Nov 29 2012 1:00pm

The Hobbit Reread: Chapter 3, “A Short Rest”

The Hobbit reread on Welcome back to the chapter-by-chapter re-read of The Hobbit. You can find past posts at the reread index, or you can catch up with our previous re-read of The Lord of the Rings. As always, the discussion will contain spoilers for everything Tolkien (that is: The Hobbit, LotR, The Silmarillion, and various posthumous tidbits); if you haven’t read the book before and would like to remain unspoiled, I recommend reading along with Mark Reads first.

This week, we consider Chapter 3, “A Short Rest,” which is pretty much what it says on the tin.


What Happens

The travelers make their way anxiously through unfriendly-feeling wilderness, heading for the Last Homely House in the valley of Rivendell. Gandalf eventually leads them to the valley, where singing elves greet them merrily.

In the Last Homely House, they meet Elrond, the “chief” of those “people who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors.” He tells them that the runed swords taken from the trolls’ lair are “Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver in the ancient tongue of Gondolin” (Thorin’s) and “Glamdring, Foe-hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore” (Gandalf’s). He also spots moon-letters on the map of the Lonely Mountain, which say, “Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole.” Unfortunately, they cannot predict when the next Durin’s Day will be.

The travelers rest, are given provisions and advice, and leave after approximately two weeks “with their hearts ready for more adventure, and with a knowledge of the road they must follow over the Misty Mountains to the land beyond.”



This is a very short chapter, though it still contains a few things of interest.

First, we have as marked a division between unwelcoming and welcoming landscape as one could wish in the opening of the chapter. Before they find Rivendell, they must avoid “unexpected valleys, narrow with steep sides, that opened suddenly at their feet” as well as bogs that may be “green pleasant places to look at” but would swallow their ponies. And then the valley of Rivendell is literally warmer and has “a comfortable feeling in the twilight.”

Next, the elves, who are unsurprisingly less serious than their LotR counterparts. The narrator himself notes that we-the-reader/listener probably think that their welcoming song is “pretty fair nonsense,” which I doubt would surprise the elves given their “tril-lil-lil-lolly” and suchlike. Then there’s the teasing the dwarves over their beards and the gossip; I’ll be interested to see how they compare to the Mirkwood elves when we get there.

Interestingly, Elrond is given something like his LotR stature/nature. He isn’t quite full-out Elrond Halfelven; he’s instead called “an elf-friend” with mixed ancestry, as quoted above, and “the strange stories before the beginning of History” that he’s involved in are “the wars of the evil goblins and the elves and the first men in the North,” not anything more epic like, you know, Sauron. But he gets a very emphatic string of comparisons as his personal introduction: “He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.” He identifies the swords (though he does not mention them glowing in the presence of orcs, and now I can’t remember if it’s only Sting that does that) and is fortunate enough to find the moon-runes—there’s another instance of luck driving the plot, that anyone should happen to be looking at the map on a midsummer’s eve under a crescent moon.

Speaking of moons: “Durin’s Day.” Thorin, bless his self-important heart, says that the dwarves’ year starts, “as all should know,” on “the first day of the last moon of Autumn on the threshold of Winter.” Durin’s Day, in turn, is “when the last moon of Autumn and the sun are in the sky together.” At first I was briefly confused by this, because Thorin goes on to say that “it passes our skill in these days to guess when such a time will come again,” and I said to myself, “bzuh, the waxing crescent moon and the sun are basically always in the sky together, because that’s what makes it a waxing crescent moon . . . ?” But then I realized that in context, it must mean actually visible in the sky together, not just present even though they can’t be seen because of cloud cover or whatever. (The dwarves have this visibility requirement in common with traditional Islamic practice, and likely many others that I’m not familiar with.)

Elrond’s house, too, doesn’t change much from here to LotR; indeed, “Many Meetings” flat-out quotes the description here. And in case anyone else gets déjà vu when the narrator here says “Evil things did not come into that valley,” that’s also referred to in “Many Meetings,” by Gandalf when he’s hushing Pippin: “Evil things do not come into this valley; but all the same we should not name them.” Which is a nice little compare-and-contrast between the two books; in The Hobbit, the sentiment is the end of a paragraph, full stop, rest and comfort and safety unqualified. In LotR, the characters are physically safe but not allowed to forget the existence of dangers.

There was one bit of storytelling sleight-of-hand that amused me. First, the narrator says,

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway. They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least, and they found it hard to leave... Yet there is little to tell about their stay.

Then just three paragraphs later, the narrator says, “I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two of the songs that they heard in that house.” I know it’s not technically inconsistent, but the two statements together tickled my fancy for some obscure reason.

Finally: we are now two for two in chapters away from home and references to Bilbo thinking wistfully of his hobbit-hole (“Not for the last time!”). I’m interested to see if there’s any chapter in which he doesn’t, so I’m going to keep track. It’ll go with the dwarf characteristics catalogue, which I have nothing to add to this chapter.

Back to action next week. See you then.

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at Dreamwidth and her booklog.

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Kate Nepveu
1. katenepveu
Dear all--

The little "Related Posts" widget at the bottom of this has reminded me that, a couple years ago, Jo Walton re-read this book and talked about it in a single post here on I recommend it and will be referring to it in the future.
2. Bander1
One of the things I've never noticed before is that there is no mention of weapons until they pick up the swords and Sting from the trolls. I am inclined to believe they don't have any because Thorin attacks the trolls with a burning stick. Even Gandolf tricks the trolls instead of directly attacking.

I knew Bilbo was ill prepared at this point, but the dwarves don't seem to be doing much better. Going off on a dangerous expedition equipped with musical instruments but no swords? And all the food on one pony?

I would like to claim I noticed this myself, but I got the idea from the website The Tolkien Professor. He gives a lecture on every couple of chapters.
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
It strikes me that the moon runes come much closer to prophecy than mere instructions. The whole business with the thrush knocking given a precise celestial alignment would seem to have rather limited usefulness as instructions for finding the back door. But the way it all plays out fits a prophecy much better.
Jeff Weston
4. JWezy
I always found the fact that both Thorin and Gandalf are a little put out by the fact that Elrond finds the moon runes. It always seemed a little out of character for Gandalf, at least.
5. Dr. Cox
I so cannot imagine Fëanor singing "O! tra-la-la-lally/here down in the valley!" lol :).
6. pilgrimsoul
Since I'd read LOTR first the Elves here came as a real shock. They are not merely frivilous but rude to their guests.
7. pilgrimsoul
Since I'd read LOTR first the Elves here came as a real shock. They are not merely frivilous but rude to their guests.
Robert Evans
8. bobsandiego
I think this section is going to spark loads of debate and flamewars when the movie comes out in two weeks because I think Jackson et al are going to massive change the tone.
It's neigh on impossible to present the elevs as they are in this book and merge them with what we have already seen on the screen. I suspect that elrond and co will be serious and perfect and substanial screen time will be devoted to the gathering storm of the necromancer.
9. StrongDreams
@3, I think the runs said "where the thrush knocks" not when, so this is specifying a precise location in addition to the celesital time. It seems reasonable for a pre-industrial people (not preoccupied with internet and xbox) to notice that the thrushes always come to this rock to crack open snails, and have done so for years, and will probably do so for years longer. Plus, they found the back door before they saw the thrush, so it was mostly irrelevant.

As far as calculating the exact day, it would be a pinch to do even in a pre-industrial society (full moons being the basis of Easter/Passover for 2-3000 years) but maybe the Dwarves have lost the skill due to spending all their time underground. They would know generally it would be some time in October/November, but not which of 30 or so candidate days. Elrond, of course, would know immediately, so I guess he decided not to tell the dwarves. I recall that although he provisioned them, he was not at all pleased about their overall mission.
Jennifer McLarty
10. Gwenhwyfar666
It will definitely be interesting to see the movie's take on The Hobbit's elves, after portraying them so ethereal and serious in LOTR. I suppose it can sort of be explained off with them not walking in with the One Ring - they're more likely to be lighthearted when you're not walking in with one of the most evil things in existance.
11. Dr. Thanatos
Yes, the infamous "tra-la-la-lally."

I will pick up the thread from the first chapter about how JRRT uses song to introduce and characterize races. Back then, we met the Dwarves with their serious song about their craft, their lost kingdom, their dwelling on the gold, and their need for vengeance. Gave us a good idea of what dwarves are like.

Here we meet singing nonsense that seems wacky and weird. But if you look at it another way...

The elves are incomprehensible to mortals. We don't understand and think their song silly, not seeing that somehow the elves know all about Mr. Baggins and his companions. "No knowing what brings" them, forsooth! The song suggests that the elves know very well everything about these guys.

I submit that what we get from this bit of Rankin-Bass style fluff is that the elves are mysterious creatures that we can't understand, who come across as silly and unworldly , but somehow they know much more about the world and what's going on in it than one would think from a bunch of tra-la-la'ing proto-Tinkerbells.

I also don't see Feanor singing tra-la-la; but elves living in a fortress who want to put strangers and travelers off their guard and/or at ease might very well sing nonsense rhymes about how they already know who's in the party and hint that they know what they're up to .

Wait till we talk about "The Ballad of Goblin Town!"
12. Dr. Cox
@11 Dr. Thanatos, a particular type of song to put people off their guard about them, yes, I can see that! :)
13. Dr. Thanatos
Dr. Cox,

Clearly we can learn from this about nasty sneaky deceitful elvsies. Some peoples already figured this out, yes they did, precious...
14. StrongDreams
Remember also that Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn and Feanor are "high elves" whereas most of the inhabitants of Rivendell and Lorien are "wood elves" (roughly speaking, I'm not going to look up the umpty-some tribes of Elves that JRRT created to explain his invented linguistic variants).

It is entirely in character that different tribes/races of Elves would behave differently. LOTR pretty much ignored this and portrayed all the Elves roughly the same. Since PJ has bloated this thing out to 6+ hours he certainly has time to show and explain the difference between party elves and gravely serious elves. And maybe Elrond was a happier guy before ring was found, which after all put an end-date to his time in Middle Earth no matter how things turned out.
15. Lsana
I'm pretty sure that Orcrist and Glamdring also glow in the presence of goblins and orcs, but Elrond doesn't mention it because it's the sort of thing everyone knew. I may be misremembering, but I don't think there's ever a point when the characters explain "The swords glow because there are orcs nearby"; I think that's just an aside from the author.

The whole "thrush knocks on Durin's Day" prophesy and the fact that they just "happen" to arrive in Rivendell on the right moon to have Elrond be able to help read the runes is interesting. I know it wasn't planned at the time, but I think it fits with Gandalf's "looking back" comments in LOTR about how there were other forces in play during Bilbo's quest.


I definitely had the same reaction when I first met these elves. They were obnoxious, a pattern that I think remains throughout this book and even at the start of the next one. I think it wasn't until we met Glorfindel that it occurred to me that elves other than Elrond might actually be good guys.
16. Dr. Thanatos
@15 Lsana,

Doesn't Bilbo have a moment while in the caves post-goblins but pre-gollum where he notices that Sting is glowing and says "This here thingie must be an elven sword"?
17. StrongDreams
Of course, the elves of the Third Age are all selfish jerks. Using magic rings to keep their homes green and fresh and perfect, and keep out orcs and robbers, but never mind their neighbors in Bree or Lake Town or Gondor who have to deal with wargs and mountain goblins and barrow wights and dragons. They kept the party going for 3000 years while the rest of Middle Earth fell apart around them.
18. Dr. Thanatos

Little mad they wouldn't give you access to the miruvor, eh?
19. Lsana

What I meant was that it doesn't seem like there's a moment where one character (likely Bilbo) says, "Um, why has my sword suddenly turned into a glowstick?" and someone else has to explain "Because it's an elvish blade, elvish blades glow when there are goblins nearby, and incidently, we should probably make a run for it." In the scene you mention, Bilbo is able to figure out for himself that "glowing sword = elvish blade", which supports my thought that this is just a fact everyone in the world knows about elvish weapons.
20. StrongDreams
Talk about one percenters! They have the best food, the best wine, the best craftsmanship (which is so good that mere men mistake it for magic), they never share, they lock intruders up without respect for civil rights, and when the neighborhood goes downhill they literally "took their ball and went home."
21. StrongDreams
and they live forever!

Occupy Valinor!!!
22. Dr. Cox
@13 Dr. Thanatos, Oh yeah, and . . . oops, I'm thinking of something else but will have to save it for later because, to quote Doctor Who's Dr. River Song, "Spoilers!" :)
Really, though, I do want this sans spoilers for those who haven't yet finished the book.
23. Dr. Thanatos
Hey, don't forget their kids look like Luthien.
Aragorn: "I thought you were Luthien"
Arwen: "I get that a lot..."

@21 StrongDreams:

2 words: Ar Pharazon. (The pirate king!)
24. Dr. Thanatos
But we digress...

Gandalf again needs someone to read runes on the map to him once Elrond makes them light up for all to see.

You know what they call the person who graduates last in Wizard school? Gandalf!

What, you thought I was going to say Neville?
David Levinson
25. DemetriosX
@9 StrongDreams
Nope, it specifically says "when the thrush knocks". I just double-checked. And then when the conditions are right the thrush gets a knowing look in its eye, sings, and a flake of rock splits off the mountain to reveal the keyhole. Now it could be that the thrushes of the Lonely Mountain have been handing down the job of knocking and singing when dwarves are about on Durin's Day, but it still feels more like prophecy to me.

@24 Dr. Thanatos
I just read the scene and I got the feeling that Elrond was bogarting the map. Picked it up and carried over to where the moonlight was better or something. Gandalf has to ask what it says, because Elrond won't let him see. And most of his apparent idiocy is probably all part of his nefarious plan to get the dwarves and elves to a point where they can work together when the time comes. But mostly Elrond's being a hogging jerk.
26. (still) Steve Morrison
Actually, I thought you were going to say Rincewind.
Steven Halter
27. stevenhalter
DemetriosX: I've always thought it was basically a prophecy.
28. Gardner Dozois
I always really liked it that they called Rivendell "The Last Homely House." For some reason, this really resonated with me. The Last Homely House! Beyond here, all is harsh danger and hardship and things "without the Law." Beyond here, there literally be dragons.

From the movie trailers that have come out, they've made the dwarves very fierce-looking and martial and tough, bristling with weapons. The fact that the dwarves are heavily armed and probably not afraid/unused to using those weapons has got to change a lot in the film--including their encounter with the trolls.

For that matter, I'll be very surprised if you see any Elves dancing around and singing "tra-la-la" in the film, for the same reason you didn't see Tom Bombadil doing that in the last movies--on the screen, it would look silly. The Elves will be as aetherial and mysterious as they can make them, and if you hear any singing in Rivendell, it will be the same, strange and incomprehensible like the background singing in a Cirque du Solei show.
29. Brother Guy
@#9 StrongDreams:

Calculating Durin's Day is not at all trivial, for precisely the reason that Kate points out -- it's not when the Moon is calculated to be new, but when it is actually visible. And that depends on how dark the sky is, which depends on the weather and other factors, plus how good your eyesight is. Spotting the new Moon (with the naked eye) is a favorite sport of amateur astronomers, precisely because, some months at least, it is so hard to do.

Brad Schaefer, an astronomer at LSU (and a fellow MITSFS alumni with me), wrote an article on "The Hobbit and Durin's Day" for the Griffith Observater back in 1994, going into it in some detail as I recall.

Sadly, we don't have that journal in our library in Rome (and Brad is on sabbatical in Australia right now) so I can't check the details. If someone here should happen to know an astronomer with access to a University library...
Kate Nepveu
30. katenepveu
Popping in quickly--I'll be back later--to say that BrotherGuy @ #29 is an actual-facts astronomer, which may not be obvious.

I'll ask the resident physicist if he might be able to get a copy of the article.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
31. Lisamarie
Also pretty interested to see how PJ portrays Elrond and Rivendell. I can't imagine it will be as 'silly' seeming as these elves...I'm not sure how that would come off in a movie. That being said, I think there is some room for levity.

Agreed that overall, the elves are a mit eselfish. In fact, I believe Tolkien ultimately believes this himself (if I am remembering correctly); the elves are not meant to be seen as perfect and they are a bit too attached to keeping things the way they are and using the three Rings to 'stop time', as it were, was a sign of that failing.
32. Elaine T
on the Elves, back on Usenet someone made a retcon for the difference, let's see if I can find it....

>>>To use 20th century imagery, the Elves in The Hobbit come across as
>>>>classic hippies frozen in the '60s. The Elves in LotR come across as US
>>>>Special Forces types.
>>>>It's not just different, it's so different as to be unbelievable. Sure,
>>>>one or two people might convert that way, but the entire group?
>>>Here's a retcon, though I don't think it's at all supported by the
>>>text. Immortals might maintain a larger range of behavior than we
>>>do, whether to prevent boredom or to maintain flexibility.
>>>Still, it's hard to imagine those high-art Elves going fa-la-la-lally.
>>Shit! Intruders!
>>A bunch of Eru-damned Dwarves, mostly.
>>Who is it? Oh, yeah, them. Elrond said they could come.
>>As a favor to Mithrandair.
>>Eru damn Elrond, too. A full Elf would know better.
>>Mithrandair promised they'd behave themselves.
>>It's not that I'm not scared of them! Here we are at DefCon 2, preparing to
>>drive the Necromancer out of Dol Gulder, and these aliens will be wandering
>>around. Even if they're not spies, you can't trust them to go away and keep
>>their mouths shut.
>>Nahh, we'll put on the "Midsummer Night's Dream" act. They'll never suspect
>>we could be up to anything important. C'mon, let's hear a "fa-la-la-lally".
>>fa-la-la-lally you too.
>(You missed out the last bit...)
>Warning codes, chief
>Oh yeah, right. Lemmesee...hobbit, 12 dwarves, Gandalf, from the
>northwest...right, that's bucolic lyrics, 12-part canon--
>Fugue, chief
>Fugue for *Dunedain*, *canon* for dwarves! Eru, what are they teaching
>these striplings? As I was saying, 12-part canon, in G, in 9/8.
>There's four of us, so one verse each. OK, you lot, on "9", I want to
>see you *improvise*!
I searched rec.arts.sf.written on "I want to see you improvise".

Always got a kick out of it.

Someone recently, somewhere on the web, pointed out that while the Elves seem silly, Bilbo, from being tired wants to join them and spend the night singing under the stars. Which would seem to indicate they are more attractive/welcoming than it appears.
33. Dr. Thanatos
@31 Lisamarie,

Although I don't remember ever seeing it spelled out, I think that the Rings were intended to magnify the faults of each race to the point of corruption i.e. Men's desire for longer life, Dwarves craving for gold, Elves desire to preserve their past .
34. peachy
@34 - In a sense the One Ring does the same thing with Sauron, though I suppose his desire for power was already immoderate...
35. StrongDreams
I always looked at the ability of the elvish rings to preserve things to be a good thing, but that puts it in a whole new light. Sauron was able to bring the elves under his control but maybe the rings caused them to be passive while all kinds of bad stuff happened around them (like the destruction of the northern kingdom and the withering of the southern kingdom).

I gladly admit to knowing little about real astronomy. However, it seems like the calculation of Durin's day is a matter of plus or minus one day from some easily calculable date. In other words, if the correct celestial alignment occurs on Monday, it might be visible on Monday or Tuesday (or maybe stretched to include Sunday-Wednesday). So if I told a dwarf to go to the back door on Durin's day, the most he should have to do is go a day or two before the easily calculable date and camp out for a few days. When I first read the Hobbit as a small boy, I had the impression that Durin's Day was really hard to calculate and might not even occur in some years, which I think is closer to JRRT's intent. Or did I miss the point completely?
37. JohnnyMac
One point that struck me here was that both dwarves and elves would have an inherent advantage over humans in developing a predictive astronomy: much longer lifespans. Dwarves live for centuries; elves are immortal. For both races someone who watches the sky can do so for generations of human time making it a lot easier to learn the cycles and patterns of sun, moon and stars.

Now, elves, who are described as loving the stars and moon and for whom their creation are key events in their cosmology/history, astronomy would seem a natural fit.

On the other hand, why would dwarves, who live underground (as Strong Dreams points out @9 above) acquire a knowledge of celestial cycles? Perhaps as a defense spinoff? If your underground cities are under a chronic threat of attack by flying, firebreathing monsters it would make sense to establish skywatching sentryposts on the mountains above (and when we get to the Lonely Mountain we will find that the dwarves of Erebor did so). And, if you have watchers scanning the skies for centuries, they will naturally learn the patterns. Such knowledge would also have the advantage of reducing false alarms ("That's no dragon, young dwarf! That's just the bright red star that rises in the South East at the third hour after sunset in mid-November.") and, at the same time, enabling sentries to spot incoming dragons as soon as possible ("Look, what is that red light East-North-East? Not a star. A meteor? A comet? No, it's a dragon!! Sound the Alarm!!").
Mari Ness
38. MariCats
The Elves in The Book of Lost Tales also have their distinctly silly moments, and I think Tolkien was drawing from this, as well as the idea of silly, mischievous but also sometimes helpful fairies from English tradition. Pixies were often associated with silly, drunken behavior, for instance. He also might have had a bit of A Midsummer's Night Dream in mind.

I find the contrast between the Rivendell elves, who seem to be more of the friendly, helpful silly types, and the later Mirkwood elves, who seem to be drawn more from the idea of the perilous Sidhe, fascinating, but I think I'll have more to say about this when we reach Rivendell.

And, Occupy Valinor! Heh. Love it.
Carl Garris
39. Rorgloin
Regarding the dwarves not having weapons, I think Tolkien may have done it to show Thorin's over confidence, but I am not sure-- I recall reading that he wasn't trying as hard to make The Hobbit realistic in detail as he was with The Lord of the Rings. I approve of the movies giving them weapons from the start as I think it makes more sense. I can't remember whether or not Tolkien made that change himself in the revised version of The Hobbit.
Rob Rater
40. Quasarmodo
I think it's a little odd that Gandalf finds his big sword that he carries with him throughout the rest of his years at this random encounter. Plus, what's up with him pillaging the booty anyway, considering this is the dwarves' quest? I hadn't thought about all the dwarves being unarmed before; that makes it even stranger that Gandalf is grabbin' the goods. Seriously, a dozen dwarves are off to fight a dragon with no weapons, and Gandalf goes all "tra la la la, I'll take this sword here! BTW, I won't be accompanying you all to the end. So sorry about your lack of weapons! Good luck, though!"
41. Gardner Dozois
Hard to believe that the dwarves, with their history on Middle-Earth, would set out on this quest, or on any journey through the Wild, for that matter, without weapons. I think that Tolkein didn't give them weapons because he was writing a children's book, and then later realized, hey, I'd better give these guys some weapons, and hastily came up with a way for them to get them.

MUCH more realistic to have them armed to the teeth from the start, as the movie apparently does--although that decision is going to force alterations in the storyline throughout the rest of the movie. If they're fierce and heavily armed, experienced warriors, the trolls are not going to be "popping them into a sack" one by one without a struggle. Might make it harder for the Mirkwood Elves to capture them, too.
42. pilgrimsoul
Maybe Bilbo, whose memoirs these are, did not recognize axes, the defining arms of their race, which surely the Dwarves carried, as weapons.
43. Dr. Thanatos
@42 pilgrimsoul,

It's one thing to assume Bilbo did not recognize axes as weapons. It's a much bigger leap to assume Bilbo would see then getting into it with trolls and not notice they were swinging great big sharp not-weapons in the fight...
44. pilgrimsoul
Ah, Dr. T, but did they get into it with Trolls or were the Dwarves just bagged? As I recall they went sneaking up after Bilbo and were bagged as desert.
45. Dr. Thanatos
@42 pilgrimsoul,

It's one thing to assume Bilbo did not recognize axes as weapons. It's a much bigger leap to assume Bilbo would see then getting into it with trolls and not notice they were swinging great big sharp not-weapons in the fight...
46. StrongDreams
The dwarves were tired, hungry, lost and feeling sorry for themselves. As I recall, they saw a fire in the distance, but did not know it was trolls, and sent Bilbo to investigate. He tried to pinch the purse, which put the trolls on alert. The dwarves, not being able to move as quietly as a hobbit, got nabbed one by one as they tried to sneak up to see where the others had got to (and I can see the later ones assuming that everyone else was having a grand time eating and drinking and getting warm and forgot them, so they stopped bothering to sneak and may have marched up indignantly--not in the book but my guess for the movie).

Plus, walking up to a friendly campfire with weapons drawn would be a good way of getting nothing to eat, had it been friendly travelers.

Point being, the dwarves never had time to get their weapons ready.
Robert Evans
47. bobsandiego
@ Gardner
Weren't they captured after the bit with the spiders? Drugged and out of it the elevs came upoin them unawares is how I remember it..

as far as the singing elves of Rivendale..does that means the eleves are going to be like this?
48. Gardner Dozois
It's pretty clear from the previews of the movie that the dwarves are going to end up having a pitched battle with the trolls, rather than being popped passively into a sack one by one. I doubt that the trolls are going to be done away with by being tricked into being caught by the rising sun and turned to stone either. THE RETURN OF THE KING pretty much established that trolls can function in the daylight without turning to stone, and, having established that, I don't see how they can go back to the stone-turning in the movie.

No, people should brace themselves--this may well be an entertaining movie, I expect to enjoy it myself, but resign yourself now to the fact that there are going to be a LOT of changes from the text of the book version of THE HOBBIT, even more than there were from the text of LOTR. I don't see any way around that, if you're going to change a children's book into an epic fantasy, especially three of them--and especially if you're going to set them in a world the details of which you've already established in a previous movie.
49. ReaderKate
Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.
This is one of my favorite narrator moments in this book, and I use it often to remind young writers that we don't need to know every mundane moment of their protagonist's day - Lovely days are lovely to spend but boring to read about - amen.
Robert Evans
50. bobsandiego
@48 Gardner
I suspect they they'll be a bit of hand waving that in LotR that wa sCave trolls and that these are different, like Hill troll or Mountain Trolls. If you watch the extended Fellowship they come across 'Mr. Bilbo's Trolls' all statuefied and stoned.
51. Dedic8ed
@48: Different species of trolls. Cave troll in Moria (iirc, Aragorn makes some comment about "they brought a cave troll") and opening the gates to Mordor, Olag-hai during the battle at Minas Tirith. Not to mention, during tFotR the petrified trolls are used as background for a camp, so I believe we will see them beaten in the traditional way.
Robert Evans
52. bobsandiego
Not Aragorn but Boromir made the immortal line about bringing a cave troll.
Beccy Higman
53. Jazzlet
Wasn't one of Sauron's preparations for the war the production of dark cloud cover turning day to night? So the trolls wouldn't turn to stone and his orcs who hated light would fight better? Not knowing what it is about sunlight that turns trolls to stone we have to assume it's something that doesn't get through heavy cloud cover.

I agree that Elrond may have been bogarting the map, but if they were standing in a circle talking as seems natural and he held it up to the moon only the two either side of him would have been in the right position to see the runes too. It could just be that Gandalf and Thorin weren't at his shoulders.

@ 32 Elaine T Love the retcon of the elves welcoming song!

@40 Quasarmodo, Gandalf getting the sword could be part of what someone up there (and sorry I can't find who) referred to about Gandalf saying in TLOtR that 'other powers' were at work at this point.
54. selidor
@29 Br. Guy: No luck at this library sorry. If we ever held copies, they went up in the 2003 fires. I've put out a request to other astro libraries.
55. Confutus
I'm with #46, the dwarves had their arms stowed for carrying or travel, and not ready for use. Apparently trolls can move more quickly and stealthily at night than one might expect from their large size and small intellect, which might help account for their success as thieves.

The elves clearly knew more about the dwarven party (from sentries, surely) than the dwarves would have wished. They were materially hospitable enough, but weren't above teasing them, none too kindly. Bilbo, no dwarf himself, wouldn't have caught all the barbs. And what would he have made of, say, Aragorn's or Arwen's Elvish if either of them had been singing? Without subtitles, it might as well have been tril-lil-lil-lolly, until he started studying and translating the elven tongues, which was much later.
56. JohnnyMac
Kate @1, Thank you for the link and recommendation to Jo Walton's reread of "The Hobbit". Well worth the time for anyone who has not already looked at it.

Pilgrimsoul@42, I like your calling axes "...the defining arms of their race..." for dwarves. Remember Gimli's battlecry at Helm's Deep "Baruk Khazad! Khazad ai-menu!". In the Appendices, JRRT translates this as "Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!" and says that they were warcries that had been heard on many a battlefield since the world was young.
Birgit F
57. birgit
It is strange that Bilbo wants to listen to the singing elves while the dwarves prefer dinner. Shouldn't a hobbit be more interested in food after a difficult journey?

The elves probably knew who the travellers were because Gandalf had talked to someone from Rivendell before he went back to rescue the dwarves from the trolls.

I thought Durin's day is when the moon is up in the day, not when it is not cloudy.

The moon runes don't seem very practical. You have to know when someone might want to read them and then wait to write them at the right time.

"When the thrush knocks" is translated in German as "wenn die Drossel schlägt", which can also be a poetic way to say "when the thrush sings". That is how I interpreted it. Since Tolkien studied Germanic languages, he might have been aware of the double meaning.

In my translation of the Hobbit Rivendell is not translated, while other German Tolkien translations change it to Bruchtal.
David Levinson
58. DemetriosX
As others have pointed out, Jackson pretty much has to have the trolls turn to stone, since he had them in Fellowship. Also the olog-hai were Tolkien's creation and are to Bert & co. as the uruk-hai are to the goblins of the Misty Mountains. I think there's an implication that Sauron's power shields them from the effects of the sun.

As for the dwarves' interest in astronomy, we should also remember that they were on peaceful and occasionally friendly terms with the elves for a very long time. That would give them plenty of time to absorb some elven star lore and adapt it to their own uses.

@57 birgit
Bilbo being more interested in the singing than food is probably significant. It's another step on his journey away from normal hobbitdom toward elf-friend and hobbit of the world.
59. Gardner Dozois
But if you watch the trailer for the upcoming movie, you can SEE the dwarves fighting the trolls. I doubt that they're going to turn to stone, or that they're going to be named Bert, Tom, and William Huggins, or that they're going to be speaking in comic Cockney accents. None of that fits with the tone of the already established movies, and it'll be changed to bring it into line.
David Levinson
60. DemetriosX
OK, it looks like the dwarves all charge in at once, but that doesn't preclude them getting popped into sacks. In the second trailer, there's a shot of Gandalf raising his staff with the sun rising behind him, that looks like it could be the conclusion of the troll episode.
Bill Stusser
61. billiam
Of course the trolls are going to be turned to stone, the stoned trolls are in TFotR movie. Sam even points them out and says "hey look, its mr. Bilbo's trolls".

My guess is that there will indeed be a fight but the dwarves will still all be captured and Gandalf will have to rescue them.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
62. Lisamarie
Not to mention that you hear Bilbo telling the story at the beginning of Fellowship and doesn't he mention that they turned into stone?

Doesn't mean that PJ won't play up a big fight scene, but I think it at least has to end that way, or it's boing to be a huge continuity glitch (unless you want to handwave it by saying that Bilbo is just making it up/sanitizing it for the kiddies, and that the scene in the EE where they actually SEE the stone trolls isn't 'canon', but I think that would be lame).

@57 - doesn't the verb 'schlagen' mean to hit or punch? Or is there an idomatic usage I am not familiar with?
alastair chadwin
63. a-j
I am one of those who prefer the 'foolish' elves of The Hobbit to the mildly sinister wise and superior ones of LOTR and it is precisely because, as Tolkien makes clear, they are different and slightly sinister (where did they get all that info from?). The key points are that it is made clear that only foolish people think elves are foolish and Bilbo wants to postpone supper to listen to them sing.
Kate Nepveu
64. katenepveu
Okay, proper responses this time.

First, I'm mostly going to pass over the speculation about the movie's changes to the book, because I've got a lousy visual imagination and because I'll do better with the movie this way.

Bander1 @ #2, thank you for pointing this out. Yes, I am hard-pressed to imagine that the dwarves are carrying weapons the way things are described, which is very very odd. I'm going to riff off something in Jo Walton's post about the fantasy of roleplaying games--it's a very _linear_ story, it seems to me at this point, and perhaps this ties into fairy tale traditions or quests--you get what you need along the way as part of the story, you don't bring it with you.

(In the next chapter, we see that the dwarves don't really understand the geography they're crossing and the dangers in it, either.)

Re: the thrush and prophecy, DemetriosX @ #3 & #25, hmm, I am going to try to keep that in mind when we get there. (I'm sure you'll remind me if I forget, and I mean that in a good way.)

Dr. Cox @ #5, can you imagine Feanor singing at all? I sure can't.

Dr. Thanatos @ #11, I'll be interested when the introductory-song thing gets broken. Not with the goblins next chapter. Beorn, maybe? Also, your ideas about why the Elves' song might not be awful are excellent, though Gandalf _did_ tell friends of his from Rivendell to expect them while the dwarves were getting popped into troll bags, so it's not that inexplicable that they know a good deal about the travelers.

StrongDreams @ #14, I'm not sure how far the different types of Elves that Tolkien eventually developed come into play in this book. I remember there being a marked difference between Rivendell and Mirkwood, but note that Elrond here is mostly talked of as chief of a group of part-humans, part-elves, not as a very High elf.

Lsana @ #15, the swords glow in a nearly-sentient way in the next chapter. It's kind of cool and freaky at the same time. =>

StrongDreams @ 21, Occupy Valinor -- isn't that what the Numenoreans tried? How'd that work out for them? (Also: hah.)

(Or, what Dr. Thanatos @ #23 said.)

Dr. Thanatos @ #24, good, because I won't hear a bad word said against Neville.

((still) Steve Morrison @ #26, Rincewind is indeed the perfect answer to that.)

StrongDreams @ #35, re: Durin's Day: again, some inference is required here because Thorin is not very explicit, but I think that the new moon _has to be literally seen by an observer_ to count, otherwise there would be no such problem in predicting.

Now, I just walked down the hall and subjected a co-worker to "answer my dumb questions about Islam," and have been told that in areas like upstate New York, it's very very difficult to see the new moon, but that it's seen *somewhere* and so that's used, and that it is probably pretty safe to say that when and where the Islamic calendar was created, all-day cloud cover was not really an issue. But I think it makes sense that viewing could still be required for Durin's Day, even if it wasn't created by a desert culture, if Durin's Day is seen as a recreation of a specific set of circumstances rather than an annual event or holiday. Does that make sense?

MariCats @ #38, yes, thank you, _LotR_ has a bunch of stuff that works with established Faerie traditions, and this makes sense as also part of that.

Quasarmodo @ #40, I'm going to give Gandalf a pass on taking Glamdring because I doubt any of the others could actually wield it . . .

ReaderKate @ #49, which sentiment will also later appear, in more melancholic form, in _The Silmarillion_: "But of bliss and glad life there is little to be said, before it ends; as works fair and wonderful, while still they endure for eyes to see, are their own record, and only when they are in peril or broken for ever do they pass into song."

birgit @ #57, I think Bilbo's being more interested in song than food is definitely a character moment, the return or reawakening of poetry in his soul. And no, I don't think moon runes make much sense either.
Kate Nepveu
65. katenepveu

Those of you looking forward to the movie should check out the Colbert Report next week, as his guests will be Ian McKellen (Dec. 3), Martin Freeman (Dec. 4), Peter Jackson (Dec. 5), and Andy Serkis (Dec. 6).

Meanwhile, revel in Colbert's Tolkien-love in this hilarious clip of him bringing out a bunch of his Tolkien memorabilia to illustrate a political metaphor (and possibly wearing the One Ring on his right hand, where he does not usually wear a ring). Though of course the punchline at the end is inaccurate. =>

(Hey AlanBrown -- you know that Colbert is a Cap fan too? You can't see the shield on the set wall in this clip, but if you search the site for "quesada" you'll turn up a bunch of clips related to it.)
David Levinson
66. DemetriosX
Re Gandalf taking Glamdring: By doing so, he also prevents potential strife within the party. Obviously Thorin gets Orcrist, he's the unanimously acknowledged leader. But if not Gandalf, who gets the other supersword? There are a number of different rank and family obligations here and disposing of it the wrong way could easily lead to problems within the party. Anyone who has ever been a tabletop gamer knows exactly how that eventually turns out.
67. Dr. Cox
@64.katenepveu . . . Fëanor singing anything? . . . no, not really, unless it was a war/avenger song . . . interesting about music, though, remembering the importance of music in world creation in The Silmarillion.
68. Dr. Thanatos
@67 Dr. Cox:

"I'm gonna make me some glowing jewels, glowing jewels, glowing jewels
I'm gonna make me some glowing jewels, and then I'm gonna go nusto!"

Songs of Feanor
69. StrongDreams
Wikipedia explains that Durin's Day is the same day as the dwarves' New Year's Day, which I didn't get before (but not all New Year's Days pass the additional observational test to be a Durin's Day). In that case my comments are,

With respect to the map, that makes it more of a prophecy than an astronomical event that happens every year if only you could figure out exactly when.

But with respect to the plot, and since "everyone knows" when the dwarf New Year is, wouldn't you expect the dwarves to march up to the back door and say, "Hey, tomorrow is New Year's Day. Let's see if we can see the moon and find the keyhole then, instead of breaking our backs (and possibly waking up the dragon) trying to batter the door down. If the keyhole doesn't appear, we'll try something else." Instead they are completely clueless until Bilbo, by luck or Providence, spots the bird.
Kate Nepveu
70. katenepveu
StrongDreams @ #69, I cannot answer your question! We'll see if it makes any more or less sense to me when we get there.
Soon Lee
71. SoonLee
Fëanor singing "O! tra-la-la-lally"?

Definitely not. But given that he was annoyingly great at *everything* he turned his attention to, I would expect he'd be a great singer too, of big music, the sort performed in front of a *large* audience.
Peter Schmidt
72. PHSchmidt
I just had a thought to share about Tolkien and the Eagles, but will wait until we get to them. Posting this to help me to remember to share...
73. Dr. Cox
@68 Dr. Thanatos and @71SoonLee, Fëanor as rock or opera singer . . . hmmm :) All I remember about him is anger, but as y'all mentioned, there's more to the character than that. I need to reread The Silmarillion!
Birgit F
74. birgit
doesn't the verb 'schlagen' mean to hit or punch? Or is there an idomatic usage I am not familiar with?

That is the literal meaning. This is a poetic use. If you google it, you'll mainly find a poem by Theodor Storm.
75. Brother Guy
Concerning the astronomy of Durin's Day...

I have not been able to get a copy of Brad Schaefer's article, but I did get through to him directly by email (he's observing this week on the 2.3 meter telescope at Siding Springs, Australia), and sent him a link to this blog. He responds:

"The posting about Durin's Day got it right, as far as it goes. There is a much deeper and richer story ... The Dwarf winter starts with the visibility of the thin crescent Moon immediately *before* the time halfway between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice (i.e., around 7 November on our calendar). These calendrics come from many places in the LotR."

This still doesn't answer StrongDreams (@69) quite reasonable suggestion...
David Levinson
76. DemetriosX
I was thinking some more about the prophecy vs. instructions aspect of the moon runes. It occurred to me that my prophecy interpretation is strongly influenced by the epic nature of LotR. If we ignore LotR completely and consider The Hobbit as it was intended -- a children's story or perhaps a fairy tale -- the runes take the place of the mysterious advice offered by a wise old man/old woman, talking animal, the sun or moon, etc. That sort of thing happens often in fairy and folk tales, only making sense to the hero when the time is right. Here, the runes give the instructions a less mystical feel, since we think we know and understand the source better. As a result, we perceive them more as instructions of the "100 paces north from the dead tree and sight through the knothole" sort than perhaps Tolkien intended.
Michael Ikeda
77. mikeda
Soon Lee@71
I would expect he'd be a great singer too

Feanor: That's the last time Fingolfin teases me about my singing. Just wait until NEXT karaoke night.

78. Dr. Thanatos
Feanor: I swear by Iluvatar and the Great Dark that no one, whether Elf, Vala, or Man unborn, will beat me at karaoke!
alastair chadwin
79. a-j
I think you've nailed it with the instructions/prophecy debate about the moon runes.
80. Crusader75

The Occupy movement is the work of Sauron? Of course, it all make sense now!
Kate Nepveu
81. katenepveu
Brother Guy @ #75, thank you kindly for the further astronomical information, and thanks to Mr. Schaefer too for taking the time to comment.

DemetriosX @ #75, I quite like your idea about the runes being akin to the mysterious advice of a helped and helpful passer-by, and now I'm wondering if there _are_ any helped and helpful etc. in the story. A thought to keep in mind.
David Levinson
82. DemetriosX
@81 Kate:
I've been thinking about this for a while now, and I can't come up with any examples of a helped and helpful stranger. Part of this, of course, is that Thorin isn't real big on helping anybody. As best I can recall, help is provided by Elrond, the eagles, Beorn, and the Lakemen. The first three are all the result of persuasion and negotiation by Gandalf and the third is essentially the result of the Lakemen's greed. None of these are the product of a helpful or selfless act on the part of the dwarves or Bilbo. Maybe that's why it comes by way of mystic runes on a map rather than a person. That and the "maps are cool" factor.
83. Dr. Thanatos
The only selfless acts that jump out at me are:

1 Bilbo opts not to slay Gollum out of pity ("it's a pity I ran out of bullets"). Only benefit from this is deferred three books down the Road.

2 Bilbo hands over the Arkenstone. No benefit or reward for this that I can see.

I agree maps are cool. Maps are anagram for "spam" which might explain the parts of the moon-runes Elrond didn't translate, relating to ring-resizing potions one could order from forodwaithian pharmacies...
84. atomfullerene
On Gandalf taking the sword:

It's not out of character at all. Gandalf messes up Bilbo's door, imposes an adventur on him, and is a repeat horse-theif (takes a horse from Beorn if I remember correctly, and takes Shadowfax).

On the elves:

Their behavior makes perfect sense if you think about it this way: They are the firstborn, immortal perfect beautiful badasses who have (in many cases) seen the west. They don't _care_ what any of the younger races think about them. They don't have to be concerned with looking silly. Compare to the dwarves, especially those like Thorin and Gimli, who are always worried about others looking down on them and not taking them seriously, and thus act serious to make up for it.
Kate Nepveu
85. katenepveu
atomfullerene, nah, Gandalf brings back Beorn's horse, just off-screen ("I am not sending the horse back, I am riding it!").
86. fantasywind
What are you complaining about, the silly elves? It is neatly summed up by Sam Gamgee in Fellowship, there are elves and elves, some merry as children some serious like kings, they are as complex as any race, they can enjoy life, laugh, sing, make jokes, feast and get drunk :) they are not emotionless automatons, nor as stiff like in Jackson's movies, even Gildor though serious, wise and giving philosophical advice is quick to laughter. Of course there is still this overlying sadness theme on the passage of time and as the world grows darker they become more concerned for their own affairs, kindreds of elves and men are getting more estranged as the time goes by, handful of Dunedain of the North retain closer relations (and of course Wood Elves had still dealings with Men of the Lake, engaging in trade) they still though have this streak of curiosity, are eager for news and help those in need (,,news flow for them like river" also they like gossiping :), and even those silly elves are wise and knowledgable so Bilbo is curious of their valuable advice and thoughts on many matters, overall the elves are not selfish, far from it but as the remnants of High Elves are going back to the Undying Lands their strength and numbers is not as it used to be, Gildor notes that they are less concerned for other creatures but that is more a sign of times, the troubled, dark times preceding the Ring quest and maybe a bit of sadness of the Exiles for the inevitable change, Third Age is the time of waning for Eldar and it's coming to an end in Lotr).

The elves were primary force in White Council, the elves of Lothlorien and Mirkwood defended their territories, holding against forces of evil if they were really selfish they would all leave long ago but elves too love the lands of Middle Earth, their homes, and care for them. Also during the Hobbit they live more or less in time of peace and they always enjoy such blissful periods.

As for dwarves having no weapons, they had knifes and sticks in battle with spiders which was a really serious stuff, also even in encounter with trolls some were fighting fiercely beore capture ,,as dwarves can when cornered" or something along those lines :). They did not take much weapons (just like Fellowship didn't arm itself to the teeth, only Gimli and Boromir being open about wearing armour or horn blowing like a military troop announcing marching out :) for several reasons: first the quest in supposed to be based on stealth and secrecy not strength of arms, second only handful of them had any real fighting experience, for the most part they are not warriors (I think only Thorin, Balin, maybe Gloin had fought in the past, as shown in appendices to Lotr, also Dwalin was one of the companions of Thrain before he was captured in Mirkwood and we are told that orcs and wargs waylaid the party so he could do some fighting too). Similar things could be said about the dwarves being slightly different in The Hobbit that the nobility and virtues of Durin's Folk were diluted by their miserable time as wandering exiles, facing poverty and scorn of men, they are not heroes are less noble and altruistic simply because they fell so low due to the misfortunes of their people, they are mainly concerned with survival and only durng the brief respite of better life and a bit of prosperity in Blue Mountains they started to get on their feet (even Thorin was said to work as lowly labourer, mining coal or working at anvil).

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