Art and Literature News

Hobbit Book Club Week 2: Spiders and Elves

Welcome to a recap of week two of our Hobbit Book club. For the entire month of June, we and a handful of readers will read Tolkien’s The Hobbit. At the beginning of each week, I will write a summary of my own reading thoughts, followed by a recap of the discussions on our Facebook Group.

For a recap of week one, click here!

Tale within a tale

As mentioned last week, The Hobbit is a novel where words play an important role. Not only are words often more effective than the sword, The Hobbit is filled with tales and poems. Again and again, the reader is faced with one of the characters in the novel telling a story or reciting a poem. Gandalf’s cunning way of introducing Thorin & company to Beorn is, perhaps, one of the most obvious examples. The Hobbit is, thus, in a sense very self-referential. It is a tale about the beauty and importance of tales. Just as the engaging narrator draws you into Bilbo’s adventures, Gandalf draws Beorn into these adventures as well.

In fact, the narration of the novel mirrors Gandalf’s engaging, but often interrupted tale in many regards. Just compare this excerpt of the conversation between Gandalf and Beorn:

“There was a terrible storm; the stone-giants were out hurling rocks, and at the head of the pass we took refuge in a cave, the hobbit and I and several of our companions…”
“Do you call two several?”
“Well, no. As a matter of fact there were more than two.”

Here excerpt of the narration a few moments later. Just after describing the chairs that were provided for Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin, the narrator continues:

“These were all the chairs he had in his hall, and he probably had them low like the tables for convenience of the wonderful animals that waited on him. What did the rest sit on? They were not forgotten.”

Here, the narration implies that a form of conversation went on between the narrator and narratee, giving the impression as if a question was raised the narrator needed to ask. This manner of narration continues throughout the novel and does both, engage the reader as well as reminding the reader that this is just a story. The ending of the “Flies and Spiders” chapter, for example, is most interesting:

“[…] but that belongs to the next chapter and the beginning of another adventure in which the hobbit again showed his usefulness”.

Once again, the reader is reminded that this is a tale. Personally, in comparison to the complexity of The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion, The Hobbit tends to be underrated when it comes to narration and its complexity. Often, although not by everyone, The Hobbit is simply put off as ‘simply being a children’s book’. Yes, of course, as just mention, it is not as complex or, for the lack of a better word, ‘sophisticated’ as LOTR or The Silmarillion. This, however, doesn’t mean that The Hobbit is a simple and shallow novel.

Elves versus Elves

In The Hobbit, the reader is faced with two distinct, almost polar opposite, types of Elves. Elrond and Rivendell couldn’t have been more distinct from Thranduil and Mirkwood. Where one realm welcomes Thorin’s company, the other imprisons them even though both are described as hidden realms. When coming to Rivendell Thorin and company’s “spirit rose as they went down and down” while they began to hate Mirkwood and began to lose hope as they entered the forest.

Likewise, Elrond and Thranduil are described in similarly opposing ways. While Elrond is said to be “as noble and fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer”, the first real description of Thranduil the reader receives is as follows:

“If the elf-king had a weakness it was for treasure, especially for silver and white gems; and though his hoard was rich, he was even eager for more, since he had not yet as great a treasure as elf-lords of old”.

These very different ways of introducing Elrond and Thranduil are a great way to make the reader sympathize with Bilbo and the dwarves. If Thranduil were described in similarly positive terms as Elrond, the reader would’ve thought differently about the imprisonment of the dwarves. Likewise, the change Bilbo undergoes by helping the dwarves to escape would be less impactful or even less severe.

Community discussions

In regards to the narration in The Hobbit, on of our book club members in our Facebook group, named Chris, commented that:

“It’s really fun how the narrator alludes to things to come that the characters don’t know about like the ring Bilbo thinks nothing of and of the hunt going on in Mirkwood not too far from them.”

James shared an interesting revelation with us:

“This only dawned on me last year during my yearly reading of ‘The Hobbit’. I was always curious why Tolkien would title a chapter ‘Flies and Spiders’ when there’s practically no mention of flies … until I realised it was a reference to the Dwarves being captured by the spiders :O *mind blown*”

When asked to describe the scene our readers are currently reading in just three words, these were some of the replies:

“Sneezes like explosions.” – James
“Grumbling, Mirkwood ahead. ” – Amanda
“Mountain, Giants, Goblins ” – Chris
“Spiders webs stinging ” – Ash

So how is your reading progress going so far? How would you describe the scene you are currently reading in three words? Leave a comment down below!

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.