A possible contradiction to LOTR

Discussion in '"The Hobbit"' started by BalrogRingDestroyer, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    In The Hobbit, after Bilbo escapes the Goblin Tunnel, he sneaks up wearing the Ring to the group and none of them, even Gandalf, spot him.

    However, if the Ring actually takes one into the Wraith-Mair world, and Gandalf is a Maia (and those types of beings like the Nazgul and Tom Bombadil CAN see people wearing the Ring), how did he not spot Bilbo?

    More to the point, if he could spot Bilbo and the others couldn't, how was that not a tip off right away that Bilbo had found a Great Ring?
     
  2. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    I did not perceive this as a contradiction. The story does not specify whether Bilbo put off his ring at a moment when he within eyesight of the dwarves or not. I could not imagine him standing in their midst, because then they would have seen him with his ring in his hand.

    Nor would it be a proof that he had a so-called “Great Ring” for Gandalf had known of its existence for 60 years before his suspicion started to rise, as he explained to Frodo years later.

    Could Gandalf see someone wearing the Ring? I cannot remember any event whereby Bilbo or Frodo were wearing it in Gandalf’s presence, so for my part I have no immediate opinion on that.
     

  3. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Good point, Meroe -- it could be that this was one of the limitations placed on the Istari when they were sent to Middle Earth -- a limit on their "awareness". It would take some investigation to see how consistent this is. I do seem to recall Gandalf noticing a "glint of gold" as Bilbo puts his hand in his pocket, but I'll have to check that when I get back home.

    I've given my views on the existence of a separate Wraith-world which one could be "taken into" here:

    http://www.thetolkienforum.com/inde...ng-non-maia-live-as-a-non-wraith-in-it.23473/

    So I won't repeat myself. I will add this: leaving The Hobbit aside for the moment, when we look at the scenes in which Frodo puts on the Ring in LOTR, we see the same "inconsistencies" Balrog speaks of. At Weathertop, he does seem to be in "another world": what, to him and the others, are shadowy shapes, become "terribly clear"; he can see the Ringwraiths, with their "pale faces", their "grey hairs", and "helms of silver". And his Barrow-sword "flickered red, as if it was a firebrand".

    Again, on Amon Hen, he seems to be "in a world of mist, in which there were only shadows: the Ring was upon him".

    On the other hand, when he puts on the Ring at Bombadil's house, and (inadvertently) at Bree, we get none of this -- no "other-worldliness" at all: in the first instance, he merely "feels foolish"; in the second, he crawls away under the tables and removes the Ring.

    The answer, I think, lies in the circumstances. The scene at Weathertop takes place in darkness, when the Nazgul are at their most effective; plus Frodo, and more importantly perhaps, the Ring, are in their immediate presence, and they are directing all their powers toward It, and him. And we also know there is some sort of resonance between them and the Ring, though it's unclear exactly how that works.

    On Amon Hen, yes, he is in a "world of mist", but this is not mentioned until he arrives at the summit, the site of the Seat of Seeing. He's previously described as "leaping blindly up the path to the hill-top", but whether this "blindness" is due to the Ring, or because "terror and grief shook him, seeing in his thought the mad fierce face of Boromir, and his burning eyes", is not made clear. In both scenes, I believe Tolkien's deliberate ambiguity is at work: we can "see" the action from multiple viewpoints, with multiple possible interpretations.

    As for the Hobbit, the "real" reason Gandalf can't see Bilbo while he was invisible is that the world of The Hobbit had not yet entered the world of Middle Earth, nor had his ring become the Ring. After the publication of LOTR, Tolkien did make some changes to bring the two worlds into a consistent relationship, the main one being the change in the end of the Riddle contest.

    But many inconsistencies remained, and Tolkien, after a desultory attempt at a major revision in the 60's, realized that it would result in distorting the story out of all recognition, and abandoned it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  4. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    Very thoughtful of you, S-ES: TH was out long before LotR and I liked your way of putting it: from one book to the next, the ring became the Ring. That one hit the real point, I think: the notion of a "Great Ring" was entirely nonexistent in TH.
     

  5. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Slightly OT, but on the subject of inconsistencies, Tolkien has also been accused of this in his portrayal of the Nazgul. Shippey, for instance, pointed out that they are described as figures inspiring great, almost paralyzing fear, yet in the early chapters, in their interactions with the Gaffer and Farmer Maggot, for example, the reactions seem to have been suspicion and dislike, but hardly the terror of later chapters. Even in the "Black Riders" episodes, they are mysterious, sinister figures, but a Nazgul who is deterred from pursuit by a mere bank hardly matches the picture of an implacable foe. Their cries are "chilling to the blood", but the hobbits move on immediately after the "frozen" moment.

    Again, there are two ways of looking at this. One way is in the circumstances of the encounters: in the Shire, and as far as Bree, the Nazgul are, for the most part, trying to operate "under cover" as it were, without revealing their true nature. In fact, they would undoubtedly not have been sent across the River, certainly not so far into the West, had Sauron not had news of the Ring; they were on a "stealth mission", as it were.

    Also, there is the question of their powers: they fear water, something that "mythologically" could be attributed to the residual influence of Ulmo, although Tolkien admitted this was hard to sustain.

    Then too, it's possible to see their power of terror lessening with distance from Mordor, their "power center". And another possibility: they not only create fear, but "feed" on it, in some way, in a sort of reciprocal feedback loop. And of course, all these aspects could be cumulative.

    But again, the "real" reasons are twofold: first, to use Shippey's words, Tolkien was, in the early chapters, still "writing his way into the story" -- he was far from sure about the plot or characters. Yes, he rewrote the early parts many times, but a great deal of the original material remains in the finished work. And as Christopher noted more than once, the text in a number of places may have been unchanged, but the significance of it grown, altered, or even changed completely.

    Second, and more importantly, as we have to accept (or reject) the design of the work as a whole, rather than just looking at the circumstances of its writing, is their function in the narrative. The tone and structure of the early parts of the book is that of mystery, or rather a series of unfolding mysteries; therefore the Nazgul are themselves one of those mysteries: ominous, of course, even threatening, but not the figures of terror they would become. This would be very different were Tolkien writing the sort of thriller-novel that Peter Jackson seems to have taken it for, or at least turned it into.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
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