Tuesday, 27 November 2012

(Too much?) Hobbit talk

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I am always surprised at how few Tolkien fans have read the early drafts of Lord of the Rings published as volumes 6-9 of the History of Middle Earth edited by Christopher Tolkien. 

C.S Lewis complained that the first drafts of had too much 'Hobbit talk' - and below is one of the more extreme examples, which ended-up on the cutting room floor.

Note: 'Bingo' became Frodo; 'Odo' became Pippin; but 'Frodo' was replaced by Sam - who has a very different character and background. 


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Odo was not thinking about hobbit-history. He merely wanted to know where to look for the farm. If Farmer Maggot had lived in a hole, there would have been rising ground somewhere near; but the land ahead looked perfectly flat.

‘He lives in a house,’ answered Frodo. ‘There are very few holes in these parts. They say houses were invented here. Of course the Brandbybucks have that great burrow of theirs at Bucklebury in the high bank across the River; but most of their people live in houses. There are lots of those new-fashioned brick houses – not too bad, I suppose, in their way; though they look very naked, if you know what I mean: no decent turf-covering, all bare and bony.'

‘Fancy climbing upstairs to bed!’ said Odo. ‘That seems to me most inconvenient. Hobbits aren’t birds.’

‘I don’t know,’ said Bingo. ‘It isn’t as bad as it sounds; though personally I never like looking out of upstairs windows, it makes me a bit giddy. There are some houses that have three stages, bedrooms above bedroom. I slept in one once long ago on a holiday; the wind kept me awake all night.’

‘What a nuisance, if you want a handkerchief or something when you are downstairs, and find it is upstairs,” said Odo.

‘You could keep handkerchiefs downstairs, if you wished,’ said Frodo.

‘You could, but I don’t believe anybody does.’

‘That is not the houses’ fault,’ said Bingo; ‘it is just the silliness of the hobbits that live in them. . . .  If ever I live in a house, I shall keep everything I want downstairs, and only go up when I don’t want anything; or perhaps I shall have a cold supper upstairs in the dark on a starry night.’

‘And have to carry plates and things downstairs, if you don’t fall all the way down,’ laughed Odo.

‘No!’ said Bingo. ‘I shall have wooden plates and bowls, and throw them out of the window. There will be thick grass all round my house.’

‘But you would still have to carry your supper upstairs,’ said Odo.

‘O well then, perhaps I should not have supper upstairs,’ said Bingo. ‘It was only just an idea. I don’t suppose I shall ever live in a house. As far as I can see, I am going to be just a wandering beggar.’

This very hobbit-like conversation went on for some time. 

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J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the Shadow (1988), pp. 92-93. Vol. 6 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. C.Tolkien. H/T to  http://users.bestweb.net/~jfgm/Letters/HobbitTalkPage.htm  for transcribing the above.

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Tolkien later wrote that he was 'personally immensely amused by hobbits as such, and can contemplate them eating and making their rather fatuous jokes indefinitely...'

I find I agree, on the whole; and have always found the Shire parts of LotR among my favourite parts of the book.

For those who share this taste, there is a great deal to enjoy in the first and last volumes of Christopher Tolkien's books on the History of the Lord of the Rings. 

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3 comments:

Deniz Bevan said...

I agree! I like the "high" stuff just as much, but there's a different tone to the hobbit scenes. I love that bit in LOTR for instance with Merry and Pippin at the gates of Isengard ("here he gave the other a dig with his foot"). It's fun to see more of such scenes in the History of Middle Earth.

bgc said...

@DB - Agreed.

One of my favourites is:

`Hurray!’ cried Pippin, springing up. `Here is our noble cousin! Make way for Frodo, Lord of the Ring!’

‘Hush!’ said Gandalf from the shadows at the back of the porch. `Evil things do not come into this valley; but all the same we should not name them. The Lord of the Ring is not Frodo, but the master of the Dark Tower of Mordor, whose power is again stretching out over the world! We are sitting in a fortress. Outside it is getting dark.’

`Gandalf has been saying many cheerful things like that,’ said Pippin.

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Deniz Bevan said...

Or even the somewhat sad scenes, when they return and Bilbo regifts his sword to Frodo...