April 26, 2021

#08-075: The Hobbit - Part I

line drawing of a barefoot little man smoking a pipe, wearing breeches and a coat
Bilbo Baggins, drawn by Tolkien

Note: In Part I of the story, homebody Bilbo Baggins is convinced to leave his cozy hole in the ground and help some dwarves recover their treasure--from a dragon!

Get Ready: Are you adventurous? Why do you think that is?

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

So begins J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved 1937 adventure story, The Hobbit. Often thought of as a mere prequel to his grander, more mythic Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is in fact a stand-alone story, as proven by its subtitle: There and Back Again.

In that "hole" lives one Bilbo Baggins, of Bag End, THE Hobbit (among many). Like all Hobbits of the Shire, Bilbo is about half the height of the average human, and extremely fond of home.

So it is ironic that duty calls him to undertake a journey of roughly a year and a month, in which he deals with dwarves, trolls, elves, goblins, giant spiders, a treasure-hoarding dragon, and a creepy creature--once a hobbit, as it turns out--named Gollum.

Bilbo's mentor, the wizard known as Gandalf the Grey, tricks him into hosting a party for the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield. During the party Bilbo reluctantly agrees to lead Thorin and his band of twelve to recover their lost treasure from the dragon Smaug in his lair under the Lonely Mountain.

With the help of elves, the party navigates the Misty Mountains, but is caught by goblins. Gandalf rescues the party, but Bilbo becomes separated from them. Wandering in the dark tunnels, he finds a ring which, he later discovers, grants invisibility. He then engages in a riddling duel with Gollum, the former owner of the ring (who is obsessed by the ring and calls it his "precious").

Games of riddles are an old, old device (like many used by Tolkien, who was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University). Here are a couple of Bilbo's riddles; try them for yourself! (Answers below.)

  1. Thirty white horses on a red hill, / First they champ, / Then they stamp, / Then they stand still.
  2. A box without hinges, key or lid, / Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

We'll finish the story in Lesson #08-076.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hobbit

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. Anglo-Saxon
  2. champ
  3. duel
  4. lair
  5. mentor
  6. mythic
  7. prequel
  8. stand-alone
  9. subtitle
  10. trilogy

  1. the "second name" of a book or film
  2. an underground home of a wild animal
  3. the oldest form of the English language
  4. a fight between two people, often to defend one's honor
  5. a teacher; a guide
  6. a book or film that precedes another
  7. a series of three books or films
  8. a book or film not part of a series
  9. like a story about gods
  10. bite down (on)

Answers are in the first comment below.

Answers to the riddles: 1. teeth 2. an egg

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 26, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. j; 3. d; 4. b; 5. e; 6. i; 7. f; 8. h; 9. a; 10. g