Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 18

HOLY ILUVATAR, has it really been over a year since I originally drafted this post? Apparently! This is what happens when I’m so caught up in working on my own books, and then trying to finish up all the backlogged stuff that got shunted aside while I was writing the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy, that I wasn’t able to finish these Reread posts. But now with The Battle of the Five Armies having finally having come out and indeed now hitting digital home release, it’s about time I cleared my slate of the last of the Hobbit Reread posts!

It’s weird, after the longer chapters at the beginning of The Hobbit, to see how fast the final chapters go. Chapter 17 is not very long at all–and barely after the Battle of Five Armies has begun, you get into the aftermath, where Bilbo (and the reader through him) learns what he missed. And in which, finally, Thorin stands down from being an asshole.

I’m not going to get into comparing how this chapter ties into all the bits in the movie–because I talk about that in my movie review posts! But that said, there’s a lot here over which I must go *sniff*. This is the aftermath of the Battle of Five Armies, and it’s a hard aftermath for the survivors, with Bilbo front and center among them.

In-depth notes behind the fold!

General notes:

Bilbo is found, after waking up on the hillside, by a conveniently searching man of Dale–and only after he remembers to take off the Ring. And once Bilbo rejoins the others, we see Gandalf–with his arm in a sling! Wounded Gandalf! Which was pretty startling when I originally drafted this post, since a lot of my recent conceptions of Gandalf have been shaped by his portrayal in the movies. And other than his fight with the Balrog, Gandalf was pretty much invincible through the Lord of the Rings movies. The idea of him being wounded in battle at all is pretty astonishing, and certainly, the Hobbit trilogy has taken strong advantage of this. In the context of the book, it’s all the more astonishing since everything is from Bilbo’s POV. If Gandalf seems invincible to us, the readers, he’s all the more so to our little hobbit.

Now we get Thorin’s death scene, and this line stands out as a noble and kingly way for Thorin to go:

There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!

I love those lines. They rank right up there for me with “I would have followed you anywhere, my brother… my captain… my king.”

As the narration brings us up to speed, we also finally get clued in that Beorn showed up, and it was Beorn that rescued the fallen Thorin. Interesting to see Tolkien comparing the sound of his roar to “drums and guns”–i.e., the Tolkien who seems so down on the technology of war. We get Beorn being the one who takes down Bolg, too, AND the deaths of Kili and Fili. As with much of the book we’re getting these last bits after the fact, the perils of spending most of the scenes in Bilbo’s point of view. Talk about not a dry eye in the house. Out of all the deaths in the party I’m almost sadder about Kili and Fili dying than I am about Thorin–even aside from my partiality to the brothers in the movies, they are some of the more sympathetic dwarves in the actual book, and show glimmers of being more nobler-natured than the others. I’m sad that they’re relegated to being killed off off-camera.

Reading the bits about Beorn and what he did during the battle, I’m sad that he didn’t get more mileage in the movie version. We only got a brief glimpse of him transforming into bear shape as the eagles dropped him into the fray. It would have been nice to see some more shots of him in battle. (Though I suppose that having him come in to mow down goblins would have distracted from the narrative the movies were trying to set up, so I dunno.)

Sensible Bilbo is willing to ride off only with a couple of small chests. And oh, the farewell from Balin. Again, *sniff*. And I’ve got to giggle at Bilbo giving a necklace to Thranduil.

“I name you elf-friend and blessed”–that’s a line that’s resonated in my head all throughout my life, from the very first time I ever read this book. If there’s anything I can trace my love of elves in fantastic literature to, it might be this very line.

We end this chapter with Bilbo wanting his armchair, and at this point, little guy? You’ve totally earned it. I’d be wanting my armchair too after that adventure.

French notes:

Chapter 18 in French is “Le voyage de retour”, a straight up translation of the English, “The Return Journey”.

Bilbo waking up and basically realizing HOLY CRAP I’M NOT DEAD was actually fairly easy for me to read with my current vocabulary, which is reassuring. I’m finding myself actually reluctant to stop long enough to take notes in this post, just because I’m so close to the end and want to go ahead and get there!

But that said, the first bit that stands out for me is this sentence: “Regardant dans la vallée, il n’aperçut pas un gobelin vivant.” Tolkien’s actual sentence is “Looking into the valley he could see no living goblins.” (And, as a side note, I note no comma after valley!) However, if you do a straight translation of the French sentence, you get “Looking in the valley, he did not catch sight of a living goblin.” Aperçut is the passé simple of apercevoir here, and I note with interest that the feel of the French sentence is akin to how you might say in English that “Bilbo didn’t see a single solitary living goblin.”

Right after this, I spotted a construction that didn’t make sense to me: “il crut voir”. Google Translate told me this means “he thought he saw”, but I note that there are only three words here, and only one of those is a pronoun. So you have an implied “he” here. Moreover, I had to do a little poking around in dictionaries before I confirmed that crut is the passé simple of the verb croire, which is “to believe/think”. Important to note as well that crut should not be confused with crût, which is the passé simple of croitre, which is “to grow”! And which I actually found first in’s search results.

Strangely enough, this phrase appears on a line all by itself: “Bilbo se rappela alors son anneau”. Without a period at the end. Doublechecking the translation, it doesn’t seem like any text is actually missing, since the next paragraph kicks in where I’d expect–this is the part where Bilbo tells himself that invisibility has its drawbacks after all. It just looks like a period was left off of the sentence where he remembers the ring!

Finally noting as well that you can say “se dit-il” for “he said to himself”.

I was just reading about the subjunctive tense the other day, and this scene gives us a chance to see it in action, when the man of Dale tells Bilbo, “Il est heureux que je vous aie trouvé!” I.e., “It is happy that I have found you!” Here, “aie” is in the subjunctive tense, since the gentleman of Dale is expressing a subjective opinion.

Bilbo complaining of his status to the Dale man: “Je me sens mal toutefois, et j’ai les jambes en coton.” Literally, my read on this is “I feel bad however, and I have legs of cotton.” Which is pretty close to what Tolkien actually wrote: “All the same I feel sick and my legs are like straws.” Fun to see the difference in how the translator handles it!

This sentence threw me a bit:

— Je vais vous porter jusqu’au camp dans la vallée, » dit l’homme, qui le souleva comme une plume.

Specifically, the bit at the end, “qui le souleva comme une plume.” I boggled at that and was thinking “he lifted like a feather? What?” until I actually looked at what Tolkien wrote:

“I will carry you down to the camp in the valley,” said the man, and picked him lightly up.

Then it made sense: i.e., the translator putting in a simile where Tolkien had just had an adverb.

Also of interest here–the use of the mdash at the beginning of that line of dialogue, and the closing of it with the right angle quote. I finally learned what that means: i.e., that the angle quotes are only used to signify the start and stop of an entire section of dialogue which may actually contain multiple speakers. And the mdashes are used to signify a change in speaker. This suddenly makes a lot of what I’ve read in this translation make a lot more sense.

Once Bilbo is brought to Gandalf, and Gandalf takes him into the tent to see Thorin, I note with interest that Gandalf greets him with “salut”–not “bonjour”. Which says intriguing things about the relative ranks of Gandalf and Thorin, or perhaps about their level of casual behavior to each other, given that I’m given to understand that “salut” is way more informal than “bonjour”.

Might I note how odd it is to my Anglophone ear that the word for wound in French is “blessure”? This, along with the related verb blesser, has come into my SuperMemo lessons too. Definitely a word that an Anglophone learning French must remember does not mean what it looks like.

Here are Thorin’s final words in French:

Il y a plus de bon en vous que vous ne le soupçonnez, fils de l’aimable Ouest. Un mélange de courage et de sagesse, en juste proportion. Si un plus grand nombre d’entre nous préféraient la nourriture, la gaieté et les chansons aux entassements d’or, le monde serait plus rempli de joie. Mais, triste ou joyeux, il me faut maintenant le quitter. Adieu!

*sniff* Fils de l’aimable Ouest, indeed.

But, ha, this sentence I totally understood, Bilbo lambasting himself: “Tu es un âne!” (“You’re an ass!”) Though Tolkien actually used the word “fool”.

And here’s another bit I understood, in no small part because I also was clued in that I’d gotten confused as to how many of the dwarves died in the battle: “Des douze compagnons de Thorïn, il en resta dix.” I’d gotten it into my head that six of the dwarves were killed, not three–and I blame this on the animated Hobbit! But this line clearly calls out that of the twelve companions of Thorin, there remained ten.

And again I say: *sniff*.

The Elvenking’s last benediction to Bilbo: “Et je vous nomme ami des elfes et béni”. (“I name you friend of elves and blessed.”)

German notes:

In German, the chapter title is “Der Weg zurück”, which I actually read without thinking about it as “The Way Back”. Let’s hear it for SuperMemo, since I have indeed had both “Der Weg” and “zurück” as vocabulary words!

And another bit I can credit to working with German in SuperMemo: “brannte sein Kopf wie Feuer”, i.e., “his head burned like fire”. I already knew “Kopf” and “Feuer”, but I’ve recently had the verb “brennen”, which is “to burn”. From there, it was a pretty easy jump to getting “brannte” as the past tense conjugation.

“Der Schmerz” is another word I’ve had in SuperMemo lately, and I see a variant of it in “seinen schmerzenden Kopf”, “his aching head”.

This bit threw me a little: “Doch offensichtlich ist es eine sehr traurige Angelegenheit.” “Doch” SuperMemo has given me in the context of “but”, though not in the sense given by the word “aber”, and I hadn’t managed to get down the nuances of the definition yet. Looking it up on’s English-German dictionary gives a bit more clarity: i.e., that it’s got a flavor of “however” or “anyway” or “after all” to it.

“Offensichtlich” initially read to me as “öffentlich”, which is “publicly”–not the same word! Google Translate reads “offensichtlich” as “obviously”. I can break both words down to see a common root here of “offen”, which is “open”. And I also know “sicht” as “view/sight/visibility”, and the suffix “-lich” is “-ly”.

Lastly, there’s “Angelegenheit”, which I keep confusing with “Vergangenheit” in SuperMemo. Looking them up properly now, I see the former is “matter/affair”, while the latter is “past”. Which makes this sentence of Bilbo’s basically translate to “Anyway, it’s a very sad affair”.

Which fits pretty well with Tolkien’s actual sentence: “Well, it seems a very gloomy business.”

When the man from Dale arrives and hears Bilbo call out, he answers: “Wer ruft da zwischen den Steinen?” Which I was able to read as “Who calls there between the stones?”

“Da erinnerte sich der Hobbit an der Ring” gives me another word I recognize from SuperMemo: “erinnerte”, which I can parse as the past tense of “erinnern”, which is “to remember”–which I can see as the verb form of “Erinnerung”, which is “memory”.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned “Donnerwetter” in previous posts, but since it’s been so long since I did one, I’ll call it out again here. Bilbo swears this to himself, and as I look it up, translates it as “damn”, “blast”, and “my word”, which all have different degrees of intensity to an English speaker. I’d be interested in knowing whether German speakers use “Donnerwetter” as a light oath or a fierce one. My guess would be light, given that Tolkien’s actual text has Bilbo saying “Well I’m blessed!”

Here’s another bit I was able to parse completely: “Die Unsichtbarkeit hat doch ihre Nachteile.” I.e., “Invisibility has its disadvantages after all”. I recognized “Nachteile” from SuperMemo, too.

(Interesting thought: is “doch” in German similar to “donc” in French? Going back and looking at the French edition, I don’t see “donc” in the sentence about invisibility having its drawbacks, but I do see it in the sentence where the man of Dale asks who’s speaking among the rocks.)

I think “Kampfgefährte” wins for my favorite new word in this chapter. It’s what Bilbo calls himself when he identifies himself to the man of Dale, and it means “comrade”. In this case, Bilbo uses the word as he calls himself “Thorin’s comrade”, “Thorins Kampfgefährte”. (Note the lack of apostrophe in the possessive, as well.)

Ooh, and another thing that suddenly makes sense as I relate it to French: the man of Dale tells Bilbo, “Man braucht Euch”, which I suddenly realized meant “We need you”. But it doesn’t use “wir”, the pronoun I usually know for “we”. Which makes me realize well, duh, “man” is German’s version of the pronoun “on” in French. So this is more “you are needed”, which reflects what Tolkien wrote. (And in the French, this is clearly demonstrated–the French edition has “On a besoin de vous”, which is the exact same thing, i.e., “one has need of you/you are needed”.)

It’s interesting to me, though, that in the very same sentence, the man also says “wir haben lange nach Euch gesucht”–again, reflecting the shift of Tolkien’s own language from the indefinite pronoun to the definite.

I note with amusement that the German translator goes for an almost straight up translation of Bilbo’s recounting of his condition: “meine Beine fühlen sich wie Stroh an”, i.e., “my legs feel like straw”.

When the Dale man picks Bilbo up, I get another new word: “Leichtigkeit”. This stands out to me since it’s a noun, so I had to look it up. I knew “Leicht” as “light”, and I knew Tolkien’s sentence had the adverb “lightly”, so this makes sense as meaning “ease”. I.e., the man of Dale lifts Bilbo up with ease.

Very satisfied to keep finding more sentences leaping out at me in the German now that I’ve been doing SuperMemo with that language too. Here’s another: “Drinnen wartet jemand auf Euch!” I.e., “Inside someone waits for you!” “Drinnen” is yet another word I’ve had in my lineup lately.

Gandalf greets Thorin in German with “Grüß Euch”. As with the French edition, there are interesting questions here of the level of formality. says “grüß dich” is essentially “hello there” or “hi”, yet Gandalf uses “Euch” here, not “dich”. And all of this is in intriguing contrast to how, in the original English, he says “Hail!” Which is way more formal-sounding to an English speaker’s ear.

Thorin’s final words in German: “Es steckt mehr Gutes in Euch, als Ihr selbst wisst. Mut und Weisheit in einem schönen Ebenmaß. Wenn mehr von uns Heiterkeit, gutes Tafeln, und klingende Lieder höher als gehortetes Gold schätzen würden, so hätten wir eine fröhlichere Welt. Aber traurig oder fröhlich–ich muss Euch jetzt verlassen. Lebt wohl!”

I particularly like “Mut und Weisheit in einem schöen Ebenmaß”–since Google Translate parses this as “Courage and wisdom in a beautiful symmetry”, which actually sounds rather more poetic to me than Tolkien’s actual words, for once. (Which were: “Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure.”)

Another bit I was able to read: “Bilbo hatte eine gute kleine Seele.” (“Bilbo had a good little soul.”) Not quite the same as Tolkien’s “He was a kindly little soul”, but pretty close! “Seele” is another one of my SuperMemo words, and I particularly like how it looks like “Seelie”.

This is a contender for best word in the chapter, though: “Überraschungsangriff”, which is “surprise attack”. I recognized “Überraschung”, but not “angriff”. It’ll be fun to see if “angriff” shows up in SuperMemo.

Ah, and here’s the illustration for the chapter, Bilbo giving the necklace to the Elvenking!

Please Accept This Shiny Thing
Please Accept This Shiny Thing

“I name you elf-friend and blessed” in German becomes “Und Euch ernenne ich zum Elbenfreund und segne Euren Weg.” (“I name you Elf-friend and bless your path.”)

And I bless your paths, readers, till I come back at last with the final chapter!

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