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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
***The Hobbit read-through -The Gathering of the Clouds: 3 of 5: Bard negotiates
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CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 29 2018, 5:50pm

Post #26 of 36 (1170 views)
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Or maybe the negotiations are half-sincere [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think Bard is all that manipulative or a liar, but the arrival of Dain was a surprise, ergo, Bard/Barclays Bank was counting on having a full army vs 14 trapped, hungry dwarves, so he might have thought: "I hope Thorin will agree, but if he doesn't, we will starve him out until he does."


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 29 2018, 9:03pm

Post #27 of 36 (1159 views)
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Why don't the Elves and Men simply storm the Mountain? [In reply to] Can't Post

I mean, they heavily outnumber the Dwarves, it is Dwarves they are facing, only 13 of them in Thorin's 'kingdom,' and a few of them wavering, not a live Dragon, so they don't have to muck around with a side-door or anything. They should be able to handle the Dwarves. Pretty quick as well, I would think. In fact, if they where the SAS, they could knock out half of the Dwarves with one grenade, but perhaps that is going too far. It might not be in the narrative, but in the real world it could be easily done. The Dwarves would simply wake up one morning and find the mountain full of men and elves and then they would have to quit. Or then negotiate!


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 29 2018, 9:22pm

Post #28 of 36 (1161 views)
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You do raise a good point [In reply to] Can't Post

The Men/Elves start with a pacifist approach of besieging the mountain and avoid violence, but when Dain shows up with his army, they are only too ready to fight him. So, what changed in their thinking?


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 30 2018, 8:34am

Post #29 of 36 (1154 views)
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Frontal attack? After you! [In reply to] Can't Post

An attempt to storm the gate would inevitably succeed in the end, I suppose, but I think it would be bloody.

Tolkien describes Thorinís defences carefully:


Quote
the gate was blocked with a wall of squared stones laid dry, but very thick and high, across the opening. There were holes in the wall through which they could see (or shoot), but no entrance. They climbed in or out with ladders, and hauled stuff up with ropes. For the issuing of the stream they had contrived a small low arch under the new wall; but near the entrance they had so altered the narrow bed that a wide pool stretched from the mountain-wall to the head of the fall over which the stream went towards Dale. Approach to the Gate was now only possible, without swimming, along a narrow ledge of the cliff, to the right as one looked outwards from the wall


This means that, although there arenít many defenders, there isnít space for many attackers either - bring up a lot of men, and most of them are just waiting their turn to swim the lake or try the narrow path. And meanwhile they are just being targets.

Possibly whoever was Sarumanís general would just send orc troops in continuously until the attackers were overwhelmed, but I suspect elves and Men donít think
like that: they have to live with the veterans and widows later, and Bard probably doeywant to start his rule with a reputation as a callous and incompetent general.

The lake and the path prevent a rush at the wall- the troops that do toil forward will be moving slowly, so the defenders should get a good chance to shoot them. The attackers also have to carry equipment to get over the wall (ladders or ropes). Those will slow them down, and in any case they were not expecting a siege and may not have brought such things, causing a delay while they are fetched or made.

Just possibly one could hope to sneak up to the wall without being spotted, but that sounds risky, at least until the defenders are too exhausted to keep a good lookout.

So I think that Bard or his general would be expecting enough casualties that itís better to try negotiating or starving the dwarves out first. Meanwhile they could start making some siege equipment: Stone-throwing engines to batter the wall or try to fill the pool with rubble, perhaps, or boats offering cover from the arrows while troops cross the water. But that equipment would take time to make.

I think H-G is right that it would be bad for the defenders if the attackers could lob grenades or similar bombs over the wall, but I donít think they have that technology.

It sounds like the sort of scenario that tabletop war gamers like to do: I wonder if anyone has played this , and if so, how it went?

Finally, itís possible that Bard realises that itís far easier to start a shooting war than to make peace later. If he did storm the place, slaughter any survivors, take the treasure and occupy Erebor, I doubt that would be the end of the Dwarf Wars!

Dainís army, offering open battle is probably a different proposition- I canít remember how close it comes to a fight there, or whether Bard still tries negotiation first.

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

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 30 2018, 8:43am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 30 2018, 9:00am

Post #30 of 36 (1145 views)
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...and Thorinís wall might be just Round 1 of the defence [In reply to] Can't Post

I presume Erebor is a fortress, like Moria. Any dwarf survivors of the storming of the wall might be able to fall back to something like this:


Quote
Suddenly Frodo saw before him a black chasm. At the end of the hall the floor vanished and fell to an unknown depth. The outer door could only be reached by a slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail, that spanned the chasm with one curving spring of fifty feet. It was an ancient defence of the Dwarves against any enemy that might capture the First Hall and the outer passages. They could only pass across it in single file."


So Round 2 begins, perhaps- you have to fight your way in single file across the bridge, while the remaining dwarves shoot at you. Or, given time, Thorin has cast down the normal bridge and has a temporary one that he can pull back to his side. So you have to build a new bridge whilst under fire....

This is all speculation, of course, but we know that Midde-earth has many fortifications that have multiple lines of defence, and so Bard may well have to factor in further defence once heís taken Thorinís wall. That should add to his reluctance, given that once heís lost a good few men at the wall, itís going to be hard to stop at the bridge.

~~~~~~
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 30 2018, 11:19am

Post #31 of 36 (1142 views)
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When goblin attacks are a godsend [In reply to] Can't Post

ďFinally, itís possible that Bard realises that itís far easier to start a shooting war than to make peace later. If he did storm the place, slaughter any survivors, take the treasure and occupy Erebor, I doubt that would be the end of the Dwarf Wars!Ē


For that very reason, the goblin-wolf attack that is lurking a few pages ahead is a deus ex machina in the sense that it aborts centuries of ill will that would have existed between Erebor dwarves and Elves & men had their battle really played out.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 30 2018, 1:12pm

Post #32 of 36 (1132 views)
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A Bolg move by Tolkien! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

For that very reason, the goblin-wolf attack that is lurking a few pages ahead is a deus ex machina in the sense that it aborts centuries of ill will that would have existed between Erebor dwarves and Elves & men had their battle really played out.


It seems very plausible to me - a lot of bickering stops when there is a common enemy!

At the risk of seeming picky, I'l object to 'deus ex machina', as I think that usually means something introduced unexpectedly and suddenly, which produces a contrived solution. The goblins are both sudden and unexpected to the characters, but Tolkien has already set up that the goblins have a grudge against Thorin for killing their king, and we hear in Fire and Water that they heard of the death of Smaug. So I don't find it contrived or unexpected, myself.

It might well qualify as a eucatastrophe. And (if one takes a Quest Of Erebor perspective, in which Gandalf all along intended to restore a strong alliance of men an dwarves in the region), it looks like Tolkien's favourite irony of 'oft evil will shall evil mar.'

Still, more about that the week after next, I expect.

~~~~~~
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


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 31 2018, 9:53pm

Post #33 of 36 (1115 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

 
Well, all of that shouldn't be too much trouble for all of those Elves that can climb with no injury, or leap and dance with their skilled maneuvers. Or even use ropes of their own if they had too.
But Tolkien does not describe the back way, or even underneath. If Horrible Histories are to be believed many attacks on places under siege where made through the privy. But possibly there where not many Elves that wanted to volunteer to walk up a tunnel of Dwarven poo! Still, I can't help but think that this might not be a tale the warriors would like to tell their grandchildren about.
'Well, we couldn't get into the mountain because there where Dwarves inside it.'
'How many, grandpappa?'
'Erm........ 13. But they where really tough ones. Honestly!'
[


uncle Iorlas
Rivendell


Sep 1 2018, 4:00am

Post #34 of 36 (1112 views)
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realpolitik [In reply to] Can't Post

Excellent discussion. Bard is a blurry crayon scribble of Aragorn that is to be; he is a quick study of the type. I think we are meant to assume that his motives are above reproach, and I more or less find them to be so, although I think none of the new arrivals give quite enough thought or patience to Thorin's situation.

But! One thing I never thought of until this thread, and more of a subtle thing. Maybe Bard is in a bit of a spot regarding the elvenking. Thranduil is the chief power around here; not only do none of the Laketown contingent want to offend him when he's just saved their bacon, but apart from that he's simply too powerful for them to stop if they wanted to. Bard puts as good a face on it as possible, puts in the good word for the elvenking and argues that it's right and proper for him to be involved in these negotiations, but maybe the real truth of Bard's position is that the elvenking feels like being part of these negotiations and neither Bard nor anybody else can do a thing to stop him.

It's funny, I remember having a blank whiff of puzzlement in my head even as a teen about Bilbo's choice, in battle, to defend the elvenking if he must die defending somebody. Thranduil, as presented, is a jerk. He is here to loot stolen money opportunistically, and earlier he did imprison a bunch of travelers, mostly unarmed, who were pretty clearly just asking for help in the only way they could. What's to like?

The later and larger book makes it much more clear how Tolkien imagines his elves, and what sort of effect they have on mortal peoples, and in that context Bilbo's warmth for the elvenking makes more sense. But within the frame of the Hobbit alone, it's hard to find a ton of sympathy for him.


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 1 2018, 11:34am

Post #35 of 36 (1102 views)
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other attack plans may be possible :) [In reply to] Can't Post

But it depends on what Thorin, (and the original designers of Erebor as an underground fortress) thought of and made counter-measures for.

I suppose that in its days as an underground city it must have had sophisticated sewage arrangements - but it's possible that either they'd though of how to prevent an attack through them (several castles I have seen have the loos a long way upstairs, opening vertically downwards onto the moat to prevent offering an attack route in the way you suggest). Or maybe Smaug blocked all those sewers up, and Thorin & Co are having to make do with a bucket through which they can only be attacked by flies.

It seems entirely plausible that Bard has people out scouting the mountain for any other possible rote of attack while he negotiates, but really it's all about whether he calculates that another plan is better than starving Thorin to his senses.

I used to be really into castle design stuff as a teen, so can go on about this for a long time, I warn you 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


Sep 1 2018, 12:13pm

Post #36 of 36 (1102 views)
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'Bard is a blurry crayon scribble of Aragorn that is to be' [In reply to] Can't Post

I like that idea.

As for the Elvenking, CuriousG earlier made a point about 'interfering Americans' as the big power trying to help out (perhaps with genuinely altruistic motives, perhaps with self-serving motives given an altruistic spin, perhaps with completely brazen self-interest). In Tolkien's time Britain was still a big 'interfering' imperial power; or 'altruistic' and 'paternalistic' power, according to your point of view. Perhaps both were true simultaneously. I don't propose getting into moral arguments about the rights and wrongs of British, US or any other nation's overseas military adventures, but I wonder whether Tolkien's nationality and the time at which he was writing has a bearing on his apparent acceptance that the Elvenking will help out his 'friend'.

~~~~~~
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

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