The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
How we cite our quotes:
So [the elves] laughed and sang in the trees; and pretty fair nonsense I daresay you think it. Not that they would care; they would only laugh all the more if you told them so. They were elves of course. Soon Bilbo caught glimpses of them as the darkness deepened. He loved elves, though he seldom met them; but he was a little frightened of them too. Dwarves don't get on well with them. Even decent enough dwarves like Thorin and his friends think them foolish (which is a very foolish thing to think), or get annoyed with them. For some elves tease and laugh at them, and most of all at their beards. (3.14)
The foolish singing of the elves seems entirely different from the elven songs we see produced in The Lord of the Rings. Why might Tolkien have decided on this more light-hearted elvish characterization for The Hobbit? What effect does it have on the pacing of The Hobbit's chapters that these songs are often presented in full? How do the elves' songs compare to those of the dwarves or the goblins? (How do you like playing Twenty Questions?)
Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far. (4.22)
There's a reason why The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been described as anti-mechanical. After all, nature is associated with Good People, such as the elves. And engines and machines (not "beautiful things" but "clever ones") belong to the goblins. Based on what you know from The Hobbit, what do you think Tolkien's ideal living space and environment would be? What kinds of spaces in The Hobbit seem most inviting?
Now certainly Bilbo was in what is called a tight place. But you must remember it was not quite so tight for him as it would have been for me or for you. Hobbits are not quite like ordinary people; and after all if their holes are nice cheery places and properly aired, quite different from the tunnels of the goblins, still they are more used to tunneling than we are, and they do not easily lose their sense of direction underground – not when their heads have recovered from being bumped. Also they can move very quietly, and hide easily, and recover wonderfully from falls and bruises, and they have a fund of wisdom and wise sayings that men have mostly never heard of or have forgotten long ago. (5.8)
This passage seems to display Tolkien's deep respect for the importance of folklore and oral tradition connecting the present to the past. One thing the narrator admires about hobbits is that "they have a fund of wisdom and wise sayings that men have mostly never heard of or have forgotten long ago." When does Bilbo use these "wise sayings"?