Mittwoch, 24. Mai 2017

Wednesday, 24 May: Straining Elrond's hospitality

Arrival in Rivendell. Illustration by Horus Weber for
the first German edition of "The Hobbit", 1957.
After a journey of 27 days, the Company arrives in Rivendell on this day in 2941 T.A., according to Tolkien's 1960 timetable. He notes that the progress across the final 12 miles was slow and difficult and it was already near nightfall when at last they reached the path that leads to Rivendell. The night was moonless and starry, as might be expected, since we are close to new moon.

I think you will agree that the 1960 timetable is a solid concept, both with regard to internal consistency and, though unintentionally, with the phases of the moon as derived from data in the published "Hobbit" (set down in detail in my "The Moon in 'The Hobbit'"). If criticism ought to be applied, it is this that Tolkien was straining Elrond's hospitality beyond all measure because the familiar fortnight that the Dwarves would spend in Rivendell has here expanded into two and a half fortnights: Tolkien was adamant that the departure from Rivendell on Midsummer's Day should be retained. Also, for some reason, the obvious solution to postpone the Unexpected Party by a month was never an option in spite of Bilbo's aberrant reference to "that May morning long ago" in "The Hobbit", chap. VIII.

We may wonder what the 1960 Rivendell chapter would have looked like if Tolkien had continued it: Was the stay so long because Gandalf went away on a different mission and no one wanted to leave before his return? Would other Elves have been introduced: Elladan and Elrohir, Glorfindel or Erestor? Would Bilbo in this version have first met young Estel/Aragorn? Alas, at this point, both the timetable and the entire project of retconning the "Hobbit" into the "Lord of the Rings" came to an abrupt halt. The reason, according to John Rateliff, was that an unidentified beta-reader had seen the revisions and turned them down, which caused Tolkien to immediately abandon them. Rateliff does not speculate who this reader might have been, but I suspect without evidence that he was at least a close acquaintance of Rayner Unwin who may have been horrified by the prospect of taking up these revisions - that was long before preprints could be digitally uploaded with little effort, remember. This happened just a few years before the infamous copyright issue with Ace came up, which required a revision of the "Hobbit", anyway. But by that time, the 1960 material had apparently been misplaced and, pity, nothing of it entered the final version of 1966 that we all know.

That's why, from today on, we will have to switch to a different timetable to follow the 1966 "Hobbit" in which Bilbo, Gandalf and the Company are still traveling somewhere in western Rhudaur today, for whatever reason their progress might have been so slow. The encounter with the trolls is going to take place at the end of May - and two weeks before they will arrive in Rivendell, otherwise a mere five day trips away from the Trollshaws. 

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