Chapter IV: Over Hill and Under Hill

" 'Why, O why did I ever leave my hobbit-hole!' said poor Mr Baggins bumping up and down on Bombur's back.

'Why, O why did I ever bring a wretched little hobbit on a treasure hunt!' said poor Bombur, who was fat, and staggered along with the sweat dripping down his nose in his heat and terror.

And now the adventure (as in the bad stuff) begins in truth. This and the journey through Moria are probably my two biggest influences in my childhood in wanting to find deep and elaborate caves to explore. Which is surprising because both of those ventures don't prove to be very kind ones in the novels. Though true spelunking is not considered overly safe either, but probably has fewer goblins/orcs/balrogs.

We also get a goblin song, which has a fun translation in Rankin/Bass cartoon production of The Hobbit which every now and then gets stuck in my head... Or at least the couple lines I know from it do.

This chapter is mostly just getting the band of dwarves, hobbit, and wizard into a spot of trouble. Gandalf would again prove a savior, though Bilbo played a small if mostly unspectacular role. And it ends with dark times for our little hobbit. Hmm, accidental punning.

Additional Notes:

It is interesting that this chapter may show the grandest display of Gandalf's power, excepting possibly two chapters forward in the story (this is ignoring a battle that does not take place within the immediacy of the story in The Lord of the Rings). I have heard many people grow frustrated with the lack of actual magic usage in Tolkien's stories. I personally prefer it. The subtler uses of power are much more interesting and intriguing. It also makes a character truly powerful when they do not use what they can. And as I have said I am really not much of a powers guy, despite what you might think from many of my reading materials.

It is interesting that Tolkien went from a wand to a staff for Gandalf, from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings.

The anachronisms bother me. The golf reference in the second chapter, and the football reference in this chapter. I realize it fits with Tolkien's voice in The Hobbit, but it pulls me out of the story.

The first person and second person intrusions as well are not especially pleasant to me, as they bear a degree of anachronism as well. But it fits with The Hobbit's more playful narrative voice. It does not however fit with the later in-story explanation of how it came to be written.

I remember I was so surprised when I actually noticed the sentence: "When he peeped out in the lightning-flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang." Stone-giants? Huh. They get very little play in Tolkien's world beyond another reference in Chapter VI as far as I can recall.

Tolkien already begins his battle against technology in his depiction of the goblins: "It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far." This will become a larger theme.

The movies will love this part, because it is when things get 'real' or 'big' or whatever.

A premonitionary dream! The use of dreams in novels intrigues me. I used to hate them. Now I am interested to see how they can be used.

The storm in the mountains did make me recall my recent adventure on Mt Whitney. Which brings me to:

Favorite Quotation: Speaking from personal experience, lightning storms in the mountains are in fact a different thing entirely. You'll note another mention of kings, which Tolkien probably would have altered once he had a landscape for the rule of kings in Middle-Earth. But this is not yet Middle-Earth in a sense.

"He knew that something unexpected might happen, and he hardly dared to hope that they would pass without fearful adventure over those great tall mountains with lonely peaks and valleys where no king ruled. They did not. All was well, until one day they met a thunderstorm—more than a thunderstorm, a thunder-battle. You know how terrific a really big thunderstorm can be down in the land and in a river-valley, especially at times when two great thunderstorms meet and clash. More terrible still are thunder and lightning in the mountains at night, when storms come up from East and West and make war. The lightning splinters on the peaks, and rocks shiver, and great crashes split the air and go rolling and rumbling into every cave and hollow; and the darkness is filled with overwhelming noise and sudden light."


Stuart said...

Awwww, you're making ME want to read through it all again and I simply am not ready to do such a thing just yet.

I too enjoy the subtler uses of power and magic. It makes the possibility more believable and it taps into that feeling of nostalgia and entropy we feel in daily life, thinking we came from a good place and we will go back someday.

And yes, the turns in narrative and the interjections of periphery such as the golf reference take away some from the immersion aspect but I think it fits more in line with the children's lit. tone he was aiming for and is perfectly reasonable in that sense. In context of the LotR as a whole, you are quite right in its not belonging.

AedonTor said...

Yep yep.