibility, however, comes from using the Ring, which is pure evil. He made the Ring in order that he might dominate others, making his invisibility evil.

'Using' the land: Hobbits like to farm ("for they love... good tilled earth a a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt"), and they do the farming themselves, which goes back to Sam's "his own hands to use...". Sauron has innumerable slaves to do his work for him ("the hands of others to command").

Rules: I have already written quite a bit about hobbits and rules, but I will just repeat a single point and that is that hobbits do not seem to have rules because they are "necessary", but rather because they like to have everything set out fair and square (going back to order...). Sauron has rules to dominate, control, and command others to do what he wants.

So perhaps the point that I am trying to get to here is that a quality is just that. It is how the quality is used in a person (for good or evil) that determines who they are. I am not trying to say that hobbits are perfect. They aren't. They are ordinary, and therefore imperfect. The statement that I have a problem with (and I may be misinterpreting this) is that hobbits have these qualities which are similar to Sauron's and are therefore evil qualities. (This is a bit over-simplified, I think) But I have always held the opinion that hobbits are in nature good and peaceful beings, which contributes to their resistence to the Ring and other like qualities.

Edit: cross-posting with Mark12_30 and Nurumaiel.
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Old 06-14-2004, 01:27 PM   #22
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Valid point

Mark, you have brought up a valid point, for if you notice Tolkien writes in point of view as well.

This I believe is in the Appendix, that it stated no matter what the traditions of men tell you very few dwarves ever succumbed to Sauron. The reason for men to write about dwarves succumbing to evil was because the Men were jealous and wanted the riches of the dwarves. I will have to go back and look at the prologue to see some of the dialogue but you could be correct it could just be according to the tales of men.
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:10 PM   #23
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Helen, Thanks for the quotes! It's been awhile since I read either LotR or the Hobbit, but still I feel like a fool for those are such obvious (and to me memorable) sections of the books. 'Inclined to be fat in the stomach...' But does this mean that they are 'built' that way, in other words that this is just how they are and it doesn't have much to do with the amount they eat or the exercise they get, or are they 'inclined to be fat in the stomach' because of the amount they eat? I find the latter hard to believe because of the activities they absorbed themselves in. Farming, for example, would require much physical activity. Faith, if I, known for great energy, can become exhausted after two hours of hoeing and weeding in my garden, the more strenuous work of farming must be positively fatiguing!

Firefoot, I will add another point to your already well-stated point of 'using the land.' As well as the subject of working themselves vs. the slaves, so far as I have been able to gather the Hobbits used to land for good purposes, such as farming and gardening which will give added life and beauty to that same land, while Sauron's use of the land was for evil and certainly did not beautify!

As you have already said, while the qualities are the same that does not make the Hobbits evil, nor does it make Sauron good, but the uses of the quality determine, in this case, whether it is good or bad. I've been taught there are three actions: good actions, indifferent actions, and bad actions. Good actions are good in themselves, and likewise bad actions are bad in themselves, and indifferent actions are neither good nor bad but the intent and use of the action will determine whether it is actually good or bad.

Therefore I do believe that the the intent and use of these qualities so far as the Hobbits were concerned make these same qualities good, while it is the opposite for Sauron.
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:22 PM   #24
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Just a quick reply here to two points.

Several folk have mentioned the hobbit's "lack of historical memory" as reflected in the prologue. I see two important correlations here. On the one hand it is clearly indicative of the Hobbits' lack of book learning and their tendency to take things at face value: what Bethberry defines as " the Hobbits' dislike of any book which required thoughtful interpretation of tangled threads. " Hobbits are certainly parochial, so parochial that they not only reject looking outside the boundaries of the Shire, but even over their shoulder to their past. We learn that the only history books of interest to them were the genealogical ones that set out things very clearly; other knowledge of the past, more complex or reflective, had been lost.

This parochialism is certainly a flaw inherent in the Shire. But there is a second way of looking at this situation. If the Hobbits had remembered their history, indeed if there had been any "real" Hobbit history available in written form, then it would have been accessible to Sauron and Saruman as well. And it is quite possible that these two would have become aware of the Hobbits and ultimately of the Ring much earlier than they did. It is the Hobbit's "lack" of history that makes the journey of Frodo and his fellow Hobbits possible. Without this veil of anonymity alluded to in the prologue, the entire story is unimaginable.

***************************

Regarding the relative "goodness" of Hobbits and their supposed affinities with Sauron...

Fordim -

In relation to this question, here is my opinion. In one sense you are perfectly right, and in another you are far from the mark.

In Tolkien's eyes, every free people bears the stain of evil, just as Arda itself was marred, even in the making. It would be possible to compile a list of good and bad points for every single race we encounter. This is as true for Hobbits as it is for Men, Ents, Dwarves and, yes, even Elves! If we read over those lists of "bad" traits, each list will be different for every race. Yet every trait included will in some way remind us of Sauron (or Morgoth) and lesser minions like Saruman or the Orcs, or at least will be something they can exploit.

This is true even of the Hobbits' ability to become invisible, where you drew a parallel with Sauron. On the one hand natural invisibility is put there by Eru for the Hobbits' protection and is not an evil thing. It emphasizes the Hobbits' close ties to the earth. For me, such a characteristic conjres up images of small rabbits disappearing harmlessly into the brush. However, this talent for "hiding" can also be abused and become somethng close to parochialism: not caring about anyone different, not even being aware of what's going on elsewhere, but simply "hiding" from others in the underbrush, in effect turning one's backs on the world to concentrate solely on your own concerns and community, a situation that Saruman would exploit among the Hobbits.

So, yes, it is possible to compile such a list of "faults" and point to ties with Sauron or other evil ones. But so too could we compile similar lists, with different content, for every race on Middle-earth.
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:24 PM   #25
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Nuru, it seems to me that although hobbits were active, still, they had that tendency to eat and drank a little more than they worked, calorically speaking.

Frodo himself was aristocracy, and although he liked to walk, he also liked ffod and wine, and ale. The book states that he indeed lost some extra pounds between Hobbiton and Rivendell (that wonderful moment when his reflection peeps out at him from the looking-glass in Rivendell.)

Sam, while a hard-working gardener, was also fond of (and seemingly had free access to) Bilbo's beer-cellar, and was no stranger to the Inn either. I suspect that even the hardest-working hobbits, had balancing social "skills".
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:33 PM   #26
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Child and Nuru -- herm (or should that be, "hoom") I'm not arguing that hobbits are in any way 'evil' or that they are alike Sauron in terms of good vs bad. In fact, in my first post about this I said that I find it interesting that the hobbits are not being contrasted to Sauron in terms of good vs bad, but in other terms that seem to be relatively value neutral (art vs magic, for example). I totally agree that the Hobbits' intentions (nod to mark 12_30 here) are good and Sauron's are evil, and that this is a qualitative difference between them (now nodding to Evisse). What I am saying is that the Hobbits share certain desires with Sauron (for invisibility, for simplified order, for control of nature). What's more, as Child points out, these desires are directed 'inward' toward the self -- in particular, to cut the self off from the outside world, and to isolate the self.

In other words, I would argue that the Hobbits are governed by self(ish?) desire in the same way -- but certainly not to the same extent -- as is Sauron. Their desires are 'good' and Sauron's are 'evil', but they do have this in common.
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:43 PM   #27
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Helen, could it also depend highly on just what the individual hobbit's occupation was? In example an innkeeper might be more fat in the stomach than a farmer, for an innkeeper wouldn't move too much and would have more time to eat. A farmer, however, would be doing more labor and might also have less time to eat. Of course then we could go on the track of how late hobbits stay up... if they stayed up later they could use that late-night time to accomplish any eating they missed during the day. And I suppose this subject isn't too important, though very interesting (the Hobbits might not like us discussing the finer points of their weight, however ). Could hobbits ever be as dear if they were slim and slender, or (horror of horrors) outright skinny?

Fordim, I see what you mean. In the extreme basics the desires are similiar but it seems to me that to an extent the desires would also be influenced by the intents. In example, the desire of the Hobbits and Saurons to use the land. The basic desire is the same... to use the land. But the desires are also changed by their intent to use the land. The Hobbits desire to use the land to grow and farm, while Sauron desires to use the land for ill.

But if you are saying the barest basics of the desires make them alike, I cannot disagree, for it is true if you write merely Order, Invisibility, Using the Land, and Rules and discard the intents, etc. of it, which, reading your original post, is exactly what you did. So then the basic desires are the same, but to go to an advanced description of the desires would include the intents which would make a difference between their desires.
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:58 PM   #28
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posted by Nurumaiel: Farming, for example, would require much physical activity.
Yes, but not all the hobbits were farming! Bilbo, Frodo, Merry & Pippin seem to be well-off gentlehobbits who don't have to work for a living!

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Only the Elves still preserve any records of that vanished time , and their traditions are concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men appear seldom and Hobbits are not mentioned at all. Yet it is clear that Hobbits had in fact lived quietly in Middle-earth for many long years before other folk became even aware of them.
That way it is cleverly explained why Hobbits aren't mentioned in the earlier tales (the Silm.) and why Sauron didn't even know of their existance.
This whole "feigned history" is very convincing indeed. What I think is not so convincing is the fact that there are still some hobbits supposed to be around nowadays (or at least in Tolkien's time ) We don't see them because they can disappear swiftly and silently. But what about their dwellings and farming land etc.? Have they since been obliged to take to the woods to hide from us?

I remember so well when I first read the prologue how mysterious and intriguing sounded to me the mention of
Quote:
... the Dúnedain, the kings of Men that came over the Sea out of Westernesse; but they were dwindling fast and the lands of their North Kingdom were falling far and wide into waste.
edit: I'm too slow! 4 new posts appeared while I was writing...
(Child of the 7th age, I agree very much with your post! )
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Old 06-14-2004, 03:51 PM   #29
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Pipe Art, magic and other matters

A lot has been said so far about the contrast of the Hobbits' skill in disappearing when it suits them as opposed to Sauron's magical invisibility (although presumably he could override this aspect of his creation). Hobbits are not, however, the only people to be so contrasted, and indeed 'magic' itself is often called into question throughout the work. Later on it is noted that the virtues of Elven implements are often confused with the arts of the enemy, but probably this is best left until we reach those parts of the book.

For me, the difference between the Shire and Mordor is that between a people who co-operate with each other and the land to earn a prosperous living, and a people divided each against the other, ruled by a lord who cares nothing for them and tearing from the land what they can get. The Hobbits build, cultivate and care for their country and it rewards them with plenty. The Orcs and their masters know only how to take, and so they must maintain slave populations simply in order to survive.

I'm getting ahead of myself here, though, since all of this becomes clear later in the book. I'll restrict myself to Hobbits for the remainder of this observation.

The society of the Shire is an interesting paradox, in that it appears to be Tolkien's ideal society and yet he would probably not have been comfortable in it. The Hobbits share his love of simple food, simple jokes, plain speaking and good living; but he was a man who made a living out of telling people things that they did not know, and by his own admission disliked reading the same book twice. In his letters he admits to finding Hobbits irritating on occasion, and I think that this is because they only reflect one aspect of his personality. Hobbits could not live up to his love of the high, learned and noble that we see in the Elves and the Dúnedain. They are too comfort-loving, too parochial and self-satisfied, and this is reflected in their greatest heroes: Bandobras Took, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin do not fit the mould of comfortable Hobbit society, which quietly farms its land and shuts its eyes and ears to the troubles of the world. Nonetheless, Tolkien still attributes the attractive traits of Hobbits to the entire race, and in his final chapters he reveals them as they are when 'The Rules' cease to suit them, and when their leaders are no longer ceremonial.

The Shire is a vast paradox: a stratified society with a definite class system, and yet one in which each individual is convinced of his own personal freedom. It has a number of noble families who command theoretical powers and loyalties that are never used, almost on the understanding that this remains so. This paradox is one that any Englishman will recognise immediately: Tolkien's countrymen continually assert that they obey the law because it suits them, and woe betide anyone who tries to impose one that does not. Holders of titles are expected to behave as though their honours do not exist, in return for which they are awarded all the honorifics associated with them. This is how a lot of English people see themselves, and this is how the Shire really works. Later in the book, this attitude will come into contact with a world in which kings and rulers are treated with great deference and respect, but we shall cross that bridge when we come to it.

The Hobbits' parochialism is complete. Like the foundation of Rome and, more disturbingly, the Cultural Revolution, the foundation of the Shire is taken as the beginning of a new calendar. Before their community is even off the ground, the Hobbits have begun to distance themselves from world events; but this also exhibits a huge self-confidence, which is exhibited throughout The Lord of the Rings by all but the most sensitive of Hobbits. They cut themselves off from the world as they have cut themselves off from their own history, as something that is inconvenient and unnecessary. There are things in both that are likely to upset them needlessly by making them ask difficult questions that will not be answered by a complicated and well-compiled genealogy. In short, they exhibit the most militant complacency that I have ever encountered. As an Englishman, it makes me feel quite at home.

I should like to finish by examining an interesting point about the history of Hobbits that is also to be found in the history of Men. There is a distinct change in their attitude toward the Elves from the beginnings of the Shire, when they are presumed to have learned a great deal from them, gradually subsiding into dislike and mistrust. Interestingly, the arch-traditionalists of Middle-earth become a source of anxiety from the ever-changing races that surround them, usually as those races fall into foolish or evil practices. The Elves are anything but comfortable: sophisticated, powerful, ageless and wise, they are everything that the Hobbits are not. They do not belong in the well-ordered, earthy, common-sense world of the Shire, which the Hobbits regard as the acme of achievement. Nor, for that matter, do wizards, heroes, myth and magic. The Shire is a stifling world for such an exponent of these ideas as its creator, and perhaps this is the greatest paradox of all.
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Old 06-14-2004, 04:04 PM   #30
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Fordim,

I agree with much of what you say. The point you raise about 'invisibility' is interesting. I can't help but wonder if that play on the word was "intentional" on the author's part. Moreover, as you state, Hobbits are not evil. But like other free peoples of LotR, they are "flawed", each race in different ways, and each share characteristics with Sauron.

However, at some point, I feel you may push the semblance too far:

Quote:
....there are a number of intents that the Hobbits have in common with Sauron:

Order
Invisibility
'using' the land
Rules

Again, I would argue that the difference is one of degree not kind -- yes, the Hobbits intend to establish order for the sake of a well-regulated life, and intend to use the land for 'good'. So they are emphatically not the same as Sauron, but they do share his desire for the above things.
I see this as more than a simple difference of degree. For example, the desire to garden and to tend the land, to beautify it and bring forth productive fruit, stems from goodness. Such an impulse can certainly be abused, but at its best this is an example of subcreation in natural rather than artistic terms.

Sauron's path was different in its origin. His acts were the opposite of subcreation and involved setting his own will in opposition to what was natural or true.

You can apply the same words to describe what Sauron and the Hobbits were doing, as your list suggests. But these are mere labels--not the thing itself. The two lists share no real common ground. Their origins, their wellspring are different: one springs from goodness, and the other the perversion of goodness. Only in abuse by a Hobbit could you forge an actual tie. This is not to say that abuse did not occur. Most certainly, it did. But that is different than seeing an overall similarity of kind.

It is possible our differences may stem from the way we are using words... I am not sure.

*************************

There is something no one else has mentioned on reading the prologue: how familiar and comfortable the Hobbits feel. I am certainly not the first reader to see this, but every time I read the prologue it strikes me. While the Hobbit perspective is not identical to my own, it's enough alike that I can identify with many of their desires and their shortcomings. There are hints of the goodness and failings in my own life, the small victories and numerous frustrations. Hobbits are not great "heroes" but folk whom I can understand, at least to some degree.

Today perhaps, we're more used to this device. Featuring the "small" character has become a stock usage in fantasy. But, way back then, it was not the norm. And I still feel Tolkien has done this as well as any other fantasy writer who has come since then.

*******************

Thirdly, when I read the prologue this time, I was extremely curious when the author had written it. After all, we'd just finished discussing the foreward in terms of its dating. It also struck me as strange that it was written in numbered parts.

I scrounged around and did find a hint in HoMe for the part of the prologue labelled "i". CT says his father did this just around the time that the Hobbits had reached Bree. Some things about hobbit holes were actually dredged out of the general manuscript and put back in the prologue.

This implies that the latter parts were written later (as well as the lengthy note at the end). But I couldn't find any reference to their composition. Does anyone know? There are certainly references to people and events that had to come from later in the writing process.

To me, the prologue is like an old friend, full of names and hints of later developments. But I am wondering if maybe it's not so easy for the newbie, especially if they haven't read The Hobbit itself? Can anyone remember being confused by all these names and details on an early reading?

*************************

Squatter,

We cross posted. How interesting that our responses should be so different!

Yes, I can see the "littleness" of the Shire in more ways than one. Yet it is a world that I can understand in a way that Lothlorien or even Rivendell elude me.

I think Tolkien would very much have identified with the non-conformists Frodo and Bilbo, living in a world where they were surrounded by "smallness" while yearning for something more. And perhaps it is that which sticks with me. I can sense how the Shire would be stiffling. But what I remember with a smile is Bilbo out walking the paths, searching for Elves, while his neighbors gossipped about his actions.

It is that yearning, that search for more, which makes the Hobbits and the Shire appealing to me: Sam's love of Elven tales, Frodo's halting attempts to speak Elvish, how Elanor and Fastred journied out to new territory to live in the shadow of the Elven towers. Despite all the monotony and the parochialism of the Shire, we still find extraordinary people like this.

Tolkien was very aware of the limitations of Hobbits. At one point, he has harsh words to say about his character Sam as embodying the parochialism and short sightedness of the "typical" Hobbit. Yet the appeal of family, the beauties of nature and growing things, and the simple pleasures of home life seem to have overridden the more negative characteristics for him.
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Old 06-14-2004, 04:32 PM   #31
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Quote:
Again, I would argue that the difference is one of degree not kind -- yes, the Hobbits intend to establish order for the sake of a well-regulated life, and intend to use the land for 'good'. So they are emphatically not the same as Sauron, but they do share his desire for the above things.
I think that Sauron represents the desire for order carried to an extreme. Tolkien believed that evil does not create, but rather perverts. In this sense it is more a matter of Sauron reflecting traits of the hobbits rather than the other way around.

And I believe that Fordim makes a good point about chopping trees as it relates to reshaping the land.
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Old 06-14-2004, 05:14 PM   #32
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I only have the time and energy to reply to two general ideas from two posters, which is indeed a crime!

Fordim -

Quote:
"Intent" is indeed the key -- but as we learn in the Prologue, there are a number of intents that the Hobbits have in common with Sauron:

Order
Invisibility
'using' the land
Rules
This is certainly a good observation, and I will agree that "intent is indeed the key", but I believe you go far to quickly to the extreme.

[sarcasm]This is why I love this world so much, we never can find a happy medium![/sarcasm] But with that said, let me explain, briefly, I hope, how this applies to intent. We humans like to judge, and how we relate with each other gives us the material to examine when we are the judge. But intent, in any human sense, is solely in the possession of the individual. When judging people's 'intent', we have only what we see to go on. First of all, what someone lets us see is almost entirely up to them. Secondly, what we see out of what they let us is entirely up to us. I think that, here, Fordim, you are judging the hobbits with very little evidence to back up your case. But, truly, I think your biggest problem with this is that your list of intents has intents behind each listed ‘intent’ as well.

You speak of the Ents, and what they would think of simply cutting down a tree to build a barn. Here, I think, is an example of how real Tolkien made his world. To keep on track with 'intent', it is full of different intents. Each person has their own agenda, and, many times, as a whole a community will have their own agenda. And behind that agenda will lay an intent. Also, each person and each community see what they wish to see, and let others see what they wish them to see. Their intents lie in their hearts or simply in their minds (this is the logical way...). It is this idea of intents, as a whole, that tear us apart, along with, I believe, are inability to find a happy medium. But it is only a problem because there is real evil in the world, and in Tolkien's world, as well.

Squatter -

Quote:
Before their community is even off the ground, the Hobbits have begun to distance themselves from world events; but this also exhibits a huge self-confidence, which is exhibited throughout The Lord of the Rings by all but the most sensitive of Hobbits. They cut themselves off from the world as they have cut themselves off from their own history, as something that is inconvenient and unnecessary.
You say that the Hobbits formed Tolkien's 'ideal society', and yet you realize that there are some things that Tolkien finds un-ideal. It is interesting that, being so cut off from their own history and the outside world, that Tolkien would make them the center of his historical document, as well as the fictional authors. Could it be that bringing them so deeply into the goings on of the world, Tolkien was showing the Hobbits the light? Or was he trying to express that this was a great stain on the character and lives of the Hobbits?

Quote:
[Elves] do not belong in the well-ordered, earthy, common-sense world of the Shire, which the Hobbits regard as the acme of achievement. Nor, for that matter, do wizards, heroes, myth and magic.
The Elves do not belong in their 'common-sense world', but where does their 'common-sense world' belong? Perhaps this is why Hobbits slowly began to disappear, once again, and, as it seems, for good. Tolkien's world was not made for hobbits, for his 'ideal society', as it was so real. Yes, real, though speaking not specifically of 'elves, wizards, heroes, myths, and magic'...well, perhaps magic.

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Old 06-14-2004, 05:15 PM   #33
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Does anyone here know of instance where it was specifically stated, whether in LotR, the Hobbit, Letters, etc., that Hobbits were particularly stout and stocky?
It's right there in the Prologue that we're discussing, silly.
Quote:
and though they are inclined to be fat and do not hurry unnecessarily...
By the way, did anybody notice this-
Quote:
Their height is variable, ranging between two and four feet of our measure.
Two feet tall? Are you kidding? Get out a ruler and see how short that is. That's tiny! I can't imagine a little two foot hobbit. Just think, Frodo and his buddies could be walking around town and saying hello to hobbits half their size. That's a very large range. For comparison, can you imagine if the typical human was anywhere from three to six feet? No way, that's too big of a difference.

I also thought this was funny-
Quote:
To the last battle at Fornost with the Witch-lord of Angmar they sent some bowman to the aid of the king, or so they maintained, though no tales of Men record it.
Were the little guys lying?

"We sent some archers to help."
"Nobody saw them."
"But we did, I swear!" (they showed up a few days too late, but we don't tell that part)

So, I guess it's not a big deal that Bilbo lied about the ring. It's a typical hobbit practice.
Quote:
he (Gandalf) also thought it important, and disturbing, to find that the good hobbit (Bilbo) had not told the truth from the first: quite contrary to his habit.
Notice, truth telling is his habit, not necessarily a hobbit habit.

hee hee... hobbit habit
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Old 06-14-2004, 05:46 PM   #34
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Quote:
Quote:
Does anyone here know of instance where it was specifically stated, whether in LotR, the Hobbit, Letters, etc., that Hobbits were particularly stout and stocky?

It's right there in the Prologue that we're discussing, silly.
Actually, for the sake of accuracy, it says that hobbits are not stout and stocky (when compared with Dwarves).

Durelin

Quote:
You say that the Hobbits formed Tolkien's 'ideal society', and yet you realize that there are some things that Tolkien finds un-ideal. It is interesting that, being so cut off from their own history and the outside world, that Tolkien would make them the center of his historical document, as well as the fictional authors. Could it be that bringing them so deeply into the goings on of the world, Tolkien was showing the Hobbits the light? Or was he trying to express that this was a great stain on the character and lives of the Hobbits? (italics mine)
You are implying, if I'm not mistaken, that the outside interaction of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin and Bilbo could possibly have been viewed by Tolkien as a "great stain" upon the hobbits in question. I don't think that's a possibility. The hobbits in the Lord of the Rings who participated in some manner in the War of the Ring grew from their experience. They fought for their idyllic home and won. Sam, Merry and Pippin were able to return home wiser (and in the case of the latter two, merrier). Frodo and Bilbo outgrew the Shire, but this is not really a matter of staining so much as growth; in the course of Frodo's quest he reached a higher spiritual plane than could not be satisfied by a simple, agrarian place like the Shire. Bilbo, likewise, after all of his adventures and then the burden of having the Ring for all those years, outgrew his surroundings and 'retired' to live with the Elves. Both made the journey West (and ultimately Sam, too) not to be relieved of any 'stains', but to live out their lives in a place more suited to their spiritual needs.

The prologue, in my opinion, serves to highlight the idyllic, pastoral quality (and also the simpleness and 'smallness') of the Shire, perhaps even moreso than the actual book chapters that take place in the Shire. It lays the groundwork for why four hobbits are willing to fight to preserve their homeland, and ultimately serves as an illustration of why Frodo can never be at peace in the Shire after destroying the Ring.
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Old 06-14-2004, 05:57 PM   #35
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Eye

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Actually, for the sake of accuracy, it says that hobbits are not stout and stocky (when compared with Dwarves).
Of course it does, which is why Nuru asked-
Quote:
Does anyone here know of instance where it was specifically stated, whether in LotR, the Hobbit, Letters, etc., that Hobbits were particularly stout and stocky?
And in answer I gave her a quote directly from the Prologue-
Quote:
and though they are inclined to be fat
Yes, my quote said "fat" instead of "stout" but according to my dictionary-
Synonyms: fat, obese, corpulent, fleshy, portly, stout
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Old 06-14-2004, 06:19 PM   #36
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Son of Númenor -

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You are implying, if I'm not mistaken, that the outside interaction of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin and Bilbo could possibly have been viewed by Tolkien as a "great stain" upon the hobbits in question. I don't think that's a possibility.
Remember that I asked two questions (please excuse the, perhaps, over-use of italics and bold...really don't mean to be rude), and answered neither. Ah, yes, but I did imply that this was a possibility. Still, I meant only to consider a different side, when the former of the two questions seemed more likely to be answerable with 'yes'. So, we are agreeing, though we might consider the other a possibility, as we can never really know for sure...

Quote:
The prologue, in my opinion, serves to highlight the idyllic, pastoral quality (and also the simpleness and 'smallness') of the Shire, perhaps even moreso than the actual book chapters that take place in the Shire. It lays the groundwork for why four hobbits are willing to fight to preserve their homeland, and ultimately serves as an illustration of why Frodo can never be at peace in the Shire after destroying the Ring.
I agree with this, as well, and would just like to add a little bit. I see this laying of groundwork as imperative. Many times this is not needed in stories, though many times it is, and other times it is not and is there anyway... But, the point is, the prologue was needed to establish the 'setting', which includes not only the physical setting and the time, but the mental setting as well, of the 'fictional historical document'. This draws us away from drawing many conclusions from our own mindset without first looking into the mindset of the setting, and especially of its major characters - hobbits. But much of this brings me back to my first post on this discussion... And so I grow silent, for a bit.

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Old 06-14-2004, 08:48 PM   #37
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Quote:
It's right there in the Prologue that we're discussing, silly.
Ah, dear me, where have my eyes gone? I knew something like this would happen. I will offer no excuses and humbly bow and assume the title of 'silly.'

Quote:
To the last battle at Fornost with the Witch-lord of Angmar they sent some bowman to the aid of the king, or so they maintained, though no tales of Men record it.
I also noticed this, though at a time after my first post... So either the Hobbits are lying, or the Men don't consider the important enough to record it. I can imagine both... the Hobbits thinking of this as a grand way to appear important and therefore lying about it, or the Men not considering it important enough. Dear me, I suppose it could be either way. It could also make an interesting fan fiction/RPG, concerning how they actually fought or concerning how they came up with the idea that they did. Goodness, I've had a most amusing image in my head of a group of Hobbits coming up with the idea after a late night at the bar!
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Old 06-14-2004, 09:14 PM   #38
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The Eye Fordrim Hedgethistle - Post #2

I think what Tolkien means is that hobbits have the ability to not be seen by people they do not want to be seen by(The Big People) They can't really become invisible, unless they put on the Ring. The Ring makes them invisible to everybody. Their art would not allow them to not be seen by everyone in a large crowd, whereas the Ring would. Aragorn points out this difference in FOTR. He says, "I can avoid being seen when I wish, but to disappear entirely, that is a rare gift." This shows the difference between the Ring and the art of the hobbits.
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Old 06-14-2004, 09:19 PM   #39
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Hobbits and eating

As to the voracious appetites of hobbits, and their great variation in size:

It's actually entirely realistic that hobbits would eat so much: the smaller the mammal, the greater its requirement for food (in terms of the ratio between food-mass and body-mass). Smaller bodies mean smaller stomachs and intestinal tracks; they also mean much faster metabolisms (large bodies stay warm more easily as they have a lower surface area to volume ratio) -- so, the smaller the mammal, the more it needs to eat. Mice can eat 2-3 times their body weight each day! Even rabbits can crunch their way through more food than their own weight in a day.

The size variation is also perfectly normal. The analogy you draw, Phantom, between hobbits (two to four feet in height) and humans (three to six) is actually not entirely accurate. The varation in height between hobbits is two feet (from maximum to minimum) which means one foot above and below the average height of three feet. In humans, the variation is also about two feet (between 6 1/2 feet and 4 1/2 feet) with an average height of 5 1/2 feet. The only reason the variation 'looks' larger in hobbits is due to the lower median height. The difference between the tallest hobbit and the shortest is the same as the difference between the tallest human and the shortest (this is excluding, obviously, those who fall outside the human averages -- they are, please excuse the slightly insulting term, which isn't mine: aberrations; actually, presumably, there must be such abberations among hobbits too -- a hobbit small-person ("midget") could conceivably be only one foot tall! a hobbit tall-person ("giant") could be as much as six feet tall! This is of course, translating human proportions into hobbit proportions as Tolkien gives them here).

This is all meant to be pretty tongue in cheek, I suppose, but at the same time I think it's interesting that these 'fairy-tale' beings that Tolkien has subcreated are perfectly, logically and naturally in line with the laws of physiology and anatomy in our primary world!

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Old 06-14-2004, 09:24 PM   #40
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Concerning height

The Phantom, post #33:

Quote:
Their height is variable, ranging between two and four feet of our measure. They seldom now reach three feet; but they have dwindled, they say, and in ancient days they were taller.
I agree, two feet is quite small and I have often wondered at that. I think I read somewhere that the average height of a hobbit in the Third Age is three and a half feet tall. The conclusion that I have come to is that at this time most hobbits were between three and four feet, but as time wore on they got shorter, so that now they would be between two and three feet. This would get the 2-4 foot range, but it wouldn't necessarily be all at once, because I agree that it would be strange for a two foot hobbit to be walking around with a hobbit four feet tall. It wouldn't seem natural.

Edit: cross-posting with Fordim. An interesting point, but one that I don't entirely agree with. Because hobbits are smaller, I would expect them to have a smaller range of height because proportions are smaller.
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