“Good morning” – A Transubstantiation of Words in The Hobbit

“Gandalf’s unexpected arrival at Bilbo’s home at the beginning of the story startles us with the way that he brings dead words to life. Bilbo had greeted him by saying “good morning,” a phrase that is all too often employed unthinkingly. There can, however, be no such subconscious or somnambulant speech in Gandalf’s presence. He insists that we are alive to the rich meaning of the words we use. “What do you mean?” he asks. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”[5] In Gandalf’s opening words, therefore, the words that Bilbo uses are made flesh. They are given substance, or meaning. One might even say that a form of transubstantiation has taken place. The outward appearance or sound of the words remains the same, their accidental qualities, but they are enfleshed with meaning, and not only meaning but multiple meanings, signifying that one solitary phrase can feed a multitude of thoughts. For Gandalf, words are the gateway to reality, the means by which we engage with the objective truth beyond ourselves. He is the opposite of the postmodernist who argues that because a single word can be the key to the opening of numerous meanings, there is no such thing as objective meaning. Gandalf represents the antithesis of such nonsense and the antidote to its poison.” – Bilbo’s Journey: Discovering the Meaning of The Hobbit by Joseph Pearce, St. Benedict Press, 2012, 17-18

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