Update from December 2019

Thanks to Tim for sending through these notes he took from the meeting before Christmas which I couldn’t attend.

Present: Laura, Eileen, Chris, Angela, Ian, Tim.
Chapters: “A Warm Welcome” and “On the Doorstep”.

After gathering for a pre-meeting pre-Yule coffee and snacks at the Artisan Café, where we were joined by Lynn, we reconvened at the Seminar Room at about 1.30pm, without Lynn (who was unable to come to the meeting this week). We had been hoping to see Julie too, but sadly illness prevented her from coming.
Tim opened the discussion of Chapter X “A Warm Welcome”, noting that there was a lighter, sedate tone at the start of the chapter after the drama of the escape from the Elven-king.
Eileen liked the name “Lonely Mountain”.
Laura commented on Tolkien’s children storytelling mode: “Bilbo had come far and through many adventures to see it, and now he did not like the look of it in the least.”
Angela noted the description of the Men-Elves’ relationship: bickering, talking about the weather, etc.
Laura observed that the Wood-Elves seemed dangerous and less wise, more involved in commercial/business interchange. Trade, Eileen added.
There was a mention of earthquakes, Chris said, attributed to the dragon – could these have been instead due to Sauron, or Gandalf?
Laura suggested that Dale had been destroyed due to fracking. Perhaps the earthquake was caused by Smaug moving about catlike in his sleep.
Tim commented that, whilst on the barrel, Bilbo has been gathering information from the Raft-elves’ conversation, learning about the local situation – continuing his burglar/spy role.
Eileen said that Bilbo resents the position he’s been put in, always sorting out the messes. His whole heart isn’t in it.
Laura thought that Bilbo handles things more carefully. Making decisions, taking a lot of physical action, such as helping the dwarves out of their barrels.
Laura highlighted the reference to The Wain – the Plough – which comes from an Old Norse word vagn (via the Old English wæg(e)n and Old Frisian wein)
Eileen added that “wain” in Northern Irish dialect means a child.
Tim said that Lake Town reminded him of Iron Age settlements built in the middle of lakes, and wondered if Tolkien would have been aware of these. In The History of The Hobbit Part One, John D. Rateliff describes how Lake Town is modelled closely on Neolithic lake-dwellings discovered on the shore of Lake Zurich in Switzerland (2008 paperback edition, p.448).
Angela said that at Madeira Airport, half of the runway is on stilts.
Chris noted that Thorin announcing himself and his company to the people of Lake Town is similar to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli when meeting Éomer. Thorin “does a Gandalf” on the raft-elves by putting them in their place. Mention is made of trade and tolls.
Laura noted that the dwarves left elves at a time of feast and arrive at Lake Town at a time of feast.
With reference to Chris’ comment, Tim wondered if anyone was worried about the Elvish Backstop.
Eileen referred to how quickly the people believe Thorin. Chris added that there was a legend prophecy. Eileen noted that they were singing about legends of old. Angela said that the song was like the Aragorn prophecy. Laura noted that Thorin has a lot of presence.
Chris commented that people were looking forward to the good times, gold flowing down the river, etc.
Tim said that the reference to Elven scouts added to the layers of narrative.
Laura observed that the reader has to be un-cynical – it is a children’s book. There is a touch of Tolkien the storyteller when he writes: “as we will see in the end”.
Ian highlighted the Elven-king’s thought process toward the end of the chapter: “… he was a wise elf and wiser than the men of the town…” Tolkien is employing a rhetorical trope that may be compared with the first chapter, regarding Bilbo’s possible loss of his neighbours’ respect.
The Master was not sorry to let the dwarves go, Laura noted, since their presence has caused a long, unproductive holiday.
Eileen asked why Bilbo did not use Ring in this chapter. Chris responded that he had no need to. Laura noted that no one queries what this hobbit is. Tim said that Bilbo had no need to use the Ring because he is literally overlooked in a town of Men.
Eileen said that Bilbo was the only one that was unhappy, because he knew what was happening. Tim thought that the company leaving Lake Town was reminiscent of the Fellowship leaving Lothlórien in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Eileen thought Bilbo was a pseudo-Gandalf. Laura said he was Gandalf’s representative. Eileen added that he was an unwilling hero, which is inspiring.
Eileen broached the start of Chapter XI, referring to the imagery of names.
At this point we had to draw the last meeting of 2019 to a close.

Our next meeting will be on Saturday 11th January 2020: we will continue with Chapter XI “On the Doorstep” (which we had only just started) and Chapter XII “Inside information”.
Note: All errors and omissions are my own. I’ve endeavoured to make this as accurate a record as possible of the meeting, but if anyone spots any Almighty Clangers (or Large Soup Dragons) please do not hesitate to let Lynn or myself know. Thanks, Tim.

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