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Old 01-02-2022, 08:04 PM   #1
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Letter # 214

Please move this to the most appropriate section of these Forums if this thread is considered to be misplaced.

I have been reading "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien" for the second time. It has been long enough that it's like reading it for the first time all over again.

To the topic: In Letter # 214 Tolkien replies to A.C. Nunn at length. Nunn asks if he has found a 'lacuna' in the text, because Gollum refers to 'his birthday present' as something received, whereas in "A Long Expected Party" it is stated that 'Hobbits give present to other people on their own birthday,' and how does the author explain the matter? Was it an error? Was it something else (read the letter for more specifics, and I am sorry if you don't have a copy, and encourage you to get it, even from the library because it's well worth the read)?

i won't spill Tolkien's answer. It would take too long. He goes on for 7 pages, and it ends up being only a draft, never sent.

My assertion is that the sub-creator was having fun and was adding to the legendarium on the spot.

The purpose of this thead is twofold: (1) challenge my assertion if you like, with evidence to the contrary; (2) choose and relate the text from this letter that most interests you for what it says about Hobbits and their ways.

I will respect Tolkien's general disposition and ask that we not try to pry open the author's mind as to what and why and wherefore.

I will, however, suggest that subcreation in the way that Tolkien exhibits is open to any of us, and if you would like to do a piece of it on this thread, I don't see why not. I am willing to be corrected on that point.
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Old 01-02-2022, 08:28 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
My assertion is that the sub-creator was having fun and was adding to the legendarium on the spot.
Oh, absolutely. But if you are looking for an in-world answer, consider this. The Breelanders are queer outlandish folk by virtue of living across a river. The Bree hobbits are so absurdly outlandish that are nearly non-existent in the Shire minds. Now consider the difference in both space and time between Gollum's youth and Bilbo's 50th birthday. Is it that preposterous that those absolutely outlandish folk had an outlandish birthday custom?
You passed from under darkened dome, you enter now the secret land. - Take me to Finrod's fabled home!... ~ Finrod: The Rock Opera
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Old 01-08-2022, 09:07 AM   #3
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LMP, interesting. I have not looked at the letter or his draft response so I will give an off the cuff response.

One can create rational explanations for such apparent inconsistencies but they remain speculative. Whether JRRT had something in mind (and from HoME and NoME we can see that he often did have thoughts on such details) to explain this is unknown. Conjuring up answers, Smeagol was living on the shores of the Anduin with his community hundreds of years before The Shire and its Hobbitish traditions existed. The nature of the community is a bit unclear but it was likely less established and less financially stable than Hobbiton. The giving of many, perhaps dozens or even hundreds, of "birthday presents" on one day, even if they are often Mathoms, can only be a practice of the well off. Perhaps Gollum's community was not so stable so they adhered to the poor practice of others giving presents to the person celebrating.
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Old 01-08-2022, 05:17 PM   #4
William Cloud Hicklin
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Simply put, Tolkien goofed, then filled in the plot-hole with great panache.

Often this procedure creates more realism than having no hole to begin with!
The entire plot of The Lord of the Rings could be said to turn on what Sauron didnít know, and when he didnít know it.
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