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Topic: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Prologue - Part One: "Concerning Hobbits"

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Slaves of udun
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Date: Feb 25, 2014
The Fellowship of the Ring: The Prologue - Part One: "Concerning Hobbits"

This is the first post of the Lord of the Rings Book Club.  I am taking the first section, the prologue.  I am going to break the discussion into four parts, each pertaining to a subsection of the prologue.  I will list questions or discussion points and number them. When replying, simply type the number of the question you are responding to before your response.  Assuming we aren't all reading the same copy of the book, I will give the page number and location on the page of passages I refer to according to my book.  Most copies should be relatively identical, but if you happen to have an older edition (I'm using a 2003 edition, but I have a 1965 edition and it's far off), let me know and I will locate the passage for you.  I will withhold my own conjectures until a fair amount of people have had a chance to share theirs.  Enjoy.

                                                                          Concerning Hobbits

 

1.In the third paragraph of the prologue it says, "Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today...."  What would have caused an unobtrusive (inconspicuous) race to dwindle?

2. At the top of page 3, it says, "And the world being after all full of strange creatures beyond count, these little people seemed of very little importance.  But in the days of Bilbo, and Frodo his heir, they suddenly became, by no wish of their own, both important and renowned, and troubled the counsels of the Wise and the Great."  Seeing as "The Hobbit", and thus Bilbo's survival and success in the story, was published long before LotR came out, do you think that saying in the prologue that Frodo gains renown gives away the ending in that he, like Bilbo, will both survive his quest and be successful in it?

3. According to the prologue, Hobbits, or their ancestors rather, originated by the Anduin.  This would make them "river folk", a term that we all associate with Sméagol's origins.  They eventually migrated across the Misty Mountains and settled in Eriador.  If the hobbits, or whatever they were then, were accustomed to life around, on, and in water, at what point (and why) did they lose their competence when dealing with water, namely their ability to swim? "Most Hobbits regarded even rivers and small boats with deep misgivings, and not many of them could swim (p. 8)."

 

Discuss away.

EDIT: "Concerning Hobbits" is about the same length as the other three sub-sections combined, so I will not be doing an individual discussion over the remaining sub-sections.  I will write an accumulative post for "Concerning Pipeweed", "Of the Ordering of the Shire," and "Of the Finding of the Ring."

-- Edited by Teralectus on Tuesday 25th of February 2014 08:53:37 PM



-- Edited by Teralectus on Tuesday 25th of February 2014 09:17:06 PM

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"And Morgoth came."

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I can only think of some down-to-earth answers...

1. Well, a simple answer is given by Tolkien himself, just in the continuation of the cited sentence - they love peace, quiet, good tilled earth, but not complicated machines and mechanisms; and they avoid Big Folk nowadays with dismay; looks like a reason serious enough to dwindle to me.

2. My personal impression is that Frodo's success is implied, but not necessarily his survival. The statement in general is not that much about Frodo as it is about hobbits contemporaneous with him, at least that's how it looks to me.

3. My impression was that first of all, it was the earliest tales that mention the upper valleys of Anduin, but that doesn't mean they originated there and not more eastward. Their beginning is 'lost and forgotten'. Maybe they originated, along with other kinds of Men, in Hildorien further East. (Here I don't know if using sources other than the chapter under study is legitimate or not, will need some guidance). Anyways living in the valley is not exactly living by the river. Those three 'breeds' had their places of preference each, and Stoors among them liked riversides; and the hobbits of the Eastfarthing, having lots of Stoorish ancestry, are deemed 'queer' since they still 'fool about with boats on that big river', according to Gaffer (next chapter, so again I am not sure if the argument is valid). But perhaps other breeds never cared much about swimming or boating even when they lived in the valleys of Anduin?

I don't know if these matter-of-fact answers are what you wanted the discussion to be! If not, please give more guidance.



-- Edited by Lorelline on Wednesday 26th of February 2014 01:16:45 PM

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Lórellinë

Slaves of udun
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Nope, this is great. Thanks.



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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Also, Hammond and Scull have now published an even fuller version of a passage that appears in Unfinished Tales, which introduces some Men usurping Hobbit-lands and even hunting them for sport.

'The much later dwindling of Hobbits must be due to a change in their state and way of life; they became a fugitive and secret people, driven as Men, the Big Folk, became more and more numerous, usurping the more fertile and habitable lands, to refuge in forest or wilderness: a wandering and poor folk, forgetful of their arts and living a precarious life absorbed in the search for food and fearful of being seen; for cruel men would shoot them for sport as if they were animals. In fact they relapsed into the state of 'pygmies'. The other stunted race, the Druedain, never rose much above that state.'

 

But the following is interesting in any case, from the original Foreword to The Lord of the Rings.

 

'Much informtion, necessary and unnecessary, will be found in the Prologue. To complete it some maps are given, including one of the Shire that has been approved as reasonably correct by those Hobbits that still concern themselves with ancient history.'

Did some Hobbits help Tolkien with his maps? smile



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What are the Druedain and why did they not rise above the state of pygmies?



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To answer #2 on the first set of questions:

I think that Tolkien stated: "...But in the days of Bilbo, and Frodo his heir, they suddenly became, by no wish of their own, both important and renowned, and troubled the counsels of the Wise and the Great.", because whether they had lived through their trials as Ring bearers or not, their accounts of coming into possession of the One Ring would hold some significance in the history of things. If the Fellowship had failed utterly, then the hosts of Mordor would be telling the story in which The Hobbits would be named in their great Lore of the Reclaiming of the Ring and how they availed against the forces of Men and Elves.

The finding of the One Ring is what put Smeagol, Bilbo, Frodo in the great tales and therefore they instantly became "renowned". As soon as The Wise (Gandalf, chiefly) became aware of what Bilbo possessed and Frodo inherited they became very important indeed. Since none of the Wise wanted to handle the Ring. "Great things will be done by little hands, while the minds of the Great are on other things." ---to loosely Paraphrase Elrond.





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Slaves of udun
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Jaidoprism7 wrote:

To answer #2 on the first set of questions:
 "because whether they had lived through their trials as Ring bearers or not, their accounts of coming into possession of the One Ring would hold some significance in the history of things.




 I would think that, first, Bilbo isn't remembered for being a Ring bearer but rather most of all for his instrumental part in the slaying of Smaug, but also along with all of his other feats (the spider incident, etc.). As for Frodo, he is recognized for being a Ring bearer, but I think the renown comes from his destroying of the Ring. If Frodo had given up the Ring on Weathertop, I don't think he'd be renowned, even though he was still a Ring bearer for twenty some odd years.



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Pukel-men are the same tribe as Druedain. I think, somehow, that the Druedain that went to Numenor (if we accept that tradition - described in UT that I don't have with me at the moment) did rise, but maybe indeed not much, above pygmies, but perhaps not those that remained in Middle-earth, East of the Blue Mountains. I believe 'pygmies' are mentioned in the context of their being wild, not because of their height?

My edition of the Foreword is silent about those maps made with the hobbits' help. I guess it became top secret.

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Lórellinë

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Lorelline - thank you for bringing up the pygmies. The definition (or rather Tolkien's definition) of "pygmy" is something worth discussing. I always thought of it as referring to height; as the "stereotypical" pygmy - being small and (arguably) disfigured compared to Men, or Hobbits for that matter. I'd love to hear other people's opinions.



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Teralectus said: "I would think that, first, Bilbo isn't remembered for being a Ring bearer but rather most of all for his instrumental part in the slaying of Smaug,"

How were any of the great feats accomplished by Bilbo in "The Hobbit"? mostly with the One Ring (which I am confident Minas Tirith's records would show ever after). History shows us that a tale is reported to the world as what is chief in importance. Every one says: "The Cold War" the strife between America and Russia, no one says: "The 38th parallel" (Korea), which history shows is where all that "Cold War" nonsense started.

Either way, I'm not trying to be argumentative here, just wanted to say that the War of the Ring is THE story being eluded to in the LOTR, (The hobbit being a prequel *38th parallel*) and the main reason Tolkien writes in the Prologue that Bilbo and Frodo are renowned.

On the point of Pygmies; maybe one of you might have a better idea of what I propose here but:
We know that Hobbits are descendents of Men. Hobbits along with Early Rohirrim lived in the same region at one time. Do we have any accounts of when the Rohirrim or early man suffered the same fate that took the Elves early on? Meaning, are there any accounts of them being taken by the dark forces and perverted somehow? I say this because the Hobbits seem like some sort of Cross bred item. I'm inclined to believe that Tolkien created them and had no real reason for them coming into being and could have associated them with any race and we'd be at a loss either way.



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Jaidoprism7 wrote: Teralectus said: "I would think that, first, Bilbo isn't remembered for being a Ring bearer but rather most of all for his instrumental part in the slaying of Smaug,"

How were any of the great feats accomplished by Bilbo in "The Hobbit"?
 
 
- This kind of relates to another post that was up a while ago. Would you say that Bilbo's feats lose some (or much) of their merit because he had the Ring?  Bilbo was renowned for a very long time because even those that knew he had the ring didn't know it was THE Ring; not until Gandalf realizes it in the LOTR. People believed he had done all those great things on his own.



 



-- Edited by Teralectus on Thursday 27th of February 2014 06:07:30 PM

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Concerning the second question, Bilbo lived very long, so I wonder which "days of Bilbo" exactly Tolkien had in mind. My reading of it is that this pertains to the Ring, its finding and then unmaking. Both Gandalf and Saruman had great interest in the ring that Bilbo has found.

Although Bilbo's deeds were much facilitated by the ring, he himself also had no idea what kind of power that ring possessed. Whether he would have been able to use it better to his advantage, had he known its nature, is another question. But definitely he didn't use it to its full capacity.

I think somewhere it was mentioned that some believed that Druedain were perverted by Morgoth, although that was not true. But nothing like that was said about hobbits - unless that became a belief of those cruel men that 'hunted them as if they were animals', but that was later on.


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Lórellinë

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I am going to post the next set of questions later day.  Looking ahead though, is there anyone comfortable taking up leadership for Chapter One after we finish the prologue?



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I will take Chapter One Teralectus. Just need until tomorrow 5pm...pst. If that is cool.

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That's perfect. I got a bunch of work dumped on me these past two days so I haven't been able to post the second part of the Prologue, but I will be doing that today. We'll discuss that for a couple days and then move on to Chapter One.



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Awesome. Just prompt me when you think the time is right for Chapter One.

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It seems we did not discuss the stature of Hobbits. They seem really tiny, some of them; I had to convert those 2 to 4 feet to metric measures to realize that a 2-foot hobbit is smaller than a human infant that just starts walking. Hobbits are not called Halflings in the prologue, but the last section, 'Note on the Shire Records', mentions the Red Book of Periannath (Halflings). It is interesting to know whose height was used as a reference, so that a typical hobbit would be half as tall; 4 to 8 feet (1.23 to 2.46 m(!)) seems too wide a range. But if they have dwindled and in the past were typically taller than what they are reported to seldom reach now, which is 3 feet, then the height of which they were a half is also greater. (Still 6-8 feet is a lot of variation and the upper limit is way too tall for humans).

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