For the last three weeks I’ve been taking part in The Hobbit group read at the writer’s bloc website. I say taking part, but despite reading the book again and following the answers other people gave to the questions for weeks one and two I have been appalling at answering them myself. This week I posted the questions so it’s about time I pulled my finger out! I promise to do better next time.
1) Throughout the book there are many examples of greed (for both food and treasure). Why do you think Bilbo takes and hides the Arkenstone when he is later happy to ransom it for peace? Is it simple greed? Forethought? Or a convenient plot device?
I’m unsure about this. I only think it would be greed that drove Bilbo if the Arkenstone were made of bacon and eggs. There is something about Bilbo that is very crafty and calculating that’s also seen in the way he tricks Gollum. Maybe because Bilbo is small and has to use his brain rather than brawn. There wasn’t much in the description though to justify why he took it except that is was pretty which did make me think it was a queer thing for him to do.
2) Much has been written of Tolkien’s experiences in World War One and how the Lord of the Rings shows both the romantic, heroic aspects of war (Aragorn’s journey)but also the stark realities (Frodo’s journey). What did you think about the way the Battle of Five Armies was described? Did you feel these two aspects of war were represented?
I thought that it did show the two sides. There were romantic aspects like the strong image of Thorin calling his followers to him and Bilbo deciding that if he was going to die he’d like it to be part of a romantic last stand – although the way he goes about using the ring to place himself with the elf king also hinted at a cynical reality. In The Return Journey Bilbo observes that after all victory is a gloomy business. However while reading the contradictions of the two sides so close together I did find the battle a bit schizophrenic.
3)What did you think about the role of the goblins in the Battle of Five Armies? Was it easy for you to accept their appearance and that the threat they posed would automatically unite the men and elves with the dwarves? Or did you find it too simplistic?
I thought it was too simplistic and considering how angry Thorin was I found it strange that he’d abandon his stronghold and enter the fight when he could hide there at let his enemies finish each other off. But then I have been reading Game of Thrones and Joe Abercrombie’s Heroes prior to this which are both a great deal more cynical than The Hobbit and, more importantly, not children’s books. I’m also aware that I was reading this book with a modern eye where the assumption that goblins are the bad guys and must be defeated is not always a satisfying one. From that perspective I did find it too simplistic. However Tolkien is the Godfather of epic fantasy and in his world goblins are evil – they run with bats and wolves, and darkness follows them. It’s a fantasy legacy along with the description of Balin’s dwarves! I really enjoyed that.
4) In ‘The Last Stage’ we are told Bilbo remained very happy to the end of his days. If you had been off on an adventures could you settle back to normal life so easily? Would you be content with only occasional visits to the elves?
I think I would be relieved to make it home in one piece. I’ve been travelling round America and Australia and although there were no dwarves or dragons involved I did have to deal with dodgy hostel owners and getting lost on the New York Tube. I had an amazing time but I was always ready to return to the comfort of the familiar. I think after an adventure like Bilbo’s I’d probably feel the same.
I do however think that out witting a dragon leaves Bilbo better equipped to deal with the Sackville-Bagginses.