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Author Topic: chapter 5: Riddles in the Dark  (Read 1577 times)

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April 20, 2013, 09:51:54 PM

merrythought

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chapter 5
Riddles in the Dark

Bilbo wakes up in the dark tunnel, alone, and begins to crawl about.  Finding a ring, he pockets it, thinking more of bacon and eggs than of this discovery.  He follows the tunnel as it descends into the earth until he comes to an underground lake.  It is here that Bilbo meets the lake’s inhabitant, Gollum, who engages him in a riddles contest; if Bilbo wins, Gollum must show him the way out of the underground cavern; if Gollum wins, Bilbo becomes his lunch!  After several riddles, Bilbo officially wins with the question, “What have I got in my pocket?”  Gollum is distraught he cannot solve this riddle; he returns to his island lake in order to get his ring of power so that he can invisibly sneak up on Bilbo and strangle him.  But, the ring is no longer there, and gradually Gollum comes to guess that it is in Bilbo’s pocket.  As Gollum lurches at Bilbo, the hobbit puts on the ring by chance, rendering himself invisible.  This enables him to follow Gollum, who thinks Bilbo has actually run ahead of him down the tunnel.

They approach a huge, partly-open door through which sunlight can be seen; Gollum stops, and smells the invisible Bilbo’s presence.  To save himself, and to access the open door, Bilbo considers killing Gollum, but decides instead to leap over him; he succeeds.  With Gollum’s hatred ringing in his ears, Bilbo runs for the open door, only to encounter goblins as the ring slips off his finger.  Yet he manages to slip it on again, and squeezes through the door and out into the forest, leaving puzzled goblins to pick up his coat buttons.

    • What qualities do you think Bilbo displays in this chapter?
    • What do you make of Bilbo’s decision not to kill Gollum?
    • There are many creepy aspects to the character of Gollum; what do you find the creepiest?  Do you find Gollum a humorous character at all?
    • Does the episode of the riddles have any meaning beyond creating suspense in the plot?
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 06:26:19 PM by atschpe »


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April 21, 2013, 08:22:23 PM
Reply #1

Evreka

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I think this is probably (- going by a very old and faint memory) one of my absolute favourite chapters in the book - it's definitely my favourite chapter so far during this read.   :hermioneread: Given nothing but this book at hand, I just love how Bilbo outsmarts this odd creature, living like an outcast deep by the roots of the mountain. Back in the days when I first read this book, I remember trying to solve the riddles before reading the correct reply and coming up with zero each time. So both of them were fantastic riddle solvers compared to me!  ;D And this fantastic ring, which you already suspects will play a great role in the future adventures! I just loved the chapter all those years ago - and I still do!   :hearts: It is every bit as funny and adventurous as I thought it should be.

This time I am burning to know what the riddles are in English....

Anyway, this is the first part in the book where I have been drawn into the story and am really being quite eager to read on...

Taking LOTR into account, the chapter is even more interesting: to read about how the One Ring fell into a Hobbit's hands (quite literally!) after being "looked after" by Gollum for so many years. It make me wonder if the Ring was so eager to return to the world it deserted Gollum because it was aware that there were more beings in the tunnels at that point and it just might find a way back to the world by lying about... Gandalf suggests part of this in LOTR, if I remember correctly, but I'm not sure on whether he suggests that the ring is aware of others presence in the tunnels when it leaves Gollum or if it just "hope" that someone else (a Goblin perhaps) might pick it up? What do you guys think?

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April 22, 2013, 10:24:16 AM
Reply #2

Hermione P

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This time I am burning to know what the riddles are in English....

Here you go!

Gollum's first riddle:

What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees
Up, up it goes
And yet never grows?

Bilbo's first riddle:

Thirty white horses on a hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.

Gollum's second riddle:

Voiceless it cries,
Wingless it flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.

Bilbo's second riddle:

An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face.
"That eye is like to this eye"
Said the first eye,
"But in low place,
Not in high place."

Gollum's third riddle:

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.

Bilbo's third riddle:

A box without hinges, key, or lid.
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

Gollum's fourth riddle:

Alive without breadth,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail ever clinking.

Bilbo's forth and final riddle:

No-legs lay on one-leg, two-legs sat near on three-legs, four-legs got some.

Gollum's fifth and final riddle:

The thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
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April 22, 2013, 09:13:48 PM
Reply #3

Evreka

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Thank you, Hermione P:hug: Like I expected they are far better in English, small poems that rhyme are far funnier than my translated ones.
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April 23, 2013, 03:18:30 PM
Reply #4

atschpe

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I agree the rhmying makes them fun. Some I also recalled from old school days (I used to go to UK influenced schools for 3 years and then another 3 years in the UK itself). Once again I think Tolkein is calling on his child reader's background. Give them something on their level to think along, or even recognise and thus be able to relate to Bilbo and maybe also Gollum on some level?
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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May 04, 2013, 03:02:51 AM
Reply #5

HealerOne

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Taking LOTR into account, the chapter is even more interesting: to read about how the One Ring fell into a Hobbit's hands (quite literally!) after being "looked after" by Gollum for so many years. It make me wonder if the Ring was so eager to return to the world it deserted Gollum because it was aware that there were more beings in the tunnels at that point and it just might find a way back to the world by lying about... Gandalf suggests part of this in LOTR, if I remember correctly, but I'm not sure on whether he suggests that the ring is aware of others presence in the tunnels when it leaves Gollum or if it just "hope" that someone else (a Goblin perhaps) might pick it up? What do you guys think?
Interesting, I did not know this about the Ring. I do know that Tolkien went back after he wrote The Ring Trilogy and rewrote parts of The Hobbit to 'conform' with the Trilogy. So maybe that was part of these rewrites.

I think it is quite interesting  that Bilbo acquires the (gold) ring without really understanding what he has. Just like a lot of people, he doesn't recognize the worth of the 'gold' that he already possess. Or is it that he isn't worthy enough to possess the 'gold' ring? (What do you think?)

Now again we have water in this formula (Alchemically). Is Bilbo being washed free of the Hobbit he was? Is this the operation of Dissolution? He certainly comes out of the experience a different Hobbit. He forgets his past here and has the small dagger to give him light. As he actually says "Go forward? Only thing to do!" He has to keep his sights on what is ahead of him rather than what he left behind. What he finds out about the ring is that he disappears when he wears it.  Interesting ... if we look at the word dissolution - it means to break up or dissolve into the elements - perhaps to disappear?

Then there is the 'leap in the dark' - it's a leap of faith - a leap towards a new life! He leaves behind more than his coat buttons! He leaves behind much of the dross of the timid Hobbit that was afraid of moving out of his comfort zone. 
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May 04, 2013, 04:56:55 PM
Reply #6

ss19

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I liked this chapter and liked the riddles, though I was a bit disappointed at myself that I couldn't solve many of the riddles (the first time I was reading the book a few years ago) and didn't want to keep trying because I'm a slow reader to begin with and can't be held up on a chapter like this trying to solve riddles.  Anyway, had to just read the answers to them in order to continue reading.  For one of the riddles, the narrator turns to talk to the readers and sounds certain that the readers could easily guess that particular riddle, which wasn't the case for me.  I don't like being "talked to" by the narrator in general when I'm reading a story.  When I'm otherwise absorbed in a story, this interrupts the flow of the story and reminds me that the story's not really happening, that it's only me sitting there reading.  This is bad for someone like me who already has a hard time with the whole "suspension of disbelief" thing and as a result doesn't like fiction in general.

Going back to this chapter, what's striking about it for me is the ethical issues that are raised here.  First, Golum suggests a game and using the result of the game to determine the fate of Bilbo.  Bilbo feels he has no choice but to accept the terms, but then he "cheats" to win the game.  It wasn't even a riddle that he used to win the game, just an unfair question that Golum has no way of knowing the answer to, other than random guessing.  I know Bilbo did not originally intend this to be his question, and was only talking to himself out loud, but when Golum mistook that to be Bilbo's riddle and was stupid enough not to protest that it's not a fair question/riddle, Bilbo took advantage of Golum and went along with using the question as his "riddle".  The only thing in my mind that makes this OK was that Bilbo was going to get eaten by Golum if he doesn't win the game, so that makes it OK for him to do whatever it takes to survive, including cheating, I think.  Harry Potter spoiler alert:
Spoiler
It's like Dumbledore telling Harry in HBP that if the Death Eaters come for him, all normal rules are out the door and Harry has his permission to do whatever it takes to defend himself.

But then, after the game, Bilbo realizes that the ring he picked up casually earlier is a valuable magical ring, and realizes that Golum lost this ring.  As far as Bilbo knows at that point, this ring belongs to Golum.  We're always teaching children that if they pick up something that doesn't belong to them, they need to give it back to whoever lost it - they can't just keep it.  Here we don't see Bilbo hesitating at all whether he should give the ring back even though he saw how distraught Golum was when he realized he lost the ring.  I know Bilbo used that ring to escape, but maybe he could have made some sort of deal with Golum where Golum showed him the way out of the tunnel, and he then gives back the ring?


Taking LOTR into account, the chapter is even more interesting: to read about how the One Ring fell into a Hobbit's hands (quite literally!) after being "looked after" by Gollum for so many years. It make me wonder if the Ring was so eager to return to the world it deserted Gollum because it was aware that there were more beings in the tunnels at that point and it just might find a way back to the world by lying about... Gandalf suggests part of this in LOTR, if I remember correctly, but I'm not sure on whether he suggests that the ring is aware of others presence in the tunnels when it leaves Gollum or if it just "hope" that someone else (a Goblin perhaps) might pick it up? What do you guys think?
Interesting, I did not know this about the Ring. I do know that Tolkien went back after he wrote The Ring Trilogy and rewrote parts of The Hobbit to 'conform' with the Trilogy. So maybe that was part of these rewrites.
Oh, good point.  I had forgotten about the rewrite.  That would make sense.

I don't know how much we're allowed to go into details here about The Lord of the Rings, in case anyone reading this book discussion hasn't read those books yet.  But we do find out in the Ring trilogy that
Spoiler
the Ring was aware of others' presence in the tunnel and wanted to get out of the tunnel, if I remember correctly.


I think it is quite interesting  that Bilbo acquires the (gold) ring without really understanding what he has. Just like a lot of people, he doesn't recognize the worth of the 'gold' that he already possess. Or is it that he isn't worthy enough to possess the 'gold' ring? (What do you think?)
Great point!  This does seem to often happen to the best of us in real life.  In Bilbo's case, he has no idea what the ring is when he picks it up, and I think part of it isn't that he's not worthy enough to possess it, but more that he seems not to have the right personality to want such a ring if he had known what it was.  Again, this has to do with what we find out later about the ring - sorry for all the spoiler tags, but I thought I'd play it safe since I'm not so sure what the spoiler policy is regarding the trilogy:
Spoiler
Knowing that the ring has powers over its possessor and sort of has a mind of its own, it probably knows that it can't have Bilbo's full cooperation if Bilbo knew about the ring's evil powers and plans, so it might have used its powers to help ensure that Bilbo stays ignorant of the ring's true worth.  Even many decades later, at the time Bilbo passed the ring on to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring, he still didn't really know much about the ring other than that it makes him invisible when he wears it.

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June 02, 2013, 12:18:47 PM
Reply #7

atschpe

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Then there is the 'leap in the dark' - it's a leap of faith - a leap towards a new life! He leaves behind more than his coat buttons! He leaves behind much of the dross of the timid Hobbit that was afraid of moving out of his comfort zone. 

Reading your thoughts here had me suddenly wondering: If I remember correctly Gollum is a former Hobbit who became so disformed due to the ring, right? If we take this figuratively, with Bilbo winning and fleeing from Gollum, he not only loses his buttons and more, as you put it, but the "gollum" within him. He overcomes the darkness and the loneliness of Gollums world and in so doing will also use the ring in a better way further on in the story. Gollum is a hobbit striped of his light and humanity – Bilbo is a Hobbit stripped from his dark and inhumanity?
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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June 02, 2013, 02:12:37 PM
Reply #8

Evreka

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Reading your thoughts here had me suddenly wondering: If I remember correctly Gollum is a former Hobbit who became so disformed due to the ring, right?
Is he? I thought he was of a people who lived near a river, who are close to hobbits but not quite that?  :ron: Or am I confused by how Gollum's back story is conveyed in one of the LOTR films?  :crabbegoyle:

I dug around a bit, and this is what I found: There are three main groups of Hobbits:
Quote
    Harfoots: The Harfoots were the most numerous group of Hobbits and also the first to enter Eriador. They were the smallest in stature of all hobbits. They had closer relations with Dwarves than did other Hobbits. Tolkien coined the term as analogous to "hairfoot".
    Fallohides: The Fallohides were the least numerous group and the second group to enter Eriador. They were generally fair-haired and tall (for Hobbits). They were often found leading other clans of Hobbits as they were more adventurous than the other races. They preferred the forests and had links with the Elves. Tolkien created the name from the archaic meanings of English words "fallow" and "hide", meaning "pale skin".
    Stoors: The Stoors were the second most numerous group of Hobbits and the last to enter Eriador. They were broader than other Hobbits. They mostly dwelt beside rivers and were the only Hobbits to use boats and swim. Males were able to grow beards. Tolkien says they were "less shy of Men". Sméagol and Déagol were Stoors. Tolkien used an archaic English word stor or stoor "strong".
Source: Wikipedia on Hobbits.

From the same source, but a bit higher up we can learn that:
Quote
Bilbo and three of the four principal hobbit characters in The Lord of the Rings (Frodo, Pippin and Merry) had Fallohide blood through their common ancestor, the Old Took.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 02:19:23 PM by Evreka »
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