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***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 10 - A Warm Welcome
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noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 22, 8:54am

Post #1 of 66 (3119 views)
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***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 10 - A Warm Welcome Can't Post

[NoWiz: I am posting this on behalf of this week's planned host, hanne. Unfortunately, hanne has been unwell and wasn't able to finish the introduction. On behalf of the Reading Room - we hope you feel better soon, hanne!
hanne very kindly sent me the notes which, because of illness they had not been able to turn into the full prose of an introdiction (many thanks for that hanne!). Looking at hanne's very complete notes, I decided to format them rather than turn them into prose. I think the questions and promps are nearly always already clear, and it saves adding a layer of editorial confusion. So hanne's notes now follow. This being Chapter X, I suppose I can say they're the X-files. Don't forget to add any new questions or comments - no question too basic - if the introductory post doesn't cover the thing that appeals to/baffles you.]


Welcome to Chapter X! First, a brief summary:

The rafts come through the marshy river delta and for the first time, Bilbo sees the Lonely Mountain. Arriving at Lake Town, Bilbo frees the soggy Dwarves, who are half dead and hardly polite. But Thorin pulls himself together to make a dramatic announcement of their presence to the people of Lake Town. They are welcomed with excitement, parties and provisions, and the chapter ends with the company (to the surprise and skepticism of the Elvenking and the Master) rowing up the lake to the Mountain.

PLOT
Structurally where it fits in the book – question about pacing?
Difference about how the movies introduced Bard, who is to become a plot-moving hero.
Many of us thought that if the Hobbit had been done as two movies, this first sight of the Lonely Mountain would be the perfect place to end the first.
Are the master and the elvenking right to doubt they can succeed? Does no one worry about rousing the dragon?
In lotr we get a timeline – I think it’s more vague here.

WORLDBUILDING
Lake Town is a new place, and the first real settlement of Men we’ve seen in the story (not sure were-bears count). The only other Men we’ve heard about so far are the woodcutters?
Why men at this point? Are we supposed to relate to them or are they alien, given the hobbit-centered viewpoint?
Why are they here? who else is in their trading network? Why does Smaug leave them alone? If they had helped the dwarves, would they now have dragon-proof stone buildings and wharves?
The talk was all of the trade that came and went on the waterways and the growth of the traffic on the river, as the roads out of the East towards Mirkwood vanished or fell into disuse; and of the bickerings of the Lake-men and the Wood-elves about the upkeep of the Forest River and the care of the banks.
At the southern end [of the Long Lake] the doubled waters poured out again over high waterfalls and ran away hurriedly to unknown lands.
So did they not trade on the waterways, if they didn’t know where they went?
They still throve on the trade that came up the great river from the South and was carted past the falls to their town; but in the great days of old, when Dale in the North was rich and prosperous, they had been wealthy and powerful, and there had been fleets of boats on the waters, and some were filled with gold and some with warriors in armour.
A great bridge made of wood ran out to where on huge piles made of forest trees was built a busy wooden town..
Why did they not live on shore?
https://weburbanist.com/...-towns-ocean-cities/

CHARACTER
master of laketown question [NoWiz: I'm not sure which question hanne had in mind here. I will post something about the Master shortly]
Thorin’s King of mountain declaration question so far, he’s been just a grumpy dwarf – now he suddenly shows majestic.
"I am Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain! I return!"
"There is no knowing what a dwarf will not dare and do for revenge or the recovery of his own."
Bilbo question – where he is in his arc?

LANGUAGE
Any nice phrases, etymologies? Did Tolkien develop a language for them beyond Westron?
Plurmo suggested that many chapter titles in Tolkien have two or more readings. This one certainly applies. In the first line the weather gets warmer, a great relief to the shivering Bilbo.
Also warm welcome can mean friendly or too hot to handle…
"But lock nor bar may hinder the homecoming spoken of old."

THEMES
Does adding men bring any insights into Tolkien’s elves/men immortal/gift fading/growing dichotomy?

INFLUENCES
Did Tolkien know any long lakes and water cities? Lake district? Lake constance? Venice?
http://www.theonering.net/...n-magic-mirror-maps/

IMAGE
In tolkien’s drawing [Tolkien's drawing of Lake Town that illustrates most editions of The Hobbit] what are the long houses? Communal living? Warehouses?
Is that a lightning tod on the tallest house? (good idea for a wooden town) or a flagpole?


SONGS
just one in this chapter. Maybe mention only if songs haven’t been discussed yet. Foreshadowing? What did they mean by The lakes shall shine and burn?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 22, 9:46am

Post #2 of 66 (2955 views)
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The choices of the Master of Laketown [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
“I am Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain! I return!” cried Thorin in a loud voice from the door, before the captain could say anything.
All leaped to their feet. The Master of the town sprang from his great chair. But none rose in greater surprise than the raft-men of the elves who were sitting at the lower end of the hall. Pressing forward before the Master’s table they cried:
“These are prisoners of our king that have escaped, wandering vagabond dwarves that could not give any good account of themselves, sneaking through the woods and molesting our people!”
“Is this true?” asked the Master. As a matter of fact he thought it far more likely than the return of the King under the Mountain, if any such person had ever existed.
“It is true that we were wrongfully waylaid by the Elvenking and imprisoned without cause as we journeyed back to our own land,” answered Thorin. “But lock nor bar may hinder the homecoming spoken of old. Nor is this town in the Wood-elves’ realm. I speak to the Master of the town of the Men of the Lake, not to the raft-men of the king.”
Then the Master hesitated and looked from one to the other. The Elvenking was very powerful in those parts and the Master wished for no enmity with him, nor did he think much of old songs, giving his mind to trade and tolls, to cargoes and gold, to which habit he owed his position. Others were of different mind, however, and quickly the matter was settled without him.

Hobbit Ch X - A Warm Welcome


I like the politics* in this passage! [Important: please see footnote on discussions about the limitations of discussing politics on these boards]]

The Master comes across as a practical man "giving his mind to trade and tolls, to cargoes and gold, to which habit he owed his position." I don't see (in this passage) the need to portray him as was done in the PJ film, where he's something of a totalitarian figure, with Bard as his antagonist and leader of the underground opposition. He might just be a cautious leader, well aware of what underpins his community's fortunes, and determined to preserve that for the public good as much as his own personal good.

Thorin is behaving in a very politically shrewd manner, introducing himself dramatically and exploiting the legends of the return of the king (to coin a phrase). He's earlier (in his conversation with the guards) spun the fact that his company is unarmed. Now he makes his return seem fated, inevitable.

If Thorin's return is fake, though, or if it is not fated, then it's a disruptive nuisance - a problem the Master immediately sees. Here are fugitives from his powerful neighbour and trading partner - taking them in may have repercussions.

Thorin counters by (as I see it) basically asking who is in charge in lake Town. A risky but effective move, I think.

The Master has the sense to see that he's lost it - or indeed he might feel that his people have 'lost it',and there's no use in trying to reason with them when they have been overtaken by a nostalgic and romantic fit. I notice his response is careful - Thorin and party are treated with respect and given accommodation. I'm supposing that if an embassy arrived from the elf king wanting their arrest, then that remains an option for the Master to consider. He hasn't let himself be forced into taking sides. In any case, the Master seems to assume that it's all a burst of temporary insanity on behalf of his people, and he can just wait it out. So he's surprised and alarmed when Thorin actually does what he's said - set off to the Mountain.


I think we see a new side of Thorin here - I think the quest has been about re-stealing some of Thorin's ancestral treasure so far, and I don't recall any discussion of restoring the dwarven kingdom. Do you think Thorin now really plans to do that, or is he just taking advantage of his hosts' beliefs?

If Thorin is taking advantage, I notice that it's limited - he doesn't now seek to overthrow the Master and control Dale. Nor do we get a reference to the Master fearing this.


The folk of Lake Town seem to have reacted like Underpants-collecting gnomes, characters from the cartoon South Park. The gnomes collect underpants, in pursuit of the following plan:
Phase 1: Collect underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit)
The relevant clip from the show is here https://vimeo.com/79954057

The paralle is probably clear but it is that it is not at all clear how helping Thorin (Phase 1) will lead to Phase 3 of the 'wealth shall flow in fountains/And the rivers golden run'. Thorin's return is presumably not sufficient. I can imagine the Master finding this leap of faith by his people very frustrating. Possibly there's a recurring division here between people who want a clear plan to believe in something, and people who are content with "Phase 2: ?", provided Phase 3 is rosy (and vague) enough?


Does it help that only the old folks remember the Dragon, (who constitutes the risks and costs of Phase 2) and hey, who listens to them?

Is the town taking Thorin to be some kind of Messiah? (Not literally in that I don't think they see him as a religious saviour, but he's clearly expected to restore Dale to it's former glories). They don't seem to look to Thorin to do anything in particular, though Thorin s astute enough to realise he'd better move on before people start to ask too many questions. Or perhaps he too is concerned about an embassy from the elf king demanding his re-arrest?


--
*The politics of lake Town is fair game for this board, I believe. One possible hazard is that the politics of one place and time can remind one of current affairs, and that everyone on this thread needs to remember rule 11 in this forum's terms of service:


Quote
11. Note on political discussions: it is the wish of TORn's founders that the site be a politics-free haven for Tolkien and LOTR fans. To that end, discussions about real-life politics (as in not related to Middle-earth) are not allowed here. We encourage anyone wanting to discuss real-life politics to do it on other sites meant for that purpose, or via PM if others are willing and the discussion doesn't violate any other part of the terms of service.

TORN Terms of Service http://newboards.theonering.net/...forum.cgi?post=51#51

.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 22, 2:44pm

Post #3 of 66 (2939 views)
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The Company in Esgaroth [In reply to] Can't Post

1. I don't think that the Elvenking was surprised when he learned of the company's departure for the Lonely Mountain. He was already anticipating their eventual return journey if they were successful. The Master, on the other hand, suspected them of being frauds up until Thorin's announcement of their intentions to continue on and the beginning of their preparations for departure.

It is at the beginning of this chapter that we learn of the the poor condition of the east end of the Elf-path, leaving it little-used and hazardous. The company might have been able to reach Lake-town by this route, but not without hardship and possible loss of life.

Yes, it might be unfortunate that Tolkien did not reverse himself to introduce Bard in this chapter, perhaps as the watch-captain who challenges Thorin's small party and escorts them to the Master of Lake-town, as opposed to including Bard at the last minute as a deus ex machina for dealing with Smaug. This was one of Peter Jackson's changes that improves the narrative, whatever we may think of the details.

Tolkien does not seem interested here in exploring the philosophical differences between Elves and Men. reserving that for other works of his legendarium. We do see that Men might be more easily swayed by concerns of short-term gain, an idea that is taken advantage of by Thorin.

I need to cut this short. More later.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


squire
Half-elven


Jul 22, 3:43pm

Post #4 of 66 (2941 views)
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Just briefly, on the lake town that may have inspired Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

As I remember it, Tolkien was directly inspired by archaeological work done in Switzerland on the remains of an ancient town supported on piles off the shore of a lake. His illustration was based on one by the scholars' artist. The linked image is from Hammond & Scull in one of their books on Tolkien's illustrations, which I referred to in a past discussion of the prof's artwork.

I loved poring over hanne's linked site of other aquatic villages around the world! But I'll have to leave his other questions open for now.

Except for this: We discussed Ponty's "Magic Mirror" theory -- that the Hobbit's landscape was a literal copy of part of Wales, except reflected right for left as in a mirror -- back in 2014 when 'News From Bree' innocently promoted it on TORn's home page. I can't say I thought or think much of it, but others obviously differ.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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elostirion74
Rohan

Jul 23, 12:03pm

Post #5 of 66 (2839 views)
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Thorin puts on a good show [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree about the politics of the passage you quoted as well as your comments about The Master being a cautious and practical leader. Actually I find that all the political content of this chapter is handled both realistically and with great economy.

Thorin shows himself as an adept tactician, both in how he exploits local legends to gain support, how he is aware of the importance of timing and leaving the city while the general euphoria still hasn't worn off and how he masters the theatrics of politics to ensure support. I choose to believe that the way he struts around Lake Town as if Smaug is already chopped into little pieces is mostly about putting on a good show.

It's interesting to see how both the Master and the dwarves are described as being careful not to reveal many of their thoughts. The dwarves don't show it in public, but they actually aren't that pleased at the prospect of having to share their prospective wealth with the men of Lake Town. The Master is secretly happy about the dwarves departing, as they have disrupted daily business and brought trade to a standstill.

As for Bard, I agree that it would have been useful to introduce him in this chapter, perhaps as a part of the company who are the first to meet the dwarves. I disagree that he should be given a particularly prominent role, though. The story isn't about traditional heroism or heroes, but about the virtues of using your wits as well as other more civilian and practical values. And even Bard would have been helpless against Smaug had it not been for Bilbo discovering Smaug's weak spot and the thrush passing on this knowledge to Bard.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 23, 4:38pm

Post #6 of 66 (2820 views)
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Continued from yesterday. [In reply to] Can't Post

We had a family reunion on my spouse's side to attend yesterday and were gone most of the day. Onwards!

To elostirion74 I agree that Bard would not have to have been given a prominent position in Lake-town, but even the watch-captain on duty would not have needed to be that important a job. I'm not suggesting he should have been the commander of the watch. Later, after Bard is introduced, he is described as the captain of a company of the town's archers, implying that he does have at least some rank within the watch/guard. That would actually be consistent with his heritage as a descendant of King Girion of Dale.

noWizardme was discussing the introduction of Lake-town (a.k.a. Esgaroth) a city of Men.

As Men, the folk of Lake-town are possibly meant to be more relatable to the reader than Dwarves, Elves and Shape-changers. They do have relatable reactions to the Company of Thorin, from the nostalgia and renewed hope of the common folk to the suspicion and political motivations of the Master.

If you have a great deal of wood and not much stone then you build with wood. It might be that the Men of the Lake built on the water in order to have more usable land available for agriculture and livestock on the shore. But security against the dangers of Mirkwood and Rhovanion might have been an additional factor. Esgaroth's trade network must have originally included Dale and the Dwarves of Erebor and also the Iron Hills. Dain's folk might have ceased trade with the Lake-men after the coming of Smaug, or such trade might have continued but in a much more limited manner--Tolkien never says. Other than the Wood-elves, the only other official trading partner in the year 2941 seems to be Dorwinion (and possibly communities of Northmen near and along the River Running), but through them Lake-town might have had access to goods from Rohan, Gondor, the distant East and even the far South of Middle-earth.

At the southern end [of the Long Lake] the doubled waters poured out again over high waterfalls and ran away hurriedly to unknown lands.
So did they not trade on the waterways, if they didn’t know where they went?


I think that is only meant to emphasis the size of Middle-earth beyond the lands known to the Men of the Lake. Sure, they would have knowledge of the lands between themselves and the Sea of Rhûn, but beyond that are regions such as the Last Desert that were only known of by rumor and legend.

Smaug seems to leave Esgaroth alone mostly because of a fear of the deep, cold waters of Long Lake. However, he may have visited a previous incarnation of the community; we never learn the story behind the ruins Tolkien mentions of a previous Lake-town.

Bilbo question – where he is in his arc?

Yes, Bilbo is reduced to a mere observer again in this chapter by being made to suffer from a serious head-cold for most of the company's stay in Esgaroth. I wonder if Tolkien had not worked out Bilbo's day of birth while writing The Hobbit as there is no mention of his observing his birthday (the date of the company's arrival at Lake-town) in this chapter or any other. Maybe he was just too miserable to take note of it.

I don't think there is any double meaning intended in the chapter title "A Warm Welcome". This one seems pretty straightforward to me. We do see Thorin revert to his more pompous mode of speech, in order to impress the Master of Lake-town and his followers, but he seldom seems to need an excuse to use it any other time as well.

Squire does a nice job of touching on the influences for Tolkien's description of Lake-town. The late Karen Wynn Fonstad in The Atlas of Middle-earth provided an estimate of Esgaroth's size. Based on Tolkien's illustration's, she guessed its dimensions as approximately 300 feet x 500 feet for a total surface area of 150,000 feet; although we might consider that as the most conservative estimate. I would guess that the long structures lining the outside of the town are warehouses and other commercial and government buildings, with residential houses located in the interior. The tall spike on the top of the building in the forefront (the Town Hall? the Great Hall?) might indeed be a flagpole; I would be very surprised to learn that it was a lightning rod.

The streams shall run in gladness,
The lakes shall shine and burn,
And sorrow fail and sadness
At the Mountain-king’s return!


The intent in the last verse of the Lake-men's song seems to be to invoke the image of barges of gold gleaming in the sun. I cannot say whether Tolkien meant that second line as a foreshadowing of the coming of Smaug, but that is possible.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 23, 5:06pm

Post #7 of 66 (2812 views)
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unknown lands and teasing chapter titles [In reply to] Can't Post

"At the southern end [of the Long Lake] the doubled waters poured out again over high waterfalls and ran away hurriedly to unknown lands. "

Unknown to whom? I notice that this is at the end of a passage in which Bilbo is taking in the landscape ("only from the map did Bilbo know..." etc.). So one possibility is that it means *Bilbo* doesn't know what's beyond the waterfalls. Maybe that doesn't preclude the men of Lake Town knowing about it, and that would make sense of things. .

It's the End Of The World as far as the current story goes, perhaps a bit like video games in which the pay area is surrounded by convenient barriers to stop the players wandering off into places the developer hasn't programmed. As O-s said, it's a way of suggesting there's a whole lot more of Middle-earth, without pausing the story to fill in lots of details that won't come into this tale.

The chapter title A Warm Welcome worked for me as a tease that someone gets roasted by the dragon, as well as being a literal description..

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 23, 5:19pm

Post #8 of 66 (2810 views)
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That's true. [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right; that passage can be read in at least a couple of ways. It might only be referring to Bilbo (and maybe the younger dwarves).

The chapter title A Warm Welcome worked for me as a tease that someone gets roasted by the dragon, as well as being a literal description..

I don't think it was intended that way, but it could work as foreshadowing if that's how you read it. But then I might be wrong about foreshadowing in the song--even if Peter Jackson reworked it to seem more ominous and prophetic.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 23, 5:28pm

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The Master of Esgaroth [In reply to] Can't Post

I mostly agree with you about the Master of Lake-town in this chapter. I only question one statement here: In any case, the Master seems to assume that it's all a burst of temporary insanity on behalf of his people, and he can just wait it out. So he's surprised and alarmed when Thorin actually does what he's said - set off to the Mountain.

Surprised? Yes, okay. But alarmed? Only a little; any fright he had dissipated quickly:


Quote
But the Master was not sorry at all to let them go. They were expensive to keep, and their arrival had turned things into a long holiday in which business was at a standstill. "Let them go and bother Smaug, and see how he welcomes them!" he thought.


"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 23, 5:29pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 23, 5:36pm

Post #10 of 66 (2796 views)
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Building in wood [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
If you have a great deal of wood and not much stone then you build with wood. It might be that the Men of the Lake built on the water in order to have more usable land available for agriculture and livestock on the shore. But security against the dangers of Mirkwood and Rhovanion might have been an additional factor.


Geography, availability of resources and defence are all good reasons. Sadly a wooden town won't be easy to defend against a dragon, but hey, he's not been seen for many years - he's probably dead, if he ever existed.

The availability of skills might be a factor too. I also like how this gives a feeling of the Dark Ages, like many a place in Britain where people abandoned the vast stone ruins of Roman days, and built some thing more practical for modern use, often out of wood.

PS : "If you have a great deal of wood and not much stone then ..."
...you are not doing well at Settlers of Catan Wink

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 23, 5:56pm

Post #11 of 66 (2773 views)
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Smaug and Lake-town [In reply to] Can't Post

It may be that the dragon was not responsible for the fall of the previous Lake-town ("The rotting piles of a greater town could still be seen along the shores when the waters sank in a drought."), so the current inhabitants might not have sufficient respect for his destructive power. And the lake itself might make them overconfident.

On the other hand, from the chapter "Inside Information" we do have this:


Quote
"I thought so last night," [Smaug] smiled to himself. "Lake-men, some nasty scheme of those miserable tub-trading Lake-men, or I'm a lizard. I haven't been down that way for an age and an age; but I will soon alter that!"


So maybe Smaug really did destroy the previous Lake-town and this is the way that Tolkien let us know. Unfortunately, he provided no other history for this older town.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 23, 5:56pm)


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jul 23, 7:41pm

Post #12 of 66 (2756 views)
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Was the Master the only one worried about trade? [In reply to] Can't Post

After all there where probably many in Lake-Town that stood to lose if all trade did come to a halt. There was a reason as to why trade happened, anyway!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 23, 8:26pm

Post #13 of 66 (2752 views)
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Probably not. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Master, though, was the only representative of the town's government that is presented to the reader. He did have advisors and counselors that doubtless included the heads of high-ranking merchant houses. It was probably to the heads of such houses to whom the Master owed his position, It is possible that every freeman in Lake-town was able to vote, but I suspect that elections were only open to the merchant houses. Does anyone have more insight into this matter?

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 23, 8:27pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 24, 11:03am

Post #14 of 66 (2674 views)
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The details Tolkien chooses to give in a short chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

It's quite a short chapter, and Tolkien sketches out the necessary details with economy - what Lake Town is, how it comes to support Thorin's quest, the effects that has on Thorin, and what the elf king thinks about it all. So I suppose the Master represents the cautious mercantile side of the argument, balanced against the populace who've decided to celebrate the arrival of Thorin as if he's already restored the Good Old Days. The chapter quickly gives us the carefree mood with which the dwarves are resupplied and sent off. That is part of hanne's point about pacing, I think: a longer chapter about Lake Town and its politics might have been interesting, or it might just have bogged things down. There might, for example, be little point in giving us a Guildhall scene in which all the other merchants simply agree with the Master.

I suppose there would be a different effect if everyone, the leaders included, were giddy about Thorin's arrival, and then everything changed when the fire nation dragon attacked.

Another choice Tolkien makes here is to give us the chapter mostly from the narrator's POV. As someone has already commented, it leaves Bilbo mostly with nothing to do (as it was pretty much in Queer Lodgings). I think the effect of a chapter written from Bilbo's POV would have been different: "The only person thoroughly unhappy was Bilbo" is the chapter's closing sentence. Bilbo would perhaps be an interesting observer, slightly distanced from the Brouhaha over the dwarves ("no songs alluded to him even in the obscurest way" and he "had not forgotten the look of the mountain, nor the thought of the dragon").

The quick pace of the chapter does work for me - it moves us on finally towards the actual dragon and treasure* - we are, after all more than half-way through the story, and haven't got to the actual quest yet. Possibly a chapter focused on Bilbo's thoughts - his doubts and his incredulity over the 'underpants-collecting gnomery' of it all would make a more sober and longer chapter.

Of course the quick pace means that a lot of Lake Town remains a mystery - the status of the Master, or whether the old town is all that's left after the last dragon attack; or fell into disuse through another disaster, or just as the town has shrunk with diminished fortunes. As far as I know (not very far) when Tolkien turned to writing essay-like background material (the sort of thing that appears in UT) he worked mostly to fill in details about LOTR, not Hobbit.



--
*The Dragon and Treasure - my new suggestion for a Middle-earth pub. I could make an ale called 'Responsibly' so that every other beer-maker advertises my beer - "Please Drink Responsibly", it says on every bottle...

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 24, 11:31am

Post #15 of 66 (2672 views)
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Some favourite Tolkien themes in this chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

I think we see some themes in this chapter that Tolkien likes to use repeatedly:

The Return of the King - the King will have to come back to Erebor to make things good again, just as the King must return to Gondor. In either case it has to be the 'rightful' king - you can't elect somebody else, no matter how talented they might be. (We don't meet Bard yet but when we do we might want to discuss whether anyone else could have killed the dragon...)

Cosmopolitanism - the royal line that must be restored is Thror's - there doesn't seem to be any xenophobia about dwarves (or the town's elvish trading partners, who will later launch a relief effort). Though I don't see it here, Tolkien also does parochialism - Hobbiton-bred hobbits think that Bucklanders are 'queer' and the feeling is reciprocal, even though the two groups live a few days' walk apart. I take that as being done for laughs.

A Lesser Age - lake Town now is not as big as it once was. We don't find out whether the piles of the old town are what are left after war, dragon attack, bad weather, accident, re-planning, or simple decline. But I like the dragon-attack or the decline options myself: I often get a sense in Tolkien's 3rd-age works that the characters look back to days when things were bigger and better. The Return of the King will reverse that somewhat, of course.


The old that is strong is still dangerous - the Lake Town people mostly discount Smaug, to their cost later. Similar miscalculations are made by Saruman about the ents, or Balin's expedition to Moria (about 'Durin's Bane').

I'm probably missing both themes and examples - I left some for *you* of course Smile

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 24, 12:43pm

Post #16 of 66 (2667 views)
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Thorin's Goals [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the questions that was brought up that I meant to address: "I think we see a new side of Thorin here - I think the quest has been about re-stealing some of Thorin's ancestral treasure so far, and I don't recall any discussion of restoring the dwarven kingdom. Do you think Thorin now really plans to do that, or is he just taking advantage of his hosts' beliefs?"

In my own opinion, taking back Erebor has always been one of Thorin's long-term goals, but not one that he thought he could accomplish with this small band. However, if the company can bring out a sizable amount of the dragon's hoard then Thorin might be able to rally his own folk and bring enough other dwarves over to his cause to be able to kill Smaug or otherwise expel him from the Mountain. I do agree that there is much that he's leaving out here, leaving the folk of Lake-town to assume more immediate results and not revealing the long-term nature of his ambitions.

Also, Thorin's greater goal (assuming I'm correct) might not be shared by all of his companions, even after we exclude Bilbo. The oldest companions and closest friends/relations of the dwarf-lord (Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, and perhaps a few others) might also want to reclaim Erebor for the Longbeards. Others, such as Bifur, Bofur and Bombur, might be more interested in the short-term gain of a share in recovered treasure. And for most of them it could be both.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 24, 1:44pm

Post #17 of 66 (2658 views)
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Why Men at this point? [In reply to] Can't Post

hanne's question:

In Reply To
Lake Town is a new place, and the first real settlement of Men we’ve seen in the story (not sure were-bears count). The only other Men we’ve heard about so far are the woodcutters?
Why men at this point? Are we supposed to relate to them or are they alien, given the hobbit-centered viewpoint?


It's a good question, I think. I can report that I don't feel a pang of recognition once we get to a colony of Men - the dwarves and hobbit have become people to me as I read, and don't seem all that exotic to me.

Perhaps Men are a sort of 'default' race for the actual real-world readers of the book- 'Men' are our nearest equivalent as a fantasy 'race' (I'm not meaning the word to indicate gender or age). As such, the Men don't need much time spent on explaining them and their ways, as they might if they were, say mer-people or minotaurs. We readers can quickly take in 'like medieval European traders living on a lake' and move on to the more important things about the story. Perhaps economy is also why (as far as I know) Tolkien doesn't develop a language for these people, or give them a culture that requires much explanation.

But that doesn't feel like a complete or satisfactory answer to me, so perhaps someone else would like to add more?

Come to think of it though, men *should* be exotic, to Bilbo at least - they and their things are huge compared to him and his dwarf companions. It ought to give his stay at lake Town plenty of exotic colour, even if these aren't the first 'big people' he's met. The idea of boating and living above a lake might seem very strange, and who knows what other bizarre customs they might have. Perhaps that's why the Lake Town section of the chapter is given by the narrator, not describing things from Bilbo's POV - Bilbo's account of the over-sized furniture and the difficulties of having an upstairs bedroom might be entertaining, but perhaps they'd risk bogging down what ought to be a brisk chapter?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jul 24, 1:47pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 24, 2:55pm

Post #18 of 66 (2657 views)
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Lonely Mountains [In reply to] Can't Post

This wikipedia article 'Inselbergs' has a nice gallery of lonely mountains https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inselberg

The very little I know about real-world geology says that these occur when a knob of harder rock is exposed by the erosion of overlying softer stuff. Perhaps that goes with Karen Fonstead's idea (in her Atlas of Middle-earth) that we're in a landscape formed by glaciers. The long lake seems particularly glacial to her, and she suggests the Finger Lakes of New York state as a real-world comparison, if anyone is familiar with those.

Or, I suppose, Erebor could be an extinct volcano, like Mt Fuji. But then I don't think ores are usually fond in such places.

Lastly, of course - magic! Karen Fonstead points out that we could be on what's left of the southern borders of Morgoth's old lands, so maybe the Iron Hills extended west up to the Lonely Mountain, before somebody demolished some of the range as part of the battle to overcome the big M at the end of the 1st Age.. Who knows - it's speculation , but is fun in some moods!

The Lonely Mountain seems to strike Bilbo as odd. It might be just the effect of finally seeing the place where he's supposed to burgle a dragon, but perhaps he's sensing something odd about the place itself:


Quote
Then Bilbo saw a sight: The lands opened wide about him, filled with the waters of the river which broke up and wandered in a hundred winding courses, or halted in marshes and pools dotted with isles on every side; but still a strong water flowed on steadily through the midst. And far away, its dark head in a torn cloud, there loomed the Mountain! Its nearest neighbours to the North-East and the tumbled land that joined it to them could not be seen. All alone it rose and looked across the marshes to the forest. The Lonely Mountain! Bilbo had come far and through many adventures to see it, and now he did not like the look of it in the least.

Hobbit Ch X.


And also - Some nice examples of Tolkien playing English for its sounds and rhythms here:

wandered in a hundred winding courses

its dark head in a torn cloud, there loomed the Mountain!

the tumbled land


All alone it rose and looked...

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 24, 3:28pm

Post #19 of 66 (2649 views)
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New York's Finger Lakes [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, the Finger Lakes are a few hours to the east of me but my spouse and I have visited the region a few times. I can easily imagine Long Lake to have been created by glaciation. We also live near both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario; the Great Lakes are large enough to be comparable to such inland seas as the Sea of Rhûn and Sea of Nurnen. The maps below are not to scale. Lake Ontario is a bit longer than Núrnen; their surface area might be about the same. Lake Superior might be comparable to the Sea of Rhûn.





"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 24, 3:40pm)


sevilodorf
Grey Havens


Jul 24, 4:22pm

Post #20 of 66 (2638 views)
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Thorin's mindset and some thoughts on the Master [In reply to] Can't Post

Has Thorin's ultimate goal changed?

His talk at the beginning was mostly about stealing/retrieving some of the gold. Though the dwarves did sing of reclaiming their hall.

Was this just a front for Bilbo? I doubt it fooled Gandalf much. We don't get Thorin's inner mind so we don't know why -- was he tired of being a King in Exile... was he being subtly manipulated by Gandalf to more toward this expedition (this is a yes, though how much was instigated by Gandalf and how much was Gandalf using the events already in motion are debateable)

Has a month spent moldering in Thranduil's cells given him too much time to think about the injustices of his life and grow more determined to take back the mountain?

Is the Master simply tired of "frauds" showing up and living off the resources of the town while they make great plans to retrieve the gold? (He had never thought the dwarves would actually dare to approach Smaug, but believed they were frauds who would sooner or later be discovered and turned out) How many other frauds have shown up and done this? No one else seems remotely suspicious of them -- is it just crowd reaction to something new/diverting? Any excuse for a holiday is a good one?

Though we know that he eventually shows a greedy side and runs off with gold to meet a bad end... to this point he actually has done anything to make him a bad guy... he's doing what he believes is right for the town. He recognizes he can't fight the people in their belief that these vagabonds are wonderful...so he doesn't arrest them, he sees their wounds are tended and gives them food, clothing and equipment and helps them leave as soon as possible so that the town can get back to work. ..... while the desolation of Smaug remains the dragon itself hasn't been seen in an age or more (whose age? is there anyone alive who actually has seen him?) and to the Master's mind people need to focus on business.

Note to the coordinators-- your questions are sparking deeper thinking but most of it runs parallel to what's been said by others so imagine me sitting nodding like a bobble head to the above comments.

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

(Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)




noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 24, 5:32pm

Post #21 of 66 (2632 views)
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sparking deeper thinking, and frauds [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Note to the coordinators-- your questions are sparking deeper thinking but most of it runs parallel to what's been said by others so imagine me sitting nodding like a bobble head to the above comments.


Thanks for saying so! I appreciate it's not always possible for folks to find something to say, but it's great when they do.

Discussions in this series are attracting a good level of traffic (as shown on the forum home page) but of course that could either be people enjoying the material without choosing to contribute, or a larger number checking in briefly and then going away disappointed. Besides, I personally prefer a 'read-through' (in which I get to read about other peoples' ideas) than a 'read-you' in which there are few contributors, even if there are many lurkers.

Besides, all the Introducer can do is to highlight a few (not all due to length) possible topics, and they will of course pick the ones they've noticed and think interesting. The rest is down to the community.

Speaking of new ideas - it had never occurred to me that the Master might have had prior experience of genuine frauds (if you see what I mean - people who weren't the rightful claimant to the throne of Erebor, but were pretending) but of course that is plausible.

Nor had I stopped to think that Thorin might have had a rethink during his time in solitary - so thanks for both those ideas!

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 24, 5:45pm

Post #22 of 66 (2629 views)
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Some more 'political' questions [In reply to] Can't Post

I shall be busy for the rest of the week, and didn't want folks to run out of things to discuss if I can't attend much!

What factors so you think make people fall so swiftly and uncritically for the idea that Thorin is a harbinger of the Good Old Days? For example, do you see evidence of dissatisfaction with their current situation, or the Master's leadership?


We get a reference for the Master inspiring some new songs:


Quote
Some of the songs were old ones; but some of them were quite new and spoke confidently of the sudden death of the dragon and of cargoes of rich presents coming down the river to Lake-town. These were inspired largely by the Master and they did not particularly please the dwarves


Do you think this the politics of Lake Town as opposed to the Old City of Dale, with Lake Town not getting enough of a mention in the old songs? Or is the Master pressuring Thorin? Or, if not that, what else do you think he is up to? Why do you think these songs 'not particularly please the dwarves'?

(Please remember the prohibition on discussing real-life politics on these boards, if any parallels with recent events happen to occur to you.)

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 24, 5:49pm

Post #23 of 66 (2622 views)
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It's 171 years since Smaug descended on Erebor [In reply to] Can't Post

2770- Smaug descends on Erebor
2941 - 2942 Bilbo’s adventure
(From LOTR Appendix B)

So that disaster would seem approximately as distant as events of 1847

Unless folks in Lake Town live a very long time Smaug has been seen flying around more recently than that - recently enough for it to be a matter of living memory. But, as hanne said, I don't think we get much more of a timeline.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 24, 6:05pm

Post #24 of 66 (2624 views)
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Long Lake [In reply to] Can't Post

It looks like I would have been better off referring to the Great Lakes in my last subject title instead of the Finger Lakes! But speaking of the latter, Long Lake does seem to be about the same length as either Seneca Lake or Cayuga Lake, the two largest of the Finger Lakes. I think, though, that Long Lake is broader and probably deeper.



Larger image here.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 24, 8:52pm

Post #25 of 66 (2611 views)
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Hmmm...I think we just discovered Hanne’s true sock puppet.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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