interpretation: "you need not bow!"

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interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by halfwise on Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:16 pm

Something has always struck me as curious enough in The Council of Elrond that it has always stuck in my mind, I think because I don't understand it.

Right after Bilbo makes his little speech of "...Bilbo the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it..." Gandalf replies with: "..If you had really started this affair, you would be expected to finish it. But you know well enough now that starting is too great a claim for any, and that only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero. You need not bow! Though the word was meant, and we do not doubt that under jest you are making a valiant offer..."

What exactly did Gandalf mean by "You need not bow!"? Was he saying the term "hero" should not be taken too strongly? Or that Bilbo was actually beginning to bow? And if so, why? Or something else?

The phrase feels oddly appropriate (like every word Tolkien writes), but I'm not sure how to interpret it.

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Eldorion on Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:26 pm

Maybe it's meant in the sense that an actor "bows out" when they leave so Bilbo ... doesn't have to leave on a quest. Or something?

It's probably an archaic meaning of the word, given that Tolkien was a philologist, but I have to head out in a minute so I can't go poking around looking for the history of the word bow right now. Razz

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by halfwise on Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:33 pm

Don't think it's a philological situation. I think it's one of the rare cases where Tolkien was not totally clear.

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:43 pm

sounds like a literal bow, but I will have to re-read that bit
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:49 pm

I always took it as literal too- when Gandalf says hero, Bilbo starts to bow in gracious acceptance of the term, very much in his character. And typically crabbit Gandalf snaps at him "you need not bow." Exasperated with hobbit custom and mock modesty.

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by David H on Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:09 am

That's kind of how I read it too, though without the crabbit. "Only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero" was a gracious way to honor Bilbo's contribution. It's almost Shakespearean to my ear, so it's natural to me that the stage action is implied when he says "YOu need not bow!" as Bilbo acknowledges the compliment with a real bow.

But Gandalf isn't finished. He payed the compliment in preparation for refusing Bilbo's offer, and he's not going to get sidetracked in a duel of gallantries (something I think Hobbits would love). Hence the "Though the word was meant.." comment that follows. He is allowing the compliment to stand while pointing out what is obvious to everybody else there: that Bilbo is not up to the task. It's the candy-coated poo pill.
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by CC12 35 on Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:28 am

i think gandy was implying that bilbo had already undertaken heroic stuff that heroes do and by using such grandiosely generic but bold language that he didn't need 2 do any more

like...chil bilbo ur a hero.,u need not bow .... bc ur a hero

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by halfwise on Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:01 am

I think the Petty/David interpretation is making sense to me. I didn't really see it because it would imply a pause in the narrative which is not otherwise indicated. Would have made more sense if it was written "great deeds by any hero...you need not bow!"

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Elthir on Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:23 pm

It's probably an archaic meaning of the word, given that Tolkien was a philologist, but I have to head out in a minute so I can't go poking around looking for the history of the word bow right now.
The archaic meaning of bow is 'white' or if a verb 'to whiten'.

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Eldorion on Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:18 pm

Sofa
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by RA on Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:40 am

It's kinda sad for Bilbo because he thought he had one more perilous adventure left in him. Gandalf is trying to spare his feelings a bit, I think.

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Mrs Figg on Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:42 am

good point RA, yes I think you are right about Gandalf being kind and tactful to an old friend.
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Orwell on Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:29 pm

I thought Gandalf was just turning a phrase. He acknowledged Bilbo was a hero, but did not think there any need for Bilbo to acknowledge the compliment. All knew his worth there and there was no need whatsoever to say "Thanks for the (genuine) compliment" (whether verbal or expressed with a bow), and definitely no need whatsoever for Bilbo to make a song and dance about it - if that's what he feared Bilbo might do. scratch It has never seemed odd or ambiguous to me. To me it's meaning seemed reasonably mundane, a very straight forward no nonsense Gandalf-like aside.  I never imagined Bilbo actually starting to bow. (Perhaps Gandalf detected a glint of 'prosy' in Bilbo's eye! Very Happy) Now you bring it up, Halfy, I see it's no easy thing to explain. scratch

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by halfwise on Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:35 pm

Yep, it's the only place I recall where Tolkien wasn't crystal clear (when he was talking about things like the undying lands and mysterious answers coming to Sam he was intentionally being vague and the readers knew it and accepted it as part of the mystical experience).

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Mrs Figg on Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:06 pm

as regards Crystal clear, I seem to remember reading the Whole Tom Bombadil section feeling things were definately not Crystal clear what was happening during the timey wimey bit while he was telling tales to the Hobbits. Did time really move differently while they were listening to him? its very like Lothlorien scratch 
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Yavanna on Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:57 pm

Heh...if you watch the Bakshi version, as Gandalf speaks the words, they cut to Bilbo blushing and bowing....It's a rather comedic moment.
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Orwell on Wed Nov 13, 2013 6:49 am

as regards Crystal clear, I seem to remember reading the Whole Tom Bombadil section feeling things were definately not Crystal clear what was happening during the timey wimey bit while he was telling tales to the Hobbits. Did time really move differently while they were listening to him? its very like Lothlorien - Mrs Figg


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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Radaghast on Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:49 pm

I think Bilbo was actually bowing while offering to take the Ring to its intended destination. He was showing respect for the people present and regret for his finding of the Ring.

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by halfwise on Sat Nov 23, 2013 7:17 pm

hmm...though it makes some sense for bilbo to show regret at some point, it doesn't really fit in with the tone of his actions during the council, unless he was showing some sort of comical regret and respect. He snorts, he interrupts... seemed to have developed too much hobbit-like familiarity by that point to do such a thing as bow in a serious manner.

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Norc on Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:13 pm

i think this phrase is a sexual thing.. you need not bow..

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by halfwise on Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:19 pm

Question 

I think these youngsters are way ahead of us in some ways we don't want to know about. No, no Norc, please don't explain. No 

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Mrs Figg on Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:06 pm

Mad  is nothing sacred?
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by Eldorion on Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:28 am

Mrs Figg wrote:Mad  is nothing sacred?


Nope. Very Happy
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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by RA on Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:29 am

Oh no, the years spent repressing it, wasted... No 

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Re: interpretation: "you need not bow!"

Post by RA on Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:29 am

{{{it is kind of funny though}}}

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