Dec 13 2012 1:00pm

The Hobbit Reread: Chapter 5, “Riddles in the Dark”

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 5, “Riddles in the Dark,” which was excerpted in at least one commonly-used schoolbook and caused a number of you to read The Hobbit in the first place. I have to say, I’d have done the same.


What Happens

Bilbo regains consciousness in the pitch black. Crawling along the tunnel, he picks up a metal ring, “almost without thinking.” Taking comfort from the discovery that his little sword is also an elvish blade that shines when goblins are near, he starts walking down the tunnel, but stops when he walks into cold water.

Gollum lives in the middle of this lake on an island. He sees Bilbo and, curious and not very hungry (yet), comes to the shore.

Gollum’s sudden appearance and hissing voice startles Bilbo, who points his sword at Gollum. Gollum is quite polite at swordpoint and proposes a riddle competition: “If precious asks, and it doesn’t answer, we eats it, my preciousss. If it asks us, and we doesn’t answer, then we does what it wants, eh? We shows it the way out, yes!”

Bilbo doesn’t dare to disagree, and they trade riddles of increasing difficulty. Gollum becomes angry and hungry; Bilbo becomes flustered, and cannot think of his next riddle. He happens to feel the ring in his pocket and asks himself, out loud, “What have I got in my pocket?” Gollum takes this for a riddle and demands three guesses. They are all incorrect, and he heads to his island, planning to get his ring, sneak up on Bilbo invisibly, and eat him.

When Gollum can’t find his ring, he guesses (correctly, this time) that Bilbo has it and comes to attack Bilbo. As Bilbo runs away, he puts his hand in his pocket to figure out what he does have there, and the ring slips on to his finger. Gollum runs past, and Bilbo follows Gollum to the “back door.” There Gollum stops, smelling many goblins, and blocks the passage. Eventually he senses Bilbo and readies himself to spring. Bilbo briefly contemplates killing him, but a “sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart,” and he jumps over Gollum instead.

Bilbo runs to the door and is seen by the goblins because the ring has slipped off his finger. He puts it back on, dodges goblins, and eventually squeezes through the door, leaving “his nice brass buttons” all over the doorstep.



This is a really great chapter, tense and with such a compelling character in Gollum. I somehow managed to forget, the first time through, that it had been re-written to be consistent with The Lord of the Rings, so my initial reaction was amazement at how fully realized and consistent Gollum was here! I spent a bit contemplating what this meant about the character and so forth, and then hung my head when I remembered that not only was it revised, but KeithS had provided a link to, and I had read, a very useful side-by-side comparison of the changes!

It’s been a long week, what can I say.

So first, I feel I should say something about the very fact that Tolkien rewrote this chapter in light of his better idea about the ring being the One Ring. I hated it when Stephen King did this to the Dark Tower series, and before reading the last book, I said,

On one hand, I can understand that tales grow in the telling, and sometimes (as Teresa Nielsen Hayden has said) “do three and a half somersaults in midair and come down wearing a different costume.” And I imagine that many artists feel very strongly about being able to control the way their work is presented.

Yet as a reader, the word that keeps coming to mind is “betrayal,” melodramatic as it sounds. I think it has something do with nature of fiction: once published, a fictional world and fictional characters live in the minds of the readers as well as on the page and in the mind of the author. In a way, they no longer belong solely to the author—so the author rewrites their history at his or her peril. A straight retcon is at least transparent; rewriting a book, such that the original is no longer in print, seems less . . . honest? Less desirable, at least, to remove the reader’s option.

In comments, a friend pointed out this very example, and I said, “I’m inclined to say, ‘Well, if you’re Tolkien you can do that,’ but his constant rethinking means that The Silmarillion wasn’t finished in his lifetime, which I think is too bad. All the same, I think it a rare happening that the revision will net something like The Lord of the Rings.”

I suspect that I don’t have strong feelings about this because I never read the first edition of The Hobbit, whereas I imprinted hard on the first three volumes of the Dark Tower series. Also, not to put too fine a point on it but, I like the result in LotR way, way better than I do in the Dark Tower series. (I realize that this is inviting a discussion of the Dark Tower books, but I’m going to ask people to refrain, because I can’t get into my issues without spoilers and it’s not fair to do that here. If there’s demand for it I’ll put up a post on my personal journal.) But I feel sort of bad about not having strong feelings, because the principle ought to be the same. Certainly, if anyone else wants to express their hurt or anger over the second edition, I’ll be sympathetic. Conversely, if anyone wants to make the case for an author’s right to take a mulligan, well, I see your point too.

(Time being what it is, it seems unlikely that many people here would have read the first edition instead of the second. Anyone?)

As a side note, Wikipedia has this information about Tolkien’s intentions:

Tolkien sent this revised version of the chapter “Riddles in the Dark” to (his publisher) Unwin as an example of the kinds of changes needed to bring the book into conformity with The Lord of the Rings, but he heard nothing back for years. When he was sent galley proofs of a new edition, Tolkien was surprised to find the sample text had been incorporated. . . . The revised text became the second edition, published in 1951 in both the UK and the US.

(Fellowship was first published in 1954.) I presume that Tolkien would have been able to veto the changes if he didn’t want just the revised chapter included, but it is interesting to imagine all our copies of The Hobbit having the original text of this scene still, and only Bilbo’s later explanation that it was a lie for what “really” happened.

Which makes this a good time to turn to that original text and its changes. The side-by-side comparison shows that not only is Gollum scarier at the end of the riddle game, he’s also sadder and more compelling. Beyond what this means for LotR, my other reaction is that no wonder this was such an effective textbook excerpt—Tolkien had two shots at getting it right! It’s not that prior chapters have been bad, but this one is really a noticeable step up. I’m not prepared to say it’s the high point, but I’d definitely like to hear how people who read this chapter first found the opening chapters.

After all that meta, I have very few comments about the rest of the chapter. The principal thing of note, of course, is that it is the bottom of Bilbo’s character arc, from which he becomes, at least in the chapter, wiser and more active. At the start of the chapter, he goes from crawling in the dark (if this were LotR, he would be compared to an animal) to deciding, “Go back? No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” Then he gets through the riddle game (with some luck, about which more in a moment), shows pity and empathy for Gollum, and takes the necessary but still scary active steps of jumping over Gollum and getting out the back door. (Leaving behind his brass buttons, which have “Hi! We’re symbols!” written all over them.)

I also noticed how much of a role luck plays in this chapter. It twice gets Bilbo through the riddle game: once when he can’t speak properly and “Time! Time!” comes out (“Bilbo was saved by pure luck,” the narrator says), and once when Gollum guesses that Bilbo’s hand is in his pocket, and Bilbo “had luckily just taken his hand out again.” Of course, the biggest piece of luck is Bilbo’s finding the ring in the first place—or, from the point of view of LotR, which here is actually appropriate given the revisions, the biggest piece of “luck” is Bilbo’s “finding” the Ring in the first place. As Gandalf says in Fellowship: “Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker.” There’s not really a hint of that here, though, unlike the suggestions of the Ring’s will and addictive effect: not only does the Ring pull its “now you don’t see me, now you do” game, but when it slips off Bilbo’s finger at the back door, “A pang of fear and loss, like an echo of Gollum’s misery, smote Bilbo, and forgetting even to draw his sword he struck his hands into his pockets.”

I don’t have much to say about the riddles, because I’ve known them since I was four years old and have entirely lost any ability to consider them objectively. One thing I only noticed this time, though, is Gollum’s response to one of the riddles:

But suddenly Gollum remembered thieving from nests long ago, and sitting under the river bank teaching his grandmother, teaching his grandmother to suck—“Eggses!” he hissed. “Eggses it is!”

I realize this reference has gone past me every time until now, but all the same, I did find a “teach your grandmother to suck eggs” joke a bit incongruous in the middle of a life-of-death contest.

Finally, can someone explain to me how Bilbo wears his sword inside his breeches? If it were a knife in a thigh holster, fine, but a short sword?

Running tallies/catalogs: No dwarves this time, so nothing to add to the dwarf characteristics list. Did this chapter contain a reference to Bilbo thinking wistfully of his hobbit-hole? Yes (4/4).

We’ll see if we learn anything new about the dwarves when we rejoin them 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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Ben Gilbert
1. bengi
When reading LOTR for the first time I never understood the fuss Bilbo made about making up how he found the ring since I had never read a different story.

About Bilbo keeping his sword in his pants, is that a Freudian slip or what? :)
James Moar
2. James Moar
Is it permissable to discuss how the film handles this chapter in this thread. I thought it was quite interesting....
James Moar
3. StrongDreams
For me, there are two reasons the revision to the riddle game doesn't bother me. First, like you, I read the revised version first, whereas I also imprinted hard on the original Gunslinger (reading it serialized in F&SF and being shocked and delighted years later to see it in book form. I think I shouted out loud in the bookstore.)

But more than that, it's much more skillfully done. King's revisions stick out like a sore thumb. He brings up names and objects and concepts and waves them in your face, then they disappear for the next 3 books. He make the character of Roland less consistent with his later behavior, not more consistent. (King especially weakens Roland's character arc with one particularly unforgiveable change, IMO.) JRRT makes Gollum more consistent with LotR and strengthens both Gollum's and Bilbo's character arc. (Witness Bilbo's discomfort at being forced to confess the truth to Gandalf, and Gandalf's subsequent discussion of how un-hobbitlike it was.)

And overall, I'm glad JRRT never revised the entirety of The Hobbit, because I like starting off with happy singing dwarves instead of grim warlike dwarves, and I'd rather not see Bilbo lusting after the Arkenstone, which is what probably would have happened.
Kate Nepveu
4. katenepveu
Quickly--James Moar, thanks for asking, and hmm. Can you white-text it, using the little button? (Let me test that:

The next paragaph is going to be white-texted.

This should be in white text.

Back to black. Okay, seems to work.)

Also, the nice folks at are sending someone to a midnight US showing for a post tomorrow, and I imagine unmarked spoilers will be fair game there or some other post.

Before anyone asks--I'm not going to get to see the movie until next weekend, for babysitting reasons, which is okay by me since I'm not that excited about it anyway. I'll also do a movie reaction post after that, where spoilers can be unmarked.

Sorry if that's too annoying--trying to balance interests, there.

Work is a bear right now--will keep an eye on things but responses will have to wait until tonight at minimum. Thanks, all.
James Whitehead
5. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I have the same feeling towards Tolkien's 'revision' of Gollum. It makes sense and does add depth to him as a character. Having never read the original, I simply don't know what I'm missing I guess.

It's rather like how irritated I get over Lucas putting in the 'new' Anakin Force ghost at the end of Jedi while it doesn't bother my sons. I saw the movie when it came out & so changing something like that just to tie the old movies with the new ones irks me (yesss, yess it does, my preciousss...) since I 'know' what the original was.

My sons don't have that frame of reference and so they look rather dubiously at dad when he gets on a rant.

Also, I do remember reading this for the first time and being very scared for Bilbo, not so much with how the riddle game was to go but when Bilbo realizes he has to jump over a forlorn Gollum. Always stuck with me the detail of the situation that Tolkien put into the scene.


PS - Kate, thanks for starting this re-read.

PPS - Regarding Jackson's film; I was heartened to watch a hour long interview with him last week on tv (don't remember the program/channel - sorry) and hear him talk about the difference in tone between The Hobbit & tLoTR & how he wanted to capture more of the whimsy for The Hobbit that Tolkien wrote.

So, while the previews have all shown us 'badass' stuff with luck Jackson won't have forgotten that the book was for a younger audience. Just thought I'd share that as I've comments expressing concern over The Hobbit potentially being too dark a film.
James Moar
6. Hedgehog Dan
My favourite chapter from Middle Earth! \o/
Also, I like the I-don't- know- how-many entendre of the title:
- There is the riddle contest, of course
- But the ring itself is also a riddle, no wonder it came up in the contest
- Its "owner", Gollum is also a riddle in the book, his origin was only discussed in the LotR, here even the narrator is not sure, where he comes from
- Also, the riddle of reaching the surface for Bilbo, which is trivial, but still

Besides that, I know that a riddle contest is not easy to put into a story, but I did not really meet some similar game, besides the already mentioned King's mad train, Blaine, which I have always found strange. :(
James Moar
7. jms1969
I was one of those who read Riddles of the Dark in the schoolbook you mentioned. I was in 3rd grade then, I believe, and remember enjoying it quite a bit. Within a couple weeks I picked up the entire book and was hooked.

The chapter is a great introduction to the book, and was perfect for that type of reading schoolbook. It functions as a standalone story that is very easy to pick up on - going from Bilbo waking up to his escape through the gate. There is enough there to tell you there is an interesting story before and after it, but it's also very possible to just enjoy the chapter on its own.

To answer your question, although I doubt I was thinking about it this way when I was in 3rd grade, I had (and still have) no issues with comparing the beginning of the book to this chapter when I read it from start to finish. At its heart, The Hobbit is the story of Bilbo growing up and becoming able to fend for himself in the Wild, partially because of the Ring, but mostly because he grows as a person (in much the same way the hobbits do in LOTR - something is brought home even stronger there by the Scouring of the Shire chapter). The style and "tone" of the book grows along with him, as is appropriate.
David Levinson
8. DemetriosX
I too only knew the revised version of this chapter. I followed the link Kate gave us and looked at the side-by-side comparison. The reversions are IMO improvements. They put a little more oomph into the whole thing. There's a lot more menace to Gollum than a simple "We eats it." I was also surprised by how much was already there: most of Gollum's mannerisms, his speech patterns, and so on were already a part of him and blended seamlessly into the character he eventually became.
James Moar
9. StrongDreams
After reading the side-by-side comparison of the chapters, I am even more of the opinion that the revised version is much much better. The earlier version might work for small children, with an antogonist who is polite and follows all the rules, but it also presents a version of Bilbo that is quite at odds with his normally nice and honest behavior. Really, Bilbo should have explained that he found the ring and offered to trade it back in return for the way out, instead of tricking Gollum into giving him a second "free" present after he stole the first one. (Since here, the ring is not malevolent.) Plus, it's just one more RPG-like episode. There's no real reason for Bilbo to get something so dead useful to him later except that the later plot needed him to get it.

The revised verison has menace, a real reason for Bilbo to hide his accidental deception (Gollum would kill him), and a real reason for Bilbo to find it, even if those reasons aren't fully explored until LotR. (2 reasons, really. The ring wanted to be found by its Master and wasn't going anwhere with Gollum, and some other Power may have wanted Bilbo to be the one to find it, rather than a dwarf or orc.)
James Moar
10. pilgrimsoul
Riddle contests were an occasional feature of Ango-Saxon and Norse Sagas, and some of the riddles JRRT used dated back to Early Medieval times. In the Preface to FOTR he says something about such games being "sacred" or something of that sort to show Gollum's depth of corruption in meaning to cheat.
James Moar
11. James Moar
Spoiler for film version of this chapter:

The film presents it as Bilbo trying to save his skin by humouring Gollum's bizarre whims. Thought it helped make more sense of the Riddle Game in a context that's generally less whimsical than the original text, and minimises the moral awkwardness of Bilbo cheating. It's also the most effectively tense part of the film.

I'd like to see Bilbo briefly tell the other version of how he got the Ring when the films get to him explaining it to the rest of the company.
James Moar
12. James Moar
I'm seeing my previous post as visible text -- sorry, could a mod white it out if everyone else is too?
James Moar
13. Aduiavas
Oh, this chapter was revised? That explains so much :D

I first read the Hobbit in Norwegian, where I believe the original version still exists.. I thought something was a bit odd when I later read LotR.. It is only now that I have read the English version, with the new version. I thought I just remembered it wrong, because it is a while since I've read the book in Norwegian...
Rob Rater
14. Quasarmodo
In high school Enlish class, we were given the assignment of keeping a journal throughout the semester. So I used the front of the journal for my assignment articles, and in the back I wrote down the Hobbit riddles, just because I thought they were so cool and wanted to be able to read them whenever. I thought they'd be safe in the back of the journal since all my assignments were written in the front, but my teacher found them anyway and wrote the comment: "These are excellent! Did you write them?"
Erik Amundsen
15. Bigerich
@13: Both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were translated into bokmål twice. The first of each were both pretty terrible by all accounts, so it wouldn't surprise me if the translation of The Hobbit was of the unrevised edition.

The newest translation is from 1997, and is pretty good IMO. Almost as good as the excellent second translation of LOTR.

Both LOTR and The Hobbit are also available in nynorsk now as well..
j p
16. sps49
I never encountered the excerpt; I only heard of the book upon seeing the Rankin-Bass cartoon (only once, but I still recall much of it and many of the characters still look that way when I read LotR. Well, not the elves.)

Great chapter. I am still trying to get my mother to read the book; maybe I can get her to read the first four chapters.
James Moar
17. Dr. Thanatos
Agree with what was said above. Who else but JRRT could turn a rewrite/revision and incorporate it into the story and give a sinister reason for the story originally being told a different way?

I always thought that the memory of teaching his grandmother to suck "Eggsies" was a very clever and telling thing. According to my texts on English idioms, this is an old figure of speech meaning "trying to teach someone something that they are expert in" such as a bricklayer telling a surgeon how to take out an appendix. It denotes something of a smart-aleck and know-it-all, and I think it's a clever way to tell us something about Gollum's character from his beginning.

As for Bilbo, the less we think about what kind of a person asks a complete stranger "what have I got in my pocket" the better...
John Rodenbiker
19. jrodenbiker
I've been reading The Hobbit to my 6-almost-7-year-old, 1st grade daughter over the past several weeks. We'll finish chapters 18 & 19 tomorrow. (I had wanted to take her to a Sunday matinee of the movie until I learned it had been rated PG13 and would run almost 3 hours. We'll settle for the 1977 animated version on laser disc when we visit my parents over the Christmas holiday.)

This was a really delightful chapter. It was her first encounter with riddles and I could see the gears turning and the lights illuminating as she began to grasp more of the possibilities of our English language: puns, word play, shades of meaning...

How can you bring up an author reworking a masterpiece to bring it in line with his latest works without mention George Lucas and Star Wars?

Tolkien succeeds because his edits are relatively subtle and enhance the individual work as well as the body of work. It's a very delicate thing.
Birgit F
20. birgit
In the German translation Bilbo has his sword in his pocket. That makes even less sense than the English version.

The illustrations in the German version show Gollum as a toad. That fits the vague descriptions in the Hobbit, but obviously the illustrator didn't read LotR.
James Moar
21. a1ay
Gollum seems much more threatening in this scene than later on in LOTR.

He liked meat too. Goblin he thought good, when he could get it; but he took care they never found him out. He just throttled them from behind, if they ever came down alone anywhere near the edge of the water, while he was prowling about. They very seldom did, for they had a feeling that something unpleasant was lurking down there, down at the very roots of the mountain. They had come on the lake, when they were tunnelling down long ago, and they found they could go no further; so there their road ended in that direction, and there was no reason to go that way—unless the Great Goblin sent them. Sometimes he took a fancy for fish from the lake, and sometimes neither goblin nor fish came back.

I mean, this is scary stuff. Gollum is sneaking up on Orcs and killing them with his bare hands, and he's doing it so well (OK, he has the Ring, but that's not much advantage in a pitch-dark cave) that the Orcs have never caught him and are afraid of going anywhere near him. By Lord of the Rings, he's a snivelling little cold-turkey addict who has difficulty dealing with a single hobbit. But in The Hobbit, he is an invisible stone-cold killer. He is el diablo cazador des hombres. Or rather des orcses.
Which makes sense, I suppose, if you assume that the Ring is not just an invisibility charm, but is a Ring of Power. It seems to intensify the wearer's abilities. Sauron wears it and becomes even more powerful and evil. Isildur wears it and becomes even more proud and over-confident. Gollum wears it and becomes even better at sneaking and strangling.

And Bilbo wears it and... throws amazing parties!
David Levinson
22. DemetriosX
@21 a1ay:
Gollum may be a stone-cold killer here, but he does it all by stealth and only when his potential victim is alone and can be taken by surprise. To use Sam's term, he's a sneak. It should also be borne in mind that in LotR we only see him after he's been captured and tortured by Sauron (one does not simply sneak into Mordor) and then captured and possibly tortured again by Aragorn. He's a broken creature by the time we see him again. But he still has the stones to cut a deal with Shelob.

OTOH, I also like your theory that the Ring intensifies its wearer's abilities. There's definitely some of that going on, too.

Frodo wears it and... goes totally emo!
Sam wears it and... ???
James Moar
23. a1ay
...becomes supernaturally solid and dependable, I suppose.
James Moar
24. StrongDreams
Frodo wears it and... goes totally emo!

That was more Jackson than Tolkien, though, wasn't it?
Steven Halter
25. stevenhalter
I agree that this chapter is the bottom of Bilbo's "powerless" arc. From here on he just keeps doing more.
I've never quite figured out how Sting fits in Bilbo's pants either--really deep sturdy pockets I guess. :-)
I wonder if the ring doesn't also have a bit to do with the luck (good and bad) here. It wants out of Gollums hands now that its master is awakening.
The riddle competition is great fun and I found it very packed with suspense.
James Moar
26. a1ay
I've never quite figured out how Sting fits in Bilbo's pants either--really deep sturdy pockets I guess. :-)

I never got a clear image of Sting. It's described as being a sword and a dagger at various points, and IIRC it's said that it's dagger-sized from an Elf point of view, but (obviously) bigger to Bilbo.
High waistband, maybe? 1930s style? You could put a longish knife inside that and not have it get in the way.

Please, let me stop speculating about hobbit trouser fashions now.
James Moar
27. Dr. Thanatos
What has the nasty hobbit gots in its pockets?

Nothing, precious! See all the loose change and rings and stuff that fell out through hole made by stupid hobbit sticking nasty elfsie sword in pocket...
Steven Halter
28. stevenhalter
Dr. Thanatos@27: lol.

a1ay@26: Hobbit Trouser Fashions is the name of my next Culture GSV.
David Levinson
29. DemetriosX
@24 StrongDreams:
That was more Jackson than Tolkien, though, wasn't it?
Not entirely. He does a lot of complaining to Sam about how weary he is and the terrible burden and so on, plus there's that business at the Falls before he tries to take off by himself. Jackson does play it up a bit more. Tolkien's version is probably more late 18th/early 19th century Romantic (as epitomized by Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther) than emo
James Moar
30. StrongDreams
I believe Sting is described as a long knife for an elf and the right size to be a short sword for a hobbit. Taking the Roman gladius as my favorite short sword, which was around 30 inches against a 66-70 inch tall Roman soldier, I imagine Sting to be no more than 18 inches (including grip) for a 42 inch hobbit.

If you didn't wear a belt to hang a scabbard on, you could shove the sheath down the waistband of your trousers maybe 12 inches, and button your waistcoat over the rest? Then the orcs, with their long enmity against dwarves but never seeing a hobbit before, might overlook searching him?
Arghya Raihan
31. Umbar
@29 DemetriosX - YMMV and all that, but I feel you're doing Tolkien and Frodo an injustice by labelling him 'emo' (or Romantic in the Young Werther sense, since Goethe wrote it as a satire). I've always understood that word to basically mean "making a big deal out of nothing", whereas the Ring is a very big deal and the physical and psychological toll of carrying it (with the express purpose of destroying it) around is repeatedly emphasized in the text and the story (and not just by how much Frodo complains about it).
James Moar
32. StrongDreams

Here's my issue. When reading the books and Frodo's plight comes up, I never want to shout at the book, "oh no, not again, I get it." Contrast with 472 close-ups of Frodo's wide-eyed puppy dog stare.
James Moar
33. Dr. Thanatos

I think the concept is more Movie-Frodo, who mopes and stands around like some vampire in a Twilight movie. I agree that Book-Frodo had every right to be pensive and thoughtful. Just not broody-Angel mode...
David Levinson
34. DemetriosX
@31, 32
My impressions are undoubtedly somewhat colored by the films overemphasis (the result IMO of Elijah Wood's very limited range, CGI Gollum had more facial expression), and yes the Ring is a great burden as the narrative tells us, but there are times when Frodo goes a bit overboard. There's a bit of "I must bear this burden, no other can bear it for me" going on. He occasionally drags in his wound from the Morgul knife, too.

Emo and the sort of Romanticism we're talking about (most of Goethe's readers failed to understand it was satire; he hated it and the damn book is still taught today in German schools, because people still don't get it) are very closely related. Indeed, much of the difference is that emo has less nature, more drugs and black clothing, and prefers cutting to suicide.

I should also add that the comment was meant somewhat tongue in cheek.
James Moar
35. Thrasher
@20 birgit

The translated Hobbit illustrations are almost always hilariously inaccurate. If you have a chance to read Douglas A Anderson's "The Annotated Hobbit", do so! Not only are the discussions of JRRT's motivations and revisions fascinating, but the annotator constantly includes innustrations from the translations and points out how innaccurate they are, and how this point frustrated JRRT greatly. I believe at one point JRRT wrote to Unwin immensely frustrated because every single translation illustrator got Hobbit legs wrong.
Beccy Higman
36. Jazzlet
@ 17 Dr.Thanatos, serious question 'Have you never heard the phrase " don't teach your Grandmother to suck eggs!" used in disgust?' I couldn't say where or when but I have certainly heard it used and understood it's meaning from the context. Though of course this sort of idiom can be quite local.

@ 23 a1ay did make me laugh
and @26 I'm with you on confusion about Sting

so @ 30 StrongDreams that is very helpful. I assume we are talking belted baggy trousers too.

As I didn't know there was an earlier version I had assumed that when Frodo talked of the real version of the tale he meant including the cheating by Bilbo, which IIRC isn't in the version Bilbo tells the Dwarves.
James Moar
37. Dr. Thanatos

I can't personally attest to having heard this myself; but I remember recognizing this when reading the Hobbit (teen years) as denoting what we might these days call a wise-ass. I suspect that I had come across it in children's literature somewhere. Regarding it's usage here I didn't see it as a joke that didn't fit the mood (as mentioned above)---I saw it as a way JRRT snuck in a clue as to Gollum's character (much as he put in songs to give us clues to the characters of Dwarves, Elves, and Goblins (but not, I think, Men or Dragons)
Beccy Higman
38. Jazzlet

Thanks, though I'd translate wise-ass to clever dick, we still have those variations in english based on where we are, even with so much common culture.
James Moar
39. Dr. Thanatos
Your point on variations is well taken; calling someone a clever dick in the neighborhood I grew up in would get me broken teeth...
James Moar
40. pilgrimsoul
Gollem believed Bilbo intended to cheat and did cheat, but why do you?
Rob Rater
41. Quasarmodo
Speaking of Sting, do we ever find out what Sting's actual evish name is? Because Sting is just the name Bilbo gave it, right? Does it have a true name, like Orcrist or Glamdring?
Beccy Higman
42. Jazzlet
@ 41 Quasarmodo I don't know that we do, though I wouldn't be at all surprised if Sting does not have an elvish name as to them it would just be a fine knife and who names their knives?
Douglas Freer
43. Futurewriter1120
This chapter is one of my reasons for wanting to see the movie, to see how they handle the two different texts.
Birgit F
44. birgit
In German (both book and movie) gollum's grandmother teaches him and not the other way around. The translator probably thought it was a mistake and "corrected" it.
James Moar
45. RonG
@6 Hedgehog Dan, Three Hearts and Three Lions, a fantasy novel by Poul Anderson has an episode with a rather humorous riddle contest. I've always assumed it was an homage to The Hobbit. Most interestingly, the episode combines aspects of both Riddles in the Dark and the adventure with the trolls.

I my house, "I lied about the wheels" is a punchline that's part of family legend.
James Moar
46. Hedgehog Dan
RonG: yeah, true, with the giant - and the hero also used dark joke riddle, just like Eddie did with Blaine the mono. Also, I liked why places where giants turned to stone are cursed.
James Moar
47. Hedgehog Dan
(Okay, that joke was not dark, only tiresome... still it was about the chicken and the road.)
James Moar
50. JohnnyMac
RonG @45, re the riddle game in "Three Hearts and Three Lions": "I have always assumed it was a homage to The Hobbit."

It might well have been. On the other hand, it might be a case of Anderson and Tolkien both drinking from the same well of Northern myths and sagas where such riddle games are described.

I remember the late Avram Davidson complaining about people who commented that the stag hunting scene in his novel "The Phoenix and the Mirror" was obviously an imitation of the stag hunting scene in T. H. White's "The Once and Future King". As Davidson pointed out, the similarities were that natural result of the fact that both he and White based their scenes on the same medieval texts on stag hunting.

I wonder if Poul Anderson ever said anything on this point?
James Moar
51. RonG
JohnnyMac @ 50: Poul Anderson was quite well-versed in the sagas. Hrolf Kraki's Saga (published 1973) is a story assembled from a number of sagas and other texts concerning the pagan North.

Three Hearts and Three Lions, published as a novella in 1953 and a novel in 1961, was more of a riff on the Carolingian cycle. Given the publication dates of the Hobbit (1st ed. 1937, 2nd ed. with revised Riddle chapter in 1951) it is chronologically possible that Anderson read the Hobbit before he wrote THaTL.
James Moar
52. JohnnyMac
RonG @51, I do think it is very possible that Poul Anderson had read "The Hobbit" and was inspired by it to include the riddle scene in "Three Hearts and Three Lions". However, without further evidence (such as a statement affirming or denying this somewhere in Anderson's letters) we cannot say for sure.

I believe Anderson read Old Norse. I seem to recall reading a translation by him of Egil Skallagrimsson's famous poem "Lament for My Sons".

While we are engaged in this pleasant speculation, I wonder if Tolkien ever read Anderson? I think he would have enjoyed "Three Hearts and Three Lions", also "The High Crusade", "The Broken Sword" and "Hrolf Kraki's Saga". Of course, Anderson's take on elves was rather different than Tolkien's!
James Moar
53. Dr. Thanatos

I don't know if Tolkien would have been appreciative of liberties taken by Anderson in which modern men turned out to be Barbarossa, or Holger, with memory wipes...he was a bit of a purist regarding his northern european myths and traditions if I recall correctly.
James Moar
54. JohnnyMac
Dr. Thanatos @53, who can say? I do like to think that Tolkien would have enjoyed "The High Crusade" with its story of medieval English knights conquering an interstellar empire (and converting it to the True Faith).
James Moar
55. Dr. Thanatos

I don't remember any rabbis in that book :)
James Moar
56. JohnnyMac
Dr. Thanatos @55, LOL!
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
57. Lisamarie
I also have thought it was pretty interesting to see how JRR Tolkien is able to 'retcon' his work so well, whereas it just seems rather clumsy in the Star Wars special editions/re-releases. I actually do enjoy the prequels so it's not that, it just still rubs me the wrong way...the changes just don't seem as 'natural'. I think the only one I really like is the expanded celebration scene in RotJ (although I really preferred the Ewok song!).

Funny thing is, the first time I saw the movies, it was the special editions. So it took me awhile to realize Han was the only one to shoot, haha.
James Moar
58. Dr. Thanatos

One of the differences (and possibly the reason it worked for JRRT better than Lucas):

Lucas just made changes without explanation

JRRT not only acknowledged wtihin the story that he had changed things; he worked it into the plot, and in fact made it into an important part of the plot ("why would an otherwise honest hobbit make up such a lame story? Clearly something dark was at work!")
James Moar
59. (still) Steve Morrison
According to Rateliff, there were never more than 17,000 copies printed of the first edition, so it's not too surprising that we haven't heard from anyone who first read the unrevised chapter. He also notes that the old form of this chapter was reprinted in 1985 in an anthology called Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural.

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