Episode 186 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

The halfling stands forth:
  • While Bilbo may consciously want to protect Frodo from the inevitable by stepping in and taking the burden from him, this may also be ring-induced, as in his reaction before in the Hall of Fire.
  • Bilbo had been affected by the pull of the Ring, but he has shown his new awareness of it now.
  • However, Bilbo’s self-sacrifice is genuine, as is his courage in his willingness to give up his comfort and peace for the sake of Frodo and the Council and Middle-earth at large.
  • It’s possible that Bilbo’s Tookish side is reasserting itself for one last adventure. While settling in Rivendell was not a very Baggins thing to do, his comfort and willingness to retire there is.
  • Frodo had seen the parallels between his and Bilbo’s journeys before, and it seems that Bilbo has also picked up on that and is extending that parallel now to join in on the new quest.
  • Elrond’s assertion that the “weak” and those with “small hands” may have cued Bilbo to think this was a reference to him directly, as being the oldest hobbit present makes him both of these.
  • Bilbo adopts a joking tone here, and while this may sound like he is not taking this seriously, but we have seen in Bilbo and the other hobbits that this is how they’d express serious things.
  • Bilbo fully understands that taking on this journey could result in his death, but it is consistent with his character that he would turn this into hobbitry at Elrond’s expense, as seen before.
  • Note: Later in the text, we will see this tendency among hobbits explained directly, saying that they fear to say too much and will joke rather than use the wrong words. Merry and Pippin will take serious oaths later on, and because only those words are appropriate in those situations.
  • Bilbo’s expression of finishing himself is dark, but it is dark humor, and using the humorous understatement of “a frightful nuisance” to describe the trip to Mordor is along the same lines.
It is a good ending:
  • Is Bilbo using his book as a metaphor to guilt trip Elrond into not sending Frodo?
  • Bilbo’s long references to his book are notable, as they are out of place in this Council.
  • Note: Bilbo grossly underestimates the amount of material that he will have to add to his book to encompass the story to come, in a very similar way to how Tolkien himself thought that Rivendell marked the halfway point of the novel while he was writing this chapter.
  • Bilbo definitely understands that the story now unfolding is a tragedy, and that whoever the protagonist is will be able to live happily every after, as he had planned for himself.
  • Note: Tolkien pointed out in “On Fairy-Stories” that the traditional beginnings and endings of fairytales, such as “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” were important in providing a framework for the reader to understand the boundaries of the story, which Tolkien liked. By having Bilbo thwart this expectation, he is showing that this is not that kind of story.
  • Bilbo may not think that the Ring’s passing on has been undone, but now understands more than ever what the Ring has done to him in the past and continues to do, even here and now.
  • Therefore, Bilbo must know that he won’t be permitted to do what he is offering to do, but he must feel that he has to make the offer, understanding what is likely to happen to Frodo.
  • Bilbo understands that Frodo’s possible death may even be the least bad of all the things that could happen to Frodo if the attempts to take the Ring to Mordor, from his own experience.
  • In a sense, there are parallels between the Ring-bearers and Eärendil, which Bilbo recited the night before, in that it’s a seemingly impossible journey from which they can’t return.
  • Even Bilbo’s Eärendil poem doesn’t acknowledge the eucatastrophe that his journey brought to the world, but only that it resulted in Eärendil’s inability to go home again, as would the hobbits.
  • While Bilbo knows that his offer to volunteer will not be accepted, he also wants to make it clear to everyone what volunteering would mean for anyone who tries to take the Ring on the quest.
  • Elrond and Frodo are the clear targets of this explanation, while the others understand this, too.
  • This is a warning for Frodo, who, though he is aware of the effect of the Ring, he is not yet as aware of it and where that will lead as Bilbo is, since he can see that Frodo will be the choice.
  • It is a similar warning for Elrond. Bilbo may think that Elrond doesn’t fully appreciate what he would be asking of a Ring-bearer, and he may see it only as a duty and not the full burden it is.
  • Bilbo may be aware that he’s the only person who has ever willingly given up the Ring, as well as the Arkenstone. He may think that this kind of humility is what is needed to destroy the Ring.
  • Note: Since Gandalf has witnessed Frodo being unable to throw the Ring in his own fireplace, why would he expect him to be able to throw it into the Cracks of Doom, even with help? Gandalf seems to be acting in faith, not that Frodo will succeed, but that he is the right bearer, based on his unique qualifications and their understanding of the way the events are trending.
Regarding the old hobbit with grave respect:
  • Why does Glóin smile? He’s probably remembering his first impression of Bilbo as “more like a grocer than a burglar”, which is what inspires Bilbo to impulsively agree to their old adventure.
  • This memory may be paralleled in what Bilbo is doing now, volunteering spontaneously for this.
  • His smile clearly holds affection, but also sadness as he understands what this would mean.
  • Glóin witnessed Bilbo’s growth in their adventure, and this made him ultimately respect Bilbo.
  • What is Boromir laughing at? He seems to be responding to Bilbo’s humor, which is very funny.
  • Is Boromir mocking Bilbo at all? Possibly, but that is in line with Bilbo’s self-deprecating humor.
  • However, Boromir doesn’t seem to be scornful, but rather surprised into incredulity by this.
  • This is a small but understandable faux pas for Boromir as a diplomat, but Bilbo probably was happy to have someone laugh at his joke that everyone else took really seriously.
  • It’s ironic that he is surprised at this halfling standing forth, but he may have applied that Frodo.
  • Note: How old does Bilbo appear here? In the films, he’s shown as having aged significantly, but that isn’t said in the text. The fact that he has retained his appearance from his 50’s well into his 100’s is exactly why he was so remarkable in the Shire. The effect of the Ring on people’s aging is not really acknowledged in the films, even though Gollum’s appearance also hasn’t aged. Gollum’s change of appearance is due to corruption of spirit, but not due to the passage of time. It’s also unclear if or when Bilbo would have died had the Ring not been destroyed, like Gollum.