Frodo Learns of the Doings of the Dwarves. Glóin of The Lonely Mountain At The Feast in Rivendell.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991) pp. 221-223

The history of Dwarves and Elves in Middle-earth has been a long journey that has often taken dark turnings. The memories of both peoples are long and so these things are not forgotten and can rise dangerously to the surface at any moment. Later in the tale Celeborn of Lothlórien will speak bitterly of Dwarves and will seek to repent of the welcome given to Gimli, son of Glóin, but here in Rivendell this same Glóin sits in a place of honour at the table of Elrond next to the Ringbearer. Thus, in the scenes before the great Council of Elrond takes place, Tolkien draws together many essential threads of the great story.

“Am I right in guessing that you are the Glóin, one of the twelve companions of the great Thorin Oakenshield?” asks Frodo of his fellow guest at Elrond’s table.

Glóin of the Lonely Mountain

“I have already been told that you are the kinsman and adopted heir of our friend Bilbo the renowned,” replies Glóin.

And in an age that is more formal than our own not one word spoken by either is wasted or without content. Each word conveys the honour that each feels appropriate to the other and which each wishes to give. And in their greetings to one another both place the other and also themselves within the great story of how Gandalf the Grey brought together Thorin Oakenshield and his twelve companions with a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, in order to regain Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, from the grip of Smaug the Dragon.

Anyone who has read The Hobbit will know that much of that tale is told as a child’s fairy story and much is even comic in style befitting the character of the hobbit who plays so essential a part within it. For it was only a hunch upon Gandalf’s part that led him to recommend Bilbo to Thorin, persuading him that he had found an excellent burglar who would be useful as a stealer of treasure from a dragon’s hoard. Bilbo’s complete lack of any of the qualities thought necessary for a hero makes Thorin wonder if Gandalf is merely playing some unpleasant trick upon him but, perhaps by a carnivalesque invasion of Tolkien’s heroic legendarium, it is this figure who Thorin regards as being little more than a clown who finds the Ring of Power by pure chance.

A wonderful joke. Bilbo Baggins finds the Ring.

It was the great Russian cultural theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin who developed the idea of carnival within life and literature, a situation in which the world is turned upside down and the first become last while the last become first. I have written before of how I believe that hobbits took Tolkien completely by surprise and how that surprise simply would not let him go. There is nothing in The Silmarillion that prepares us for the moment when hobbits enter the tale and after the success of The Hobbit Tolkien tried to persuade his publisher that there was nothing more to be said about them. It is my belief that the whole world owes an incalculable debt to a publisher who in seeking another commercial success made hobbits essential to the creation of a mythology that is subversively enriching the world of our day.

Of all the retellings of Tolkien’s tale of Bilbo Baggins I have an especial affection for a Russian film of The Hobbit from the Soviet era that, to me, captures the spirit of the story perfectly, telling it as the kind of folk tale that the mighty always feel that they can ignore safely. Self important literary critics from the great universities and even heads of government or state feel that they can laugh at such nonsense until the moment comes when they get the terrible sense that they might be the butt of the joke as Smaug does when Bilbo steals the Arkenstone from his treasure or Saruman is driven from his mighty fortress by creatures who he has treated with contempt.

Bilbo and the Arkenstone . Another Joke.

Where do we end with this reflection? Of course we end as Frodo and Glóin do in acknowledging the greatness of the other. Both carnival and heroic epic come together here bowing respectfully to one another, taking pleasure in one another’s company, sharing news and wisely waiting for the right time in which to speak of weightier matters such as the destiny of the whole world. That can wait for the next day.

11 thoughts on “Frodo Learns of the Doings of the Dwarves. Glóin of The Lonely Mountain At The Feast in Rivendell.

    • Well said! I am sure that all burglars would love to stumble upon a tool that could render them invisible when they are about their business as Bilbo did. I would still say that Glóin was pretty accurate in describing Bilbo as more like a grocer than a burglar but I most certainly agree with you that he changed his mind.

      • Mine neither! Unless I had received the kind of hunch or inner prompting that Gandalf is acting upon. You know, the kind that despite everything you feel you have to act upon.

      • The Quest of Erebor in Unfinished Tales is a remarkable piece of writing. I agree with you entirely that they are very important. It seems to me that Tolkien thought long and hard about what he wanted to say there because the choosing of Bilbo was to play so important a part in the whole story. The very fact that he made three attempts to tell the story surely shows its significance.
        I don’t know if these were the words that you were thinking of but my choice would be his reflection upon the word, meant, which is followed by “To do that I used in my waking mind only such means as were allowed me, doing what lay to my hand according to such reasons as I had. But I knew what lay in my heart, or knew before I stepped on these grey shores: that is another matter. Olórin I was in the West that is forgotten, and only to those who are there shall I speak more openly.”
        I would like to imagine that the time came when Bilbo and Frodo were capable of an understanding far more profound than any they might achieve in Middle-earth and that then Gandalf spoken to them again. And the time will come when we too will have the capacity to understand the story of our own lives, a capacity that now we lack.
        Again, thank you for speaking of these things.

      • My experience of the companionship of burglars is not extensive (as far as I know!) although even as I wrote that I recalled a time when I was doing casual manual labour in order to earn money while a student and discovered that many of my fellows, the kind who were there to earn a living, had done time in prison for various offences and I have no unpleasant memories of any of them. They might have been better able to deal with dragons than the board of Wal Mart or other grocers. I am still with Glóin on this.

  1. Thank you Stephen for reminding me about “The Soviet Hobbit”

    It was a 1980s TV drama production, part of a series of fairy-stories from around the world. I especially love the Proustian-Nabokhovian narrator, cane, wicker chair, who introduces it. It’s mad but it works. The music and singing are marvellous

    • I agree. It really does work, and in a way that Jackson’s version really does not. I know almost no Russian but anyone who knows the story can stay with it quite easily. I intend to post it on my blog in a few days time.

  2. Pingback: Gloin’s Rank – Idiosophy

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