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Old 06-20-2004, 10:39 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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1420! LotR -- Book 1 - Chapter 01 - A Long-Expected Party

The title of the first chapter in The Lord of the Rings obviously links the book to The Hobbit, in which the first chapter is titled ‘An Unexpected Party’. It certainly feels like the sequel Tolkien’s readers and publisher expected of him. Let’s discuss what happens in this chapter and how it affects you. What do you especially like about it – or dislike? Do you remember reading it the first time?

Let’s keep the discussion primarily on the events of this chapter, without touching on things to come more than absolutely necessary. Everyone is welcome to join in!
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Old 06-21-2004, 02:30 AM   #2
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The Eye The Long-Expected Chapter

A Estelyn already said, the title of this chapter is a parody on the first chapter of The Hobbit.

Other parallels I see as well. The whole 'feel' of this chapter is reminiscent of the style of The Hobbit. The emphasis is once more on hobbits, and Tolkien draws his fans of the previous book into thinking this will be another "There and Back Again" story.

I, for one, sure thought so. I first read the books when I was twelve, before rumor of movie reached my ears. I had found The Hobbit an excellent read, and took up the Lord of the Rings anticipating simply a longer story of that type.

The first chapter kept me in that mindset, at least until Bilbo begins to doubt leaving the Ring behind.

Quote:
"...It is my own. I found it. It came to me."
"Yes, yes," said Gandalf, " But there is no need to get angry,"
"If I am it is your fault," said Bilbo. "It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious."
I, like Gandalf, immediatly thought back to Gollum.

So it is here that the Ring starts to come forth as a major factor in the story, whereas it was a mere ring (with no capital) before.

After Bilbo departs, we get another dose of hobbit culture, and the shadow that covered the page dissapates for the moment, at least until Gandalf leaves, warning Frodo to keep the Ring secret and safe.

These are my thoughts for now, and I look forward to reading all of the other posts!
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Old 06-21-2004, 05:07 AM   #3
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I agree, the way it is tied in with the Hobbit is wonderful. It would mean nothing to those who have not read it, but for the readers who have they feel some kind of conncetion with the book almost immediately (When Mr. Bilbo Baggins...). It is a great way to draw those readers in: starting with what they know (Bilbo and Gandalf to an extent) and at the same time introducing Frodo as the main character.

One thing I noticed as I read the chapter is Tolkien's emphasis on hobbits and food.
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More promising still (to the hobbits' mind): an enormous open-air kitchen was erected in the north corner of the field.
Quote:
There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper). But lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that at those times all the guests were sitting down and eating together. At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking - continuously from elevenses until six-thirty when the fireworks started.
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[Rory said] "There's something fishy in this, my dear! I believe that mad Baggins is off again. Silly old fool. But why worry? He hasn't taken the vittles with him."
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People came and began (by orders) to clear away ... the uneaten food (a very small item).
There are others, as well. Granted, they are hobbits, but it still seemed like a lot to me. Do you think that Tolkien had some point in making all these referances to food? What might he have been trying to tell us about hobbits by doing this?
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Old 06-21-2004, 05:14 AM   #4
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Interesting thoughts, Saraphim. What delighted me about this chapter is that it was lighter-hearted and the tone was laid back, as in The Hobbit and really gave an insight into Hobbits and their general behaviour.

It was written quite humorously and sets us in a good mood for future chapters. The trouble with Bilbo and the Ring to me is a good way to start the story line, with just a hint of darker things to eventuate. I loved the description of the Shire and it's inhabitants, especially the customs that hobbit's have, such as giving away presents on their birthday. As well as, the description of the different types, or families, of hobbits (i.e. Bracegirdles, Proudfoots, sorry- ProudFEET, etc.) and their funny characteristics really made it interesting for me. This is a great chapter and really is an enjoyable look into the lighter side of things in Middle-Earth.

Firefoot said:

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Do you think that Tolkien had some point in making all these referances to food? What might he have been trying to tell us about hobbits by doing this?
I suppose he just wants to show how jolly hobbits are in their own sheltered little community and how they enjoy simple things- meals not the least, like we do, so that we can identify with them.
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Old 06-21-2004, 05:41 AM   #5
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Has anyone else noticed how we begin only with voices - the voice of the narrator begins the story, giving us background, then we hear the voices of the speakers in The Ivy Bush, but there's no description of the place or the speakers. Its not till we get four pages into the story, with the arrival of Gandalf, that Tolkien gives us any desrption of place. I find this odd, given that Tolkien is so meticulous in his descriptions of place (especially) in the rest of the book. It creates an almost 'dreamlike' feel to the story, as though the 'voice' of the storyteller is the first thing we become aware of, & only gradually do we begin to 'see' what's going on.

I'm also struck by the fact that the Istari seem to have a knowledge of gunpowder! Is this significant, given what Saruman gets up to later? A couple of other things - why is Bilbo's birthday speech given in italics, without quotation marks - the only example in the entire book, as far as I'm aware of direct speech being presented in that way?( I also like Gandalf telling Bilbo that nobody will read his book - Tolkien expressing his own doubts, perhaps? ) And has anyone else wondered to what extent the Ring was inspiring Bilbo's desire to leave the Shire? Maybe it wanted to leave the Shire - Sauron calling it. I notice Frodo, once in possesion of the Ring, also wishing he had gone with Bilbo, after Bilbo had told Gandalf that Frodo was still in love with the Shire, & wouldn't want to leave. Finally, another indication that Hobbits aren't all that 'perfect' - they aren't above barging into people's houses & pilfering, even vandalising the place!
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Old 06-21-2004, 08:30 AM   #6
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1420! Hobbit traditions

Hobbits have some "odd" (atleast what general people would think of as odd) traditions. Adventurous hobbits (Bilbo, Frodo...etc) were often thought of as "weird" or "un-hobbitlike." Some of these traditions which just would not make sense to us, is like the hobbit birthday parties. Where whoever's birthday it is instead of getting presents they give hobbits at their party presents. This is a concept we as humans are unfamiliar with, giving instead of receiving during our birthdays. I didn't know what to make of it besides Tolkien maybe trying to say we should give more instead of receive. Of course the birthday hobbit did recieve presents as well, but this act of giving shows maybe the "kindness" and "love" of the hobbits but also shows their touch of greed. I will have to search for the correct quote, but I'm pretty sure somewhere in this first chapter it states many hobbits weren't happy with the presents they recieved from the birthday boy/girl. So, there is a short, slightly "evil" side to the hobbits of greedy expecting newer, better, presents. Some of the hobbits were quite please with their presents, Gaffer Gamgee recieved a whole load of stuff and Rory Brandybuck was pleased with the old wineyards he recieved.
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Old 06-21-2004, 11:01 AM   #7
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Where whoever's birthday it is instead of getting presents they give hobbits at their party presents. This is a concept we as humans are unfamiliar with, giving instead of receiving during our birthdays.
I think this is a cultural issue rather than something to do with race. I have lived among folk who regularly did this who were not in fact hobbits but humans. (Though they did perhaps share in common some of the hobbit community's traits.)

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Old 06-21-2004, 11:23 AM   #8
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Birthday presents and the Ring

I think that there is a wonderful symmetry to the fact that Hobbits give away birthday presents rather than expect to accumulate them, for it emphasises what is at the heart of this chapter: Bilbo's struggle to give away the "birthday present" that he acquired from Gollum. There's a whole series of really wonderful contrasts that get set up in this: Gollum would never have given away his birthday present but kept it for himself; Bilbo, because he's a hobbit, does give away birthday presents, and does manage -- after a struggle -- to give away this one too.

Interestingly, just as Gollum lies about how he got his "birthday present" (it wasn't a real birthday present) so too did Bilbo lie about how he got the "birthday present". So the shadowy reflection of Hobbit and Gollum begins here with Bilbo: Bilbo is leaving far more than the Ring and Bag End to Frodo, but he's also bequeathing his shadowy (anti-)double Gollum to him as well.

In this way the whole of hobbit society is held up beside the core struggle around the Ring: can one give it up? The 'normal' way to be is to expect to get things on one's birthday (to celebrate yourself) -- the Ring demands a different kind of response, one which the hobbits are uniquely prepared for: to give of and from the self, rather than acquire for the self.
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Old 06-21-2004, 11:39 AM   #9
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1420! Fordhim interesting point

Also, this "giving away" the hobbits have done, I believe it also states somewhere in this first chapter that hobbits have a tendancy to get their holes cluttered and filled with maybe "useless items" or "mathoms." So they give it away when they don't have any room to put more stuff.

The ring is a good example of a "mathom" to the hobbits. It really has no use to the hobbits, just turn invisible...etc. Of course a mathom is something a hobbit really has no use for but doesn't want to give away. Bilbo does eventually give away the ring, but later you see in the Council of Elrond, him offer to take the ring to mount doom. This offer really made me respect Bilbo and it kind of made me laugh how brave this hobbit was. (I might talk more about Bilbo's offer down the line when we get to the council of Elrond). Dwarves sort of saw the ring as a "mathom" because dwarves really saw no use for the ring except another piece of gold to throw on the mound, but with all the dwarves greed they would have taken it too like the hobbits. Hobbits would have taken it maybe just for as fordhim pointed out a "present."
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Old 06-21-2004, 12:04 PM   #10
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I think that the most remarkable thing about this chapter - and, indeed about Book I in general - is the pacing. At least today, the conventional wisdom is that you must "open with a bang" as it were, immediately grabbing the reader's attention. Almost any book on writing will tell you never to begin with exposition, or with action only tangentially related to the main plot. But Tolkien begins thus - and, I think, with great effect. The Ring isn't even mentioned until fairly late in the chapter, and none of the ensuing plot is set up here.

That isn't to say that the conventional wisdom is wrong. I've encountered a fair number of people that find the first chapter boring. I certainly don't; but I will admit that it is not as riveting as later parts of the book. I think that this may be a minor defect.

However - that certainly doesn't mean that I think Tolkien should have skipped the party and started with a big action chapter. Whether or not there is a deficiency in the pace of the first chapter in itself, I think that this slow initial pace has a payoff later on that certainly outweighs any such deficiency. Namely, by beginning with a nothing more incredible than a Hobbit party and nothing more dangerous than the threat of rain, Tolkien ensures that when danger and suspense do appear in earnest, they will have a real impact. All too often a book or movie deprives its most important moments of dramatic effect by overcharging everything else with drama.

Of course, Tolkien probably did not think in such terms. I have always gotten the feeling that he was a storyteller of such skill that for him techniques of pacing and suspense all came quite naturally, and did not require all that much conscious analysis. And of course the reason he did not begin with the more important matter of the book was simply that, when he started writing it, he did not know what that important matter was going to be.
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Old 06-21-2004, 01:32 PM   #11
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Pipe The Art of Tension

I've just finished reading A Long-Expected Party for this thread, and as so often happens when re-reading Tolkien, the book has shown me a completely new facet. There is social commentary and comedy here that rivals Jane Austen, and Tolkien uses many of the same techniques to set the scene, and tell us about the dramatis personae of the earlier chapters and the world which they inhabit.

There is far too much subtle social humour here for me to lay it all before you in one post, but some examples immediately spring to mind that made me laugh, even on this the (I think) seventh reading. The description of Bilbo's speech stands out particularly in this respect: the matter and style of the character's address is picked up and carried on by the narrator to build a picture of simple rustic society reminiscent of some scenes from Flaubert or Hardy, with all the good-natured satire that seems to have been second-nature to Tolkien:
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They were sipping their favourite drinks, and nibbling at their favourite dainties, and their fears were forgotten. They were prepared to listen to anything, and to cheer at every full stop.
Surely anyone who has been present at a wedding will recognise this sketch of a sympathetic audience, their knowledge of the host's oratorical eccentricities lulled by a sufficiency of food and drink. There is everything here to suggest that Bilbo will have to do something spectacular to avoid finishing his address with anything other than a standing ovation. Indeed, the first portion of his speech is received very well: "Bilbo was doing splendidly. This was the sort of stuff they liked: short and obvious."

Soon, though, Bilbo makes the great mistake of many public speakers: he makes his audience think about what he's saying. The description of his much-quoted 'half as much' speech and its reception is a classic: "This was unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came to a compliment."

Tolkien has more to offer us in the way of well-observed situation comedy than this, though. The conversation with which he begins the chapter reminds me so strongly of actually being in a pub that it almost deserves to be read in one. Hobbits are holding forth and pontificating wildly, gossiping and refusing to listen to the most knowledgeable because their views do not allow the romantic folklore that is already building up around Bag End and its inhabitants. Hamfast Gamgee, as a rustic patriarch, is revealed as a fount of earthy wisdom and biting if simple wit: "'And you can say what you like, about what you know no more of than you do of boating, Mr. Sandyman,' retorted the Gaffer , disliking the miller even more than usual. 'If that's being queer , then we could all do with a bit more queerness in these parts.'"

Quite rightly, Tolkien decides to begin his portrait of this rustic community in its foremost social centre: the inn. He shares with Sherlock Holmes the belief that one may learn anything of moment in a small community by visiting the public house, and indeed we learn there Frodo's ancestry, what he has been doing prior to his adoption, how he came to be adopted and how this is seen in the community. We learn more about Sam in the few lines of Hamfast's speech than we do in the rest of the chapter, and we begin to see the inevitable dark side of gossip in the Shire, and the intense parochialism of many of its inhabitants. All of this in a couple of pages of dialogue, and people still have the effrontery to say that Tolkien wasn't a character writer.

Later, Bilbo is revealed as a generous, insightful and playfully witty gift-giver. The descriptions of various presents are hilarious, particularly in my opinion "For the collection of HUGO BRACEGIRDLE, from a contributor." I'm sure that all of us have known at some time a person who was somewhat unreliable at returning books.

However, the gentle comedy masks a tension that Tolkien begins to build right at the beginning of the chapter. When Tolkien says "At ninety-nine they began to call him well-preserved; but unchanged would have been nearer the mark" warning bells immediately begin to ring. This phrase comes like Evangelist's scroll, saying "Flee from wrath to come," and it is followed by the words of anonymous gossips: "It will have to be paid for... It isn't natural, and trouble will come of it!" Bilbo's longevity is indeed not natural, and indeed it does have to be paid for, although typically of Tolkien's writing, the speakers have no conception of the weight of the payment.

Having brought the comedy to its climax in Bilbo's disappearance, and before gently satirising hobbits again at the gift-giving, Tolkien adds a little more tension to the narrative with Bilbo's scene with Gandalf. This, too, is a revelation: like Bilbo, we have never been led to believe that there is anything more to Gandalf than the wise old wizard from The Hobbit; but here we see Gandalf the Grey, member of the White Council and advisor to the great and the good, for the first time. Gandalf does not, however, take centre stage. That honour is reserved for Bilbo's birthday present: the Ring itself, already revealing at this early stage its sinister identity: "'It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious." This is probably the most sinister moment in the entire chapter, with Bilbo assuming the staccato verbal pattern of Gollum while applying his epithet to the Ring. This is the first hint that Gollum might not always have been as we know him, and that something else, something now owned by Bilbo, was making him so. Gandalf's reaction is also something to be feared. Gandalf is worried, and for those who have read The Hobbit, a worried Gandalf is something to make the wise sit up and take notice. Only later in the story do we realise exactly how terrifying it is, either that Gandalf is concerned or that he threatens to uncloak himself.

So we move from the light social banter of the Ivy Bush to Bilbo's thoughtful pose as he finishes the first verse of his walking song, to Gandalf's veiled warnings about the Ring. On the surface, the hobbits are continuing their comical, petty, sheltered lives, but one can almost hear the ominous murmur of John Keats in the background:
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Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings in the human mart?
Listen awhile, ye nations, and be dumb.
[EDIT]
Another thought occurs to me: Tolkien is playing a game with his readers throughout this entire chapter. The title and the tone suggest The Hobbit and yet beneath that there is a suggestion of what is to come. The title of the chapter suggests that there will be no surprises, but we are in for one greater than that of the Unexpected Party. Tolkien drops hints about his plans, such as someone closely involved with the party arrangements might have picked up, but essentially Bilbo's disappearance is unprecedented. He plays with anticipation and expectation to leave the reader, who on the surface has just finished reading a comic tale of country folk, with a sense of foreboding. The tension that is built up here will be realised in the next chapter, and will continue a theme of gradually building tension relieved by increasingly dramatic scenes that certain film directors would give their eye teeth to be able to achieve. Although it may appear that Tolkien is beginning in a completely inappropriate tone, he is simply building up to the main events of his narrative at his own pace and not allowing himself to be rushed by the reader's expectations. The wise reader will thank him for this later as more of the wide world beyond the Shire is revealed.

This chapter is, of course, accompanied by a map depicting a part of the Shire, and I would like to point out how Tolkien's knowledge of English onomastics plays a part here. All of the names you will see on that map either are or could be real English place names. Newbury in Buckland bears the same name as a Berkshire market town, just as there really are places called Stock and Bucklebury. Michel Delving on the White Downs bears a striking resemblance to Micheldever near Winchester, which is also situated on some chalk downs, as are much of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Tolkien holidayed more than once in Lyme Regis and Sidmouth, and there is an echo of the Devonshire town of Honiton in the centre of the narrative. All in all, for the English reader, this is supposed to be familiar territory, and this too serves to lull that reader into a sense of security, offering little in the way of a hint at the strange and terrifying vistas of legend into which Tolkien is about to plunge them.
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Old 06-21-2004, 02:49 PM   #12
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Silmaril A Long-expected Party

I think one thing that this chapter had in common with the Prologue, as others have said, the emphasis is again on the hobbits.

The tone at the beginning is very lighthearted, the hobbits gossiping in the Ivy Bush, but as Squatter says, there is a tension and sense of foreboding that seems to be underlying in this chapter, which escapes the reader's notice the first time, but once you've read the whole book, and go back for a re-read, you notice Tolkien's little hints.

Quote:
'His real business was far more difficult and dangerous, but the Shire-folk knew nothing about it'
To me, this is just a hint of the difficult and dangerous situations that the hobbits are soon to find themselves in, and that they are so ignorant of the outside world just makes it appear all the more dangerous.

The lighthearted tone also doesn't last all the way through this chapter, when Tolkien again drops hints of darker things to come during Gandalf and Bilbo's conversation, as Bilbo finds it so difficult to give up the ring. For those who have read the Hobbit, too, they will see the parallels between Bilbo and Gollum as Bilbo says 'My precious'.

Quote:
'He took a step towards the hobbit, and he seemed to grow tall and menacing; his shadow filled the little room'
We see Gandalf as more than just a wizard who makes fireworks, as the hobbits see him, but rather as someone more powerful than the Hobbit portrayed him.

To me, the chapter seemed to get more lighthearted after Bilbo left, with some funny moments at Bilbo giving the presents away, as well as our introduction to Otho and Lobelia in person.

I think in the final lines of the chapter, the tone has changed again - Tolkien is again hinting at trouble to come. The hilarity and easygoing hobbit life, shown throughout the chapter, can't hide the shadow that is growing even in the Shire.

Quote:
'He gave a final wave of his hand, and walked off at a surprising pace; but Frodo thought the old wizard looked unusually bent, almost as if he was carrying a great weight. The evening was closing in, and his cloaked figure quickly vanished into the twilight. Frodo did not see him again for a long time.'
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Old 06-21-2004, 03:14 PM   #13
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1420!

Yes, I totally agree, the hobbits are really dependant only on themselves, anything "un-hobbitlike" they disregard, pretend its not real, and just go on living. They don't show much care for anything that they don't know about, and they want to hear things they already know about, anything else they just basically ignore. Which as Varda pointed out some hints of foreshadowing of the troubles to come in the shire, maybe if the hobbits paid attention and showed some care for the "strange" events that went on during this chapter they could have prevented the scouring of the shire. Grant it The Shire was saved in the end, by what the hobbits would refer to Frodo, Sam..etc as "strange," but Saruman corrupting The Shire could have been prevented if the hobbits had paid more attention to the events at Bilbo's party. Instead they just took their presents and cracked jokes about how "weird" Bilbo was, and about how he didn't act hobbitlike.
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Old 06-21-2004, 06:36 PM   #14
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*Varda* -- you quoted the following lines from the end of the chapter, and I'd just like to bring forward here to make a quick point:

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but Frodo thought the old wizard looked unusually bent, almost as if he was carrying a great weight. The evening was closing in, and his cloaked figure quickly vanished into the twilight.
Can anyone say "foreshadowing"? Is it just me or is Gandalf here being presented as a precursor to Frodo who will, in the future, be "bent, almost as if he was carrying a great weight" as he walks into Mordor. Frodo will also be a "cloaked figure" who "vanish[es] into the twilight." What I like about this foreshadowing moment is that it presents to Frodo (through whose eyes we 'see' Gandalf) the good and the bad of his journey to come. He will be "bent" from having to bear the "great weight" of the Ring, but the cloak he will be wearing is the cloak of Lorien. The vanishing act he will pull "into the twilight" will be both his walking-through-darkness as he trudges through Mordor toward Mount Doom, and his final 'vanishing act' as he disappears into the "twilight" of the West.

Oh, and there are more connections here. The chapter that has described how Bilbo has "vanished" from the Shire (a very visible vanishing in terms of his prank at the party, if you know what I mean) now ends with another "vanishing" -- which makes sense since this chapter is all about the Ring, which when one puts on makes one "vanish into twilight" in the sense that one becomes a wraith under the "shadow" of the Dark Lord.

*whew* That Tolkien sure can put a lot of syntactic energy into the most seemingly simple lines.

Once again, I find it interesting that this moment alludes to both the good and the bad that awaits Frodo in his future: to both the dangers he must pass through (the burden of the Ring), the aid he will recieve (the cloak of Galadriel), and the two possible ends that await him: vanishing into the twilight of the Ring, or disappearing into the evening of the setting sun.
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Old 06-21-2004, 10:25 PM   #15
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I always liked the fact that this chapter was light hearted because the rest of the book is very serious. The happy beginning gives the reader courage to get through the darkest parts of the book. Plus I think that lots of the information is essential. Since the main characters are hobbits we should understand their culture and what is important to them.

To me the fact that Bilbo wants to see the elves again gives me feeling that although Bilbo had the ring for a long time and although the ring came very close to overtaking him it never did and it tells me that bilbo is very strong to withstand such power. Sure he had help but he still managed to do what Gollum could not.

(But then again Gollum is very different, however this chapter does not concern Gollum, doesn't he come in at Chapter three?)

The song, "The road goes ever on and on..." always made me feel happy and the song seems to say that there are so many things to do in the world that you just have to follow a road and you will see many new things that will sweep you up into a new experience.
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Old 06-21-2004, 11:47 PM   #16
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Early on in the 1st Chapter we can see a reflection of Tolkien’s own life with Frodo. Frodo becomes an orphan and is taken in by the rich Bilbo. Tolkien himself was orphaned and taken care of by Father Morgan, although the riches part didn’t exist for Tolkien.

The older I get, the more hilarious the rest of the chapter becomes. Family politics at its best. And what’s more, it is probably going on within your own families as we speak. It does in mine.

The Sackville-Bagginses think that Bilbo is going to leave them Bag End, then Frodo becomes the Heir. Otho and Lobeila go to the party but they can’t stand Bilbo. This one can’t figure out why that one would marry into that family and so it goes on. We have Bilbo as the ’black sheep’ in the family because he doesn’t behave in a way that seems Hobbit like. Tell me that it doesn’t all sound familiar in your own family.

A little later in the chapter the family fun continues with Frodo handing out the gifts that Bilbo has left for them. This part always reminds me of when a will is being read, people always seem a little disappointed with what they get. Then Otho and Lobeila what to see the will to check all is in order, because they wanted the money LOL.

We’re also introduced to the Ring again. Firstly, through Bilbo using it and his reluctance to leave it behind. Then about the story Bilbo used to tell everyone about how he obtained the Ring, which is interesting - why do you suppose he lied about it ? Also, it would seem at this point that Gandalf is beginning to believe that this is perhaps the One Ring.
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Old 06-22-2004, 01:27 AM   #17
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Yes, Arkenstone, I completly agree with your post! I see a bit of Bilbo in myself. At family gatherings, I always have relatives avoid topics that could lead me to begin talking in any way contrary to thier conservative beliefs.

Bilbo was once a good, social type hobbit, doing all the right things and conversing in all the right groups, until, that wandering wizard sent him on a ridiculous quest. And then, he went and adopted Frodo, and began turning the poor lad into a young version of himself.

The town was never the same.

Although, I do see a sense of intrigue in the mannerisms of those gossiping down at the Ivy Bush, when the locals press the Gaffer for information. The interogators seem dissapointed when they hear of how little treasure Bilbo was said to have accumulated. And then, of course, the younger hobbits insist that there must be hidden tunnels full of gold and jewels, and must be extricated from the cellar.

They seem (beyond a liking for wealth, which is common enough) to be thuroughly enjoying Bilbo's eccentiricity, and tend to be dissapointed when thier expecations are not lived up to.
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Old 06-22-2004, 01:58 AM   #18
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I also agree with your post, Arkenstone. What delighted me about scenes in the first chapter and especially in the the scene at the Ivy Bush is that it gave us an insight into hobbit life and their petty likes and dislikes (e.g. Gaffer disliking Ted Sandyman 'even more than usual'). The Shire reminds me of a very sheltered place, with inhabitants who love to gossip and chat about the most eccentric people and relieve old tales and even 'bigger' things such as dwarves and dragons. Whether this has any correlation to the environment and community Tolkien lived in, I can't say as I haven't read any biographies on him (yet).

In post #14, Fordim Hedgethistle said-

Quote:
Can anyone say "foreshadowing"? Is it just me or is Gandalf here being presented as a precursor to Frodo who will, in the future, be "bent, almost as if he was carrying a great weight" as he walks into Mordor. Frodo will also be a "cloaked figure" who "vanish[es] into the twilight."
I never thought of that before, and it's a very interesting thought. I believe that your right, as Tolkien has used foreshadowing in this book (i.e. Frodo's dream in Bombadil's house) and that most, or even all, 'little' interconnections in the book should be taken as intended ones, as his world is so diverse and intricate down to the smalles detail.
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Old 06-22-2004, 02:24 AM   #19
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I would like to point out how Tolkien's knowledge of English onomastics plays a part here. All of the names you will see on that map either are or could be real English place names. Newbury in Buckland bears the same name as a Berkshire market town, just as there really are places called Stock and Bucklebury. Michel Delving on the White Downs bears a striking resemblance to Micheldever near Winchester, which is also situated on some chalk downs, as are much of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Tolkien holidayed more than once in Lyme Regis and Sidmouth, and there is an echo of the Devonshire town of Honiton in the centre of the narrative. All in all, for the English reader, this is supposed to be familiar territory
This has always struck me - the 'Englishness' of the world of the Shire - to the extent that I was deeply surprised that readers from other countries could relate to the story at all. I can't help asking the (probably unanswerable)question, whether English readers understand/experience the Shire & its inhabitants differently from readers in other countries (as, I'd assume, a Russian would understand/experience, say, War & Peace differently to a non Russian). Or, if you're not English, are there parts of your country that feel like the Shire - Hope this is not too far off topic, but the effect of the opening chapter on myself (& like Squatter I'd include the map of the Shire in with the first chapter) is to place me in a world which I recognise - landscapes, placenames, personal names, etc - so that the sense of 'menace' is more intense & disturbing because its happening 'at home', as it were. If you come from a country/culture which is very diferent from the one described, do you identify with the Shire, or does it feel more 'alien' to you. Or to put it another way, does the Shire feel like the familiar & 'everday' world to everyone, or does it have the same kind of 'otherness' about it as Lorien or Gondor - does anyone start the book with the feeling that they're [I]already[/] in another world?
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Old 06-22-2004, 03:05 AM   #20
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In rsponse to Davem, I do indeed feel as though I am in another world when I step into the Shire, or many other settings in Middle-Earth. My home is more akin to the wastland of Mordor, only populated by throny shrubs.

I have been to other, different climates, of course. But I have yet to visit one as beautiful as I the one I would love to see in the U.K.

I think this is yet another example of Tolkien's genius. Before reading this book, my desire to travel there was irrelevant. But afterwards, I find myself wishing for forests, moors, downs, woodland paths, hills, streams, and pretty much everything one cannot find near my home.

I connected with the Shire because it was so peaceful, so close to nature. Las Vegas, even in the suburbs, is not peaceful, by any means. But there is nature, if one looks hard enough. The hobbits love thier land, despite minor annoyances, and I love mine, even when the thermometer reaches high into triple digits.

So, despite blatant differences, the Shire and the Las Vegas desert have something in common. People belonged there, and I know that I belong here. (no matter how much I want to move to England)
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Old 06-22-2004, 03:37 AM   #21
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Don't idealise this country too much! Its still very beautiful in parts, but its not the Shire! There are still places that are close to it, though. Every year I travel down to Oxford for the Oxonmoot weekend with the Tolkien Society (culminating in a visit to Tolkien's grave on the Sunday morning). The countryside around Oxford still retains what I feel to be an echo of the Shire. And the 'Bird & Baby' (The Eagle & Child pub) where the Inklings used to meet, is a typical English pub - perhaps lending some of its atmosphere to the Ivy Bush - apart from the photos of the Inklings & a framed letter from them on the wall.
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Old 06-22-2004, 07:07 AM   #22
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Some good points have come up in the discussion! Arkenstone, the connection between Frodo being orphaned at an early age, like Tolkien himself, is interesting! I remember a highly entertaining discussion on the fact that heroes are often orphans, and whether it is an ‘advantage’ for them, on the thread Tolkien the Matricide – you might enjoy reading it!

davem, the ‘homey’ feel of the Shire is evident to me, though I grew up in Midwest USA. I’m sure the familiar names and idiosyncrasies would feel even closer to English readers, but I wonder if it doesn’t strike a chord with most humans. Perhaps it’s an archetype of ‘Home’ for us all?

Fordim, I too see much foreshadowing in this chapter and can’t help but wonder how much of it was there from the beginning and how much had to be added after the story developed the way it did. One thing that impresses me in this chapter is the introduction to many names in the Shire, whether in the Inn or at the birthday party. It seems to me that Tolkien is trying to make us care about the people there, so that the Scouring of the Shire at the end of the story is important to us. Considering that he had planned that ending early in the writing process, it could be a conscious choice.

Yes, Saraphim, reading a book does make one want to see the places in it, doesn't it?! I'm hoping to make a trip to Oxford soon to see where Tolkien lived and worked. (Off-topic for the book, but relevant to that point, I must confess that I'd love to see New Zealand after seeing the movie!)
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Old 06-22-2004, 08:45 AM   #23
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davem -- You go to Oxonmoot every year? I am positively green with envy.

You pose an excellent question about the different responses of English readers and readers from other countries -- it's one I've thought a lot about, but only being from one country (although I have lived all over the world in my life) I don't really feel qualified to answer it. Still, I rather suspect that American and (to a lesser extent) Canadian (such as myself) readers would not respond quite so instantly and familiarly to the subtle differences of class in the Shire. There is a class system on this side of the pond, but one that is defined in very different ways than is the one of the Shire/England (but I shall leave this now as I know there are threads aplenty about this already).

As for my impression, I always find the Shire to be very 'homey' -- not because I come from someplace like the Shire, but because it's a place where all the values (and trials) of home are the governing principles of day to day life. I daresay that there are many places and cultures in the world for whom the Shire would be as alien as Lorien (perhaps even more alien) but I rather suspect that most people would respond to the 'homey-virtue' of the world.

Saraphim

Quote:
People belonged there, and I know that I belong here. (no matter how much I want to move to England)
You do realise that you're a hobbit, don't you? This understanding is precisely the one that Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin come to realise as their journeys go forward. They all long to go somewhere else, to see what it's like and to find out if it matches their imaginings. But in the end, while they all come to appreciate that while the people who live in those places "belong" there, they do not. Even though Pippin becomes a Tower Guard, and Merry a Rider, and Frodo and Sam the Friends of all the Free Peoples, in the end, they "belong" in the Shire just as you belong in the desert. Perhaps that is the most lasting effect of this chapter's emphasis on the Shire -- it demonstrates not just that the four hobbits who go off on adventures belong in the Shire, but to the Shire. The real focus and protagonist of this chapter is the Shire and the hobbits who live there, and not really an individual hobbit (although Bilbo is allowed to take centre stage for a bit, but only before disappearing from the Shire). I guess this makes sense given that the anatagonist of the chapter is not Sauron but the Ring itself. Another comparison -- Shire vs Ring: hmmm. . .that's kind of how the whole novel works, isn't it?
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Old 06-22-2004, 09:26 AM   #24
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Estelyn & Fordim

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davem, the ‘homey’ feel of the Shire is evident to me, though I grew up in Midwest USA. I’m sure the familiar names and idiosyncrasies would feel even closer to English readers, but I wonder if it doesn’t strike a chord with most humans. Perhaps it’s an archetype of ‘Home’ for us all?
I suspect it was 'home' for Tolkien, & I suppose his memories of his childhood at Sarehole were at the basis of it. The interesting thing for me is, the 'Shire' of the Hobbit is also a reflection of the world of his childhood in a way - a time when there was 'less noise & more green', but that world was never under threat in the story. Bilbo came back to a Shire as beautiful, safe & permanent as the one he left. But in LotR we begin with the Shire under threat. This time there will be no going away for an adventure, with a safe, secure home waiting in the 'kindly West' for the adventurers to wish themselves back in. I can't help wondering if the attitude reflected in The Hobbit comes out of Tolkien's belief when he went off to fight in WW1, that England was waiting, & would always be as he remembered it - if he survived his own adventure, whereas LotR reflects his more mature thinking, as he lived through WW2 - 'Home' (Heimat) will always be under threat now, it will always need someone to make the sacrifice, give things up so that others may keep them.

What I sense, for all that he presents the Hobbits as almost incurably parochial (& light-fingered - no wonder Gandalf chose a Hobbit when he needed a professional burglar! Some of them would take anything that wasn't nailed down!), I think they symbolise what he loved - 'the land of lost content', the England he grew up in & fought (& would have died) for. Perhaps its the depth of this love that he manages to communicate to us in the Prologue & first chapter, & its that love that comes through, & that his readers respond to, even if the actual place he describes is not similar to any place they've known. We certainly pick up on the sense of what we love being threatened, & want it to be saved. Its the ordinariness of the Shire & its inhabitants that makes me want Frodo to succeed - if Tolkien had set his stories in some typically outlandish fantasy world, would we care as deeply (or at all) whether it was saved or not?


Quote:
Still, I rather suspect that American and (to a lesser extent) Canadian (such as myself) readers would not respond quite so instantly and familiarly to the subtle differences of class in the Shire.
I may be too typical of my culture, but I have to admit that when I first read LotR, the 'class thing' didn't register on me. I simply accepted the relationship - though I'm definitely in the same class as Sam, I didn't feel in any way that he was 'inferior' to the others. It was only when I started reading books on Tolkien (& latterly accessing posts on web sites) by Americans that I even started to think about the 'class thing'! Maybe I've been kept in my place too long!
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Old 06-22-2004, 11:28 AM   #25
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Boots Who might Tolkien's anticipated audience be?

Here I arrive (fashionably ?) late and find you all have taken up so many of the interesting ideas in this chapter! I shall simply have to try harder to find something not considered and hope for the best.

I would agree very much with Squatter about the centrality of the humour in this chapter. Tolkien had a dry wit and was cleverly able to skewer where he felt bubbles of petty foibles could be burst without cruel damage. Imagine Bilbo's delight of being able to write those gift cards without being around to face the consequences!

It would appear that I belong to the smaller party here in that I do not deeply long to live in The Shire. This chapter has for me the kindly fond but wittily distanced memories of a quasi-comfortable past. Those memories to me suggest something incomplete, not wholly knowing. Although delightful, these memories of childhood, nonetheless represent something limited, maybe even naive, certainly not wise, as Gandalf is. This is the effect of the social humour for me: the wit distances the fondness.

The conversation at the Ivy Bush is spot on concerning the memories and preferences of many an elder I have known: the gossipy kind of small minded concerns and petty interests. Perhaps this is because, at the age of 10, I moved across a continent and left behind a polyglot, multi-cultural culture for one decided slow and back-looking. I have pained memories of sitting listening to elders speak as the Gaffer and Daddy Twofoot (two foot tall?) do, being politely trained to be seen and not heard. Contented, complacent ignorance frustrated me no end. Indeed, this chapter brings me back to my early adolescent frustration with what I, in my teenage wisdom, felt was the stifling complacency of a community which rarely looked beyond its own gardens. I still do not like people who try to know what is going on in everybody else's life and correct it; I would rather they look at their own. (myself included!)

davem raises an interesting point that The Shire reflects Tolkien's sense of 'home' from his childhood in Sarehood. Where I would differ is in thinking that World War II gave Tolkien this sense that such a world was always under threat.

It seems to me that for Europe World War I was more traumatic culturally. I think of all the war poets writing bitterly about the betrayal of the heroic ideal--Anthem for a Doomed Youth springs to mind most immediately. Owen and Sassoon in particular I guess. And when I recall how many of Tolkien's friends were killed at the Somme and elsewhere in the Great War, I would tend to think that the sense of nostalgic loss accrued not to WWII but to the WWI. There's that scene, too, in the move [i]Chariots of Fire[/b] where the giddy university lads are off to France at the train station and they see the crippled war veterans eeking out a meagrely living doing menial labour at the station. (of course, my memory of the movie could be faulty!)

One small point which intrigues me is that dwarves are around The Shire, for they help unload Gandalf's fireworks.

Well, quite enough rambling I should say. A summary of all this and a quick other point. It seems to me--and this was I think noted early on here by others--that the chapter begins not in the middle of bang 'em up action but just as that action begins to roll. Perhaps this, too, is the storyteller coming out in Tolkien. He chose here in the first chapter to begin to develop that inexorable sense of a world passing away. He did it by focussing attention upon a rural pastoral. But here we have Frodo wanting to give Bag End to Otho and Lobelia and run off with Bilbo. Oh, those very ominous words of Gandalf-- "Expect me when you see me" and "Look out for me, especially at unlikely times." Foreshadowing indeed.

The other point I shall quickly make refers to the reliability or authority of narrative. Frodo speaks with Gandalf about the ring:

Quote:
'Do be careful of that ring, Frodo! In fact, it is partly about that that I have ocme to say a last word.'

'Well, what about it?'

'What do you know already?'

'Only what Bilbo told me. I have heard his story: how he found it, and how he used it: on his journey, I mean.'

'Which story, I wonder,' said Gandalf.

'On not what he told the dwarves and put in his book,' said Frodo. 'He told me the true story soon after I came to live here. ...'

...

'... Well, what did you think of it all?'

'If you mean, inventing all that about a 'present', well, I thought the true story much more likely, and I couldn't see the point of altering it at all...'

'So did I. But odd things happend to people that have such treasures.
A nod to the fiction of history, I suppose. But also a suggestion that readers must "think of it all" and keep their wits about them.
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Old 06-22-2004, 01:11 PM   #26
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1420! Class system, the Shire as a not-so-ideal location and Bilbo's travelling song

Well, there have certainly been some interesting points since yesterday. I'm with davem on the subject of class. I only started to notice Sam's deference on my third reading of the text, and Tolkien does such a good job of making him into an integral part of the Fellowship that we almost miss the master and servant (more accurately from Tolkien's point of view, officer and batman) relationship that he shares with Frodo. Still, there's more of that later in the book and I don't want to get ahead of myself. I'm not really aware of how the class system works in other countries, but it should be remembered that a lot has changed in Britain since Tolkien's day, largely as a result of the Second World War. People aren't so willing as they were in the past to be limited to a social group determined by birth, and we're no longer brought up to respect our betters and to let them determine our fate. I suppose that a lot of people are confused by the existence of an aristocracy over here, but these days they're really no more than rich people with titles added to their names, not a race apart.

Anyway, I don't want to get sidetracked by the class issue, which has, of course, been discussed elsewhere. Bêthberry brings up a very interesting point that I was close to making in the discussion of the Prologue: the Shire is not an absolutely ideal society, and it is based on Tolkien's memories of Sarehole and other rural communities that he lived in as a child. Certainly to the young Tolkien, torn away from what must have seemed an idyllic setting to the smoke and grime of industrial Birmingham, the countryside must have become a memory of happiness and security, which probably explains his antipathy towards modern cities. He was unfortunate in that his lifetime saw the final flowering of the industrial age, in which science and engineering drove uncontrolled and widespread industrial and urban expansion: the countryside of Tolkien's youth has gone forever, which is one of the reasons why Peter Jackson chose to make his films in New Zealand.

Tolkien was, however, aware of the small-mindedness of Hobbits. Although their talk amused him, he does admit in several letters to finding them annoying at times. In letter #246 (September 1963), he wrote:
Quote:
Sam is meant to be lovable and laughable. Some readers he irritates and even infuriates. I can well understand it. All hobbits at times affect me in the same way, though I remain very fond of them. But Sam can be very 'trying'. He is a more representative hobbit than any others that we have to see much of; and he has consequently a stronger ingredient of that quality which even some hobbits found at times hard to bear: a vulgarity - by which I do not mean a mere 'down-to-earthiness' - a mental myopia which is proud of itself, a smugness (in varying degrees) and cocksureness, and a readiness to measure and sum up all things from a limited experience, largely enshrined in sententious traditional 'wisdom'. We only meet exceptional hobbits in close companionship - those who had a grace or gift: a vision of beauty, and a reverence for things nobler than themselves, at war with their rustic self-satisfaction. Imagine Sam without his education by Bilbo and his fascination with things Elvish! Not difficult. The Cotton family and the Gaffer, when the 'Travellers' return are a sufficient glimpse.
It is no accident that Tolkien makes Bilbo and Frodo adventurous academic dreamers, Sam an enthusiast of Elves, myth and far-away places, and Merry and Pippin reckless go-getters. None of these qualities are smiled upon in the Shire, and they were all qualities that the myth-loving, spiritual, former school rugby player Tolkien possessed in no small measure. I'm sure that his scene in the Ivy Bush was based on similar memories to those that Bêthberry has shared with us above.

Before I bring this post to a close, I'd like to explore another point that I hinted at very briefly in my last post: Bilbo's singing of The Road Goes Ever On at the door of Bag End. This passage seems to me to exemplify something in Tolkien's prose that is very visual. It is almost a moment that would work better on screen, because it says so much more by means of the character's small actions than by his speech:
Quote:
I am being swept off my feet at last,' he added, and then in a low voice, as if to himself, he sang softly in the dark:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.


He paused, silent for a moment. Then without another word he turned away from the lights and voices in the fields and tents, and followed by his three companions went around into his garden, and trotted down the long sloping path.
Clearly Bilbo is remembering the danger of roads at first; but his silence after the song, his thoughful address and the significant capitalisation of 'road' speak of a deeper current of thought that turns the Road in Bilbo's mind into an allegory of life itself. It seems significant too that he has just given up his old life: his home and possessions, his family and friends, and most significantly of all the Ring that bestows longevity. He is beginning to feel his age, and at this very time he is venturing forth into he knows not what adventures. Small wonder that his mind turns to the uncertainty of the road ahead and its inevitable mortal ending. This is the first shadowing of a general theme of deathlessness and mortality that runs through the entire story: from Bilbo and Frodo to Gandalf and Saruman to Galadriel and Celeborn to, most strikingly of all, Aragorn and Arwen. But this theme can be explored in more depth later, particularly when, in a good many months' time, we reach Appendix A.

Incidentally, davem: I like to regard the Shire as an anarcho-syndicalist commune.
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Old 06-22-2004, 02:55 PM   #27
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If Bethberry is "fashionably late", then I must be what the cat dragged in!

Davem, Bethberry, -

It's interesting how we all had such differing responses to the "class thing" in the first chapter. I was acutely aware of Sam's "place" within the Shire the first time I read the book and in fact identified some of his situation with my own. As the daughter of a factory worker and grand-daughter of a miner, I remember daydreaming about Sam as I trudged off to clean other folks' houses to earn money for tuition. When I told my parents that I had decided to continue on in medieval history past the master's, I clearly remember being lectured about the undesirability of chasing after "Elves and Dragons" and was advised to seek "cabbages and potatoes." Needless to say, I had different ideas!

Poor Sam! Always having to stretch between two worlds starting with the very first chapter. Yet Bethberry I do think there is beauty in both the situations that Tolkien presents for us: the chasing after and the coming back. I went racing out the door, turning my back on much I had been raised with, a world that was too small but one that had very firm values and where there were people who genuinely cared for each other. Instead, I chased after academia and later went roaring off to live in England, so I could see some of that scenery Tolkien described. (This was thirty-five years ago, so perhaps there was a bit more standing than today.)

Ironically, however, I find life has almost led me in a circle. With marriage and the birth of children, I am once again rooted in a community and stand much closer to something that, in its better moments, shows at least some resemblance to the Shire. Tolkien was very much a family man. My guess is that the goodness that shines through the Shire actually reflects two things. On the one hand, there were his memories of his boyhood, including the physical environment of the Midlands, something that's already been discussed on this thread. But there's something else as well. Tolkien was a husband and father. Shire life is essentially family life and I think he must have looked to the model of his own household for some of that. There would have been no Hobbits and, by implication, no Lord of the Rings unless Tolkien the father sat and told stories to his children. The "small" life that Tolkien describes, with both its good points and its shortcomings, was something that he found deep within his own heart. And, because it has a basis in personal reality, it is very compelling to many of us, even those who in our own time preferred to go chasing after Elves!
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Old 06-22-2004, 08:28 PM   #28
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Child, and if you're what the cat dragged in, what am I?

"When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End..." Those are the first words I heard of the book when my father began reading it aloud to me when I was just barely seven years old. My brothers and I had already become faintly acquainted with this Mr. Bilbo of Bag End as well as his younger cousin Frodo Baggins through bits and pieces about them told by my father, and we were naturally interested to hear the whole tale. We had not yet heard The Hobbit nor read it ourselves, and so we were ignorant of Bilbo's history and exactly how he acquired this Ring; but goodness did we know what the Ring was! The Ring, Bilbo, and Frodo made many interesting games during the rainy days. I shan't even begin to say what stories we made up with those characters. All the worst of the worst fanfictions put together could not equal the horrors that our cheerful, childish minds came up with!

I was a little mite of seven, enjoying my new home in the woods immensely was we had just moved from living in a town, and I along with my brothers had been excited at the prospect of our father reading aloud to us every evening. That evening a fire had been built in the stone fireplace and four wide-eyed little children gathered at their father's feet. No electric lights were turned on, but he ride by the firelight alone. Not too far away the fifth child who was too young to really pay attention was contenting himself with playing toys. And my father began by reading... "Chapter One... A Long-expected Party." He started at the beginning of chapter one that evening and was not allowed to put the book down for the night until he firmly insisted about three-fourths through the second chapter. We were already eager to hear more about Frodo and Bilbo and the Ring, and hearing the words made us firm and life-long friends of the characters. I can recall how I wept at not being allowed to listen to the final chapter of the Fellowship because of my own stubborness and unoblinginess.

Oh dear, those were the good old days.

"...and as Mr. Baggins was generous with his money..." This was one of the first things that struck me while reading the book again many years later. This, I think, was why I had always loved Bilbo, even as a small child. As a small child I pretended he was real, as children are wont to do, and I always looked on this 'imaginary Bilbo friend' as a very kind old uncle. This sentence sizes up the way I thought him when I was young, and the way I still think of him... a charitable, kind, obliging person. One who wouldn't be caught being stingy with their butter for the bread! "'A very nice well-spoken gentlehobbit is Mr.Bilbo, as I've always said.'" So have I! I believed most fervently that what the Gaffer said about Mr. Bilbo was exactly true, and I haven't changed my mind since.

Tweens... "...the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three." When I was a child it seemed fairly obvious that one was out of their tweens when they turned thirty-three, but I wondered when one first went into their twins. When, by Hobbit standard, was one no longer in their childhood? I had desperately wanted to celebrate the day I entered my tweens, but I never had the faintest idea when that day would be.

"'...they live on the wrong side of the Brandywine River.'" This I consider curious. In the discussion of the Prologue it was mentioned that perhaps the Shire Hobbits and Bree Hobbits had a rivalry. This might also be true with the Shire Hobbits and the Buckland Hobbits, if most other Shirefolk feel as Daddy Twofoot does. Undoubtedly by Hobbits of the Shire the Bucklanders were considered 'queer;' the Gaffer says as much. But Daddy Twofoot's statement also implies there might be a rivalry between them.

"'He's in and out of Bag End. Crazy about stories of the old days he is, and he listens to all Mr. Bilbo's tales.'" Sam has to be liked from the first, or at least he was so by me. I formed the mental image in my head of young Sam, creeping away from his duties in the garden every so often to sit at Bilbo's feet and gaze up in awe as he hears of those 'Elves and Dragons.'

My current impressions thus far, along with previous impressions as a child. I would continue, I suppose, as well as reply to observations of others, but like Sam I must be drawn away from the Elves and Dragons to go to the cabbages and potatoes... that is, the work that needs to be done after dinner!
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Old 06-23-2004, 12:20 AM   #29
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Saraphim & Fingolfin II - Do you think it is possible that Tolkien was trying to show how normal the Hobbits were and how they could very well be us ? Except for the hairy feet and short stature. I think it is the overall normalness of this chapter that at once draws folks into the book. From any country in the world people can associate with a good gossip over a pint at their local, the family squabbles etc., There is that automatic sympathy that one gives to Frodo because he has been orphaned and an immediate recognition in Sam as a Hobbit of principle and integrity.
Another point that sticks out like a sore thumb is the lack of machinery in the Shire. It is, aside from the Mill, a place where people work with nature to produce their pleasures....be they food or pipeweed. We know that Tolkien aborred the march away from the natural to the mechanised world.
There is also the possibility, from his own experience with war, that he is showing us that it is the normal everyday person, the little person, who goes on these quests (wars). They are the ones who do the dirty work, put their lives at risk and endure things that no human/hobbit should have to endure in their lifetime.

davem
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This has always struck me - the 'Englishness' of the world of the Shire - to the extent that I was deeply surprised that readers from other countries could relate to the story at all. I can't help asking the (probably unanswerable)question, whether English readers understand/experience the Shire & its inhabitants differently from readers in other countries (as, I'd assume, a Russian would understand/experience, say, War & Peace differently to a non Russian). Or, if you're not English, are there parts of your country that feel like the Shire
I was born in England and came to Australia when I was 15, that was 32 years ago, which makes me 21, that'll save you overworking your calculator. I can relate very much to the English countryside that Tolkien plans his Shire in, but there are also places where I live that could be a good backdrop for the Shire as well. Had I first read LotR in Australia I think that I could have still related a place in OZ to the Shire.......

Estelyn Telcontar Thankyou for the link, I will go and read the thread. I read an interesting article called 'Tolkien's Mother-less Heroes' it also brought in the Fatherless ones, but it was interesting to note that the majority of those who are major players in the Fellowship have lost either one or both of their parents. Gandalf excluded of course.

Just an out of place thing here. I find it more than amusing that for such a long time in Tolkien's story Frodo was called Bingo LOL I'm really glad he changed it
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Old 06-23-2004, 12:41 AM   #30
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As others have said, this chapter is very much about hobbits, and one of the things that really struck me while reading this last night was how Tolkien really defines Frodo as being different than the other hobbits. I know that this has probably been talked about other places but... I was just wondering, why do many of you think that Tolkien emphasizes Frodo being "his first and second cousin, once removed either way, as the saying is, if you follow me"?

This just struck me because this, and the entire history of Frodo could have been something that could have been skipped over, but instead it is brought up. I know that this is here just to tell about how Frodo is an orphan, and to give us history about why the Sackville-Bagginses are so intent on getting Bag End. But, I don't know, I think that is something that would be considered slightly weird in our society, so I find it interesting that he brings it up.

Now I consider this a slightly light-spirited chapter. Because it does have many very light moments, but then also the dark parts that become very important later in the story. We of course have the very interesting Bilbo and the parting of the ring section. Which is very important because if you read the Hobbit, you finally find out that the Ring is no mere trinket, which just makes people disappear. You find out that it is something quite dangerous, something that turns quite friendly characters like Bilbo into something they are not (which also on the subject of foreshadowing, is another foreshadowing of the effect the ring will eventually have on Frodo).

This chapter though has many memorable things. Like I have always remembered the Party Tree (maybe just because I have always wanted to have one myself). Even when I attempted a read of the trilogy (where I failed) years ago, I have always remembered the Party Tree and the Fireworks. This party though just reminds me of one very huge wedding (not a birthday, because with the giving of gifts to the guests, it very much reminds me of a wedding with the tradition of favor giving, and also for many you don't get all the relatives together for a birthday, but just for a wedding, or funeral) with a ton of relatives who don't quite get along.
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Old 06-23-2004, 01:44 AM   #31
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to post #26

Squatter, great posts up there, both of them!
I'd like especially to turn back to Bilbo's road-song and explore it a bit (even if I reach out of the chapter by chapter format):

As far as I am any judge, the song in question is the first instance of what poetry of LoTR is going to become throughout the narration to follow. For one thing, not one verse is out of place, and, on the surface of it, they always correspond to the current situation on hand. Bilbo is going away, so he [naturally(?)] sings a road-song. But, you are verily on the spot noting that it may be looked at like something over and beyond the mere ‘road-songishness’. If one surpasses our pace a bit, and compares all the instances of 'road-songs' to be recurred in the text, interesting conclusions may be drawn:

So, Instance 1 (Bilbo in “Long Expected Party”)

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.


It is notable how Bilbo’s ‘feet’ are ‘eager’ at the moment. He is going to have fun, after all, he’s journey is no more a burden, for he has given up the Ring, and is going to have a holiday

Instance 2 (Frodo in “Three is Company”)
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.


It is hard to notice, and, for the first reading, both songs seem one and the same. But there it is, the major difference – Frodo is going on with ‘weary feet’, journey of his is not to be ‘adventures in May’ as Bilbo’s were in the Hobbit, he, unlike Bilbo, just assumed a burden, which, in the end, will claim his life (i.e. the Road) altogether. And it is expression of Tolkien’s great skill, as I’ve mentioned, that in both cases the verses are very much applicable to the current situation, but one can not help always sensing something more to them than mere expression of the situation on hand. But there is more to follow, still:

Instance 3 (Bilbo in “Many Partings”)

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.’


Now again, this is very true on both levels – Bilbo is old, Ring is destroyed, so he does not have anything to support his unusual longevity already mentioned in posts up there, and is not going to have journeys any more (save one, that is, last journey to the Havens). But again, there is more to it than meets an eye. If road is again life, than Bilbo is stating his approaching death by it. And here is one of the much discussed and not easily spotted Christianity of the LoTR glimpsing through. What is ‘lighted inn’ and ‘evening-rest’, if ‘road’ be life and ‘sleep to meet’ be death? May it be it is slim hope of salvation, perchance?

Such a duality, I should say, is a characteristic of all Shire poetry, but not to outrun the format of chapter by chapter discussion, let us deal with verses to come as they turn up
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Old 06-23-2004, 04:57 AM   #32
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One thing that hits me, well like a train, is Tolkien’s choosing to mention express trains, clocks and carriages. He seems to gently ease us into that older world by degrees, first taking us to the Shire, and sprinkling his story with a few ‘more modern’ items before hinting at that there is more to this existence than we or the hobbits are fully aware of.

I agree that we, in a way, are like the hobbits. We are caught up in our own concerns; feeling like this is what life is all about, unaware or disinterested in the things not considered useful or pertinent to our mundane life. But we find there are things that influence life, and a history that we are blissfully unaware of. We along with and through Frodo begin to discover that something else, a difference life, lies beyond the realm of our experience.

As for hairy feet and short statue, perhaps hobbits are really men sprouting roots and growing ‘treeish’, their height merely an outward expression of a lack of desire to reach for those higher things, or to see beyond their own patch of land.

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Old 06-23-2004, 06:48 AM   #33
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I’m trying to catch up ..... well, what can I say after all these great posts ?
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This has always struck me - the 'Englishness' of the world of the Shire - to the extent that I was deeply surprised that readers from other countries could relate to the story at all
For me (although English isn't even my mothertongue) this Englishness of the Shire and its inhabitants is an essential part of the charm of this chapter and I enjoyed very much reading the Squatters excellent posts. Kudos !
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This chapter is, of course, accompanied by a map depicting a part of the Shire, and I would like to point out how Tolkien's knowledge of English onomastics plays a part here. All of the names you will see on that map either are or could be real English place names.
That's what makes the Shire so real, the names don't sound "made up" at all !
One of the reasons why I find the German translation so disappointing is that all the English names (of places and persons) which have a meaning, have been translated. That does not only take the "Englishness" away but never sounds so convincing and real, since no translator can have Tolkien's abilities. In addition, the various styles of speech of the characters which makes them so "alive" got also lost in the translation.
As Tolkien himself wrote in letter 190
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"The Shire" is based on rural England and not on any other country in the world. (....) The toponymy of The Shire is a "parody" of that rural England, in much the same sense as are its inhabitans: they go together and are meant to. After all the book is English, and by an Englishman, and presumably even those who wish its narrative and dialogue turned into an idiom that they understand, will not ask of a translator that he should deliberately attempt to destroy the local colour.
The things that Hilde Bracegirdle mentioned (umbrellas, clocks on the mantelpiece etc) also caught my attention.
I agree with Heren Istarion in his last post on the Prologue-thread that the hobbits and their way of living and thinking are really an anachronism in the ancient and heroic world of Middle-earth. And I think too that this is so that the reader can identify with them. After "The Hobbit" was such a success, I guess Tolkien saw that the readers needed such a "bridge" .
And also :
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A moral of the whole (….) is the obvious one, that without the high and noble, the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple und ordinary, the noble and heroic is meaningless.
( from letter 131)
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Old 06-23-2004, 07:59 AM   #34
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1420!

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You bought up a nice point about how the hobbits are small in stature and it might just symbolize how maybe they don't look beyond their own lands. They only are concerned with themselves. This would make sense because very few hobbits ever left the shire (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam...etc) and the ones that did were thought upon as "strange." Very few hobbits ever did anything of real importance (Bilbo, possibly the archers sent to aid Gondor, Frodo..etc), and again the ones who did were "outsiders" or "strange." The reason the small stature comes into play, is because of Merry and Pippin. These are 2 hobbits that both did extraordinary things, and of course they became the tallest hobbits ever because of drinking the ent draught. This symbolizes Merry and Pippin's "growth" not just physically but mentally and became more mature. Merry and Pippin went beyond their "lands," or "borders," and ended up becoming the tallest hobbits (i believe over 4 feet tall). So this growth could very well symbolize how both hobbits went beyond what other hobbits referred to as "regularity" and "reached" for higher things, unlike most hobbits who were "smaller" in stature.
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Old 06-23-2004, 09:42 AM   #35
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Boots A jumble of points

Guinevre, thank you for some interesting quotations from the Letters. I was very drawn to Tolkien's use of the word 'parody', within quotation marks, to describe both the typography and the inhabitants. What I would give for a fuller explanation of his understanding of parody!

I went back to read all of Letter #190; it is one of Tolkien's angriest I think, because the translators have not just translated the names into a cultural milieu which makes little sense of the original, but has also done so so badly, with little knowledge of and sensitivity to Dutch linquistic heritage. I think two other parts of that letter deserve to be quoted here.

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The Translator has (on internal evidence) glanced at but not used the Appendices. He seems incidentally quite unaware of difficulties he is creating for himself later. The 'Anglo Saxon' of the Rohirrim is not much like Dutch. In fact, heis pulling to bits with very clumsy fingers a web that he had made only a slight attempt to understand ....
...
Anyway I'm not going to be treated à la Mrs Tiggywinkle = Poupette à l'épingle. Not that B[eatrix] P[otter] did not give translators hell. Though possibly from securer grounds than I have. I am no linguist, but I do know something about nomenclature, and have specially studied it, and I am actually very angry indeed.
Hilde Bracegirdle and others, too , thanks for pointing out the anachronistic mentions of umbrellas and clocks and carriages. I wonder perhaps if we could at least say that such references point to a particular kind of mechanical contrivance, those of earlier developments rather than the totalising factories of the Industrial Revolution.

Squatter, Child and I were discussing in PM the very point you make about Pip and Merry, Frodo and Sam, and Bilbo, that they shared traits not well accepted in The Shire. Good call, too, I think, to suggest that Tolkien himself shared this elven wander lust in his desire to seek greater knowledge of languages and cultures. How very interesting a difference there is between him and his brother Hillary!

Child,

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Tolkien was very much a family man. My guess is that the goodness that shines through the Shire actually reflects two things. On the one hand, there were his memories of his boyhood, including the physical environment of the Midlands, something that's already been discussed on this thread. But there's something else as well. Tolkien was a husband and father. Shire life is essentially family life and I think he must have looked to the model of his own household for some of that. There would have been no Hobbits and, by implication, no Lord of the Rings unless Tolkien the father sat and told stories to his children. The "small" life that Tolkien describes, with both its good points and its shortcomings, was something that he found deep within his own heart. And, because it has a basis in personal reality, it is very compelling to many of us, even those who in our own time preferred to go chasing after Elves!
Ah, yes, like you I went chasing after elves, and have returned to a more domestic community, but one that is, I think, a little removed from that which, as Tolkien says in the letter Guinevre quoted, is a 'parody.' I think you are very right to point out Tolkien's strong sense of family. However, I am not so sure I would see his own personal adult life reflected in The Shire's web of social connections. I think back more to his childhood and recall his own loss of his father at--what, the age of four?--and then of his mother at the age of twelve and the upheavals of guardianship and many different domestic arrangements which followed the joyful days at Sarehole. Imagine his aunt burning his mother's letters, having no sense of how precious they might be to him and Hilary! To me, the haunting sense of nostalgia for this community might derive in some sense from the fact that Tolkien himself never experienced a 'regular' family and social situation in his childhood.

This is, however, just a suggestion, as I recall Tolkien's own point in the Foreword that the relation between life and art is very complex and far less direct than many critics would be able to unravel. Sometimes, I think, it is very easy to be so influenced by the charm and eloquence of the art that we think the very stuff and strength of the writing must derive from real life and not from the imagination or creation.

In defense of this, I would make a personal observation of something I have experienced. I have myself complimented someone on how his writing made me feel very strongly the emotion contained in the writing, with my sense that here must be personal experience out of which he was writing or referring to. And I was wrong, as I came know, for the personal experience does not exist, quite as directly as I had thought. I had responded to this writer's eloquence and art and his ability to recreate in a very different context, something which perhaps had a germ growing in real life. It was a most amazing experience for me, for here I had fallen into the very spell of words and art which normally I strive very hard to respect, that this must be real and not artistic illusion. And the writer in question? Oh, he was tickled pink. It was the greatest compliment I could have given him.
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Old 06-23-2004, 10:31 AM   #36
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Boromir88 - Yes, I also thought of Merry and Pippin when writing , but it is also interesting to examine Gollum under the same light. Bent and downward focused, he ceases to be a hobbit, and literally goes underground.
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Old 06-23-2004, 10:35 AM   #37
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A Long Expected Party

A Long Expected Party does seem like a great follow-up to the Hobbit's events, nicely passing the reigns from Bilbo to Frodo, even as far as all the less thought out sorts of similes and things, like mentioning clocks, freight trains and such. For such a simple, grounded people, hobbits seem to have advanced in mechanical technology past even Saruman's tinkerings!

What I like a lot about it is that, unlike a bit of the Hobbit, A.L.E.P. doesn't seem rushed. It's a nice, long chapter with dealings ranging from the notorious Sackville-Bagginses to Gandalf.

What I liked even more about it is that, unlike the beginning of the Hobbit, which seems to rush Bilbo out the door, it gives a lot more insight into the day to day life of all the local hobbits, whether the Gaffer has a beer with Ted Sandyman and Daddy Twofoot in the Green Dragon, or Frodo traipses around after the party with Merry, figuring out what to do now that Bilbo has left and keeping everything sane.

It's not hugely obvious that Merry and Pippin, Fatty and Folco are Frodo's best pals throughout later on, but we learn that Bilbo has a few nephews and cousins who love hearing his stories, and you can safely guess that they were the very same loveable cousins Frodo was best friends with. Not to forget Sam, who also loves Bilbo's stories, and being a neighbor and gardener is up at Bag-End more often than all save Frodo.

Everything is nice and friendly, or at least homely, and the only thing amiss in the whole thing seems to be Bilbo. Now, we knew he had an adventure, and so the quite large amount of dwarves helping out and who were at the party presumably, wasn't much of a surprise, but his little episode with Gandalf certainly served it's purpose well - to alarm us, and make us wonder, just what was going on. It was pretty evident that it was the Ring at work, even without the book being called 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.

Anyway, I can see the obvious connections and similarities with the feel of The Hobbit, and I can also see that this chapter sets up a lot of great bonds between characters that at least I know I tended to forget about later on in the journey, when more extravagent, and bold, and heroic characters came into the spotlight. It's easy to get caught up in the epic, heroic events surrounding Aragorn, Boromir, and even Gandalf draws attention from the four hobbits who were the closest characters in the entire cast-list.

So now when I read ... I try to keep at least one part of my brain thinking back to Book One, and the Long Expected Party.

Oh, and sorry if this doesn't exactly follow up to the last few posts, I just haven't had time to read through all of it yet.
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Old 06-23-2004, 01:50 PM   #38
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Hilde Bracegirdle and others, too , thanks for pointing out the anachronistic mentions of umbrellas and clocks and carriages. I wonder perhaps if we could at least say that such references point to a particular kind of mechanical contrivance, those of earlier developments rather than the totalising factories of the Industrial Revolution.
Of course, it could simply be that he was, in the Shire, presenting us with an image of the world he grew up in, which did have umbrellas, clocks & carriages, but nothing more complex. Anyone who wants an insight into the kind of childhood world Tolkien knew should read Flora Thompson's autobiography, Lark Rise to Candleford. Flora lived as a child in an Oxfordshire village in the last quarter of the 19th century, & the kind of world she describes could have come straight from the early chapters of LotR:

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Spring brought a flush of green wheat & there were violets under the hedges & pussey willows out beside the brook at the bottom of the 'Hundred Acres';.. the ripened cornfields rippled up to the doorsteps of the cottages & the hamlet became an island in a sea of dark gold....

(describing the cottages) Other rooms were bright & cosy, with dressers of crockery, cushioned chairs, pictures on the walls & brightly coloured hand made rag rugs on the floor. In these there would be pots of geraniums, fuschias, & old-fashioned sweet-smelling musk on the windowsills. In the older cottages there were grandfather's clocks, gate legged tables, & rows of pewter, relics of a time when life was easier for country folk.

(Speaking of herself & her brother) They had no need to ask the names of the birds, flowers & trees they saw everyday, for they had already learned these unconsciously, & neither could remember a time when they did not know an oak from an ash, wheat from barley, or a jenny wren from a blue-tit.

The white tails of rabbits bobbed in & out of the hedgerows; stoats crossed the road in front of the children's feet - swift, silent, stealthy creatures which made them shudder; there were squirrels in the oak trees, & once they even saw a fox curled up asleep in the ditch beneath thick overhanging ivy. Bands of little blue butterflies flitted here & there or poised themselves on quivering wings on the long grass bents; bees hummed in the white clover blooms, & over all a deep silence brooded. It seemed as though the road had been made ages before, then forgotten.
And that was a real village, 19 miles from Oxford, in the 1880's. It could have been (for Tolkien probably was) the Shire. Imagine having that, & then having it taken from you, along with your mother, & being left to grow up in a dirty noisy city like industrial Birmingham. You can imagine why the 'Machine' took on such a horrific aspect for Tolkien. And yet, the Shire has become a 'fantasy land' for most of us, & we think of it as a place to escape to - if only in our minds, for a short time. Strange to think that not much more than a century ago real people really lived that way.
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Old 06-23-2004, 02:43 PM   #39
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Our introduction to Frodo....

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As others have said, this chapter is very much about hobbits, and one of the things that really struck me while reading this last night was how Tolkien really defines Frodo as being different than the other hobbits.
Gorwingel,

This is an excellent point. Most of our discussion has focused on the general characteristics of Hobbits and the Shire, yet the chapter does more than this. For the first time we meet the character of Frodo. Tolkien paints a subtle picture of Frodo and Bilbo: how they were emotionally close, yet so different in other ways, and how Frodo was not the “typical” Hobbit Tolkien’s been describing.

Interestingly, right up to the point when Bilbo disappears, we never see Frodo directly: we only hear about him secondhand through the words of Bilbo and the Gaffer, or the narration provided by the author. Although Frodo’s birthday is briefly mentioned, it’s clear the bulk of attention at the party will fall on Bilbo. For me, Frodo’s “distance” in the first part of the chapter is not accidental. It reinforces the fact that Bilbo, although loving and kind hearted, is currently the one in control at Bag-end, not only because of his position and age but by the sheer force of his outgoing, witty personality.

Tolkien may have left us a hint that Bilbo recognized just how much he dominated things and that Frodo might benefit from a bit more space. When Bilbo explains to Gandalf why he didn’t ask Frodo to come with him, the older Hobbit not only mentions Frodo still being in love with the Shire, but also acknowledges....

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It's time he was his own master now.
Frodo is certainly capable of humor and comradeship. He has to struggle to keep from laughing at the "indignant surprise of the guests" when his uncle disappears, and his friends give him a hearty “huzzah” at the mention of his birthday at the party (to say nothing of his later propensity for dancing on tables). Yet, overall, the prologue leaves us with the impression that Frodo is a fairly serious and quiet Hobbit---perhaps “earnest” is a better term—and that this definitely sets him apart.

He took his duties in distributing the mathoms so seriously that Tolkien points out he had a “trying time that afternoon.” There are no witticisms on his part despite the guests swarming all over the house: the humor comes from the pointed barbs Bilbo has left on the gift tags as well as the crazy behavior of the other Hobbits. His response to inquiries about his uncle is short and straightforward: “Mr. Bilbo Baggins has gone away; as far as I know, for good.”

Then, there’s Lobelia’s insult to Frodo as she angrily trounced out of Bag-end upon hearing that Frodo is the heir: “….you’re no Baggins—you—you’re a Brandybuck.” If Bilbo had heard such words from Lobelia, he would have gotten in a pointed barb or two and made her pay for it. Frodo, by contrast, simply shuts the door on her and turns to speak with his friend in a surprisingly calm manner:

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Did you hear that, Merry? That was an insult, if you like.
It is Merry who does the more typical Hobbit thing by turning Lobelia’s insult into a joke:

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It was a compliment, .....and so, of course, not true.
All of this seems to underline the fact that Frodo is different not only from the other Hobbits in the Shire, but even from those closest to him.

Another interesting point in the prologue....The Ring is already there and is beginning to get its grip on Frodo. What happened to Bilbo is already happening to Frodo. There are two images in the chapter that both these characters share: that of secretly fingering the Ring in their trouser-pocket. Tolkien mentions Bilbo with his hand in his pocket as he says his speech. This is precisely mirrored by Frodo’s behavior when he faces Lobelia at Bag-end:

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He looked indisposed to see Sackville-Bagginses at any rate; and he stood up fidgeting with something in his pocket.
In this same vein, Frodo later admits to Merry:

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Honestly, I nearly tried on Bilbo's ring. I longed to disappear.
Yet there is another ingredient in this chapter that points to a way Frodo will be able to resist the power of the Ring for a very long time: his ability to have deep feelings for those closest to him. The one thing that comes through in “A Long-Expected Party” is how much Frodo cares for Bilbo. There are a number of passages where Frodo reflects on Bilbo having gone. Amidst all the sharp barbs, jokes, and display of wit in this part of the book, Frodo’s genuine emotion comes shining through. Just look at Frodo's immediate response to Bilbo’s disappearance. The word that comes to mind is “poignant”.

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Frodo was the only one present who had said nothing. For some time he had sat silent beside Bilbo’s empty chair, and ignored all remarks and questions. He had enjoyed the joke, of course, even though he had been in the know. He had difficulty in keeping from laughter at the indignant surprise of the guests. But at the same time he felt deeply troubled: he realized suddenly that he loved the old hobbit dearly. Most of the guests went on eating and drinking and discussing Bilbo Baggins’ oddities, past and present; but the Sackville-Bagginses had already departed in wrath. Frodo did not want to have any more to do with the party. He gave orders for more wine to be served; then he got up and drained his own glass silently to the health of Bilbo, and slipped out of the pavilion
His later words to Gandalf are equally telling:

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I hoped until this evening that it was only a joke…..But I knew in my heart that he really meant to go. He always used to joke about serious things. I wish I had come back sooner, just to see him off.
Gandalf responds by saying that Bilbo preferred to slip off on his own.

This scene to me epitomizes the strong tie between Frodo and Bilbo as well as their very real difference in temperment: Bilbo who often hides his concern about serious things behind a joke now prefers to disappear rather than having to face his nephew whom he loves; Frodo hoping that Bilbo’s threat to leave was merely a joke and wishing that he had said goodbye despite the pain in such an intimate exchange. It is this ability to feel for another person that will “save” Frodo from the allure of the Ring, at least for a very long time. His ability to “feel” for Bilbo, the Shire, and, perhaps most of all, Samwise will be his first line of defense against the lure of evil.

Sorry about this being so long....but no one had mentioned these things.
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Old 06-23-2004, 03:29 PM   #40
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Boots Contrasting The Shire with Frodo

Glorwingel and Child,

A very good point about how Frodo is introduced to us! We need to have him juxtaposed to something to help us understand his character. Thanks for those quotations Child.

davem,

You quote a most idyllic passage about Victorian villiages in the 1880's which is quite sweet, but there are other perspectives of those same villages, which discuss the dreadful nature of public sewage and infant mortality and the sanitary conditions of water. I think also of scenes from Tess of the d'Urbervilles or Far From the Madding Crowds and other Hardy novels. I don't wish to deny any of the very attractive features of The Shire or of the Hobbits in all this, of course, (for it is attractive) but to balance them with the distance which Tolkien's wit and humour create for me.

My point is that Tolkien's depiction of The Shire depends more on what he wants to do artistically or narratively in this chapter. He is not writing actual history, but the 'fiction' of history. He draws on his experience, but does not limit his writing solely to that experience.

However, I would like to ask you what you think Tolkien meant by this most intriguing word in Letter #190 which Guinevere posted: parody. (To be honest, I'm not sure that I myself can fully appreciate his meaning.) I will copy it here again:

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The toponymy of The Shire, to take the first list, is a 'parody' of that of rural England, in much the same sense as are its inhabitants: they go together and are meant to.
I think Child has made a telling point, that the conditions we are given of The Shire function to throw our hero in a different light, so we can begin to understand how he is uniquely qualified for this Quest and consider what his journey might be. The Shire is, in a sense, Frodo's and Bilbo's '"foil."
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