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Biblo's insult....... read and answer

Warrior

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Remember how Biblo insulted the people at his birthday celebration by telling them how he felt, and why he chose exactly 144 people to attend the special family dinner?

A refresher-The setting and floor show (so to speak):

pg 28
There was a splendid supper for everyone; for everyone, that is, except those invited to the special family dinner party....The invitations were limited to 12 dozen (a number also called by the the hobbits One Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use of people); and the guests were selected from all the families to which Biblo and Frodo were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated friends (such as Gandalf)....The Sackville-Bagginses were not frogotten, Otho, and his wife Lobelia were present. They disliked Biblo and detested Frodo...All one hundred forty-four guests expected a pleasant feast, though the rather dreaded they after dinner speech of their host......

If they only knew :D

pg 29-30
" I've gathered you all together for a purpose.....to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all, and that eleventy-one years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits."

Tremondous outburst of approval.

"I don't know half of you as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." :p

This was unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came out to a compliment.
He went on to say......"To celebrate my birthday. Cheers, again. I should say OUR birthday. For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew, Frodo....Together we score one hundred and forty-four. Your numbers were chosen to fit this remarkable total. One Gross, if I may use the expression....."
Many of his guests were insulted, feeling sure they had only been asked to fill up the required number, like goods in a package.

'One Gross inded! Vulgar expression.'

I love the way Biblo told off the unsecpeting people at his birthday celebration. Granted, it wasn't directed toward everyone, because when he said, (I don't know half of you as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve) it tells you right there it wasn't. But what I like the smooth way inwhich he did it.

It isn't direct and straight forward, especially when it comes down to who he is directing the insults too, but nevertheless, he got his point accross.

Haven't you ever wanted to gather together friends, and not, and tell them exactly how you felt, in a round about way, or would you rather it be an 'in your face' approach to telling someone, or a group how you felt?

I like the, shall I say, smooth way, inwhich he insulted them, and you know without a doubt that the Sackville-Bagginses are at the top of the list, you are just not sure as to who else is being insulted as well.

Do you agree with me? Tell me what you think.
 
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Elessar II

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...(I don't know half of you as well as I should like; and I like less than half of your as well as you deserve)
I could be wrong, but I thought he said, "... and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
In which case he wasn't really insulting anyone, but telling them he couldn't like them enough, in hobbit fashion.
 

Warrior

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Thanks for pointing that out, I didn't mean to misquote.

But, to me it seems as if he is insulting them, not out right but in his own way, he's saying that he likes less than half of them half ;) as well as they deserve, so there's no love lost, so to speak.
 

33Peregrin

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Hmmmmmm..... I decided one time for myself that it was a compliment. Let's see.... ' I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.' He is saying that for some of the hobbits (half) he doesn't like them as well as they really deserve to be liked. So saying that he doesn't like them as much as they deserve, because he doesn't know them well enough.
 

Warrior

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33Peregrin said:
Hmmmmmm..... I decided one time for myself that it was a compliment. Let's see.... ' I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.' He is saying that for some of the hobbits (half) he doesn't like them as well as they really deserve to be liked. So saying that he doesn't like them as much as they deserve, because he doesn't know them well enough.

Welllllllll, I keep reading it, and all I see is an insult, because I believe that the people he is talking about he knows, when he says '....and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.' So, I say that he's saying less than half of the people, there at the family party, he can't even say he likes them a little bit, because to him they rank lower than low. But, as for the first half of his statement, 'I don't know half of you as well a I should like....' I think he's saying that he regreats the fact that he didn't take the time to get to know them better.
 

33Peregrin

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I can see how you think of it as an insult, if you read of it in that way. It was just the first part of the statement 'I don't know half of you half as well as I should like', that made me think of the second part of the statement 'and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve' as apologetic for not knowing them as well as they all deserve.
 

Pandora

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Very sorry for the necroposting. But had to get this off my chest somewhere.

I think Bilbo's quote is a double insult if you focus on the things that remain unsaid.

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like"
When you reverse this for the other half it says:
"I know half of you better than I like"

and

"I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve"
becomes
"I like more than half of you (most of you) more than you deserve"

So first he says that he knows half of them more than he should like. And then he adds that he still likes them even more than they deserve.
 

Thistle Bunce

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If we reduce the whole thing to numbers, out of 144 hobbits, Bilbo says that there are 72 of them that he does not know as well as he should. That leaves a maximum of 71 (less than half) hobbits who are only liked half as well as they deserve.

Seems to me that Bilbo is making a convoluted confession that he has not spent much time in either getting to know, or to appreciate a good deal of the hobbits at his party. Rather than an insult, this seems to be some soul-searching on Bilbo's part...he's been around for eleventy-one years, and still has gaps in his knowledge of his friends and relatives. Of course, there might be a reason for that - after all, there was no great influx of support upon his return from his quest.

Was "Mad Baggins" getting just a little back for his treatment over the years, or regretting that spending so much time with his own interests (including the Ring) had cost him so much, relationship=wise?
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Bilbo is using irony here; it follows the comic tone, and importantly, the comic structure, of the entire chapter, up until his "disappearance" and return to Bag End.

But it is comic in a particular way: technically, it's an example of Frye's second phase of ironic comedy, in which the hero fails to transform his absurd society, and ends up walking out of it.

Notice how carefully Tolkien sets this up: first, Bilbo is (re)introduced as "very peculiar", with a (somewhat softened) recapitulation of the general Shire attitude noted at the beginning of The Hobbit -- that he had "lost his neighbors' respect".

Next, he's noted as forming no close friendships, "until some of his younger cousins began to grow up". This shows him trying to form a new society to replace the older, absurd one, and follows a common comedic trope of pitting the young generation against the old.

There follows the conversation in the Ivy Bush, which, again technically, is a short Menippean satire, with the Gaffer establishing his role as an agroikos character, the "plain dealer" who brings the fantasies of the other participants back to earth:

"'Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for you and me. Don't go getting mixed up in the business of your betters, or you'll end up in trouble too big for you, I says to him. And I might say it to others,' he added with a look at the stranger and the miller."

Of course, he's speaking of Sam, who is not present, but is clearly present -- in fact uppermost -- in the Gaffer's mind, during all the talk of queerness and "jools". In fact, he's both right and wrong: right in his prediction that Sam will "end up in trouble"; wrong, in that it proves not to be "too big for him".

As an aside, it's worth noting that this form of Menippean satire appears again, many years later, and in the next chapter, in the scene at the Green Dragon, with the sons of the two main antagonists; but significantly, with the roles, and importantly, the moral attitudes reversed: it is now the miller's son who is the plain dealer, and Sam the fantasist, preparing both for the roles they will play in the story.

Returning to the first chapter, after foreshadowing Bilbo's intentions, there comes the lead-up to the climactic scene at the party, in which the author uses every element of comedy he can:

--Absurd exaggeration -- the post office is "snowed under" with invitations and responses, and food and eating (especially overeating) is a mainstay of comedy;

-Disruption -- the younger hobbits pulling crackers, blowing horns, and dancing on the tables conveys the sense, common in comedy, that an underlying chaos is always on the verge of breaking out into the festivities, as in a satyr play. It appears again the next day, in the gift scene at Bag End.

-Repetition, because unincremental repetition is absurd, and therefore funny -- note, for instance, how the long list of guests (many of whose names strike us as funny) is repeated by Bilbo, and then repeated again by the narrator;

-Complication, because again, complication is absurd -- we've already seen it in the Gaffer's awkward attempt to explain Bilbo's relationship to Frodo, and it appears again in Bilbo's speech, in the part being discussed here. That it works very well is proven, not only by the confusion in the minds of its hearers, but by the fact that it's still causing the same confusion in us today, many years (or is it millennia?) later.

-And of course, another comic element featured in Bilbo's speech is the the absurd overformality, tending toward pomposity, characteristic of hobbits, and emphasized frequently by Tolkien.

All of this contributes to the sense of the absurd society which Bilbo is leaving. The irony of the phase is reflected in the somewhat bittersweet and elegaic feeling of his departure. He has failed to transform his society, leaving it in its state of smug, self-satisfied fatuousness, ripe for takeover by the "go-getter" S.B's, the ruffians, and finally Sharkey.

But, in a final bit of irony, he turns out to have been successful after all: the younger generation, in whom he had planted the seeds of adventurousness, of "fantasy", grows up to become the instrument of change, transforming Shire society by introducing the values of the greater Middle Earth world, creating a new society which combines the virtues of both.
 
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Barliman

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I always took it mostly as complements.
I don't know half of you half as well as I should like
He knows half the hobbits well, the other half he wished he knew better.
and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
Most of the gathered hobbits he likes, but the minority deserve to be liked better that he does. I always took this to mean he didn't really give them a fair shake but now recognizes they deserved better from him.
 

darkG

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Yeah, knowing hobbits, just being peculiar and unexpected would be considered bad manners :)

[Sadly, I think I know a few people like that. Simple/easy (same word in swedish) is considered a good thing to be at some places. Naturally, I aim to not be.]
 

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