Chapter VIII: Flies and Spiders
"Quite apart from the stones no spider has ever liked being called Attercop, and Tomnoddy of course is insulting to anybody."

When I was growing up this was the cover that was the in print cover. So utterly terrible...

As this is the first chapter with Gandalf off galavanting in a southerly direction, it is a very important chapter for character growth, or at least the potential of character growth. As it turns out, only one character would take advantage of that potential.

"Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach."

As well as:

"From which you can see that they had changed their opinion of Mr Baggins very much, and had begun to have a great respect for him (as Gandalf had said they would). Indeed they really expected him to think of some wonderful plan for helping them, and were not merely grumbling."

The dwarves want to be helped and given things it seems. They do not want to take responsibility. Though they certainly still want their share of the gold at the end. Gandalf's notion and foretelling of Bilbo is coming to be, of course. As this would be a silly tale if it did not.

As for another theme I have been noting quite a bit, it takes a more proclaimed role in this chapter. "and by luck (he was born with a good share of it) he guessed more or less right." Tolkien is directly addressing this rather friendly relationship his protagonist has with luck. There will be more of this in the next chapter. I shall perhaps mention it then.

Additional Notes:

I decided to change copies of the book. I am reading the old white covered Ballantine paperbacks. Best smelling books I have ever found. So many fond memories.

Regarding Wood-elves: "They differed from the High Elves of the West, and were more dangerous and less wise. For most of them (together with their scattered relations in the hills and mountains) were descended from the ancient tribes that never went to Faerie in the West. There the Light-elves and the Deep-elves and the Sea-elves went and lived for ages, and grew fairer and wiser and more learned, and invented their magic and their cunning craft in the making of beautiful and marvelous things, before some came back into the Wide World. In the Wide World the Wood-elves lingered in the twilight of our Sun and Moon, but loved best the stars; and they wandered in the great forests that grew tall in lands that are now lost." I always forget Tolkien drops this in there. And then I remember reading it before. Wonder if I will forget again.

The enchanted river and the enchanted Wood-elf feast and the danger of walking off the trail all feels very classic fairy tale-ish. There is actually a far greater and wider use of magic in The Hobbit than there is in The Lord of the Rings.

Favorite Quotation: This just hit me at the right time.

"Actually, as I have told you, they were not far off the edge of the forest; and if Bilbo had had the sense to see it, the tree that he had climbed, though it was tall in itself, was standing near the bottom of a wide valley, so that from its top the trees seemed to swell up all round like the edges of a great bowl, and he could not expect to see how far the forest lasted. Still he did not see this, and he climbed down full of despair. He got to the bottom again at last, scratched, hot, and miserable, and he could not see anything in the gloom below when he got there. His report soon made the others as miserable as he was."


The Venerable Monster said...

Heh, that's the cover I had on the copy of the book at home. It was only at my mother's insistence that I give the book a chance that I picked it up to read. I have since gotten matching copies of The Hobbit and The Silmarillion to my omnibus edition of The Lord of the Rings. It also looks like my copy of Unfinished Tales matches as well. However, my copies of The Book of Lost Tales (1 and 2) do not match the rest of the books. It makes me sad. Maybe that's why I haven't read that much beyond a couple excerpts from them. Not that I've read much of Unfinished Tales. Sorry, rambling.

Skip said...

Yep, had a copy of that same print, though I never read it.

Cool insights on the dwarves. So many directions I could go with this but I will say that they probably needed to remain dwarves, characteristically anyway, so that Bilbo could grow instead. Instead of becoming dependent on Gandalf he has learned to follow his example.

Legless is a woodelf too, ya? I remembered that passage while reading the Silmarillion.

Regarding your favorite quote this time, I love Tolkien's use of perspective and how things could have been if they had "had the sense to see it."