Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Hobbit: Ch6 Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

I don't know, folks, this book has set itself a really high bar and I'm sort of getting tired of things dropping out of the sky, figuratively or (in this case) literally, to save the collective butts of Mr. Baggins and company.

Not to say this was a bad chapter, because it's not. There's still action and stress, but it's just... look, Gandalf is one thing, he's a wizard, but this time giant talking birds just decided to show up and prank the goblins for kicks. I don't know that there's been an encounter yet where the party has been capable enough on its own measure to handle any part of it.

Once more, though, I get some character reinforcement. I'm getting a picture, though, that all of these dwarves are really just "a blur" plus Thorin. It rarely seems to matter who says what, so long as it's said and by a dwarf. Gandalf's revealing his limitations, which is interesting to see, because it presages the idea that he might not be a trump card when the dragon and the Necromancer show up. I'd like him to contribute, if he's still around, but it's not much of a quest if you didn't need to go on it in the first place. He brought down the fireballs this time, and it's always cool to explore the powers of the mysterious wizard.

Bilbo wastes no time in exploiting his ring of invisibility for fun and prestige, and impresses the heck out of A Dwarf who was scout and lookout. I feel like this is a definite turning point for his relationship with the dwarves, which up to now could be summed up as "why did you hire him?" He even calls himself the burglar when he appears, showing that he's beginning to accept the adventure now that he's had a real taste of it, unfiltered. Tastes like horrible muttering amphibian-looking thingy with glowing eyes. Mmmm

 I note, though, that he's keeping the ring secret from them, even though Gandalf probably has Detect Magic up and picked it out right away. Makes sense, really; show it to Thorin and he's liable to say "I should wear that, I'm very important and you would just lose it" or something to that effect. Overinflated sense of self-importance, that guy. I suppose I can give him a lick of credit for thinking of Bilbo's well-being in the trees, but Bilbo's not going to just go around throwing away his newfound cred by admitting he's got magic help and with this crew I get that.

When they wrote about "evil packs of wolves living near goblin mountains" my first thought was wargs, and lo and behold Jeremy is a genius. They really did rip everything off from this book, didn't they? I'll bet gnomes are next, to round out the race crew. Looking forward to that, I have always wondered about gnomes. :D

So the goblins gave chase, which along with the wargs I wasn't really expecting but added some action and stress to the chapter. I can't imagine having to fly off dangling from something. Ever seen one of those helicopter rescues where they fly off with people climbing up the ladder or holding on to it? I saw a scene like that on TV once and no sir not me I would not want to be the one doing that. Poor Bilbo clearly went through airborne hell. And right when he thought he was good, ROUND TWO!

I feel like a theme is kicking off here at the very end, where Bilbo dreams that he's searching his house for something he can't remember the look of. I don't quite have the word, but I think it's a metaphor for his mind trying to find refuge in the idea of... homebody... ness? and being unable to remember what it is that being a homebody looks like. He's dreaming of it as though it's something he craves, but I think the real message is that what he can't find in his home is either who he was before he dared step out of his hobbit-hole (someone who doesn't exist anymore) or who he is now (a person who wouldn't stay home being mundane.

There's one thing I want to comment on before I go: that feeling of being able to sleep like a rock even in a ridiculously uncomfortable spot compared to your own cozy bed? Been there. Anyway, the book's still splendid and I'll hit the next chapter first thing tomorrow. :D

Someone explain "confusticate," because I don't know that one. "Benighted" too. And what is bracken? The biggest confusion for me here, and I think I get the idea (at least I hope I get the idea) is the expression "turn queer." Someone wanna run that by me?


  1. "queer" originally just meant "odd". Nowadays it's overloaded to also be an LGBT term.

    Confusticate: you were confusticated by the definition.

    Benighted: Overtaken by darkness, could be literal darkness or darkness of knowledge.

  2. And bracken is large low-lying fern that grows rampantly on moorland and cliffsides. It's everywhere in England, but I'm not sure if it grows in your part of the world.

  3. I feel from reading a bunch of classic British lit from the last and prior centuries, the term "queer", prior to being co-opted by the LGBT community, definitely had a slightly more sinister and dark connotation than "odd". "Odd" was your kindly uncle who collected corks and sang off-key at parties. "Queer" was the feeling that came over you when you walked into a house that was rumored to be haunted, and the door unexpectedly blew shut behind you. That kind of thing.

    1. Reclaiming a slur thrown at you by others doesn't seem to count as "co-opting" a word in my book.

  4. I've heard it suggested that the party is not Thorin, Ori, Nori, Dori, Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin, Fili, Kili, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Gandalf, and Bilbo, but that it's Thorin, Gandalf, and Bilbo and Thorin just happens to have taken the Leadership feet (or if you go back further, been high enough level to have his followers.)

    1. The others have slightly more characterization. (Slightly.) Balin's the good guy/2nd in command, Fili & Kili are the young ones, and Bombur's the fat one.
      ..."and the rest."

    2. This is basically it, yes. Balin is the old wise councillor to Thorin (as well as his relative), Fili and Kili are the young ones, Bombur is comic relief and the rest are just extras (as much as I like them personally).

  5. This is more of a link chapter than anything else, really, although some of what you've read will come back before the story ends.

    Gnomes do exist in Tolkien but they're not what you'd expect. :)

    Re: "queer", it wasn't actually that long ago that it still retained it's original meaning. I definitely recall relatives using it in that sense in the late 70s or early 80s. The name of the next chapter will probably blow your mind, but just try to remember that this was written in the 1930s, and that the language has, of course, evolved.