Friday, December 7, 2012

The first chapter from the Hobbit

I found the first chapter from the Hobbit at the NY Times, November 19, 2001 and decided to run it through MS Word's Autosummarize "feature." These are the results.

First chapter, summarized to 1%

This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. Hobbits have no beards. Gandalf! “Very pretty!” said Gandalf. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! “Gandalf, Gandalf! “Throng!” thought Mr. Baggins. Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat on the hobbit’s beautiful green door. More dwarves, four more! “What about a little light?” said Bilbo apologetically.

“Hush!” said Gandalf. “Let Thorin speak!” “Gandalf, dwarves and Mr. Baggins! Poor Bilbo couldn’t bear it any longer. “Quite right,” said Thorin.

“O very well,” said Thorin.

Autosummarizing 25% of total text reduces the first chapter to four pages:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The mother of our particular hobbit—what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit—of Bilbo Baggins, that is—was the famous Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. Not that Belladonna Took ever had any adventures after she became Mrs. Bungo Baggins. The chance never arrived, until Bilbo Baggins was grown up, being about fifty years old or so, and living in the beautiful hobbit-hole built by his father, which I have just described for you, until he had in fact apparently settled down immovably.
By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed)—Gandalf came by. Gandalf! All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.
“Good Morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. “All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.
“Very pretty!” said Gandalf. “But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. “Yes, yes, my dear sir—and I do know your name, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took’s son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!”
“Gandalf, Gandalf! I remember those! “Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Good morning! But please come to tea—any time you like! Wizards after all are wizards.
Gandalf in the meantime was still standing outside the door, and laughing long but quietly. After a while he stepped up, and with the spike on his staff scratched a queer sign on the hobbit’s beautiful green front-door. Then he strode away, just about the time when Bilbo was finishing his second cake and beginning to think that he had escaped adventures very well.
The next day he had almost forgotten about Gandalf. Just before tea-time there came a tremendous ring on the front-door bell, and then he remembered! It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under his dark-green hood. As soon as the door was opened, he pushed inside, just as if he had been expected.
“Bilbo Baggins at yours!” said the hobbit, too surprised to ask any questions for the moment. “Excuse me!” said the hobbit, and off he went to the door.
Instead there was a very old-looking dwarf on the step with a white beard and a scarlet hood; and he too hopped inside as soon as the door was open, just as if he had been invited.
“Thank you!” said Bilbo with a gasp. “Lots!” Bilbo plumped down the beer and the cake in front of them, when loud came a ring at the bell again, and then another ring.
“Gandalf for certain this time,” he thought as he puffed along the passage. “At yours and your family’s!” replied Bilbo, remembering his manners this time.
“Throng!” thought Mr. Baggins. “Someone at the door!” he said, blinking.
Then the bell rang again louder than ever, and he had to run to the door. Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin were their names; and very soon two purple hoods, a grey hood, a brown hood, and a white hood were hanging on the pegs, and off they marched with their broad hands stuck in their gold and silver belts to join the others. Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat on the hobbit’s beautiful green door. More dwarves, four more! And there was Gandalf behind, leaning on his staff and laughing. “Carefully! “It is not like you, Bilbo, to keep friends waiting on the mat, and then open the door like a pop-gun! Let me introduce Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and especially Thorin!”
This last belonged to Thorin, an enormously important dwarf, in fact no other than the great Thorin Oakenshield himself, who was not at all pleased at falling flat on Bilbo’s mat with Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur on top of him. Tea! A little red wine, I think for me.”
“And for me,” said Thorin.
Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. “Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!” he said aloud. The dwarves ate and ate, and talked and talked, and time got on. “Of course!” said Thorin. Thereupon the twelve dwarves—not Thorin, he was too important, and stayed talking to Gandalf—jumped to their feet, and made tall piles of all the things. Splash the wine on every door!
Then Gandalf’s smoke-ring would go green and come back to hover over the wizard’s head. Bilbo stood still and watched—he loved smoke-rings—and then he blushed to think how proud he had been yesterday morning of the smoke-rings he had sent up the wind over The Hill.
“Now for some music!” said Thorin. It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin struck it the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill.
The dark came into the room from the little window that opened in the side of The Hill; the firelight flickered—it was April—and still they played on, while the shadow of Gandalf’s beard wagged against the wall.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
To claim our long-forgotten gold.
There lay they long, and many a song
Was sung unheard by men or elves.
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The bells were ringing in the dale
And men looked up with faces pale;
Then dragon’s ire more fierce than fire
The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying fall
Far over the misty mountains grim
“Where are you going?” said Thorin, in a tone that seemed to show that he guessed both halves of the hobbit’s mind.
“What about a little light?” said Bilbo apologetically.
“We like the dark,” said all the dwarves. “Dark for dark business! “Hush!” said Gandalf. “Let Thorin speak!” And this is how Thorin began.
“Gandalf, dwarves and Mr. Baggins! So Thorin went on:
To the estimable Mr. Baggins, and perhaps to one or two of the younger dwarves (I think I should be right in naming Kili and Fili, for instance), the exact situation at the moment may require a little brief explanation—”
This was Thorin’s style. He was an important dwarf. Poor Bilbo couldn’t bear it any longer. All the dwarves sprang up, knocking over the table. Gandalf struck a blue light on the end of his magic staff, and in its firework glare the poor little hobbit could be seen kneeling on the hearth-rug, shaking like a jelly that was melting. “Excitable little fellow,” said Gandalf, as they sat down again. If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took’s great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. Then Mr. Baggins turned the handle and went in. The Took side had won. As for little fellow bobbing on the mat it almost made him really fierce. Many a time afterwards the Baggins part regretted what he did now, and he said to himself: “Bilbo, you were a fool; you walked right in and put your foot in it.”
I had a great-great-great-grand-uncle once, Bullroarer Took, and—”
You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like. “Of course there is a mark,” said Gandalf. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. Now Bilbo, my boy, fetch the lamp, and let’s have a little light on this!”
“I remember the Mountain well enough and the lands about it. “There is a dragon marked in red on the Mountain,” said Balin, “but it will be easy enough to find him without that, if ever we arrive there.”
That marks a hidden passage to the Lower Halls.” Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast’ say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a hole that size, not even when he was a young dragon, certainly not after devouring so many of the dwarves and men of Dale.”
“It seems a great big hole to me,” squeaked Bilbo (who had no experience of dragons and only of hobbit-holes). “How could such a large door be kept secret from everybody outside, apart from the dragon?” he asked. He was only a little hobbit you must remember.
“In lots of ways,” said Gandalf. “Quite right,” said Thorin.
“Also,” went on Gandalf, “I forgot to mention that with the map went a key, a small and curious key. Here it is!” he said, and handed to Thorin a key with a long barrel and intricate wards, made of silver. “A long time before that, if I know anything about the roads East,” interrupted Gandalf.
“Very well then,” said Thorin, “supposing the burglar-expert gives us some ideas or suggestions.” He turned with mock-politeness to Bilbo.
“Bless me!” said Thorin, “haven’t you got a map? “O very well,” said Thorin. “Long ago in my grandfather Thror’s time our family was driven out of the far North, and came back with all their wealth and their tools to this Mountain on the map. Dragons steal gold and jewels, you know, from men and elves and dwarves, wherever they can find them; and they guard their plunder as long as they live (which is practically for ever, unless they are killed), and never enjoy a brass ring of it. By that time all the bells were ringing in Dale and the warriors were arming. The dwarves rushed out of their great gate; but there was the dragon waiting for them. “I have often wondered about my father’s and my grandfather’s escape. “Curse his name, yes,” said Thorin.
“True, true,” said Thorin.
Here it is,” said he handing the map to Thorin.
“I don’t understand,” said Thorin, and Bilbo felt he would have liked to say the same. Your father went away to try his luck with the map after your grandfather was killed; and lots of adventures of a most unpleasant sort he had, but he never got near the Mountain. “Whatever were you doing there?” asked Thorin with a shudder, and all the dwarves shivered.
“Never you mind. Even I, Gandalf, only just escaped. “We have long ago paid the goblins of Moria,” said Thorin; “we must give a thought to the Necromancer.”
The dragon and the Mountain are more than big enough tasks for you!”
“Hear, hear!” said Bilbo, and accidentally said it aloud.
After all there is the Side-door, and dragons must sleep sometimes, I suppose. If you sit on the door-step long enough, I daresay you will think of something. And well, don’t you know, I think we have talked long enough for one night, if you see what I mean. Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
To find our long-forgotten gold.

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