Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 14 - Fire and Water
First page Previous page 1 2 Next page Last page  View All

noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 19, 10:01am

Post #1 of 32 (1040 views)
Shortcut
***The Hobbit Read-through; Ch 14 - Fire and Water Can't Post

It’s back to me again – thanks to hanne, squire, Roverandom, and Hamfast Gamgee for introducing our recent chapters so well!
As usual, my role as introducer is to start a conversation about this week’s chapter. I suggest some things we might discuss, but everyone is very welcome to raise other points, questions, comments or thoughts.

I think this chapter is mostly about events, rather than ideas, characters or the milieu of Middle-earth. But it is a pivotal point. A first-time reader might be expecting Smaug to be defeated by the story’s obvious heroes, Bilbo or by Thorin, and for that to be the story’s climax. Instead, we have five more chapters to go, and the story changes from what you might call ‘How To Steal A Dragon’s Treasure’ to ‘How To Share a Dragon’s Hoard’ – a problem caused by Smaug’s unexpected death - unexpected to the characters, even if not to readers - and which will lead to the story’s true (or at least second) climax.

We now leave the dwarves and pick up what happened to Smaug, who we last ‘saw’ at the end of ‘Inside Information’. The events of ‘Not at Home’ have involved Bilbo losing track of time, but we’re told that ‘As a matter of fact two nights and a day between had gone by’ [while he and the dwarves were underground]. So we’re going back in time two days, as well as moving geographically.

The mystery of Smaug being ‘Not At Home’ in the last chapter is solved here– he is unexpectedly shot dead while attacking Esgaroth (aka Lake Town). He is shot by Bard, a man who is introduced as a doomsaying character ‘with a grim voice’ and is later revealed to be the heir of the old Royal line of Dale. Bard shoots Smaug through the unarmoured patch of breast that Bilbo discovered earlier – in this he’s assisted by a tip off by the thrush, whose speech he finds he can understand, and by the qualities of his favourite ‘black arrow’. The chapter moves quickly through the recrimination and rebuilding that follow Esgaroth’s great catastrophe and as it ends, news of Smaug’s death has spread widely and several forces are on the move towards Erebor, racing to recover Smaug’s treasure.

Thorin &Co. will remain unaware of these developments for a while longer. Conversely, everyone in Fire and Water assumes that ‘the prophecies have gone rather wrong’, and that there’s a great treasure ‘lying without guard or owner’.

Dragon attack! – some questions

Smaug is ‘foiled’ by the people of Esgaroth having had time to destroy the bridge. I suppose that otherwise he would have crossed it into the town? If so, is it obvious why that would be a better thing for him to do, compared with his devastating attack from the air? What else strikes yo about how the battle is fought?

Is it just poetic justice that Bard kills Smaug with a special heirloom black arrow, which seems to have ‘come from the forges of the true king under the Mountain’? Or is there more to it (for example do you suppose that fate or magic are at work)? Do you have any other thoughts about how Smaug is shot down? How does this compare or contrast with other dragon-slayings?

Back in the week we tackled ‘A Warm Welcome’ we discussed whether Tolkien ought to have taken the opportunity to introduce Bard (as the PJ films do). Now that you actually come to read Bard’s entry into the story, is there anything to add to our earlier discussion on that point? At the start of my intro I wrote that this seemed to me to be a chapter about events, which may seem a little odd when it’s our introduction to Bard. Do you get much of a sense of his character yet, amid all the excitement of the dragon attack? Or will we have to wait and assess him on what we see later? Or, does he need not to have too much characterisation, so as not to upstage Bilbo or Thorin?

Is it reasonable for the people to blame the Master for the calamity?

Why do the people rebuild Lake Town elsewhere – do you think this is about practicality, superstition, both of those, or something else?

Where else (in Tolkien or elsewhere in literature) do we read of sites where a monster fell and that are thereafter barren or abandoned?

I liked the idea of Smaug’s bones being visible to those who dare the ‘shivering waters’, but then I had a fit of ‘fridge logic’. There’s presumably a reasonable fortune to be salvaged by anyone who dares to dive or dredge for the treasures that were once embedded in Smaug’s hide. Why don’t the highly mercantile Lake Town people attempt this? Does ‘Dragon-sickness’ not compel them to get and keep the treasure or at least fight over it?

Is it significant that Gandalf is not in the list of people who find out about Smaug’s death and come hurrying to Erebor?

If ‘The Last Alliance’ was the allied force of elves and Men that marched to Mordor to fight Sauron, what should we call the allied force of elves and Men now marching on Erebor?

I found myself thinking about some of the storytelling choices Tolkien makes in this part of the book (such as where and how to describe Smaug’s death). I’ll put that bunch of questions in a separate subthread.

~~~~~~
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


Aug 19, 10:04am

Post #2 of 32 (963 views)
Shortcut
**Tolkien's Storytelling choices [In reply to] Can't Post

In choosing to split his story into threads as he does here, Tolkien of course gives himself the problem of choosing the best order in which to recount the events. I have heard that Tolkien originally tried a different sequence - maybe owners of ‘The History of the Hobbit’ (or other scholarship) can confirm this and say what the earlier schemes were?

As I see it, the advantage of the published scheme is that it kept up some suspense in ‘Not At Home’ – for all the first-time reader knows, Smaug is lying in ambush, or will return at any moment. If ‘Fire and Water’ immediately followed ‘Inside Information’ then I suppose the effect would be irony rather than suspense – we would know that Smaug is dead, but the dwarves do not and so are afraid of him. More radically, I suppose the story could stay in Lake Town, with Fire and Water following directly after ‘A Warm Welcome’, with ‘On The Doorstep’ to ‘Not At Home’ following after. But I imagine that not working well - while we’d get a frisson in Fire and Water that Bilbo &Co. may well be toast, but perhaps the entry onto Erebor and the scenes with Smaug might not be so good if we already know what becomes of him. Or, there might be many other alternatives - I’d be interested to discuss other proposed chapter orderings and what opportunities and problems they would have posed. Sometimes it’s interesting to think about what would be different if some part of a story were changed, as an exercise in how this particular story works (or how storytelling more generally works).

I notice that it is hard to pin down the calendar date for these - reconstructed timelines vary events (in stark contrast to the precise timelines of LOTR). For example, this site’s ‘Today in Middle-earth’ calendar ( http://www.theonering.net/...th-history-calendar/ ) makes Smaug’s death October 23, whereas Karen Fonsted (in ‘Atlas of Middle-earth’) prefers November 1. Other suggested dates can be readily found online – presumably it’s about the interpretations made in each case. I was going to ask about how people felt about the vagueness about dates in The Hobbit (in contrast to LOTR), but a discussion here – http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=948184#948184 is already up and running and likely to cover those points. I suggest giving that a look to see whether any contributions about dates would be better put there.

If you can remember your first reading (or a time when you did not know how this story went) did it seem a plot twist that Smaug is killed by Bard rather than by Bilbo or Thorin, as might be more the conventional trope? I can’t really remember, myself – I think that back then (as a child) I was still just letting stories unfold, without much anticipation.

Similarly, does anyone remember being surprised that Smaug snuffs it so early? It might seem to give the story a false climax, but I think it works out OK in the end, because Bilbo and Thorin are yet to have their opportunities to be heroic in the ‘How To Share a Dragon’s Hoard’ portion of the tale. Do you think that Smaug’s death at the hands of Bard makes the Battle of the Five Armies essential for satisfying storytelling, as well as following the perfectly logical political and military consequences of Smaug’s death? (For example - how would it be if the story went straight into denouement here, with Thorin realising he’s the luckily become King Under The Mountain, and amicably sending some treasure to help rebuild Esgaroth?) Or, is it a Tolkien Thing to refuse to stop after the usual storytelling climax? Consider LOTR, which could end with the destruction of the Ring to general rejoicing, but instead moves onto a secondary story about the cost of Frodo’s quest to him (and to the Shire in Frodo’s absence).

I notice that I’m thinking of this chapter about being the shift between two parts of the story. I suppose they might be called ‘Acts’ (evoking a performance in which Smaug’s death is the cue for a break for ice-cream). I suppose that the book could also be thought of as having 3 Acts: How To Get ‘To A Lonely Mountain’, ‘How To Steal A Dragon’s Treasure’ and ‘How To Share a Dragon’s Hoard’, if you like. A ‘three act structure’ is an idea that has (I presume) been deduced from studying successful stories, and is now sometimes used as a template for more stories. Is it helpful or useful to try to impose these kinds of structure or divisions on this story, or does it become a Procrustean matter of fitting a story arbitrarily into the form it ‘ought’ to obey?

~~~~~~
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


Aug 19, 1:59pm

Post #3 of 32 (945 views)
Shortcut
Thoughts on Post #1 [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, the story takes a major shift after this as it deals with the consequences of Smaug's demise and the rumors of an unguarded treasure hoard. I'm not sure at what point in the writing of the story that Tolkien first conceived of what would become the Battle of Five Armies, but I seem to recall that it would originally have been a much briefer affair on a smaller scale. Do I remember correctly?

I suppose that if Smaug had been able to cross the bridge and roam through the town, the destruction and loss of life might have been even greater. With the Lake-men having had time to drench the roofs of their homes it took longer for the dragon's flames to have their full effect, allowing the residents more time to flee.

We see more story-book elements at play in this chapter in the form of Bard: The Prince in Exile; a supernatural gift (the understanding of the speech of birds); an heirloom from the past that plays a destined part (the black arrow). For all the possible benefits of an earlier introduction, Bard is used effectively. His personality is immediately established as is his quickness to recognize a threat and act on it. Bard is a man of action with a confidence that makes him a natural leader. That Bard had been able to keep the black arrow for all this time could be seen as the Hand of Fate (or Eru). The artifact was destined for this moment.

"Is it reasonable for the people to blame the Master for the calamity?" Well, the Master of Lake-town did provide comfort and aid to Thorin & Company, and so indirectly contributed to the angering of the dragon. However, more to the point: At Smaug's attack he failed in his leadership role, "turning to his great gilded boat, hoping to row away in the confusion and save himself." That was likely the action that most infuriated the surviving townsfolk.

Yes, the new Lake-town is built farther north. Part of this may well have been superstitious fear of the site of the dragon's death. The corpse of the beast might also have, at least in the short term, fouled the waters in the immediate vicinity, and the new site made for a healthier environment. That might also explain the reluctance of the locals to attempt to dive for the jewels freed from the dragon's breast. Years later, perhaps, some people might have attempted that feat.

By the time of the death of Smaug Gandalf was presumably already in motion, returning North to check on the hobbit and dwarves. He may have learned of the dragon's demise during his journey but If such knowledge sped him on his way, we don't learn of it.

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Aug 19, 2:02pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 19, 3:34pm

Post #4 of 32 (934 views)
Shortcut
Thoughts on Post #2 [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that Tolkien's placement of the chapter "Fire and Water" is for the best, following "Not at Home" and leaving the company (and reader) in suspense for the time being.

Tolkien himself seemed to prefer the date of October 19 for the Durin's Day of 2941, though the subsequent publication of the Shire Calendar in the LotR appendices raises some questions. Given that later sources tell us that the company arrived at Lake-town on September 22 and remained for over two weeks, Durin's Day could not have been much sooner. October 22 seems to be a good candidate for the first day of the last week of autumn (to paraphrase Thorin), though the dwarves might have been reckoning by a different calendar. confusing the issue even more. And I can't say with absolute certainty that Tolkien intended the start of November to represent the beginning of winter. I do think that Karen Wynn Fonstad was a bit late (about a week or so?) with her own estimates for Durin's Day, the death of Smaug, and the events leading up to and including the Battle of Five Armies. The other discussion that is brought up is principally concerned with Gandalf, the White Council and the Necromancer, though I suppose it could eventually touch upon these later events.

My first reading of The Hobbit was too long ago for a clear memory, though I suppose that I thought that Bilbo and the dwarves got off easy with Smaug's death at the hand of Bard. Of course I was reckoning without the knowledge of later events.

I would not have found this to be a satisfying climax to the book. We needed the consequences of Smaug's death and the Battle of Five Armies to give the story more weight. I suspect that Thorin and his nephews needed to die as the price paid for the recapture of the Mountain and for Thorin's mistakes. Not knowing the details of the rules of succession for Durin's Folk, it might be that Dáin Ironfoot would have been next in line for the throne whether or not Fili and Kili lived. It is only our assumption that Thorin's nephews were also his heirs. But I'm getting ahead of the discussion.

I think we can detect a distinct structure to the story of The Hobbit that allows us to break it down more easily. The episodic nature of most of the tale complicates this a little and it doesn't need to be the three acts mentioned. That said, when The Hobbit was serialized as a comic book by Eclipse Comics and later collected into a graphic novel, the serialization did break down into three parts: "part one comprises pages 1 to 44 (up until the riddle-game), part two pages 45 to 88 (up until the rafts of the Lake-men), and part three pages 89 to 133." (Wikipedia) One note of correction to the description: "rafts of the Lake-men" should be "rafts of the Wood-elves".

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


squire
Half-elven


Aug 19, 5:13pm

Post #5 of 32 (924 views)
Shortcut
It's a shame the Tolkien Gateway article did not bother to credit the cover of the re-issue. [In reply to] Can't Post

I am a fond fan of Wenzel's art for The Hobbit comic book version. But for whatever reason, the single-issue cover shown on the right side of the web page is illustrated by Donato Giancola (whose art I also love). To put it mildly, the two artists' styles are radically different. An ignorant Tolkien Gateway (which is not Wikipedia, I don't think) reader might quite wrongly and unfairly conclude that the cover on the right side of the page is Wenzel's work.

Since I have a copy with the Donato cover, I checked and found to my surprise that it is a Del Rey imprint, first published in 2001. The article does not mention a 2001 publication date at all - just the first one-volume "trade paperback" in 1990, and two 'revised' editions from 2006 and 2012. As well, the primary writing credit on the cover is to Chuck Dixon as the article says, but assistance on the writing is credited to Sean Deming, which the article does not mention.



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


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 19, 7:17pm

Post #6 of 32 (918 views)
Shortcut
Next to Last Alliances; Gandalf; diving for treasure [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for leading another chapter, Wiz!

Last Alliance of Elves & Men: I think that one gets a special mention because of scale (it was huge) and its purpose (defeating Sauron aka Ultimate Evil). But in fighting Angmar much later than the Last Alliance, there was at least one alliance between Men & Elves when Gondor came to help Arvedui. And I would speculate that Cirdan and Elrond helped Arnor at times but lacked the real military punch needed to land a killing blow such as when Gondor showed up. So, I think there were continued interracial alliances on smaller scales after the “Last” one.

Gandalf: yes, seems odd he’s not included, except having him show up by surprise at the Elf-Man camp is quite dramatic, plus it plays to the sense of mystery about him as the trickster-wizard, so I’m guessing that’s why.

Diving for treasure: I have the same question about why wouldn’t people salvage treasure from a clearly dead & non-threatening dragon, but my answers are 1) they’re superstitious and/or 2) the treasure is too deep to dive for on one breath, so it’s tantalizingly beyond recovery. Or maybe 3) it makes a great tourist attraction for glass bottom boats.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 19, 7:24pm

Post #7 of 32 (910 views)
Shortcut
Maybe 4 acts? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking that it takes a long time to reach the Lonely Mountain, so maybe:
1. Bilbo is Useless
2. Bilbo Becomes Useful
3. Meet & Kill the Dragon
4. Fight Over the Dragon’s Hoard


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 19, 7:30pm

Post #8 of 32 (910 views)
Shortcut
Who should kill Smaug? [In reply to] Can't Post

I was a kid when I read The Hobbit and I would not have dared tell an adult how to tell their own story. But I was still surprised when a stranger appeared and did the deed. It worked okay—I wasn’t unhappy, just surprised. And I expected that to be the only climax and couldn’t figure out why there were several more chapters to read, suspecting that it would be a long, boring journey home.

The story *could* have wrapped with Smaug’s death, as children’s stories usually do. The hero kills the monster, everything is resolved, and everyone lives happily ever after.

I wonder if Tolkien was influenced by Beowulf and other stories (clearly not children’s lit), where Beowulf has significant life events after killing the 2 monsters. There’s always more story to tell about a person if you’re up for it.

Though it doesn’t always work. I was thinking in particular about the movie “The Green Mile” where the story continued after the climax, and it not only bored me, it bored other people in the theater, a few of whom said out loud, “Don’t they know how to end a movie?”


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 19, 7:44pm

Post #9 of 32 (915 views)
Shortcut
Politics and magic/destiny [In reply to] Can't Post

I was struck on this reading of The Hobbit how unfair it is for people to blame the Master of Laketown for the dragon destruction, which he clearly had nothing to do with and could not have prevented. There is nothing likeable about him, but fair’s fair in my book, and that sentiment was unfair. (Then again, maybe if he’d been a more empathic leader, his popularity would have shielded him from blame.)

Yet it’s a strong human instinct to find someone to blame & punish after a calamity, so that’s what at work here. People were going to blame someone, and there were no Jews or other vulnerable minorities to blame as people did through much of the European history when there were plagues or crop failures (or blame the Christians minority for the great fire of Rome—it always happens to someone), so they blamed their leader. It just happens.

Oh, and in this chapter we find out that Esgaroth was always independent of Dale in the past, so we got an answer to that debate.

Bard, Black Arrow, Smaug: I think the way Bard appeals to the arrow and almost makes an incantation or blessing, readers are intended to think it’s more than just a lucky shot, or it’s a lucky shot with a blessed arrow. I don’t think it’s as magical as trolls turning to stone in the sunrise, or Gandalf killing goblins with a blast.

I think it’s more about a heartfelt appeal, and importantly, an on-the-brink dramatic escalation that Tolkien uses throughout The Hobbit. Think back to the spider fight, when the troupe was almost unable to fight back due to exhaustion, and ta da! The spiders give up and leave. Or the forest fire started by the goblins, and just when Gandalf was going to make a fire bomb suicide, he gets swept up by an eagle.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 20, 1:42pm

Post #10 of 32 (864 views)
Shortcut
The Last - no really The Last - Alliance [In reply to] Can't Post

I suppose that putting 'the last' in the title of anything is asking for trouble (like 'that's the last time I go drinking with you guys') Smile

I agree - I think that it's known as that partly because of the scale and ambition of what it attempted, and also because I think it's part of Tolkien's gloomy world-view: with temporary reverses caused by the return of lost kings, it's all, on the whole getting more mundane (or saving itself up for a glorious beyond-the-grave ending, perhaps).

I can't remember now whether 'The Last Alliance' was a thing before Elrond started talking in Council. If so, perhaps we might accuse him of being a little Noldor-centric. He's describing The Last Alliance as part of The Long Defeat, which I suppose it is for the Noldor and their adventures in Middle-earth. Come to think of it, I wonder if Legolas is quite so gloomy from a wood elf perspective - they're taking ship too, of course, but perhaps they don't go on about 'the old country'....

~~~~~~
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


Aug 20, 6:35pm

Post #11 of 32 (848 views)
Shortcut
A million-to-one chance [In reply to] Can't Post

I've remembered that Sir Terry Pratchett's novel 'Guards,Guards!' has what might well be an affectionate parody of Bard and his Black Arrow.

An archer hopes to use his 'lucky arrow' to shoot a dragon in 'the voonerables'. Given the special nature of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, if it really is a million-to-one chance, it'll probably work. There's just the problem of working out how to make the odds exactly a million to one...

It's a good story.

~~~~~~
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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 20, 8:12pm

Post #12 of 32 (840 views)
Shortcut
Noldor are nice people, but don’t invite them to parties [In reply to] Can't Post

Not with that “downer” attitude they have.

IIRC, Legolas was pretty upbeat in LOTR, and particularly on Caradhras, where they nearly froze to death, he remained light-hearted and breezy. It took the warning from Galadriel that if he ever heard the sound of the Sea, it would make him restless to go West, and he heard it while accompanying Aragorn to Pelargir. (Or he heard seagulls? Oh, well, he heard something sea-related that changed him forever.) But before that, he didn’t have “the long defeat” perspective.

Though Haldir was a bit on the gloomy side as I recall, yet he was recounting to the hobbits how the darkness of the world was encircling Lorien, and the rivers used to defend them but not anymore. And he worried that there would be no mallorns in the West, so he wasn’t so sure that it was a great destination.

Fortunately all of that is confined to LOTR, and it came as a surprise to me after the tra-la-la Elves of The Hobbit. Thranduil may seem rather grim at times, but he doesn’t seem world-weary or like he’s stuck on a one-way road to disappointment.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 20, 8:31pm

Post #13 of 32 (838 views)
Shortcut
Smaug and the bridge [In reply to] Can't Post

As a kid I never understood the importance of destroying the bridge since Smaug easily wiped out Esgaroth via aerial assault, but I’ll conjecture the idea was that if he were able to crawl to the town, he would have eaten people first, then set fire to it and crawled back to shore.

The book does say he didn’t think he could safely land on it without sinking into the water, and that the water’s coldness would douse his fires, but honestly, that seems a little flimsy to me. But I guess dragons are in the eye of the author, and you get to attribute whatever abilities and restrictions to them that you want, so these are all Smaug Rules.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 20, 8:35pm

Post #14 of 32 (839 views)
Shortcut
Fell beasts [In reply to] Can't Post

“Where else (in Tolkien or elsewhere in literature) do we read of sites where a monster fell and that are thereafter barren or abandoned?”

The Witch-king’s fell beast was burned after the battle on the Pelennor, and the ground remained forever barren, contrasted with the lush grass that grew on the grave of Snowmane’s grave. (“Faithful servant yet master’s bane, Lightfoot’s foal, swift Snowmane”—I love that eulogy!)

I can’t think of any others, though. Unless it was the same with Glaurung’s corpse in Turin’s tale?


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 20, 8:42pm

Post #15 of 32 (843 views)
Shortcut
Prophecies gone wrong—does that happen anywhere else in Tolkien? [In reply to] Can't Post

Your statement “Conversely, everyone in Fire and Water assumes that ‘the prophecies have gone rather wrong’, and that there’s a great treasure ‘lying without guard or owner’.” made me think that usually when Tolkien has a prophecy, it comes true.

Witch-king: not by the hand of man will he be killed. Check.

Arvedui: if the Noldor make an unwise choice, he’ll be the last king of the North. Check.

Aragorn’s grandparents: both were on target with their respective foresights.

Gandalf thinking that Frodo may become like a glass filled with clear light for those to see that can. (Or close to that.)

“The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

I’m really struggling to think of any prophecy that didn’t go as planned. Can anyone think of any?


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 21, 6:35am

Post #16 of 32 (817 views)
Shortcut
Prophecies gone wrong - when to decide? [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder whether Tolkien is making a point about premature conclusions. By the end of the book, the prophecy has worked out.

For the moment “The lakes shall shine and burn” is working out, but not as people thought.

~~~~~~
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


Aug 21, 8:42am

Post #17 of 32 (812 views)
Shortcut
Salvage problems [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Diving for treasure: I have the same question about why wouldn’t people salvage treasure from a clearly dead & non-threatening dragon, but my answers are 1) they’re superstitious and/or 2) the treasure is too deep to dive for on one breath, so it’s tantalizingly beyond recovery. Or maybe 3) it makes a great tourist attraction for glass bottom boats.


At the risk of applying far too much realism, I don't suppose the water can be all that deep, if it was possible to drive piles into it as the foundations of the town. Maybe there is a lot of mud into which the treasures rapidly sank, and 'his huge bones could be seen in calm weather' refers to bits of skeleton sticking out of the ooze for a time, before currents cover them up again. That would mean recovering the treasures by dredging among the wreckage of the old town, and I have no idea how practical that would be for the medieval technology that the people have here. Possibly it would be a little like trying to salvage the Tudor Warship the 'Mary Rose', which sank off Portsmouth and whose salvage defeated the Tudors, though it was managed in 1982. Then again, I wonder why entrepreneurial people don't lower a weighted bucket on a rope, pull up some ooze and see if they've snagged any valuables. Doubtless a lot of buckets would snag and have to be abandoned, but it might still be cost-effective. And also doubtless, this is turning into an amusing or boring thing to think about: a sort of fan fiction without writing that has very little to do with The Hobbit....

Of course magical problems or superstitions and taboos about salvage could be the explanation and can be whatever a reader wants to infer. And I'm aware that Tolkien's intent here may well have been poetic rather than wanting to raise salvage difficulties - and with my 'literary' rather than 'realism' hat on I like it. A work on dragon stories in English legends that I summarised earlier ( http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=947999#947999 ) says that there's often a special place said to be where the monster was killed.

~~~~~~
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


Aug 21, 9:19am

Post #18 of 32 (807 views)
Shortcut
Blaming The Master, and a reason for a non-Brand 'Warm Welcome' [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I was struck on this reading of The Hobbit how unfair it is for people to blame the Master of Laketown for the dragon destruction, which he clearly had nothing to do with and could not have prevented. There is nothing likeable about him, but fair’s fair in my book, and that sentiment was unfair. (Then again, maybe if he’d been a more empathic leader, his popularity would have shielded him from blame.)

Yet it’s a strong human instinct to find someone to blame & punish after a calamity, so that’s what at work here. People were going to blame someone, and there were no Jews or other vulnerable minorities to blame as people did through much of the European history when there were plagues or crop failures (or blame the Christians minority for the great fire of Rome—it always happens to someone), so they blamed their leader. It just happens.


I'm in two minds about how much blame The Master deserves. In 'Warm Welcome' we readers find out about his misgivings, but he reasons that the people can't be reasoned with in their current mood. In one sense then, he's failed to lead and is now following. Perhaps it's fair to criticise him for this - he should have spoken up and found out whether it was pointless, and since he didn't he's associated with a policy that he personally thought was risky and foolish. On the other hand I suppose that politicians and other officials are often in that situation - having to deliver something that they don't believe in, but which appears to be the popular will.

I don't recall the Master's 'Warm Welcome' reservations being about provoking a dragon attack - it's only at the very end of the chapter that we hear that 'He had never thought that the dwarves would actually dare toe approach Smaug.' That worry seems to be something he quickly puts aside in being 'not at all sorry to let them go'.

The Master solves his problem now by quickly transferring the blame onto Thorin - the dwarves make a convenient group of outsiders to scapegoat, in any case. I think it's only partly just (at best) since while the dwarves clearly did provoke Smaug, Thorin did not demand help from the Lake Town people (though he did need at least some of it): they were very eager to offer it, thinking of their own potential gains.

Back in the discussion of 'Warm Welcome' we wondered whether Bard could not have shown up in the 'foreboding gloomy things...from floods to poisoned fish' grim-voiced guise. I now see that doing this would have had to have been handled carefully - perhaps readers can figure out for themselves that everyone in 'Warm Welcome' has been carried away of a tide of speculation and promises, overlooking the risk of dragon attack (I found that effective myself). If readers can't do that for themselves, then 'the grim-voiced man' has to be introduced in a way that makes him annoying, ridiculous and ignorable to the Laketowners, without it becoming difficult to morph the grim-voiced boring old Eyeore with his poisoned fish ideas into Bard the Hero. I'm not claiming that Tolkien couldn't include Bard earlier because this problem was beyond his writing skill ( ! ) ; it's just interesting to think about the knock-on effects of proposed changes to a story.

~~~~~~
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


Darkstone
Immortal


Aug 21, 9:27am

Post #19 of 32 (811 views)
Shortcut
Cofferdam solutiion [In reply to] Can't Post

Cofferdams have been used since 539 BC to hold back water in rivers, lakes, harbors, etc. so people could work on the bottom. They could be made out of earth or timber pilings. Ancient Romans sometimes used concrete. Just build a cofferdam around a body of water and either bail or pump the area dry.

******************************************
"Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"
"Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
"Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
"But no living man am I! I am Eowyn, daughter of Theodwyn!"
"Er, really? My mother's name was Theodwyn, too!"
"No way!"
"Way!"
"Wow! Let's stop fighting and be best friends!"
"Cool!!"

-Zack Snyder's The Return of the King


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 21, 11:37am

Post #20 of 32 (795 views)
Shortcut
Dam good idea...and... also, water quality issues [In reply to] Can't Post

...and I suppose that a lot of the technology would be familiar to Dain and his folk from their mining operations. Besides, those dwarves come to major in civil engineering (according to Gloin's account to Frodo) and they clearly have an interest in any treasure as it would presumably be from the Erebor hoard.

After extracting the treasure, fill the dammed area with rammed rubble (are Erebor's mines active again under Dain's rule and producing spoil that needs to be put somewhere?) and then you can build on them in stone. Come to think of it, I could do with a new no-Wizard's tower...

Speaking about civil engineering, I wonder what effect many tonnes of rotting dragon had on the quality of the Laketown water supply? Perhaps the water became a bit flavoursome and perfumed even for a medieval palate, and this was one of the 'realistic' considerations in favour of moving the town North? That would be nearer the mouth of the Running River, I think, giving the new town a supply either or river water or lake water that is up-current of Smaug's remains (The lake is fed by two rivers and emptied across a waterfall, which ought to cause a current across the lake.) Meanwhile, maybe Esgaroth fish and turtles became widely known for their unique flavour (and the possibility of finding the odd jewel when you gutted one)...

Good to 'see' you Darkstone!

~~~~~~
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


sador
Half-elven


Aug 21, 12:11pm

Post #21 of 32 (806 views)
Shortcut
Military matters and similar stuff [In reply to] Can't Post

Smaug is ‘foiled’ by the people of Esgaroth having had time to destroy the bridge. I suppose that otherwise he would have crossed it into the town?
Yes.


If so, is it obvious why that would be a better thing for him to do, compared with his devastating attack from the air?
Had he crossed on foot, he could far easier found tender, uncharred people to eat - preferably maidens, according to the first chapter. And there will be less of an opportunity for some (like the Master) escaping with part of the city's treasure.
Also, that way he would avoid exposing his underbelly.


What else strikes you about how the battle is fought?
The description is the most modern in the book (although I doubt how much I had noticed it before reading Shippey; perhaps I did).
This accounts for the tactics used too, I think.



Is it just poetic justice that Bard kills Smaug with a special heirloom black arrow, which seems to have ‘come from the forges of the true king under the Mountain’? Or is there more to it (for example do you suppose that fate or magic are at work)?
It surely has 'more' to it, knowing Tolkien.
But it also means that had the dwarves not been caught at unawares, they might have well beaten Smaug off.


Do you have any other thoughts about how Smaug is shot down?
I like it.


How does this compare or contrast with other dragon-slayings?
Most dargon-slayings I've read involve a sword.
However, this being "the end of Smaug and Esgaroth" - the crashing of the falling dragon on the city to its ruin, is like Ancalagon the Black falling of Thangorodrim.


At the start of my intro I wrote that this seemed to me to be a chapter about events, which may seem a little odd when it’s our introduction to Bard. Do you get much of a sense of his character yet, amid all the excitement of the dragon attack?
He always prophecies bad things - anything from floods to poisoned fish.
Seems to be a perpetual curmudgeon, or a MSM analyst.


Or will we have to wait and assess him on what we see later? Or, does he need not to have too much characterisation, so as not to upstage Bilbo or Thorin?
Well, he will get it.


Is it reasonable for the people to blame the Master for the calamity?
Not unless they blame themselves for supporting Thorin. Which the Master was quite wary of, in the first place.


Why do the people rebuild Lake Town elsewhere – do you think this is about practicality, superstition, both of those, or something else?
I suppose nobody want to live were a dragon fell. You may call it superstition if you want to.



Where else (in Tolkien or elsewhere in literature) do we read of sites where a monster fell and that are thereafter barren or abandoned?
The Pelennor Fields.


There’s presumably a reasonable fortune to be salvaged by anyone who dares to dive or dredge for the treasures that were once embedded in Smaug’s hide. Why don’t the highly mercantile Lake Town people attempt this?
Like Gollum tried to search the Dead Marshes?


Does ‘Dragon-sickness’ not compel them to get and keep the treasure or at least fight over it?
I suspect that had Lake Town been a slave-based economy, they would have sent somebody.
But as free people - nobody willingly volunteered. Would you?


Is it significant that Gandalf is not in the list of people who find out about Smaug’s death and come hurrying to Erebor?
I think not. We already know that Gandalf was hurrying to find Thorin and co. - so the news of Smaug's demise would only confirm to him that they have reached the Mountain.



If ‘The Last Alliance’ was the allied force of elves and Men that marched to Mordor to fight Sauron, what should we call the allied force of elves and Men now marching on Erebor?
Well, I guess local allainces for mutual profit were not that rare.
The true question is why Cirdan and Glorfindel fighting with Earnur to overthrow Angmar did not count - it was a far better candidate for the title!



Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 21, 1:36pm

Post #22 of 32 (797 views)
Shortcut
The Master's Escape [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
If so, is it obvious why that would be a better thing for him to do, compared with his devastating attack from the air?
Had he crossed on foot, he could far easier found tender, uncharred people to eat - preferably maidens, according to the first chapter. And there will be less of an opportunity for some (like the Master) escaping with part of the city's treasure.


To be completely fair, the Master here seems more concerned with saving his own neck than running off with treasure--that comes later. Granted, he was fleeing in his "great gilded boat' and not some lesser craft that might draw less attention. I can see why Peter Jackson took that image and combined it with the Master's later theft of treasure meant for the town. I really wish he had survived the ruination of Esgaroth in the films.

As for dragon-sickness, the citizens of Lake-town, on the whole, weren't directly exposed to Smaug's treasure (at least not until much later when King Bard contributed to the rebuilding of the town) and didn't have the opportunity to succumb to dragon-sickness.

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Aug 21, 1:40pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 21, 2:21pm

Post #23 of 32 (791 views)
Shortcut
Prophecies gone wrong II - how Tolkien uses them [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
made me think that usually when Tolkien has a prophecy, it comes true.

Witch-king: not by the hand of man will he be killed. Check.

Arvedui: if the Noldor make an unwise choice, he’ll be the last king of the North. Check.

Aragorn’s grandparents: both were on target with their respective foresights.

Gandalf thinking that Frodo may become like a glass filled with clear light for those to see that can. (Or close to that.)

“The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

I’m really struggling to think of any prophecy that didn’t go as planned. Can anyone think of any?


This made me think about how Tolkien uses prophecies in his story. I think one frequent way is to reveal the relevant prophecy just before it takes effect. For example we're told about the prophetic background to Aragorn choosing the Paths of the Dead - Aragorn knows a prophecy, Theoden knows something like another one - but we only get that stuff once the Paths of the Dead have come up in the plot. Similarly , we hear the 'the hands of the King are the hands of a healer' only when Aragorn is all set to be that King, and we already know about his healing skills. The effect (on me at least) is a sort of assurance that what is happening is something that is 'meant' to happen and is important, rather than just a bunch of random stuff. Similarly we only hear 'no man may kill me' (or whatever the exact words) are from the WK when he's already confronting Dernhelm. That one, BTW could be said to be a prophecy that goes rather wrong *from the WK's point of view*, since he had overlooked 'man' having a sense meaning gender as well as race.

The other thing I remember Tolkien doing is barely noticeable at the time bits of foresight - Elrond telling Boromir that he should be slow to wind his horn, or Aragorn telling Gandalf that going to Moria will contain a personal danger for him; or Sam foreseeing some of 'The Choices Of Master Samwise' in Galadriel's mirror. These are made so little of that they may not register until one thinks back (or re-reads the book).

It strikes me that either of those ways of using prophecies has little effect on the plot, or only briefly affects what characters or readers expect to happen. Here in The Hobbit, things are different - the expectation that Thorin will (somehow) make things great again is plot-driving: it drives Lake Town to help Thorin, which in turn sets a lot of plot dominoes tumbling. I'm thinking that such plot-driving prophecies have to be handled differently: It would of course be boring if the prophecy gave readers a clear precis of the rest of the plot, so a prophecy used in this way almost has to include some sort of irony or trick meaning, or come true but omit a lot of interesting details.

Another alternative trope is that the plot-driving prophecy only comes true because someone tries to avert it. The error of turning aside to try and prevent foretold futures is what Galadriel warns Sam about over her mirror. Presumably that's so he doesn't try to rush back to the Shire to avert the trouble he's seen there, thereby causing Frodo to fail in his quest and the Shire to fall to Sauron anyway. That one - which OK is technically a vision and not a prophecy- does double duty, since we later realise that Sam may have been seeing actual real-time events in the Shire, rather than viewing a possible future (as I at least supposed he was).

~~~~~~
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


sador
Half-elven


Aug 21, 3:51pm

Post #24 of 32 (779 views)
Shortcut
Was Elrond being foresighted? [In reply to] Can't Post

He seems to be simpky admonishing Boromir.

Also, Boromir did blow his horn another time - as a challange to the Balrog.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 21, 4:11pm

Post #25 of 32 (776 views)
Shortcut
Maybe [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Slow should you be to wind that horn again, Boromir,' said Elrond, 'until you stand once more on the borders of your land, and dire need is on you.

Boromir does come to the borders of his land and blow his horn when dire need is upon him. So Elrond's words seem to me to foretell Boromir's fate. But perhaps it is only Elrond using an odd turn of phrase.

~~~~~~
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

First page Previous page 1 2 Next page Last page  View All
 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.