Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Hobbit - II. Roast Mutton

This chapter finds Bilbo alone in his hobbit hole left to clean up after the 13 dwarves who have departed by the time Bilbo wakes. Thinking he has missed the adventure Bilbo feels a sense of both disappointment and relief. He is relieved that he will not have to exert himself but it seems he also has an innate desire for adventure that life in the Shire has not robbed him of. Perhaps it is this sense which attracted Gandalf to Bilbo to begin with. In any event Gandalf interrupts Bilbo's sense of relief with the news that he is late for the party's departure and has less than fifteen minutes to meet them at the Green Dragon Inn.

Apparently Bilbo has little to no responsibilities in the Shire as he is able to leave everything without a word to anyone with no idea of how long he will be gone. Bilbo is lucky that he cleaned up after the dwarves upon waking because if he had neglected the chore, he would likely have returned to a putrid and infested home. Leaving no notes or messages for anyone who might be looking for him Bilbo seems to either have few friends who call upon him or little regard for their concern. Or perhaps he is just swept up in the adventure and will regret his actions as he gets further from home and the adrenaline subsides.

In any event, Bilbo catches up with the dwarves at the Green Dragon just as they have assembled the supplies and provisions for the journey, unfortunately Bilbo himself is rather unprepared, forgetting a walking stick, money, clothes for the journey or a handkerchief. Luckily he is able to borrow clothes from the Dwarves and Gandalf brings along some handkerchiefs and pipe tobacco. Clearly the news about the harmful effects of smoking have not reached the Shire at this point, or in any event it is neglected as the dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo all seem to enjoy pipeweed, or tobacco as we would call it.

The journey moves into a blissful stage for Bilbo who is still feeling the adrenaline high from the new experience and perhaps to some degree the prospect of his financial reward (1/14th of any profits of the endeavour plus expenses). Of course eventually the difficulty of the journey sets in and the meager provisions which have been brought severely dampen his spirits. It seems that the narrator of the story is close to Bilbo's feelings and thoughts and may actually be Bilbo himself, for he spends much less of the time describing everyone else's thoughts and actions as he does Bilbo's.

The encounter with the trolls is an interesting little diversion reminiscent of some fairy tales with Gandalf tricking the trolls into bickering the night away only to be turned to stone at the rising of the sun. I wonder what it is about trolls that causes them to petrify as a result of solar radiation? The narrator seems to indicate that trolls themselves are akin to the Mountain and earth, but I would imagine so are dwarves, yet they do not petrify. There seems to be some moral to the diversion as the threat of the trolls was only brought on by Bilbo's attempt to pickpocket them. One might question the injustice of stealing from a group of trolls that apparently have killed and plundered an entire village, but perhaps those were just slanderous rumours to make the theft seem more palatable. In any event the chapter seems to present an interesting turn for the quest and leaves us wondering what we can expect in Rivendell, being only a few days journey from the troll cave...

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