Humour in The Hobbit

The forthcoming Hobbit movie
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Odo Banks
Posts: 1883

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#1 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:17 pm

Gandalfs Beard suggested on another thread that the humour in The Hobbit is whimsical, largely or in part. Actually, I was not really paying attention to what GB wrote, but the minute I saw the word "whimsy" used in a 'The Hobbit' context I saw red and ran over here (netophorically speaking) to start this new thread! :x

My challenge to you all is:

[color=#FF0000]Name ONE whimsical part in The Hobbit![/color]

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Durin
Posts: 138

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#2 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:20 pm

I find it funny when Bilbo taunts the Spiders in Mirkwood with "Attercop! Attercop! Attercop!" :)

Maybe that's just myself that finds it funny though. :( :oops:

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Odo Banks
Posts: 1883

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#3 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:49 pm

It is funny - but not whimsical, I feel. Mind you :lol: you've immediately hit me with a hard one, Durin! :shock: On first glance, it might seem whimsical, but on closer scrutiny I don't think it is.

If you examine the words (nouns, in fact: i.e. 'names') he uses, they are derived from old words for arachnids. Tolkien shows himself here as linguist with a sense of humour. Bilbo is name calling. Please don't take what I say next further than it needs to, but to the spiders (who are clearly sentient - having a reasonably developed power of thought and speech) it would be like a white calling a black by a derogatory name, and, of course, vice versa. That's the joke (in mildest form),[i:3o9uw8ab] nasty [/i:3o9uw8ab]name calling. It's why the spider's get so angry. Bilbo has insulted them. Not being the smartest of sentient beings, they respond with a violence all out of proprtion to the actual insult.

Think of the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." Tolkien knows that, but he also knows people can act very violently to name calling. He points out this human condition and says, "Well, it is a bit silly to get so het up over something like this." But people have killed for lesser insults! He is also using it as a credible reason for the spiders to run off after Bilbo - which is of course Bilbo's intent. Funny and realistic, all at the same time. The humourous aspect of the scene works best because of the underlying realism of what is occurring. The scene is not absurd, nonsensical or whimsical - it's outright funny because it is so realistic. Some aspects of life can seem ridiculous, and are, depending on your perspective. (I have not even mentioned Bilbo's stones here! Just remember, Bilbo's insults sting as much as the stones he throws!)

The spiders are not the smartest tools in the shed, so when they get tricked into getting angry and rush off all in a tiz, it is funny but believeable. The only wise spider - a very old one - stays back. Maybe he is too old to exert himself, but maybe he is too old to be offended anymore by name calling either - especially when it is an opportunity to start the feast early. (That bit sends a chill up my spine!)

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Durin
Posts: 138

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#4 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:01 pm

Hmmm, fine. I shall accept this challenge.

*Reaches up and brings down his Hobbit book.*

:mrgreen: :ugeek:

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Odo Banks
Posts: 1883

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#5 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:13 pm

Excellent, Durin! This is a very important issue, for to me it underlies how the movie should be made. This is all about tintacks not generalities anymore! I am prepared to take off the gloves! :ugeek:

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Durin
Posts: 138

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#6 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:14 pm

Well, I don't know if you would call Smaug's name itself meaning "to squeeze through" (or something along those lines :?) being either interesting or whimsical, because the Dwarves in the beginning of the book talk and wonder how he was able to "squeeze through" the Lonely Mountain, or something like that. I find that rather whimsical. :D


Something else I found rather amusing is this passage, "Whistles blew, armour clashed, swords rattled, goblins cursed and swore and ran hither and thither, falling over one another and getting very angry."

:lol: I imagine a large war party, things going on, Goblin captains commanding Goblin peons to do things, swords being swiftly taken off of racks, shields clanking, torches flaring in the darkness, and then all of a sudden, everyone tripping over each other. :) ;)

I find that to be whimsical. :roll:

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Odo Banks
Posts: 1883

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#7 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:40 pm

Rubbish! Smaug - if what you say about 'squueezing' is correct - is just an indication of how names are formed. Smith, after all, is derived from Blacksmith or Goldmith etecetera. If Smaug was named because he was 'worm-like' in a sense in his 'squeezíng' through halls and tunnels, how is that exactly a 'whimsical' idea? It's 'linguistics' not "whimsy."

Durin wrote:"Whistles blew, armour clashed, swords rattled, goblins cursed and swore and ran hither and thither, falling over one another and getting very angry."


That is realistic and believeable in the context of the scene. I'm a cop (in another aspect of my personality! :? ) and under the pressure of the "unexpected" and the "critical incident" all sorts of funny things can happen - funny to those who look back from the Armchair of Retrospect. (The power of retrospect would be a wonderful attribute - a very useful attribute in fact - if it was an attribute you had before you did something, rather than after you did something! :lol: )

Durin, I assume here that you're talking about Bilbo's escape through the "Back door" of the goblin's under-mountain realm? I agree there are comical aspects to it, just as you note, but it is their inherent realism that lends it humour. Even Bilbo's buttons popping off is funny but only when seen in tandem with the danger he is in, along with his desperation to escape! The humour of the scene works on several levels - but all of it depends on the inherent realism of the scene, not on any suggestion of 'whimsy' or 'absurdity'. Tolkien puts you in the middle of the action and the humour is actually secondary, though it actually assists the scene in its believeabilty! Under extreme pressure folk do funny things, trust me, but those things are only humourous when seen through the lens of retrospect!

You know, I think Tolkien's main success is in the way he applies realism to The Hobbit.

EDITS: Sorry for edits. My grammar and spelling was just not good enough the first two times!

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Durin
Posts: 138

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#8 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:45 pm

Bleeeeeh.

I find it whimsical.

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Odo Banks
Posts: 1883

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#9 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:51 pm

You'll have to get them to put another meaning in the dictionaries then. It might happen. The meanings of words do morph and change. English is an evolving language. But I started this thread using the current meaning of the word "whimsy" as a predicate of sorts, not on the basis of possible future meanings of the word! :D

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Gandalfs Beard
Posts: 2311

Humour in The Hobbit

Post#10 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:09 pm

From the "Who should direct the Hobbit" thread:
Oh the IRONY! The Master of Absurdism and Whimsy speaks .

I think you are operating under the entirely mistaken notion that Absurdism or Whimsy = Nonsense. Oh no indeed. Absurdism is a form of Surrealism. I agree no-one would consider Dr Seuss, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The 5 Children and It, or The Hobbit is Nonsense, but none can deny the Humorous/Satirical Surrealist, (i.e. Whimsical) aspects of any of those stories.

Very few directors are capable of dealing in Whimsy, but the few I've mentioned are among the best at it.


Pippi Longstocking, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Wizard of Oz, Dr Dolittle, many Joan Aiken books, Edward Lear, almost ANY Roald Dahl book, and even the Harry Potter series also have Absurdist Elements.

Indeed, we've already discussed many of the Whimsical Aspects of the Hobbit on other threads and how they could be handled without seeming ridiculous.

1) The Songs--Odo, oh Odo, My Dear, Dear, Foolish Deluded Odo. You have Raged and Pontificated ad infinitum that the Songs should be preserved in ALL their Whimsical Glory :P .
2) Talking Animals Serving Tea at Beorn's House--The Very Definition of Whimsy.
3) The "Cockney" Trolls--Whimsy
4) The Dwarves' colourful Beards--Whimsy
5) The entire introductory scenes at Bilbo's Hobbit Hole, meeting Gandalf and the Dwarves--Whimsy, Whimsy, and more Whimsy.
6) Carousing, Drunken, Snarky Oscar Wilde Elves "Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn't it delicious!"--WHIMSY :P
7) The Riddle Game with Gollum--Whimsy
8) And So On...

Nearly The Entire Book right up through Bilbo's conversation with Smaug is Whimsical. The Tone doesn't really change until around the killing of Smaug and the Battle of 5 Armies--which I have repeatedly stated since before Ady even started this forum in the comment sections on his blog.

Odo, how YOU, of all people can deny the Whimsy of the Hobbit after arguing tirelessly against the Earnest, Dramatic LotRizing of the Hobbit's Whimsy is beyond me :roll: . I suspect that perhaps you are up to your instigating tricks again ;) . Or maybe you just really misunderstood what Whimsy meant :? .

Petty wasn't quite sure either, but at least he got the point after I listed some of the directors most well known for their whimsy. Indeed many people, some of them Highly Educated Scholars and Literary Critics don't understand the distinction between Whimsy and Nonsense either.

Even Tolkien was occasionally at odds with himself, particularly in his abandoned attempt to Silmarillionize the Hobbit. His regrets at "writing down" to children demonstrate that he didn't quite realize the Pure Magical Wonder and Delight that is to be found in Whimsy.

Merriam Webster: (a DICTIONARY ;) )
Main Entry: whim·sy
Variant(s): also whim·sey ?hwim-z?, ?wim-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural whimsies also whimseys
Etymology: irregular from whim-wham
Date: 1605
1 : whim, caprice
2 : the quality or state of being whimsical or fanciful <the designer's new line showed a touch of whimsy>
3 : a fanciful or fantastic device, object, or creation especially in writing or art


Oxford Online Dictionary:
whimsy
(also whimsey)

• noun (pl. whimsies or whimseys) 1 playfully quaint or fanciful behaviour or humour. 2 a fanciful or odd thing. 3 a whim.

— ORIGIN probably from archaic whim-wham ‘trinket, whim’.


GB

PS: Absurdism in Art and Literature is distinct from Philosophical Absurdism, which is a form of Nihilism.

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