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Old 04-17-2024, 05:53 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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Pipe Questions from 'The Hobbit'

... and answers too, perhaps.

I'm rereading The Hobbit for the first time in years, and I keep running across random passages which leave me with questions. Some of them I think I've answered; others, not so much.

(And yes, most of the actual answers are "The Hobbit wasn't part of the Legendarium when written." But that's no fun.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by An Unexpected Party
"That would be no good," said the wizard, "not without a mighty Warrior, even a Hero. I tried to find one; but warriors are busy fighting one another in distant lands, and in this neighbourhood heroes are scarce, or simply not to be found."
Who are the Warriors Gandalf is thinking of? My best guess is that he would have picked up someone from Rohan or Dunland - I think this is before the Dunlendings were openly aligned with Team Evil. I guess they were having a border skirmish again, though it's not on the timeline.

What about the Heroes? Well... if this was a few decades later, he would have tapped Aragorn for the job. But Aragorn is 11 at this point... and his father and grandfather both died in the past decade or so. I think when Gandalf says "heroes... are not to be found", he specifically means "the Line of Isildur is down to one boy right now".

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Short Rest
These... swords... were made in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars. They must have come from a dragon's hoard or goblin plunder..."
Where did the trolls pull the Sword of Turgon from, more than six thousand years after it was taken? My best guess: Moria. There were definitely trolls in Moria later (they lay bridges over the fire, I think), and after the Battle of Azanulbizar there was no authority figure in the place (assuming Durin's Bane went off to sleep/sulk in the Deep Places). I think Tom, Bert, and William left Moria after the battle, taking with them weapons which had been in the Balrog's possession since it helped destroy Gondolin.

(This also ties directly into my theory that the Balrog's sword is Anguirel.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Over Hill and Under Hill
They knew the sword at once... [the elves] had called it Orcrist, Goblin-cleaver, but the goblins called it simply Biter.
They recognised a sword that had been taken six thousand years ago? Gimme a break. One option is that this implies they had seen it (and Glamdring) while in enemy hands - in Moria, if my idea above is right. The other option is that this is Bilbo talking, and talking rubbish. The goblins probably did recognise it as an elvish sword, because it was literally glowing at the time. But they don't actually used the names Biter and Beater in direct speech except in the battle at the end of the chapter, where they might well have been general cries of alarm. We don't believe three of the Nazgul were named Fear, Fire, and Foes, just because that's what the Bucklanders shouted about!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barrels out of Bond
Then he ordered the dwarves each to be put in a separate cell... [Bilbo] found all their twelve cells in different parts of the palace...
Why did Thranduil have a dozen prison cells scattered around his palace? Why did he have prison cells at all; is there a lot of petty crime among the Nandor? My best guess: he didn't, and the 'cells' are just random rooms which happened to have locks and could be repurposed. The keys are a 'great bunch', which suggests every cell has a different key, supporting this idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barrels out of Bond
The wine, and other goods, were brought from far away, from their kinsfolk in the South, or from the vineyards of Men in distant lands.
Where do the Wood-Elves have kin in the South? Lorien is south of the Woodland Realm but Legolas establishes that there is no contact between the two. Rivendell is technically south, but not in The South. And that's... it?

Except, of course, for Dorwinion, land of 'heady wines' and once ruled by a king with a Sindarin name. I think this passage might be more evidence for Dorwinion as a Nandorin land.

hS
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Old 04-17-2024, 04:12 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Why did Thranduil have a dozen prison cells scattered around his palace? Why did he have prison cells at all; is there a lot of petty crime among the Nandor? My best guess: he didn't, and the 'cells' are just random rooms which happened to have locks and could be repurposed. The keys are a 'great bunch', which suggests every cell has a different key, supporting this idea.
I like the idea that the Dwarves are just stuffed in a bunch of utility closets. I suppose it makes sense that the guy with all the keys is the butler--i.e. the chief of the servant staff.
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Old 04-17-2024, 04:16 PM   #3
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The only question here that I myself have considered before now, is your first one, about heroes and warriors. Your answer is quite satisfactory, and very plausible.

I enjoyed your comments on how Glamdring and Orcrist came to the possesion of Tom, Bert, and William very much. It makes me wonder if the cave troll that the Fellowship slew in Moria wasn't some sort of a distant relation of theirs...

However, I'm not quite so sure about the goblins' recognizing of Orcrist. It begs the question, how long do goblins live? Is it possible that the Misty Mountains harboured six-thousand-year-old goblins? Probably not, but it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

An alternative answer is that these swords were so legendary amongst the goblins, and of such a distinct appearance that they instantly recognized the weapons despite having never seen them before. That also seems a bit unlikely, but I sort of prefer that idea.
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Old 04-19-2024, 08:58 AM   #4
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I will return later to discuss more of Huinesoron's excellent list, and will post now to address the Gondolin swords.

Glamdring was Turgon's sword. Assuming that the account found in Lost Tales is, in some form, the final version, Turgon retreated into his tower and died when the tower was brought down during the assault. This seems to be confirmed in The Silmarillion ("the tower was overthrown; and mighty was its fall and the fall of Turgon in its ruin."). Thir presents an intriguing scenario. Morgoth's forces did not merely destroy Gondolin, grab what spoils were readily available and leave. They took the time to dig through the rubble and thus find Turgon's sword where it was buried.

There has been significant speculation about Orcrist. Some suggest that it was Ecthelion's sword. Lost Tales suggests that he was wounded and dropped his sword, before impaling Gothmog on the spike of his helmet. This is a guess, at best.

How did the Trolls end up with the swords? This question can be resolved only via speculation. Elrond suggests that the Trolls plundered "other plunderers" or found a hidden cache of valuables. Where this may have taken place is unknown. Spoils buried in Angmar? A cache in Moria? My hesitation regarding the last is that the trolls in The Hobbit were northern hill trolls, not the cave-trolls present in Moria.
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Old 04-19-2024, 11:07 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
How did the Trolls end up with the swords? This question can be resolved only via speculation. Elrond suggests that the Trolls plundered "other plunderers" or found a hidden cache of valuables. Where this may have taken place is unknown. Spoils buried in Angmar? A cache in Moria? My hesitation regarding the last is that the trolls in The Hobbit were northern hill trolls, not the cave-trolls present in Moria.
Moria is the only answer that doesn't involve a long chain of plunderers plundering plunderers. Someone had to carry the swords (and knife!) out of Beleriand before its fall, and it had to be someone with either hands or minions. I've suggested Sauron elsewhere (and that he handed them to the proto-Nazgul, accounting for their presence in the Angmar region), but I think I like the Balrog more. Perhaps it, or Azog, summoned the hill trolls down specifically for the battle with the dwarves?

A new question: what actually is Durin's Day?

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Short Rest
"The first day of the dwarves' New Year," said Thorin, "is as all should know the first day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter. We still call it Durin's Day when the last moon of Autumn and the sun are in the sky together."
I've seen a lot of people take this to mean that Durin's Day is ideal to New Year, and laugh at the idea that the dwarves can't predict their own calendar. But I think that's wrong. Bilbo specifically describes *seeing* the new moon, so I think Durin's Day is based on *observation*. If you actually see the new moon up there with the sun on Dwarven New Year (which will be based on the exact phase of the moon, its horizontal distance from the sun in the sky, and the weather!) then it's Durin's Day. If you don't lay eyes on the moon - then it's just New Year.

hS
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Old 04-19-2024, 04:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Why did Thranduil have a dozen prison cells scattered around his palace? Why did he have prison cells at all; is there a lot of petty crime among the Nandor? My best guess: he didn't, and the 'cells' are just random rooms which happened to have locks and could be repurposed. The keys are a 'great bunch', which suggests every cell has a different key, supporting this idea.
I never thought of it while reading the Hobbit, but I think you are totally right on this.

As for "Beater and Biter", if it was goblins and not Bilbo who made up these names, what could have impressed the goblins so much that they would single these swords out? The superior makemanship? The fact that they were the only surviving swords of ancient Elven make, which glowed in the dark? Or perhaps some legend passed down back from the days of the First Age, the last time when they could have faced these blades in actual battle?
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Old 04-20-2024, 03:44 PM   #7
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Regarding the swords:
Quote:
Moria is the only answer that doesn't involve a long chain of plunderers plundering plunderers. Someone had to carry the swords (and knife!) out of Beleriand before its fall, and it had to be someone with either hands or minions.
The fall of Gondolin took place roughly 6000 years before the events in The Hobbit. Why shouldn't there be a long chain of plunderers plundering plunderers. Given the passage of time that wouldn't be surprising.

Who are the Warriors Gandalf is thinking of? In my view, this is a bit of Hobbitish embellishment by Bilbo, the author. Gandalf is justifying his recruiting a "burglar" rather than a group of armed adventurers. There are few or no well-known "mighty warriors" or heroes at that time, and certainly no Turin who could single-handedly take on a dragon.
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Old 04-20-2024, 11:07 PM   #8
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Great questions, hS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post

Why did Thranduil have a dozen prison cells scattered around his palace? Why did he have prison cells at all; is there a lot of petty crime among the Nandor? My best guess: he didn't, and the 'cells' are just random rooms which happened to have locks and could be repurposed. The keys are a 'great bunch', which suggests every cell has a different key, supporting this idea.
It is possible that Tolkien, philologist that he was, wasn't thinking of our modern usage of prison cell, but of the original Anglo Saxon or Middle English meanings, such as a room or small apartment of a nunnery or monastery or priory, dependent on a larger community, a monk or hermit's cell or even a storage closet, if the Oxford English Dictionary has anything to say about the matter. For example, monasteries offered accommodations to travellers. Mirkwood wasn't a particularly hospitable place to travel, so perhaps Tolkien was thinking it would be appropriate for Thranduil to have such rooms for providing hospitality. So the Legendarium might not be the only reference applicable here.
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Old 04-23-2024, 10:56 AM   #9
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How old is(n't) Smaug? I've always assumed he was ancient and terrible, but:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inside Information
... most of the plunder was meant to stop there in the town by the shore that in his young days had been called Esgaroth.
Which sent me back to:

Quote:
Originally Posted by An Unexpected Party
"'Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast' say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a hole that size, not even when he was a young dragon, certainly not after devouring so many of the dwarves and men of Dale."
Is the implication here that Smaug was young at the time he desolated the Mountain? Or is Esgaroth a lot older than it looks, and Gandalf just unclear?

EDIT:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inside Information
"I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!"
Again, is Smaug really saying that a couple of hundred years takes a dragon from young to old?

hS
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Old 04-24-2024, 11:20 AM   #10
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Not so much a question, but:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Return Journey
He had many hardships and adventures before he got back. The Wild was still the Wild, and there were many other things in it in those days beside goblins; but he was well guided and well guarded--the wizard was with him, and Beorn for much of the way--and he was never in great danger again.
There is an alternate timeline out there somewhere where Tolkien's "New Hobbit" consisted entirely of Bilbo's journey home, and I kind of wish we'd gotten to read it.

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Old 04-24-2024, 12:56 PM   #11
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from the perspective of storytelling, the climax of the story is the Battle of Five Armies and Thorin's death scene. To add chapters after this about how Gandalf and Bilbo came across wolves, stray goblins or mosquitos, or that they ran out of food would be rather anti-climactic (excuse the pun). Of course, one could argue that Tolkien did exactly this in LoTR.
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Old 04-24-2024, 01:03 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Not so much a question, but:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Return Journey
He had many hardships and adventures before he got back. The Wild was still the Wild, and there were many other things in it in those days beside goblins; but he was well guided and well guarded--the wizard was with him, and Beorn for much of the way--and he was never in great danger again.
There is an alternate timeline out there somewhere where Tolkien's "New Hobbit" consisted entirely of Bilbo's journey home, and I kind of wish we'd gotten to read it.

hS
In the olden days, this would have inspired a role playing game.

It does, however, suggest a conundrum. If the compelling nature of thrilling stories is the threat to life--"great danger"--what does that suggest about any stories the elves would tell, given their immortality or longevity? We hear a great deal about loremasters and the information Gandalf seeks in Minas Tirith but that appears to be history rather than fiction/narrative. There's not a great deal of Middle earth intertextual references to narrative, although there is to the hinted at historical past. There is to songs, rhymes, poems but did the elves or hobbits have drama or fiction (ie, made up stories rather than historical report). Perhaps that is why the elves got into making beautiful objects rather than creating a literature?

For Tolkien the great themes were death and immortality. But not others?
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Old 06-03-2024, 06:31 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alassë Estel View Post
The only question here that I myself have considered before now, is your first one, about heroes and warriors. Your answer is quite satisfactory, and very plausible.

I enjoyed your comments on how Glamdring and Orcrist came to the possesion of Tom, Bert, and William very much. It makes me wonder if the cave troll that the Fellowship slew in Moria wasn't some sort of a distant relation of theirs...

However, I'm not quite so sure about the goblins' recognizing of Orcrist. It begs the question, how long do goblins live? Is it possible that the Misty Mountains harboured six-thousand-year-old goblins? Probably not, but it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

An alternative answer is that these swords were so legendary amongst the goblins, and of such a distinct appearance that they instantly recognized the weapons despite having never seen them before. That also seems a bit unlikely, but I sort of prefer that idea.







Engaging with J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece, 'The Hobbit,' has been an enriching journey filled with adventure and discovery. Addressing questions about Bilbo's character development, the significance of the ring, and the theme of heroism has not only deepened my understanding of the text but also sparked intriguing reflections on bravery, friendship, and the power of unexpected courage. For further exploration of literary themes and analysis, I highly recommend utilizing https://essaypro.com/buy-college-papers platform for buying college papers. Their expert writers provide insightful perspectives and valuable academic support, enriching your literary exploration and academic journey.
Thanks for the information!

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