Reconciling "The Hobbit"

Steve Melisi

New Member
One of the topics in Ep 154 was the “fact” of The Hobbit and how that is to be reconciled with world we get in The Lord of the Rings. One thing that wasn’t discussed is the timing – which is to say, the “when” that The Hobbit is being told from. LOTR is effectively written much closer to the events it records -- by Frodo, Sam, and others, including Findegil, King’s Writer in Minas Tirith “who finished this work in IV 172.”

By contrast, the Hobbit has to have been written MUCH later than that, because – although Elrond being as “kind as Christmas” does not make it into the existing text, this does (in Chapter 6) -- “Fili and Kili were at the top of a tall larch like an enormous Christmas tree.”

So, although some things don’t necessarily fit into the LOTR world – stone giants among them – it can be forgiven as a matter of distance. We aren’t there on the ground, as it were – we are telling it much later to an audience who is not of the world that experienced all that it has to tell.

One can also argue that elements of the LOTR world don’t quite fit with the LOTR world. Tom Bombadil leaps to mind. But, we can assume that stone giants were probably stone trolls in the same way we can assume Tom is a Maia. Can’t we?
 

Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' are both reported to be contained in the Red Book of Westmarch, and we see Bilbo show the completed work that becomes 'The Hobbit' (and possibly 'The Silmarrillion' and other works) during the course of 'The Lord of the Rings'.

The fact that Findegil is mentioned opens the door to the idea of later editors, some of whom may have chosen to remain anonymous. The anachronistic references in 'The Hobbit' could be the result of a more modern editor attempting to make the work more accessible to a more modern audience, while 'The Lord of the Rings' suffered fewer modifications, being a work of greater gravity. It doesn't miss out entirely though, as the narrator's description of Gandalf's firework dragon includes 'like an express train' as a single example.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' are both reported to be contained in the Red Book of Westmarch, and we see Bilbo show the completed work that becomes 'The Hobbit' (and possibly 'The Silmarrillion' and other works) during the course of 'The Lord of the Rings'.

The fact that Findegil is mentioned opens the door to the idea of later editors, some of whom may have chosen to remain anonymous. The anachronistic references in 'The Hobbit' could be the result of a more modern editor attempting to make the work more accessible to a more modern audience, while 'The Lord of the Rings' suffered fewer modifications, being a work of greater gravity. It doesn't miss out entirely though, as the narrator's description of Gandalf's firework dragon includes 'like an express train' as a single example.

Hi Anthony,

Another (very related) in-frame possibility for differences between The Hobbit and TLOTR, is just to suppose that JRRT as translator, chose to translate The Hobbit as a book for children, and inserted more of his own editorial comments therein. As he went on to translate TLOTR material, he realized it was not children's book material, so his translation style changed, and he inserted less of his own narration.

This supposition would also explain differences in style and narration between the first few chapters and the rest of the book, if we assume that JRRT started translating much in the same style as he had used for The Hobbit, but shifted style as he came to realize that this material was best cast as a book for adults, rather than children.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Yes, just that. I've had a hard time articulating this sort of thing in the past, but I can, in my brain, posit a "real" Middle Earth, with "real" history, such that all of the materials we have today are various adaptations of the "real" source material - the Jackson films, the animated films, the radio plays, and EVEN THE JRRT BOOKS are all various author's adapations of the same source material. There's a layer of truth that goes above JRRT's writing.

So, for the Hobbit in particular, there is an actual "real" series of events, that probably didn't have a talking purse or stone giants or anyone singing about attercops, but it also wasn't an action movie with handsome beardless Dwarves falling in love with Elves, and it didn't have an American Smaug shooting beams out of his eyes. And the various subcreators (including JRRT) took this "real" story and adapted it into the setting of their choice.

I know that this isn't how it actually works, and the JRRT material is *the* source, but the attempt at deconstructing the children's story of the Hobbit by Jackson in making the films (whether you like the films or not is beside the point) is sort of reverse engineering or extrapolating to try to find that higher layer of truth behind the story.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Good point amysrevenge,

In frame, there is a 'real' Middle-earth, then there is the depiction of Middle-earth in the Red Book of Westmarch, Then there is the interpretation and translation of the Red Book by JRRT into The Hobbit and TLOTR. Then there is The Silmarillion, which is an interpretation by Christopher Tolkien of various unfinished, partial, fragmentary, and not definitive translations and interpretations of Bilbo's study of Elvish lore in the Red Book by JRRT, then there are fan fictions, movies, radio plays, art works, etc. which are all riffs off of the various Tolkien material.

So, I would not say that all interpretations are accessing the 'real' Middle-earth, the 'real' source material. That just does not fit the frame.
 
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