In the fifteenth chapter of The Hobbit, Thorin Oakenshield ruins everything. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hobbit.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: THE GATHERING OF THE CLOUDS
Oh, Thorin, what have you done?
Now I see how Tolkien has used this whole book to set up the proud, stubborn nature of Thorin, and as soon as Bard arrived, I knew that this could only end in a disaster. I think part of this comes from the fact that they are taken so unaware by the news that the birds bring them. (Lots of talking birds, but no talking ponies? Bigot.) I am a bit confused how the thrush operates. Does it only choose to speak to certain people, such as Bard? Because it doesn’t say a word to Bilbo and the dwarves, even though it appears to be trying to say something. Wait, can Bard speak thrush?? WHY AM I ACTUALLY ENTERTAINING THAT THOUGHT?
Anyway, further complicating the bird-talk-logic of this book, an old raven (153 years old!!!!! HOW THE FUCK!!!) arrives named Roäc, son of Carc. Why is it that any characters in fantasy novels do this, where they announce who they are the son of? Is that based in a real practice in European history? Roäc can talk. The thrush can’t? Whatever. Roäc brings the dwarves good news and bad news. Good news? Smaug is dead, and the small thrush that’s been pestering them actually witnessed it. I did enjoy how absolutely ecstatic all the dwarves become at this announcement, realizing they’d been worried for nothing and that they’d regained their home. It really is a special moment.
Which is ruined when Roäc then gives them the bad news: news of Smaug’s death has piqued the interest of many people who wish to have some of the dwarves’ treasure, the least of which is a group of elves and lake men. We know they are led by Bard, and are basically seeking restitution for what happened to Esgaroth. Roäc even offers up some sage advice, asking for peace and recommended that Thorin speak with Bard about payment for the destruction that Smaug brought to Esgaroth.
And this seems reasonable, no? Just a little bit? Maybe? Okay, the chief problem here, and one that was established long ago, is that the dwarves felt displaced by Smaug’s actions, and rightly so! This was once a great palace, and the buttface just stole it all. So, on the one hand, I understand Thorin’s reluctance to concede any of this. The dwarves just got back their home after a long time being away from it, and within thirty seconds of discovering this, someone already wants a piece of it. I don’t know that I would be less reluctant than Thorin.
So the dwarves, with Bilbo’s help, begin to fortify the mountain’s main gate to prevent anyone from coming in. Thankfully, they had quite a few days’ head start due to Roäc’s warning, so they manage to complete a stone wall at the gate that allows them to protect themselves will still able to see/shoot out of it. When the elves and lake men arrive (clearly wearing war armor, too), the first day…well, nothing happens. I sort of expected a raucous charge and the clashing of weapons and Thorin yelling a lot, and there’d probably be a song, too. What is with characters in this book expressing themselves through improvised song? It happens that first night while the dwarves wait for any sort of response from their visitors. The lyrics clearly reference very recent events, so…they wrote this on the spot? Fuckin’ talented dwarves, I swear.
The next morning, Bard is the first one to speak to the dwarves through their stone wall. He very plainly and reasonably lays out his issues: that he slay the dragon that was holding their wealth; that he is the heir of Dale, who also lost treasure to Smaug, some of which is in the mountain; and that the dwarves’ actions caused Smaug to lash out and destroy Esgaroth. Thorin barely addresses any of this, instead choosing to continually state that they will not cooperate with anyone by force or by armed men. OKAY THAT’S NICE BUT BARD HAS A POINT. Actually, HE HAS THREE OF THEM. But Thorin is only concerned with getting the elves to leave, and to disarm the lake men host.
Does it work? OF COURSE NOT. When a speaker comes to announce the terms that Bard wants (one twelfth of the treasure to repair Esgaroth, and a bit more from Thorin himself to be given to the town as a whole), Thorin responds by shooting an arrow at the man. Jesus goddamn christ, THORIN. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING.
Bilbo is left frustrated and overwhelmed by this wanton display of arrogance and irrationality. It looks like there’s going to be a huge battle, and he has no choice but to be a part of it.