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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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In the morning, Bilbo and the dwarves get on their way. After a
pleasant start, they face the first of many dangers on their
journey. As a cold, rainy evening sets in, they discover that
Gandalf has left them. Then they see a light among the trees
ahead, and Bilbo is sent to investigate, supposedly because he's
the burglar. With a hobbit's knack for walking silently, he
approaches the fire without being seen. There he finds three
huge trolls. Instead of going back to report to the dwarves, he
attempts to pick the pocket of one of the trolls and is captured.
Soon the dwarves are captured as well.

The scene with the trolls has some good examples of how
Tolkien lets his characters describe themselves through their
actions and their speech, a commendable element of good
fiction writing. Bilbo walks "primly" through the trees and
sniffs at the dwarves' noisiness. What kind of person does that
bring to mind? And you get a good idea of what the trolls are
like by the way they eat and speak.



What do you think of the dwarves so far? They seem to be
taking advantage of Bilbo when they send him ahead, but
they're also quick to come help him. Thorin is almost heroic
when he valiantly takes on all three trolls to save his friends.
But he too ends up tied in a sack like the others. The dwarves
apparently have bungled the rescue as badly as Bilbo bungled
his pickpocket attempt.

Fortunately, Gandalf returns and rescues his friends through a
clever bit of ventriloquism. By imitating the voice of first one
troll and then another, he manages to keep them arguing until
dawn, when they are turned to stone. Before going on, Gandalf
and Thorin take swords from the trolls' hoard. Bilbo picks up a
dagger that suits him well as a sword.

Gandalf leads the band to Rivendell, where Elrond, chief of the
Half-elven, lives. In the ancient tales that Tolkien studied, elves
were a race of beautiful and magical people. But since then,
elves have come to be thought of as tiny, mischievous creatures
who live in flower buds and ride in coaches drawn by insects.
Tolkien tried to restore elves to their original stature.

When Bilbo and the dwarves arrive in Rivendell, the elves at
first appear foolish, singing silly songs and laughing merrily.
But Tolkien warns you that it is unwise to let yourself be
deceived by appearances. Through the wise and noble
character of Elrond, he reveals the more heroic aspect of elves.
You learn that long ago they fought beside men in a great war
against the goblins. The swords that Gandalf and Thorin took
from the trolls' hoard had been made by the High Elves to be
used in that war.

NOTE: THE NAMING OF SWORDS
In ancient tales, most heroes named their swords. King
Arthur's sword, for example, was called Excalibur. By giving
names to Thorin and Gandalf's swords, Tolkien places those
warriors in the company of such great heroes. Notice that
Bilbo's sword isn't mentioned, and it remains nameless. Do you
think there is any significance in this?

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