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Old 08-19-2018, 10:23 PM   #1
Haunting Spirit
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Tolkien & English Renaissance Drama

Looks like Ms. Seth's series is finally coming to an end. The series which has expanded beyond Tom Bombadil, Goldberry and understanding of the Barrow incident – has also included her views on the origin of The Hobbit. From her past Match me a Bilbo in London article – she has put forward that the source of 'Bilbo' was linked to Thomas Dekker – an Elizabethan and Jacobean playwright. For this latest essay she has explored where and when Tolkien may have bumped into Dekker's works – as they appear to lie outside his known area of expertise.

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Old 08-20-2018, 02:58 AM   #2
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This is - and I'm going to shock you here - a very good examination of Tolkien's early life in the specific context of post-Shakespeare plays. If the question 'where and why could Tolkien have encountered Match Me in London?' is one you want answered, this is a wonderful post to try and answer it with. (It is certainly far better than 'it has a thing that looks a bit like a dragon on it'!)

What neither it nor the earlier essay do is demonstrate that this is a more likely source for the name of Bilbo (and, now, a higher bar: 'the skeleton plot of his first real literary hit originated from Thomas Dekker’s 1611 handicraft.') than any other.

It is very easy to list points of similarity between things and claim a connection. My Gollum - King Solomon example continues to demonstrate this. If Ms. Seth was simply asserting 'it is possible that Tolkien got Bilbo's name from MMiL, and here's some supporting evidence', that would be fine. But she's not - she's asserting 'Tolkien did get Bilbo's name from this source, and based the plot of The Hobbit on it'.

That is too strong a claim for the evidence provided. To actually make that claim, you would need to prove at least two things:

-That The Hobbit was inspired by Elizabethan literature at all. The presence of a magical ring and a dragon points a firm finger at Anglo-Saxon/Scandinavian tales, and so a demonstration that there must (not 'could') be another source for at least parts, and that the Shakespearean era is the best option, would be needed.
---How would I do this? First off, I'd look for direct quotes from Tolkien. Secondly, I'd look for themes which do not show up in Anglo-Saxon writings, but which are common or at least found in Elizabethan ones.

-That Match Me in London is a more likely source for the name than other Elizabethan texts. This would require a search of the literature for other instances of the name Bilbo; I provided a couple of Shakespeare instances in the other thread.
---To do this really properly, I would start by listing, say, 100 key concepts from The Hobbit, and categorise my sources by how many of them are mentioned. (That's a big number, but Balfrog lists 26 points of congruence in a post on the last thread, so we need more than that for sure.)

That's a lot of work. I know it's a lot of work. But extremely strong assertions:

Originally Posted by Priya Seth
Nonetheless surely the true origin of Tolkien’s very special fairy tale lies in a Jacobean play. Surely at the very least – an initial skeleton plot came from the Jacobean drama. For its hard to deny aspects of Dekker’s tragi-comedy, as it is known, appear to be richly reflected in the tragic and comedic story of The Hobbit!
... require extremely strong proof.


To Balfrog and/or Ms. Seth: this tendency to assert as 'surely' true something which has actually only been demonstrated to be possible is why people take issue with your posts (well, one reason why). A series of posts demonstrating that a link between Tom Bombadil and the Gospels is possible would be fascinating; one claiming that the connection is so obviously correct that you have to be wilfully ignoring the evidence not to see it comes across as insulting, instead.


(PS: The bulk of this response actually ties in better to the previous thread, which I link above. I'm putting it here because this is really just a continuation of the same theme.)
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