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***The Hobbit read-through -The Gathering of the Clouds: 3 of 5: Bard negotiates
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noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 28, 11:02am

Post #1 of 36 (1087 views)
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***The Hobbit read-through -The Gathering of the Clouds: 3 of 5: Bard negotiates Can't Post

In this post I wanted to look carefully at what Bard says and does in the negotiations, and what we can deduce about his motives and intentions. That comes to a lot to think about and discuss, so I plan to look at Bard’s side of things first, then Thorin’s side in a post that I'm intending to put up on Thursday..

Bard is allowed to make his case clearly – I think this is because Tolkien needs us to side with him, and see Thorin as sufficiently in the wrong that Bilbo's efforts next chapter are diplomacy rather than treachery. (but the idea that Tolkien is biasing us towards Bard's POV is certainly a topic for debate if anyone disagrees).

I’ve done a detailed analysis this week, and enjoyed it greatly – but I’m aware that what I've written might be far too much for some folks to read. So, to try and serve everyone, I’ve summarise my argument here, presented some questions, and then posted my full analysis (and more questions) in a reply to this post. I’ll do the same for Thorin’s side of the argument. [It would, BTW be interesting to know whether this new format (a short form post and then a long form version) is helpful to anyone...]



Bard advances three points:

1. Acknowledgement (presumably in terms of treasure) of himself as the dragon slayer, without whom the hoard would not be up for division.

2. Return of the part of the hoard that was stolen by Smaug from Dale, Bard claiming rights to this as the heir to the throne of Dale.

3. Compensation for the damage Smaug did to Esgaroth, in an attack the town suffered because the townsfolk had helped Thorin.

Furthermore, I think we can infer that Bard is about to claim the throne of Dale, if he hasn’t already. His own side will be watching him carefully to see whether he’s the right man to support. Interestingly, he is negotiating from under the banner of the Elvenking as well as the banner of Esgaroth. The future politics of the region are, I feel, being established, with Bard trying to present himself as Thorin’s equal – king talking to king. Meanwhile, it’s unclear what the Elvenking expects to get from his prominent involvement in the situation.

Some questions for this short-form post (please see the longer detailed version for many more):

Are Bard’s demands, on the face of them, really ‘fair words and true’ as someone (the narrator? Bilbo?) calls them?

Is there a conflict of interest between Bard as negotiator for Esgaroth, Bard as a hero presenting himself for reward, and Bard as the soon-to-be King of Dale negotiating with his neighbouring monarch?

Does Bard’s need to demonstrate his fitness as Candidate King of Dale result in him insulting Thorin (deliberately or through misjudgement)?

What are the elves getting in return for their help?

When the embassy returns the second time and demands a twelfth of the hoard to be given to Bard who will then deal with everything else, is this a softening, a hardening or a restatement of their first position? Does it also mark a change in Bard's role in these negotiations?

Please note that the next instalment will run though the chapter again from Thorin’s point of view: that explains why I don’t ask about Thorin’ responses here.Meanwhile, there'm more argument, thought and questions from me in the 'long-form' versio of this that I'll post as a subthread for those of us who enjoy detail.

~~~~~~
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 28, 11:11am

Post #2 of 36 (1027 views)
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**Bard negotiates - analysed in detail, with lots more questions! [In reply to] Can't Post

So far, Bard has arrived with an army, manoeuvred it about (either as a show of strength or for practical reasons, or both). A scouting party has appraised Thorin's fortifications, but chosen not to answer Thorin's challenge.

Let’s now pick up as the allied ambassadors approach Erebor.

In contrast to the scouting party that was hailed by Thorin and left making no answer, the allied embassy is a formal affair – escorted by a company of spearmen and riding forward under the blue banner of Lake Town and (Interestingly – see later) the green banner of the Elvenking. All the optics say that this is an important affair. The spokesman is Bard.

After expressing surprise that Thorin has thought to ‘fence himself like a robber in his hold’ and saying that he ‘rejoices’ that Thorin and Co are still alive, Bard makes his negotiating points as follows:


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“I am Bard, and by my hand was the dragon slain and your treasure delivered. Is that not a matter that concerns you? Moreover I am by right descent the heir of Girion of Dale, and in your hoard is mingled much of the wealth of his halls and towns, which of old Smaug stole. Is not that a matter of which we may speak? Further in his last battle Smaug destroyed the dwellings of the men of Esgaroth, and I am yet the servant of their Master. I would speak for him and ask whether you have no thought for the sorrow and misery of his people. They aided you in your distress, and in recompense you have thus far brought ruin only, though doubtless undesigned.



I think there is a lot of interest in this speech.

Questions:
In Bard’s preamble, what does he hope to gain by suggesting that he has come in good faith but that Thorin is acting ‘like a robber’?

What is Bard trying to establish by identifying himself as the dragon-slayer: suggesting that Thorin is only alive and in possession of the hoard because of Brand? That he (Brand) deserves a reward? Identifying his (Brand’s) achievements so that his counterparty understands he is a person of worth?

Why does Brand next claim descent from the heir of Girion? Clearly he does it to raise the point that some of the hoard was stolen from Dale, but what else? Specifically, while he says ‘I am yet the servant of their Master’ (my italics), how close is he coming to proclaiming himself King of Dale? Is that ‘yet’ significant?

By advancing his own royal credentials and the case for Dale (which, the Master was at pains to remind us last chapter has always been politically distinct from Esgaroth), is Bard in the process of betraying the Master (who failed to realise that he was having his interests negotiated by his soon-to-be royal neighbour)? Or have they sorted all that out before the campaign began? Can he be both servant and king?

In Fire and Water, Bard thought of ‘the fabled treasure of the Mountain lying without guard or owner’. What has happened to the idea that the treasure was ‘ownerless’, now that Bard is claiming ownership of some of it (as the rightful heir of the king from whom it was stolen)?

Finally, Bard argues that the people of Lake Town should be offered compensation for the dragon attack – but I think Thorin’s answer to this point is very insightful for understanding what Thorin is thinking, and so I want to save the rights and wrongs of it until next time, when we look at things from Thorin’s point of view.

Bard’s speech is followed by a judgement on it:


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Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them.


Whose opinion is this? Is it The Narrator (being a bit more subtle now that his earlier style of ‘ I suppose you are thinking that this was entirely reasonable…’)? Or is it Bilbo?

Saruman also speaks many ‘fair words’ – are we supposed to agree with whoever is appraising Bard’s speech (which is how it looks at first), or should we look deeper?

How should we interpret ‘proudly and grimly’ – is that praise or criticism? Was the speech impressive and solemn, or was it pompous and annoying (and is it annoying that Bard is called ‘grim’ more than any other adjective)?

--
Earlier I remarked that it was ‘interesting’ that the embassy advanced under two banners, that or Esgaroth and that of the Elvenking. Throrin notices, and objects to the presence of the Elvenking, and Bard says ‘the Elevenking is my friend’. This makes me wonder:

What are the elves doing there, and so very conspicuously part of the army – are they mercenaries? Do they have a side deal with Bard (as an individual? As King Of Dale?) or with the Master? What might be the terms – share of the treasure? Revised trading agreements? What legitimate interest, if any does the Elvenking have in Smaug’s hoard?
I think I’ve read that real-life empires sometimes begin or expand almost by accident – they involve themselves in the affairs of a neighbour whose politics have become chaotic and then their involvement is in itself further destabilising, until it ‘makes sense’ to sort out the problems by annexation – is this a risk the Elvenking is running?

Is it significant that Brand says ‘the Elevenking is my friend’ (not, for example, ‘‘the Elevenking is a friend of Esgaroth’)?

Is it a deliberate provocation of Thorin to flaunt before him the banner of his recent captor? If not, what do the allies hope to achieve by it, or have they made a tactless or thoughtless diplomatic error?
--
When the embassy returns, it makes demands:


Quote
“In the name of Esgaroth and the Forest,” one cried, “we speak unto Thorin Thrain’s son Oakenshield, calling himself the King under the Mountain, and we bid him consider well the claims that have been urged, or be declared our foe. At the least he shall deliver one twelfth portion of the treasure unto Bard, as the dragon-slayer, and as the heir of Girion. From that portion Bard will himself contribute to the aid of Esgaroth; but if Thorin would have the friendship and honour of the lands about, as his sires had of old, then he will give also somewhat of his own for the comfort of the men of the Lake.


Is ‘…calling himself King Under the Mountain’ a deliberate insult? If not, what is it intended to achieve?

If the embassy is really in the name of ‘Esgaroth and the Forest’, why does only Bard get any loot, to distribute as he sees fit, it seems? To what extent is this politics, boosting Bard’s status among his folk?

Has the embassy withdrawn its demand for restitution of the loot from Dale and of compensation for Esgaroth, or just rolled that into the first of their original three demands – recognition of Bard as dragon-slayer?

On what basis have the allies decided to claim one-twelfth of the treasure for Bard?

What is the intent behind reminding Thorin of the regard in which his ‘sires of old’ were held and ‘suggesting’ that he contributes to the relief effort? Is this an opening for him to name his terms or make a grand gesture, or is it an insulting suggestion that he’s not on a par with his ancestors?

On the whole, have the allies made concessions to Thorin, escalated their claims, or just shuffled their demands?
Does the embassy expect its demands will be met, that Thorin will continue to negotiate, or are they just going through the motions now?

Do we think that Gandalf has arrived in the allied camp yet? If so when in the chapter do we think that happened? If Gandalf is there is he trying to advise or arbitrate and being ignored, or do you see any of Gandalf’s counsel in Bard’s proposals?

~~~~~~
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 28, 12:58pm

Post #3 of 36 (1018 views)
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LOL! This was my very first thought. [In reply to] Can't Post


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(but the idea that Tolkien is biasing us towards Bard's POV is certainly a topic for debate if anyone disagrees).

I think he is biasing us, but he's an author, not a reporter, so I think he's within his rights.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 28, 1:56pm

Post #4 of 36 (1022 views)
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Holy negotiations, Batman! Wiz just deconstructed Tolkien again. [In reply to] Can't Post

What a masterful post, even for you, Wiz. It recollects your wonderful deconstruction of the Council of Elrond, which I still marvel at. (And my summary would have been: "people talk a lot, and Frodo is still stuck with the Ring.")Smile

Smaller questions are easier to answer first: so yes, it does annoy me that Tolkien uses "grim" so much with Bard, just as he will with Aragorn, and I'd buy him a thesaurus for Christmas if I thought it would do any good.

Bard calling Thorin a "robber": major diplomatic gaffe that insults Thorin's pride and undermines the whole negotiation from the outset. Negotiations are built on mutual trust, and even the slightest insult can derail a deal that obviously benefits both sides. (Learned that in my Negotiations class, though I'm still bad at it myself.) I think Bard is unpolished (= grim) and a newbie at the negotiation game.


Quote

What is Bard trying to establish by identifying himself as the dragon-slayer: suggesting that Thorin is only alive and in possession of the hoard because of Brand? That he (Brand) deserves a reward? Identifying his (Brand’s) achievements so that his counterparty understands he is a person of worth?

>>> My reaction to this aspect hasn't changed in 40 years. Maybe I'm too steeped in the conventions of fantasy, but whoever kills the dragon gets a reward. Period. This shouldn't even be up for negotiation and should only require Bard to identify himself as the worthy savior.


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Why does Brand next claim descent from the heir of Girion? Clearly he does it to raise the point that some of the hoard was stolen from Dale, but what else? Specifically, while he says ‘I am yet the servant of their Master’ (my italics), how close is he coming to proclaiming himself King of Dale? Is that ‘yet’ significant?

>>> You certainly unraveled a lot of threads woven into this speech. I really like the "yet" part. But anyway: I think he's partly helping educate readers, who aren't clear on what Dale is or was (and after all, it just means "valley" in the literal sense, right?), and he's also letting Thorin know that:
  1. the royal line still exists (no doubt a surprise)
  2. Dale will soon be re-established on Thorin's doorstep, so get used to that
  3. Dale and Erebor used to be friends, so let's restart that friendship on the right foot
  4. since Dwarves don't farm, they need Men nearby to buy food from (or Thorin can eat his own gold)
  5. Thorin is sitting on Dale's loot and has a moral obligation to return it
  6. Aside from Thorin, Bard still has to establish his authority among Men and Elves, so this speech is meant for all ears.
I'm under the assumption that Bard has permission to speak on behalf of the Master of Esgaroth and no treachery is involved. That just isn't Bard-like.


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In Fire and Water, Bard thought of ‘the fabled treasure of the Mountain lying without guard or owner’.

>>> I think "owner" here means "someone who possesses it," and with the snails gone, there's no one left at Erebor to possess it. But legal ownership is entirely different.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 28, 2:12pm

Post #5 of 36 (1020 views)
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Responses to the Introduction [In reply to] Can't Post

"Are Bard’s demands, on the face of them, really ‘fair words and true’ as someone (the narrator? Bilbo?) calls them?"

This wording seems to be attributable to the Narrator, though it may be based on BIlbo's own reactions; it's hard to be certain. Bard's demands do seem reasonable within the heroic tradition. The dragon-slayer is due some reward for his feat. His other claims have to do with both property rights and with justice--though Bards claim of descent from Girion of Dale is here based on his word alone with no corroboration as far as Thorin may be concerned.

"Is there a conflict of interest between Bard as negotiator for Esgaroth, Bard as a hero presenting himself for reward, and Bard as the soon-to-be King of Dale negotiating with his neighbouring monarch?"

Conflict of interest? What are we, lawyers? Wink Well, Bard has not yet claimed the throne of Dale, though he has stated his right to it, so perhaps we can set that aside for now. The Master of Lake-town has been content to allow Bard to act as his agent (though we might argue that he has had little choice in the matter), so he does seem to be the logical spokesman for the Lake-men.

"Does Bard’s need to demonstrate his fitness as Candidate King of Dale result in him insulting Thorin (deliberately or through misjudgement)?"

I do not believe that there was any deliberate attempt here to anger or insult Thorin. I think this is just Bard's naturally blunt manner of speech. The future king is not yet skilled in the arts of diplomacy or subtle negotiation.

"What are the elves getting in return for their help?"

The Elvenking's claim has always been a bit dicey. He has been a friend to Esgaroth and the Wood-elves deserve some reward and compensation for coming to the aid of the Lake-folk. However, the Woodland King has no other firm claim on the treasure other than he wants some of it. Peter Jackson saw the problem here and gave Thranduil a stronger motivation for marching on Erebor by placing gems belonging to him within the Mountain. Jackson then established a connection between the White Gems of Lasgalen and Thranduil's lost queen. In the book we do not even know whether the Queen of the Woodland Realm is deceased, only that she is unaccounted for.

"When the embassy returns the second time and demands a twelfth of the hoard to be given to Bard who will then deal with everything else, is this a softening, a hardening or a restatement of their first position? Does it also mark a change in Bard's role in these negotiations?"

It is a softening of the original position in the sense that this does not require Thorin to directly hand over anything to the Elves. It is Bard's first serious attempt at diplomacy and a more reasonable Thorin, not under the influence of dragon-sickness, might have been responsive to it. On the other hand, Dwarves have long memories where both friends and enemies are concerned and are known for holding grudges.

A preliminary response to the follow-up post: Brand? Who is this 'Brand' fellow? Obviously you meant 'Bard' and not his grandson. I only mention this now so it doesn't need to be referenced in my own follow-up post(s).

"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 28, 2:23pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 28, 2:16pm

Post #6 of 36 (1010 views)
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If Dale breaks free from Esgaroth, is that Dexit? [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken

>>> Tolkien, the Narrator, and Bilbo all think this. (I'm sure Bard does too.) And if they are rough in spots, I think that while Tolkien is biasing us, he doesn't want to be too obvious about it. But just fast forward to Dain after BOFA, and we'll see that the proposal was fair and true. (A curse on the stiff necks of Dwarves!)


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Saruman also speaks many ‘fair words’ – are we supposed to agree with whoever is appraising Bard’s speech (which is how it looks at first), or should we look deeper?
>>> Bravo! I re-read Saruman's words in Isengard after he lost at Helm's Deep, and there's a certain mellifluous ring in both his speech and Bard's. (Maybe he was freelance speech writing at the time. That's why you're not supposed to get to curious about what Wizards are up to.)


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Earlier I remarked that it was ‘interesting’ that the embassy advanced under two banners, that or Esgaroth and that of the Elvenking.

>>> You're not bringing up Elves, are you? Wink OK, look, they're not welcome, it's that simple. And what right do they have to the treasure? Did Smaug rob them and include their treasures in his loot? No. Did Smaug cause them any damage? Besides some burned barrels, no. Did they help kill Smaug? Another no. So the Elven king has greedily decided that he has a right to a Dwarf-Man treasure. Where's the sense in that? But might makes right, and he has the biggest army, so he gets a say in things. Look, I'm an American, and I know we stick our nose in where it doesn't belong just because we have a big economy and big military. Doesn't make it right, but Tolkien is accurately reflecting power politics. And Dale/Esgaroth really need the Elves' help, so they can't exclude them, even if that does irk Thorin, who was their captive. Yet the Elves' presence seems to doom the negotiation from the start, even if they let Men do all the talking.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 28, 2:31pm

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More questions than answers at this point [In reply to] Can't Post



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Is ‘…calling himself King Under the Mountain’ a deliberate insult? If not, what is it intended to achieve?

>>> I don't think it's an insult per se as much as a reminder that his kingdom consists of 13 dwarves and 1 loosely affiliated hobbit whereas there is a bona fide army on his doorstep. Well, Thorin can count, but sometimes you have to point out the obvious to people.



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If the embassy is really in the name of ‘Esgaroth and the Forest’, why does only Bard get any loot, to distribute as he sees fit, it seems? To what extent is this politics, boosting Bard’s status among his folk?

>>> Step 1 in Bard making concessions--he says the dirty Elves won't get any loot, and won't that make Thorin happier? But why he settles on 1/12th is beyond me. If you're keeping score, Thorin is really bad at making counteroffers, so Bard wins this round.


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What is the intent behind reminding Thorin of the regard in which his ‘sires of old’ were held and ‘suggesting’ that he contributes to the relief effort? Is this an opening for him to name his terms or make a grand gesture, or is it an insulting suggestion that he’s not on a par with his ancestors?

>>> I think Bard is appealing to the Thorin's sense of the big picture, and it's worth noting that if all the words fall on flat ears among the Dwarves, they convince Bilbo that Bard has the moral high ground. So the negotiations have a dual purpose of showing Thorin's intractability (and his followers' loyalty to him in spite of it), and Bilbo's ability to go rogue on his side in hopes of helping both sides come to an agreement without anyone dying.


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If Gandalf is there is he trying to advise or arbitrate and being ignored, or do you see any of Gandalf’s counsel in Bard’s proposals?

>>> I remain murky on this point. LOTR Gandalf would clearly be involved in all talks at the highest level, but the way he just appears out of a tent after Bilbo has spoken to Bard and Thranduil makes him seem like a camp follower, and it's not clear how welcome he is or how he earns his keep.

But let's not forget how speedily Gandalf has arrived at Erebor. He must have had safe passage from the Elves to use their Mirkwood path and to either go down the river on their boats to Esgaroth or march with them on the paths where one could get lost. So maybe he's held in high esteem.

My own question is: why doesn't Gandalf himself appear at the Front Gate and try to reason with Thorin???


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 28, 3:42pm

Post #8 of 36 (995 views)
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'recollects..The Council of Elrond' [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, firstly, thanks for your appreciation! Like The Council Of Elrond Discussion* I became intrigued by how much more I there was to think about than first met the eye. Of course, in that Council of Elrond discussion, I then learned a whole lot more - perhaps this week will be just as interesting.

I wish I'd spotted writing 'Brand' when I meant 'Bard' - I find it quite easy to 'trs' there. Luckily O-s was a model of tact in pointing it out, for which I thank him!

This chapter is quite a bit like The Council of Elrond, I think. In Council, Tolkien writes a meeting that meanders all around its agenda, with tangents and interruptions that surely seem very authentic to anyone who has had to spend much time in inefficiently-chaired meetings. And yet, Tolkien gets a lot done, not only getting the obvious business of the Council concluded, but introducing a lot of places and characters, and setting up Boromir's not entirely comfortable relationship with the rest of the Fellowship.

Similarly in this chapter we have what reads like an authentic debate, with speakers doing entirely realistic amounts of rubbishing or failing to answer each others’ points, making accidental or deliberate insults, and suffering misunderstandings. And yet, the whole thing carries me as a reader forward rather than becoming a tedious muddle of arguments. Moreover, ‘How should the dragon’s treasure be shared’ is a complex problem, and Tolkien gives it to us through two negotiators who sound different but who both sound authentic.


--
*Anyone wanting to refer to the last read-through of The Council Of Elrond will find my summing up here http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=850066#850066 , and that contains links to the earlier posts.

~~~~~~
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 28, 3:45pm

Post #9 of 36 (993 views)
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All reports of elves being involved are Fae News// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
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 28, 4:22pm

Post #10 of 36 (992 views)
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eating Gold [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
[Bard's] also letting Thorin know that...since Dwarves don't farm, they need Men nearby to buy food from (or Thorin can eat his own gold)


That's a good catch, which went over my head - I'd got that the retreating embassy's shot about eating gold was a hint about time being on their side in a siege (they expect to be able to starve Thorin back to the negotiating table). But it also works as a reminder of how future trade relationships are going to work.

~~~~~~
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 28, 4:56pm

Post #11 of 36 (992 views)
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Getting into the Nitty-gritty. [In reply to] Can't Post

In Bard’s preamble, what does he hope to gain by suggesting that he has come in good faith but that Thorin is acting ‘like a robber’?

Maybe Bard is implying that Thorin's behaviour is unreasonable in that the company and the Lake-men were so recently friends. Of course that it wholly ignoring the presence of the Wood-elves. And Bard would be unaware of the news reports of the ravens that informed Thorin that the company is being blamed for bringing the dragon's wrath upon Lake-town.

Bard establishing himself as 'dragon-slayer' is pretty straightforward. Clearly he deserves some reward for his accomplishment, especially since Smaug would certainly have returned to deal with the company if he had still lived.

By next stating his lineage, Bard further establishes his bona fides, his qualifications for treating with Thorin: Dragon-slayer; heir of Girion of Dale; envoy of the Master of Esgaroth. At the same time he lays the foundation for his claims upon the treasure. Bard is seemingly also considering the restoration of Dale and his own role in that endeavor, though he is keeping those thoughts to himself.

By advancing his own royal credentials and the case for Dale (which, the Master was at pains to remind us last chapter has always been politically distinct from Esgaroth), is Bard in the process of betraying the Master (who failed to realise that he was having his interests negotiated by his soon-to-be royal neighbour)? Or have they sorted all that out before the campaign began? Can he be both servant and king?

I see no betrayal here. Bard is considering his own future, but still bargaining in good faith on behalf of the people of Esgaroth. In fact, in that previous chapter Bard states to the Master outright: "I serve you still -- though after a while I may think again of your words and go North with any that will follow me." The Master might not like it, but he cannot claim that Bard has been false with him.

Bard thought the treasure 'ownerless' in the sense that he assumed the company of Thorin was deceased and so there was no one occupying the Mountain who could lay claim to it. First come, first served. I agree that we can save discussion of compensation to the folk of Esgaroth in their misery for when we debate Thorin's reply to that claim.

Bard’s speech is followed by a judgement on it:

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Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them.

Whose opinion is this? Is it The Narrator (being a bit more subtle now that his earlier style of ‘ I suppose you are thinking that this was entirely reasonable…’)? Or is it Bilbo?


This seems to be Bilbo's impression of Bard's speech, though the Narrator agrees and backs up the hobbit's opinion.

Saruman also speaks many ‘fair words’ – are we supposed to agree with whoever is appraising Bard’s speech (which is how it looks at first), or should we look deeper?

I would say that Bard is a much less complicated fellow than Saruman and he is not seeking to deceive Thorin as the White Wizard might attempt. That's not to say that the bowman is stupid or thick; he is certainly looking to the future and his own possible place in it.

How should we interpret ‘proudly and grimly’ – is that praise or criticism? Was the speech impressive and solemn, or was it pompous and annoying (and is it annoying that Bard is called ‘grim’ more than any other adjective)?

More the former than the latter, though I'm not sure either characterization is completely accurate. Bard is still a bit blunt and less diplomatic than he might be, though i would not call him pompous.

The hope of the Master (and possibly Bard also) is that the presence of the Elvenking and his army will intimidate the dwarves, showing that they don't understand Thorin very well -- and they don't know about Thorin's messages to the Iron Hills. Bard is making the matter personal by stating, "the Elevenking is my friend". The Wood-elves have succored the folk of Lake-town and earned Bard's friendship in doing so. Even though it hurts his case, he refuses to agree to exclude them from the discussions. This says much about his character and his attitude towards loyalty.

As far as the Lake-men know, they have only Thorin's word that he is who he claims to be. Their declaration shows that they are not entirely convinced of his claim, weakening the Dwarf-lord's claim of authority.

Bard is giving Thorin an out if he is willing to take it. The Dwarves would not be surrendering any of the treasure to the Elvenking or to the Lake-men, but directly to Bard. What happens after that, they would be able to ignore. Unfortunately, this does not reckon with Dwarven stubbornness nor with the hold that the treasure has over Thorin. Of course this arrangement would have huge personal benefits to Bard himself and would go a long way towards establishing him as an authority figure in his own right.

On what basis have the allies decided to claim one-twelfth of the treasure for Bard?

A smart negotiator always starts by asking for more than one actually desires or hopes to gain. There might be a punitive element here also, including compensation for the destruction caused by Smaug. By invoking Thorin's "sires of old" the embassy might be trying to shame him into coming to his senses and making a gesture of reconciliation.

Do we think that Gandalf has arrived in the allied camp yet? If so when in the chapter do we think that happened?

I don't think that Gandalf has arrived yet or he would have made himself known. The wizard can't be too far off, but I don't think he reaches Dale too much before Bilbo decides to take action, probably earlier that same evening as we don't even know that he has yet spoken with either Bard or the Elvenking.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 28, 5:52pm

Post #12 of 36 (977 views)
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"the Elevenking is my friend" = a statement of loyalty ? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

The hope of the Master (and possibly Bard also) is that the presence of the Elvenking and his army will intimidate the dwarves, showing that they don't understand Thorin very well -- and they don't know about Thorin's messages to the Iron Hills. Bard is making the matter personal by stating, "the Elevenking is my friend". The Wood-elves have succored the folk of Lake-town and earned Bard's friendship in doing so. Even though it hurts his case, he refuses to agree to exclude them from the discussions. This says much about his character and his attitude towards loyalty.


That seems entirely possible, and is a meaning I hadn't considered. Thorin has basically just told the Elvenking to go away and mind his own business, so it is possible that Bard leaps to his friend's defence, and it's just unfortunate that someone can read it as further evidence that he's burnishing his own importance for all who can hear - his own side being as important here as Thorin.


Oh, and thanks for your very tactful correction of my Brand/Bard typos. It's best to sort such errors out in case they genuinely cause confusion, but sometimes people do it in a way that looks like they're scoring points, a hazard you neatly avoided. .

~~~~~~
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 28, 6:18pm

Post #13 of 36 (975 views)
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'legal ownership is entirely different.' [In reply to] Can't Post

I think both sides in this negotiation employ some double-think about things being 'ownerless'

Tolkien's bicycle, had he left it unlocked outside an Oxford pub, would have been 'ownerless' in the sense that Tolkien wasn't there to defend it from theft, but it would of course still have been Tolkien's and to ride off on it would be a bad thing to do, and (aside from some extenuating circumstances) would be a theft. If the police later arrested the bicycle thief that had been terrorising Oxford and captured their hoard of stolen bicycles, then Tolkien's bicycle would be returned him if possible (with some arrangements for disposing of stolen property once it's proved impractical to identify its owner).

That real-life, legal, set of ideas and customs about ownership rather bumps into tradition about Loot obtained from monsters or pirates, which belongs to the finder in stories if not in law.

Aside from what laws and customs Thorin and Bard might be used to, they are each pretty inconsistent, with the hoard only being 'ownerless' when it suits.

Bard thinks of the treasure as 'ownerless', yet claims that some of it should be given to him because it belonged to the people of his ancestor's realm. By that same logic, much of it belongs to dwarves. He doesn't answer Thorin's question about what the allied army would have done had it found Erebor empty - we can discuss that in detail when we get to Thorin, but I think Thorin's point is that the allies might have been slow to return the dwarven part of the hoard to the appropriate dwarves.

Thorin doesn't seem to think the treasure is ownerless (legally) at all, but by that logic he should acknowledge that some of it belongs to the people of Dale (if the right descendants can be found). 'It is also in my mind to ask' where this idea of residual ownership was when Thorin, Gandalf and Bilbo looted weapons that were clearly elvish from the trolls' hoard, and then had the cheek to show them to Elrond to ask for translation of their inscriptions. As far as we know, they don't ask for advice on whether the weapons' original owners still survive and would like their property returned.

I think that this sort of logical inconsistency is pretty authentic - I've seen lots of this kind of thing in discussions and arguments.

~~~~~~
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 28, 8:58pm

Post #14 of 36 (953 views)
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not yet skilled in the arts of diplomacy [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I do not believe that there was any deliberate attempt here to anger or insult Thorin. I think this is just Bard's naturally blunt manner of speech. The future king is not yet skilled in the arts of diplomacy or subtle negotiation.


That idea - mistakes through inexperience- seems entirely plausible. We don’t know much about how Bard has spent his life so far, and what training or experience he’s had (apart from taking grimness lessons, perhaps).

~~~~~~
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 28, 9:30pm

Post #15 of 36 (946 views)
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‘…calling himself King Under the Mountain’ [In reply to] Can't Post


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As far as the Lake-men know, they have only Thorin's word that he is who he claims to be. Their declaration shows that they are not entirely convinced of his claim, weakening the Dwarf-lord's claim of authority.


Yes, that’s true: the Lake Men only have Thorin’s word for it*. But disbelieving Thorin is insulting surely, and if Bard is intentionally bringing up the Master’s idea that Thorin &Co are frauds, I wonder why he’s doing it. A cynic might think that it’s a way of gelding all these The King Returns legends, so that the ‘imposter Thorin’ can be done away with.

Someone who taught me much about negotiating used to say that if you mention something, you make it an issue. it’s not clear to me why it’s helpful to make Thorin’s claim to kingship an issue.


*Has anyone seen his birth certificate, for example? No, of course not. How do we know he’s even a dwarf- maybe he’s a man with small proportions (and so on)

~~~~~~
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 29, 12:04am

Post #16 of 36 (932 views)
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Wait, there were points involved??? It's Bard, Bard, Bard, I tell you!! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 29, 12:10am

Post #17 of 36 (929 views)
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Was Bard a Hero or a Thug? [In reply to] Can't Post

This chapter reminds me of a user who used to post on the Hobbit movie boards at IMDb. He might have been a member here at one time for all I know. He claimed that his view of the interactions between Thorin, Bard, the Elvenking, Bilbo and Gandalf were all shaped by his father's interpretation of the book, though he might have been making that up just to troll the boards.

Anyway, this guy insisted that Bard was a jack-booted thug who bullied the Master of Lake-town into submission and deliberately sabotaged negotiations with Thorin to create an excuse to drive out or kill the dwarves. He also claimed that Gandalf wanted the dwarves out of the Mountain (having changed his mind about restoring the Longbeards); Bilbo was a privileged, clueless nitwit; and Thorin was completely justified in his actions and attitude and was not remotely under the influence of dragon-sickness. Oh, and the Master was a victim of Bard and Gandalf's manipulations too.

Like I said, this guy was probably just a dedicated troll stirring up arguments just for the sake of it -- but he was entertaining up to a point. Thank Eru and the Valar that no one here is being quite as argumentative as that.

"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 29, 12:20am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 29, 9:21am

Post #18 of 36 (864 views)
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Is Bard's Grim Brand His Bane? Let's Brood, Bro! [In reply to] Can't Post

We don't know all that much about Bard before this chapter, and (as far as I can see) there's no evidence that Thorin knows any more. So my Bard's brand brooding might be better done by Mary Beard, but short of a leading historian such as Prof Beard joining us, I'll do my best. [At least I'll stop muddling up Bard and Brand, I hope - Bard breeds Bain and Brand's of Bain's brood: simple really Smile ]

I think it's entirely possible that Bard is an honest and simple man - and I mean 'simple' as in straightforward, not 'stupid'. Maybe:
He asks for what he wants.

He says what he thinks, without much prior reflection on what other people are going to think about what he says.

He expects people to go by what he says, without making use of all those other clues such as anything implied by his words, any other subtext, any significance to whose banner he's standing under, etc. etc.

If he is like that, I can see a lot of the Lake Town folks thinking this is fine and manly brand of leadership, and a refreshing change from the complicated machinations of the 'moneybags' Master where you're never sure what you're dealing with. We haven't seen much of the Master either, but my impression at least is that he's the opposite kind of operator - I suppose that if Bard thought Thorin a fraud when the dwarves turned up at Lake Town, he'd come right out and say so, rather than keep quiet about that let the situation evolve and look for the best way to turn it into opportunities. It's soldier in contrast to politician, perhaps, but a Dark Age or Medieval king probably had to be both.

So it is possible that Bard is the honest, bluff and forthright soldier type to his core, and is being misunderstood.

I think though it is also possible that he is not - or (more pertinently) the people with whom he's dealing aren't sure that he is. As we've said a few times already, in negotiations it's what each party believes to be true at the time that matters.

I was interested to read your precis of the IMDb Hobbit movie-board poster. I think that the idea that Bard 'bullied the Master of Lake-town into submission and deliberately sabotaged negotiations with Thorin to create an excuse to drive out or kill the dwarves.' isn't readily disprovable from the text. I don't like the idea myself because it makes it difficult to explain why Bard co-operates so readily with Dain, and makes main gains such as drains and fountains, which Bain has the brain to maintain without trying to claim he's Dain's suzerain. That all seems pretty plain.
At this point in the text though, before we can gauge Bard's character from what we read later, I think it's worth looking at what effect Bard is having on Thorin. I think Throin is entertaining the idea that Bard wants to deliberately sabotage negotiations to create an excuse to drive out or kill the dwarves. That's pretty much what Roac told him to expect, after all.

Clearly, not all bluff, forthright, straightforward people are like that through and through - for some, that's partly or wholly branding and they are also as devious and self-serving and calculating as anything. It's definitely a possibility Thorin must consider. For example I can't tell whether all that stuff about 'floods and poisoned fish' is a man saying what he thinks or someone fermenting discontent and testing out conspiracy theories to see which take among the people and bring down his opponents.

Then again, some bluff, forthright, straightforward people are easily manipulated by sneakier and more calculating people. I think that's a possibility Thorin has to consider too, with Bard doing the talking, but the Elvenking so very prominent as Bard's backer.


Thorin's a pretty plain-speaking guy too, and maybe if (as Darkstone might say) the two of them could only sit down and share a pie, it would all get sorted out. But of course it's all gone past that, and Thorin is walled up among the dragon fumes, and Bard is outside at the head of someone else's army.


A couple of further thoughts:
'Gandalf wanted the dwarves out of the Mountain (having changed his mind about restoring the Longbeards); Bilbo was a privileged, clueless nitwit; and Thorin was completely justified in his actions and attitude and was not remotely under the influence of dragon-sickness. Oh, and the Master was a victim of Bard and Gandalf's manipulations too'

Well it's a point of view! Once we take the train away from Explicit Textual References, we stop at Author Statements, Deduction, Inference, Interpretation, Conjecture and end up at the little town of Speculation. Everyone has to decide for themselves where they get off, I suppose. (I hear that from Speculation one can get a connecting service to Conspiracy Theory, but maybe that's just what they want us to believe).

One of the things I'm trying to do this week (and which I think the text supports) is to get beyond the idea that it all goes wrong because Thorin is a dwarf, and they are just impossible to work with. There is a risk of being unfair to Bard because of this, so I welcome a bit of push-back!

~~~~~~
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 29, 9:54am

Post #19 of 36 (858 views)
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Contrasting Bard and Thorin here with Boromir and Aragorn at Council [In reply to] Can't Post

My thesis for the week is that Bard's negotiations fail in part because he says one thing (which for all I know he means quite honestly and straightforwardly) but all the subtexts, optics and so on seem to contradict his words.

I've realised that t would be interesting to compare and contrast with how Aragorn handles his first formal encounter with Boromir at The Council Of Elrond. That's probably a whole discussion in itself, but I have time to raise a few points, even if I can't do it full justice.

As probably everyone recalls, Boromir has arrived in Rivendell on the very morning of the Council, after a heroic journey. He's evidently stated his business - to ask for advice about a prophetic dream - to Elrond, and Elrond's answer is to invite Boromir to the Council. While the text doesn't say, I assume that Boromir has told Elrond what the prophetic 'seek for the sword that was broken' dream was, and since this appears to be a divine summons to Aragorn Elrond has warned his protegee before the meeting begins.

Aragorn attends the meeting dressed as a Ranger. We don't hear him say anything while the Council hears from Gloin, Elrond and Boromir (as far as I recall). I remember once that I asked why Aragorn turned up scruffy rather than wearing the elven mail Frodo noticed at the feast - wouldn't the mail make him look more convincingly kingly? The very convincing argument I got back was that it would make him look like an Elvenking - an elvish client, about to be foisted on Gondor (oh, and an elf will be your queen, and all your future leaders half-elves if all goes well).

On hearing the lines from Boromir's dream, Aragorn promptly shows the sword that Boromir has been seeking (nice bit of drama). But he doesn't follow it up with a list of demands, he gives Boromir some time to question him. In fact, Frodo's spontaneous offer to give Aragorn the Ring allows Aragorn to show that he's not simply out to demand all he can get, even heirlooms and treasures.

Aragorn doesn't get riled about Boromir wondering whether the sword is an heirloom only, but nor is Aragorn any pushover: he joins Boromir in complaining about the ungrateful people that they both protect, partly I think because that allows him to explain what role he and his people have played. Later of course, Gandalf and Aragorn tell of the hunt for Gollum as a relay, giving Boromir a whole lot more information about the extent of Aragorn's deeds.

I think those examples will do for now, showing how Aragorn bears in mind not only what he says, but all the other impressions he's giving off. I think that's in contrast to Bard in our current 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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 29, 11:51am

Post #20 of 36 (853 views)
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What if turning to negotiations was the first mistake? [In reply to] Can't Post

“My thesis for the week is that Bard's negotiations fail in part because he says one thing (which for all I know he means quite honestly and straightforwardly) but all the subtexts, optics and so on seem to contradict his words.”

Your comment got me thinking of an alternative, realistic scenario where instead of being materialistic, Bard/Burp (whatever his name) made the opening dialogue focus on: “Thorin! You’re alive! Sorry, we thought the dragon ate you all. Yes, we came to take the treasure before someone else did. But finding out you’re alive changes everything. Let’s celebrate that!”

Thorin, of course, didn’t give Bard the benefit of the doubt, so the moral obligation to take a more personal, humane path rests on him as much as Bard. But since this is the Bard thread, I’ll let it rest on him for the moment.

The thing about negotiation is that you only do it when you want something, and something you know the other side won’t readily agree to, so just by entering the negotiation phase, you’ve set an implicit context for conflict. What if Bard (or the wiser Thranduil) had tried to avoid it from the beginning?


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 29, 1:15pm

Post #21 of 36 (836 views)
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looking for win/win [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that's a good point. I notice that, after the missed opportunity to be friendly that you point out, the negotiation immediately focuses on dividing the treasure, and that's the only issue discussed.

Dividing the treasure is always going to be tricky because it is inherently win/lose - the more of it Bard and his allies get, the less of it Thorin keeps. So the whole thing easily turns into an arm-wrestle, which is dangerous when there's plenty of pride at stake (and political capital too - lots of folk are watching to see how the aspirant Kings of Esgaroth and The Mountain are going to handle themselves).

There's an irony - and I expect a lot of readers see it - of arguing about percentage shares when the treasure is so vast that nobody can meaningfully spend it. But the percentages themselves become a game that each side wants to win.

Bard doesn't want the treasure - not to sit atop, like Smaug used to. He wants what the treasure can do. He wants the capital to rebuild Esgaroth and refound Dale. He wants treasure to give out to his courtiers when he's king. He wants status. Bard needs to square things with the Elvenking (who is probably called Brad*), whether the Elvenking has demanded money, or just deserves it. Thorin wants....well, I'll start a discussion about that tomorrow, but for now I'll say I don't think he just wants to sit atop a big heap of treasure either.

Perhaps they should stop taking positions on the treasure and find out what they have in common - presumably a whole series of things, for example, about combining the dwarves manufacturing skills with the trade routes and markets the Men have developed. Then there's that Smaug salvage scheme Darkstone & I worked out...
Of course that 'finding interests in common' is just what does happen - never mind the treasure for now: nobody wants to be killed or enslaved by the goblins.


--
* Just kidding - I know he's called Thranduil really. But his wife's probably called Barb.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


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 29, 1:22pm

Post #22 of 36 (834 views)
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What, you don't yet have a Bard Card? They're made of Best Bared Beer Board.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice offer too. Kill nine dragons, getting the card stamped each time, and you get the tenth on the house...


...well not so much 'on the house' as on the whole city, which then bursts into flames and sinks into the lake...

~~~~~~
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 29, 1:42pm

Post #23 of 36 (827 views)
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What if the negotiations aren't really sincere? [In reply to] Can't Post

Bard has a large army outside Thorin's walls and maybe he feels he ought to negotiate for the look of it, but can come to any terms he pleases when Thorin &Co. have starved for long enough.

That would reply upon Bard being confident his own supply train will keep delivering, and him overlooking the possibility that other armies might be on the way.

From Thorin's point of view, Bard and the Elvenking might prove much more 'reasonable' once they're penned into the valley by Dain, and are themselves cut off from their supplies.

~~~~~~
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 29, 5:37pm

Post #24 of 36 (796 views)
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Aha! Now we know why you broke this chapter into 5 parts [In reply to] Can't Post



Quote
Then there's that Smaug salvage scheme Darkstone & I worked out...

You're distracting us with all this surgical inspection of negotiations while you and Darkstone are making off with the loot. I should have smelled the trap! I wondered why Darkstone's Instagram was flooded with photos of "Fiji--coming soon!"


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Aug 29, 5:46pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 29, 5:45pm

Post #25 of 36 (796 views)
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Win/win can options can exist if you look for them [In reply to] Can't Post

We were given a negotiation role play of a theater with a low budget trying to hire a famous but slightly faded actress for a show. Both sides focused on her salary for just the one big show, and it was difficult to reach an agreement . Then the moderator told us to think more broadly: she's a faded actress, so wouldn't she take less money if the theater could guarantee her multiple appearances in the future to revive her career? If she used her star power in advertising promotions, wouldn't that benefit the theater? Once we started thinking beyond a strict salary figure, we realized both sides could benefit and it wasn't a zero sum game. But we also needed that pointed out to us.

So, as you say,

Quote
Perhaps they should stop taking positions on the treasure and find out what they have in common - presumably a whole series of things, for example, about combining the dwarves' manufacturing skills with the trade routes and markets the Men have developed.



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