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Old 05-07-2021, 03:00 PM   #41
Rune Son of Bjarne
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This short remark has been some days in the making... Cross posting galore

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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
I have always thought that the Mock Dragon's Tail sounded like something I'd like to try. The real one, not so much.
Actually funny as it is, Moc Dragon's tale is an element that adds a bit of historicity to the tale. I grew up eating Moch Hare (Danish meatloaf) and Mock Turtle Soup, so there is also an air of familiarity to it.

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Indeed, it's exactly the same thing! Or the other famous examples like Cleopatra living closer to current time than to the building of the pyramids, or - since you mentioned dinosaurs - my favourite, tyrannosaurus being actually closer in time to humans than to... stegosaurus. (Yes, the popular illustrations have been lying to us.)
I had forgotten the stegosaurus, but that is a brilliant example.
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Old 05-08-2021, 03:00 PM   #42
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You think Tolkien is hard on millers, read Chaucer!
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Old 05-11-2021, 10:19 AM   #43
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Anyway, to move on:

What do folks think about another structural parallel to The Hobbit, the everyman hero obtaining a Great Equalizer? In Bilbo's case, it's a Ring of Invisibility; in Giles' case it's Tailbiter. Giles has pluck, common sense and a sort of well-there's-no-help-for-it courage, but most of all he has a sword which practically by itself can terrify a dragon of ancient and imperial lineage.
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Old 05-11-2021, 10:03 PM   #44
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The acquisition of those objects is a matter of luck, isn't it? And Bilbo is said to have a good deal of luck, though it would not suffice without his courage.

I am always amused over the scholarly glossing over of lack of knowledge that the parson shows when examining the sword: "...some, ah, epigraphical signs..." "The characters are archaic and the language barbaric," said the parson, to gain time. It reminds me of the language of academia used in papers and lectures!

When Giles covers his "chain mail" with his cloak, I am reminded of Gandalf the Grey - who threatens to show himself uncloaked. Obviously there is a time for secrecy and a time for open battle!
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Old 05-12-2021, 11:59 AM   #45
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Well,
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It must be admitted that Giles owed his rise in a large measure to luck, though he showed some wits in the use of it. Both the luck and the wits remained with him to the end of his days
Luck not only in Caudimordax itself, but also in the giant blundering into his fields, Chrysophylax advancing on Ham rather than some other place, that particular dragon being the first one the cavalcade of knights blundered into... a whole lotta luck. But we can't deny the wits as well. Opportunity knocked, and Giles opened.

Then again, how best to describe Bilbo's career except as "luck and wits"?
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Old 05-13-2021, 02:07 AM   #46
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There are numerous contrasts between the knights, whose task it is to protect the kingdom, and Giles. One of them is the matter of protocol - the knights need "official" notice and don't act immediately even then. The "professional" clothing is another - and it provides no protection when it comes to the actual fight with the dragon.

One that stuck out to me upon this rereading is that of fairness. Chrysophylax accuses Giles of unfair treatment because he didn't announce his name and his intention, with a formal challenge. Is the dragon expecting fairness from others while attacking the countryside in an unfair manner himself? It's typical of bullies to be annoyed when another bully stands up to them.

But later Giles expects the dragon to act in fairness when he waits for him to pay up as agreed, and Chrysophylax does not.
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Old 05-13-2021, 07:28 AM   #47
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Very interesting and enlightening miller discussion, I must say!

So I don't know how far everyone else is but I read (spoiler alert ) until Chrysophylax leaves the village after making his bargain. I like how this dragon story subverts quite a lot of the traditional elements, such as the dragon suddenly being a coward willing to bargain with his treasure to save his life (even if he doesn't intend to keep the bargain). I was also very amused by the mental image of Farmer Giles chasing the fleeing dragon on horseback for miles on end - not very dignified. Even though, of course, the imagery is familiar from for example the Arthurian legendarium and Pellinore chasing his beast, but the way Tolkien writes it underlines the comical side of a man on horseback chasing a formidable monster like that.

The most interesting detail in this part for me, however, was the court's tradition of eating dragons??? I don't remember reading any other story where dragons would be hunted for food. They're usually hunted because they threaten the kingdom and/or have treasure and/or make coveted trophies. Hunting a dragon and eating it seems rather original.
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Old 05-13-2021, 12:59 PM   #48
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But later Giles expects the dragon to act in fairness when he waits for him to pay up as agreed, and Chrysophylax does not.
I think that in part Giles was a bit complacent after his triumph; but also that Giles no more than the other villagers, even the educated parson, simply could not conceive that a sentient being, no matter how base, could possibly disregard the "solemn and astonishing oaths" which the dragon swore. A bit of a commentary on the power of oaths and their dependency on belief-- an enormous difference between the Middle Ages or even the 19th century and today.
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Old 05-15-2021, 03:43 AM   #49
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Some years ago, I realised that there were numerous similarities between the tale of Giles and the movie Shrek. I found the thread in which I shared the insights I found (and lectured on in German), so I won't duplicate them here. Check out Honey, I Forgot to Kill the Dragon

Both stories are parodies of established story-telling conventions - what do you think of the comparisons?
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Old 05-19-2021, 04:42 AM   #50
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Well, I feel a bit like I'm talking to myself - what was that Gandalf said about speaking to the wisest person present?! But I like this story too much to quit yet...

Comparisons that remind me of other characters: "Mighty handy this rope has turned out in the end!" Giles' comment reminds me of Sam wishing for rope at the beginning of LotR and being thankful for it later on.

Giles gathered and employed the servants of the deceased knights; that reminds me of Aragorn, who gave those that were too fearful to attack the Black Gate a task that they could handle.

Has anyone else seen things that remind you of other characters and events?
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Old 05-19-2021, 03:53 PM   #51
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Has anyone else seen things that remind you of other characters and events?
Well, there's Tailbiter, the semi-sentient sword, or at least animated by an agenda of its own, more bent on dragon-slaying than its wielder - a more light-hearted cousin of such wilful blades as Tyrfing of Norse legend, which inspired both Túrin's Gurthang and Elric's Stormbringer; but unlike in these cases, Tailbiter's activity works out for its wielder's benefit: another example of a classic fantasy trope Tolkien found in his sources and popularised in his own writings but which is here used in a humorous way. The central subverted trope is, of course, that of the dragon-slaying hero, be his name Sigurd or Túrin, Beowulf or Bard; unlike his more famous colleagues, Giles doesn't kill the dragon but rather strikes a bargain with the worm, wins him as an ally and even manages to avert the curse on the dragon's gold (another trope, see the Volsunga saga and the tale of the Nauglamír).

It's been a while since I watched Shrek, and my memory is a bit hazy, so I have to take your word on the parallels, Esty; but what all this does remind me of is the work of Terry Pratchett, which Farmer Giles seems to anticipate by a couple of decades. Like Tolkien in this tale, Pratchett uses staple fantasy tropes (many of which only became so because of Tolkien!) in a tongue-in-cheek parodic spirit, but his best works rise through and above parody to a genuine (though still humorous) mythopoeia.

Finally, I find Giles's defiance of the king (who comes to reap the fruits he didn't sow) echoed, across time and genres and most likely without any conscious influence, in the end of the manga AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo: the apocalypse brought about by a bunch of kids with superhuman powers is over at last, UN forces land in Japan to re-establish peace and order, only for Kaneda (teenage misfit turned into hero), backed by an army of his peers with machine guns and bazookas, to tell them "Get out of our country!" Tolkien being Tolkien, of course, his story ends with a Little Kingdom ruled by a benign monarch rather than the glorious anarchy of the Great Akira Empire, but I suppose that was the best that could be hoped for.
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Old 05-20-2021, 02:36 AM   #52
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Well, I feel a bit like I'm talking to myself - what was that Gandalf said about speaking to the wisest person present?! But I like this story too much to quit yet...
Whoa, and here I have been waiting for a signal that we are moving to a next part of the story... I have paused at the second encounter with the dragon and waited, assuming we were still waiting for people to discuss about the earlier part.

Okay, I shall catch up onwards and meanwhile just comment on what I wanted to say about the second departure to the dragon's lair...

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Comparisons that remind me of other characters: "Mighty handy this rope has turned out in the end!" Giles' comment reminds me of Sam wishing for rope at the beginning of LotR and being thankful for it later on.
That was literally the first thing I thought about when reading the second part - when Giles is about to go and the parson reminds him of the rope. "Samwise only wished he had such a helpful advisor," I thought.

But that it just another in the line of "strange Tolkien tropes" - I think it might be interesting to list them all when we are done. Swords inscribed with runes, negatively-painted millers, the importance of ropes, wise men who slightly manipulate the main hero into doing something, simple farmers who are very comfortable in their ways but turn very heroic when faced with actual danger.

Oh and speaking of millers and such - somewhere halfway through I realised that my favourite character may very well be the smith. I originally just found it a possibly funny character trait that he took such delight in bad news, but him downright starting to sing when there had been no news about Giles and the royal party for several days, that is just so absurd that it is actually great.


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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Some years ago, I realised that there were numerous similarities between the tale of Giles and the movie Shrek. I found the thread in which I shared the insights I found (and lectured on in German), so I won't duplicate them here. Check out Honey, I Forgot to Kill the Dragon
I am not a particular fan of Shrek and it's been ages since I have seen it, but I think when it comes to the tone of the whole story, you hit the nail on the head! And it is not just that these both subvert fairytales - there are many different ways to subvert fairytales, but these subvert them in the same, let's say, style. With very similar "moral points", or how should one say that. Certainly a good and interesting catch!

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Finally, I find Giles's defiance of the king (who comes to reap the fruits he didn't sow) echoed, across time and genres and most likely without any conscious influence, in the end of the manga AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo: the apocalypse brought about by a bunch of kids with superhuman powers is over at last, UN forces land in Japan to re-establish peace and order, only for Kaneda (teenage misfit turned into hero), backed by an army of his peers with machine guns and bazookas, to tell them "Get out of our country!" Tolkien being Tolkien, of course, his story ends with a Little Kingdom ruled by a benign monarch rather than the glorious anarchy of the Great Akira Empire, but I suppose that was the best that could be hoped for.
Now that is a kind of comparison I absolutely did not expect, but I'd just say that it is a nice example how far across different genres some themes can echo...

But okay! I shall read onwards and be back with more comments today or tomorrow.
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Old 05-20-2021, 09:11 AM   #53
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Tolkien Bileam's "Grey Mare" Donkey & King David of Little Kingdom?

Alright, allow me to add a short excursion about one thing that somewhat emerged on its own as I was reading: Biblical parallels.

It started when I noted the character of the grey mare being the "reasonable one" (if not straightaway the wise one), especially the way it was underlined when Giles and the knights were about to approach the dragon's lair. That reminded me of the story of Bileam in his donkey in Numbers 22. There, Bileam is also riding off to do something stupid (notably also at the request of a corrupt king), is riding oblivious to a danger (there represented by a sword-wielding angel blocking the road) that the wise she-donkey perceives, unlike her master. Eventually, the donkey speaks to rebuke her master.

There are of course notable differences in the stories, but you could say they contain the same patterns (and it is just as well possible that the story of Bileam may have been one of Tolkien's conscious or unconscious sources of inspiration). The mare in Giles's story does not speak aloud, but we see her thoughts in direct speech. The stupid ones are in Giles's story rather all the knights than Giles himself, so they are Bileam more than Giles is.
At the same time, however, Giles is actually a lot like Bileam himself. In that particular Biblical story, Bileam is essentially the good guy. I already noted the parallel between Augustus Bonifacius and the evil king Balak. And just like Giles sets off with the premise to fulfil the king's command and slay the dragon, Bileam sets off with the premise to fulfil Balak's wishes and set a curse upon the people he wished to destroy, but ends up blessing them instead.

The second thing that struck me as similar were the dealings between Giles and the king. Again: you could say that the "man of the people defies the monarch and becomes a hero, founding his own kingdom" is a trope we find in many stories (to stay close, one could mention King Arthur - even though that also is already n-th down the line of being built on previously existing myths). But of the more significant stories in Tolkien's cultural environment, it is also reminiscent of the story of David versus Saul. You could point out many similarities, such as Giles recruiting the "leftovers" or the promising young lads (a very Davidic trope), being the "popular king" versus the by-law one, etc. But it was notably the dynamic between them - specifically the way Augustus Bonifacius speaks - that reminded me of the Biblical Saul a lot. The outburst of anger, followed by the desire to just kill Giles in person after an unsuccessful military campaign just gave me a very similar vibe. And at the same time, Giles shows a very "Davidic" attitude by telling the king to just go home and cool his head, just like David refused to kill Saul when he had the chance.

These are perhaps a stretch and I absolutely do not want to put an equation between (these parts of) the story of Giles and the abovementioned stories. Nonetheless, at the very least you can say that they draw upon the very same tropes (the David thing) and it is possible, if not probable, also given Tolkien's erudice and background, that he got either unconsciously or consciously inspired by them. And I especially like the case of the Bileam story, because if you asked who was the hero of that one, the answer should truly be "Why, the she-donkey, of course!"
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Old 05-20-2021, 12:33 PM   #54
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Well, interesting that Esty should ask about parallels and Legate about the grey mare - because I was just thinking of the scene with the grey mare being the only one who did not flee from the dragon being a lighter precursor of the scene with Shadowfax and the Witch-King. I don't usually enjoy psychoanalyzing writers, but I do wonder if there was some great instance of equine bravery that Tolkien witnessed in the war that made a lasting impression on him.

The other thing that caught my eye was the mention that Chrysophylax ate the younger dragon who had tried to claim his lair in his absence. What's this with humans and dragons alike eating dragons in this story?
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Old 05-21-2021, 06:46 AM   #55
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What's this with humans and dragons alike eating dragons in this story?
That dragon is really tasty? After all, when the court all averred that Mock Dragon's Tail was better than the real thing, they only said so to please the Royal Cook.
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Old 05-21-2021, 04:11 PM   #56
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There is an actual battle scene in the story, where Giles and the knights ride to the dragon's cave. Once again the knights are so concentrated on matters of "precedence and etiquette" that they did not realize they were endangered. This time Chrysophylax does not bother with "warning or formality" before attacking. The scene is quite short in the tale (Peter Jackson would make half a movie of it, I presume ), and it ends when the original opponent, Giles, stands up to the dragon - thanks to his mare.

It amuses me that Giles and Chrysophylax now echo the greeting of their first meeting with reversed roles. First time, Chrysophylax: "Excuse my asking, but were you looking for me by any chance?" Giles: "No, indeed! Who'd a' thought of seeing you here? I was just going for a ride." Chrysophylax: "Then we meet by good luck. The pleasure is mine."

Second time, Giles: "Excuse me, but were you looking for me, by any chance?" Chrysophylax: No, indeed! Who would have thought of seeing you here? I was just flying about." Giles: "Then we meet by good luck, and the pleasure is mine..."

The fact that both of them begin the conversation with the formula "Excuse me" is amusing, and adds another aspect of the conventions of etiquette and politeness to the tale. That would by a major subject to examine!
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Old 05-23-2021, 07:51 AM   #57
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There is an actual battle scene in the story, where Giles and the knights ride to the dragon's cave. Once again the knights are so concentrated on matters of "precedence and etiquette" that they did not realize they were endangered. This time Chrysophylax does not bother with "warning or formality" before attacking. The scene is quite short in the tale (Peter Jackson would make half a movie of it, I presume ), and it ends when the original opponent, Giles, stands up to the dragon - thanks to his mare.

It amuses me that Giles and Chrysophylax now echo the greeting of their first meeting with reversed roles. First time, Chrysophylax: "Excuse my asking, but were you looking for me by any chance?" Giles: "No, indeed! Who'd a' thought of seeing you here? I was just going for a ride." Chrysophylax: "Then we meet by good luck. The pleasure is mine."

Second time, Giles: "Excuse me, but were you looking for me, by any chance?" Chrysophylax: No, indeed! Who would have thought of seeing you here? I was just flying about." Giles: "Then we meet by good luck, and the pleasure is mine..."

The fact that both of them begin the conversation with the formula "Excuse me" is amusing, and adds another aspect of the conventions of etiquette and politeness to the tale. That would by a major subject to examine!
When I read those interactions, I considered Tolkien was parodying the more stylized and formulaic knightly challenges preceding a tilt that one finds in Mallory or Chrétien de Troyes. That both Giles and Chrysophylax are lying through their teeth is patently evident, but that does not preclude them from exchanging pleasantries before sallying forth.

In a different vein, but along the same lines, T.H. White in The Once and Future King, used the same flowery chivalric challenge to comedic effect in the duel between King Pellinore and Sir Grummore (but stayed closer to the style of Mallory):

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"Fair knight," said King Pellinore, "I pray thee tell me thy name."

"That me regards," replied Sir Grummore, using the proper formula.

"That is uncourteously said," said King Pellinore, "what? For no knight ne dreadeth for to speak his name openly, but for some reason of shame."

"Be that as it may, I choose that thou shalt not know my name at this time, for no askin'."

"Then you must stay and joust with me, false knight."

"Haven't you got that wrong, Pellinore?" inquired Sir Grummore. I believe it ought to be 'thou shalt.' "

"Oh, I'm sorry, Sir Grummore. Yes, so it should, of course. Then thou shalt stay and joust with me, false knight."
Now, you could see the courtly knights of the King's court using this formula, so Giles and the dragon had to use a less stylized manner of greeting.
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Old 05-24-2021, 06:58 AM   #58
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To Say Nothing Of The Baggage Pony

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Originally Posted by Thinlómien View Post
Well, interesting that Esty should ask about parallels and Legate about the grey mare - because I was just thinking of the scene with the grey mare being the only one who did not flee from the dragon being a lighter precursor of the scene with Shadowfax and the Witch-King. I don't usually enjoy psychoanalyzing writers, but I do wonder if there was some great instance of equine bravery that Tolkien witnessed in the war that made a lasting impression on him.
Nice catch. I similarly wanted to point out that there is something weird about Tolkien and baggage ponies etc. In The Hobbit, you have the famous thing with first the Goblins stealing and eating the Dwarven baggage ponies in the Misty Mountains and later the dragon similarly scattering and eating the new ones. In a very similar manner that Chrysophylax scatters the baggage horses of the knights' company.

But why I am saying is that I believe that an unusually large - I daresay - proportion of the story is devoted to talking about the baggage horses/ponies (both here and in The Hobbit, and actually also in the Fellowship with Bill the Pony, who has the same function). I mean, nothing against them and they certainly serve an important function - especially realistically. But I would say that Tolkien probably treats them with a slightly above-average amount of attention.

Obviously, it is "common sense" that you need baggage ponies when you are travelling somewhere, but I daresay not every writer would be as aware of the problem. I wonder, therefore, alongside Lommy's remark, whether Tolkien simply had such an experience from the war (provisions transportation) that made him conscious of this issue, or whether he had perhaps even some closer knowledge of some particular bunch of ponies or whatnot.

So, I am putting this on the list of questions alongside what both myself, Pitchwife and Lommy wondered about here about whether Tolkien's family/friends/neighbours had a dog that Garm, Roverandom etc. were modelled after (and the loyal Huan???). There surely are some Tolkienologists who have answers to both of these questions.
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Old 05-25-2021, 02:33 AM   #59
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Well, Roverandom was based on one of JRRT's children's toy dog, that was lost at the beach. The dog's adventures were made up to comfort him and explain where the dog had gone. I'm not aware of a real dog who could have been a precursor.

I've been thinking about the wisdom of knowing when enough is enough - first Giles was smart enough to stop bargaining before he demanded too much for the dragon to bear. Then later he knew that it was time to let him go - aggravated of course by the cost of feeding him! I'm trying to remember if Tolkien wrote of a character whose downfall was greed? At any rate, Giles did not succumb to that particular sin.
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Old 05-25-2021, 03:25 AM   #60
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Ring

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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Well, Roverandom was based on one of JRRT's children's toy dog, that was lost at the beach. The dog's adventures were made up to comfort him and explain where the dog had gone. I'm not aware of a real dog who could have been a precursor.
Yes, the toy dog is a known one, but I was exactly wondering about a live one: given how very specific Tolkien's dogs' behaviour is, and how Roverandom and Garm have very similar mannerisms (nearly identical), and as others have remarked here, it almost feels like there was a specific real-life dog "character" behind all this.

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I've been thinking about the wisdom of knowing when enough is enough - first Giles was smart enough to stop bargaining before he demanded too much for the dragon to bear. Then later he knew that it was time to let him go - aggravated of course by the cost of feeding him! I'm trying to remember if Tolkien wrote of a character whose downfall was greed? At any rate, Giles did not succumb to that particular sin.
Well, how about everyone in The Hobbit, for starters? Meaning everyone involved in the Battle of the Five Armies - Thorin specifically, although he got his redemption, but it was a bit too late. But it is likely they would have been better prepared for the Goblin assault had they not been bickering among themselves (and nearly killed each others first).

One could however say that for example Bard is more on the Giles side (and Bilbo, to a degree), having set the line "enough is enough".

Mutatis mutandis, the same thing with Thingol and about half the people somehow involved with the Silmarils. The fall of Doriath being the most glaring example.

Otherwise, I am not sure if for example Lotho Sackville-Baggins might qualify? Probably it is a bit of a stretch, although we do not know what were the exact circumstances of his negotiating with Sharkey et al.

In any case, "greed as the cause of downfall" is certainly a theme that repeats itself throughout Tolkien's works, and the people who manage to resist are the main heroes, or the most positive characters of all. Giles, Bilbo - I'd also say that (even though other aspects are at play there too) the problem with the Ring qualifies too. Gandalf stresses how important it was that Bilbo gave it up willingly. If you disregard the whole Dark Lord connection for a moment, it would almost seem like "the way to break the spell of the Ring is to let go and stop being possessive of it". (For that matter, since I have already mentioned the Silmarils, it would probably apply to them as well.)
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Old 05-25-2021, 06:13 AM   #61
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Setting aside his "ROTC" stint with King Edward's Horse, Tolkien could hardly have been unaware of the ubiquitousness of horses and ponies, in and out of war! He grew up in an animal-powered world, and this persisted in Britain throughout his young adulthood (Britain did not automobilize nearly as quickly as the USA), and certainly in France he couldn't have ignored those of the half-million British Army horses there which he would have seen every day. And, yes, that meant seeing the poor beasts being killed.

As for "an example of equine courage" underlying the mare or Shadowfax- perhaps less likely. Tolkien would never have seen horses in combat,* and moreover cavalry's employment in battle is never, ever as "stalwart defense" (a horseman brought to a halt is a dead horseman).

*While cavalry was certainly used in WWI in its intended role in more open campaigns like Palestine, Mesopotamia and Russia, the 1914 Battle of the Frontiers quickly put an end to its use on the Western Front. Useless in trench warfare. The Germans transferred all of theirs to the east, or converted horse regiments to infantry, as did the British in many cases (my wife's great-uncle was killed with the 6th Dragoon Guards as a de facto infantryman). It is true that for the Somme the plan included a division of cavalry to exploit the breach in the German lines, but since no breach was made the cav remained in reserve, well back from the front)
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Old 05-26-2021, 02:22 AM   #62
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Thanks for the examples of greed and its consequences, Legate! I didn't take the time to think about it - Thorin (and to a lesser extent, the other Dwarves) is certainly the character closest to this story who exemplifies that.
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Old 05-27-2021, 03:23 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
Nice catch. I similarly wanted to point out that there is something weird about Tolkien and baggage ponies etc. In The Hobbit, you have the famous thing with first the Goblins stealing and eating the Dwarven baggage ponies in the Misty Mountains and later the dragon similarly scattering and eating the new ones. In a very similar manner that Chrysophylax scatters the baggage horses of the knights' company.

But why I am saying is that I believe that an unusually large - I daresay - proportion of the story is devoted to talking about the baggage horses/ponies (both here and in The Hobbit, and actually also in the Fellowship with Bill the Pony, who has the same function). I mean, nothing against them and they certainly serve an important function - especially realistically. But I would say that Tolkien probably treats them with a slightly above-average amount of attention.

Obviously, it is "common sense" that you need baggage ponies when you are travelling somewhere, but I daresay not every writer would be as aware of the problem. I wonder, therefore, alongside Lommy's remark, whether Tolkien simply had such an experience from the war (provisions transportation) that made him conscious of this issue, or whether he had perhaps even some closer knowledge of some particular bunch of ponies or whatnot.
Not just Bill, we hear quite a lot about Merry's ponies from Buckland to Bree.

It never struck me as odd, or out of proportion though.
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Old 05-28-2021, 08:21 AM   #64
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Not just Bill, we hear quite a lot about Merry's ponies from Buckland to Bree.

It never struck me as odd, or out of proportion though.
Good point!

And it also never struck me as in any way remarkable on its own, but once I started thinking about it, if you just look at it quantitatively, the attention paid to ponies is remarkable.
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Old 05-31-2021, 04:46 PM   #65
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Well, Tolkien, like anyone born in 1892, would have spent his entire childhood and youthful ambulations avoiding stepping in road apples. The equine presence was kind of all-pervasive.
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Old 06-01-2021, 02:46 PM   #66
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Interest in this discussion seems to be dying down, but before we move on, I will add my favourite lines, almost at the end of the story - which inspired me to cosplay Queen Agatha:
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His wife made a queen of great size and majesty, and she kept a tight hand on the household accounts. There was no getting round Queen Agatha - at least it was a long walk.
That is such a funny, pithy description of a character who plays a rather minor role in the story otherwise, and it tickles my fancy!

JRRT did begin a sequel to this tale, with Giles' son George (Georgius Draconarius) as the main character. Only a few paragraphs were actually written, plus an outline of possible developments. This is included in the Scull/Hammond edition I have and can be read there.

As with the previous CbC threads, this one remains open for later additions - anyone is welcome to post at any time!
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Old 06-06-2021, 05:58 AM   #67
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The Discarded Image

I've been meaning to post about this for a few days. I've been thinking about Tolkien's treatment of animals in FGoH, which has been commented on by others on this thread.

When Tolkien wrote and published Giles, it was the time between Darwin and Goodall, when the scientific viewpoint was that animals were little more than machines. We may forget how much this viewpoint dominated intellectual opinion.

Tolkien's evocation of the Mare and Garm with so much personality was a radical departure from the norm, and for him I think that it was natural because of his Catholic sensibility.

Although Lewis' The Discarded Image was not published until 1964, I think the evidence is clear that Tolkien and Lewis shared the viewpoint of that image, which can be called "Incarnational."

That the evocation appeared in a comical work like Giles may have given leave to Tolkien's listeners to regard the animal personalities as 'of the times,' but I don't think Tolkien regarded it so. We know that he loved horses from experience, having worked with them during WW1. His knowledge and love of dogs is shared by most of us.

So I just wanted draw attention to Giles as a radical departure from the accepted norm of how one might write about animals. I have not looked into how other writers of Tolkien's time wrote them, which would be an interesting comparative study. Maybe it has already been done.
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Old 06-12-2021, 01:18 PM   #68
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My desire to reply to this topic hasn't been delayed so much as my reading has! The anticipation of Progeny #2 somehow left less reading time than his appearance has, so I am now caught up on Farmer Giles. Two different things stood out to me between holding the infant and being fussed at by the small child.

1. The first is this sentence:

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Originally Posted by Farmer Giles of Ham
Garm was both proud and afraid of Giles, who could bully and brag better than he could.
It's a somewhat filtered description: this is Garm's view of Giles more than being strictly the narrator's, but I'm not sure that it's discordant with Giles as we come to know him. I'm of two minds here: on the one hand, Giles is presented as very much a "people's hero": practical, down-to-earth, reluctant to face the dragon, and much more a haggler than anyone else. Is he really then a bully and a braggart?

I wonder a bit about how much is Garm and how much is "true," not least given that both "bully" and "braggart" are words that do not have a positive connotation--certainly not in 2021, but I don't think they were exactly the words to describe a hero in 1930. And while Giles' threatening words every time Garm turns up (though, notably, never doing anything) might suggest that he has a less-than-enlightened attitude toward animals, perhaps the point here isn't that Giles IS a bully or a braggart, but that a very foolish dog thinks he is. The counterpoint for any bullying is Giles relationship with the Old Grey Mare (and maybe even with Chrysophylax).


The other thing that occurred to me was less of a question mark topic than that--more of an observation. Tolkien is sometimes identified as being a rather idealistic dreamer who wanted to return to some medieval vision and who is therefore not quite "Modern" or up-to-date. Certainly, his own stated preference in the Letters for anarcho-monarchism and various statements of being generally conservative in his biases do play into this. However, his view of the kings and knights in this story should be weighed heavily before taking that as unthinking idealism.

While it is certainly included as part of the humour of the tale, I don't think that the money-focused king or the etiquette-driven driven knights are JUST humour. Tolkien is undercutting the fairytale/Arthurian romantic view of how things were as much as he is also drawing on it. In this sense, even in this smaller, comedic story there's a recognition of human nature, a Denethor to go with Giles's Aragorn (a Master of Laketown to go with Giles's Bard). It is idealistic, but more in the sense of being aspirational--i.e. of knowing that it's not the norm than of thinking it ever was.
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Old 06-12-2021, 02:37 PM   #69
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Certainly, his own stated preference in the Letters for anarcho-monarchism and various statements of being generally conservative in his biases do play into this. However, his view of the kings and knights in this story should be weighed heavily before taking that as unthinking idealism.
I've always read that as resignation on Tolkien's part that all systems are each failures in their own way and that anarcho-monarchism was, in his view, the least bad rather than being particularly good because no system meets the standard of being "good."

A point of view I am not unsympathetic toward...but, taking a grim view of the world is practically de rigueur for being a true diehard Tolkien fan.

Congratulations and commiserations on Progeny #2.
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