Earlier this evening, I finished reading The Hobbit, as part of the group-read being run over at Writers’ Bloc. I’ll now answer this final week’s questions, while I let my thoughts and feelings simmer for a while until I can write a more extensive, holistic review of the book.
This weeks questions are by Debbie from The Wicked Queen’s Mirror. For my answers to the earlier questions, part one is here, and part two is here. My answers will, again, be in italics, and I’d love to hear other people’s opinions too.
The Final Questions (did anybody else find the song The Final Countdown just popped into their heads? No? Just me? Okay, never mind…)
1) Throughout the book there are many examples of greed (for both food and treasure). Why do you think Bilbo takes and hides the Arkenstone when he is later happy to ransom it for peace? Is it simple greed? Forethought? Or a convenient plot device?
I definitely think we can cross out forethought – it isn’t that at all. I think he takes the Arkenstone because of greed, more than anything, much like he takes the ring, and much like the dwarves become the way they do regarding their treasure. But, having said that, it does seem a rather convenient plot device at one point too when Bilbo uses it to try and negotiate peace. But then again, the goblins also appear, rendering the Arkenstone as a plot device rather pointless. So I’ll stick with my first answer, simple greed. (I got there in the end, didn’t I?)
2) Much has been written of Tolkien’s experiences in World War One and how the Lord of the Rings shows both the romantic, heroic aspects of war (Aragorn’s journey)but also the stark realities (Frodo’s journey). What did you think about the way the Battle of Five Armies was described? Did you feel these two aspects of war were represented?
I found it interesting that the Battle of Five Armies was such a brief part of the book, really – only several pages, plus a few more retelling the end of the battle after Bilbo had been knocked unconscious. I think the stark realities are absolutely shown, through the deaths of some of the dwarves, and through the general grimness of the whole scene. Even Gandalf was injured (though I suppose to be fair he actually dies in LOTR, even if he is revived as an even stronger variant of himself relatively quickly)! As for the heroic aspects of war, it’s hard to say. In the end, Bilbo’s heroic traits didn’t particularly rise up in this battle, because he was knocked out so soon, and being invisible nobody even knew he was still alive. Gandalf clearly fights hard, as do all the armies, but it was Beorn who ultimately stole the show, with his rage single-handedly turning the tables, and so to him I guess “The Bad-ass Hero Award” must go. Anyway, I digress. I think the influence of WWI on Tolkien is somewhat visible in this battle, but not in comparison with the battles in LOTR.
3)What did you think about the role of the goblins in the Battle of Five Armies? Was it easy for you to accept their appearance and that the threat they posed would automatically unite the men and elves with the dwarves? Or did you find it too simplistic?
I did find this a little simplistic, that the men, elves and dwarves just decided to get along. But then I guess they knew that the goblins were a much bigger threat, and if such a thing were to occur in real life, there is every chance a similar outcome would eventuate. In fact, you could find links with real wars and battles, but I’ll save that for another day. As for the goblins, I liked their sudden and overwhelming appearance – it was a fitting climax to the story. After Smaug died (remember this is my first reading of this book), I was worried the real threat was over, so it was nice to see I was wrong on this one.
4) In ‘The Last Stage’ we are told Bilbo remained very happy to the end of his days. If you had been off on an adventures could you settle back to normal life so easily? Would you be content with only occasional visits to the elves?
I don’t think I could settle back to normal life so easily, not at all. I think after being on an adventure like that, for a whole year, I think I’d have the travel bug. In fact, I’m pretty sure when I return from my upcoming 3 week holiday overseas, I’m going to have a serious case of the travel bug, to be honest. But also, I can’t help but think – wouldn’t Bilbo be somewhat traumatised after his ordeal? But then I suppose he rose up to the occasion many the time, and changed a lot in the process as a character, so he came back stronger and wiser. I did think that when he came back to find all his stuff had been auctioned and he had been presumed dead, that at that point I would think “stuff this, I’m going on another adventure!” But I guess I’m not Bilbo.
What about you? What are your thoughts on these questions?
A full review of this classic novel will be coming later this week!