070 – If You Love Somebody, Cut Them Free

The second of three episodes on Chapter 8 of The Hobbit. As Mirkwood continues with no apparent end, our heroes get desperate and stray from the path when they see Elves feasting in a clearing nearby. They try three times to crash the party, but each time chaos ensues, and soon Bilbo finds himself alone in the dark with several Spiders of Unusual Size. We witness Bilbo’s most Tookish moment yet, learn about several games of the aiming and throwing sort, and rack up a number of reasons to apologize to Mr. Gordon Sumner.

Links to most of the works of art discussed at the end of the episode below.

By Roger Garland:

By Jenny Dolfen:

By John Howe:

By Elena Kukanova:

By Alan Lee:

By Ted Nasmith:

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 138-148, “Flies and Spiders”

Tolkien, J. R. R. and Douglas A. Anderson, ed. The Annotated Hobbit (HarperCollins, hardcover)

Rateliff, John D. The History of the Hobbit (HarperCollins, one-volume hardcover)

Scull, Christina, and Wayne G. Hammond. J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (Two Volume Box Set) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hardcover)

Tolkien, J. R. R. (translator) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo (HarperCollins, paperback)

Olsen, Corey. Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Mariner Books, paperback)

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings (Mariner Books, paperback)

Gilliver, Peter, Jeremy Marshall, Edmund Weiner. The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, hardcover)

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback)

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth (Mariner Books, paperback)

Inspiration

Anyone who’s read even the first few pages of The Lord of the Rings is familiar with the “found manuscript” concept at the heart of Tolkien’s mythology: the idea that the books of the Middle-earth legendarium were not inventions, but translations of the Red Book of Westmarch, penned by the Hobbits of the stories themselves.  It’s easy to see why this concept would be attractive to Tolkien. The claim, however tongue-in-cheek, that his stories were miraculously preserved firsthand accounts of prehistoric events — not just the flights of fancy of some bloke who taught Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College — lent his work a mysterious air of historicity like that of the most beloved real-world myths, from the Trojan War to the Arthurian cycle. In addition, setting his stories in the distant past of our primary world helped Tolkien in his effort to make “a Secondary World which your mind can enter,” (“On Fairy-Stories,” Tree and Leaf, p. 37) a story which the reader can remain inside as long as they choose to.

But it seems very likely that Tolkien believed his stories truly did come from somewhere beyond himself.  In several of his letters, Tolkien is careful to distinguish his artistic process from mere invention Continue reading