|[Guide Home :: Fanzines, Newsletters, Journals :: R :: Rómenna Meeting Report :: This page]|
Rómenna Meeting Report - August 11, 1984
August 11, 1984
We continued our discussion of The Hobbit with the comment from Randolph that Tolkien may indeed have invented the tricksy dragon. Several counterexamples were forthcoming, however: Chinese dragons could talk and were wise (though rash); there are instances of clever dragons in Celtic lore. German dragons may have been a model for Smaug, since they were long, winged and gold. There is a tricksy dragon in a medieval Swedish ballad, and there is a French legend of a river dragon called the Drac who acts somewhat like the fairies of legend by kidnapping a mortal woman to serve as nurse for his son.
We wondered why the town of Dale is not shown on the maps. In The Hobbit, the town has been destroyed at the time of the story. It is probably not on the LotR maps because it did not appear in the main story, and besides, it was so close to the Lonely Mountain that if you know where that is, you know where Dale is.
After a comment from Randolph that Tolkien had a medieval sense of perspective (referring to the picture of Smaug), we went on to discuss the goblins, which was where we had left Bilbo and party the last time. We wondered where all the stone went from the goblins' excavations. The goblins themselves reminded Randolph of George MacDonald's goblins in the Curdie books. what do they eat when they can't get adventurer? They raid the woodmen, that's what.
We passed on to a consideration of the two versions of the Riddle-game, the first as it appeared in early editions of The Hobbit, and the second as it was after Tolkien revised it to fit in better with The Lord of the Rings. We read out the relevant passages from Bonniejean Christensen's article in A Tolkien Compass. Gollum was originally an honest monster who was all ready to give Bilbo the ring when he won the game, and when he couldn't find it (because Bilbo already had it), quite politely showed Bilbo the way out instead. This tale was later presented as "Bilbo's version," designed to give him a stronger claim on the Ring.
Commenting on Smaug's treasure, it was noted that Tolkien was an inspiration to all "Monty Haul" Dungeon Masters. However, it was further noted that legends are not designed to be playable. We also wondered about the implausibility of such huge creatures as the Eagles and Smaug being able to fly. Well, actually the eagles are no ordinary birds; they are after all descended (at least literarily) from the eagles of Manwë, which were probably Maiar in bird form. As for dragons, we speculated awhile back that they may also have been (fallen) Maiar in physical form.
We went on to Beorn's halls. In The Hobbit he lives with just his animals for company, but by the time of The Lord of the Rings he has been succeeded by his son, so we wondered who he married!
We now passed with Bilbo and his companions into Mirkwood. It was noted that the wood was probably much like the Black Forest, mostly fir and pine trees. Then there is the hallucinogenic Enchanted River; we decided that the boat the adventurers found probably belonged to the Elves. The animals there taste bad; it was suggested that how an animal tastes depends on what it's been eating (e.g., fish-fed pork). We noticed that everyone except the trolls, even the giant spiders, speaks politely (the trolls, of course, speak Cockney). The dwarves, with Bilbo's help, escape the spiders only to be captured and thrown in jail (for vagrancy?) by the wood-elves. We wondered if Bilbo's barrel-riding trick would really work. It was pointed out that people go over Niagara Falls in barrels and sometimes even survive the experience. There was speculation that the Elven-king's magically opening and shutting doors had been contracted from Eregion. They reminded Per of the kind of elevator doors that close on you.
Mention of Eregion led to a discussion of whether Dwarves have any magic. It was decided that they have "technological" magic similar to that of the Noldor, as well as great technical skill. Once we were on the subject of Dwarves, it was noted that as a rule Dwarves are not fat (Bombur was an exception); rather, they are stocky and muscular. To the Lake-men, Dwarves are associated with money, which is one reason why they are glad to see Thorin & Company.
We were a little surprised to realize that on their supposedly "secret" mission from Lake-town to the Mountain, the dwarves brought an entire caravan of ponies and equipment; however, that hardly mattered since there was no one in the Desolation of Smaug to see it save the dragon himself, and he was safely holed up in the Mountain. That is, until Bilbo stirred him up. We speculated some on the physiology of Smaug's death. Just what did Bard hit with his magic arrow? We decided that either the arrow may actually have hit a vital organ, or may have damaged the dragon's wing muscle so that he couldn't fly and fell into the lake.
Meanwhile, back in the Mountain, the dwarves are sitting on Smaug's treasure going, "Mine! Mine!" Despite Bilbo's valiant effort with the Arkenstone (astonishment was expressed at his having kept Thorin's letter all this time), it takes the Battle of Five Armies to get Thorin's mind off the gold. At this point there was a lengthy discussion of the tactics of the battle and the effectiveness of the armor and weapons used by those of us experienced in such things. Your secretary is not, and must confess that her attention wandered a bit. Tolkien evidently wanted something big to end the book with, and the battle certainly filled the bill. We took note of Thorin's last words to Bilbo and passed on to the hobbit's return to his home. He arrives, of course, in the middle of an auction of his goods. Later he finds he's lost his reputation, and doesn't mind a bit.
Concluding commentary included the contention that Tolkien started out writing a standard Edwardian children's fantasy, but that the book got better toward the end. Tolkien writes good battle scenes. Bilbo's maturation in The Hobbit is important to Frodo's character in The Lord of the Rings. The question "Where do hobbits come from?" was answered, "Go ask your father, dear!" and we decided that Bilbo put the Ring to the best use ever by using it to avoid unpleasant visitors such as the Sackville-Bagginses.
--reported by Margaret R. Purdy