. Alas, not me: August 2021

19 August 2021

Review: 'The Apprenticeship of J. R. R. Tolkien' by Simon J. Cook


Simon Cook is one of the most thoughtful and perceptive Tolkien scholars of this generation. His insights into Tolkien's relationship with his text, with Beowulf, and with the Beowulf poet inform his understanding of what Tolkien was doing when he set out to write what he at first called 'the new Hobbit', but which we know as The Lord of the Rings. Like most books worth actually reading once, The Apprenticeship of J. R. R. Tolkien is worth reading twice. I thought it terrific when I first read it three years ago. Now after three years spent reading, thinking, and writing about Tolkien myself, I have reread it and am now even more convinced of this work's value than I was then.

08 August 2021

Frodo and Bilbo in the Hall of Fire (FR 2.i.230-33, 236-38) -- A Managed Meeting?

It is easily forgotten that Sam must have witnessed the moment when Frodo wished to strike Bilbo for reaching for the Ring. He arrived just after Elrond left the two of them alone. Whether Sam had any part in the conversation before Bilbo asked about the Ring is unclear,* but as soon as Frodo's reaction prompts Bilbo to change the subject to news of the Shire Sam chimes in. This continues until Strider arrives and takes Bilbo away to confer on poetry. 

If we look back at this sequence from the perspective of Sam’s arrival later that evening to prompt Frodo to go to bed, we may reasonably wonder if Frodo and Bilbo are here being ‘managed’ by Gandalf and Elrond. In this Bilbo may be complicit to some degree, and Sam of course has played the spy more than once already. It is also true that Gandalf and Elrond had already 'managed' Bilbo's volunteering to go back and collect the Ring. 


*Consider the following sentences, in which 'they' at the beginning of the second sentence might include Sam, or exclude him as 'them' at the end of the first does:

'In the meanwhile Frodo and Bilbo sat side by side, and Sam came quickly and placed himself near them. They talked together in soft voices, oblivious of the mirth and music in the hall about them.'

        FR 2.i.231

I think that on balance 'they' does not include Sam, directly following 'them' as it does, but that might not be correct.