Why is the pace slow at the start of Fellowship? Or — why is there so much stuff in Bilbo’s house?

Listen to the lesson:
  • I get the sense that Tolkien is showing the reader something with all the descriptions. The reader gets the impression that hobbits are really into a comfortable life style (presents, meals, comfy furniture, lots of larders, etc.) which will be sharply contrasted when Frodo decides to leave. These descriptions help explain Frodo’s reluctance to take action and why he doesn’t think he is the person for the job.

    There is a running comment that there is more to hobbits than meets the eye: the comfort loving, plump, easy going, unworldly vs. their fortitude, inner strength, able to take on great responsibilities. Tolkien is showing the reader what kind of decision Frodo will be making and his reaction to it.

    • This is what I came away with also, Sharon.

    • Felicitas says:

      Yes, this makes Frodo – according to Daniels craft lessons 🙂 – a perfect protagonist, right? Because from his background he seems utterly unsuitable for this task, perhaps the most unsuitable of all creatures of middle earth. And yet, “there is more than meets the eye.” 🙂

  • elena98365 says:

    Remembering that Tolkien was primarily an academic, and I think treated his imagined world very much as if he were a historian or an anthropologist studying an ancient civilization. Hence, not surprised that there are appendices and even seemingly contradictory story lines. (We thought it was that, but with a bit more study now we realize it’s this.)

  • I get the sense that Tolkien is creating his world and bringing us into it. It’s so vast, he wouldn’t explain every little thing (until the Appendix, apparently). Having lived for a while in a different country, it feels kind of like that. Like I didn’t know all the backstories, the jokes, what things were. But I learned. And that was part of entering that world. To me, Tolkien is just bringing us into the world that he created. I kind of like the beginning. It forms the warm feelings of the Shire and what went on there. So when later Frodo and Sam and (oh gosh, name is escaping, duh!) are missing it so badly and hurting for it, we have that memory of “being” in the Shire for just a bit, where we can remember what gift someone got or what some person said about this or that.

    I’m no expert writer and I’ve not been very good about keeping up with our group here, but I do listen a lot to your pieces later and am learning a lot. FWIW, there is my thinking about why he might have taken so long to get into it.

  • Felicitas says:

    I also felt that making the ordinary world visceral was very important to Tolkien. Sometimes he does that in a very humorous way as if he was holding a mirror for the reader to reflect habits of their own society.
    And of course really being able to FEEL the life the hobbits then choose to leave behind makes their decision truly heroic.

    Still, wouldn´t you think, Daniel, that nowadays with this length of ordinary world and so much description it would be hard to hook the modern reader?

    In my book, even when I just mentioned the name of a king that is otherwise unimportant in the story and just served for the world-building background, I had readers asking: Now, who is THIS?

    • Yes I agree the constant name-dropping might be a challenge — for a lot of readers.

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