Inklings Forever Volume 8 A Collection of Essays Presented at the Joint Meeting of The Eighth Frances White Ewbank Article 21 Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends and The C.S. Lewis & Society Conference

5-31-2012 Father Knows Best: The aN rrator's Oral Performance as Paternal Protector in The obbitH Anderson Rearick III Mount Vernon Nazarene University

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Recommended Citation Rearick, Anderson III (2012) "Father Knows Best: The aN rrator's Oral Performance as Paternal Protector in The oH bbit," Inklings Forever: Vol. 8 , Article 21. Available at: https://pillars.taylor.edu/inklings_forever/vol8/iss1/21

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INKLINGS FOREVER, Volume VIII A Collection of Essays Presented at the Joint Meeting of



Father Knows Best: The Narrator’s Oral Performance as Paternal Protector in The

Anderson Rearick III Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Rearick III, Anderson. “Father Knows Best: The Narrator’s Oral Performance as Paternal Protector in .” Inklings Forever 8 (2012) www.taylor.edu/cslewis


Father Knows Best: The Narrator’s Oral Performance as Paternal Protector in The Hobbit

Anderson Rearick III Mount Vernon Nazarene University

The importance of the narrator in narrator on the web forum Tolkien’s Ring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit has been when one thirty five year old reader— recognized for a number of decades. In clearly an adult—writes: “I love the way 1979, -Nitzsche (later just the narrator talks to me. It always makes Jane Chance) in Tolkien’s Art includes me feel like I am sitting right there. I also extensive commentary in a chapter “The think that the way this is done gives the King Under the Mountain” in which she story a Hobbity feeling!” (Desi). Yet there argues for the independent nature of the are many who find the voice which tells narrator, writing that “The narrator, like a the story of The Hobbit problematic-- tale-telling [Canterbury] pilgrim, must be many of them are scholars and one seems regarded as one additional character” to be the author himself. (Chance 60). 1 Later Paul Thomas in Jane Chance says that the “Some of Tolkien’s Narrators” makes a narrator’s practice of “intrusions—direct similar claim: addresses to children, use of the first person singular, foreshadowing of later Thus the narrator is, from one events, joking tone, plot clarifications, and perspective, just as much a sound effects intended for entertain character as Bard, and Bilbo. children—have annoyed readers and And yet the narrator is a special critics” (73). She claims that the narrator character: as a third-person “patronizes his audience. . .prides himself narrator, he is merely a voice, and of his superior wisdom and status as an he is in the story but not in the plot. adult. . .and behaves more like a critic (Thomas 162-163) when he laughs at or disapproves of his What remains in debate, therefore, is not characters, expressing neither pity nor the narrator’s importance but rather his terror at the plights that he relives qualities. And this is especially vicariously” (74). The “arrogant, important in light of the fact that there unimaginative, and very ‘adult’ narrator are, and will soon be more, versions of assumes this story about little The Hobbit in which the narrator must be relegated to an audience of little apparently is absent. creatures—children” (Chance 60). Many find the narrator charming. Chance does not, however, see this as a In a published seminar paper “The Voice flaw in the book since she interprets the of the Narrator in Tolkien’s Hobbit” Nadja narrating voice as belonging to a Litschko concludes by noting that the purposefully flawed figure created by narrator is a “delight to adult readers” Tolkien to stand in contrast to the true (28). This is confirmed within a moral center of the work, . Yet it discussion board about The Hobbit’s is clear that she is bothered by the very

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tone in which others have delighted. She Norman, “The Prevalence of Hobbits,” is not alone. Tolkien presents his most withering Litschko writes that “due to his criticism: frequent comments and reader addresses, ‘The Hobbit’ was written in what I he [the Narrator] can be perceived as should now regard as bad style, as rather patronizing” (179). Tolkien’s if one were talking to children. authorized biographer, Humphrey There's nothing my children Carpenter, while presenting the facts of loathed more. They taught me a composition, adds his own The Hobbit’s lesson. Anything that in any way negative opinion about the narrator marked out 'The Hobbit' as for whose purpose he sees as being there to children instead of just for people, address children: they disliked--instinctively. I did Indeed he [Tolkien] did this too too, now that I think about it. All consciously and deliberately at time this 'I won't tell you any more, you in the readers’ remarks such as think about it' stuff. Oh no, they “Now you know quite enough to get loathe it; it's awful. (qtd. in on with” and “as we shall see in the Norman) end.” He later removed many of That would appear to end the these, but some remain in the conversation; not only scholars but the published text—to his regret, for he very author himself seems to see the came to dislike them and even to narrator as a flaw within The Hobbit. believe that any deliberate talking But it isn’t the end—neither of the down to children is a great mistake conversation, nor as the final word on the in a story” (Carpenter 179). nature of the narrator. Carpenter will also later refer to “the First, as important as Tolkien’s patronizing ‘asides’ to juvenile readers” own words are, he had a tendency to which he says Tolkien did not remove speak in sweeping terms with sometimes because he was so busy with the many a less than clear memory. For example, other complications associated with the he gave little credence that the source of initial publication of the book. But clearly the multiple giant spiders that turn up in he sees these elements as problematic, a his work, specifically in The Hobbit, Lord position which, it should be noted, was of the Rings and even , had later challenged by Thomas in “Some of anything to do with the bite he received Tolkien’s Narrators” (167). from a tarantula as a small child in South Finally The J.R.R. Tolkien Africa—a bite which resulted with him Encyclopedia Scholarship and Assessment running “in terror across the garden until in its “discussion and analysis” portion of the nurse snatched him up and sucked out its entry on “The Hobbit” notes that much the poison” (Carpenter 13). In a letter to “of the novel’s flavor also derives from the Auden he claimed the following: voice of the narrator, which contrasts the If it [the importance of spiders] has grandeur of ancient epic with the cozy, anything to do with my being stung even patronizing asides of the Victorian by a tarantula as a small child, children’s tale. Tolkien regretted this later people are welcome to the notion. I ” feature, yet he never fully edited it out can only say I remember nothing (Scoville 277-278 Emphasis Mine). about it, should not know it if I had As the last two sources indicate, not been told and I do not dislike there is evidence that Tolkien himself spiders particularly and have no regretted the tone of his narrator. In a urge to kill them. I usually rescue New York Times interview by Philip

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those whom I find in the bath narrative voice—is Tolkien’s claim that (Letters 217). The Hobbit is not a children’s story: In fact Tolkien came to blame the “The Hobbit" wasn't written for villainess role of spiders in The Hobbit on children, and it certainly wasn't his first listeners, his children. done just for the amusement of Tolkien's three sons and one I put in the spiders largely because daughter, as is generally reported. this was, you remember, primarily "That's all sob stuff. No, of course, I written for my children (at least I didn't. If you're a youngish man and had them in mind) and one of my you don't want to be made fun of, sons in particular dislikes spiders you say you're writing for children. with a great intensity. I did it to At any rate, children are your thoroughly frighten him, and it did. immediate audience and you write (qtd. in Anderson 169, note 7). or tell them stories, for which they In fairness, Anderson also notes that are mildly grateful: long rambling “throughout his life, Tolkien’s son Michael stories at bedtime. (Norman) had what he called ‘a deep rooted This sounds as if Tolkien, afraid of censor abhorrence to spiders’” (Anderson 169, from peers, hid his own adult enjoyment note 7). It is not that Michael’s fears were of fairy tales under the excuse of writing not true motivators in the creative for his children. But as multiple quotes process; it is Tolkien’s inability to given earlier and later make clear, it was consider his own past self—his own his children for whom he wrote and fears—as he made those denials which is whose response he judged the success of the issue. He certainly remembered his work. Furthermore, was enough, “a hot day and running in fear The Hobbit not the only children’s story he wrote at through long, dead grass” (Carpenter 13). that time in his life; there was But somehow he assumed that since he (based on a toy dog lost by could not recall the actual spider that it Michael, his second son), The had no place in his nature. He apparently Adventures (based on a favorite did not consider C S Lewis’ observation of Tom Bomadil Dutch doll also owned by Michael) that it is impossible to please a child with Mr. , and of course the illustrated a material which the author views “with Bliss Father . (Carpenter 161-162). indifference or contempt” (“On Three Christmas Letters Thus, to say that was not Ways of Writing for Children” 32). In The Hobbit intended for children makes one wonder other words, Tolkien may have zeroed in what Tolkien was thinking. on his son’s fears because they found a There is also the point that, in resounding chord in his own heart, but he spite of all these claims on how much did not see it. Thus, Tolkien did not Tolkien publically did not like the always, when making judgments, narrative voice in , the fact consider the levels of experience which The Hobbit remains that he retained it even though made-up his own memory. As Carpenter he reworked for three writes, Tolkien was guilty of the “habit the Hobbit editions—requiring more editing than he (and it is not an uncommon habit) did for . As was of making dogmatic assertions. . .” (236). quoted from Carpenter earlier even after Another example of a such extensive editing “some [elements of contradictory perspective in memory the chatty narrator] remain in the found in the Norman interview—the published text” (179). Thomas concurs same one in which he makes those even more, basing his conclusion on devastating critical comments about his Anderson’s review of Tolkien’s changes in

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the multiple editions included in The Even as late as the Norman Annotated Hobbit (Anderson 322-328), interview, Tolkien revealed his and says that “although Tolkien in his preference for oral delivery even of The revisions made several changes in the Lord of the Rings: “Tolkien would rather details of what the narrator says, he made enjoy making a recording of his work, almost no changes in the qualities of the doing all the different voices; rustic ones narrator’s voice” (162). for the hobbits and a horrid, high, hissing Furthermore, it is not as if Tolkien one for , the creature who slithers were reluctant to rework a text he found after them, trying to win back the Dark problematic. When faced with criticism, Lord's ring for himself” (Norman). C. S. Lewis notes, “Either he [Tolkien] Furthermore, it is notable that in The Two begins the whole work over again from Towers, Frodo and Sam, while having the beginning or else takes no notice at their discussion of important stories, all” (qtd. in Carpenter 145). In fact, it is envision the passing on of great songs and partly Tolkien’s “habitual insistence on tales as being done by a father orally to perfection” (Carpenter 195) which may his children: be partly blamed for the limited canon Still, I wonder if we shall ever be that makes up his finished work. So, that put into songs or tales. We're in being the case, why did Tolkien not one, or course; but I mean: put into remove the narrator from ? The Hobbit words, you know, told by the The answer for this has been fireside, or read out of a great big raised already in earlier quotes, The book with red and black letters, is a story for children—not that Hobbit years and years afterwards. And Hobbits or Middle Earth are childish—but people will say: "Let's hear about that this specific narrative was designed Frodo and the Ring! " And they'll for children. The narrator is appropriate say: "Yes, that's one of my favorite for children, specifically for Tolkien’s stories. Frodo was very brave. children and even more specifically for wasn't he, dad?" "Yes, my boy, the Tolkien’s children. Again, this ties young famousest of the hobbits, and that's into Tolkien’s limitations with memory. saying a lot." (Two Towers 321) When he made his comments in the Norman interview denigrating the Tolkien, therefore, even though he usually narrative voice of The Hobbit and denying wrote out or typed his manuscripts, its purpose as being for children, the year always presented his stories to his first was 1957. At that time his children were audience— to his children—as an oral all adults: John was 40, Michael 37, performance. The thing about oral Christopher 33, and Pricilla was 29. (This performances is that they are listened to probably explains their negative by anyone within earshot, both the old perspective as well.) However, in 1930, and the very young. This awareness twenty seven years earlier, when actually shaped Charles Dickens’ according to Carpenter his children first narratives since he knew that reading out remembered him reading or just telling loud was a family activity in his day and them portions of The Hobbit, John was 13, that children would certainly be part of Michael 10, Christopher 6, and Priscilla his audience. Thus when he wrote, even only 2.2 All were young and, in fact, some about dark social issues, he did so with a so young they were not reading yet. Thus, guardianship of the young in mind, their whole early experience in relation to possible because he was himself a father. The Hobbit came to them orally. An oral The same can be said about Tolkien. performance was always part of Tolkien’s Carpenter affirms the Tolkien story telling. children’s experience as listeners,

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sometimes to stories that had only an oral disapproval of the so called “literary elite” existence. He records that they were “not is hard for an author to bear. As Joseph certain that what they were listening to at Pearce notes, in the opening of his Tolkien the time was necessarily a written story; Man and Myth, there was, even in 1997, they believe that it may have well have strong critical dissatisfaction when been a number of impromptu tales which Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was voted as were later absorbed into The Hobbit “the greatest book of the [twentieth] proper” (177). So when describing The century” in the Waterstone poll, a Hobbit as a tale appropriate for children, position confirmed in multiple polls it is vital to stress that Tolkien recreates afterwards, (1). At the base of much of within the novel the same audio voice this complaining was the fact that the which first entertained his children. He book was perceived as being too juvenile did so because the speaker fulfills (5). The critic Barnes, bewailing the qualities which fit the needs of a young childish tastes of readers, wrote in person’s narrative. Independent Education the following: Carpenter emphasizes the book’s Are we really so hooked on place as intended for the young: “For it as the list suggests? What is it that [ ] is a children’s story. Despite The Hobbit we. . .are so hell bent on escaping the fact that it had been drawn into his from that we look back for solace to mythology, Tolkien did not allow it to The Wind and the Willows and become overwhelmingly serous or even Winnie the Pooh or to elaborate adult in tone, but stuck to his original sagas about imaginary creatures intention of amusing his own and perhaps (Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings came other people’s children” (Carpenter 179). top) to find expressions of our lives The oral narrator is part of the organic in the twentieth century? (qtd. quality of The Hobbit as a children’s story. Pearce 4)3 This is a central fact. The difficulty for some, like (As shall be seen in this paper later, the Chance and Carpenter, is that a children’s juvenile perception of LOR is profoundly narrative is seen as somehow wrong, but it is the prejudice of the incompatible with profound content. critical environment which is the point Instead, for Chance deep material has to here.) Many serious readers even today be hidden. She affirms that The Hobbit is consider texts created for children as an important narrative, but that “the unimportant. So maybe in 1957 Tolkien explicit children’s story framework of The did not want readers to dismiss The Hobbit masks a more ‘adult’ and serious Hobbit, which he knew was an important purpose” (62). This, however, fails to work, just because it was a children’s recognize that a children’s narrative can book. But Tolkien’s fellow scholar and be profound by itself. However, her children’s author, C.S. Lewis, notes that perspective has been the norm for years. contemporary critics are mistaken when It is impossible to be certain, but they “use ‘adult’ as a term of approval” perhaps this general prejudice explains (“On Three Ways of Writing for Children” Tolkien’s strange claim in the 1957 33). In fact, Lewis says, sometimes the Norman interview that The Hobbit was best way for a story to be told is to tell it not a children’s text. As quoted earlier, as to children: Tolkien explained his appearance of Where the children’s story is simply writing for children as a cover-up: “If the right form for what the author you're a youngish man and you don't has to say, then of course readers want to be made fun of, you say you're who want to hear that will read the writing for children” (Norman). The

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story or re-read it, at any age. . .a therefore, while not Tolkien, is very much children’s story which is enjoyed like him with some of the same fatherly only by children is a bad children’s concerns.4 And he is based in part on the story. (Lewis 33) experience of Tolkien telling his own young children a story. In this same essay Lewis brings up The narrator of must a point helpful in understanding the The Hobbit be understood as presenting a story nature of the narrator in The Hobbit. He orally to his listeners, because the oral claims that there are three motivations presentation would by its nature include for writing children’s books: to make the very young, and the youthfulness of money, to fit an idea which best fits the audience shapes the material children’s narrative, and to entertain presented. Therefore, some of the issues specific children. He especially notes that which have been raised against Tolkien motivation is part of the last (32). The ’s narrator can be explained. It has Furthermore, he suggests that in the Hobbit been claimed that he is. . . process of the adult and child experiencing the story together a new • Too Condescending, shows off his voice is created: knowledge The writer will “become slightly • Too Chatty reminds the listeners different than you were talking to a that he is there child and the child would become • Too Present and gets in the way of slightly different because it is being the action talked to by an adult. A community, a composite personality, is created However anyone who has ever told and out of that the story grows” stories to young children knows that (32). many of them seem to need the following:

So to repeat, and in spite of some of • Definitions followed by often Tolkien’s own claims, The Hobbit’s repeated explanation narrative voice is unique because it was • Engagement with listeners, shaped by the mind of a father involved sometimes using humor to the act of oral story-telling with his young interacting with the children. children. Those who dislike the narrative • Assurance that things will turn voice may in fact be embarrassed in that out all right. they have been caught standing at the door of the study eavesdropping on dad’s For the young, this kind of care usually story-time. does not occur when they read a book; Thomas does not emphasize the instead it occurs when a story is told to paternal quality of The Hobbit’s narrator, them. However, to achieve the same but he does note that the story teller’s experience within the text, Tolkien voice “has a much closer relationship to creates the illusion of an oral narrator. Tolkien’s voice than that of any other For the reader it literally as if he or she is character” (163). This is not to say that sitting within a room with a group of Tolkien and the narrator are the same other listeners to someone telling a great “because Tolkien stands both inside and story. Tolkien’s text helps this sense in outside the novel. Tolkien permeates the several ways. whole of the words of the text, so that One of the experiences listeners to every voice within it is his, and yet an oral story have is the occasional Tolkien also looked upon this text interaction of the speaker with other objectively” (162). The narrator, voices. This is precisely what occurs in the book. For example consider this

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passage in which one can almost hear a a great deal more that he does not know. small voice interrupting the narrator, Later the speaker confirms his limitations forcing the speaker to give further when describing Bilbo’s own inability to information: take action “I do not know how long he kept on like this, hating to go on, not The mother of our particular daring to stop” (81). And just further on hobbit—what is a hobbit? I when speaking of Gollum, he says: “I don’t suppose hobbits need some know where he came from nor who or description nowadays since they what he was” (82). have become rare and shy of the One of the ways to interpret these Big People as they call us. They are comments is to understand them as (or were) a little people about half portraying for the reader the story-teller’s our height, and smaller than oral responses, or even preemptive dwarves. Hobbits have no beards responses, to inquiries made by young (Annotated Hobbit 10). listeners—answering questions the Another interrupted moment in The narrator receives or knows he is likely to Hobbit occurs with the introduction of receive. Telling children ahead of time Gandalf: what is not known, often helps an Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you experienced narrator avoid becoming had heard only a quarter of what I bogged down with detailed minutia. It have heard about him, and I have also adds to the sense of the speaker’s only heard very little of all there is honesty, and therefore makes him appear to hear, you would be prepared for even more trustworthy. All of these are any sort of remarkable tale. Tales qualities desirable for the reader to feel and adventures sprouted up all about the speaker in The Hobbit. over the place wherever he went, in Interestingly this lack of the most extraordinary fashion. He information about Middle Earth admitted had not been down that way under to by the narrator actually fits Tolkien’s The Hill for ages and ages, not since true condition when he first presented his his friend the Old Took died, in fact, children some of the adventures from The and the hobbits had almost Hobbit. forgotten what he looked like. (11) A vital quality in understanding how the narrator speaks in The Hobbit is Thus, included in the text is the illusion to realize that Tolkien did not see himself that the narrator is responding to oral as creating his tale as much as discovering queues that request more information. his narrative. For example, years earlier, Another quality in The Hobbit that when asked about the meaning of one of adds to the sense that the reader is his first elfish works by a school friend, G listening to an oral performance is that B Smith, Tolkien said “I do not know. I’ll the speaker admits at different times that try to find out” (qtd. Carpenter 75). he does not know everything—even if he Carpenter emphasizes this point: “Not try does know a lot. Such humility, by the to invent; try to find out. He [Tolkien] did way, seems hardly to fit the narrator not see himself as an inventor of story, “who patronizes his audience” which but as a discoverer of legend” (75). In a Chance and others suggest (Chance 74). letter written to Milton Waldman around In a regular book, one would expect the 1951, Tolkien says “always I had the writer to know all there is to know, but sense of recording what was already The Hobbit’s narrator periodically does ‘there’, somewhere: not of inventing” not. As illustrated above he knows a good (Letters 145). Thus, the narrator of The amount about Gandalf, but in fact there is Hobbit is not necessarily being coy or

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even skillful as a story teller as Thomas those who listen know that bedtime does suggests when he praises speaker for his come. art (164). He may be doing this, but he is Why is the narrator’s presence, also telling the children the truth. This described by Chance, Thomas and will be important to remember when Litschko as “intrusive” so important? considering profound quality to Tolkien Because he exists as a buffer between the of the world his speaker describes. young reader and the often harsh and Meanwhile, when Tolkien first frightening reality which Tolkien was wrote The Hobbit, the narrator’s discovering. And even though he knew ignorance matched his own. At that point this other place has disturbing and Tolkien had not “discovered” all there unpleasant elements, its quality of truth was to know about Middle Earth’s third made the narrative something which age. Even after the publication of The Tolkien grew to believe was of worth both Lord of the Rings when Tolkien certainly for his children, other children, and even knew a lot more about Gandalf, Gollum other adults to experience. and the relation of to the rest of There are three zones suggested Middle Earth, he kept the narrator’s in The Hobbit, the place where the reader original honest ignorance. It also seems sits, the imaged room where a parental likely that he did so because the chatty voice is speaking to a group of listeners, ignorance of the narrator helped serve and the world of action where Bilbo and Tolkien’s greater purpose of reminding the dwarves are making their way. It young readers of the narrator’s presence. would be a mistake to call this last place He wanted children to know they had a imaginary since for Tolkien, as indicated companion. by the earlier cited comments of The speaker is, as Litschko discovering history, that other place has a observes “self-aware” (16) or as Thomas reality just as overt as the physical one in puts it “self conscious” (165) and that which the reader sits. In fact if one thinks makes him intrusive. Besides admitting about it, when he wrote The Hobbit for that there is information he does not publication, the sitting reader was as know there are also times when the much an imaginary construction for narrator indicates he has more Tolkien as the speaker within the text and information that he can give at a given Bilbo and his fellowship. moment. This occurred in the Gandalf Thus a question for the reader is quote when he indicated he knew more whether the speaker-narrator (of whom than the listeners did about the wizard. It Tolkien took artistic steps for us to be also occurs when Thorin and company aware of) is worth listening to. Chance are visiting : “I wish I had time does not think so, but both Litschko and to tell you even a few of the tales or one Thomas do, and this author believes so or two of the songs that they heard in too. The narrator presents enough house” (Hobbit 61) as an example of being information so that he can be viewed as a a “revealing but unrevealing teaser” trusted speaker. Again this is of vital (164). Thomas notes that this adds to the importance because trust plays a major readers’ perception that the narrator is role in his function as story-teller. The indeed knowledgeable, but I would also Hobbit’s narrator, in fact, establishes his note that it suggests a wider world for the knowledge even before he has settles young listener. Furthermore it augments down to present his tale. Readers first the reality of the oral narrator since it meet him within the text of the preface. adds the element of the pressure of time. There his professorial voice—appropriate Readers don’t care about such things, but for the professor father author— is clear: “This is a story of long ago. At that time

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the languages and letters were quite narrator of the behavior which different from ours of today. English is follows Troll-Bill’s response to the used to represent the languages” (The criticism of his fellows: 8). Functioning as a Annotated Hobbit "Yer can't expect folk to stop here literary authority, he gives a quick for ever just to be et by you and explanation of the unique spelling of Bert. You've et a village and a half dwarves in , about the nature The Hobbit between yer, since we come down of runes found in the included map, and from the mountains. How much about some of the other details of the more d'yer want? And time's been map. The knowledge the speaker shows up our way, when yer'd have said helps him become all the more believable 'thank yer Bill' for a nice bit o' fat to his audience when he gives valley mutton like what this is." He information about the lore of hobbits in took a big bite off a sheep's leg he the actual story.5 was toasting, and wiped his lips on One of the best examples of the his sleeve. Yes, I am afraid trolls do narrator’s knowledge of shire-lore occurs behave like that, even those with when he gently modifies Gandalf’s claim only one head each. (44 Emphasis that Bilbo is “As fierce as a in a Mine) pinch” (26). Here there is the fatherly recognition of If you have ever seen a dragon in a parlor manners in the narrator (almost as pinch, you will realize that this was if mother has put her head in for a only poetical exaggeration applied moment), but there is also the wink of to any hobbit, even to Old Took's great fun to have included the trolls in the great-granduncle Bullroarer, who first place. Many who have found the was so huge (for a hobbit) that he narrator wanting somehow failed to could ride a horse. He charged the recognize the wink. But anyone who is ranks of the of Mount Gram telling children a story knows that humor in the Battle of the Green Fields, is so very important to keep a listening and knocked their king Gol-firnbul's young (and old for that matter) audience head clean off with a wooden club. engaged. It sailed a hundred yards through The need for a sense of humor, the air and went down a rabbit especially humor at one’s own expense, is hole, and in this way the battle was illustrated in the encounter the dwarves won and the game of Golf invented have with the elves of Rivendell, and once at the same moment. (26) again the narrator adds an extra comment Besides the wealth of information, notice after presenting to the listeners a few the element of humor provided here, both lines of elfish song: in the aside the speaker gives, qualifying So they laughed and sang in the the term “huge” with the phrase “for a trees; and pretty fair nonsense I hobbit” and the comic image of a marshal daresay you think it. Not that they victory being the source of a game, a game would care they would only laugh which the narrator knows connects the all the more if you told them so. shire world with that of the reader- They were elves of course. . listener while also undermining the grim .Dwarves don't get on well with reality of war. them. Even decent enough dwarves Having reliable information gives like Thorin and his friends think the speaker the right to give personal them foolish (which is a very foolish commentary as well. There is, for thing to think), or get annoyed with example, the slight disapproval of the

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them. For some elves tease them This sage quality is even apparent and laugh at them, and most of all from the very beginning. The narrator’s at their beards. (59) famous opening lines which have been analyzed by Paul Thomas show that he Here the narrator seems to contradict not only gives information “In a hole himself for initially he suggests that the there lived a hobbit” but that the speaker elves songs are “foolish,” but it is clear assumes that his listeners will need that he has in tongue ironically in his own direction since they will have cheek, for he then turns about and preconceived ideas about what a hole comments that the Dwarves are in fact might be like and so use uses “not” to foolish themselves to not recognize the clarify: “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled wisdom of laughter. And when speaker with the ends of worms and an oozy goes on to note that the elves continued smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with their singing with this observation: “Then nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it off they went into another song as was a hobbit-hole, and that means ridiculous as the one I have written down comfort” (9) This is an example of what in full” (59), there is the sense that he Thomas calls “an interpretive nature. . knows that he is being as ridiculous as the .[that] often appear in brief utterances dwarves. Thus the narrator emulates that give emphasis to points in the story” self-laughter. (163). There are also places when the narrator seems to stop a muse: When Bilbo finds the ring, Tolkien’s narrator makes certain that the Now it is a strange thing, but things readers note the significance of the that are good to have and days that moment by telling us. “It was a are good to spend are soon told turning point in his career, but he about, and not much to listen to; did not know it” ( . 79). . .When while things that are H Bilbo stops to muster his courage uncomfortable, palpitating, and during his approach to the sleeping even gruesome, may make a good dragon, the narrator says “Going on tale, and take a deal of telling from there was the bravest thing he anyway. They stayed long in that ever did” (226-227). These good house, fourteen days at least, sentences show the narrator as a and they found it hard to leave. guide who wants the readers to Bilbo would gladly have stopped comprehend the story in particular there for ever and ever-even way. (163)6 supposing a wish would have taken him right back to his hobbit-hole Young readers and young listeners want without trouble. Yet there is little to to know that the person who is speaking tell about their stay. (Hobbit 61) to them is able to provide information and direction. Here the narrator is speaking about the So if a reader accepts the parental art of story telling. He is also giving an nature of the narrator of much excuse as why he is not going to tell more The Hobbit of the complaints about tone of the about the stay than he perceives is speaker can be answered. Although the needed (no matter what the unheard actions of the speaker stay the same, the young voices may say) and he is also motivations behind those actions change. giving a insightful truth as a sage father, What for Chance is a condescending tone and if some think he is being paternal, one is seen by Thomas as “an interpretive wonders who else but a father has the guide” (163), what was patronizing in right to be so?

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Chance’s view is instead “an attentive In the end he made as good a guess companion” (165). as he could at the direction from Although they do not see the oral which the cries for help had come nature of The Hobbit’s narrator, both in the night - and by luck (he was Thomas and Litschko give extensive born with a good share of it) be examples of the working of the narrator guessed more or less right, as you which are very insightful and far more will see. Having made up his mind detailed than space here allows. Also he crept along as cleverly as he while Thomas strongly ties the speaker of could. Hobbits are clever at The Hobbit with Tolkien himself, neither quietness, especially in woods, as 1 of he nor Litschko perceive the have already told you (Hobbit 167) importance of the oral speaker also being Here again the listener is comforted by a father. the overt narrator’s affirmation of Bilbo’s As a paternal oral story teller, the luck as well as the promise that the story speaker, similar to the author Tolkien, is not over. knows that in his audience there are Now while these examples some—some who can not yet even read— illustrate the narrator’s overt intention to who will need protection and sometimes reduce listener worry, they also show the comfort even if the narrative is of worth intentional disconnect which is part of the to hear. And he sometimes does this speaker’s role. It is not that the speaker overtly. For example, when Bilbo finds “lacks compassion” as Chance claims (75), himself at the roots of the mountain, in but rather—to state it again—his the blackest of places, the narrator steps presence serves as a bulwark between the in: action and the audience. Nadja Litschko Now certainly Bilbo was in what is is especially helpful here when she notes called a tight place. But you must that “in moments where the characters remember it was not quite so tight have to face dangerous or other difficult for him as it would have been for situation, this detachment of the narrator me or for you. Hobbits are not can be a great relief for the readers— quite like ordinary people; and especially the younger ones” (15). She after all if their holes are nice specifically points to the struggle in cheery places and properly aired, between Bilbo and the quite different from the tunnels of dwarves against the giant spiders in the goblins, still they are more used which the speaker “stands outside the to tunneling than we are, and they story” (15) and therefore places a barrier do not easily lose their sense of of words between the young listeners and direction underground – not when the violent action: their heads have recovered from The narrator speaks straight to the being bumped (80-81). readers, commenting on what is There is almost a sense of “there, there, happening and on the way Bilbo everything will be fine.” Older readers fends off the attack of the spiders may find this annoying, in fact older and thereby rescues his children listening may also find it so. But companions. Especially in the responsibility of the father is not to moments when the narrator speaks just the one but to all. In another portion to readers for example with of the tale, when describing Frodo’s comments like “Actually, as I have encounter with the giant spiders the told you, they were not far off the narrator says “ edge of the forest[. . .]”(140), as well as small remarks like “as you will

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see” (146) . . .or he throws in Fellowship of the Ring-- first of the Lord of comments like “I don’t suppose he the Rings trilogy—must be established would have managed it, if the because many treat these voices as utterly spider had not luckily left a rope different when they are in fact hanging down [. . .]the narrator fundamentally the same In the opening almost constantly reminds the of The Fellowship of the Ring, the narrator, readers of his presence between in fact, uses the same sentence structure the fictional world and the world of he used in the first pages of The Hobbit, the readers. (15)7 describing how Hobbits “were, as a rule, shy of the ‘Big Folk’ as they call us, and So what some have called intrusive is now they avoid us with dismay, and are actually a technique used by Tolkien becoming hard to find” (10). Like the within his creation of the story teller to narrator of , the speaker in the allow the young listener to experience the The Hobbit is a modern human. This is also excitement of the struggle while still LOR apparent in appendix D, (“The drawing comfort by being safe by the Calendars”) when he says “I have used fireside. our modern names for both months and The last quality of the narrator weekdays” ( 387). And which illustrates his role as paternal Return of the King it is notable that in appendix F, II (“On protector is dependent on the Translation”) he admits to censoring understanding that Tolkien had himself even in this more adult text: discovered a world with terrible elements which paralleled some of the terrible Both and Trolls spoke as they experiences he had endured in World would, without love of words or War I. Tolkien knew what blood and gore things, and their language was looked like. Yet, in this story, his narrator actually more degraded and filthy glosses over some of the especially than I have shown it. I do not unpleasant elements within the story suppose that any would wish for a which might prove too difficult for closer rendering though models are younger listeners / readers. Hopefully it easy to find. Much of that same talk is unnecessary to explain to those who can still be heard among the find the narrator condescending that not minded. (Return of the King 412) exposing children to carnage is not Thus in human status, academic patronizing act. Certainly any father knowledge of lore and even morals, the knows that children do not need to be narrator reveals himself to be the same exposed in the name of honesty to the one who chatted away to children years hideous qualities of ruin. Some very earlier. However the interrupted quality difficult events occur in . And The Hobbit is no longer there indicating that speaker while Trolls, Goblins, Wargs and Spiders may be the same but he has a different are threatening enough, war and its audience. carnage is far more hideous. ’s The fact that the audience devastation is included in the war intended is different is made especially elements because, although a single being, clear from a letter written as Tolkien was he wages war on both the dwarves and composing what had originally been the lakemen. A comparison of the voice of thought would be the sequel to The the narrator in The Hobbit and that of The Hobbit. In a letter addressed to Sir is helpful here. Lord of the Rings Stanely Unwin Tolkien notes that the The fact that the narrating voice of sequel was “running its course, and is essentially the same one The Hobbit forgetting ‘children’ and becoming more which years later introduces the terrifying than the Hobbit.” “It may prove

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quite unsuitable. It is more ‘adult’--but the grey ruins of ancient houses, my own children who criticize it as it towers, and walls. (The Hobbit appears are older. . .” ( . 41). It is Letters "There lies all that is left of Dale," notable that he again references his said Balin. "The mountain's sides children to whom he is again orally were green with woods and all the reading the action of the new narrative. sheltered valley rich and pleasant Now do not misunderstand, the in the days when the bells rang in speaker in the and Hobbit the Lord of the that town.” (216-217) Rings is capable of full and striking description. It is the audience that alters This is pretty awful stuff, but compare the their presentation. In fact the narrator in above description with a similarly blasted the later work is hardly intrusive at all landscape in in which the because Tolkien correctly determined narrator feels free to use his full that he was no longer needed. But in the descriptive powers: first when depicting horror for children Frodo looked round in horror. the narrator holds back. Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had Compare these two images of been, and the arid moors of the natural devastation, that of the Noman-lands, more loathsome far “Desolation of Smaug” and the was the country that the crawling “Desolation of Mordor.” The first is the day now slowly unveiled to his narrator’s description of Bilbo and his shrinking eyes. Even to the Mere of company’s arrival at the gate near the Dead Faces some haggard phantom dwarves’ home under the mountain: of green spring would come; but They knew that they were drawing here neither spring nor summer near to the end of their journey, and would ever come again. Here that it might be a very horrible end. nothing lived, not even the leprous The land about them grew bleak growths that feed on rottenness. and barren, though once, as Thorin The gasping pools were choked told them, it had been green and with ash and crawling muds, sickly fair. There was little grass, and white and grey, as if the mountains before long there was neither bush had vomited the filth of their nor tree, and only broken and entrails upon the lands about. High blackened stumps to speak of ones mounds of crushed and powdered long vanished. They were come to rock, great cones of earth fire- the Desolation of , and blasted and poison-stained, stood they were come at the waning of like an obscene graveyard in the year. . .They marched under the endless rows, slowly revealed in the grey and silent cliffs to the feet of reluctant light. They had come to Ravenhill. There the river, after the desolation that lay before winding a wide loop over the valley Mordor: the lasting monument to of Dale, turned from the Mountain the dark labour of its slaves that on its road to the Lake, flowing should endure when all their swift and noisily. Its bank was bare purposes were made void; a land and rocky, tall and steep above the defiled, diseased beyond all healing stream; and gazing out from it over unless the Great Sea should enter in the narrow water, foaming and and wash it with oblivion. 'I feel splashing among many boulders, sick,' said Sam. Frodo did not speak they could see in the wide valley (239). shadowed by the Mountain's arms

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Here the speaker, the same speaker as the overwhelm the young senses either. So, Hobbit, describes a landscape so utterly after seeing the coming of the eagles, devastated that the images contain Bilbo is knocked unconscious. Thus the elements of organic decay. Now look how narrator can have him get all the battle a difference of audiences shapes the details second hand in the next chapter. portrayal of war. “All that had happened after he was In The Hobbit, the battle of the five stunned, Bilbo learned later; but it gave armies is described but at arm’s length: him more sorrow than joy, and he was now weary of his adventure” (301). There So began a battle that none had is no need for the child to witness directly expected; and it was called the the deaths of several beloved characters, Battle of Five Armies, and it was nor view the terrible and violent very terrible. Upon one side were onslaught of the man-bear . the Goblins and the Wild Wolves, Compare that battle narrative and upon the other were Elves and with that from at Helm’s Men and Dwarves. This is how it The Two Towers Deep: fell out. . . .(292) At that moment some dozen Orcs There is no close detail here. Armies are that had lain motionless among the described from a distance with slain leaped to their feet, and came explanation of forces and tactics, but silently and swiftly behind. Two there is, thankfully, no horror of spilt flung themselves to the ground at blood. And furthermore Bilbo’s part in Eomer's heels, tripped him, and in a the whole battle is tempered first with moment they were on top of him. humor and his use of the ring. But a small dark figure that none It was a terrible battle. The most had observed sprang out of the dreadful of all Bilbo’s experiences, shadows and gave a hoarse shout: and the one which at the time he Baruk Khazad! Khazad ai-menu! An hated most – which is to say it was axe swung and swept back. Two the one he was most proud of, and Orcs fell headless. The rest fled. . most fond of recalling long .The assault on the gates was afterwards although he was quite redoubled. Against the Deeping unimportant in it. Actually I must Wall the hosts of Isengard roared say he put on his ring early in the like a sea. Orcs and hillmen business, and vanished from sight, swarmed about its feet from end to if not from all danger. (294). end. Ropes with grappling hooks Did the narrator really have to say that were hurled over the parapet faster Bilbo’s role was unimportant or that than men could cut them or fling instead of fighting, he put the ring on? them back Hundreds of long Here the story teller surely invokes the ladders were lifted up. Many were wrath of some readers, but again he is cast down in ruin, but many more tempering the battle for young listeners replaced them, and Orcs sprang up even as he describes it. It is noteworthy them like apes in the dark forests of that he does not wish to romanticize war, the South. Before the wall's foot the recording Bilbo’s lament that battles are dead and broken were piled like not really the stuff of songs: “I have shingle in a storm; ever higher rose always understood that defeat may be the hideous mounds, and still the glorious. It seems very uncomfortable, enemy came on (The Two Towers not to say distressing” (294). However, 139-140). the father-narrator does not want to

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Children do not need to see heads cut off scripture, myth and folk tales into or piles of dead so great that they seem narratives for children not because hills on the battlefield. stories of the supernatural belong only in Is The Hobbit less because it does undeveloped minds but because their not show these terrible details in what power to stimulate the imagination and surely is part of the terrible events that moral development make such works Bilbo experienced? No, the narrator possible channels to fulfilling lives. This faithfully presents the effects of war—its is why adults read them too. And this is senselessness which leads to Thorin’s why adults should read The Hobbit. If an death and the awareness of being adult wishes to experience Middle Earth powerless to alter it outcome: without the narrator’s protective presentation then and Then Bilbo turned away, and he The Silmarillion await. went by himself, and sat alone The Lord of the Rings For those who wonder what wrapped in a blanket, and, whether The would be like without such you believe it or not, he wept until Hobbit protective buffers it is notable there does his eyes were red and his voice was not seem to be any narrator in the hoarse. He was a kindly little soul. upcoming film Indeed it was long before he had The Hobbit: An Unexpected directed by Peter Jackson, due out the heart to make a joke again. Journey this December. In it Jackson intends to (Hobbit 301) not only tell of Bilbo’s adventures with Again some may see this as being Thorin and company but to also draw condescending, but could the phrase from the material in the appendixes found “whether you believe it or not” also not be at the end of . He a cue to the listeners that it is permissible plans to include the conflict of the White for them to weep too? And is there Council against the Necromancer (later anything wrong in being “a kindly little revealed as ) as well as Gandalf’s soul”? In fact one of the truths in journey in the Necromancer’s tower, Dol Tolkien’s discovered world is that there is Guldur, where he finds Thorin’s father great value in being kindly little souls. Thráin II—broken and witless. Much of Now that it has been clearly this, Tolkien and his oral narrator would demonstrated that the paternal oral have felt was not within the appropriate narrator of The Hobbit fulfills a central range for children. In fact, it is interesting quality in making the adventure of Bilbo that Gandalf, who is the other major Baggins appropriate for children, one father figure in the novel, actually stands might ask should Tolkien have re-written in the way of Thorin when he considers his story for adults? The answer is no. avenging himself on the Necromancer for One of the aspects of stories found in his father’s death:"We have long ago paid scripture as well as in myth and folk tales the goblins of ," said Thorin; "we is that they are not always safe or must give a thought to the Necromancer." healthful for all ages. Authors, therefore, "Don't be absurd! He is an enemy quite at different times have felt the need to beyond the powers of all the dwarves put present to young readers texts drawn together. . .The dragon and the Mountain from those sources that were appropriate are more than big enough tasks for you!" for their age filled with material which in (Hobbit 34-35). And so, although he its original form might have been too exists, Sauron is expunged from the harsh or terrifying to be appreciated. children’s narrative of The Hobbit, but he Authors like Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaires, will be in the new film. Andrew Lang, Charles Dickens, and Thus the story which was Nathanial Hawthorne have transformed originally a children’s narrative will be

16 Father Knows Best · Anderson Rearick III presented in a form appropriate for Works Cited adults. In fact—if the trailers are Anderson, Douglas A. Ed. The Annotated accurate—rather than being a story for Hobbit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Print. children, the new Hobbit will be based on Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography. Frodo “coming of age.” The opening Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977. Print comments by Bilbo make it clear that the Chance, Jane. “The King Under the Mountain: time for protection is over. Tolkien’s Children’s Story.” J.R.R. Tolkien: New My dear Frodo, you asked me once Edition. Ed. Harold Bloom New York: Infobase: 59-76.Print. if I had told you everything there was to know about my adventures. Chance-Nitzsche, Jane. Tolkien’s Art A While I can honestly say what I told Mythology for England. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. Print. you was the truth, I may not have told you all of it” (Jackson) Desi Baggins [online name]. “Re: The Hobbit - Week 1 - Ch. 1 An Unexpected Party” Tolkien's Therefore, this version of The Hobbit is, Ring. Tolkien'sRing Porboards, 6 Jul 2004. unlike the original, NOT a child’s version Web. 13 June. 2012. of the discovered history of Tolkien but is Jackson, Peter. “Trailer for The Hobbit: An instead a revelation given to one who has Unexpected Journey” New Line Cinema. Dec. come of age. That being the case, the 20 2011. Accessed on 20 May 2012. Video. paternal oral narrator is no longer Lewis, Clive Staples. “On the Ways of Writing needed. for Children.” On Stories. Orlando: Would this new interpretation Harvest/Harcourt, 1982. 31-43. Print. have bothered Tolkien? Impossible to Litschko, Nadja. The Voice of the Narrator in tell, but probably not. Years earlier when J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Munich, GRIN he first began to lay out the idea of this Publishing GmbH. 2006. Print. sub-creation (the term he would come to Norman, Philip “The Prevalence of Hobbits” use for the fantasy setting he’d The New York Times 15 Jan. 1957. Web 13 discovered) he said this: June 2012. Pearce, Joseph Tolkien Man and Myth. San I would draw some of the great Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998. Print. tales in fullness, and leave many Scoville Chester N., “Hobbit, The” J.R.R. Tolkien only placed in the scheme, and Encyclopedia Scholarship and Critical sketched. The cycles should be Assessment. Michael Drout Ed. Routledge: New linked to a majestic whole and yet York, 2007. 277-279. Print. leave scope for other minds and Thomas, Paul Edmund. “Some of Tolkien’s hands, wielding paint, music, and Narrators.” Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on drama. Absurd. (Letters 145). The History of Middle-Earth. Ed. Verlyn Absurd then; prophetic now. And so, as Flieger and Carl Hostetter. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000: 161-181. Print. Gandalf leaves Bilbo on his own just outside Mirkwood because he knows like Tolkien, J.R.R. . Ed a father that eventually the child must Douglas Anderson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Print. stand on his own, so the story of The --- . Revised Ed. Hobbit most now stand without a father’s The Fellowship of the Ring Boston:: Houghton Mifflin,1965. voice. May it remain true to its father’s Print. spirit. --- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Ed. . Boston:: Houghton Mifflin, 1981. Print. ---The Two Towers. Revised Ed. Boston:: Houghton Mifflin,1965. Print.

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1 Although the 1979 text is clearly the original, for the purposes of this paper Jane Chance’s comments will be taken from her article in the more current anthology Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: J.R.R. Tolkien (2008) edited by the ubiquitous Harold Bloom. 2 These calculations were made by the author using public information available online of the birth dates of the Tolkien children and the dates given by Carpenter (177) for the first appearances of the story [1930] and the publication date of the Norman interview [1957]. 3 If the juvenile Lord of the Rings top scoring bothered Barnes, how much more must have it also been for her to know that the even overtly child-intended The Hobbit made nineteen within the top twenty most important works in the same Waterstone poll. 4 In spite of Thomas’ claim that the narrator has “a masculine voice” (162) there is no evidence within the text that suggests the narrator’s gender. In fact the audio of the book sent out by Tapes for the Blind is read by a woman. It works just fine. Far more important is the fact that the narrator is an elder speaking to children. However for sanity’s sake and because Thomas is probably right to align the speaker with Tolkien himself, the male pronoun will be used for the rest of the paper. 5 One could speculate that the voice here is actually just an editor, a different voice than the narrator. But there is no evidence one way or the other and authors often present prologues. 6 The references used by Thomas within the citation to The Hobbit are all taken from The Annotated Hobbit edited by Douglas Anderson and therefore match all other references found in this article. 7 Nadja Litschko is using the HarperCollins, four edition, of Tolkien’s The Hobbit or There and Back Again 1999. In the Annotated Hobbit those page numbers are 160, 167 and 172 respectfully.