What was all this nonsense about how the characters in a fairy tale actually spoke so long ago as if the story had been discovered by archaeologists? I thought Tolkien wrote it. Why this pretence?
Challenges to our priorities which are likely to take us out of our comfort zone are seldom met with enthusiasm and this was certainly the case with Bilbo Baggins. However, sometimes there are reasons why we might consider such disturbances worthwhile.
Bilbo and the dwarves recognise that Gandalf has powers from beyond their world, and that he has other business to attend to which they are not party to. He is not at their beck and call, and yet he seems to guide and to protect them.
Something else Tolkien did not do in these stories by his own admission is produce allegories. Nevertheless, it may help us to appreciate The Hobbit story and other related tales, if we consider what locations might have been in Tolkien’s mind as he wrote of Rivendell.
Where are Bilbo and his companions in relation to the Faerie realm? Perhaps Chapter 4 of The Hobbit can be seen as a turning point where Tolkien moved away from MacDonald and towards Chesterton.
Tolkien’s genius and humanity is to be seen in the global popularity of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings stories because they communicate something universal about the struggle between good and evil which people from any culture can understand.
I suspect that, in contrast to films of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, when The Hobbit makes it to the big screen, we will see excitement and thrills without murder or immorality.
We’ve just had a general election in the United Kingdom and there was much talk of the elephant in the room if a big subject was ignored in a discussion…. on re-reading Chapter 7, it became obvious that we have to look at the most important of all Old English stories, that of Beowulf, dragon fighter and slayer of monsters.
As you begin to read Chapter 8, you are in no doubt that this is going to be creepy, especially if you have recently read the end of the previous chapter where Bilbo and the dwarves are given dire warnings by Gandalf not to stray off the path in Mirkwood. The first few paragraphs paint a picture of enveloping gloom and a place where all the surroundings seem threatening. From there, things proceed like a slow motion ghost train ride with creepers dangling down and luminous eyes peering from the darkness.
Tolkien had plenty of ideas to work with to spring his characters from jail but he still had to add the finishing touches of getting the Dwarves out of their cells, into the barrels, and pushed through the trap doors. This he does with nail-biting drama and considerable humour. I recommend reading Tolkien’s original script just in case the film makers can’t fit in all the gags.
I guess I may be a tad late to offer my opinions on the appearance of Peter Jackson’s Dwarves, but, for what it’s worth, he has done a good job of making them more serious than the Rankin and Bass cartoon film and more war (hammer)-like than in the images of the Brothers Hildebrandt. I hope they leave their battle axes and swords outside when they visit Bilbo for tea and cakes. And they need to remember their harps and wind instruments.
With The Hobbit, as a live action film, I think Jackson will have to be more sparing with the eye-popping 3-D effects. We need more credible stunts and action from most of the characters in The Hobbit, and I, for one, will be looking for a film which in some way reflects the pace of Tolkien’s carefully crafted narrative.
To the uninitiated into Tolkien’s mythology, Dragons may be a source of fun, but once you have entered the secondary reality of Middle-earth, they are devoutly to be feared and the embodiment of evil. No big friendly monsters here. A Tolkien dragon is the genuine article.
The situation seems to be getting out of hand as far as personal morality is concerned, but thankfully things can be turned around if Bilbo can let go of this precious object when the time comes. And you can be sure that Tolkien knows what he is doing with the plot here.
Bard certainly had a sense of foreboding, but he showed no desire to become famous after death by throwing his life away. We might describe him as a professional soldier deploying his resources to best effect and leading from the front. Tolkien values loyalty, personal courage, and leadership, but not folly or pride.
I would like to suggest that there is another dimension to Tolkien’s characterisation in the way he portrays talking beasts. He does more than personify them to stand in for human types. He gets inside their heads and their manner of speaking. He did it with Smaug, and he does it again with Roac. … Roac speaks like a human but thinks like a Raven of Middle-earth.
Hence, Bilbo is in a very difficult situation, but true to his character development, he does not give up. He has realised on this adventure that looking at all the options and weighing them up could well show that there is a way out. And so he begins to develop a cunning plan.
I always liked Billy Connolly as a comedian. I hope he can do a look for Dain that gets across the seriousness of the situation. What’s that, Peter, can he do grim? Why don’t you ask him? I mean he looks perfectly friendly. You’re not afraid of a Glaswegian ex-shipyard worker wielding a mattock and wearing iron boots, are you?
For those of you who have only read The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, let me explain that The Quest of Erebor (Erebor being the Lonely Mountain) was something that Tolkien wrote as an appendix to the latter work, but most of it ended on the editing room floor, so to speak. He had written too much. I think I know the feeling, but with Tolkien, that was a lot more.
Mr Jackson, could I have a word in your ear? It’s about etiquette. I don’t know where your dwarves were brought up, but I would have thought the least they could have done when they arrived at Bilbo’s house in your film was to ask for their favorite food, as Professor Tolkien expected them to do.
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