Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finder's keepers?

One thing I have noticed is Bilbo's tendency to stumble upon things that aren't his and take them for himself. While lost in the goblin caves, he stumbles upon the Ring in the dark and puts it in his pocket "almost without thinking," (The Hobbit, Ch. V). It is almost impossible to see this as an accident, but rather as fate/destiny because the caves are miles long, pitch black, and The Ring is very small. Later, in the depths of the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo finds the Arkenstone. He takes this as well when his arm "went towards it drawn by its enchantment," (The Hobbit, Ch. XIII). Admittedly, being drawn towards and taking a bright gem that he knows rightfully belongs to someone else is rather different from picking up an insignificant trinket off the floor. However, both instances have much greater repercussions in the future. Bilbo also has a difficult time giving up both items. The Arkenstone he gives in an effort to stop a war; the Ring he gives up only at Gandalf's urging. I see Bilbo's encounter with the Arkenstone as a foil for the more important relationship he has with the Ring. I think Tolkien used both instances to emphasize the importance of fate (stumbling upon both items because Bilbo was meant to) and free choice (freely giving up both powerful objects for different reasons and to different ends).

4 comments:

Elladan said...

What if Bilbo's tendency to stumble upon things and claim them as his own is partially due to Gandalf and the Dwarves' constant reminders that he is a "burglar?" In the beginning of the story, Bilbo is tenaciously opposed to the idea of himself as a burglar. However, along the journey, he is constantly pushed into difficult situations by his companions with the only explanation being "you're the burglar!" I agree with all of Elwing's above comments and ideas, but wanted to add this as well.

Radagast said...

I think that's an interesting idea, but it also kind of seems like this is a tendancy of Bilbo's before he sets out. I don't have evidence of him taking things that weren't his before he left, but the quote that Elwing used, that Bilbo took the ring and put it in his pocket "almost without thinking" could show that this was a tendancy he already had. Because at this point, Bilbo isn't thinking that he is a burglar and it's his job to steal; he just does it "without thinking", like a habbit. Just an interesting thought.

Fingolfin said...

I think that this is a prime example of the idea that Tolkien planted in the story of how certain objects or ideas/goals uncontrollably attract people. Bilbo is drawn to both the Ring and the Arkenstone (literally by the Ring and figuratively by the Arkenstone) and Thorin finds himself stunned upon seeing the Arkenstone in someone else's hands. In addition, Thorin's quest is to destroy the dragon while Bilbo's quest is only to return home; however, both do not let ANYTHING deter them from their path, and they ultimately define themselves by their goals and dreams.

Miriel said...

I thought the greed that was shown by the finding of the treasure and the killing of Smaug is very interesting to look at. Everyone was wanting a portion of the treasure so much that they would kill their own allies! Tolkien really made this a big deal, and was trying to make the point that we all have a greed inside of us that can be scary if we don't pay attention to it. Bilbo and Gandalf (in the end) were the only characters that did not desire a portion of the treasure.