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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Rivendell 13 ~ Bilbo’s Gifts 2: The mithril shirt, plus Pt. 6 of jan-u-wine's 'Rivendell Suite'.

Posted on 2009.02.23 at 17:06
Tags: , , , , ,

As I mentioned in the previous post (Bilbo presenting Sting), I love that the Dwarf Thorin Oakenshield gave Bilbo the mithril shirt. I love it most because it is a memento of a relationship that was nearly sundered irrevocably.

For those who haven't read it, in The Hobbit, Thorin is stupefied, then furious when he learns that Bilbo has taken the Arkenstone and given it away to Thranduil (king of the Elves) and Bard (Laketown's leader), to force Thorin to negotiate. Thorin finally forgives Bilbo, but only on his deathbed.

He says,

"Farewell, good thief," he said. "I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate ... 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!"

~ "The Return Journey", The Hobbit.

The notion of Bilbo as a thief runs throughout The Hobbit, cropping up again in LotR. Bilbo is first accepted by the dwarves to go on their Quest because he is to be their Burglar, a role completely foreign to Bilbo. "More like a grocer than a burglar," the dwarves sniff at him. They don't think much better of him until he gets the Ring. Under the Misty Mountains, Bilbo comes upon the Ring accidentally (if it is an accident), but the iffy way in which he wins the Riddle Game frets at him. As shown in LotR, he continues to feel the sting of Gollum's wailed accusation, "Thief", long after the events of S.R. 1341. But the Ring allows Bilbo to help his friends many times, using stealth because of his invisibility. And in Smaug's lair, Bilbo acts the part of thief unequivocally. Trying to better deserve his office of Burglar, he steals a two-handled cup. Smaug knows and addresses him as "Thief". When Bilbo takes the Arkenstone, he steals with intent again, but for yet another reason. He wilfully takes the gem, knowing it to be what Thorin most covets and desires, the treasure stolen from his ancestors, but he does it for a higher good.

It interests me that Bilbo should show his greatest goodness and courage while committing a theft. He joins other Tolkien characters that perform their bravest, truest actions when they were wilfully disobeying a law. Because his gut tells him it is the right thing to do, Éomer lets Aragorn and his companions go free in Rohan, against Théoden's edict, even though his life may be forfeit. Faramir acts similarly when he releases Gollum, Frodo and Sam. Háma the door-ward lets Gandalf into Meduseld armed with his staff, knowingly betraying his office (to let no one enter who is armed), because he believes it is the right thing to do. Beregond, trusted Guard of the Citadel, disobeys the Steward, leaving his post and killing the Steward's men in the Hallows, for a higher good: to save the Steward's son. All three are good men, true and faithful to their lords, yet in the right circumstances they directly disobey their lords' edicts, at great personal risk, for a higher good. That is what Bilbo does when he takes the Arkenstone. He acts the part of a thief, but he is a "good thief", as Thorin recognizes at last. "There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West," he says of Bilbo. Had Thorin ever met him, he might have said the same of Bilbo's heir.

All this came to me as I considered the caps for this scene. The sight of Bilbo's excited pleasure at showing and giving the shirt to Frodo, and Frodo's awed delight to receive such a wonderful, storied gift fills my heart with happiness. The only shadow on my enjoyment is knowing, from repeated viewings, where the scene is headed. The filmmakers make a decision to leave Thorin's "good thief" behind, veering off to create a Bilbo who would make a fine companion to Gollum instead. Dear Bilbo, he did not deserve it. But I will discuss that in the next post.

There is no denying this scene is beautifully done. The production values are perfect and the acting flawless. Holm's is excellent, putting Bilbo through a series of subtle but telling transitions as the Ring is revealed; Wood is crystal clear, letting us see Frodo's initial eagerness to try on the shirt transform into doubt and suspicion as he registers the changes in Bilbo's manner. Not to mention that no one has ever looked more delicious unbuttoning his or her shirt.


No matter how I regret what the filmmakers did with the second half of this scene, I do absolutely love its opening, and I love even more the poem jan-u-wine has written to go with this post. Below the screencaps is Pt. 6 of her brilliant poem cycle, Rivendell Suite. This time she is writing from the elder Baggins' point of view, as he considers his heir on the eve of his departure. What the film scene takes away from Bilbo, Jan's poem restores. It restores some of Frodo's lost glow, too, since he is seen so clearly through Bilbo's loving eyes.

No, the poem does more than "restore". As with all of Jan's best work, the poem opens up not only the film scene but my reading of the book, too. The writing is so in character, reading the poem makes me feel as though I hadn't fully understood Tolkien before. Jan brings me so close to the thoughts and feelings of Bilbo, I feel as though I can touch his love. I am certainly touched by it.


Book scene: from The Ring Goes South.

‘Also there is this!’ said Bilbo, bringing out a parcel which seemed to be rather heavy for its size. He unwound several folds of old cloth, and held up a small shirt of mail. It was close-woven of many rings, as supple almost as linen, cold a ice, and harder than steel. It shone like moonlit silver, and was studded with white gems. With it was a belt of pearl and crystal.

‘It’s a pretty thing, isn’t it?’ said Bilbo, moving it in the light. ‘And useful. It is my dwarf-mail that Thorin gave me. I got it back from Michel Delving before I started, and packed it with my luggage. I brought all the mementoes of my Journey away with me, except the Ring. But I did not expect to use this, and I don’t need it now, except to look at sometimes. You hardly feel any weight when you put it on.’

‘I should look—well, I don’t think I should look right in it,’ said Frodo.

‘Just what I said myself,’ said Bilbo. ‘But never mind about looks. You can wear it under your outer clothes. Come on! You must share this secret with me. Don’t tell anybody else! But I should feel happier if I knew you were wearing it. I have a fancy it would turn even the knives of the Black Riders,’ he ended in a low voice.

‘Very well, I will take it,’ said Frodo. Bilbo put it on him, and fastened Sting upon the glittering belt; and then Frodo put over the top his old weather-stained breeches, tunic and jacket.

‘Just a plain hobbit you look,’ said Bilbo. ‘But there is more about you now than appears on the surface. Good luck to you!’ He turned away and looked out of the window, trying to hum a tune.


Film scene:

Bilbo lifts a shining shirt of mail from a heap of velvet on the bed:

Bilbo: Here’s a pretty thing! Mithril — as light as a feather, and as hard as dragon scales. Let me see you put it on. Go on.

Bilbo waits as Frodo begins to unbutton his shirt. He sees the Ring hanging from the chain around Frodo’s neck. He utters a cry of surprised delight.

Bilbo: Oh! My old ring!

Frodo pauses and looks up at Bilbo.
































Rivendell Suite 6

~ by jan-u-wine

Not long past,
(or so it seems
to me....)

not long past,
my own Adventure;

the feel of it,

the sound,

and smell,
the taste

and sight.....


of it all,
still running,


through memory's

The Dúnadan
(who, of late,
has been more the practiced King

and less *my* road-tracked Ranger)
no longer meets my eye at table.

And I know:

is no Adventure.

From this,
the lad I have loved
as my own may not return.

visits me,

hard fingers

cold as a winter'd Sea,
upon my heart.

If he should be lost.......

My breath halts within me.

he were lost,

I should never know it.

~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On a day that smells of snow,
I visit his chamber.

noted by his own hand,

overflow the table,
rest with wind-whisked leaves upon the floor.

A winter cloak, new made and
darkly furred,
waits upon a leaf-figured hook.

A prince of another Age,
he seems to me then.

A prince

upon the eve of battle,
the grey light of day

turning to fine silver
the sheen of fear upon his brow.

For this last time,
I shall be, again, the Squire.

*His* squire.

No faunt is he,
tale-shuttered eyes

to dremes,

no tween of curious feet
and eager heart.

No matter.

He is, still,
*my* lad.

The gifts of my heart

has he owned.

All that remains,

are the gifts of my hand.

And so they pass on,
as ever they were meant to,

storied true-silver and rune-writ blade

beneath a road-worn tunic.

I shall expect you to keep a journal,
my lad.

I shall expect you
to keep......


Previous entry:

Photobucket ~ Riv. 12: Bilbo’s Gifts 1 – The presentation of Sting, plus jan-u-wine’s ‘Finely Crafted’.

Next entry:

~ Rivendell 14 – Bilbo transformed, plus jan-u-wine's 'Rivendell Suite Pt. 7'.

Other Links:

~ Entries with jan-u-wine's poems.

~ Main table for all entries

~ Mechtild


(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2009-02-24 00:25 (UTC) (Link)
no longer innocent of what he's facing when he sets out with the Ring, but still young, with that glowing skin and the face of an angel.

Yes, it really is the face of an angel. I know, we say that about all the scenes. But in this one, he's so elated, so full of love and happiness (at the beginning), he just *glows*, from the inside out.

Bilbo's so loving with him. It's hard to see how the Ring affects Bilbo only seconds after that.

Exactly. Wasn't Bilbo supposed to have *improved* during his time away from the Ring, not gone downhill? Ah, but I should save these carping sentiments for later. :)

Yes, Jan's poem is very moving. I wept repeatedly when I first read it. I still do. I think these poems about seeing our children (or foster children) off into the Big World are especially powerful to me now.

shirebound at 2009-02-24 00:45 (UTC) (Link)
What a stunning series of screencaps. And that poem... "The gifts of my heart ever has he owned. All that remains, now, are the gifts of my hand..." oh my. Just beautiful.

He joins other Tolkien characters that perform their bravest, truest actions when they were wilfully disobeying a law.

How interesting!!
mechtild at 2009-02-24 01:37 (UTC) (Link)
"The gifts of my heart ever has he owned. All that remains, now, are the gifts of my hand..." oh my. Just beautiful.

Sigh.... I completely agree, Shirebound. :)
aussiepeach at 2009-02-24 05:20 (UTC) (Link)
And Frodo the mushroom pilferer is a good thief too. :)
mechtild at 2009-02-24 13:35 (UTC) (Link)
Ha ha! And a good pilferer of hearts, too.

Peachy, your icon is positively *irreverent*. It makes me suddenly hear the strains of "Stayin' Alive" from Saturday Night Fever.... Hmmm, John Travolta in mithril? Frodo Travolta? "Frodo" always did sound Italian to me.
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2009-02-24 13:36 (UTC) (Link)
Not at all! I am happy when people can make use of the screencaps, Luthien.
aredhelebenesse at 2009-02-24 11:48 (UTC) (Link)
That's so beautiful! Your stunning series of pictures and Jan's sensitive poem. There is Frodo's angelic face in contrast to Bilbo's worries to loose him. These two components together will never fail to leave me in deep melancholy, at least for a while.
mechtild at 2009-02-24 13:41 (UTC) (Link)
Who would not fear to lose such an angel? Or, more deeply, fear to see the one you love lose what makes him an angel? But don't be melancholy. Frodo's angel-nature may get a bit besmirched, but his spirit, if made sadder, is also made wiser and finer for the trip into the mire. Or that is what I think and believe. Maybe every parent believes that, or needs to. Otherwise it would be too unbearable, thinking what the world could do to our children, to let them go into it as we must. :)
magpie_2 at 2009-02-24 23:08 (UTC) (Link)
I love these images, Thank you for putting them together. Anytime the hobbits receive weapons it tugs at my heartstrings (Aragorn, Galadriel) but this scene more than any of the others

(the shirt unbuttoning of course doesn't hurt!)
mechtild at 2009-02-25 02:46 (UTC) (Link)
What is it about the scenes that tugs your heartstrings? I am guessing, but I want to be sure.

(Why doesn't it look cool when I unbutton *my* shirt?)
magpie_2 at 2009-02-27 04:44 (UTC) (Link)
for me its about the loss of innocence, On some level the gifting of weapons leaves the feeling that not only is danger ahead but home is very far behind. The weapons also have such history it makes me feel like wheels are turning in motion and they are being swept into the larger story.

My favorite chapter of the books is a Conspiracy Unmasked so you can see I'm drawn to the warm hobbit friendships and the last bits of home.
mechtild at 2009-02-27 13:58 (UTC) (Link)
That was a thought-provoking comment, Magpie. Yes, I guess in every tale comes the point when the hero is girded and armed, often given special or magic weapons or items of armour, but it's true that they wouldn't need the special weapons if they weren't going into danger, and from which they won't emerge the same.

I was thinking again last night about the appeal of the shirt-unbuttoning moment, and began to see that for me it wasn't the fact of baring his skin that was so powerful - the sensual side - although that was there once I got a crush on film Frodo - but the baring that it signified. he unbuttons the shirt happily, anxious to try on the marvellous shirt, out of sheer pleasure and to please Bilbo, but then when Bilbo asks to see the Ring the tone changes radically. For him to bare it further is to bare his heart, in a way, and he stops. And I think that's when innocence changes to caution. Anyway, it's a very poignant moment for me, when Frodo's face changes to "Umm, no, I think not, Bilbo [no way, in fact], no..." from the eager acquiescence that preceded it.

Have you ever heard the BBC LoTR? The "Conspiracy Unmasked" scene is beautifully played.
magpie_2 at 2009-02-28 01:41 (UTC) (Link)
Nods, yes the way emotions play across his face mirror the actions, I never thought of that but you are very right.

Yes, I do have the BBC version, I need to listen to it again it has been a long time, but yes its wonderfully done :)
mechtild at 2009-02-28 04:38 (UTC) (Link)
Do listen to it again some time. Not all of it is super, and there are some outright clinker moments, but when it's good it's beautiful, faithful and true.
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2009-03-01 06:15 (UTC) (Link)
That's my favorite chapter, too. (-: I love that Frodo is so loved that his friends are planning in secret to help him, and how they lift the burden off his shoulders, and that he is worthy of that love, and the banter between them. I don't think I've encountered any writer in any genre since who depicts loving friendships so well as Tolkien did in this text.
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2009-03-01 05:56 (UTC) (Link)
That poem is beautiful--it makes me teary for Bilbo, sending his lad off to war, as Tolkien did with his own sons, with his memories of his 3 war-lost childhood companions. I love that she also worked in Bilbo's relationship with Aragorn here and how that relationship was changing, too, and as another loss for Bilbo either to war or kingship. How hard staying behind must have been for him--no wonder he needed the gift of senility--too much to bear.

I hadn't related Bilbo's thieving to other characters acts of disobediance before, but now that you mention it, that's very cool. The text very much embraces the idea of questioning authority --that rulers and laws need to be challenged and one must evaluate their rightness--blind loyalty is not valued here, and patriotism means being willing to suffer punishment to voice your opposition. Bilbo, and Faramir in particular, are very much Robin Hoods, aren't they?

Gorgeous caps--the unbuttoning is very sexy. Do you know if the mithril shirt is a fine chainmail, or if they used a fabric for it? Looking at it in your caps, it looks like fabric to me.

mechtild at 2009-03-01 21:40 (UTC) (Link)
That is very pertinent, and poignant, Lavender, making explicit the fact that Tolkien shared some of the same sentiments with Bilbo in this situation. And Jan's poem really brought it out. I'm glad you made the connection.

As for "acts of disobedience", clearly, Tolkien was all for loyalty and devotion to duty: good servants, and good soldiers, are faithful and true. But masters - whether heads of households or military officers or kings - also have the obligation to be faithful and true, to be "good masters". In the situations I lifted up, the masters (Theoden, Thorin and Denethor) had each fallen under a shadow that clouded or warped their judgement, so that they were no longer capable of being good masters. Theoden lived to be reclaimed, perhaps rising to greater integrity than he had ever had. Thorin repented, if on his death bed, but Denethor, alas, died benighted. In all these cases, though, it's because their commands *are* benighted -- that is, in grave conflict with the higher good (and not just because their commands don't happen to suit their subordinates) --that Tolkien shows them acting rightly when going against their masters' edicts. I am sure Tolkien did not have a Polyanna view of the English monarchy or English parliamentary government, but he was loyal to the crown and to the laws of his country. But, if a Hitler should have risen up on British soil, I am sure Tolkien would, in conscience, have felt compelled to find ways to resist him, even if he was the lawfully elected leader of the country.

Gee, that got long! Sorry. :)

Now, about the shirt. Lucky for you, jan-u-wine, who read your comment emailed me a link (ha - "link" - as in chain mail?) about the making of Frodo's shirt. Here's what she sent (scroll down):

His shirt is made of real mail, but made by machine. It's different from the stuff made by the folk Weta hired for the regular mail.

Inspired by Jan, I found another site talking about how Frodo's mail shirt was made:

Here's a picture I found of a slinky model wearing a "shark suit" made out of the stuff, by Neptunic:
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