Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit - Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep

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Hasdrubal Hamilcar

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Nov 9, 2003, 8:41:08 PM11/9/03
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Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep

To check out the other Chapters of the Week or to sign up to do a
chapter of your own, go to http://parasha.maoltuile.org


SYNOPSIS
--------
The Dwarves and Bilbo set out of Lake-town, and cross the Long Lake and
upstream along the River Running. 3 days later they meet with supplies
sent ahead before them. The next day they came to the Lonely Mountain,
and saw the Desolation of the Dragon.

As this part of the book introduces us to the geography of the mountain
itself, which becomes important in later chapters, it is worthwhile to
invest the time to study it yourself. Make use of the map that Thror
brought, in the beginning of the book. Note: south is on the right of
the page. Note the mountain has 'spurs' extending out in all
directions. The hourglass shaped rune is the secret entrance they are
looking for. The Front Gate is where the river emerges out from mountain.

The river Running leads them to the valley of Dale, where there are no
living creatures except a few charred tree stumps and some black crows
that fly overhead. They see the Front Gate where the river emerges from
the Mountain, and it is steaming and emiting a dark smoke. They avoid
going near it. They camp by a southern spur while searching for the
secret entrance on the western side.

They dwarves start losing spirit, while Bilbo comes into his own
(element. You must remember that hobbits like living in holes, and this
is a hole like no other!) He starts reading the map intently, making
them go look for the door. The search goes on for a few days.

Then luck! They find a staircase which starts on the south side, (where
the Front Gate is), and takes them along the mountain to the western
side. There they find it, in a small 'bay' which looks like a crevice
from afar, but its far wall is smooth and flat. They call the others
and shift camp up there. They call it the 'doorstep'.

They find that they can't open the door. Bilbo sits 'on the doorstep'
watching the snails go by, daydreaming about his own home. In the last
week of autumn, when they think it is all over, Bilbo stares west at the
sun at sunset, and sees a new crescent moon. At that moment a black
thrush comes by, loudly cracks a snail against a rock, and Bilbo
suddenly understands. He gets the dwarves together, the sun goes behind
a cloud, the suspense builds, the thrush wails presciently, the sun
comes out from behind the cloud, and a beam of light hits the rock. The
rock splinters, Thorin puts the key in and the door opens.

POINTS OF DISCUSSION

1. How come Smaug didn't hear or smell them coming?

2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there
crows spying for someone over there? What significance do crows have in
other works by Tolkien?

3. Bilbo suddenly gains his spirit, while the dwarves lose theirs.
Could this be due to the ring in his pocket, or is the hobbit simply
glad to see the mountain?

4. The dwarves climb up the staircase to the secret door, in single file
with a rope tied about their waists. Is it one rope tied about them
all, or a separate one for each? What good would a rope do if one of
them fell, since they have nothing to grab on to to pull him up?

5. Can steel splinter on a rock (in the real world?) as their tools did
on the secret door?

6. Bilbo said in the dinner party that 'if you sit on the doorstep long
enough, I daresay you will think of something.' Now he is there sitting
on the doorstep, but not thinking for days. But he is no slouch or
slowpoke when it comes time to think quickly: as the sun sets he
instantly recognizes the 'sign' of the thrush and gets the whole thing
figured out in a flash. Was this fate putting Bilbo in the right place
at the right time?


7. Bilbo interprets the 'signs' in the sky and the snails, and this is
preceded by him having

"a queer feeling that he was waiting for something. 'Perhaps the
wizard will suddenly come back today,' he thought."

Is this a supernatural or intuitive feeling he had? Or is there a type
of 'providence' that guided Bilbo to the solution?

7. The great snails near the secret door. What are they all about?

8. WHAT WAS THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH that Tolkien had Bilbo recognize so
soon? Just the cracking sound of the snail?

9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
week of autumn.

This is not a rare occurence: my astronomy software (Starry Night) shows
that it should happen twice every decade (after 11 years, then after 3
years, then 11 again then 3 and it repeats roughly.)

10. Please add anything you feel is relevant to the discussion.


Hasdrubal Hamilcar

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Nov 9, 2003, 8:47:15 PM11/9/03
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Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep


(Please reply to this thread only, since the other message I sent was
not crossposted properly to rabt.)

Henriette

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Nov 10, 2003, 2:09:05 AM11/10/03
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Hasdrubal Hamilcar <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message news:<D6Crb.3488$HoK....@news01.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com>...

> Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
(snip)

>
> 1. How come Smaug didn't hear or smell them coming?

a) Because he was snoring so loudly and b)if he had heard them coming
and killed them at once, we would have missed out on some wonderful
stories:-)


>
> 2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there
> crows spying for someone over there?

I also noticed the amount of crows near this place called
RAVENhill....


>
> 3. Bilbo suddenly gains his spirit, while the dwarves lose theirs. Could
> this be due to the ring in his pocket,

Later he also looses his spirit. One would not expect this if it had
been due to the ring.


>
> 10. Please add anything you feel is relevant to the discussion.

Thank you Hasan, for a nice introduction!

Actually I have another question. There is a repeated mentioning of
harps in connection to the elves (in this chapter it says: "There was
no laughter or song or sound of harps"). I would like to know, which
harps JRRT may have meant. In NL we know the enormous concert-harp,
and the more regular harp which is about 1.50 m. in height. In
Scotland I saw some smaller harps which had been handmade. Does anyone
have an idea?

Henriette

Elwë Singollo

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Nov 10, 2003, 3:02:42 AM11/10/03
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"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> a écrit dans le
message de news:D6Crb.3488$HoK....@news01.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com...

> Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
> Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
>
snip

> POINTS OF DISCUSSION
>
> 1. How come Smaug didn't hear or smell them coming?
>
Good question ! Dragons have a higly developed sense of smell (as we learn
in the next chapter), and Smaug probably didn't sleep for several days in a
row, so when he was awake in his cave, why didn't he smell the dwarves (he
does not know how hobbits smell...)? The door, being still closed at this
time, may have blocked the smell from reaching Smaug. Or maybe a dragon can
sleep for weeks in a row. What do we know about dragons' way of life? Was
Smaug going to hibernate before being disturbed by Bilbo and the dwarves?

> 2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there
> crows spying for someone over there? What significance do crows have in
> other works by Tolkien?

I don't know about crows, and the dwarves and Biblo didn't see any (who
would they be spying for?) But they saw another bird : a thrush who was
"spying". But I think we will talk more about it and its role in the
upcoming chapters, even is it already helped Bilbo to solve the door's
enigma, as you mentioned it

elwė


AC

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Nov 10, 2003, 12:48:31 PM11/10/03
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On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 01:47:15 GMT,
Hasdrubal Hamilcar <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote:
> Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
> Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep

<snip excellent synopsis>

>
> POINTS OF DISCUSSION
>
> 1. How come Smaug didn't hear or smell them coming?

I thought he was asleep.

>
> 2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there
> crows spying for someone over there? What significance do crows have in
> other works by Tolkien?

They certainly don't have a good reputation (thinking of the Crebain of
Dunland here). I can't believe that Smaug would have crows in his employ,
so my guess is that the enemy must refer to the goblins.

>
> 3. Bilbo suddenly gains his spirit, while the dwarves lose theirs. Could
> this be due to the ring in his pocket, or is the hobbit simply glad to
> see the mountain?

I don't think it has anything to do with the Ring. I think it was more the
Mountain than anything else.

>
> 4. The dwarves climb up the staircase to the secret door, in single file
> with a rope tied about their waists. Is it one rope tied about them
> all, or a separate one for each? What good would a rope do if one of
> them fell, since they have nothing to grab on to to pull him up?

If the rope is tied to them all, and if one falls then, theoretically at
least, the others might have sufficient strength to keep him, and them, from
falling.

>
> 7. Bilbo interprets the 'signs' in the sky and the snails, and this is
> preceded by him having
>
> "a queer feeling that he was waiting for something. 'Perhaps the
> wizard will suddenly come back today,' he thought."
>
> Is this a supernatural or intuitive feeling he had? Or is there a type
> of 'providence' that guided Bilbo to the solution?

Frankly, I think it's just intuition.

--
Aaron Clausen

tao...@alberni.net

Troels Forchhammer

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Nov 10, 2003, 2:08:45 PM11/10/03
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in <be50318e.03110...@posting.google.com>,
Henriette <held...@hotmail.com> enriched us with:

>
> Actually I have another question. There is a repeated mentioning of
> harps in connection to the elves (in this chapter it says: "There was
> no laughter or song or sound of harps"). I would like to know, which
> harps JRRT may have meant.

In chapter 1 Thorin has a harp:
/An Unexpected Party/
"Dwalin and Balin said: 'Excuse me, I left mine in the porch!'
'Just bring mine in with you,' said Thorin. They came back
with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin's harp
wrapped in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, ..."

Since it appears to be one he is travelling with (he probably lost it when
they were caught by the goblins if he didn't store it somewhere) I would
guess that it is of the lap model; the smaller harp (is it called a "Celtic
harp"?).

I have taken that to imply that this was the kind of harps that are meant
in this later reference, but of course that is nothing but a baseless
association in my mind ;-)

Still - both the harps of the Dwarves and the harps of the Elves appear to
be of the sort that is more easily transported - i.e. the lap type.

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail address is t.forch(a)mail.dk

Hasdrubal Hamilcar

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Nov 10, 2003, 3:32:43 PM11/10/03
to

Henriette wrote:

> Hasdrubal Hamilcar <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message news:<D6Crb.3488$HoK....@news01.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com>...
>
>>Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
>
> (snip)

>>2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there
>>crows spying for someone over there?
>
>
> I also noticed the amount of crows near this place called
> RAVENhill....
>

I didn't think of that! I wonder what crows mean in real life folkore
though?

>
>
> Thank you Hasan, for a nice introduction!
>

Glad you liked it, Henriette!

Hasan


One-White-Tree

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Nov 10, 2003, 4:06:02 PM11/10/03
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Hasdrubal Hamilcar <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message news:<D6Crb.3488$HoK....@news01.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com>...
> POINTS OF DISCUSSION
>
> 1. How come Smaug didn't hear or smell them coming?

Possibly - and it is a possibly - he wasn't trying? Nothing's come
down there in god knows how long - possibly Smaug writes any signs off
as his imagination?

A faint smell of dwarf? A distant sound of rock splintering?
Smaug thinks. Could someone be breaking in?
"Naah," he replies to himself, and gets back to sleep.



> 3. Bilbo suddenly gains his spirit, while the dwarves lose theirs. Could
> this be due to the ring in his pocket, or is the hobbit simply glad to
> see the mountain?

One thing that becomes clearer through reading 'the Hobbit' is that
Thorin's Company are not really the stuff of heroes. One exception
might well be Thorin himself, who comes off as a haughty, petulant
warrior, a little like a dwarven Achilles. Balin's exploits in Moria
have yet to come to pass, and there certainly aren't any clues about
his desire to reconquer Khazad-Dum in 'the Hobbit.' When you get down
to it, these guys are a bunch of *miners* with a daffy plan and vague,
unlikely notions of vengeance for their kin, and they're most likely
somewhat daunted (possibly even ashamed) at their own inadequacy for
the task ahead.

Bilbo, on the other hand, has really come into his own. Of all of
them, he's the one who sees this trip as 'an adventure', not a
gold-hunt or a fulfilled grudge. As such he's no doubt the one to be
heartened at the sight of the quest's end - he's the one who's seeing
and thinking like the storybook hero, because of all of them, he is
one. Not to mention he's had a fairly comfy time in Lake-Town to
revive his spirits, and of all the Company he's the one who would
derive the most pleasure from food and comfort (Bombur might well have
appreciate the food more, though).

> THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH

Fairly cryptic, this, but we have a thrush cracking a snail upon a
rock... a symbol of opening a shell, the snail's home, in an
unconventional way, being some kind of Delphic metaphor for the
opening of the side-door? I'm not convinced, but it's all that
occurred to me.

One-White-Tree

Hellekin

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Nov 10, 2003, 4:48:53 PM11/10/03
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"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message
news:LBSrb.4193$lK1...@news04.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com...

> I wonder what crows mean in real life folkore
> though?

Often they are a portent of evil or of evil deeds.
Crows have often been associated with divination and luck. A lone crow over
a dwelling was a portent of death within: "A crow on the thatch, soon death
lifts the latch." In certain Celtic areas, it was bad luck for one crow to
cross your path. But two was good luck: "Two crows I see, good luck to me"

Ravens are associated with the devil in many parts Britain - the Great Black
Bird would carry bad children away and if crows or ravens were subdued it
was seen to be them preparing to visit the devil to pay tribute. They do
have some good associations - Alexander the Great followed two heaven-sent
ravens successfully across the desert.


One-White-Tree

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Nov 10, 2003, 9:21:40 PM11/10/03
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AC <tao...@alberni.net> wrote in message news:<slrnbqvjr7...@namibia.tandem>...

> >
> > Is this a supernatural or intuitive feeling he had? Or is there a type
> > of 'providence' that guided Bilbo to the solution?
>
> Frankly, I think it's just intuition.

I know that LotR hadn't been written yet... but after reading it, I
was struck by the very definite prescence of Fate in what was going
on. Bilbo's sudden intuition here reminds me of Sam upon Mount Doom,
suddenly *knowing* that he has to hurry, or it will be too late.

Stan Brown

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Nov 10, 2003, 10:44:08 PM11/10/03
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In article <3faf4624$1...@epflnews.epfl.ch> in rec.arts.books.tolkien,
Elwë Singollo <Elwe.S...@doriath.me> wrote:
>Good question ! Dragons have a higly developed sense of smell (as we learn
>in the next chapter), and Smaug probably didn't sleep for several days in a
>row, so when he was awake in his cave, why didn't he smell the dwarves (he
>does not know how hobbits smell...)? The door, being still closed at this
>time, may have blocked the smell from reaching Smaug.

Yes, I think so. Remember that when the door was closed there wasn't
even a crack visible. That suggests that it was nearly airtight if
not actually so.

But I don't think Smaug's sense of smell was all that keen, in the
sense of being able to smell things far away. (The dwarves' door
must have been a mile or more from Smaug's bed.) Rather, it seems to
be keen in separating one smell from another, so that he can tell a
dwarf-ridden pony from one not ridden by a dwarf, for instance.
(Taste helps, too.)

>Or maybe a dragon can
>sleep for weeks in a row. What do we know about dragons' way of life? Was
>Smaug going to hibernate before being disturbed by Bilbo and the dwarves?

We don't know a lot about dragons' way of life. I tend to think of
them as basically large lizards with wings. Certainly they are
reptilian: Tolkien refers to "scales", after all.

Reptiles use little energy when not active. So if Smaug slept the
days away he should be able to go many days without food. Also
helping this was the cube-square law (larger animals need less food
proportionately than smaller animals of similar shape), and the fact
that he was underground, in a rock chamber that would not lose heat
quickly once he had heated it with his breath.

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/tech/faqget.htm

Stan Brown

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Nov 10, 2003, 10:45:50 PM11/10/03
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In article
<D6Crb.3488$HoK....@news01.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com> in
rec.arts.books.tolkien, Hasdrubal Hamilcar
<syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote:
>5. Can steel splinter on a rock (in the real world?) as their tools did
>on the secret door?

I don't believe so. The steel in Dwarves' picks would have been
hardened, but anyway metals are harder than rocks as far as I know.

I think this must be the magic of the dwarves that built the door.

Henriette

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Nov 11, 2003, 4:53:49 AM11/11/03
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"Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message news:<1nRrb.2292$g4.5...@news2.nokia.com>...

>
> In chapter 1 Thorin has a harp:
> /An Unexpected Party/
> "Dwalin and Balin said: 'Excuse me, I left mine in the porch!'
> 'Just bring mine in with you,' said Thorin. They came back
> with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin's harp
> wrapped in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, ..."
>
> Since it appears to be one he is travelling with (he probably lost it when
> they were caught by the goblins if he didn't store it somewhere) I would
> guess that it is of the lap model; the smaller harp (is it called a "Celtic
> harp"?).

"We"(Dutch) call the appr. 1.50 m. in height harp the Celtic harp.


>
> I have taken that to imply that this was the kind of harps that are meant
> in this later reference, but of course that is nothing but a baseless
> association in my mind ;-)

Yes, they don't necessarily have to be of the same kind. I vaguely
remember I saw (starts whispering)in the movie one of the 1.50 m ones.


>
> Still - both the harps of the Dwarves and the harps of the Elves appear to
> be of the sort that is more easily transported - i.e. the lap type.

I agree. They are not/hardly known in NL, as opposed to the big ones,
too bad.
Thank you Troels, for your contribution!

Henriette

Henriette

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Nov 11, 2003, 5:03:24 AM11/11/03
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"Hellekin" <hellek...@hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<bop144$n7u$1...@titan.btinternet.com>...
>
> Ravens are associated with the devil in many parts Britain - (snip)

Not our Raven, I hope. He's having a hard time as it is, being called
names in certain threads by certain posters.

Henriette

Dirk Thierbach

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Nov 11, 2003, 6:14:17 AM11/11/03
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Hasdrubal Hamilcar <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote:

> as the sun sets [Bilbo] instantly recognizes the 'sign' of the


> thrush and gets the whole thing figured out in a flash.

[...]


> 8. WHAT WAS THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH that Tolkien had Bilbo recognize so
> soon? Just the cracking sound of the snail?

Bilbo remembered the moon-letters on the map that had been discovered
in Rivendell:

"Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks," read Elrond, "and
the setting sun with the last light of Durin's Day will shine upon
the key-hole."

- Dirk

Jette Goldie

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Nov 11, 2003, 3:12:47 PM11/11/03
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"Hellekin" <hellek...@hotmail.com> wrote

> Ravens are associated with the devil in many parts Britain - the Great
Black
> Bird would carry bad children away and if crows or ravens were subdued it
> was seen to be them preparing to visit the devil to pay tribute. They do
> have some good associations - Alexander the Great followed two heaven-sent
> ravens successfully across the desert.
>
>

yet they are also associated with good luck in certain parts
of Britain. It is said that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower
of London, England will fall..... which is why their wings are
clipped so they can't fly far and new birds are brought from
far off regions of Britain to bring new blood into the line <g>


--
Jette
"Work for Peace and remain Fiercely Loving" - Jim Byrnes
je...@blueyonder.co.uk
http://www.jette.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/


Hellekin

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Nov 11, 2003, 3:40:58 PM11/11/03
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"Jette Goldie" <j...@blueyonder.com.uk> wrote in message
news:3pbsb.865$H32.5...@news-text.cableinet.net...

>
> yet they are also associated with good luck in certain parts
> of Britain. It is said that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower
> of London, England will fall..... which is why their wings are
> clipped so they can't fly far and new birds are brought from
> far off regions of Britain to bring new blood into the line <g>

Oh that's true - I forgot about that. Maybe they have a guardian status in
that sense too?

They're bloody huge things - quite intimidating. Scarecrows seem to be quite
effective though. I wonder whether their nature as scavengers is relevant?


Raven

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Nov 11, 2003, 2:47:09 PM11/11/03
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"Henriette" <held...@hotmail.com> skrev i en meddelelse
news:be50318e.0311...@posting.google.com...

Ravens were associated with wisdom in these parts. In the old religion
[1], Odin had two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), as messengers
and spies. Judging by Tolkien's depiction of ravens in TH I should guess
that he had this association in mind, but crows, both in TH and in FotR,
played more sinister roles.

[1] The old religion, the Asatru (that's "Asa-tru", meaning Asa-belief), has
been recognized officially in Denmark just recently. You can be married and
buried according to rituals of it. This has been the case in Iceland for a
long time, IIRC.

Marghvran.


Kirsten

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Nov 11, 2003, 5:29:18 PM11/11/03
to
Henriette wrote:
> "Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message
> news:<1nRrb.2292$g4.5...@news2.nokia.com>...
>>
>> In chapter 1 Thorin has a harp:
>> /An Unexpected Party/
>> "Dwalin and Balin said: 'Excuse me, I left mine in the porch!'
>> 'Just bring mine in with you,' said Thorin. They came back
>> with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin's harp
>> wrapped in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, ..."
>>
>> Since it appears to be one he is travelling with (he probably lost
>> it when they were caught by the goblins if he didn't store it
>> somewhere) I would guess that it is of the lap model; the smaller
>> harp (is it called a "Celtic harp"?).
>
> "We"(Dutch) call the appr. 1.50 m. in height harp the Celtic harp.
>>

A clarsach, in Scotland, is a wee harp.

Och.

Kirsten


Henriette

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Nov 12, 2003, 9:49:37 AM11/12/03
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"Kirsten" <kirstent...@free.ofspam> wrote in message news:<3fb16258$0$235$626a...@news.free.fr>...

> Henriette wrote:
> >
> > "We"(Dutch) call the appr. 1.50 m. in height harp the Celtic harp.
> >>
>
> A clarsach, in Scotland, is a wee harp.
>
> Och.
>
Wee = small? Does clarsach mean anything?

Henriette

Jamie Andrews; real address @ bottom of message

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Nov 12, 2003, 12:47:05 PM11/12/03
to
In rec.arts.books.tolkien Dirk Thierbach <dthie...@gmx.de> wrote:

> Hasdrubal Hamilcar <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote:
>> 8. WHAT WAS THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH that Tolkien had Bilbo recognize so
>> soon? Just the cracking sound of the snail?
> Bilbo remembered the moon-letters on the map that had been discovered
> in Rivendell:
> "Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks," read Elrond, "and
> the setting sun with the last light of Durin's Day will shine upon
> the key-hole."

Heh... I remember that when I first read this chapter, at
age 12 or so, I had by this time completely forgotten the
moon-runes. The whole significance of the thrush knocking was
completely lost on me, and I was befuddled about Bilbo's eureka
moment.

I wonder (possibly to give myself more credit than I
deserve) whether this was because I was (and still am) a
birdwatcher, and so the word "thrush" had no particular
significance to me -- it's not the kind of word that I would
remember having been mentioned earlier, because it was a word
that was in my mind a lot.

Since we're on things ornithological... an interesting
tidbit is that in Scandinavia they have an easy way of
distinguishing crows and ravens... all crows have some white on
them, and all ravens are completely black. In North America,
all crows and ravens are completely black and we have to rely on
other cues (size, voice, tail, throat feathers) to distinguish a
crow and a raven. City dwellers often can't tell the difference
unless they are birdwatchers. (I don't think I could have at
age 12.) So I was a bit surprised that everyone in _The Hobbit_
could tell the difference.

In the UK, some crows are completely black and some have
white on them, and there are two other common species of
crow-like birds (rooks and jackdaws). Also, there are famous
ravens like those on the Tower of London. So although in the UK
they don't have the easy Scandinavian way of distinguishing, I
guess Tolkien assumed that his readers had enough of an
awareness of corvids that they would be unfazed by the talk
about crows and ravens being different.

--Jamie. (nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita)
andrews .uwo } Merge these two lines to obtain my e-mail address.
@csd .ca } (Unsolicited "bulk" e-mail costs everyone.)

Kirsten

unread,
Nov 12, 2003, 1:16:12 PM11/12/03
to
Wee = small indeed. And I believe clarsach means just that, 'small harp.'
Sorry to be uninteresting there. And it's called Celtic harp as well, just
like Troels said. And they do look a bit on the large side for hand luggage,
even if they're not necessarily 1,5 metres high. But then, 'dwarves make
light of burdens,' right?

Kirsten


put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru

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Nov 12, 2003, 6:47:20 PM11/12/03
to
Stan Brown wrote:
> In article <3faf4624$1...@epflnews.epfl.ch> in rec.arts.books.tolkien,
> Elwë Singollo <Elwe.S...@doriath.me> wrote:
[...]

> >Or maybe a dragon can
> >sleep for weeks in a row. What do we know about dragons' way of life? Was
> >Smaug going to hibernate before being disturbed by Bilbo and the dwarves?
>
> We don't know a lot about dragons' way of life. I tend to think of
> them as basically large lizards with wings. Certainly they are
> reptilian: Tolkien refers to "scales", after all.

Two questions:
1. What is Dragons' life expectancy? (100 yrs estimate for the childhood
of Glaurung is nearly the only clue I have)

2. How do Dragons generate fire? (NB: I like Herbert's sandworms and
rather detailed descriptions of how a sandworm works. Biomass' decay can
produce methane and (less common) heavier hydrocarbons - anyone to play
Jove and report back?)

TIA

Archie

put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru

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Nov 12, 2003, 6:47:31 PM11/12/03
to
Hasdrubal Hamilcar wrote:
> Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
> Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
>
>
> (Please reply to this thread only, since the other message I sent was
> not crossposted properly to rabt.)
>
> To check out the other Chapters of the Week or to sign up to do a
> chapter of your own, go to http://parasha.maoltuile.org
>
>
>
> SYNOPSIS
> --------
[...]

> The river Running leads them to the valley of Dale, where there are no
> living creatures except a few charred tree stumps and some black crows
> that fly overhead. They see the Front Gate where the river emerges from
> the Mountain, and it is steaming and emiting a dark smoke. They avoid
> going near it. They camp by a southern spur while searching for the
> secret entrance on the western side.
...Everybody wants the benefit of sunlight...


> They dwarves start losing spirit, while Bilbo comes into his own
> (element. You must remember that hobbits like living in holes, and this
> is a hole like no other!)
Yup :-|

> ... He starts reading the map intently, making

> them go look for the door. The search goes on for a few days.

I can only note that (it was discussed a year or so ago) Dwarves rode
ponies while in the LotR Gimli is reluctant to mount the horse given by
Eomer. Then I was offered a bunch of explanations, including: a) Gimli
had an idiosyncratic dislike for horses, b) Dwarves did not usually keep
domestic animals.

[...]
> POINTS OF DISCUSSION
[...]

> 2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there

> crows spying for someone over there? ...
Not to look me-tooistic, but I think they spied for the goblins (also
noted by several posters). Crebain as evil flying agents in the LotR are
direct 'thematic' descendants from and connection with the Hobbit.

> ... What significance do crows have in
> other works by Tolkien?
The only other remarkable appearance of crows in the large Tolkien corpus
(besides crebain) is IIRC carrion birds in Dorthonion, when Beren comes
too late to save his father's guerrilla cell.



> 3. Bilbo suddenly gains his spirit, while the dwarves lose theirs. Could
> this be due to the ring in his pocket, or is the hobbit simply glad to
> see the mountain?

Apart from everything else that has been discussed in the thread, Bilbo
is confronted with a puzzle - a crucial one if he wants to retain self-
esteem and still be respected by the Dwarves. His subconscience starts
working on the problem while he ponders consciously over the map. This
activity is likely to cheer up any scholar, and Bilbo would make the
greatest scholar among the Hobbits in the LotR.



> 4. The dwarves climb up the staircase to the secret door, in single file
> with a rope tied about their waists. Is it one rope tied about them
> all, or a separate one for each? What good would a rope do if one of
> them fell, since they have nothing to grab on to to pull him up?

You'd better ask yourself what is the minimum number of falling dwarves
after which the rope system becomes unstable no matter what effort the
remaining fellows exert.



> 5. Can steel splinter on a rock (in the real world?) as their tools did
> on the secret door?

Too much carbon in the steel... or Dwarven magic may be involved.



> 6. Bilbo said in the dinner party that 'if you sit on the doorstep long
> enough, I daresay you will think of something.' Now he is there sitting
> on the doorstep, but not thinking for days. But he is no slouch or
> slowpoke when it comes time to think quickly: as the sun sets he
> instantly recognizes the 'sign' of the thrush and gets the whole thing
> figured out in a flash. Was this fate putting Bilbo in the right place
> at the right time?

See above: he had solved the problem unconsciously (why am I reminded
about benzol and the periodic table of elements?)



> 7. Bilbo interprets the 'signs' in the sky and the snails, and this is
> preceded by him having
>
> "a queer feeling that he was waiting for something. 'Perhaps the
> wizard will suddenly come back today,' he thought."
>
> Is this a supernatural or intuitive feeling he had? Or is there a type
> of 'providence' that guided Bilbo to the solution?

Such a queer feeling is indeed, associated with outside influence.
(Someone Big just tipping the scales slightly.)



> 7. The great snails near the secret door. What are they all about?

They are full of symbolism...



> 8. WHAT WAS THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH that Tolkien had Bilbo recognize so
> soon? Just the cracking sound of the snail?

<s>See above. The snails symbolize the French Norman romantic spirit,
while the thrush is the spirit of Norse sagas (Hugin - see Raven's post).
Basically, Tolkien was bashing the French :-)</s>



> 9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
> autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
> moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
> week of autumn.
>
> This is not a rare occurence: my astronomy software (Starry Night) shows
> that it should happen twice every decade (after 11 years, then after 3
> years, then 11 again then 3 and it repeats roughly.)

...meaning, of course, that assuming modern solar/lunar orbits one can
work back from the LotR moon phases to Bilbo's Adventure and check if
Prof.Tolkien thought out this minor source of possible inconsistency in
chronology.

It seems to me that story-internally, the Dwarves made the time lock to
ward off potential attackers.

BTW: is Erebor a sleeping volcano?

Archie

Hasdrubal Hamilcar

unread,
Nov 12, 2003, 8:10:31 PM11/12/03
to

put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru wrote:

>
>>4. The dwarves climb up the staircase to the secret door, in single file
>>with a rope tied about their waists. Is it one rope tied about them
>>all, or a separate one for each? What good would a rope do if one of
>>them fell, since they have nothing to grab on to to pull him up?
>
> You'd better ask yourself what is the minimum number of falling dwarves
> after which the rope system becomes unstable no matter what effort the
> remaining fellows exert.
>

Given that there is nothing to hold on to on the cliff wall, the line of
13 dwarves cannot withstand even a slight transverse force (e.g. a
single dwarf falling down.)

The whole thing was for naught.

>
>>5. Can steel splinter on a rock (in the real world?) as their tools did
>>on the secret door?
>
> Too much carbon in the steel... or Dwarven magic may be involved.
>
>
>>6. Bilbo said in the dinner party that 'if you sit on the doorstep long
>>enough, I daresay you will think of something.' Now he is there sitting
>>on the doorstep, but not thinking for days. But he is no slouch or
>>slowpoke when it comes time to think quickly: as the sun sets he
>>instantly recognizes the 'sign' of the thrush and gets the whole thing
>>figured out in a flash. Was this fate putting Bilbo in the right place
>>at the right time?
>
> See above: he had solved the problem unconsciously (why am I reminded
> about benzol and the periodic table of elements?)
>

That is exactly what I think now. It was his unconscious that caused
the 'queer feelings' that he started feeling right around sunset. He
saw the signs, but only after the thrush knocked did he grasp it in his
conscious mind.

Sadly, this theory lets you dispense with the metaphysical explanation
in favour of the unconscious mind one.

>
>>7. Bilbo interprets the 'signs' in the sky and the snails, and this is
>>preceded by him having
>>
>> "a queer feeling that he was waiting for something. 'Perhaps the
>>wizard will suddenly come back today,' he thought."
>>
>>Is this a supernatural or intuitive feeling he had? Or is there a type
>>of 'providence' that guided Bilbo to the solution?
>
> Such a queer feeling is indeed, associated with outside influence.
> (Someone Big just tipping the scales slightly.)

The unconscious would also affect you that way, causing physical mood
shifts and 'weird' effects for no explicable reason.

>
>
>>7. The great snails near the secret door. What are they all about?
>
> They are full of symbolism...
>
>
>>8. WHAT WAS THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH that Tolkien had Bilbo recognize so
>>soon? Just the cracking sound of the snail?
>
> <s>See above. The snails symbolize the French Norman romantic spirit,
> while the thrush is the spirit of Norse sagas (Hugin - see Raven's post).
> Basically, Tolkien was bashing the French :-)</s>
>

LOL.

>
>>9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
>>autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
>>moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
>>week of autumn.
>>
>>This is not a rare occurence: my astronomy software (Starry Night) shows
>>that it should happen twice every decade (after 11 years, then after 3
>>years, then 11 again then 3 and it repeats roughly.)
>
> ...meaning, of course, that assuming modern solar/lunar orbits one can
> work back from the LotR moon phases to Bilbo's Adventure and check if
> Prof.Tolkien thought out this minor source of possible inconsistency in
> chronology.
>

I don't think that a crescent moon is visible anytime while the sun is
still up.

When I look for the crescent moon for the start and end of Ramadhan, I
always start looking just after sunset. It is not possible (IIRC) to
see it before then, since it's too faint. How could Bilbo have seen it
while the sun was still a few degrees above the horizon? Was Tolkien
talking about the 2nd or 3rd day crescent moon here? The Rivendell
chapter says that "Durin's day" extended over all the days when the moon
was in the sky with the sun. Maybe this was a hack/rewrite of the story
that Tolkien had to make to make his scenario fit in with the reality of
astronomy. If it was the 2nd day moon, then one would have to explain
why Bilbo never saw the sun moon conjunction before.

Hasdrubal Hamilcar

unread,
Nov 12, 2003, 8:20:03 PM11/12/03
to

One-White-Tree wrote:

>
>>THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH
>
>
> Fairly cryptic, this, but we have a thrush cracking a snail upon a
> rock... a symbol of opening a shell, the snail's home, in an
> unconventional way, being some kind of Delphic metaphor for the
> opening of the side-door? I'm not convinced, but it's all that
> occurred to me.

I think this has been explained (cf. chapter 3) but I had a small idea
related to yours.

My first impression was that Bilbo subconsiously identified himself with
the snails, since both the snails and his party were sitting in front of
the mountain idling in the sheltered bay. Plus the book says he sat
there watching them all day. So when the thrush cracked open the snail
shell, that represented his waiting being over, and the rock of the
mountainside opening.


Hasan

AC

unread,
Nov 12, 2003, 8:52:06 PM11/12/03
to
On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 01:10:31 GMT,
Hasdrubal Hamilcar <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote:
>
>
> put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru wrote:
>
>>
>>>4. The dwarves climb up the staircase to the secret door, in single file
>>>with a rope tied about their waists. Is it one rope tied about them
>>>all, or a separate one for each? What good would a rope do if one of
>>>them fell, since they have nothing to grab on to to pull him up?
>>
>> You'd better ask yourself what is the minimum number of falling dwarves
>> after which the rope system becomes unstable no matter what effort the
>> remaining fellows exert.
>>
>
> Given that there is nothing to hold on to on the cliff wall, the line of
> 13 dwarves cannot withstand even a slight transverse force (e.g. a
> single dwarf falling down.)
>
> The whole thing was for naught.

Nothing ruins a good adventure story like physics.

<snip>

--
Aaron Clausen

tao_of_cow/\alberni.net (replace /\ with @) or mightym...@yahoo.ca

Stan Brown

unread,
Nov 12, 2003, 10:10:28 PM11/12/03
to
In article <MPG.1a1cc2bf1d...@news.mtu-net.ru> in
rec.arts.books.tolkien, <put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru>
wrote:

>1. What is Dragons' life expectancy?

"Practically forever", according to Chapter 1 of /The Hobbit/:

"Dragons steal gold and jewels, you know, from men and elves and
dwarves, wherever they can find them; and they guard their plunder
as long as they live (which is practically forever, unless they are
killed). ..."

Henriette

unread,
Nov 13, 2003, 4:46:45 AM11/13/03
to
"Kirsten" <kirstent...@free.ofspam> wrote in message news:<3fb27887$0$10422$626a...@news.free.fr>...

> >
> Wee = small indeed. And I believe clarsach means just that, 'small harp.'
> Sorry to be uninteresting there.

I find this interesting. Do you see clarsachs in regular music shops?

> And they do look a bit on the large side for hand luggage,
> even if they're not necessarily 1,5 metres high. But then, 'dwarves make
> light of burdens,' right?

I didn't realise that even a clarsach must have made quite some hand
luggage. But like you say, that may be one of the hidden meanings of
"dwarves make light of burdens".....

Henriette

John Jones

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Nov 12, 2003, 1:24:26 PM11/12/03
to
"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message
news:LBSrb.4193$lK1...@news04.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com...

> >>Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
> >>2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there
> >>crows spying for someone over there?
> >
> > I also noticed the amount of crows near this place called
> > RAVENhill....
> >

But crows are NOT the same as ravens ... har! har!
(For the benefit of members with a long memory).

Taemon

unread,
Nov 13, 2003, 2:50:04 PM11/13/03
to
Hasdrubal Hamilcar:

> When I look for the crescent moon for the start and end of Ramadhan, I
> always start looking just after sunset. It is not possible (IIRC) to
> see it before then, since it's too faint.

I can see a crescent moon during the day easily enough. The light quality is
bound to be different where you are so maybe that causes a difference? Then
the light around Erebor would have a Dutch quality :-)

T.


A Tsar Is Born

unread,
Nov 13, 2003, 3:34:16 PM11/13/03
to

"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message
news:D6Crb.3488$HoK....@news01.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com...

> POINTS OF DISCUSSION
>
> 1. How come Smaug didn't hear or smell them coming?

He was asleep. It took a LOT to wake him up.

> 2. Crows are seen and are thought to be spies of the enemy. Were there

> crows spying for someone over there? What significance do crows have in
> other works by Tolkien?

They are often spies, usually (though not in this instance) bad guys.
In Viking literature (which JRRT knew extensively), they represent
malevolent powers due to their habit of feeding on corpses after battle.
Carrion eaters (despite how very useful they are to all of us) do not get
good press in epic.

> 3. Bilbo suddenly gains his spirit, while the dwarves lose theirs. Could
> this be due to the ring in his pocket, or is the hobbit simply glad to
> see the mountain?

No, it's not the ring.

> 5. Can steel splinter on a rock (in the real world?) as their tools did
> on the secret door?

It's a magical thing. You wouldn't understand.

> 6. Bilbo said in the dinner party that 'if you sit on the doorstep long
> enough, I daresay you will think of something.' Now he is there sitting
> on the doorstep, but not thinking for days. But he is no slouch or
> slowpoke when it comes time to think quickly: as the sun sets he
> instantly recognizes the 'sign' of the thrush and gets the whole thing
> figured out in a flash. Was this fate putting Bilbo in the right place
> at the right time?

Of course.

> 9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
> autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
> moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
> week of autumn.

Autumn does not end until Dec. 21st.

If the season ends at Samhain, it is summer that becomes winter and there is
no autumn.

Tsar Parmathule


Jette Goldie

unread,
Nov 13, 2003, 4:48:23 PM11/13/03
to

"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" wrote

> I don't think that a crescent moon is visible anytime while the sun is
> still up.
>

It can be - depending on how high in the sky it is. I've seen
a crescent moon myself many times in a pale blue sky.

Jette Goldie

unread,
Nov 13, 2003, 4:48:23 PM11/13/03
to

"A Tsar Is Born" <Atsarisb...@hotmail.com> wrote

>
> > 9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
> > autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
> > moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
> > week of autumn.
>
> Autumn does not end until Dec. 21st.
>
>

Maybe where *you* live - but November is DEFINATELY
winter for most of us in Britain!

Autumn is Sept/Oct. Summer is late-May/June/July and
Aug. Spring is March/April/early-May. November, December, January
and February are winter.


--
Jette (shivering)

Hasdrubal Hamilcar

unread,
Nov 13, 2003, 4:52:39 PM11/13/03
to

Jette Goldie wrote:
> "Hasdrubal Hamilcar" wrote
>
>>I don't think that a crescent moon is visible anytime while the sun is
>>still up.
>>
>
>
> It can be - depending on how high in the sky it is. I've seen
> a crescent moon myself many times in a pale blue sky.
>

But not the first days crescent moon, I would guess.


Hasan

Jette Goldie

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Nov 13, 2003, 5:23:31 PM11/13/03
to

"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message
news:H2Tsb.54679$HoK....@news01.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com...


Yes, even in the very "new moon" phase. You have to
*look* for it, but it can be seen.

Guillaume Criloux

unread,
Nov 14, 2003, 5:10:44 AM11/14/03
to
Le Thu, 13 Nov 2003 21:52:39 GMT, Hasdrubal Hamilcar
<syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> a écrit :

>
>But not the first days crescent moon, I would guess.
>

That's the way people here (Comoros) will know that the month of
Ramadan is over.

>
>Hasan

Guillaume.

Jim Deutch

unread,
Nov 14, 2003, 11:48:11 AM11/14/03
to
On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 21:48:53 +0000 (UTC), "Hellekin"
<hellek...@hotmail.com> wrote:

>"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in message

>news:LBSrb.4193$lK1...@news04.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com...
>
>> I wonder what crows mean in real life folkore
>> though?
>
>Often they are a portent of evil or of evil deeds.
>Crows have often been associated with divination and luck. A lone crow over
>a dwelling was a portent of death within: "A crow on the thatch, soon death
>lifts the latch." In certain Celtic areas, it was bad luck for one crow to
>cross your path. But two was good luck: "Two crows I see, good luck to me"

One for sorrow, two for joy,
three for a girl and four for a boy,
five for silver, six for gold,
and seven for a secret never told.

Devil, Devil, I defy thee.

Jim Deutch
--
Oops, wrong bird: that song is about the magpie...

A Tsar Is Born

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Nov 14, 2003, 11:31:30 PM11/14/03
to

"Jette Goldie" <j...@blueyonder.com.uk> wrote in message
news:H_Ssb.3359$Bw1.28...@news-text.cableinet.net...

>
> "A Tsar Is Born" <Atsarisb...@hotmail.com> wrote
> >
> > > 9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
> > > autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
> > > moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
> > > week of autumn.
> >
> > Autumn does not end until Dec. 21st.
>
> Maybe where *you* live - but November is DEFINATELY
> winter for most of us in Britain!
>
> Autumn is Sept/Oct. Summer is late-May/June/July and
> Aug. Spring is March/April/early-May. November, December, January
> and February are winter.

Fraid not.

Dec 21-Mar 21 is winter; Mar 21-June 21 spring, June 21-Sept 21 summer, Sept
21-Dec 21 fall. Give or take a day, this remains true throughout the
northern hemisphere, no matter WHAT the weather is doing. If you cite the
last full moon of autumn, it has to be the one before Dec. 21st.

But the ancient Celtic (Druidic) calendar, which perhaps the previous poster
was using, had only two seasons, from Samhain to Beltane (winter) and
Beltane to Samhain (summer). In that case there is no autumn, hence no moons
in it.

Tsar Parmathule


Hasdrubal Hamilcar

unread,
Nov 15, 2003, 12:43:36 AM11/15/03
to

A Tsar Is Born wrote:
> "Jette Goldie" <j...@blueyonder.com.uk> wrote in message
> news:H_Ssb.3359$Bw1.28...@news-text.cableinet.net...
>
>>"A Tsar Is Born" <Atsarisb...@hotmail.com> wrote
>>
>>>>9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
>>>>autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
>>>>moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
>>>>week of autumn.
>>>
>>>Autumn does not end until Dec. 21st.
>>
>>Maybe where *you* live - but November is DEFINATELY
>>winter for most of us in Britain!
>>
>>Autumn is Sept/Oct. Summer is late-May/June/July and
>>Aug. Spring is March/April/early-May. November, December, January
>>and February are winter.
>
>
> Fraid not.
>
> Dec 21-Mar 21 is winter; Mar 21-June 21 spring, June 21-Sept 21 summer, Sept
> 21-Dec 21 fall. Give or take a day, this remains true throughout the
> northern hemisphere, no matter WHAT the weather is doing. If you cite the
> last full moon of autumn, it has to be the one before Dec. 21st.
>

Whoever said this has no idea of calculus. Dec 21 has close to the
minimum day length in the North, after then the days begin to get
longer. Sep and Mar 21 are the inflection points in the day-length curve.

So if the earth had no heat capacity, winter would be at it's msot
extreme on Dec 21, and extend an equal number of days before and after
dec 21, gradually turning into summer. Since the earth takes time to
cool and heat, the seasons are shifted lagging the solar cycle (delayed
in time). So winter does not begin midway between summer and winter,
but sometime after in November and december. Also winter is centered in
the days after dec 21, and not on that day. Fall should NEVER extend
all the way to dec 21.

The dec21 day for winter is mere accounting with no basis in reality I
always say.


> But the ancient Celtic (Druidic) calendar, which perhaps the previous poster
> was using, had only two seasons, from Samhain to Beltane (winter) and
> Beltane to Samhain (summer). In that case there is no autumn, hence no moons
> in it.
>

Hasan

> Tsar Parmathule
>
>

Dr. Ernst Stavro Blofeld

unread,
Nov 15, 2003, 3:17:11 AM11/15/03
to
"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in
message:

> Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
> Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
>
> To check out the other Chapters of the Week or to sign up to do a
> chapter of your own, go to http://parasha.maoltuile.org

Thanks for a very good Chapter 11, Hasan.

<pins>

> POINTS OF DISCUSSION
>
> 1. How come Smaug didn't hear or smell them coming?

As others have said, having nothing to fear for so long may have made him
complacent. Maybe he is even having a good rest on a recently full stomach?

> 3. Bilbo suddenly gains his spirit, while the dwarves lose theirs. Could
> this be due to the ring in his pocket, or is the hobbit simply glad to
> see the mountain?

Besides what others have said, maybe the Dwarves know a little better than
Bilbo what Smaug can do, and they realize _they_ are the ones who must face
him. No more relying on the Wizard or the burglar to fix everything.

> 4. The dwarves climb up the staircase to the secret door, in single file
> with a rope tied about their waists. Is it one rope tied about them
> all, or a separate one for each? What good would a rope do if one of
> them fell, since they have nothing to grab on to to pull him up?

IANAM (I am not a mountaineer) but presumably the Dwarves know their way
around mountains and know what they're doing (except maybe for Bombur.)
Maybe a few of them would have time to dig their pickaxes into the ledge as
they go over, thereby anchoring the lot. I wonder what modern mountaineers
do?

> 5. Can steel splinter on a rock (in the real world?) as their tools did
> on the secret door?

Seems unlikely, even if we assume low-quality iron and thick dense rock. It
must be magically hardened.

> 6. Bilbo said in the dinner party that 'if you sit on the doorstep long
> enough, I daresay you will think of something.' Now he is there sitting
> on the doorstep, but not thinking for days. But he is no slouch or
> slowpoke when it comes time to think quickly: as the sun sets he
> instantly recognizes the 'sign' of the thrush and gets the whole thing
> figured out in a flash. Was this fate putting Bilbo in the right place
> at the right time?

Destiny applies here as nicely as anywhere. It is an unlikely coincidence
that they spent just long enough on the campaign to show up at the door just
in time for Durin's Day, which, as you point out, is roughly a
semi-decennial occurence.

> 8. WHAT WAS THE SIGN OF THE THRUSH that Tolkien had Bilbo recognize so
> soon? Just the cracking sound of the snail?

Archie's "French-bashing" metaphor is clever. I wonder if Prof. Tolkien
confirmed it in Letters?

> 9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
> autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
> moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
> week of autumn.
>

> This is not a rare occurence: my astronomy software (Starry Night) shows
> that it should happen twice every decade (after 11 years, then after 3
> years, then 11 again then 3 and it repeats roughly.)

Sounds like interesting software. I should find something like it.

> 10. Please add anything you feel is relevant to the discussion.

I wonder how that flake of rock gets back up over the keyhole when the time
to reveal it is past. Does the thrush put it back?

--
Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Lord Pęlluin,) Ph.D., Count of Tolfalas


coyotes morgan mair fheal greykitten tomys des anges

unread,
Nov 15, 2003, 5:14:15 AM11/15/03
to
> > 9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
> > autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
> > moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the last
> > week of autumn.
> >
> > This is not a rare occurence: my astronomy software (Starry Night) shows
> > that it should happen twice every decade (after 11 years, then after 3
> > years, then 11 again then 3 and it repeats roughly.)
>
> Sounds like interesting software. I should find something like it.

you can also check out http://www.usno.navy.mil/
united states navy observatory
or a similar british royal navy site

they sell and-or give away software to track the sun moon planets and stars
for celestial navigators and anyone interested in where the sky moves

Hasdrubal Hamilcar

unread,
Nov 15, 2003, 10:48:20 AM11/15/03
to

coyotes morgan mair fheal greykitten tomys des anges wrote:
>>
>>Sounds like interesting software. I should find something like it.
>
>
> you can also check out http://www.usno.navy.mil/
> united states navy observatory
> or a similar british royal navy site
>
> they sell and-or give away software to track the sun moon planets and stars
> for celestial navigators and anyone interested in where the sky moves

You can get Starry Night free from (the company formerly known as
siennasoft) http://www.starrynight.com/digital_download.html

It's the easiest, and most useful software I have found so far to work
the the sky. And the most beautful, very useful for exploring crescent
brightness etc.

Hasan

Jette Goldie

unread,
Nov 15, 2003, 11:55:47 AM11/15/03
to

"A Tsar Is Born" <Atsarisb...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:C_htb.530$3o6...@nwrdny01.gnilink.net...

>
> "Jette Goldie" <j...@blueyonder.com.uk> wrote in message
> news:H_Ssb.3359$Bw1.28...@news-text.cableinet.net...
> >
> > "A Tsar Is Born" <Atsarisb...@hotmail.com> wrote
> > >
> > > > 9. Bilbo sees the crescent moon was at sunset in the last week of
> > > > autumn. Incidentally, this just happened last week, when was the new
> > > > moon's crescent was visible around Oct 26, and that was also the
last
> > > > week of autumn.
> > >
> > > Autumn does not end until Dec. 21st.
> >
> > Maybe where *you* live - but November is DEFINATELY
> > winter for most of us in Britain!
> >
> > Autumn is Sept/Oct. Summer is late-May/June/July and
> > Aug. Spring is March/April/early-May. November, December, January
> > and February are winter.
>
> Fraid not.
>
> Dec 21-Mar 21 is winter; Mar 21-June 21 spring, June 21-Sept 21 summer,
Sept
> 21-Dec 21 fall. Give or take a day, this remains true throughout the
> northern hemisphere, no matter WHAT the weather is doing. If you cite the
> last full moon of autumn, it has to be the one before Dec. 21st.

And what definition are you using? Because in Scotland there
is no such season as "Fall" and Autumn ends with October.

December 21st is MID-winter.

Odysseus

unread,
Nov 15, 2003, 9:03:25 PM11/15/03
to
A Tsar Is Born wrote:
>
> Dec 21-Mar 21 is winter; Mar 21-June 21 spring, June 21-Sept 21 summer, Sept
> 21-Dec 21 fall. Give or take a day, this remains true throughout the
> northern hemisphere, no matter WHAT the weather is doing. If you cite the
> last full moon of autumn, it has to be the one before Dec. 21st.
>
Not when using definitions of the seasons that predate the modern
convention you describe. In many traditional calendars the solstices
and equinoxes mark the *midpoints* of the seasons, not the divisions
between them: summer is the period during which the day is markedly
longer than the night and winter the converse, with spring and autumn
being the periods during which they're more or less equal (and over
which their relative length changes the most rapidly). Note that the
traditional Midsummer Day was the June solstice (or the feast of St.
John), not occuring sometime in August as would be implied by the
current popular definition of the season. The Chinese calendar still
in at least ceremonial use in parts of southeast Asia -- and by
immigrants therefrom -- is a good example, according to which the
first day of spring is when the sun is at 315° ecliptic longitude,
halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.

Returning to Middle-earth, Appendix D to LOTR says "The seasons
usually named were _tuilë_ spring, _lairë_ summer, _yávië_ autumn (or
harvest), _hrivé_ winter; but these had no exact definitions, and
_quellë_ (or _lasselanta_) was also used for the latter part of
autumn and the beginning of winter." So there's nothing definitive
there to set a date for the end of autumn.

Bilbo and the dwarves arrived in Rivendell in June and left on
Midsummer Day after a fairly brief stay, which IMO implies a roughly
May-July summer as described above, suggesting in turn an
August-Octoberish autumn. If by the time Tolkien wrote _The Hobbit_
he'd developed the Shire Calendar outlined in the LOTR appendix, and
used the modern month-names only as approximate references in that
work (as he says he did in LOTR), we might deduce that autumn ran
from about the 15th of _Wedmath_ to the 15th of Winterfilth
(mid-"August" through mid-"October").

--
Odysseus

Dr. Ernst Stavro Blofeld

unread,
Nov 16, 2003, 2:11:38 AM11/16/03
to
"Hasdrubal Hamilcar" <syed_hasa...@remove.rogers.com> wrote in
message:

Thanks, Coyotes and Hasan. Interesting links, both of them.
Warning to people with slow connections: that Starry Night download is big
(over 50MB.)

Igenlode

unread,
Nov 17, 2003, 6:01:36 PM11/17/03
to
On 12 Nov 2003 put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru wrote:

> I can only note that (it was discussed a year or so ago) Dwarves rode
> ponies while in the LotR Gimli is reluctant to mount the horse given by
> Eomer. Then I was offered a bunch of explanations, including: a) Gimli
> had an idiosyncratic dislike for horses, b) Dwarves did not usually keep
> domestic animals.

My assumption would be that full-size horses are simply too large
around the barrel, not to speak of too high off the ground, to be either
comfortable or secure for a Dwarf to ride. Theoden has to provide Merry
with a pony, after all. Unlike the hobbit, Gimli is presumably tall
enough to make riding a horse a physical possibility, but not really
tall enough to find it very easy to stay on. If the horse is too big,
it's practically impossible to grip with the legs in the normal fashion
and you need something - or someone - to hang onto.

So, from The Hobbit, it appears that Dwarves normally rode ponies, just
as hobbits did. (Being generally tougher and less picky about their
fodder, ponies were probably the normal mode of transport in the
mountainous regions which Dwarves seemed to favour in any case, just as
they were on the various fells and moors of England.)
--
Igenlode <Igenl...@nym.alias.net> Lurker Extraordinaire

careen (archaic): clean a ship's hull - career: travel wildly out of control

Igenlode

unread,
Nov 17, 2003, 6:16:17 PM11/17/03
to
On 10 Nov 2003 Hasdrubal Hamilcar wrote:

> Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
> Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
>

> 10. Please add anything you feel is relevant to the discussion.

My own remarks on reading this chapter:

I noted (and appreciated) the contrasting usages in the sentence "It ws
easier to believe in [credit the existence of] the Dragon and less easy
to believe in [have faith in the assurances of] Thorin in these wild
parts." :-)

I was a little surprised by the elaborate arrangement for sending the
main party by water and the horses and ponies along the lakeside; did
Laketown not possess any horse transports? Contrastingly, if it was
possible to make the journey by land, rather than by hard rowing
against the current (and the "other necessaries" (heavy stores?) were
apparently sent by land) why bother with the boat travel at all?

What causes the Desolation of the Dragon? Is it the fumes emerging from
Smaug's lair, like the desolation before Mordor? Or does the dragon fly
around every so often and burn off the vegetation to reduce possible
cover for attackers? :-)

The scouting expedition apparently consisted of Balin, Fili and Kili,
who were ordered to go by Thorin, and Bilbo who decided to accompany
them of his own accord - an as-yet uncharacteristic initiative from the
hobbit here?
--
Igenlode

'Eagle's Daughter' - historical romance now on-line at
http://curry.250x.com/Tower/Fiction/eagle/

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Nov 18, 2003, 4:22:22 AM11/18/03
to
In message <2003111803265...@riot.eu.org>,
Igenlode <Use-Author-Supplied-Address-Header@[127.1]> enriched us with:
>

<snip>

> I was a little surprised by the elaborate arrangement for sending the
> main party by water and the horses and ponies along the lakeside;

[...]

That was possibly a final tribute to the "King" - the travel by horse/pony
around the edge of the Long Lake were probably longer in time as well
as being more arduous, and since Thorin had the wisdom to leave while
public opinion was still on his side, the Master possibly (probably?) felt
that it would be a good idea to extend this last courtesy to the Dwarves,
sparing them from the rigours of the wild by transporting them in a more
leisurely manner (for them - not for the rowers ;)

> What causes the Desolation of the Dragon? Is it the fumes emerging
> from Smaug's lair, like the desolation before Mordor? Or does the
> dragon fly around every so often and burn off the vegetation to
> reduce possible cover for attackers? :-)

Since there isn't any mention of fumes before they see the main gate, I
suppose that the latter is the case. Putting for a moment aside any
magical effects of Dragon fire, it is, IMO, described as hot enough to
allow de-fertilization of the soil - or rather a sterilization of any seeds
in the soil.

If the area had to depend on seeds getting blown in, Smaug could
probably wait quite some time before he had anything but grasses to
take care of (perhaps even decades, depending on the ground).

I have seen areas in mountaneous regions (Canadian Rockies,
actually) where the effects of a forest fire were clearly visible fifty
years after it happened - the blackened stumps stood there still and
only some rough grasses had reseed themselves there.

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid mail is t.forch(a)mail.dk


Igenlode

unread,
Nov 17, 2003, 6:32:54 PM11/17/03
to
[repost]
On 10 Nov 2003 One-White-Tree wrote:

> Bilbo, on the other hand, has really come into his own. Of all of
> them, he's the one who sees this trip as 'an adventure', not a
> gold-hunt or a fulfilled grudge. As such he's no doubt the one to be
> heartened at the sight of the quest's end - he's the one who's seeing
> and thinking like the storybook hero, because of all of them, he is
> one. Not to mention he's had a fairly comfy time in Lake-Town to
> revive his spirits, and of all the Company he's the one who would
> derive the most pleasure from food and comfort (Bombur might well have
> appreciate the food more, though).


Mmmm... except that when they were actually having their comfy time in
Laketown, Bilbo was the only one whose spirits apparently weren't
revived. "He had not forgotten the look of the Mountain, nor the
thought of the dragon, and he had beside a shocking cold.... The only
person thoroughly unhappy was Bilbo."

So the funny thing is that he was the most pessimistic of them all
about their prospects when all the boasting in Laketown was going on,
and yet "strange to say" he is the only one with any enthusiasm once
they actually see how hopeless it is to find a dwarven door when it is
shut :-) (One would have thought that the dwarves would have
anticipated this, but perhaps in the days when they last lived in
dwellings with magical doors, things were more peaceful and the doors
always stood open, like those of Moria).


--
Igenlode <Igenl...@nym.alias.net> Lurker Extraordinaire

The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru

unread,
Nov 18, 2003, 8:34:36 AM11/18/03
to
Igenlode wrote:
> On 10 Nov 2003 Hasdrubal Hamilcar wrote:
>
> > Chapter of the Week: The Hobbit
> > Chapter 11 - On the Doorstep
> >
>
> > 10. Please add anything you feel is relevant to the discussion.
>
> My own remarks on reading this chapter:
>
[...]

> I was a little surprised by the elaborate arrangement for sending the
> main party by water and the horses and ponies along the lakeside; did
> Laketown not possess any horse transports? Contrastingly, if it was
> possible to make the journey by land, rather than by hard rowing
> against the current (and the "other necessaries" (heavy stores?) were
> apparently sent by land) why bother with the boat travel at all?
Travelling by land is tiresome, yet a necessity for heavy cargoes. It is
obvious that the Dwarves were saving their efforts for the last task; it
were the Lake-men who rowed. I bet horses were even slower than the
boats, so it was expedient to send them out in advance.


> What causes the Desolation of the Dragon? Is it the fumes emerging from
> Smaug's lair, like the desolation before Mordor? Or does the dragon fly
> around every so often and burn off the vegetation to reduce possible
> cover for attackers? :-)
Don't you entertain a possibility that Smaug could be a vegetarian if no
meat was on the menu? :-) And how do you think he generated that much
methane?


> The scouting expedition apparently consisted of Balin, Fili and Kili,
> who were ordered to go by Thorin, and Bilbo who decided to accompany
> them of his own accord - an as-yet uncharacteristic initiative from the
> hobbit here?
Curiousity? To see the remnants of Dale, maybe... I also suppose that
Bilbo is assuming new responsibilities (the peak of that process falls on
the night before the Battle of 5A's).

Archie

Bruce Tucker

unread,
Nov 18, 2003, 12:46:20 PM11/18/03
to
<put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru> wrote

> Igenlode wrote:

> > What causes the Desolation of the Dragon? Is it the fumes emerging
from
> > Smaug's lair, like the desolation before Mordor?

Dragons are as venomous as they are fiery. Presumably the areas
previously devastated by his breath didn't grow back, and between this
and the reek coming from the mountain the region stayed desolate.

> >Or does the dragon fly
> > around every so often and burn off the vegetation to reduce possible
> > cover for attackers? :-)
> Don't you entertain a possibility that Smaug could be a vegetarian if
no
> meat was on the menu? :-) And how do you think he generated that much
> methane?

I don't get the impression dragons need to eat much at all if they're
inactive. Anyway I don't think Smaug could have come out and eaten or
burnt up half the countryside with any frequency, or else the Lake-Men
would have seen the fires in the sky even from a great distance. Since
many of them apparently don't even believe there's still a dragon if
there ever was one, it seems that Smaug has been sleeping for some time.

--
Bruce Tucker
disinte...@mindspring.com


Jette Goldie

unread,
Nov 18, 2003, 2:27:38 PM11/18/03
to

"Igenlode" <Use-Author-Supplied-Address-Header@[127.1]> wrote

> What causes the Desolation of the Dragon? Is it the fumes emerging from
> Smaug's lair, like the desolation before Mordor? Or does the dragon fly
> around every so often and burn off the vegetation to reduce possible
> cover for attackers? :-)


The Dragon is too big to use the Dwarves' sanitary facilities -
the outflow has to go *somewhere* and there is a high sulpher
content in the Dragon diet. (they take it as a suppliment, of
course)

put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru

unread,
Nov 18, 2003, 2:33:59 PM11/18/03
to
Bruce Tucker wrote:
> <put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru> wrote
>
> > Igenlode wrote:
>
> > > What causes the Desolation of the Dragon? Is it the fumes emerging
> from
> > > Smaug's lair, like the desolation before Mordor?
>
> Dragons are as venomous as they are fiery. Presumably the areas
> previously devastated by his breath didn't grow back, and between this
> and the reek coming from the mountain the region stayed desolate.
Looks plausible if we don't assess the possible extent of poisoning by
all available evidence (i.e. the Dwarves and Bilbo were able to breathe
normally even when walking on Dragon's slime - not poisonous IMHO, just
stinking worse than human excrements).

> I don't get the impression dragons need to eat much at all if they're
> inactive. Anyway I don't think Smaug could have come out and eaten or
> burnt up half the countryside with any frequency, or else the Lake-Men
> would have seen the fires in the sky even from a great distance.

Next in our concert: "Smoke on the water, Fire in the sky". It turns out
to be all about Smaug, not some flimsy idiots or Zappa and his Mothers of
Invention.

> ... Since


> many of them apparently don't even believe there's still a dragon if
> there ever was one, it seems that Smaug has been sleeping for some time.

A good point. I agree with Troels, Smaug may have burnt down trees over a
large area 50-70 years before the Adventure and new growth is unlikely to
appear unless seeds are brought into sufficiently fertile soil by wind,
birds or animals. Birds are present (not enough for a large-scale short-
term reemergence of trees), the ground is fertile enough for grass. The
question is really at what height above sea level the land around Erebor
is - if it is more than 900-1000 meters, and the winds are strong, there
won't be enough humus and time for the trees.

My conclusion - 0. You and Troels are right.
1. Smaug has been inactive for some decades (not more than say 90 yrs).
2. Desolation (burned stumps) is due to an extensive fire.
3. The surroundings of Erebor are high enough above sea level for new
growth to be problematic.

Archie

Stan Brown

unread,
Nov 18, 2003, 10:20:42 PM11/18/03
to
In article <MPG.1a24522043...@news.mtu-net.ru> in
rec.arts.books.tolkien, <put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru>
wrote:

>Don't you entertain a possibility that Smaug could be a vegetarian if no
>meat was on the menu? :-)

I doubt it. A zoologist could speak to this much better than I, but
I think reptiles specialize: either they have teeth suitable for
eating meet, or they have teeth suitable for eating vegetation.

I could be wrong.

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/tech/faqget.htm

Insane Ranter

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Nov 19, 2003, 12:44:17 AM11/19/03
to

"Stan Brown" <the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote in message
news:MPG.1a24ab98d...@news.odyssey.net...

> In article <MPG.1a24522043...@news.mtu-net.ru> in
> rec.arts.books.tolkien, <put-the-no-mail-...@mail.ru>
> wrote:
> >Don't you entertain a possibility that Smaug could be a vegetarian if no
> >meat was on the menu? :-)
>
> I doubt it. A zoologist could speak to this much better than I, but
> I think reptiles specialize: either they have teeth suitable for
> eating meet, or they have teeth suitable for eating vegetation.
>
> I could be wrong.


HOW DARN YOU CAN A DRAGON A REPTILE!!!


the softrat

unread,
Nov 19, 2003, 1:22:00 AM11/19/03
to
On Mon, 17 Nov 2003 23:16:17 GMT, Igenlode
<Use-Author-Supplied-Address-Header@[127.1]> wrote:
>
>What causes the Desolation of the Dragon? Is it the fumes emerging from
>Smaug's lair, like the desolation before Mordor? Or does the dragon fly
>around every so often and burn off the vegetation to reduce possible
>cover for attackers? :-)
>
Naaah! He flies around and burns off all the vegetation because he is
WICKED! He is NOT worried about 'possible' attackers; he *knows* that
none would be successful.

the softrat
Curmudgeon-at-Large
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--

Kristian Damm Jensen

unread,
Nov 19, 2003, 2:29:41 AM11/19/03
to
Henriette wrote:
> "Hellekin" <hellek...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
> news:<bop144$n7u$1...@titan.btinternet.com>...
>>
>> Ravens are associated with the devil in many parts Britain - (snip)
>
> Not our Raven, I hope. He's having a hard time as it is, being
called
> names in certain threads by certain posters.

Well, what do you expect? He changes his name with every other post
:-)

--
Kristian Damm Jensen
damm (at) ofir (dot) dk


Raven

unread,
Nov 19, 2003, 3:26:35 PM11/19/03
to
"Kristian Damm Jensen" <REdam...@ofir.dk> skrev i en meddelelse
news:bpf671$1kvh1r$1...@ID-146708.news.uni-berlin.de...
> Henriette wrote:

> > Not our Raven, I hope. He's having a hard time as it is, being
> > called names in certain threads by certain posters.

> Well, what do you expect? He changes his name with every other post
> :-)

I do not. Only the language it is written in.

Holló.


Raven

unread,
Nov 19, 2003, 3:34:05 PM11/19/03