Okay, so can I share with you what is quite possibly one of my favorite of all of Tolkien’s countless thousands of sentences?
“If you want to know what cram is, I can only say that I don’t know the recipe; but it is biscuitish, keeps good indefinitely, is supposed to be sustaining, and is certainly not entertaining, being in fact very uninteresting except as a chewing exercise.
Why do I like that sentence so much? Dunno. Something about it being good for nothing but long journeys and as a chewing exercise. Finally, a product designed so that all of us with underdeveloped jaw muscles can have faces just as buff as the movie stars. It makes me snicker every time I read it. Then I think of the bit in The Fellowship of the Ring, in Lothlorien when Gimli takes a piece of lembas and thinks it’s cram, which makes me snicker again. Then I think of the “one small bite can fill the stomach of a grown man” line from the movie, and I snicker a third time. Then I’m done snickering, and now that my absolute favorite part of the chapter is out of the way, on to the next bit.
(This, if you haven’t noticed yet, is going to be a rather stream-of-conscious type of post, consisting of the sorts of things that strike my fancy as I read this chapter.)
Now we’ve got our reluctant hobbit (I’ve go the Silver Jubilee edition of the book, and it says “The Reluctant Hobbit” in enormous lettering on the back cover, as if that’s supposed to entice us to pick it up) whose stepping into his own. Yes, he faced down Smaug, one tiny hobbit against a mighty dragon, but now he becomes the unexpected leader of the dwarves as they attempt to find a way out of the mountain. It’s a far cry from falling on his face and shouting, “Struck by lighting! Struck by lighting!” It seems only appropriate that it is a this point that Thorin gifts him with the mithril coat. Bilbo has taken on the role of leader and is thus dressed like a prince.
And naturally, on the subject of Bilbo coming into his own, we mustn’t forget that, while the dwarves have been calling him a burglar all along, he has always been the farthest thing from. Until now, the moment he closes his hand around the coveted Arkenstone and slips it into his pocket.
Also, Tolkien uses the word “wormstench” to describe the smell in Smaug’s chambers. Somehow there a different connotation when those two words are squashed into one that works incredibly well to define the atmosphere of the place. It’s another of my favorite Tolkien-ism.
And here I must leave you, with bated breath against Smaug’s return (don’t worry, I’m sure the wrothful dragon will turn up soon, first line of the next chapter if I remember correctly).
Namarie from the Tale-Weaver.