A Tolkien Virgin: The Hobbit - Chapters 18 and 19 - The Hobbit Journey Ends
The Return Journey
The Lonely Mountain
When you think about it, it's so good that as a result of the adventure of Bilbo and the dwarves Smaug was killed and the Wargs and Goblins mostly slain so that there was a lenghty peace in the land. But, to consider the cost is quite a sad thing. So I fully understand how Bilbo was feeling weighed down and all adventured-out at the end. Tolkien notes in passing that Bilbo had many other adventures on his return trip, and I can't help but wonder what they were--what could they have been?
The Last Stage
The Death of Thorin Oakenshield.
So, Balin says that Bilbo really was lucky, but with a broad purpose to benefit many others. And truthfully, I was less disappointed by the story's reliance on Bilbo's luck than I first thought. It wasn't always clear how things were going to work out well.
In thinking about the story from start to finish, I wonder just how insightful Gandalf was--what exactly was his interest in helping the dwarves? The original goal was ostensibly to retrieve their treasure (from what I remember). Without much interest in treasure himself, is it possible that Gandalf really foresaw Smaug's death, the battle of the 5 armies, the re-establishment of the dwarven kings and of Dale by helping the dwarves and Bilbo with their quest for ancient treasure? I mean it seems that Gandalf hadn't realized that the best way out of Mirkwood was through the elf king's palace. He very specifically warned them not to stray from the path. So, just how much clairvoyance does Gandalf have? Was his warning to not stray from the path his way of making sure they didn't stray from the path until the right moment? Is he truly a maiar (as I believe I've heard from somewhere), and if so is he an emissary of Manwe, and has seen and understood much of the song of Illuvatar--the story of the world from before time? Thinking about Gandalf's involvement in the story, I have another question or two. Specifically, who is the Necromancer exactly and where did he come from? In what way is he evil, and how was he (temporarily) dispatched by Gandalf and the other wizards?
Thinking back over the story I have a lot of questions, evidently. But, when I stop analyzing I enjoy the story for what it is (as I've said before a number of times). It's nice to think of Bilbo reclining in front of his hobbit-hole blowing smoke rings and reminiscing about his adventures and knowing how much good had been accomplished not necessarily by him, but through him--as Balin very astutely pointed out at the very end.
I'm not sure that I like the Silmarillion more than I like the Hobbit. The Hobbit is definitely less devastating, but also less grand. I feel like I've gone from looking at an enormous painting to looking at the same painting under a microscope. I like doing both (history is made up of the lives of hundreds of millions of individuals), looking at the specific within the context of the big picture.
Now, it's time for me to start my journey through what most of you consider Tolkien's greatest works, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (isn't there really 6 books, published as 3, or something like that? If 3 is a trilogy, what is 6? a sextology? a hexology?). It will be interesting to see how the two books of Tolkien's that I have read (the Silmarillion, first, and now the Hobbit) are incorporated in the telling of the books I'm about to read. How will his narrative and writing style compare to those two very different works. As I'm sure many of you are aware, many believe that the Hobbit wasn't originally part of Tolkiien's Middle Earth mythos. If I remember correctly, Jonathan read me a quote from Tolkien himself in which he stated that the story of the Hobbit was extrapolated directly from his Middle Earth mythos, but dumbed down a little bit to make it a children's story. When I'm done with the LotR, it will be nice to know how he had to change the Hobbit to make it work with LotR. But, don't discuss it too openly on the Messageboard, since I hate the occasional spoiler I come accross there (in the Tolkien Virgin section).
Something worth discussing, on the other hand, is whether any of you have favorite moments or characters in the Hobbit. One of the people following these reviews--this diary of my virgin-journey--asked me the same question. What I found odd was that despite my enjoyment of the story as a whole, I don't have any favorites. There a lot of moments that are either fun, exciting, intriguing, somber, or even down right strange, but none of them jumps out at me as a favorite. In the same way. there are a lot of good characters: Bilbo's character development was fun to watch, though I didn't really start liking him till probably his adventures with the spiders; Gandalf was interesting and adequately mysterious, but gone half the time; the characterization of the dwarves was good, exhibiting many different traits at different times--comical, cowardly, foolhearty, pessimistic, proud, over-zealous, and even noble; Beorn was fantastic, bizzare, and fun. Smaug was dreadful and intriguing; Gollum was frightening, evil, and pathetic all at once. But, like I said, no favorites. How 'bout you? Any favorites?
Well, I've rambled on long enough, and I do believe I have some reading to do :)
till next time,