Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘luck’

Luck Is a Possession

[In The Hobbit, Bilbo] has two other qualities besides [the Ring]. One is luck. The dwarves notice this more than once, with Thorin for instance saying, as he sends Bilbo down the tunnel to the dragon, that Bilbo is ‘full of courage and resource far beyond his size, and if I may say so possessed of good luck far exceeding the usual allowance’ (chapter 12). Earlier on, after Bilbo had rescued them from the spiders, ‘[the dwarves] saw that he had some wits, as well as luck and a magic ring – and all three were useful possessions’ (chapter 8). This belief that luck is a possession, which one can own, and perhaps even give away or pass on, may seem to be characteristically dwarvish, i.e. old-fashioned, pre-modern: it is a commonplace of Norse saga, for instance, where there are many lucky and unlucky cloaks, weapons, and people.

Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, p. 27

Author’s emphasis.

A Lucky Find Unsettles One’s World

Coming from who knows where, a lucky find is potentially unsettling to whatever world it enters. The moralists will be likely to complain, the gamblers will be pleased, while everyone else will wait to see if it really is amusing, this new thing. Whatever the case, before we can have a full sense of the disruptions and delights that come in the wake of a lucky find, we need fuller examples to work with. In 1965 [C.E.] George Foster, an anthropologist who had worked in Mexico and Italy, published an essay that is partly about how peasants respond when their neighbors’ fortunes suddenly change. In “Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good,” Foster argues that many othervise perplexing details of peasant behavior can be understood by assuming that peasants believe there is a fixed quantity of wealth in the community and therefore that if someone in the group suddenly becomes richer it must be because someone else, or the group as a whole, has become poorer. The idea holds if we imagine, as Foster does, a closed community, or—to put it the other way—the idea finds its exceptions in cases in which wealth clearly comes from outside the nominal bounds of the group. Peasants do not feel ripped off if one of their number becomes richer as “a result of selling labor as a migrant worker, for it is clear that wages so earned come from across the border. More telling for my purposes are the other ways to get wealth without being subjected to group opprobrium. In peasant communities in southern Italy, for example, the neighbors won’t harass someone whose sudden success comes as a “gift of Fortune,” as, for example, when “a rich gentleman gave a poor boy a violin,” or when “a rich gentlewoman adopted an abandoned child,” when a man “hit upon a hidden treasure” buried in the woods, and when “another was lucky enough to win in the lottery.”

Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World, pp. 131-32

Emphasis mine.