RÓMENNA MEETING REPORT
Rómenna Meeting Report - August 11, 1984
August 11, 1984
Present:||Per Hollander (host)
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
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
read out the relevant passages from Bonniejean Christensen's article in A Tolkien
. 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
is important to Frodo's character in The Lord of the Rings
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
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