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* * On the Doorstep * * Part 1: Desolation

dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 17 2012, 1:37am

Post #1 of 9 (730 views)
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* * On the Doorstep * * Part 1: Desolation Can't Post

I'll be doing this in three parts. This first part will cover the text to "...filled with his foul reek."

For two days the dwarves, Bilbo, and the Lake-men row up the River Running, while horses, ponies, and provisions take a different route, and meet them at one point. Then the Lake-men leave, not willing to even spend a night in that area.

1. Why not ride the ponies, instead of travelling by the river? And if it was to save the ponies' strength, why not have them and the horses and provisions travel in a barge behind them?

2. Songs and old tales are fine - until the reality sets in! If the Lake-men so fear the dragon, why do they stay in Lake-town?


Now Thorin and company make the long, quiet journey northwards.

3. Why is there not even the remnant of a road? Wasn't there once great commerce between Dale and Laketown? Smaug arrived on the scene only 171 years ago, would all traces of an overland route have disappeared in that time?

4. Note Tolkien's descriptive words for this place: desolation, waning, bleak, barren, broken, blackened...end.

Rateliff (HoH p. 483 on) believes that Tolkien drew this idea of a dragon causing desolation in the land around its dweling from William Morris's version of the Fafnir story, the stories of Lord Dunsany, and English folklore and ballads. Other folklore traditions however, such as Beowulf, Spenser's Faerie Queene, and the Elder Edda, set the dragon's lair as being simply in a remote place, or even a paradise. Why do you suppose Tolkien choose the former depictions for his dragons? Are all of his dragons surrounded by wastelands?


They reach the Mountain, and first set up camp at the foot of Ravenhill. Thorin sends Fili, Kili, Balin, and Bilbo to take a look at the Front Gate. This is a sad moment for Balin, as he beholds the ruins of Dale, and the "steam and dark smoke" emanating from the entrance .

5. Why would Thorin send those particular four?

6. What do you make of that curious combination of fire and water coming from the entrance?

Other questions or comments are always welcome, of course!



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Sep 17 2012, 3:05am

Post #2 of 9 (269 views)
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Homecoming [In reply to] Can't Post

1. The first two days were spent mostly traveling north up Long Lake, reaching the River Running on the second day. A third day was spent rowing up the river to meet the ponies and gear. The beasts were probably sent ahead in case the dragon was active. Neither group would attract attention separately as easily as if they were all together.

2. Many of the Lake-men only half-believe in the dragon--if that. Esgaroth is considered to be fairly secure, being set into a cold, deep lake.

3. The road may have still existed, but it might not have paralleled the river and so might have been far from the company's planned route.

4. Tolkien may have chosen the Desolation of the Dragon for dramatic purposes, to make the approach to Erebor more suspenseful and nerve-wracking.

5. Bilbo was sent because he is the burglar. Balin was familar with the area (as it was before the coming of Smaug). Kili and Fili are young and strong (as well as Thorin's closest relatives).

6. Tolkien may have just liked the contrast between fire and water in the same imagery.

'Thus spake Ioreth, wise-woman of Gondor: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.' - Gandalf the White


telain
Rohan

Sep 17 2012, 4:08pm

Post #3 of 9 (275 views)
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fear and "forgetting" [In reply to] Can't Post

2. Songs and old tales are fine - until the reality sets in! If the Lake-men so fear the dragon, why do they stay in Lake-town?

I have wondered about this situation for a while... I think it is like knowing there is asbestos in your house -- you can't/don't want to move because you either financially can't or there is the sentimentality of "home," (or other reasons.) To extend the metaphor, as long as you don't touch/disturb it (asbestos/dragon), you'll be fine. But will you? As long as the dragon doesn't do anything (and Smaug hadn't visited in a while) then, everything is alright. But to go up to Lonely Mt and knock on the door? That's a bit too much...

So, yes, they fear Smaug, but Smaug hasn't terrorized anyone in a while, so they stay in Lake-town having forgotten what he can do. It's only until they take the Dwarves to the doorstep that they "remember".


sador
Half-elven


Sep 20 2012, 2:17pm

Post #4 of 9 (266 views)
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It comes in trailers? [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Why not ride the ponies, instead of travelling by the river?
With the baggage and all? Probably too slow, even if the do not lead trailers with them.

And if it was to save the ponies' strength, why not have them and the horses and provisions travel in a barge behind them?
It's a frightening landscape. Rocking the boat is more dangerous than just bolting.

2. Songs and old tales are fine - until the reality sets in! If the Lake-men so fear the dragon, why do they stay in Lake-town?

It's home.

And back in prosperous, fertile Esgaroth, it was quite easy to disbelieve in the dragon. But the ruins of Dale testify to his destructive power.

3. Why is there not even the remnant of a road?
Roads need mantaining. And once the debris is cleared, it might be find.

Wasn't there once great commerce between Dale and Laketown?
Yes, but mostly by water.

Smaug arrived on the scene only 171 years ago, would all traces of an overland route have disappeared in that time?
Were there sandstorms?


4. Why do you suppose Tolkien choose the former depictions for his dragons?
Because you need to get to them.
Also, a fire-breathing monster does not bode well to the vegetation.

Are all of his dragons surrounded by wastelands?
Chrysophylax lives in a mountainous wasteland, doesn't he?
But perhaps it is merely Wales.

5. Why would Thorin send those particular four?
Fili and Kili as natural scouts, and future leaders; Balin as the senior kinsman, and the only one (apart of Thorin himself) who knows the place. Bilbo joins out of curiousity.


And Thorin thinks it is quite safe. In fact, when Smaug attacks (next chapter), these are the four he chooses to preserve, while leading the rescue of Bofur and Bombur himself.

6. What do you make of that curious combination of fire and water coming from the entrance?
Prophetic.

Other questions or comments are always welcome, of course!
What do you think of the crows?


"Throughout The Hobbit our accomplished author often ignores the basic convention of writing to "show, not tell." Is the age of his audience the reason? The age of his sources?"
- ElanorTX



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for On the Doorstep!


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 21 2012, 3:42am

Post #5 of 9 (257 views)
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Suspenseful and nerve-wracking [In reply to] Can't Post

Good description of that area; Tolkien does like to play with psychology in his descriptions.

That is part of Bilbo's "job description", isn't it: "sneaking" into (or near) places!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 21 2012, 3:49am

Post #6 of 9 (210 views)
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The "rude awakening"! [In reply to] Can't Post

This reminds me of what Galadriel said to Gimli: "If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlorien, who of the Galadrim...would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?"

Not exactly the same thing, but close: the desire to stay where you feel "home" is, or the need to.

And as long as the dragon stays sleeping...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 21 2012, 4:01am

Post #7 of 9 (286 views)
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Mountainous wasteland, eh? [In reply to] Can't Post

Heh, I hope no Cymry read that! Laugh

It would make sense that most trade between Lake-town and Dale would be on the water, with such a handy river, so the roads could have been just rudimentary horse-paths.

Good catch, about those four being the ones Thorin feels are most necessary to "save" during the dragon's attack. The burglar, the other one who had once lived there, and the youngest.

Those crows bring to mind the crebain of Dunland. Such a devious species!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






demnation
Rohan


Sep 23 2012, 2:54am

Post #8 of 9 (198 views)
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The Doorstep [In reply to] Can't Post

1. The dwarves are not great planners and typically don't think things through.

2. I'd like to think it's because they have nowhere else to go.

3.Not sure.

4.I got nothing.

5. Bilbo is the burglar and obvious scout. Fili and Kili are both young and hearty. Balin because hes been there before and knows what to look for.

6.Fire and Water are often presented as opposites. Perhaps it represents the dual natures of the dwarves' greed vs their sense of honor.

Use Well the Days


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 24 2012, 12:38am

Post #9 of 9 (617 views)
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That's an interesting answer [In reply to] Can't Post

to the question about fire and water, that "perhaps it represents the dual natures of the dwarves' greed vs their sense of honor."

One might be able to take this line of thought further, and speculate that just as fire is quenched by water, so then soon we will see the dwarves' greed quench their honor.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"





 
 

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