Episode 207 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member
SESSION 207

In those last days:
  • Though it seems that the hobbits have been spending time in the Hall of Fire before this period, it’s emphasized that they are hearing other great tales before they set out on their own quest.
  • This is part of their preparation, beginning with stories from the ancient past, like Beren and Lúthien, and stories from their own past, such as Bilbo’s stories and poems of his adventures.
  • Bilbo is not only sharing his own stories and songs, but the songs and stories that he has heard.
  • It seems like Bilbo processed the tales and poems that he has collected by composing his own.
  • Note: This places Bilbo in the position of folklorist, such as the Brothers Grimm or Elias Lönnrot.
  • This also includes the rhymes of lore and proverb that he has taught to young hobbits like Sam.
  • The Elves may value what Bilbo is doing by collecting this lore and casting it into verse to preserve their memories for future generations and after their own departure into the West.
  • Note: This has been part of the spirit of all of the Middle-earth writings going back to The Book of Lost Tales, in which these stories were brought to the Anglo-Saxons through Ælfwine/Eriol. Tolkien positions himself as the final link in a chain of transmission going back to Bilbo.
  • Probably only a minority of Elves would even be literate, as it would be unnecessary for most.
  • In a sense, they are an idealized oral culture since many of them would be direct witnesses.
  • The primary use that the Elves have for letters isn’t preserving lore or poems, but for spells, in carving and placing them on objects in order to empower or enchant them with their will.
  • While there are many books of lore, those became more relevant with the losses in their wars.
  • Elvish memory is different from mortal memory, both in quality and quantity of retention.
  • It’s probable that Elrond has been collecting all the books of lore that he can find in order to preserve them for the future, including his commissioning of new books covering later times.
  • Note: In a sense, Aragorn will become Elrond’s heir and take on his responsibility for preserving the lore of the past, which was Tolkien’s primary concept for Elrond from the very beginning. He is the bridge between the Elder Days and the current world, and Aragorn will take over that role.
Bilbo in his own small room:
  • Bilbo has a parallel and complementary role, passing on his knowledge to Hobbits and Men in a vernacular that they can understand, and so preserve the memory of the Elves among mortals.
  • While it’s not clear if the Elves consider Bilbo a skilled poet, since they use such a different mode of creation and art as enchantment, but they do appreciate his work as useful in the coming age.
  • Note: In “Leaf by Niggle”, this kind of enchanted creation is paralleled in Heaven, where Niggle’s creative expression, which was limited to paint and canvas on Earth, becomes a full creation.
  • While Bilbo downplays his position in Elrond’s household, it seems clear that he is an honored guest and that he may be one of the more important members of that household as historian.
  • Note: Bilbo’s humility and self-effacing humor is paralleled later with Pippin and Denethor.
  • Note: The use of the term “Great Jewel” is notable because the term “Silmaril” was unknown since The Silmarillion had not been published. This hint of the greater story was part of Tolkien’s desire to create interest in readers for that older material that would be satisfied later.
  • The “Great Jewel” is paralleled with the “Great Ring”, and the story of hope and carrying on against great odds is relevant to the upcoming quest for Mount Doom for all the hobbits.
  • That we are only being told about their evenings in the Hall of Fire now contextualizes the story of Beren and Lúthien not only is a parallel but is a continuation of that story in many ways.
  • This also applies to Bilbo’s story, as Bilbo takes notes about Frodo’s adventures as it’s extension.
  • What were Merry and Pippin doing when they were out and about? It’s not said exactly, but the divide between them and Frodo and Sam make it seem somewhat like a familial relationship.
The morning of the last day:
  • Note: This is presumably the morning of December 25th, so it’s appropriate that this is the time when Bilbo gives Frodo his gifts, including the sword Sting, as it is for us Christmas morning.
  • There is an emphasis on their aloneness in this instance, as even Sam isn’t there for his moment.
  • This is a very private scene, in which Bilbo feels embarrassed and stumbles over his generosity.
  • Note: He is doing the opposite of the usual mythic gift-giving, which is done publicly and with honor to both gift-giver and receiver, such as Hrothgar’s gift-giving to Beowulf in his great hall.
  • Bilbo is probably being disingenuous about what prompted him to give Frodo the sword, as he had almost certainly planned to do this for him all along, since Frodo chose to go on the quest.
  • Frodo’s receiving of Sting is paralleled with Aragorn’s receiving of Andúril, though in his case his sword is not reforged, but rather replaced with an even greater ancient blade from legends.
  • While the reforging of Narsil is entirely appropriate for Aragorn’s role symbolically, Frodo’s barrow-blade from Arnor doesn’t work the same way, so receiving Bilbo’s heirloom is fitting.
  • This connects Frodo’s future journey with both its ancient origin in Gondolin and with Bilbo’s story from The Hobbit. Even the naming of Sting marked a turning point for Bilbo’s career.
  • For Bilbo, even the carrying of a sword rather than a walking stick was symbolic of a change in attitude from simple journeying to epic adventure, and he is now passing that on to Frodo.
  • This is a continuation of Frodo making the connections between his and Bilbo’s adventures, both in comparison and contrast, but this moment begins the next stage in this continuity now.
  • Even the adopting of Frodo as Bilbo’s heir is being recapitulated, as well as Bilbo’s concern for Frodo’s safety, which may also seek to encourage Frodo with the idea of a return journey, too.
  • There is a lot of unspoken emotion in this scene, as if he were a father sending as son off to war.
  • It’s important that Frodo doesn’t speak nor has a response to the sword but is simply grateful.
  • Note: Frodo will eventually have gifts from all the Free Peoples, with the mithril coat from the Dwarves, and the sword from the Elves. This recapitulates Elrond’s wishes to have all the Free Peoples represented. Also, the shabby leathern scabbard holding Sting seems to hint at the same impulse to cloak great power that we see with Gandalf and Aragorn, only revealed later.
END OF SESSION
 

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