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Rapunzel, Not All that Tangled

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was stuck in a tower. Her name was Rapunzel, and she spent her days reading and gazing out the tower window. It got tedious.
Rapunzel was never entirely clear why she couldn’t leave the tower. The old woman had explained it to her once. It was some muddled story about her parents and some lettuce—or was it a cabbage. She couldn’t exactly remember. Whatever the reason, here she was, stuck in this tower, reading her books and looking out over the forest.
The old woman came to see her sometimes. When she did, she would stand at the foot of the tower and call: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair.”
Rapunzel didn’t understand why the old woman had to shout every time she came to the tower. Rapunzel was usually at the window. The old woman would climb up, carrying food or books or new clothes. They would always talk for a while, and the old woman would always warn Rapunzel about letting anyone into the tower.
As if she would! Rapunzel might be stuck in a tower, but she wasn’t an idiot.
She supposed the old woman was talking about the young man she sometimes saw from her window. He would sneak out of the forest when the old woman wasn’t there, come to the tower, and call: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”
Good luck, buddy.
He couldn’t have been the brightest crayon in the box if he thought she was just going to drop her braids out the window for anyone. And besides, gathering up all that hair was hard work, and she had to wash it every time the old woman used it as a climbing rope. And then she had to dry it and brade it.
It went on like that, day after day, until, one day, Rapunzel decided she’d had enough. Towers were fine, but this was ridiculous. One of the books she had been reading was about a man who lived for years and years on a deserted island. He had to do all kinds of inventive things to survive on that island, and Rapunzel thought she would take a leaf out of his book—not literally, of course, but she liked some of his ideas.
She gathered up all that hair, masses and masses of it, and, taking a pair of scissors, she cut it off. With nimble fingers, Rapunzel began to weave herself a rope. Soon she had a golden rope that reached right down to the ground, and she wove the rest of the hair into another rope, which she stuffed into a make-shift bag she stitched from an old cloak. She took the heavy velvet dresses the old woman always made her wear, and she cut and stitched and stitched and cut. Soon she had a sensible set of clothes—pants and shirt and jacket. Shoes were a problem, but Rapunzel rummaged through the pile of things at the back of the tower room until she unearthed a pair of combat boots the old woman had left by accident.
She was finally ready.
Saying a quick goodbye to the room, Rapunzel hopped out the window and repelled down the side of the tower. It was wonderful to be outside, under her own steam and finally able to do what she wanted.
She ventured into the forest, and there she built a house, following the example of her island survivor guy. She caught fish in a nearby lake, and she gathered edible plants from the forest. She was very happy.
Things went on for a while until one evening Rapunzel heard a bellowing and crashing in the forest. She caught up her walking stick, which also served as a beating stick in case anyone should bother her, and she waited.
And guess who it was—the prince. He was crying and bellowing and crashing through the trees, not seeming to know where he was going, and Rapunzel felt a little sorry for him. She guided him into her little house and sat him down. He seemed to have something stuck in his eye.
“I saw the hair,” he blubbered.” “I saw the hair and thought you’d left it out for me. I tried climbing the tower, but I lost my grip and fell. Nearly broke my neck, and I got something stuck in my eye. I think it’s a thorn from one of those beastly roses. I’m probably blind, now!”
“Don’t worry,” said Rapunzel. “Just sit still and let me have a look.”
And she had a look, but it was only an eyelash that had gotten stuck in the prince’s eye. With one deft flick, Rapunzel got it out. “There you go,” she said.
The prince sprang to his feet. “Rapunzel,” he cried, “will you marry me and come and live as my wife in my castle?”
Rapunzel didn’t have to consider long. “You realize I’ve been stuck in a tower for a long time,” she said. “I don’t think I want to be stuck in a castle. It sounds as bad as the tower.”
“Oh,” said the prince, looking rather crestfallen and a little hurt.
“But,” said Rapunzel, brightly, “I’m off soon to see the world, and you are welcome to join me, if youlike.”
“Off to see the world?” said the prince, uncertainly.
“Yes, I have a list of places I want to visit. I want to see Stone Henge. I want to go to Brazil—I’ve always liked the nuts. I want to go to Canada, although they say it’s always winter there, and I want to visit New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand.”
“I guess that would be fine,” said the prince, a little uncertainly. “I should really ask my mother first.”
And speaking of mothers, or at least old women, Rapunzel wanted to give hers a proper telling off before she went away. The old woman was contrite, and she begged Rapunzel’s forgiveness, recognizing that imprisoning young girls in towers wasn’t cool. And the old woman, whom some called a witch, went off and set up shop as a family therapist.
As for Rapunzel and the prince, they  left to see the world. They visited Stone Henge, and they sailed on a ship to Canada. It wasn’t always winter, but there were lots of mosquitoes. Next, they went to Brazil to eat nuts, and, finally, off to New Zealand. They toured around the North and South Islands, until they got an apartment in the city. It was in a high-rise. Rapunzel supposed it was part of her thing about towers. But this one, she could leave whenever she wanted. You could say that she and the prince lived happily ever after,  but Rapunzel forever kept her hair short.

Le Guin, An Author for a Lifetime

The National Book foundation in America recently awarded Ursula K. Le Guin its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A prestigious award for an outstanding author. But Le Guin’s books and short stories speak for themselves.
Le Guin is one of those authors I discovered early in my reading life. I was already a Tolkien geek by the age of eleven, and I was so new to fantasy that I had no idea another author could transport me the way Tolkien could.
The first book I read by Le Guin was The Tombs of Atuan. I think I was thirteen, blinded in a car accident two years before, and desperately trying to adjust to life at my old school. Junior high constitutes a particular kind of hell for many kids, but mine was a hell defined by being the only blind kid in a regular, inner city school. These were kids I had known my whole life, kids I had gone to school with for five years, and who now alternatively felt sorry for me, ignored me, or teased me. The teachers were helpful and well meaning, but intervening on behalf of the blind kid in the class only made my situation worse.
Before I started getting out much on my own, my dad would sometimes drive me downtown to the Materials Resource Centre. This was the library/resource centre that produced all the stuff those few blind kids going to public school in the city needed in order to function. They provided books on tape, both textbooks and novels. They reproduced math texts in braille, and they supplied tape recorders and brailers and everything else we needed to function in a regular school.
The head librarian at the MRC was named Leslie Aiken, and I think she was please to discover a kid so eager to read. She never saw the angry, troublesome side of my character, at least not early on, and she always recommended new books and authors for me to read.
It was Leslie who introduced me to Le Guin. She gave me The Tombs of Atuan, and told me since I liked Tolkien, I might like Le Guin. Understating the case, to be sure. My imagination was ravenous for more after reading and rereading Tolkien.
The Tombs of Atuan is actually the second book in Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle, but at the time, I didn’t care. I read the book, following Arha/Tenar, the high priestess, down into the tombs beneath the Place, and, oddly enough, I began to learn something about myself. I had enough awareness at the time to realize the tombs could be read as a kind of metaphor, although I don’t know that I knew the word yet. I had my own demons crawling around the labyrinth of my own damaged psyche at the time, and somehow experiencing Arha reclaiming her name and meeting Ged, the wizard in search of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, helped me to begin thinking about those things that were turning me into an angry adolescent.
I haven’t read the Earthsea cycle for a couple of years, but I intend to read it again this winter. Le Guin is a challenging author, dence with character, inventive in her use of landscape, devastatingly clear in description, and sometimes more cerebral than I like. And I’ve returned to her again and again over the years. The Tombs of Atuan appears in a course I teach by distance, and I even taught The Left Hand of Darkness to a first-year class. That was an experience of another kind, which I don’t think I would repeat. I have no real desire to teach more of Le Guin; I just love reading her books. She will always have a place on my literary map, and I will always first remember meeting a scared and angry girl, and a strange, inscrutable wizard in the dark beneath the tombs.

Back to School – What to Read?

September means back to school. If you are a fan of the Harry Potter books, then you know

September 1 is the day the Hogwarts Express leaves from King’s Cross Station. Harry makes this trip in five of the seven books in the series. In Chamber of Secrets, he and Ron take a flying car to Hogwarts, and in Deathly Hallows, Harry and friends are in hiding from both the Death Eaters and the Ministry.

I’m teaching Chamber of Secrets this year in my children’s literature class. It’s a book that gets variously criticized, but it also raises some important issues—such as classism and racism—that persist throughout the rest of the series.
Now that I also have a course in the folktale, I won’t teach folktales as part of the children’s literature course. Not entirely true. I couldn’t keep Hans Christian Andersen off the syllabus for this year.
Andersen is a strange writer. He’s one of those children’s authors who many people identify as classic, but he has a darker, disturbing side that many people don’t know.
Think of some of his lighter stories. “The Ugly Duckling” is one that has been retold, in picture books and on television, many, many times. It’s considered Andersen’s signature story—an ugly duckling, shunned by the world until he discovers he’s actually a beautiful swan. This is how Andersen perceived his own life, the best evidence for that being his autobiography, The Fairy Tale of My Life.
Many of Andersen’s best-known stories are entertaining and gently ironic. Think of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (not New Groove) or “The Princess on the Pea.” Many are more disturbing. Andersen’s darker side shows itself quickly once you start to look.
“The Tinderbox” is a story about a soldier who enters a hollow tree to retrieve an object for an old witch. She says he can fill his pockets with money, as long as he brings her back the object. The object, of course, is the tinderbox, and instead of giving it to the witch, he cuts off her head. The soldier proceeds into the town where he carouses and spends all of his money. He discovers the tinderbox will summon three magic dogs that will do whatever he asks. He wants the princess, and he gets her. At the end of the story, the soldier is about to be hanged, and he summons his three dogs using the tinderbox. He commands the dogs to kill the king and queen and the court, then he marries the princess, who is, apparently, okay with it. If the soldier in this story is the hero, then he’s a nasty one.
“The Little Mermaid” is a beautiful story about the youngest mermaid who falls in love with a prince. She sacrifices her legs and later herself for the sake of her prince. Lovely, indeed. However, the Little Mermaid has to endure excruciating pain after losing her fishtale; the prince doesn’t recognize her for the girl who saves him; he treats her like a pet, making her sleep on a cushion outside his door; then he marries someone else. The Little Mermaid can get back her fishtail if she cuts his throat and spills his blood onto her legs. She chooses not to, then throws herself off the boat, intending to kill herself. She doesn’t die, but is taken up as one of the spirits of the air.
Now think for a minute. Does this sound at all like Disney’s The Little Mermaid? The film marked the beginning of the Disney renaissance in the late 80s, and it was the film that brought me back to Disney. I love the character of Ariel, but she isn’t Andersen’s Little Mermaid, by any stretch.
Finally, if you want something dark by Andersen, read either “the Red Shoes” or “The Shadow.” Both of these stories are disturbing and graphic. Karen of “The Red shoes” is vain and loves to dance in her red shoes. Not a properly pious child, Karen would rather dance than pray. She eventually asks the executioner to cut off her feet because the shoes won’t stop dancing. In “The Shadow,” a young man loses his shadow, which eventually comes back to enslave and, finally, kill hymn.
Classics of children’s literature? Indeed. But remember, classic has become a largely meaningless  word when it comes to kid’s books. The word also describes every Disney film before it’s even released.
Andersen’s stories are rich, deep, dark, disturbing, funny, and entertaining. He’s one of those writers who used the fairy tale form because it best suited what he had to say. I think of him as a children’s writer, but mostly because I think of children’s books as a category of literature more than I do a type of literature only suitable for children.  And anyway, living in a world where kids only read kid’s books and adults only read adult books would be a sad place, indeed.

The Frog Prince, Revisited

Once on a time, there was a widow who lived with her daughter at the edge of a village. The widow baked bread for people in the village, and she had to work hard. Every day, she tried to get her daughter to help, but Molly, for that was her name, was always running off to play.
“If only,” cried the widow, “I had a daughter who was of some use in the kitchen!”
But Molly wasn’t any use in the kitchen or out of it. She would take her prized possession, a small golden ball, and she would run out to the forest to play.
One day, Molly came upon a pool in the forest. It was deep and clear, surrounded by rocks and ferns, and she bent over to have a look. And with a plop, her golden ball disappeared into the pool.
“Woe is me!” cried Molly. “What will I do? I’ve lost my golden ball in the pool!” And she sat down and began to cry.
“What’s troubling you, little maid?” asked a voice.
Molly stopped blubbering long enough to look up, and there, sitting at the edge of the pool, was a hideous old frog.
Molly didn’t mind frogs, and she blinked away her tears and stared at him curiously. “I’ve never met a talking frog before,” she said.
“I’m actually a prince under an enchantment,” said the frog, impressively. “If you promise to take me home, let me eat from your little plate, and let me sleep in your little bed, I will fetch your golden ball from the depths of this pool.”
“A prince,” said Molly, a little doubtfully. She had only ever heard of such things in fairy tales. And sleep in her bed? She wasn’t sure if her mother would want that.
She stared hard at the frog. “If you fetch my golden ball, then I promise to take you home. We’ll see about the sleeping arrangements.”
“Fair enough,” gulped the frog. And with a kick and a splash, he dove into the pool.
He was a long time under the water, so long that Molly began to wonder if he were ever going to come back. And then, with a splash and a splat, the frog was sitting on one of the stones. Giving a great croak, he spat the golden ball into Molly’s lap. And she was so delighted, she sprang up and ran all the way home, forgetting her promise to the frog. She might have remembered, but as soon as she came in the door, her mother put her to work.
“Fill the wood box, you lazy thing,” she scolded. “And when you are done that, you can set the table for dinner.”
Molly set to work, and in no time at all, she had the wood box filled, and she and her mother were sitting at the table eating soup and breaking off chunks of steaming, crackling bread.
Just then, there came a knocking at the door. “Young maid,” cried a voice. “Keep your promise. Let me sit at the table and eat from your plate.”
Molly ran to the door, and there was the frog, bobbing and puffing.
“What is that slimy thing?” asked her mother, peering over Molly’s shoulder.
“It’s a prince under an enchantment,” said Molly. “I promised that I would let him eat from my plate if he got my golden ball from the pool.”
“Well,” said the widow, “a promise is a promise. Bring the silly thing into the house, but keep it out of my way.”
Molly let the frog eat from her plate, but when it came time for bed, she found a box, and she stuffed the frog inside.
“Young maid,” cried the frog, plaintively. “You promised to let me sleep in your bed, so keep your promise.”
“You are a slimy frog, wet and icky,” said Molly. “You can sleep in the box.”
After that, the frog would sit and the table and eat from Molly’s plate, but at night she stuffed him back in his box. He complained and complained.
“You promised,” he would say. “You promised to let me sleep in your bed. I found your golden ball, and you must keep your promise.”
“Do you ever shut up!” cried Molly. And she got so tired of hearing him complain, she covered the box with a quilt to muffle his voice. And after a week, she’d had enough. She took the frog in his box into the forest where she found the pool.
 “Back you go,” she said, “enchanted prince, or no.”
And upending the box, she dumped the frog into the water. Just as she did, a great fish came up from the depths, and swallowed the frog with a snap.
“Oh,” cried Molly. “That wasn’t very nice.” And she grabbed the fish and heaved him out of the pool.
The fish landed on the ground with a great splat. “Young maiden, young maiden,” cried the fish. “If you put me back into the water, I will grant you three wishes.”
“Three wishes,” said Molly doubtfully. “Are you something enchanted as well?”
“Yes, yes!” cried the fish. “I will grant you three wishes, any wishes you like, as long as you put me back in the pool.”
But listening to enchanted creatures had got Molly into trouble from the start. “Cough up the frog, and then we can talk,” said Molly.
With a great, belching heave, the fish coughed up the frog. For his part, the frog was a little worse for wear having been in the stomach of the fish, and he just lay there on the ground, looking pathetic and half-dead.
“Now,” said Molly. “Yu owe me some wishes.”
“Fair enough,” gasped the fish. “But make it quick. I have to get back into the pool.”
“First,” said Molly, “if that frog is a prince, then change him back. And second, give my mother enough money so she doesn’t have to work so hard. And finally, I want a pet, and I don’t want it to be a frog. Perhaps a nice dog?”
Maybe the fish didn’t entirely understand. He was lying there gasping out his life, so he might not have heard correctly. At any rate, he took a shortcut. With a popping flash, the frog disappeared, but in its place, there wasn’t a prince, but a great, droopy-eared red setter. He panted once and gave a wine, and Molly was delighted. She picked up the fish, and dropped him back into the pool.
Molly went home with her new pet, and she found that her mother had suddenly come into some money, enough to open a bakery and hire some help. The widow became the most famous baker in the kingdom, and one day, when the King and Queen and their little daughter came to visit the bakery, Molly made a present of her golden ball to the princess.
After that, Molly spent her time with her new dog, whom she called Prince. He was gentle and loyal, and he never complained about a thing. She still had to help out around the bakery, but it was much nicer. And it could be said that Molly got her happily ever after after all, for she found her prince, and they lived together, very happily, indeed. Prince never spoke a single word, but he was the best of friends, and every night, Molly would let him sleep on her bed.

The School Year, A Force of Nature

As an undergrad, I was a terrible student. I left things until the last minute, I wheedled extensions on assignments, and I had bad study habits. Maybe I was just a student.
For years, first as a kid going to public school, then at the university, and later as a parent and a teacher, September has always meant the beginning of the year. New Years has never been the beginning; it’s only halfway. The real start of the year has always been the fall.
September has become a threshold in my subconscious, characterized by anxiety, anticipation, nervous excitement, and nostalgia. It’s such a weird month. The school year is a force of nature, rising from the remains of summer to drag students and parents and teachers alike down the fall and through the winter. She inexorably plows through holidays, good days and bad, only lessening her grip with the end of exams in April, until, finally, worn out and fading, she explodes into fragments with the arrival of graduation and summer holidays.
Every August, my kids would shop for school supplies with their mom, while I found backpacks and tried figuring out lunches my kids wouldn’t hate. But before kids and teaching, I was a weird, half-terrified undergrad at university, in awe of both the campus and my professors. These were people who knew more than I could ever hope to understand, who evaluated me with an unnerving objectivity, and who I could barely bring myself to address.
In my third year, I took a children’s literature course during the spring term with Jon Stott. He was then around the age I am now—short, a little round, and full of a restless energy. The class met in the Humanities Building, and I sat at a table near the door—my preferred seat. Professor Stott would pace up and down the room, lecturing as he walked, never relying on notes, and only stopping to occasionally write on the board. Back in those days, I used a slate and stylus for note taking, and it struck me from almost the first day that he didn’t seem fazed to have a blind student in his class. I had become used to professors not quite knowing what to do with me. They were generally helpful and understanding, but I couldn’t help sensing their bemusement, as though they had discovered a talking, brightly exotic reptile in their classroom.
Professor Stott came up to me right away and asked what he could do to help, and to come and talk to him if there was a problem. That in itself was unusual.
I took children’s literature during spring session because I was short an English course, and by third year I was becoming irritatingly superior as a student. Fortunately for me, I remembered that a measure of humility wasn’t such a bad thing when it came to reading. I discovered books in that class I’d never heard of, and I read books I’d known of for years but thought myself too intellectual to bother with. Meeting gilly Hopkins was a revelation. Reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time was a surprise. Wasn’t it a girl’s book? And who the hell was Aslan?
I learned how to ask questions in that class, and I learned to be less ashamed of how much I didn’t know. I had read a smattering of children’s books, and I always loved what I read. But I had never thought about kid’s books as being important in the same way as adult books. Professor Stott showed me differently. He talked about Gilly, Anne, and Bilbo as though they were real people. He brought them out from the page and took them seriously. And then he forced us back to the books—to read and read again, and not just make stuff up when we talked about the books.
I was lucky that spring. Lucky to meet a professor who was not only a skilled teacher but a skilled reader. He had a passion I couldn’t ignore, and he opened up a world of books that I’ve been exploring ever since. And luckier still, that spring I was open to something new and open to being taught. I was able to say what I thought in that class, and I was taken seriously. The experience enabled me to take on kid’s books as something to love, to read, reread, and wrestle with, for myself, with my kids, and in the classroom.

Gollum, the Evolution of a character

A character we won’t see in this December’s release of The Battle of Five Armies, the third in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, is Gollum. His absence in The Desolation of Smaug was somewhat overshadowed by the appearance of Smoug, the dragon, played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, but I still missed him.
Many readers of Tolkien aren’t familiar with the evolution of Gollum’s character, from his first appearance in the 1937 edition of The Hobbit and through its subsequent revisions while Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings. From both the standpoint of writing and of fiction, Gollum is possibly one of Tolkien’s most dynamic characters, but he’s also one that evolves from a funny little creature who lives in the dark to a demonic ogre with hobbit ancestors who is maddened by the desire for the One Ring.
Jackson’s The Unexpected Journey (2012) brings Bilbo to the roots of the mountain, where he encounters Gollum, terrifyingly portrayed by Andy Serkis. The two engage in a riddle competition, one of the most poignantly drawn battles of wits in children’s literature. During their encounter, Gollum has moments where a different personality intrudes into his consciousness. He isn’t just talking to himself; he has two distinct personalities.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this scene from the movie. But the question becomes, why is Jackson portraying Gollum in this manner? While Andy Serkis’s performance of Gollum in An Unexpected Journey surpasses even that of his role in Jackson’s Two Towers and Return of the King, in some ways it’s a less accurate portrayal of the character.
The apparent split in Gollum’s character is the separation between the Smeagol and Gollum halves, those halves called Slinker and Stinker by Sam Gamgee in The Two Towers. These two halves of Gollum’s character say much about his obsessive desire for the ring, but Tolkien only develops this split during the writing of LOTR. Andy Serkis’s representation of Gollum in The Unexpected Journey has his character divided during his first encounter with Bilbo. Gollum appears to suffer what the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental Disorder) calls dissociative identity disorder. Gollum is an ogre, a pitiable one, but he isn’t in need of therapy. The doubling of character, and even setting, is something that happens throughout LOTR. Frodo and Sam, Bilbo and Frodo, Merry and Pippin, Gandalf and Saruman, Denethor and Theoden, Aragorn and Faramir, Aragorn and the Black riders all suggest contrasts in character and motivation. The doubling of Gollum’s character is more complex and more poignantly drawn than many others, and Tolkine uses it to further underscore the power of the ring to corrupt and destroy.
In Tolkien’s the Hobbit, Gollum talks to himself, or more accurately he talks to his Precious, but who wouldn’t, being stuck at the utmost bottom of a mountain for five hundred years. But the divide in Gollum’s character doesn’t occur here. His character only splits later in LOTR, once Gandalf recounts Gollum’s history, and after Frodo has exacted the promise from Gollum to keep ‘the precious’ out of the hands of the enemy.
cory Olsen, AKA the Tolkien Professor, claims that Gollum of the second edition of The Hobbit is the Gollum of LOTR. He says, in his excellent book, Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit:
“Thus, though the story of Bilbo and Gollum’s meeting was published nearly twenty years before The Fellowship of the Ring, I think it is fair to say that the Gollum in The Hobbit, as it now stands, is actually based on the Gollum of The Lord of the Rings.”
If this is true of Tolkien’s Hobbit, then it is equally true of Jackson’s film. If anything, it’s more so. Jackson is clearly capitalizing on Serkis’s performance, but it does the character something of a disservice as it leads movie-watchers to make certain assumptions about Gollum’s character and his development in Tolkien’s legendarium. Bear this in mind next time you watch any of the films.
Below, you can find a number of quotations, taken from John D. Rateliff’s The History of The Hobbit. The parenthetical comments are mine. Rateliff arranges parallel scenes from the first and second editions of chapter five, Riddles in the Dark, that clearly demonstrate the changes to Gollum’s character. This book is a necessity for anyone interested in the evolution of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Enjoy.
First edition, 1937
Second edition, 1951
Third edition, 1966
First Ed.
“Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum. I don’t know where he came from or who or what he was. He was Gollum – as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes.”
Second Ed.
Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum – as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face.”
(Inserting the word “small” into this passage was Tolkien’s way of telling illustrators that Gollum was hobbit-sized, and not a troll-sized ogre.)
First Ed.
”Does it guess easy? It must have a competition with us, my precious! If precious asks, and it doesn’t answer, we eats it, my preciousss. If it asks us, and we doesn’t answer, then we gives it a present! Gollum!”
Second Ed.
”Does it guess easy? It must have a competition with us, my preciouss! If precious asks, and it doesn’t answer, we eats it, my preciousss. If it asks us, and we doesn’t answer, then we does what it wants, eh? We shows it the way out, yes!”
(The revised passage helps to clarify Gollum’s intent. The ring as Gollum’s birthday present becomes Bilbo’s cover-story to Gandalf and the dwarves, and what he sets down in his memoir.)
First Ed.
“Help me to get out of these places<” said Bilbo.
To this Gollum agreed, as he had to if he wasn’t to cheat, though he would have very much liked to have just tasted what Bilbo was like. Still he had lost the game …”
Second Ed.
Well?” he said. ”What about your promise? I want to go. you must show me the way.”
”Did we say so, precious? Show the nassty little Baggins the way out, yes, yes. But what has it got in its pocketses, eh? Not string, precious, but not nothing. Oh no! gollum!”
”Never you mind,” said Bilbo. ”A promise is a promise.”
”Cross it is, impatient, precious,” hissed Gollum. ”But it must wait, yes it must. We can’t go up the tunnels so hasty. We must go and get some things first, yes, things to help us.”
”Well, hurry up!” said Bilbo, relieved to think of Gollum going away. He thought he was just making an excuse and did not mean to come back. What was Gollum talking about? What useful thing could he keep out on the dark lake? But he was wrong. Gollum did mean to come back. He was angry now and hungry. And he was a miserable wicked creature, and already he had a plan.
(Here Gollum becomes the morally corrupt, wicked creature of LOTR, and the recognizable character of Jackson’s films.)
Olsen, corey. Exploring J. R. R. Tolkine’s The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
Rateliff, John D. ed. The History of The Hobbit. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2011.