Chapter III: A Short Rest

O! Will you be staying.
Or will you be flying?
Your ponies are straying!
The daylight is dying!
To fly would be folly.
To stay would be jolly
And listen and hark
Till the end of the dark
to our tune
ha! ha!

The elves sing a very different tune, ay?

So it takes Tolkien three chapters to get his little band to Rivendell, whereas it takes him half a book to do it in Fellowship. Very different styles.

But anyways, back to the elves. Through out The Lord of the Rings the elves are a morose lot. There is always a degree of sadness to the elves, (especially the Noldor who are between worlds) but The Hobbit depicts them more as jolly hippies (hippies did not exist yet, though they were key in making Tolkien popular in the 60s). But honestly, you find yourself asking, how do these people live? It is of course a very limited viewing, but you get the feeling that Tolkien is playing to the more common idea of playful mischievous elves than what his true form would take later. He does however give his reader a brief glimpse at the stories he began to pen in the trenches of World War I. He drops the name of the city Gondolin, and gives you a brief glimmer of a deep history to his world.

This chapter also reveals one of the key characters to Tolkien's world, who actually does very little himself in any of the stories. Elrond, the half-elven, he who should know the story of Gondolin well. Now Tolkien gives a brief history to Elrond that again, does not completely jive with what he would later establish. He writes that, "In those days of our tale there were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors, and Elrond the master of the house was their chief." Well, actually I suppose that is not completely false, but I would say it does not in fact fit. Tolkien also makes Elrond out to be not entirely Elven, which is actually false in the end. He is a half-elf who is a full elf. Elros, his brother was a half-elf who was a full human. But that will come up much much later and I doubt Tolkien had created that yet.

Anyways, it is fun to see Tolkien drop a little bit of lore even if it is ever so slight. In fact it is probably a good thing it was so slight, so that he could come back later and revise it so thoroughly. And Elrond, at the very least, is an example of what Tolkien sees as an elf, as opposed to what he seemed to feel was necessary to appease his readers with the rest of the cast of the Last Homely House.

So another note on movers and this is one that is going to come up often in this book: luck. You could argue it already came up in the last chapter, with Gandalf's timely reappearance, but I will give the wizard some credit (again that whole foresight thing). But in this chapter, the band gets lucky enough to have their secret map in front of the single person who could read it at the exactly right lunar cycle at exactly the right time of year. This irked me even a little as a child. You could argue that again this is part of Gandalf's foresight (I actually think the Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings could have actually read the runes himself, rather than needing Elrond), but I think that is trying too hard to make sense of things. I think Tolkien just plays it as dumb luck that is just going to get luckier as the story unfolds. Tolkien seems to shake this dumb luck plot mechanism some time between this book and his sequels.

Additional Notes:

14 days.

Durin, another Voluspa name. If Fundin gets mentioned in this book than I think we have all of them.

Orcrist and Glamdring. One of the few times that Tolkien shows a different language in The Hobbit.

It is interesting to hear things described as The Mountain, The Wild, The (Last Homely) House, The River Running. It makes the Tolkien's world feel so much smaller.

Favorite quotation: I was tempted to put in a bunch of the Elrond descriptions, and the Gondolin histories, and the sword namings. But I really liked this line.

"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, palpitation, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway."


Stuart said...

I know you say 'dumb luck' but I don't have a sense of how you truly feel about the use of it.

Reading a bunch of myth and folktales this semester it was interesting to see how often it is used and therefore, with your reminder, how Tolkien makes use of it to mimic that style.

It is interesting to propose, as I think Tolkien does to a certain extent, via Gandalf's foresight and in a couple of other places, that 'dumb luck' conveys a certain sense of predestination and organization rather than things coming together randomly. Fate/Luck was a god afterall and mimicked the idea of omnipotent, omnipresent, and very immanent God.

AedonTor said...

Yeah, I wasn't sure where to go into this. The Lord of the Rings definitely conveys the destiny of things as being purposeful. In fact Tolkien goes back on some of the events in The Hobbit and re-examines them with this lens. I thought of bringing this up already, but for what Tolkien gives you in The Hobbit, it just feels like luck. And certainly it gets used plenty all over the place in other stories, but I just desire some amount of justification. Though it also depends on what form the luck takes. Certain examples won't bother me, while others will. I am inconsistent.