Tag Archives: Dragons

Phantom Library

A bit of fluff inspired by Be Kind Rewrite’s Inspiration Monday prompt: Phantom Library

It is also a sequel to Raised by Dragons. The names of characters have been altered to protect their identity. Any resemblance to real people is unintentional and highly amusing. ;)

 

You know what it’s like in the morning when you really don’t want to wake up? Your bed is comfortable, the air is a little too cold on your face, your body feels twice as heavy as usual.

It’s even worse when you’ve been working hard, and I had been.

Some people talk as if magic’s the easy way to do things. But real magic is only easy in the same way that lifting a huge weight becomes easier once you’ve invented, and then built, a pulley. And of all forms of magic, wizardry is the most complex. With nothing more than a mediocre high school education under my cap, my teacher had me studying higher mathematics, the sciences, the arts, and most of all, philology. In some ways, I’d never felt more alive. But living is tiring.

I had been training for months, only getting breaks when Ren, or my foster-parents, would kidnap me for a holiday. Teemu, my teacher, didn’t seem to know, or maybe he just didn’t care, what holidays were.

So there I was in bed, with the morning light screaming in at the window. My blankets smelled faintly of cedar, I was warm, and the room itself was chilly. So I did the natural thing. I stretched a little, rolled over, and closed my eyes.

That’s when a sound like a large ball-bearing spinning against frosted glass made me leap up.

Never ignore a growling dragon.

Teemu was standing just outside my room, teeth clenched, lips barely parted. He was wearing human form, as he usually did for our lessons. A full grown Draconis Major in its true shape is awkward indoors, to say the least. Still, he had a way of being scarcely less intimidating as a ‘human’ than when he showed scales and row on row of teeth.

Without a word, he turned and walked down the hall.

I scrambled into my clothes, trying to ignore the twinge that suggested breakfast. It was unlikely that Teemu, already angry at my oversleeping, would wait for me to grab anything from the kitchens.

Maybe, I thought,  Tesni will bring me something…

I caught up with Teemu on the stairs and cleared my throat. “Sorry. I’m, uh, still not used to being without an alarm-clock. …Or electricity.”

Without looking around, he lifted one hand and spoke a word in Draconic that I didn’t know yet. Before I could react, he turned on his heel and planted one finger on my forehead.

Have you ever had an unpleasant encounter with electricity?

It felt like a combination of that moment when a roller-coaster starts to plunge, and being punched in the face.

The next thing I knew, Teemu was glaring into my eyes.

“Better?” he said, emphasizing the hard consonants, a sure sign of annoyance. “Don’t make weak excuses. Do you want to learn how to weave an alarm? Or how to power a toaster?”

I dug my hands into my pockets to keep from punching him. Speaking of which, just in case you’re ever tempted to punch a dragon in human form. Don’t. Remember, they may be smaller, but they still have the same mass.

I took a deep breath and answered him. “…Yes.”

“Then dedicate yourself to this apprenticeship. Potential is meaningless when not applied. And don’t give me disrespectful one-syllable answers.” He turned and continued down the stairs.

“Yes, teacher,” I said, following.

I had expected to stop, as usual, on the ground floor. Our lessons mostly took place outside, in Teemu’s workshop, or in the mansion’s little library. But Teemu kept following the stairs down into levels I’d never seen before. It was still clean and tidy, Tesni would have it no other way, but it was not as airy. We sank down into subterranean cold and scents of cavern and cellar. There were still plenty of lights, leaping up in niches when we approached, and falling into darkness again behind us.

“Where’re we headed?” I asked.

“I’m going to teach you how to use the phantom library. That way you can continue your theoretical studies when I’m too busy to give you practical lessons.”

“Phantom library?”

Teemu laughed, always a disconcerting sound coming from him, and gave no answer.

As we continued, I began to realize that I would have to climb back up the stairs in the near future. I wished I’d insisted on getting breakfast.

Two more flights down and we stopped. Water covered the steps a little way ahead.

But I soon realized that it wasn’t water.

It was translucent, and rippled along the surface, but it didn’t reflect the lights in the cavern walls, nor the helictite-encrusted ceiling above us.

Whatever it was, I could see slowly-moving blooms of glowing color, and pale points, like stars, beneath the surface. I wondered if these were living things, algae or fey, or chemical reactions of some kind, or simply images projected from who-knows-where.

Teemu turned left and stepped out onto the surface.

I followed. The first step was the worst, for though I could see the edges of a platform about an inch under the ‘water,’ I didn’t really know what I was stepping into. Whatever it was, at least it didn’t seep into my shoes.

The platform led to an alcove, raised just above the surface of the pool. For being in a cave, it was shockingly homey.

There was a massive roll-top desk, well-supplied with notebooks, pencils, pens, and various old-school calculating tools. Several armchairs sat by a stone platform, like a coffee-table, and there was even a worn couch with a blanket thrown across its camel-back.

There was, however, only one small bookshelf. I found this terribly disappointing. Three shelves, none of them full of books, with book-ends and knickknacks taking up valuable space. The books themselves were an odd mix. An Ethiopian cookbook, a technical study on some planetary cataclysm, volume “Q” from an encyclopedia, and Through the Looking Glass were among them.

“This is the biped study,” said Teemu. “If we’d turned right, we would have reached the dragon’s study, but you wouldn’t be comfortable there. Still, if one of us is down here, you know where to find us.”

I moved over to the desk and picked up a yellow ruler-looking thing. More accurately, it looked like two rulers bridged together with metal brackets, and a third ruler between them that slid back and forth.

“Slide-rule,” said the dragon, pulling a worn book from the shelf. “You’ll figure it out. But first, let’s show you the catalog.”

I came up beside him as he knelt down over the edge of the not-water. Several pale, glowing points converged like nibbling minnows when Teemu placed his free hand against the surface.

“It’s a communal library,” he said, “shared among the Draconis Major and Draconis Minor as well as a few select members of other species. You won’t be allowed to access the restricted works, of course, but that leaves plenty of trouble for you to get into. So the first rule is: Theoretical Study Only. This is not the place for experimentation. If you defy that rule, I’ll know, and your free-study privileges will be revoked.”

“Yes, teacher.” My earlier anger had vanished. The only thing I felt at the moment was excitement.

“The first step is to identify yourself to the library. That’s what I’m doing, now. Place your hand next to mine.”

I obeyed. Little lights clustered around my hand, too. The surface of the ‘water’ felt like mist, insubstantial and a little warm. The lights dispersed, leaving a blank space around where we were kneeling.

Teemu began to write with a finger on the black surface, leaving a silvery trail. Title: boolean AND search.

A moment later, the images of several books appeared under the surface. Teemu flicked one of them and it opened. A few more flicks and he had ‘turned’ several of the phantasmal pages.

“This is how you select a book. Then, once you have found the one you want…” he dipped the physical book he was holding into the image of the book in the mist. When he withdrew it, it had become the book he had been looking at.

He opened it to the cover page, and I saw his name scrawled in Draconic runes. “This is my copy. That is the next important thing to know about the phantom library. You will not be able to draw my copy out. Instead, you will have your own copy where you can, if you like, take your own notes. And every time you draw out a book, it will be that copy, your copy, just as you left it. Do you understand?”

“I think so. What… what happens to the notes I’ve taken if, for instance, I die?”

Teemu smiled, as he only did when he liked one of my questions. “Marginalia is absorbed into the library and can be retrieved, if one knows how and has the right level of access. But this is enough to keep you busy for now, don’t you think?” He offered the book to me. “I suggest you read this, first. Otherwise you will find searching the catalog very hard. Dip it in to change it to your copy.”

I was obeying his instruction when I asked the wrong question.

“What happens if I fall in?”

The dragon casually batted me off the edge. For a moment I was in freefall, and I screamed accordingly. A moment later, and I was blinded as the bright points of light mobbed me. The next thing I knew, I could feel solid stone under me again, and my vision was full of afterimages. Teemu’s amused voice drifted to me from not very far away.

“The library doesn’t absorb life-forms.”

I answered him in language I won’t repeat here.

“If I hadn’t thrown you in, you’d have been curious. Now you know, and you can focus on your studies instead of wondering.”

My vision was clearing, and I looked at the book that was still in my hand. The cover was a patchwork, shreds of countless books mashed together, and the pages were sticking out at odd angles, words overlapping words until they were nearly black.

“Go ahead, dip it again.” Teemu backed up to reassure me that he wouldn’t push me off the edge again. Grudgingly, I obeyed.

“There is a water-closet over there,” he pointed to a little door beside the desk that I hadn’t noticed earlier. “The penalty for peeing in the library is a five-decade ban, so don’t be stupid.”

I nodded and sat down in one of the armchairs. The book looked dry, and I don’t mean in terms of moisture. I began to regret, more and more, not having breakfast. Teemu seemed to be going over the list of things he meant to tell me.

“Oh, and I almost forgot.” He knocked on the stone coffee table, then wrote with the tip of his finger on the surface. A few minutes passed, and a knock sounded from the table itself as a cup of tea appeared on it. “There’s a direct line of communication to the kitchens. But don’t over use it, and always say ‘please’.”

“Yes, of course.”

He paused to think for a moment, then nodded. “Tomorrow, 8 am, sharp.”

“Yes teacher.”

As he turned to go, the realization of where I was, and what was now in my reach, began to sink in. Boolean method book notwithstanding, I was on the brink of a literal sea of books.

I called after Teemu, hoping he was still in earshot. “Thank you!”

No answer.

He probably heard, but didn’t bother to respond. I would thank him, again, in the morning. I settled comfortably in the armchair, with the cup of tea, and started trying to absorb the book as quickly as possible. It was going to be my map to this sea.

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Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

dragonsloyaltyaward1

With a glassy rustle, a dragon stretches a great green wing of feather-like translucent scales. It yawns, revealing several rows of sharp teeth and a pair of upward-curving, no-nonsense tusks. Resettling its wings, it pricks a pair of mule-like ears forward and peers out of the blog with emerald eyes.

Right, blog award.

Hello! My author, Jubilare, has asked that I not give my name here. She’s trying to keep her WIP’s mostly private until they are, ah, more prepared for the world, or the world is more prepared for them. I forget which.

But considering the name of this award, she felt that I should be the one to accept it. I don’t see why. I have very little to do with the day-to-day running of the blog, but she insists that she never would have started writing but for me. So here I am.

From the limited information she has given me, (research, dear, always research), the Dragon´s Loyalty Award is “presented to blogs with exceptional content.”

It is a great honor to accept this award. From the name, I assume that, lost somewhere in the shadowy (ahem, un-researched) history of this award is either a dragon who awarded it to a particularly loyal blog, or else it was awarded to a particularly loyal dragon who blogs. Not being a blogger, myself, I can’t really relate.

Jubilare: Um, buddy? can we try to get this in under 1000 words?

Not it you interrupt me we won’t.

Jubilare: Maybe I should’ve asked one of your brothers…

Which one? The one who makes me look laconic? The one you’d have to bribe? Or the one who’d actually make you do hours of research beforehand? Oh, or how about the one that hates you?

Jubilare: …Carry on.

Wings are re-shuffled, and the dragon draws a long breath.

Right. Well, as I was saying, it is an honor to accept this award on behalf of this blog. It, the blog, I mean, was awarded this prize by one Stephencwinter, whose blog my author greatly enjoys. Thank you, Mr. Winter! Visit my home some time. I’ll buy you a drink and show you around.

This award carries with it several requirements. Hold on.

The dragon holds out a scaly hand, complete with talons, and accepts a  poster-board from Jubilare. It looks like a post-it-note in the dragon’s grasp.

First: Display this award on your blog.

Jubilare: Done.

Great. Next we announce our win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded us. …I’m doing that right now, yes?

Jubilare: yep

Excellent. Now, we present this same award to 15 meritorious bloggers. Fifteen? This thing must multiply faster than rabbits.

Jubilare: I, uh, only have 12.

I see. Well, it looks like we don’t get to accept the award because my author doesn’t know how to follow rules.

Jubilare: Hey! Stephen didn’t do fifteen, either, and he still got to accept it.

The dragon grins toothily and flicks one ear. Oh, all right. If the award police come for me, though, I’m giving you up. I won’t go down for your crimes.

The twelve blogs Jubilare would like to nominate are… flips the poster-board and thrums the fingers of one taloned hand on the ground like a snare-drum-roll

Bekindrewrite – All shall love her, and despair!

Dreaming of Other Realms – an epic storyteller from “Kiwiland”

The Egotist’s Club – A magnificent menagerie of muses.

Grimmella – How can she not be awesome with a blog-name like that?

Lovethebadguy – Delightfully wicked

Pages Unbound – They read books. Lots of books. And tell us about them!

A Pilgrim in Narnia – already has one of these, that should tell you something

Res Studiorum et Ludorum -Profoundly Geeky, and Geekily Profound

Soughing of Pines – This dragon’s particular friend. Writer and Renaissance woman.

Strange Figures – Painfully honest, in a world in desperate need of honesty

Technicolorlilypond – Just as colorful as it says it is

The Warden’s Walk – Should be called “The Warden’s Fabulous Hat”

Now I must link them?

Jubilare: I just did.

And… let them know of their being awarded.

Jubilare: We’ll do that after we finish here.

You mean I will, don’t you.

Jubilare: I’ll help!

Alright. Last item on the list.

The tip of the dragon’s tail swishes.

Write seven things about you. …is that me-you or you-you?

Jubilare: I think it’s supposed to be me, but make one of them about you, just in case.

Hm. Well, Jubilare is obsessive. And I do mean obsessive. When she’s trying to work through a scene, she will sometimes listen to the same song, or handful of songs, for HOURS. IT’S HORRIBLE. And when she’s found something to obsess about, it is very hard to derail her to anything else.

She also loves almonds. She eats them all the time. Perhaps that ties in with the obsession issues.

What else… despite being obsessive, she is also easily distracted. While it is hard to get her off something she is obsessing over, it is equally hard to get her to focus on tasks. Very annoying when one is trying to get her to write.

I also think she is rather sweet, even when she’s glaring at me, like right now.

That’s what, four? Hm. Five would be that she is something of a pyromaniac. Not an arsonist, mind. She’s been well taught not to burn other people’s things without permission, but she loves fire. As a dragon, of course, I approve.

Six. She has a thing for creatures, like dragons, bats, creepy-crawlies and such, that are often reviled. Even as a kid, I was her imaginary friend. Every child should have a dragon, don’t you think?

Seven needs to be about me? Well, I love apple fritters and whiskey, not necessarily together. Please send apple fritters and whiskey by way of my author.

Thank you all. It’s been surprisingly fun.

Are we in under 1000 words?

Jubilare: Shockingly, yes. Thank you, oh dragon-mine. Here’s the list of “requirements,” that are optional, and will break the 1000 word limit, alas!

  1. Display Award on your Blog.
  2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
  3. Present 15 deserving Bloggers with Award
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
  5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On

This post is the end of a series. Find the earlier installments here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part III: Creation

I’ve tried to wrangle this post down to something (possibly) reasonable. I hope you have enjoyed the series and that the Khazâd, if they haven’t before, now spark your curiosity and imagination.

Stereotypes, pernicious over-simplifications based on seeds of truth covered with lies, are as pervasive in our literary worlds as they are in the world we inhabit. I will spare you a full rant, but one of my objects in life is to smash the boxes we form around each-other that prevent us from truly seeing our fellows. If I could do it with an axe, I would. Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!

The more time J. R. R. Tolkien spends with a character or a race, the more stereotypes fade. It is ironic that numerous clichés have arisen from the reading and subsequent glossing-over of his work.  It makes me wonder how many people actually read him. My intent is to highlight often-overlooked aspects of Tolkien’s Dwarves and break down some of the popular clichés. However, there is always a danger of creating new ones, and that is just as bad. I dislike even “positive” stereotypes because they insulate us from seeing.

Therefore, assume Tolkien wrote exceptions to everything I say about the Khazâd. They are not all alike.

In many “fantasy” books, films, and games, Dwarves are either comic relief; gruff, warlike side-characters; or else the “Big Guy” of the story.  Because the clichés have roots in Tolkien, some assume that Tolkien wrote according to these pop-culture images. His Khazâd are not pretty or dashing enough to garner much attention, and so their subtle complexity is overlooked. In contrast, his equally-complex Elves have gotten so much attention that many people are sick of them, which is also sad.

The seeds at the heart of “Tolkienesque”  Dwarves can be found in Tolkien’s work. He, however, does not take the acorn for the oak, and neither should we.

The Khazâd, like all of Tolkien’s races, have their cultural weaknesses. I share many of these, which adds sympathy to my other reasons for loving them. Excessive pride is probably the cause of their worst moments (Thorin, anyone?). This is not surprising for a people whom the elves call “Naugrim,” meaning “Stunted People,” and who face attitudes such as this:

…Caranthir was haughty and scarce concealed his scorn for the unloveliness of the Naugrim, and his people followed their lord. Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 13

While the scorn of others doesn’t excuse pride, it helps explain the defensiveness of many Dwarves. They are also stubborn. The Silmarillion states that Aulë made them stubborn in defiance of the Enemy. It stands them in good stead, but it also gets between them and those who would be their friends were they more yielding.

…they were made…  to resist most steadfastly any domination. Though they could be slain or broken, they could not be reduced to shadows enslaved to another will… All the more did Sauron hate… and desire to dispossess them.” -Appendix A

Though it was sometimes destructive in other ways, I love that the stubborn nature of the Dwarves kept them from coming under the dominion of Sauron.

The greedy Dwarf is a stereotype all it’s own, isn’t it? Perhaps Tolkien understood that fierce love of the beauty of the world, though good in its way, leaves the heart vulnerable. I certainly find it so in myself.  It is a difficult balance to love without coveting; to be in the world and not of it. Like the Dwarves, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. But I am very fond of this quote of Galadriel’s from The Fellowship of the Ring:

Let none say again that Dwarves are grasping and ungracious!

There is evidence throughout Tolkien’s scribbles that Dwarves are not as greedy as they are painted by the other races. For the sake of length, I will have to let you find it on your own.

The Khazâd are secretive. They do not teach their language to others and their true names are never written or told to outsiders. That’s right, we only have nicknames for the Dwarves! It may not help their relationships outside their own people, but I find the secretive aspect of Dwarven society mysterious. I like a little mystery.

Like their weaknesses, the strengths of the Dwarves are usually blown out of proportion or, if they do not fit cleanly into the clichés, forgotten. Loyalty is common in stock-fantasy Dwarves, but it is also very present in Tolkien’s representation. This resonates deeply with me. I believe friendship should be fast (in the archaic sense) and enduring. Love and promises should bind. The Khazâd, in general, seem to agree with me. This, however, ties in with an aspect of Dwarves often completely ignored: romantic love.

Because they are not beautiful, Dwarves in love seems off-putting to many. Even Tolkien says little on the subject. According to the Appendix A, only about a third of Dwarves are women (how are they not extinct?). Not all Dwarf women desire marriage, and neither do all Dwarf men (which is good, given the discrepancy in numbers!). But when they do marry, they take only one wife or husband in a lifetime. It is said that often a Dwarf woman, on failing to win the heart she desires, “will have no other.” I expect the same is true for Dwarf men. This suggests that when they do love it is with a passion similar to their craftsmanship: a powerful, single-minded, and loyal love.

The Khazâd are passionate beneath the surface. Cliché Dwarves seem to have three settings: wrathful, dour or rollicking. Tolkien’s writing gives a more balanced picture. His Dwarves show a full emotional range expressed in subtle, sometimes elegant, ways. Elegant Dwarves!

Far from the stereotypical “angry Dwarf shout of grief and rage!” that we get in the films, this is Gimli’s reaction on finding Balin’s tomb in Moria:

Gimli cast his hood over his face.

And when time came to escape:

Gimli had to be dragged away by Legolas: in spite of the peril he lingered by Balin’s tomb with his head bowed.

He breaks my heart, then gives it back to me whole and makes me smile:

“Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram… and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla. My heart trembles at the thought that I may see them soon.” – The Fellowship of the Ring 

I will not quote his interactions with Galadriel, but any who have read the books will know them.

As I have said in earlier posts, the Dwarves have a passion for beauty and for craftsmanship. They are creative as well as industrious. This is a people who hang “flowering stars” on silver necklaces, create “metal wrought like fishes’ mail,” carve stone halls like beech forests, and treasure natural beauty deeply. The pop-culture ideas of elf-craft are probably closer to Tolkien’s idea of Dwarven works than the chunky and rigid images we always see. Not that there isn’t a place for stereotypical Dwarf-architecture. I like that too.

Tolkien and the clichés seem to agree that the Dwarves are strong. Tolkien’s Dwarves, at their best, have not only physical power and toughness, but deep roots to weather storms.

Last of all the eastern force to stand firm were the Dwarves of Belegost… And but for them Glaurung and his brood would have withered all that was left of the Noldor. But the Naugrim made a circle about him when he assailed them, and even his mighty armour was not full proof against the blows of their great axes; and when in his rage Glaurung turned and struck down Azaghâl, Lord of Belegost, and crawled over him, with his last stroke Azaghâl drove a knife into his belly, and so wounded him that he fled the field, and the beasts of Angband in dismay followed after him. Then the Dwarves raised up the body of Azaghâl and bore it away; and with slow steps they walked behind singing a dirge in deep voices, as it were a funeral pomp in their country, and gave no heed more to their foes; and none dared to stay them. ” Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 20

Wisdom is more associated with the Elves in Tolkien’s tales, but I think the Dwarves have their share. Here is what the surviving Dwarves have to say to Thráin when, after the battle against the orcs of Moria, he claims victory and wishes to reclaim Khazâd-dûm.

Durin’s Heir you may be, but even with one eye you should see clearer. We fought this war for vengeance, and vengeance we have taken. But it is not sweet. If this is victory, then our hands are too small to hold it. -Appendix A

That does not sound like the impulsive behavior so often portrayed in Dwarf stereotypes. I am tired of Dwarves being fools. Gimli, in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films, shows less than half the intelligence and wisdom of the same character from the books. But the Khazâd are an intelligent race:

…the Dwarves were swift to learn, and indeed were more willing to learn the Elven-tongue than to teach their own to those of alien race. – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 10

Apart from some of the silliness in The Hobbit, I do not recall Dwarves doing stupid things, or having sub-par intelligence.

Thankfully, (for I dearly love to laugh) the Dwarves have their humor and joy as well. Thorin is probably the most “serious” Dwarf we meet (unless one counts Mîm), and the rest like to joke and laugh when they can. The plate-breaking song in the beginning of The Hobbit is an excellent example. There is a difference, though, between having a gift for humor and being comic relief.

Music and song are mentioned repeatedly in relation to the Khazâd. And this from a people in exile whose story, like that of Arda itself, is one of devastating loss and victories that come at great cost. But the Dwarves are resilient, using their outward toughness to protect the gems beneath. Gimli makes me cry and laugh, and his whole race makes me smile.

And finally, I give you an amateur reading of Gimli’s chant within Moria: My favorite of the verses in The Lord of the Rings.


Happy Hobbit Thanksgiving!

Lets face it, Thanksgiving is a very Hobbitish holiday. Food, family, thankfulness, and more food.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to have one of our chapters from The Hobbit Read-along fall on this day. Here we are, at the next to last chapter, “The Return Journey”.

We have been in the midst of a chaotic battle, but the dust has settled and dear Bilbo, invisible, wakes from unconsciousness, cold, and alone. He wakes to find victory, but not a joyful one. “Well it seems a very gloomy business,” he says. Yes, Bilbo, it is a very gloomy business.

Last chapter, the Dwarves  showed some real character. Now, so near the end, we get more. We see Thorin, faced with death, gaining perspective. Forgiveness and friendship finally outweigh material things to him. This death, and the deaths of Fili and Kili (I am so sad for their parents, if they still live!) bring home to Bilbo the painful reality that adventure and tragedy are closely related.

They buried Thorin deep beneath the mountain, and Bard laid the Arkenstone upon his breast.

“There let it lie till the Mountain falls!” he said. “May it bring good fortune to all his folk that dwell here after!”

Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from Thorin in captivity. It is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise.

There are some interesting details in this chapter, and, in my opinion, some of the best quotes in the book.

In the “interesting” category, I place the fact that Gandalf has his arm in a sling. Gandalf, who will one day fight a Balrog! I know he can be injured, but I really want to know how it happened.

Also interesting is Tolkien’s more relaxed use of language. Just look at his description of Beorn’s roars:

The roar of his voice was like drums and guns.

No shying from modern lingo here!

Now I will conclude with some of my favorite quotes from the chapter.

“How I should have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the way, I don’t know. And I don’t know what I should have done with it when I got home.”

Bilbo has become a much wiser hobbit over the course of his adventure. And much more generous, too:

“If ever you are passing my way,”  said Bilbo, “don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome to come at any time!”

Could there be a more hobbitish farewell?

There is some nice, probably unintentional foreshadowing:

“Farewell! O Gandalf!” said the king. “May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected!”

Tolkien taunts us with:

“He had many hardships and adventures before he got back.”

And yet he tells us so little! Why, Tolkien, why?!

And finally we have this:

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!”

Have a happy Thanksgiving day!


Contrariwise

Let me get my least-justifiable reason for loving the Dwarves of J. R. R. Tolkien out of the way first.

Like many people, I have a contrary streak. Often, when a storyteller (author, film-maker, etc.) tells me what to think, my mule ears lay back and my heels dig in.

That said, I know that being contrary for the sake of being contrary is as thoughtless as being blindly led. I do not consistently root for the villains in a tale, I do not accept atrocities whilst jeering at characters who make the hard, noble choices. It’s not easy to express what, exactly, I do, so I will give examples. Don’t worry, I will get back to Tolkien in a moment.

The Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling:   I root for Slytherin. I don’t root for them because I like them, but because they are systematically demonized by most of the other characters in the books and largely unredeemed by their author. I don’t desire them to get their way, either.  I want, instead, to see the redemptive qualities I stubbornly believe exist. I cannot accept that they are simply a “bad House.”

James Cameron’s Avatar:  “Nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure” (Aliens, 1986).  …well, not really, but I flatly refuse to like or sympathize with the Na’vi because of the two-dimensional characterization of their antagonists and the patronizing way the film tells me exactly what to think. I would like to corner Cameron and scream at him for several hours for trying to bludgeon me into submission with plot.

Most of Western Mythology: Dragons. Why are dragons always manifestations or symbols of evil? I was so upset by this as a child that my imaginary friend was a dragon.

Obviously this is all highly subjective and has little, if any, basis in logic or reason.

Back to Tolkien. From the above, I ought to be talking about Goblins, Orcs, Dragons and their ilk from Tolkien’s mythologies. I do have some similar feelings about them, but that is a rabbit-trail. As far as Tolkien is concerned, I find myself rooting for the protagonists. With few exceptions, Tolkien does a good job of making his characters and his peoples complicated and convincing. He soothes my contrary spirit by giving me what I want: room to make up my own mind.

What first stirred my instincts in defensive favor of the Dwarves was Tolkien’s attitude toward them in The Hobbit.

The Hobbit forms a transition between some of his posthumously-published scribblings in which Dwarves appear rather unsympathetic, and Lord of the Rings which solidifies their place on the Good Side. He obviously likes the Dwarves in The Hobbit, but he also judges their avaricious and insular tenancies harshly without trying to delve deeper.  Until the end, they are also largely ineffectual. I surmise that Tolkien, being pastoral in his tastes, had to stretch himself to understand and sympathize with mythological  Dwarves, whereas he felt very like-minded towards Hobbits and Elves.

I first read The Hobbit as a child and I wanted to defend the Dwarves from the indignant treatment  they suffered at the hands of their author.  For one thing, he seemed to place the Wood Elves more on the side of right than I liked.  I take the book less seriously now, but that first impression set the foundation for my love of Tolkien’s short, bearded delvers.

To recap, I am aware that none of this is logical. I speak merely of first impressions and biases that laid a foundation. Now that my slant is in the open, I will move forward and show why I now love the Dwarves apart from any comparison with other races from their mythos, or from their author’s opinions on them.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part III: Creation
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On


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