Bilbo and company come upon the Last Homely House, Rivendell. It is hidden in the valley, and when they find it, they are greeted by a song. It is the third song so far in the book. The song is playful and merry, and some members of the company, including Bilbo, are mentioned by name. Clearly, the Elves, who are singing this song, knew the company was coming, because Gandalf told them. The song itself invites the company to stay, because it would be foolish for them to continue on their journey in the dark. And so the company comes upon their short rest, fourteen days to be exact.

We meet Elrond. The description of him is regal, but notice the description does not focus on his physical features, but rather upon comparisons of him to other things, such as a king, or a wizard, or as “kind as summer.” We get a feeling of this character, a sense of his personality, which is far more important than what the character looks like. Tolkien knew this and allowed his readers to use their imaginations to craft their own images of his characters. Modern books are so fixated on describing what characters look like, sometimes the authors forget or don’t know how to describe who their characters are.

We also get, I believe, our first explicit reference to Tolkien’s Silmarillion, which at this point in time is not codified, but some of it has already been written. In fact, after the success of The Hobbit, the publisher wanted a sequel and Tolkien submitted the Silmarillion. Thankfully, the publisher wanted more hobbits, so in the long run we got both LOTR and the Silmarillion.

Elrond reads the Thorin’s map. Moon runes are revealed to be written upon it. Moon runes can only be read by the same moonlight in which they were written. The dwarves just happen to show up at a place where someone can read those runes and while that same type of moonlight is shining. But they don’t “just happen” to show up. Here again is another example of divine Providence. There are no coincidences in Tolkien’s world; the dwarves were meant to be at Rivendell at this exact moment.

This chapter is extremely short, but we get glimpses of an ancient past, magic, and prophecies amidst some much needed rest. There are also hints of Bilbo’s fascination with Rivendell and its Elves.  It is fitting that Bilbo decides to come back here at the beginning of LOTR. 

For being such a short chapter, it is a pivotal one. It’s also the last time for quite awhile that the company will have any peaceful respite.

Dad.

 

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3 thoughts on “A Short Rest

  1. I don’t think I ever noticed how Tolkien describes his characters by who they are instead of just their looks. You’re right, that gives the reader a much greater insight to the character than just a physical description. Thanks for pointing that out. Although Tolkien obviously wasn’t thinking about this, it also makes it much easier to cast these characters in a movie. The director doesn’t have to try so hard to find an actor who fits a certain physical description.

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    1. Yes and I feel it allows our imagination to play and dance more than if we are told merely what they look like. Being told what they look like tells us nothing about who they are. I do remember though, how Conan Doyle would use physical descriptions of his characters to describe their personalities. For example, tall, big handed guy had a chin full of stubbornness. I think that way works too, but I feel when Tolkien describes his characters, he gets to their personality, but also describes some sort of history about them, making the reader feel these characters are a part of something larger than the local story they are reading.

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  2. The chapters are short, but Tolkien as a master of words can say so much with a well chosen word.
    I like what you said about the Dwarves were meant to be there. The moon letters are one of the fascinating elements that drew me into this story. How clever he is. A master of myth also.

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