Mark Reads ‘The Hobbit’: Chapter 15

In the fifteenth chapter of The Hobbit, Thorin Oakenshield ruins everything. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hobbit.


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.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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154 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Hobbit’: Chapter 15

  1. Jenny_M says:

    Urgh, I forgot about this chapter. Thorin, stop being a total Smaug about everything, and give the people some gold! You DID help facilitate the destruction of their town and a 25% casualty rate, yo.

  2. redletter_ says:

    Re-reading this chapter caused a completely random forgotten memory to pop into my head today!

    All the way back in 1998 for my school's annual Book Week Costume Parade I went as Gandalf. It took an hour or so to find, but I unearthed the only picture I have of it…

    <img src=""&gt;

    WERK IT. (Ignore the hot pink pyjamas, they weren't a part of it :D.)

  3. Mr Sailor says:

    Wow, first time I'm here so early there aren't a bajillion comments already. O___o

    Anyway, THIS IS A REALLY FRUSTRATING CHAPTER. Why are the dwarves immediately "OMG we must shed blood so no one gets a nickel coin out of here!" Not to mention how the elves kinda didn't have all that much reason to come (and wearing armour and carrying weapons), THEIR homes weren't destroyed by a dragon.

  4. BornIn1142 says:

    I'm damn curious what Thorin would have done if the lakemen had come unarmed and made their request more peaceably.

  5. tethysdust says:

    I could be wrong, but this is what I thought…

    I think the thrush speaks thrush-language. Bard, due to magical genetics (being descended from the ruler of Dale, and given their history hanging out with thrushes) understands thrush-language.

    The dwarves apparently also understand thrush-language, but not very well. They assume Bilbo does as well, and I laughed when he chose not to enlighten them on his lack of bird-speech skills. Anyhow, the thrush was trying to talk to them, but they were just failing at thrush-language comprehension.

    The raven is old and smart, and thus can speak the common tongue. I think, in reality, ravens actually can be taught to speak (like a parrot), so this kind of makes sense to me.


    • cait0716 says:

      That's how i read it, too. I like the special magic that lets Bard understand the thrush. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter and his parseltongue abilities. But probably less evil.

      Bilbo's comment about the thrush being very excited made me laugh. At least he can read bird body-language!

      Also, didn't Balin mention being able to understand crows from earlier? So I think the dwarves can speak some bird languages. Thorin's ancestors at least must have been able to speak thrush, since they set up that whole magic with the thrush knocking the snail on the rock to open the door. But I guess language-knowledge only passes in men's genetics, not dwarf's.

      • tethysdust says:

        I guess it is a bit like parseltongue! Yeah, I think Balin mentioned that earlier. The dwarves also seemed to be operating on the general assumption that everyone has at least some knowledge of bird languages.

    • drippingmercury says:

      ravens actually can be taught to speak

      If A Song of Ice and Fire has taught me anything it would be that it's totally a bad idea to do so. Talking ravens are just all "corn, corn!" and when they're not busy stealing your breakfast it's time to hint at impending doom. Jerks.

    • earis the istarwen says:

      magical genetics – one of fantasy's favorite tropes!

    • Meltha says:

      Yup, ravens can most definitiely speak. [youtube -ZyBNWVD70w youtube]

      A little creepy, but pretty darn clear. Much clearer than most parrots I've heard.

  6. JonT says:

    Specifically Scandanavian history. In that culture, people didn’t have last names but added theirs father’s name with -son at the end.

    So Hagar the Horrible’s son would call himself Hamlet Hagarson.

    You may have notices that a lot of Scandanvian names end in -sen or -son like Anderson, Robertson, Jensen etc. It’s for the same reason that Smith is such a common name among people of Anglo-Saxon decent.

    • John Small Berries says:

      Right; Scandinavian patronymic surnames indicate the name of an ancestor, whereas vocational surnames (Smith, Brewster, Fuller, etc.) hearken back to the trade of an ancestor. And locative surnames (Brook, Ashwood, Denton, Atwater, etc.) tend to indicate the main geographical feature of the place where an ancestor lived.

      Iceland still uses true patronymics (or matronymics, such as Björk Guðmundsdóttir), which do change from generation to generation (instead of being passed down, as they are in the United States).

    • Cylena says:

      And for girls it ends in -dotter/-dottir (=daughter). In fact, on Iceland you still don't have a surname, but you have a patronym (i.e. -son/-dottir). The phonebook and that kind of stuff is sorted by first name.

    • Ashley says:

      I was going to say this, but you beat me to it.

    • Robin says:

      Patronymics are a common tradition all over western Europe. In addition to the -son and -sen mentioned above, you have the Mac-, Mc-, and Fitz- prefixes from the Gaelic and Anglo-Norman traditions, and you've also got the -zoon/-sz suffix in Dutch and the -ez/-es suffix in Spanish. Back before they became multi-generational surnames – usually on account of the introduction of government registries – a guy calling himself Cormac MacDougal was introducing himself as Cormac, son of Dougal, and a guy calling himself Juan Rodriguez was Juan, son of Rodrigo.

    • Pyrrhic says:

      I just like to add to this that taking a steady surname that passed from generation to generation started in Normandy ( a region of France settled by the Scandinavians) and didn't start to spread around Europe till the mid-1100's.

    • kate says:

      Also, if you've ever read Beowulf you'll know that lineage is a big part of introducing yourself AND Tolkien was all about Beowulf. He wrote a bunch of stuff about Beowulf and might have gotten some of his inspiration from that source

  7. PrefectSarah says:

    "Fuckin’ talented dwarves, I swear."

    I literally LOL'd at this. Good thing Hobbits like to sing songs too or Bilbo would constantly be like "um, guys, what's with all the singing?" Which makes me think of Monty Python. Which makes me laugh all over again…

  8. majere616 says:

    The thrush is speaking the tongue of birds. Bard understands the tongue of birds.

  9. Right about here is where things get complicated… it's like you said, Thorin does have a legitimate reason to want to hold onto the treasure, but Bard is the one who took out the dragon for them, and they wouldn't exactly have the treasure at all if not for him. Not to mention the detail that the Lake-men helped them out a lot and threw them a party when they showed up- Thorin definitely needs to loosen up.

    There's one sentence that I've always thought interesting, though, that might explain Thorin's actions a little more than just 'dwarves love their gold' and it's this: "But also he [Bilbo] did not reckon with the power that gold has upon which a dragon has long brooded…"

    I've always wished Tolkien had gone into more detail about the magic with which dragons affect their horde, especially since earlier he says something about how Bilbo was in "grievous danger of coming under the dragon spell." And I'm not saying this excuses Thorin's actions, but the fact that a dragon horde is associated with bewildering the people who come in contact with it to the point that it's considered an enchantment in and of itself may have something to do with why he's acting so aggressively to the Lake-men. The new things you notice while re-reading…

    • earis the istarwen says:

      This gets to the heart of Tolkien's problem with evil. Tolkien is uncertain if evil exists as its own force or if it is a part of the conscious brain. In this case, the dragonhoard either has been poisoned by the dragon to cause others to fall prey to greed OR people are just that geredy when a ton of gold is involved, esp. gold with disputed claims.

      • Dreamflower says:

        Or it exacerbates the latent greed already present in all of us. I think he very subtly shows that such enchantments are also tied to the natures of the people exposed to them. All it did with Bilbo was cause him to pocket the Arkenstone– and his hobbitiness was enough to make him feel guilty about it anyhow.

        Naq orpnhfr ur vf ng urneg fhpu n xvaq naq trarebhf fbhy, vg'f jung znxrf uvz qb jung ur qbrf arkg va guvf fgbel. Cyhf vg znxrf uvz erfvfgnag gb gung yvggyr evat ur sbhaq gb, V qb oryvrir. Tbyyhz jnf nyernql n anfgl crefba jura ur tbg vg– vg ghearq uvz vagb n zheqrere evtug njnl. Ovyob uryq vg sbe fvkgl lrnef naq jnf fgvyy noyr gb tvir vg hc, nygubhtu abg jvgubhg eryhpgnapr.

    • atheistsisters says:

      I forgot the part about dragons brooding over and sort of enchanting their treasure – it's interesting because it must have been something the Inklings tossed around since C.S. Lewis had the same thing.

      • earis the istarwen says:

        I think it's from Beowulf. The dragon's hoard at the end of Beowulf has a similar effect on the humans in the poem, everyone gets really greedy and violent at the thought of all that gold. So it makes sense that the Inklings would use it as a trope.

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      My feelings for Bard and Thorin:
      <img src=""&gt;

  10. Amanda says:

    In so many books that I've read, it always have a way to TALK and AGREE with something, but there's always someone like Thorin, that ruins everything. I never want the battle, but when it arrives, I enjoy so much.

  11. cait0716 says:

    I'm with Bilbo in not wanting to be besieged in a mountain with a dwindling supply of not-very-good food (Discworld spoilers: Gur penz xrrcf oevat qjnes oernq naq gung znxrf vg rira yrff nccrgvmvat. Fvapr qjnes oernq vf n fcbbs bs penz, V thrff gung znxrf frafr).

    Bard make some really good points, especially the fact that Smaug stole some of that gold from Dale, not just the dwarves. Thorin should at least be willing to talk to them, instead of just holing up in a mountain and hoarding all that gold. There's enough there for everyone.

  12. stellaaaaakris says:

    I thought they said in the last chapter that Bard could understand the thrush because he was descended from the men of Dale who spoke thrush. No? It seems like an incredibly tiny detail for me to remember when I haven't read this book in 12 years and totally forgot most of the details.

    The lyrics clearly reference very recent events, so…they wrote this on the spot? Fuckin’ talented dwarves, I swear.
    Puhshaw, it's not that hard. Take a look at this song I just wrote: "I'm walking to the train/I hope it does not rain/Because that would be a pain/While I'm walking to the train." I'm a bit like Marshal on HIMYM, I sing/narrate what I'm doing. Is it at the same level as the dwarves? Probably not, especially since I think they can probably add music and stuff. But still….

    All the -son last name things also remind me of HDM. All the bears had a last name of -son (Byrnison, Raknison, etc.) and they're from Svalbard, which, I think is pretty safe to assume, at the very least has Scandinavian ties as well.

    And seriously Thorin, what's wrong with you? Bard makes some very good points you should at least consider before shooting an arrow at his messenger. I'm glad at least Fili and Kili (and Bombur) are uncomfortable with how their leader is acting. They continue to be the awesomest dwarves in my book.

  13. earis the istarwen says:

    This chapter is a brilliant example of why negotiations fail. Both the Lakemen and the Dwarves have valid points, and needs. They should be able to come to an agreement – and they have to in order to survive. The Lakemen need money to help rebuild their homes and, oh yeah, dwarves are kic- ass builders, I mean, they fortified a mountain with a make-shift lake in a matter of days. The dwarves need food and supplies to see them through the winter, what with gold not being edible and all. The Dwarves were kicked out of the home that they labored for and loved for generations, and only now are able to return home (only Thorin and Balin remember the Lonely Mountain as it was, but the wounds are fresh and deep for them). Their exploits, however, did wake the dragon and harm the Lakemen, who lost their homes while killing the dragon.
    Everyone here makes mistakes. The Lakemen should have approached without the retinue of armed Elves and with a little more open friendliness. The Dwarves should have been able to see past their own knee-jerk reactions to the genuine need of the Lake-men. This is where someone with the skills of the Master (although not him because he's an idiot) would come in handy. But instead you have two prototypical heroic machismo-laden archetypes proclaiming things at each other and getting offended.
    It's very frustrating. And all too real.

  14. calimie says:

    The ones I side-eye the most are the elves. What are they doing there? It's not their gold at all. Go away!

    /elf hater

    • stefb says:

      I am pretty sure they’re there now as Esgaroth’s allies to support them. Bard won’t send them away because they helped the Men out without question. At least that’s how I read it.

      • calimie says:

        That is true, and it's a great thing that they run to help Esgaroth. Unfortunately, they still go to get a share of the treasure, a treasure they have no right to.

        They should have stayed at Esgaroth helping them rebuild instead of warmongering.

    • atheistsisters says:

      Plus, the elves are the ones who kept the dwarves prisoner – not inclined to view their arrival on the scene with much happiness. Bit awkward, really – takes a lot of guts to march up to someone you kidnapped and be all "Yo, give us some of your money!"

      • calimie says:

        I understand why they threw them into prison: Thorin refused to explain why they were crossing their lands; so I won't blame them for that.

        Then again, here we see why Thorin didn't want to say they were going to kill Smaug: they'd have demanded a share right away.

        • stefb says:

          Actually, at this point I'd would probably argue that the Elves are no longer seeking any treasure for themselves, and I'd use the fact that Bard is issuing all of the demands for a share of the treasure as proof, without demanding any share to go to the king. The Elvenking doesn't speak up in demand of the treasure once. They're there in support of the Lakemen (I would say warmongering is too strong of a word that you used in another comment).

          I DO agree though that it would have been a better idea if the Men showed up unarmed and friendly, and if they sent the Elves away. But I can understand why Bard doesn't, because of his gratitude towards the Elves (also I believe there are still some in the town helping out and also by the mountain). They all should have handled the situation better. Although I'm a little angry at Thorin for shooting at a messenger. Never take it out on the messenger!

          The Elvenking is one of my favorite characters after Bilbo in this book, so I'm a little defensive of him lol (for some reason he is one of the characters I tend to fangirl over?) Are you reading along with Mark for the first time or have you read this book before? Just curious.

          • calimie says:

            Nah, I've read this book a few times (not as many as LOTR, though) and I was only joking about being an elf hater (I love elves). I do think they should have left the Men go to the Mountain alone. The situation would have been drastically different.

            Agreed about the messenger: YOU NEVER DO THAT.

            I do find it interesting that you like the Elvenking. I would have never named him in a "favourites" list. To be honest, beside this moment, I'm quite indifferent to him (Abg gur pnfr jvgu gur fba <3). If I'd been asked I'd say I liked better the drunk elves by the river gate. I do love those two.

            This is what I like best about Mark Reads: how people can read the same book and some focus in some characters and others in different ones.

          • Shannon says:

            ME TOO. God damn, I love the Elvenking. I have been totally behind pretty much all of his positions. I'm a big Mirkwood nerd in general, though.

    • earis the istarwen says:

      They ended up helping Esgaroth, which is great, but they totally started out because they wanted to grab some of the treasure.

  15. Dreamflower says:

    Of course Thorin's already been set up as stiff-necked and proud. Plus he was MAJOR ticked by the Elves and just seeing them again probably got under his skin. But probably the major factor in his attitude is that Smaug had been sleeping on that treasure for decades and his evil dragon-greed had seeped into it. We were told even Bilbo (who is the soul of generosity) was affected a little bit by it. (Part of why he pocketed the Arkenstone).

    Naq bs pbhefr jr yrnea va YbgE gung Qjneirf ner cebar gb or nssrpgrq gung jnl, fvapr gur bayl nssrpg gur Frira Evatf bs gur Qjnes-ybeqf unq ba gur Qjneirf jnf gb vasynzr gurve terrq sbe tbyq naq gernfher.

    • earis the istarwen says:

      Exactly. Even Bilbo stole, who doesn't give a crap about gold. Part of me wonders how the story would have gone if Thorin had found the Arkenstone first, because it is partly his annoyance at not having the gem of his fathers that drives his anger at the Lakemen.

      Also because Elves are nosy.

      • stefb says:

        Also because Elves are nosy.

        But how else are they supposed to entertain themselves? Gurl yvir shpxvat sberire. <–Is that even considered a spoiler? I don't even know at this point.

        Anyway, I'd be nosy too, haha. Actually, I am nosy.

  16. pennylane27 says:

    Like everyone said, yes, Thorin is being a butt-trumpet, but he has some justification in reacting the way he did. Tolkien had already established the strained relations between dwarves and elves, and seeing a whole host of armed people (who actually kept them prisoner) couldn't have encouraged him to listen to reason.

    Roäc, son of Carc by GUESS WHO? Why, yes, it is John Howe.

    <img src=""&gt;


  17. la.donna.pietra says:

    What is with characters in this book expressing themselves through improvised song?

    Oh, Mark, you are not prepared.

  18. Pitseleh. says:

    Yeah, the 'son of' thing is a very common practice in lots of places in Europe, which, since that's where Tolkien drew his influence from, would show up in these books.

    The 'son of' thing is where we get names like 'Johnson' and 'Jefferson' and stuff, because people would introduce themselves as 'Paul, Neil's son', which quickly became 'Paul Nelson', and the rest was history.

  19. Quincy Morris says:

    Mark, I must implore you to read The Millenium Trilogy by Steig Larsson. It has problems sure, but I know you, with your understanding of feminism and other themes present in the series, will absolutely adore it. I know you will. It is one of the more interesting series of I've ever read. The books are:

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    The Girl who played with Fire

    The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

    These novels are far superior to most of the books you read, and I know you will appreciate the ideas and themes presented throughout. Of course, you will have to actually read the books to understand how fascinating they are. Consider this: If you had seen Harry Potter before reading it, would you be as attached to it as you are now?

  20. Elexus Calcearius says:

    In fact, it was something of a trait to announce who you were the son/daughter of in med-evil times, although I don't know how prevalent it was really. You know last names that end in 'son', like Smithson or Treverson? That literally means "son of Smith". (Which, in turn, was a label for your job. Smith was the town's smithy, Wood was the carpenter, etc.)

    Yeeeaaah….Torin really put his foot in it here. I mean, after his actions pretty much led to the destruction of a nearby town. leading to deaths and loss of livlihood, and they killed the dragon, which I don't think they could have pulled off on their own, I think they're somewhat deserving here.

    But I guess he always was too proud. I guess this is a lesson about even if you're reclaiming what's rightfully yours, take a moment to think about what might rightfully belong to others. I'd almost say this was meant to be some mirror of the Palestine/Isreali conflict (especially since someone said that J. R. R. wrote the dwarves to be Jewish analogies) , except it was written before that really happened.

    • Pitseleh. says:

      IDK about Tolkien's specific intent, but Jews as ugly cave-dwelling greedy long-nosed short people is a very old, very antisemetic trope. I'm not sure I'd be so quick to pin that on Tolkien, considering. But I wouldn't be surprised, either.

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        Well, I don't really know either, but a few chapters ago someone said they were. It wasn't meant to be a negative portrayal, because Tolkien quite liked them.

        Like I said, I don't know for sure, and even if he is, I hardly agree with any of the stereotypes. (Not to mention, people can see analogies in everything. I think I might have studied literature for too long).

        • Pitseleh. says:

          Authorial intent is kind of irrelevant, especially if it backs up hundreds of years of horrible stereotypes. But that's not the issue here… there's really no issue? I think it's a legitimate comparison to make, but only because there is a long antisemetic history of Jews-as-Dwarves analogs.

          • cait0716 says:

            I think it's less that Tolkien intended the dwarves to *be* Jews than that Jewish culture consciously informed his portrayal of Dwarvish culture. He was aware of some similarities and that makes it easier to read into other stereotypes that he may or may not have intended to be present. There are a few lines that make me a bit uncomfortable, but his portrayal of dwarves is, by and large, positive and nuanced. When I brought this up a few chapters ago, people were quick to point out that Tolkien was anything but anti-Semitic. In my opinion it's a case of an ally making a mistake (one that's easier to see in retrospect).

      • Dreamflower says:

        I don't think that this can count as spoilers, so I am not going to put it in code. In his Letters (from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien) he sends an extremely snarky answer to a potential German publisher of TH.

        Here's part of what he said:
        "Dear Sirs,
        Thank you for your letter….I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is, Indo-iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether or not I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people…"
        He went on to say he was not ashamed of having German ancestors, but "I cannot forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrevelevent inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride."

        And this is what he wrote to his *own* publisher about that "impertinent inquiry":
        "Personally I should be inclined to refuse to give any Bestagung* (although it happens that I can) and let a German translation go hang. In any case I do not regard the (probable) absence of all Jew blood as necessarily honourable; and I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine."

        In other words, the Germans anti-Semitic nosiness ticked him off big-time, and he was perfectly willing to lose the income from a German translation rather than take part in the Germans' campaign to discredit the Jews.

        The next part IS sort of spoilery I guess, in case Mark Reads The Silmarillion

        Gur vqrnf oruvaq WEEG'f pbzcnevat uvf Qjneirf gb Wrjf unq gb qb jvgu gurve bevtvaf va gur Fvyz, juvpu unq gb qb jvgu gurz orvat perngrq orsber gur Ryirf ol Nhyr, naq gura orvat nqbcgrq ol Reh nf uvf Puvyqera, naq nyfb jvgu gur vqrn bs gur qvnfcben– n qvfcrefrq crbcyr jub gel gb ubyq ba gb gurve bja phygher naq ynathntr nzvq bgure phygherf.

        *I don't speak German, so I have no idea what that word means.

        • notemily says:

          You know what else I love about Tolkien though, is he was equally annoyed with the anti-German propaganda he saw around England during WW2. He didn't think ANYONE should be vilified because of their race or country. From a letter to Christopher in 1944:

          There was a solemn article in the local paper seriously advocating systematic exterminating of the entire German nation as the only proper course after military victory: because, if you please, they are rattlesnakes, and don't know the difference between good and evil! (What of the writer?) The Germans have just as much right to declare the Poles and Jews exterminable vermin, subhuman, as we have to select the Germans: in other words, no right, whatever they have done.


          • Dreamflower says:

            In many ways Tolkien was a man of his time– he was very sexist (in that genteel chivalric way rather than the bullying way– he put women on pedestals); he had prejudices about Protestants; and he also had believed in Anglo-Saxon superiority (he still laid most of England's woes at the feet of the Normans and 1066) but one thing he is constantly accused of is racism– which is one thing he was not. But because he drew on the mythic tropes of Northern mythology, he may appear that way to the uninformed.

        • t09yavosaur says:

          I like german so imma give this a shot just for fun. Tolkien was a linguist though right? so this is relevant


          From the context and my general knowlege of the roots of the word it seems to mean reply or response to me but I looked it up to be sure:

          The Google Translate answer is BestAger but that is just google being literal. the suffix -ung is basically just -ing and the prefix be- is usually emphasis (it also means "to put something on something" according to a google search). Stag translate to stay. So we are left with Staying empatically (with the other be- it is Staying on).

          Since that doesnt really make sense either I am left to stand by my original answer and hope someone can come along to fix my wordplay. Also I will go ask someone who knows the language better.

          • HieronymusGrbrd says:

            Well, I'm german and I don't know the word Bestagung, but to me it looks like a misspelled Bestätigung, which in this context would translate to "certification (of aryan ancestry)"

    • notemily says:

      Which, in turn, was a label for your job. Smith was the town's smithy, Wood was the carpenter, etc.

      This is why this book always confused me as a kid. Why was Bard named Bard if he wasn't going to go around singing songs and writing poems about important events?

    • stickylips says:

      I think the "son of" thing was also just because the dwarves knew his father? Just as a point of reference for them, and to give himself legitimacy?

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        Oh, yes, in this exact instance, I think that was it. But in general, that's where the practice comes from.

  21. ChronicReader91 says:

    Oh, Thorin, what have you done?

    Thanks, THORIN. 😛 The thing is, he has a point. But so do Bard and the Elves. BOTH sides have legitimate claims to the treasure, and that’s what makes this so great- it’s not just one culture being good and righteous and just wanting what’s theirs, and the other being greedy.

    In other words, moral grey areas. Tolkien was doing it before it was cool.

    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?

    Haha, I’ve always felt that way. The best answer I can give is that it’s a cultural thing that all speaking beings in Middle Earth share. But they each have different kinds of songs they prefer- Dwarf songs are different from Elf songs which are different from Goblin songs. The fact remains that they seem to create them at the most awkward times. I do often find myself thinking, “People, is the middle of a battle really the best time to be doing the song thing?”

    • "In other words, moral grey areas. Tolkien was doing it before it was cool."

      And in a children's book, no less, intended for 5-9 year-olds, told as a bedtime story. And now I'm visualizing Tolkien smoking a pipe wearing hipster glasses…

  22. arctic_hare says:

    <img src="; border="0"/>

    WHAT. WHAT. THORIN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING. LOOK AT YOUR LIFE. LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES. Man. I like him, but he's been a self-important ass the whole book, and that reaches critical mass here. You owe the Laketown survivors BIG TIME, Thorin, and as Bard said, that hoard en't all yours rightfully anyway (unless you've decided to take the HP goblin approach and think you're entitled to have it all back). So share a little. It won't kill you, I promise. Because sharing is caring, and it's the nice thing to do.

  23. ravenclaw42 says:

    Lots of others already answered the patronym question, but I do want to add that in the specific case of the dwarves, the thrush and Roäc, the dwarves are sitting around saying "boy, too bad we can't talk to old Carc, he was cool" and the thrush immediately takes off. I imagine it's thinking, "Some of Carc's family live right over there! Hey, Roäc, some dudes knew your father and would like to talk to you." So in this case I do think it's mainly that Roäc knew the dwarves were talking about Carc already, and identified both Thorin and himself by a string of "son of"s so that they'd know they were on the same page.

    But in the grand scheme of things, yes to what everyone else said about patronymic naming. And Middle-earth is representative of a time when genealogy was still mainly an oral tradition, and it was each individual's responsibility to know their lineage and the history connected to it. Repeating it often keeps it fresh and meaningful, because as soon as someone questions your tenuous "inherited right" to a giant pile of gold, then what are you except a single armed dwarf with a few friends against a couple of armies of angry, broke men and elves who don't respect your name? At this point in the story, I can't blame Thorin for reminding everyone within earshot every few minutes exactly who he's the son of, because that's all the authority he has to go on.

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;
    Tiiiny dwarves up on the wall… Is this illustration implying that that gigantic brick wall is the one they just built? That seems ridiculous.

    • notemily says:

      What seemed ridiculous to me is they specifically built the wall with DRY stone. Doesn't that mean you can just push it and it'll all fall apart? Maybe I'm not familiar with dwarvish building techniques or whatever, but it seems kind of precarious to build a wall out of stone with nothing to hold it together.

      • ravenclaw42 says:

        The only reason I don't think the dry aspect is ridiculous is because I once caught the end of some NatGeo or equivalent TV show about dry stone building techniques. It's really cool, actually! But it takes serious time and effort and attention to detail, so I think the ~magical dwarven craftsmanship skillz~ come into play with the idea that they could have built a dry stone wall that was large enough to be an effective defense in a week or so. It's hard to tell how long they were working from the narration.

      • calimie says:

        Google "Aqueduct of Segovia".
        Maybe it is because I grew up with the legend that the Aqueduct was built in a night by the devil, but I totally believe dwarves could manage a wall in a few hours.

      • kristinc says:

        Yeah, those centuries-old stone walls that weave across the fields of Ireland and Scotland are dry-stone. It used to be an amazing art and dry-stone walls can be really durable.

  24. notemily says:

    Mark, btw, apparently ravens in real life can be taught to talk like parrots, so this raven isn't necessarily magical (although it probably is because it's OVER A HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS OLD). I love that the ravens' names are Roac and Carc, which are names that ravens could actually say even if they can't speak human language. CAAARC!

    And yes, Bard speaks Thrush, because he is the descendant of the Lord of Dale, who could also speak Thrush. He didn't realize he could understand Thrush until the thrush spoke to him.

    Scott Westerfeld once said that the difference between science fiction and fantasy is science fiction is about technology that anyone can use, while fantasy is about who you are, or what you are born as–Harry is born a wizard and already has a prophecy about him, the Midnighters in Westerfeld's series are born at midnight and so have extra abilities, Will Parry is chosen by the subtle knife to be its next bearer, etc. Tolkien is fond of this trope as well. Because of who Bard's great-great-great-grandpa (or whoever) was, he can speak the language of the thrush, without even having to take classes or get the Rosetta Stone CD.

    Anyway, Thorin, y u fail so hard. GOLD IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS PEACE.

  25. Alexander_G says:

    I totally didn't realize there would be a chapter today but then I remembered 11/11 isn't a holiday in the US. yay unexpected posts ^_^

    Speaking thrush is like speaking parseltongue: it's an inherent skill, but if need be you can learn it just like any other language (Eba pbhyq bcra gur Punzore bs frpergf ol vzvgngvat Uneel) Bard knows it because all people from Dale can, but I'm sure Gandalf could speak thrush (it's not mentioned anywhere but a bamf wizard like Gandalf…)
    Anyway that's how I understood it.

    Oh and about announcing who your father is, where do you think last names came from in the first place? Johnson = John's son; Smith = son of the local smith; etc.

    • notemily says:

      It's Veteran's Day, but we don't usually get a day off for it or anything.

      • Alexander_G says:

        For us it's Armistice Day, the end of WOI. It's a national holiday and quite a few cities have celebrations.

      • flootzavut says:

        I found it interesting on facebook to notice the difference between the UK and US thing – in the US it's "Happy Veterans Day" and people thanking those who served, in the UK it's more "We will remember them" and a day of remembrance for those who did not come back.

  26. Becky_J_ says:

    Since everyone has discussed in detail the name lineage and Thorin's asshole ways and all that, I'm going to take this chance to be exceedingly wise and philosophical….

    Swear words, for the most part, really aid me in expressing my annoyance and displeasure, but sometimes, there is really no better insult that buttface.

    Thank you Mark, for reminding me of that, and for making me choke on my toast when I read it.

    Honestly, it's sad that Smaug is dead, cause I would find it highly hilarious to see his reaction to being called a buttface.

  27. stefb says:

    Re-reading this book, I was actually a little sad Smaug died this time around because i may have sorta kinda have liked him just a little bit Also I fucking love dragons.

    • amyalices says:


      …Although it may be to do with the fact that I know he will be voiced by the Cumberbatch, and certain voices will bypass my moral compass every time.

  28. Marie the Bookwyrm says:

    I like the fact that neither side in this confrontation is shown as totally in the right. It's more realistic that way.

  29. Kel says:

    Re the 'son of' thing, it's worth bearing in mind that Tolkien was an academic studying old and middle English texts (Beowulf etc, with lots of Scandinavian influence). This somewhat to me explains the propensity for song from the dwarves, and a lot of the old tropes from those sort of sagas. It's good stuff! Read Beowulf xD

  30. stickylips says:

    If you want talking ponies, I would recommend Tamora Pierce's Immortals series. The prose style isn't great (she improves way more with her later books, like the Beka Cooper stories or Trickster's Choice/Queen) but there are talking animals. xD

    But yeah, Thorin is batshit insane in this chapter, pretty much.

  31. flootzavut says:

    I have nothing really to add to what has already been said and probably no one will see this and I may just have to repost on Monday out of excitement, but I JUST FOUND OUT TODAY THAT MY AUNTIE PAT USED TO BABYSIT CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN'S CHILDREN! How awesome cool is that? I am excite. I'm not much impressed by "celebrity" but having a connection to one of THE BEST AUTHORS EVER through the son who is his literary executor, I am suitably impressed. And also weird and random cool coincidence that it happened when I am re-reading The Hobbit.

    Apparently the first time she went to babysit Christopher was reading his six year old gur raq bs EBGX jurer Tbyyhz ovgrf Sebqb'f svatre bss naq fur jnf gbgnyyl ubeevsvrq YBY 🙂

  32. flootzavut says:

    Wow, and ouch!

    I'm curious, do you feel there is a discrepancy, as an American? My comments are very much from the outside, and from FB status updates… I found the contrast really interesting, but I don't know how much is my perception, and how much is actually founded in something else.

    The time when I felt most out of kilter with regards to something like this was being in Russia for Den' Pobedi (the Day of Victory) – something like partly VE (victory in Europe) day and Remembrance/Veterans day, but with fireworks and parades of soldiers (most of whom looked about 12 and were headed off to die in Chechnya…), and most notably, a picture of Stalin holding a grinning baby being taken round the streets (blech!).

    It was so entirely at odds with anything I'd seen before that I felt really out of place, and more foreign than I had at any time before in Russia. Most VE celebrations in the UK are quite gentle, even sheepish – it's more a case of "yeah, they surrendered, and that was good, but we feel a bit bad about celebrating something that seems a little ghoulish when so many died"… indeed, I only recall one or two times VE day was especially celebrated anywhere that I noticed in all my 33 years. We tend to be very apologetic about it, where Remembrance Day involves a lengthy service on 11th with poppies floating from the ceiling representing the fallen soldiers, solemn parades, royalty laying a wreath at the cenotaph, church services on the Sunday, silences, you name it.

    In Russia, Victory Day was a huge, unashamed celebration. I'd never even seen a VE celebration in the UK at that point and we (the Brits) all felt totally alien! Remembrance day here is very much IME a tribute to the fallen and a time to raise money for those in straitened circumstances because of their service.

    Just had a look and it seems like Memorial Day more closely equates to our Remembrance Day, though not completely so. Intriguing to me how different countries view and "celebrate" these days – I use quotes because at least for Remembrance Day I'm not sure celebrate is exactly the word I am after! 🙂

  33. rissreader says:

    I don't usually read all the comments, but the information here about last name practices; from Iceland, to Malaysia, to the US southwest, was awesome. What a great reading group we are. Ask more questions Mark.

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