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Fire and Water -- the story of Bard.
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Curious
Half-elven


Jun 23 2009, 5:51pm

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Fire and Water -- the story of Bard. Can't Post

The hero and protagonist of this chapter is Bard, a character we have not met in the previous thirteen chapters.

What is the effect of this sudden appearance of the dragonslayer? Is this a weakness in the tale? Should Tolkien have done more to prepare us for Bard's appearance? What could he have done? Does Bard's role force Bilbo into the background of his own tale? Is that a problem? Does this seem like the bad kind of deus ex machina, i.e. a form of cheating on the part of the author? If not, why not? Has Tolkien done anything to prepare us for the possibility that Bilbo will have such a small (although vital) role in Smaug's death? If so, what?

How about the tone of this chapter? Doesn't it differ remarkably from the comic tone found in most of the book? Bard is known as a grim and gloomy man -- did Tolkien do that on purpose to contrast him with the comic characters in the book?

Why didn't Bard ever consider going after the dragon before he was forced to do so? How does the heir to the king of Dale, Bard, compare and contrast to the heir of the king under the Mountain, Thorin?

Is there any touch of moral ambiguity when Bard's thoughts turn to Smaug's treasure? What would have happened if Bard had nothing to do with Smaug's death? Would he have been shut out of the treasure? Would he have become king? Is it his Destiny to restore Dale, and is part of that Destiny slaying Smaug? If so, is a Higher Power involved? Or just Fate?

How does Tolkien set the scene for this tale, introduce characters we have never met, make us care what happens to them, make us cheer for Bard and boo the Master, and help us visualize a dramatic battle and the traumatic aftermath, all in a short chapter? Setting aside the question of whether introducing Bard at this late stage is a wise or fair move on Tolkien's part, would you agree with me that Tolkien does a masterful job within the chapter? Aren't you eager to see this on the movie screen?

Was Tolkien saying something about monarchy versus democracy when he made Bard the hero and the Master a scheming coward? If so, what? Or am I reading too much into it? Are there any fairy tales in which democracies look good? Is there some reason fairy tales and democracies don't seem to mix?

Okay, maybe I'll think of more later, but that's enough for now.


Disa
The Shire

Jun 23 2009, 10:18pm

Post #2 of 82 (237 views)
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answers? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi hi!! I'm gonna try this out.


What is the effect of this sudden appearance of the dragonslayer?

Well, the travellers just got to Lake town, now didn't they? Also, only we who have read the tale before would know that he is the dragon slayer. I think though, like Aragorn, Bard lived near the evil that he was fated to vanquish, and only needed proper opportunity, which the 14 travellers afforded. This was supposedly the perfect time in Bard's life(develpomentally speaking) to kill a dragon. He's a strong, full grown man at this point. And not until the thrush tells him does Bard know of the dragon's weakness. Can we get a show of hands for who would walk into a known dragon's lair, even with any accoutrement that one from Laketown would have access to? (This means without the ring of power and 13 dwarves to back you up.)

How about the tone of this chapter? Doesn't it differ remarkably from the comic tone found in most of the book? Bard is known as a grim and gloomy man -- did Tolkien do that on purpose to contrast him with the comic characters in the book?

The most serious battle is about to take place, so why wouldn't the first main human male character be different than a fantastacal character? I believe here that Tolkien is injecting some reality into the story(as much as possible in a fantasy tale.) The history of Laketown and Bard are not roses and kittens: death and decay, theft, murder, all caused by dragons, thus the general chaos and destruction that follows a dragon is grim. It can be said that Elves and Dwarves don't really live like we do, in the real world of pain, if we only think of them as fantasy creatures, so why wouldn't they act contrary to humans? Notwithstanding the Sil, where there is virtually no happiness for the Elves once their troubles begin, and nothing man has experienced thus far can compare to it in severity, but those events (this is going to take too long, let's get to another one, shall we?)

Why didn't Bard ever consider going after the dragon before he was forced to do so?

After many centuries of the dragon being there, with no known weaknesses, and with no arguement as to certainty of death, who could blame him for not going? And he'd probably have to go it alone as well; I don't know many humans with that much nerve. Also, Smaug had not bothered anyone for (how long?), and men's lives are comparatively short; so why bother? In the next chapter there is also a hint that it had been quite a while since Smaug had emerged from the mountain, and that some(foolishly) thought he was dead.

How does the heir to the king of Dale, Bard, compare and contrast to the heir of the king under the Mountain, Thorin?

Thorin is proactive, Bard is reactive. Also Bard is at least three feet taller. Bard is very protective of his people, so he does what he must, when he must. We can't say for certian that all Bard's life is spent in preparation for this one event, as is Thorin's, because Bard didn't say, 'one day when I grow up I'll kill the dragon'; general life skills as you would need living in that world made him the fighter he was, and being in a family of renowned archers adds to the same effect. In contrast, apparently Thorin is content just to let someone else take care of the problem, and so is very selfish. I think Thorin is like another dragon in a way.

Is there any touch of moral ambiguity when Bard's thoughts turn to Smaug's treasure?

Nope. Bard is only a man after all, why should he not be opportunistic? I felt sorry for him at not being able to hang Smaug's head on his mantle. In all fairy stories where a dragon is slain, it is the slayer who usually gets the treasure, so what is more fitting for Bard to think that at least part is due him?

What would have happened if Bard had nothing to do with Smaug's death?

Nothing. Tolkien would have named his charater somehting else; perhaps Edward, that's a good name. We should have never heard of Bard, and his name would still only be synonymous with fairy tale tavern singers.

How does Tolkien set the scene for this tale, introduce characters we have never met, make us care what happens to them, make us cheer for Bard and boo the Master, and help us visualize a dramatic battle and the traumatic aftermath, all in a short chapter?

To put it simply, Tolkien got skills. The next shortest answer is at least two pages long.

Was Tolkien saying something about monarchy versus democracy when he made Bard the hero and the Master a scheming coward?

I actually belive that in this case "Master" could mean mayor. So correct me if I'm worng, but in the UK, there are mayors? In many of his stories, including RotK, they mayor has no real purpose, other than holding precedence at feasts. This is exactly what we see the Master of Laketown doing when we meet him. In contrast to a King, who must be very great and important by virtue of being a king, He has the order of a whole kingdom to decide, which is a terrible lot more work than ordering a whole town I suppose. I suppose family legacies are also another reason behind this as well, as Tolkien was a family man himself.


Are there any fairy tales in which democracies look good? Is there some reason fairy tales and democracies don't seem to mix?

Now THIS is a good question. When a modern fairy tale exists in which it is necessary to get that far into politics *cough*(POTCPirate)*, we can perhaps use this as a guideline for discussion. Unless anything oot like POTCPirate can be relavent. And yes, you can boo The Mouse Who Should Not Be Named, I lothe him with an unquenchable scorn. But I do believe this was the only oot question in your post, since it asked for ANY fairy tale. (Also, the topic of fairy tales should be a whole other post, since Tolkien himself had problems with the proper usage of the word.)


Heart




GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2009, 11:05pm

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Dragonslayer [In reply to] Can't Post

What is the effect of this sudden appearance of the dragonslayer? Is this a weakness in the tale? Should Tolkien have done more to prepare us for Bard's appearance? What could he have done?

Conventional wisdom says a writer should not introduce a major character late in the story. Given the episodic nature of the story and the fact that the location of Bilbo whose adventures we follow constantly changes, I donít see what else Tolkien could have done, short of having Bard accompany the party of Dwarves from the beginning. That would certainly make no sense. Sometimes you just have to break the rules. On the other hand, the person who slays Smaug isnít as important in this story as in a conventional fairytale. The real story is the lessons Bilbo learns. Perhaps by having a ďnobodyĒ perform the dragon killing, Tolkien subtly emphasizes this.


Does Bard's role force Bilbo into the background of his own tale?

Yes, for awhile. Thorin does, too.


Is that a problem?

Yes and no. It may be jarring, but we have to know what happens to Smaug in order to proceed with the tale.


Does this seem like the bad kind of deus ex machina, i.e. a form of cheating on the part of the author? If not, why not?

Well, no. Tolkien does prepare us for Bardís role in events by having the thrush overhear the conversation about Smaugís weak spot. So itís not like it comes out of nowhere. Also, as I mentioned above, the killing of Smaug turns out not to be the point of the tale. This contrasts with the deus ex machina in LOTR (which, even there, is set up by the previous appearances of the Eagles).


Has Tolkien done anything to prepare us for the possibility that Bilbo will have such a small (although vital) role in Smaug's death? If so, what?

No, but then do we really expect him to slay Smaug? The protagonist usually does this in common fairy tales, but it doesnít exactly seem like something Bilbo could do. Thatís for heroes and warriors.


How about the tone of this chapter? Doesn't it differ remarkably from the comic tone found in most of the book? Bard is known as a grim and gloomy man -- did Tolkien do that on purpose to contrast him with the comic characters in the book?

It may be the darkest moment, but I donít think itís significantly darker than other parts of the story in which our heroes are in trouble. Being surrounded by wargs and goblins is pretty dire (although we do get the bit about old gentlemen gone cracked and climbing trees).


Why didn't Bard ever consider going after the dragon before he was forced to do so?

His role here isnít offensive. Heís defending his town out of necessity. He doesnít seem foolish enough to confront the dragon in Smaugís own territory, and he wouldnít have had a chance without the thrushís information, anyway.


How does the heir to the king of Dale, Bard, compare and contrast to the heir of the king under the Mountain, Thorin?

Thorin actively seeks to gain back his realm. Bard only gains his out of necessity. Bard also seems like a loner while Thorin probably has had a lifetime of being a leader.


Is it [Bard's] Destiny to restore Dale, and is part of that Destiny slaying Smaug?

I thought Tolkien was a staunch Catholic so I donít think he would consider Bardís actions preordained.


If so, is a Higher Power involved? Or just Fate?

N/A.


Are there any fairy tales in which democracies look good? Is there some reason fairy tales and democracies don't seem to mix?

No democratic fairy tales come to mind. Most fairy tales originated in a time and place in the past where there hadnít been a democracy in thousands of years, and even that was far, far away and not a complete democracy.

~~~~~~~~

The TORNsib formerly known as Galadriel.



(This post was edited by GaladrielTX on Jun 23 2009, 11:08pm)


Tolkien Forever
Gondor

Jun 23 2009, 11:24pm

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Well, I Better..... [In reply to] Can't Post

Jump back into the fray here to get my feet wet in preperation for my upcoming week that I'm hosting.....


What is the effect of this sudden appearance of the dragonslayer? Is this a weakness in the tale?

His appearance isn't that sudden. He's repeatedly there in the chapter as 'the grim-faced fellow'.
As for a (picky-picky) 'weakness in the tale', when exactly was Tolkien supposed to introduce Bard? At the Unexpected Party as a guest or perhaps on the moon-runes at Elrond's house?

Should Tolkien have done more to prepare us for Bard's appearance? What could he have done? Does Bard's role force Bilbo into the background of his own tale?

Was Bilbo going to kill the dragon himself?
Remember, as Bilbo says repeatedly, killing Smaug is the weak point in the plan all along......


Is that a problem? Does this seem like the bad kind of deus ex machina, i.e. a form of cheating on the part of the author? If not, why not?

Picky, picky, picky.


Has Tolkien done anything to prepare us for the possibility that Bilbo will have such a small (although vital) role in Smaug's death? If so, what?

Paralysis from (over) analysis, my friend. Enjoy the kiss while it's going on, don't pick it apart.


How about the tone of this chapter? Doesn't it differ remarkably from the comic tone found in most of the book? Bard is known as a grim and gloomy man -- did Tolkien do that on purpose to contrast him with the comic characters in the book?

Interesting point......

The bit on Bard, I think is to contrast him to the manipulated & polly-annish attitude the townsfolk have gotten from the Master about how gold will be flowing right straight down from the mountain any day.
Plus, it's really not easy nor proper or poignant to paint death & destruction in a comic way.


Why didn't Bard ever consider going after the dragon before he was forced to do so?

Perhaps, as a 'youngster' of Laketown, who has never seen the dragon himself, even Bard has a grain of doubt as to whether the dragon is still up there at the mountain?

How does the heir to the king of Dale, Bard, compare and contrast to the heir of the king under the Mountain, Thorin?

Dwarves are big on vengence & wrongs bestowed on them & Thorin was there when the dragon came to sack Erebore - Bard wasn't even born.



Is there any touch of moral ambiguity when Bard's thoughts turn to Smaug's treasure? What would have happened if Bard had nothing to do with Smaug's death? Would he have been shut out of the treasure?


Well, Dale does not exist, it's been two generations of Men since it did and Laketown now is the town/'ruling place of Men' in that area, so it's doubtful without Bard slaying Smaug that Dale or the grandson of the last King of Dale would have much forceful claim on the treasue.


Would he have become king?

Without killing Smaug? I doubt it.


Is it his Destiny to restore Dale, and is part of that Destiny slaying Smaug? If so, is a Higher Power involved? Or just Fate?


What in the world is the difference between destiny & fate?



How does Tolkien set the scene for this tale, introduce characters we have never met, make us care what happens to them, make us cheer for Bard and boo the Master, and help us visualize a dramatic battle and the traumatic aftermath, all in a short chapter? Setting aside the question of whether introducing Bard at this late stage is a wise or fair move on Tolkien's part, would you agree with me that Tolkien does a masterful job within the chapter?

What do you mean 'fair move'?
It's Tolkien's story.


Aren't you eager to see this on the movie screen?

I was happy to see it on the TV screen when it came out in 1977 - my introduction to Middle-earth. Cool



Was Tolkien saying something about monarchy versus democracy when he made Bard the hero and the Master a scheming coward? If so, what? Or am I reading too much into it?

Yes.


Are there any fairy tales in which democracies look good? Is there some reason fairy tales and democracies don't seem to mix?

Probably because 99% of fairy tales were written before democracy existed.


The Ultimate Tolkien Trivia Quiz: http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=so-you-want-to-be-tolkien-geek


batik
Tol Eressea


Jun 24 2009, 2:52am

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wowzers...this looks like a lot of questions... [In reply to] Can't Post

Tongueconcerning the 1st "set"...
I think Tolkien managed the 'sudden appearance' of Bard just fine. We did get a bit of a heads up/intro to him before he took on "hero" status--just a few lines--quick sketch, if you will. In a way it's brillant. Yes, this is a hobbit's tale but similar to *real life* sometimes folks just pop in and do the most amazing/terrible things. I wonder if this was an intentional message from Tolkien--your life may be your life but don't underestimate the impact that others will have in your tale?

set 2...
Yes, the tone is different from the bulk of other chapters. Not sure if it's a matter of comic/gloomy since there've been some pretty gloomy moments previously. And that Thorin has certainly had his moments as a "thundercloud". I think this is another example of Tolkien's ability to "mix it up"-- which I asked about in the Frying-Pan/Fire chapter. For some reason, the pace of (most of) this chapter makes me think of Dori's retelling of what happened back in the mountain with the goblins. Action-driven?

on to the next group...
Well, why didn't I go to college at 18 rather than at 29? Motivation? Opportunity? Motivation, in my case. For Bard, probably both apply. Going by this chapter only--both have allowed someone else to be in the driver's seat (Bard>>>Mayor/ Thorin>>>Gandalf) but have stepped up when the situation called for that. Both can get distracted by thoughts of treasure.

next...
Bard and treasure...well, dang! Are all these folks gold-oriented? Not-- yay! the dragon's gone--we can reclaim the land! grow crops! the trees and animals and LIFE will come back!

almost there...
Ha! If I knew how Tolkien did this you can bet I'd try to create a great tale, too. But did it, he did! And yes, I actually posted a comment in TH movie thread yesterday about one of the images in this chapter Tolkien created . Had an actual OMG!!! moment-- which is rare (lots of *wow* and *awesome* moments but rarely a OMG!!! that's gonna be...off the charts!)

last few...
democracy/monarchy...ohhhh...I'm thinking that;s a potential a bloodline question!
I suppose enough comments on the character (or lack) of the Mayor were included to allow me to see that he was fairly self-serving and cowardly. Bard has only proven, so far, that he can step up, take care of business, and get things organized. Neither would have my *vote*---yet.

More...??? Crazy
Thanks for kicking things of with a few thought-provoking questions, Curious.


(This post was edited by batik on Jun 24 2009, 2:57am)


batik
Tol Eressea


Jun 24 2009, 3:24am

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mayor...master...miney-mo... [In reply to] Can't Post

Master of Laketown. Mayor??? Crazy
carry on just editing an already edited post!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jun 24 2009, 5:54am

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You've triggered a thought. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for bringing up the matter of Bard's name. It brings to mind the importance of keeping track of old tales. I wonder if this is what makes him more alert than the rest, that he might be educated on folklore, and knows a thing or two about dragons?

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jun 24 2009, 6:05am

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A few thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for stepping into the breech, Curious.

Regarding Bard's sudden appearance, Tolkien might have at least introduced him at the feast when the dwarves first showed up. However, maybe Tolkien meant it this way. Maybe Bard represents the unexpected chance, that there's no point in giving up because you never know who might step out of the shadows and do something to change the whole game.

And you also never know who might benefit from something you did, even if you yourself can't see the result. Bilbo didn't know whether his discover of the chink in Smaug's armor would ever get to anyone who could use it. But it did.

Even in this grim chapter Tolkien does insert a little humor. "...and not the most foolish doubted that the prophecies had gone rather wrong." Understatement!

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Jun 24 2009, 7:32am

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Laketown democracy [In reply to] Can't Post

I suppose one question is what type of democracy was laketown? One man one vote? Or was it more of a case of a few electors based on money and land as in Ancient Greece, Rome or 19 century England?


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 24 2009, 8:57am

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A light from the shadows shall spring [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
How about the tone of this chapter? Doesn't it differ remarkably from the comic tone found in most of the book? Bard is known as a grim and gloomy man -- did Tolkien do that on purpose to contrast him with the comic characters in the book?



We're in the world of men now. Here's where the fairytale dragon emerges into the "real world" of disasters and loss of life.

Having read LotR first, Bard's grimness has always reminded me of Strider, "strange, and grim at times". His grimness even sets him apart from his own countrymen, who discount his gloomy warnings at first. I'm not sure he's meant as a contrast to the "comic characters", who after all have their own grim moments. But he's introduced as a misfit in his own society, I think.


Quote
Why didn't Bard ever consider going after the dragon before he was forced to do so? How does the heir to the king of Dale, Bard, compare and contrast to the heir of the king under the Mountain, Thorin?



It seems that he never tried to pursue his inherited right to leadership. In the world of men, leadership has passed to the town, and commercial world of self-interest and short-term profit. The old kingship, based on the kingdom of Dale that is no more, has faded away. That is, men have lost touch with Faerie, with tradition. Thorin and his Dwarves, on the other hand, are part of Faerie, and for them the importance of kingship is still clear.


Quote
Is there any touch of moral ambiguity when Bard's thoughts turn to Smaug's treasure?



I don't think there's meant to be.


In Reply To
What would have happened if Bard had nothing to do with Smaug's death? Would he have been shut out of the treasure? Would he have become king?



I assume that if he had not been the conqueror of the dragon, he would not have been recognized as a hero, and would not have been hailed king. I don't think he would have any claim on the treasure either. But as king of Dale he has a claim since it was the dragon that destroyed Dale in the first place, and the treasure could be seen as reparation.


In Reply To
Is it his Destiny to restore Dale, and is part of that Destiny slaying Smaug?



He seized the day, and made it his destiny.


In Reply To
If so, is a Higher Power involved? Or just Fate?



Fate is just the Higher Power of a different mythology. Any such explanation works, or none. That's the paradox of time's arrow.



In Reply To
How does Tolkien set the scene for this tale, introduce characters we have never met, make us care what happens to them, make us cheer for Bard and boo the Master, and help us visualize a dramatic battle and the traumatic aftermath, all in a short chapter? Setting aside the question of whether introducing Bard at this late stage is a wise or fair move on Tolkien's part, would you agree with me that Tolkien does a masterful job within the chapter?



Yes, I think the change of tone and scene works wonderfully well. I like the way Bard is introduced as an anonymous doom-sayer at the start, while the Master is comfortable and complacent.

It does seem odd to have a "hero" introduced so suddenly and late in the tale, but it works for this one, I think. Because he's not the hero of the story itself - he's a traditional, kingly hero in sharp contrast to our "real hero", Bilbo. (That's another thing he has in common with Aragorn, I guess.)


In Reply To

Aren't you eager to see this on the movie screen?



Strangely enough, I never find myself wanting to watch a movie of whatever I'm reading. I prefer my own imagination when I'm interacting with the written story. That doesn't mean I don't look forward to seeing the movie, though - I just won't be waiting to have it show me things that I have already imagined for myself. I'll be hoping for something unexpected, something different from what I imagined. I guess we'll just have to wait and see!


In Reply To

Was Tolkien saying something about monarchy versus democracy when he made Bard the hero and the Master a scheming coward? If so, what? Or am I reading too much into it? Are there any fairy tales in which democracies look good?



I think he was saying something about the commercialism and self-interest that go along with modern democracy. He's contrasting the "town" (Esgaroth), with its businesses and money concerns, from the "country" (Dale) and the old traditions. I think he probably has in mind the rise of the town as a commercial centre in the late Middle Ages, accompanied, as here, by elected representatives and the end of the feudal system that was based on a "landed gentry". It's the same contrast that we get in Don Quixote - the townspeople have become hard-headed and literal, while Don Quixote himself harks back to that earlier romantic time that no-one else now believes in, when knights and kings served those in need, out of a sense of honour and the desire to be remembered for their great deeds. Now it's all about money and convenience. What's romantic about that?


In Reply To
Is there some reason fairy tales and democracies don't seem to mix?



I think the US has some founding legends that might be seen as democratic fairy tales.


Quote
Okay, maybe I'll think of more later, but that's enough for now.



Enough indeed! Thanks for a generous helping of questions, Curious.


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled, the sigh and murmur of the Sea
upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Jun 24 2009, 9:01am)


sador
Half-elven

Jun 24 2009, 11:04am

Post #11 of 82 (190 views)
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A few answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, probably more than a few...

What is the effect of this sudden appearance of the dragonslayer?
He is shown at the outset to be a sensible fellow.
And we are told he is always prophesying bad events - but we are never told if his prophecies come true!

Is this a weakness in the tale?
I don't think so; but I never cared much for this kind of conventions.
However, if they are important - that is another argument in favour of splitting the movie before ever arriving at Lake-town!

Should Tolkien have done more to prepare us for Bard's appearance? What could he have done?
Well, Bilbo later says that Bard knows him. I suspect Tolkien avoided displaying him untentionally.
Possibly, he didn't care for this convention more than I do.

Does Bard's role force Bilbo into the background of his own tale?
Yes.

Is that a problem?
No.
I think one of Bilbo's greatest moments in the book is at the last page, when he acknowledges his being only one small person, and to like it. Bilbo has to learn wisdom yet - and he seems to do so after saying farewell to Thorin, when he realised all he did could not prevent a war of the treasure.
Having both major confrontations won in his absence (well, he was in the Battle of Five Armies, but did nothing - and at the climax lay invisible in a swoon), reinforces this.

Does this seem like the bad kind of deus ex machina, i.e. a form of cheating on the part of the author? If not, why not?
No; it only goes against story-telling conventions.
To *** with story-telling conventions!

Has Tolkien done anything to prepare us for the possibility that Bilbo will have such a small (although vital) role in Smaug's death? If so, what?
He wrote an excellent story, which made Bilbo's projected role as dragonslayer impossible. So he changed the plan (re: dernwyn's post on the summary for last week) to something more reasonable. A good thing!

How about the tone of this chapter?
It's very modern; it's a crowd scene, with an army fighting rather than just Bard and his arrow (like Turin).
A disclaimer: I'm not sure I would have thought of it if not for Tom Shippey's Author of the Century. Probably not.

Doesn't it differ remarkably from the comic tone found in most of the book?
Yes.

Bard is known as a grim and gloomy man -- did Tolkien do that on purpose to contrast him with the comic characters in the book?
As I've said before - Bard is relatively modern.
Or to be more exact, Lake-town is modern (with its elected Master, popular opinion politics and large precentage of unbelievers). Bard, on the other hand, is a relic from the heroic world of Girion - and he might be grim a because he feels stuck in the wrong tale, with the wrong setting.

Why didn't Bard ever consider going after the dragon before he was forced to do so?
He does not believe in himself.

How does the heir to the king of Dale, Bard, compare and contrast to the heir of the king under the Mountain, Thorin?
He is passive, apparantly content to serve the Master; not planning for the future.
But apparances lie - it seems Bilbo knew him, as well as the Elvenking. Hmmm.
Anyway, he compares best to Aragorn - at least the movie's version.

Is there any touch of moral ambiguity when Bard's thoughts turn to Smaug's treasure?
Well, when Thorin asked him would he have given a part of the treasure to Thorin's relatives, had the dwarves been dead - Bard deftly avoids answering the question.
I think he is as bad as any of the other characters - as any of us, to say the truth.
The only character who does not ruthlessly pursue his chance for treasure is the Elvenking.

What would have happened if Bard had nothing to do with Smaug's death?
Nobody would follow him.

Would he have been shut out of the treasure?
I guess not, if he could establish his claim properly.

Quote

Faramir's face was unmoved.
`Maybe,' he said. `But so great a claim will need to be established and clear proofs will be required, should this Aragorn ever come to Minas Tirith.'"



Would he have become king?
Of whom?

Is it his Destiny to restore Dale, and is part of that Destiny slaying Smaug?
I wonder. All the prophecies we know of refered to the return of the Kings under the Mountain. The restoration of Dale seems to be an afterthought.

If so, is a Higher Power involved?
Isn't it always?

Or just Fate?
I don't think so.

Setting aside the question of whether introducing Bard at this late stage is a wise or fair move on Tolkien's part, would you agree with me that Tolkien does a masterful job within the chapter?
Yes.

Aren't you eager to see this on the movie screen?
Not really; I'm not much of a movie-goer.
Of course once it's done, I will want to see how it was done, and will be ready with a lot of wisecracks and over-clever criticisms.

Was Tolkien saying something about monarchy versus democracy when he made Bard the hero and the Master a scheming coward?
Actually, he is saying very little about monarchy - except for setting up the notion that popular heroes of the day might crown themselves, legimitising and perpetuating their power - a frightening thought!
But Tolkien is showing what us what he thinks of democracy - and it hardly is complimentary.

Or am I reading too much into it?
No; you're not half as prone to this weakness as I am. Blush

Are there any fairy tales in which democracies look good?
The very American genre of rags-to-riches stories, as popularised by Horatio Alger.
As a matter of fact, until a couple of months ago President Obama seemed to be the hero of a democratic fairy-tale. However, we are still living his story - we can't just close the book and go to bed with a smile on our faces!

Is there some reason fairy tales and democracies don't seem to mix?
Fairy tales are supposed to be like clear, limpid water.
Democracies are very oily at the best.

Okay, maybe I'll think of more later, but that's enough for now.
Fair enough.
And thank you for these thoughts, however partial they are!

"We always elected master from among the old and wise, and have not endured the rule of mere fighting men." - the Master of Lake-town.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jun 24 2009, 4:48pm

Post #12 of 82 (181 views)
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Interesting, about Obama, [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting that you should bring up Obama as a modern democratic fairy-tale, because I can see striking parallels with the story. So many of us are jumping up and down with excitement, proclaiming the return of the Mountain-King, but there's still that dragon yet to slay...

You're right. The story's not over yet.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 5:20pm

Post #13 of 82 (169 views)
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Hmm. [In reply to] Can't Post

Can we get a show of hands for who would walk into a known dragon's lair, even with any accoutrement that one from Laketown would have access to? (This means without the ring of power and 13 dwarves to back you up.)

Thorin and company seemed willing enough when they started the expedition, long before Bilbo found his ring. It never seems to have occurred to Bard. And why, once the dwarves did appear in Lake-town, didn't Bard ask to join their expedition?

I believe here that Tolkien is injecting some reality into the story(as much as possible in a fantasy tale.)

A dragon battle doesn't strike me as more "real" than anything that came before this chapter. You seem to mean that the more somber mood of this chapter is closer to reality than the comic mood of the rest of the book. That's debatable.

After many centuries of the dragon being there, with no known weaknesses, and with no arguement as to certainty of death, who could blame him for not going?

Yes, but this is the heir of Dale. Hadn't he thought of it? And what was he doing while the rest of the town was singing about the dwarves?

Thorin is proactive, Bard is reactive. ... apparently Thorin is content just to let someone else take care of the problem, and so is very selfish.

Wait a minute, isn't this a contradiction? Thorin seems to be trying to take care of the problem himself, while Bard is content to let the dwarves do so -- or to let them fail and die.

When a modern fairy tale exists in which it is necessary to get that far into politics *cough*(POTCPirate)*, we can perhaps use this as a guideline for discussion. Unless anything oot like POTCPirate can be relavent.

Sorry, I don't understand the POTC reference. Of course, I've only seen the first of the three movies. It did not strike me as a fairy tale about democracy, or set in a democracy.


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Jun 24 2009, 5:38pm

Post #14 of 82 (166 views)
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Hello! [In reply to] Can't Post

Are you new? If so welcome!

Can you clarify:

The Mouse Who Should Not Be Named? *scratches head* Stuart Little?

Also, what is ďootĒ? ďOf our time?Ē I tried Googling but didnít get much that was helpful. At first I thought you might be Scots. :o)

I loved your comment about Bard being three feet taller than Thorin. Made me giggle.

I do have to stand up for Thorin on one point, though. You believe he was perfectly content to have someone else slay the dragon and that makes him selfish. Actually, I donít think he knows someone else is going to try. Also, he is stuck up in the mountain where events have ground to a halt. By the time he learns of Smaugís weak spot, Smaug has thrown a tantrum and flown off. If Thorin had decided to attack Smaug before knowing of the weak spot he would have been doomed to failure. There is no good reason for him to try for the moment, is there?

On the other hand, Bard is down in Laketown with a dragon attack going on, in a defensive position. That ramps up the urgency of doing something about it. Heís an archer and part of the guard, isnít he? So he has the ability if not a responsibility to defend the town. Thereís much more motivation here.

Thereís no way to say, but itís entirely possible if Thorin were in Laketown when the attack happened he would be one of those who fought Smaug. He does fight the baddies in the Battle of Five Armies, anyway. Thorin may have been feckless in some situations and willing to let Bilbo do the spying, but when it comes to open battle, he doesnít strike me as cowardly.

~~~~~~~~

The TORNsib formerly known as Galadriel.



Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 5:44pm

Post #15 of 82 (170 views)
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Hmm. [In reply to] Can't Post

Given the episodic nature of the story and the fact that the location of Bilbo whose adventures we follow constantly changes, I donít see what else Tolkien could have done, short of having Bard accompany the party of Dwarves from the beginning. That would certainly make no sense.

Why not? That's what he did with Strider in LotR.

Tolkien does prepare us for Bardís role in events by having the thrush overhear the conversation about Smaugís weak spot. So itís not like it comes out of nowhere.

Good point.

No, but then do we really expect him to slay Smaug? The protagonist usually does this in common fairy tales, but it doesnít exactly seem like something Bilbo could do. Thatís for heroes and warriors.

Another good point.

Being surrounded by wargs and goblins is pretty dire (although we do get the bit about old gentlemen gone cracked and climbing trees).

Actually, the thought of Gandalf and thirteen dwarves and Bilbo in the trees strikes me as quite comic, and the rescue, with Bilbo hanging onto Dori's legs for dear life, also strikes me as comic.

He doesnít seem foolish enough to confront the dragon in Smaugís own territory, and he wouldnít have had a chance without the thrushís information, anyway.

Is he perhaps too wise? If he had been more foolish, would Destiny have helped him as it helped Bilbo and the dwarves?


Bard only gains his out of necessity. Bard also seems like a loner while Thorin probably has had a lifetime of being a leader.

Well, Bard is the captain of his band of brave archers, and leads them well. Thorin, on the other hand, has mostly led the dwarves in mundane tasks, not adventures. His lack of experience as an adventurer is apparent throughout the story.

I thought Tolkien was a staunch Catholic so I donít think he would consider Bardís actions preordained.

Catholics believe in Free Will, but that doesn't mean they don't believe in Providence and Destiny. And they certainly believe that God knows everything that will happen. It's just that from our perspective, we are clueless, and therefore can exercise our free will.

No democratic fairy tales come to mind. Most fairy tales originated in a time and place in the past where there hadnít been a democracy in thousands of years, and even that was far, far away and not a complete democracy.

Most democracies throughout history have been limited in scope, to the point where many of them are closer to oligarchies. Indeed, some people consider the U.S. an oligarchic democracy because of the influence of money in politics. There were oligarchic democracies during the Middle Ages, including (I'm getting this from Wikipedia) the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Althing in Iceland, certain medieval Italian city-states such as Venice, the tuatha system in early medieval Ireland, the Veche in Novgorod and Pskov Republics of medieval Russia, Scandinavian Things, and The States in Tirol and Switzerland.


(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 24 2009, 5:45pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 7:01pm

Post #16 of 82 (159 views)
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Hmm. [In reply to] Can't Post

His appearance isn't that sudden. He's repeatedly there in the chapter as 'the grim-faced fellow'.

Yes, but where was he before this chapter?

As for a (picky-picky) 'weakness in the tale', when exactly was Tolkien supposed to introduce Bard? At the Unexpected Party as a guest or perhaps on the moon-runes at Elrond's house?

Why not? Aragorn came into LotR towards the beginning.

Was Bilbo going to kill the dragon himself?
Remember, as Bilbo says repeatedly, killing Smaug is the weak point in the plan all along......


That's fair.

Picky, picky, picky.

Guilty as charged, your honor.

Paralysis from (over) analysis, my friend. Enjoy the kiss while it's going on, don't pick it apart.

Hey, what's the Reading Room for?

Plus, it's really not easy nor proper or poignant to paint death & destruction in a comic way.

Well, Tolkien has managed pretty well so far.

Perhaps, as a 'youngster' of Laketown, who has never seen the dragon himself, even Bard has a grain of doubt as to whether the dragon is still up there at the mountain?

Except that Bard has a personal history with the dragon, and is quick to believe in him when he sees light on the lake.

Dwarves are big on vengence & wrongs bestowed on them & Thorin was there when the dragon came to sack Erebore - Bard wasn't even born.

Both good points.

What in the world is the difference between destiny & fate?

I was asking whether it was a Higher Power or just Fate.

What do you mean 'fair move'?
It's Tolkien's story.


Maybe so, but if an author cheats, the reader will notice it.

I was happy to see it on the TV screen when it came out in 1977 - my introduction to Middle-earth.

Good point! Maybe we should analyze that version sometime.

Probably because 99% of fairy tales were written before democracy existed.

Not true, at least if we include oligarchic democracies. At the very least, not all regimes were absolute monarchies.




Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jun 24 2009, 8:17pm

Post #17 of 82 (155 views)
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Pirates [In reply to] Can't Post

PIrate ships were run democratically. In fact, they predate democracy in this country, and may have been a forerunner, since Americans depended hugely on smuggled pirate goods for commerce, to avoid exorbitant English taxation.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 8:24pm

Post #18 of 82 (149 views)
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Yes, but was that in PoTC 1? [In reply to] Can't Post

Or is that something from PoTC 2 & 3?


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Jun 24 2009, 8:30pm

Post #19 of 82 (149 views)
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In a sense, yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

At least Jack's marooning shows what happens to captains who fail to maintain popular support.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Eowyn of Penns Woods
Valinor


Jun 24 2009, 8:33pm

Post #20 of 82 (147 views)
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*breaking promise to stay out* I'm still going with my UUT [In reply to] Can't Post

that Lake-town is partially based on Brig by the RhŰne ( Movie-Hobbit discussion), and the Master is part Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper.

[Brig has been a settlement since the stone age. It was first mentioned in 1215. Its strategic location in the Rhone Valley at the northern end of the Simplon Pass and the southern end of the LŲtschberg Pass made it a trading centre.

Brig (2244 feet a/s), a delightfully old-fashioned town, is
presently reached. Its shining metal cupolas give the town a somewhat oriental character. Among the noteworthy sights of Brig is the picturesque old chateau of the Stockalper family, with square towers, large courtyardand wide arch-ways. This formidable residence was built in 1642 by Kaspar Stockalper, a wealthy and influential man, who in those days dominated the trade over the Simplon, protecting the road with 70 guardsmen. ]
***********************************
While, after the Thirty Years' War, the European exchange market was going through a down period, Kaspar Stockalper managed to restore the Simplon Pass to its place of importance in Europe. A great merchant and contractor, he turned the Alpine pass to profit.

After training as a notary, Kaspar Stockalper de la Tour (1609 - 1691) became, in 1634, a trader and carrier. He quickly built up a fortune through his business, obtaining all the commercial monopolies on the Simplon route, the postal concession between Milan and the Low Countries, and the customs rights at Gondo. To make his business more profitable and secure, he improved the road over the Simplon: the road, the bridges and the posting stages were repaired; a new hospice was built; but Kaspar Stockalper did not stop there. Once he had set up the carriage business he also began to work mines: the iron mines of Grund-Ganter, the gold mines of Gondo, as well as various copper and lead works became his property.

The trader's fame lasted about thirty years, during which he became the richest man in the country. The Castle of the Three Kings, which he had built at Brig, reflects his power. It was a luxury residence, a veritable mountain palace, and the largest civil structure of the Baroque period in Switzerland. The founding of the College of Brig, which was put in the hands of the Jesuits, the founding of the Ursulines Convent,and the restoration of the church of Glis also reflect both his wealth and his wish to please the bishop, who also held the temporal power. After obtaining many honours - he was three times appointed Grand Bailiff, the highest magistrate's appointment in Valais - he ended by arousing the jealousy of his contemporaries and thus causing his own downfall.

*******************************
Lanes off the southeast corner of the square lead along Alte Simplonstrasse past many fine patrician townhouses dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the Schloss Stockalper. This grandiose Italianate palace Ė for much of its life the largest private residence in Switzerland Ė dominates the otherwise simple town. It was completed in 1678 to serve as the home of Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper, a merchant from Brig who first made a mint controlling the trade in silk over the Simplon Pass to Lyon, moved on to make another killing organizing mail transport between Milan and Geneva, and finally gained the monopoly in trading salt over the pass. At the height of his power, he was elected President of the Grand Council of Valais, the highest political office in the region. By 1658 he was wealthy enough to start building his own palace in Brig, the town through which all his goods passed, and which he himself had largely had built from scratch. After twenty years or more, it seems Stockalper finally got too big for his boots: his political colleagues plotted together to have him removed from office, and he was sent into exile into Domodossola, forfeiting part of his fortune on the way. Only six years later was he permitted to return to Brig, where he died a few years later at the grand old age of 82.

Sorry for getting a bit ahead of the Master's story with those last two sentences. ;)



**********************************


(This post was edited by Eowyn of Penns Woods on Jun 24 2009, 8:36pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 9:02pm

Post #21 of 82 (144 views)
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That seemed more like mutiny [In reply to] Can't Post

than a peaceful transfer of power.


Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 9:06pm

Post #22 of 82 (137 views)
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Except that they hadn't! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Even in this grim chapter Tolkien does insert a little humor. "...and not the most foolish doubted that the prophecies had gone rather wrong." Understatement!


Except, of course, that they prophecies were dead on -- they just left out the part about someone from Laketown having to kill the dragon. In Middle-earth, at least, prophecies usually prove to be correct, but it is dangerous to rely on them, as the Witch-king found out. They often play out differently from how people expect.



Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 9:51pm

Post #23 of 82 (131 views)
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Hmm. [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Tolkien managed the 'sudden appearance' of Bard just fine. We did get a bit of a heads up/intro to him before he took on "hero" status--just a few lines--quick sketch, if you will. In a way it's brillant. Yes, this is a hobbit's tale but similar to *real life* sometimes folks just pop in and do the most amazing/terrible things. I wonder if this was an intentional message from Tolkien--your life may be your life but don't underestimate the impact that others will have in your tale?

I agree that within this chapter, Tolkien does a great job of introducing Bard. My question is whether it works to introduce the man who slays the dragon, and the heir to Dale, this far into the tale, with little foreshadowing.

Yes, the tone is different from the bulk of other chapters. Not sure if it's a matter of comic/gloomy since there've been some pretty gloomy moments previously. And that Thorin has certainly had his moments as a "thundercloud". I think this is another example of Tolkien's ability to "mix it up"-- which I asked about in the Frying-Pan/Fire chapter. For some reason, the pace of (most of) this chapter makes me think of Dori's retelling of what happened back in the mountain with the goblins. Action-driven?

Good point, this chapter does seem more action driven than most, but there are action driven sections elsewhere. And not everything that came before this moment was comedy. But anything involving Bilbo and the dwarves, for me, has a comic undertone to it, because they are such improbable adventurers. That's not true of Bard.

Well, why didn't I go to college at 18 rather than at 29? Motivation? Opportunity? Motivation, in my case. For Bard, probably both apply. Going by this chapter only--both have allowed someone else to be in the driver's seat (Bard>>>Mayor/ Thorin>>>Gandalf) but have stepped up when the situation called for that. Both can get distracted by thoughts of treasure.

I would take a different lesson from "(Bard>>>Mayor/ Thorin>>>Gandalf)." The Mayor is very different from Gandalf. But Bard lacked a Gandalf to set him going. Who knows whether Thorin would have set out if Gandalf hadn't encouraged him?

democracy/monarchy...ohhhh...I'm thinking that;s a potential a bloodline question!

Yep. Why should it matter that Bard is descended from kings? What matters is that he killed Smaug and led the recovery and helped the people and won the aid of the Elvenking. And it isn't as if every fairy tale is about a prince -- often they are about ordinary people who become princes because of their extraordinary deeds. So why couldn't Bard have been such a character?


Curious
Half-elven


Jun 24 2009, 9:55pm

Post #24 of 82 (142 views)
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The latter is more likely. And cynics [In reply to] Can't Post

would say that even today, people with money have much more influence over who gets elected than people without.


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Jun 25 2009, 12:43am

Post #25 of 82 (147 views)
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Reluctant Answeres [In reply to] Can't Post

Given the episodic nature of the story and the fact that the location of Bilbo whose adventures we follow constantly changes, I donít see what else Tolkien could have done, short of having Bard accompany the party of Dwarves from the beginning. That would certainly make no sense.

Why not? That's what he did with Strider in LotR.

Do you think that would work better? Is Bard's late introduction here is a weakness that Tolkien acknowledged and "corrected" when he wrote LOTR?

Anyway, they're two different tales. To have Bard come with the company, Tolkien would have had to have the Dwarves go from their home of exile in the Blue Mountains all the way to Lake-town, convince Bard to come with them, then go back to Hobbiton to get the Burglar, then all the way back to Erebor. They would probably have detected most of the dangers along the way from the Blue Mountains to Lake-town and then from Lake-town to Hobbiton, thus making everyone look ridiculous when they encounter so many problems between the Shire and Lake-town.

With Bard a friend, I find it less likely the Mirkwood Elves would have a rational reason keep Thorin and Company prisoner as strangers and trespassers.

Also, if Bard had come along in the first place, the agreement would no doubt have specified that Bard would receive the treasure Smaug took from Dale. We would see no shilly-shallying on the part of the representative of Lake-town who didnít specify how much the town wanted from the hoard if Smaug died. That would take down pretty much most of the end of the story, and having an argument over the treasure would make much less sense.


Being surrounded by wargs and goblins is pretty dire (although we do get the bit about old gentlemen gone cracked and climbing trees).

Actually, the thought of Gandalf and thirteen dwarves and Bilbo in the trees strikes me as quite comic, and the rescue, with Bilbo hanging onto Dori's legs for dear life, also strikes me as comic.

Like I said, that doesn't nullify the suspense. I was worried about them. The two scenes aren't inconsistent in tone within the story. I have no problem accepting both of them as part of the same tale.


He doesnít seem foolish enough to confront the dragon in Smaugís own territory, and he wouldnít have had a chance without the thrushís information, anyway.

Is he perhaps too wise?

By declining to take the offense against the dragon when Bard had no advantage? No, the circumstances werenít right.


If he had been more foolish, would Destiny have helped him as it helped Bilbo and the dwarves?

What Destiny?


Bard only gains his out of necessity. Bard also seems like a loner while Thorin probably has had a lifetime of being a leader.

Well, Bard is the captain of his band of brave archers, and leads them well. Thorin, on the other hand, has mostly led the dwarves in mundane tasks, not adventures. His lack of experience as an adventurer is apparent throughout the story.

How many years of experience as a leader has Bard had, compared to Thorin? How well liked is Bard? Thorin attracted many Dwarves to his dwelling in exile where they prospered. He fought valiantly in the Battle of Azanulbizar, earning his surname when his shield was broken. He seems an excellent leader to me. The two are remarkable but in different ways.


I thought Tolkien was a staunch Catholic so I donít think he would consider Bardís actions preordained.

Catholics believe in Free Will, but that doesn't mean they don't believe in Providence and Destiny. And they certainly believe that God knows everything that will happen. It's just that from our perspective, we are clueless, and therefore can exercise our free will.

When it comes to religion, I tend to forget which tangled word game belongs to whom. Religious arguments just suck all the sense and fun out of discussions, I find. So I do not know if your interpretation of Catholicism is what Tolkien believed.

Anyway, even if he did, thatís not how I read the story. If Tolkien did believe in both:

a) the existence of free will and

b) providence/destiny/everything-knowable-beforehand (what I call a ďstacked deckĒ) in the primary world

and that inspired him to decide

c) thatís how things happen in this secondary world

then

I canít see anything in The Hobbit to prove the dice were loaded in Bardís favor. So I donít see Catholicism, as you characterize it, after all. I come to the same answer to the original question as I did before: No, Bardís actions arenít known ahead of time.

Why do I get into these discussions of religion? I usually end up finding them distasteful and divisive. I should probably add them to the list of types of questions I donít touch on this board, but it irks me when I sense someone is using the boards to further their agenda. Besides, I like the books better the less I think about Tolkienís personal beliefs.


No democratic fairy tales come to mind. Most fairy tales originated in a time and place in the past where there hadnít been a democracy in thousands of years, and even that was far, far away and not a complete democracy.

Most democracies throughout history have been limited in scope, to the point where many of them are closer to oligarchies. Indeed, some people consider the U.S. an oligarchic democracy because of the influence of money in politics. There were
oligarchic democracies during the Middle Ages, including (I'm getting this from Wikipedia) the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Althing in Iceland, certain medieval Italian city-states such as Venice, the tuatha system in early medieval Ireland, the Veche in Novgorod and Pskov Republics of medieval Russia, Scandinavian Things, and The States in Tirol and Switzerland.


"Some people"? The US is a representative democracy, and political contributions occur, but oligarchy is really stretching it. "Some people" disapprove of wealth, I suspect. I have no recollection of reading Polish, Lituanian, Althing, Venetian, early tuatha, Veche, Pskov, Thing, Tirolean, or Swiss fairy tales from around the time of the democracies you say existed. Have you read fairy tales from these countries around the time of these democracies? Do they still come down on democracy?. If so what is your theory as to why this is?

~~~~~~~~

The TORNsib formerly known as Galadriel.



(This post was edited by GaladrielTX on Jun 25 2009, 12:46am)

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