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***The Hobbit read-through -The Clouds Burst: 2 of 3 Dain

noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 11, 8:07am

Post #1 of 8 (1296 views)
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***The Hobbit read-through -The Clouds Burst: 2 of 3 Dain Can't Post

Welcome to the next part of the discussion, in which I want to look at the arrival of Dain, the opening volley of what would have been a Battle of Three Armies, and then Gandalf’s dramatic intervention, just as the arrival of the goblin/warg army becomes apparent. Next time we’ll look at the Battle Of The Five Armies.

Tolkien describes Dain and his force carefully. I think this is so that we realise they are a serious military outfit, well equipped either to blockade Thorin’s besiegers, or to make a dash to join forces with Thorin inside Erebor. Possibly Tolkien also likes thinking about troops who look to me a lot like Anglo-Saxon Huscarls (so you see, I like it too!). Tolkien also describes the tactical situation – if Dain can break through and join up with Thorin, he won’t just reinforce and resupply Thorin. The combined dwarves will then have the manpower (er, dwarf-power) to open and defend new ways into and out of the mountain at any point. This would make a siege impractical because the allies don't have the manpower (er, and elf-power) to surround the entire mountain.

Dain’s ambassadors ask very politely to be allowed to join Thorin – a demand that they know full well won’t be agreed - and Tolkien provides a humorous translation of their diplomat-speak. Who are we laughing at – the formal dwarves, or how this contrasts with Bard’s bluntness?

Dain seems to have two military options (let me know if you can think of more) – blockade the allies and see who starves first, or make a dash past the allied army, up the valley and to the gate. He appears to choose the sudden attack, and viewing Dain’s deployments Bard calls Dain a ‘fool! …to come thus under the Mountain’s arm’ (where the allied bowmen can shoot at them).

We’re told that ‘the knowledge that the Arkenstone was in the hands of the besiegers burned in [the dwarves] thoughts’: other than the new grudge against the allies that Bilbo has given them, what other factors might have persuaded Dain to attempt to break the siege rather than to blockade and negotiate?

‘Suddenly’ there is a volley of arrows as the dwarves attack – actually fighting is breaking out! but then:


Quote

Still more suddenly a darkness came on with dreadful swiftness! A black cloud hurried over the sky. Winter thunder on a wild wind rolled roaring up and rumbled in the Mountain, and lightning lit its peak. And beneath the thunder another blackness could be seen whirling forward; but it did not come with the wind, it came from the North, like a vast cloud of birds, so dense that no light could be seen between their wings.
“Halt!” cried Gandalf, who appeared suddenly, and stood alone, with arms uplifted, between the advancing dwarves and the ranks awaiting them. “Halt!” he called in a voice like thunder, and his staff blazed forth with a flash like the lightning. “Dread has come upon you all! Alas! it has come more swiftly than I guessed. The Goblins are upon you! Bolg of the North is coming, O Dain! whose father you slew in Moria. Behold! the bats are above his army like a sea of locusts. They ride upon wolves and Wargs are in their train!

That’s a lot of ‘suddenly’s’. I also think I might award this chapter’s alliteration prize to ‘Winter thunder on a wild wind rolled roaring up and rumbled in the Mountain, and lightning lit its peak.’

Are the black clouds (the ones that aren’t bats) standard Middle-earth weather, or something Gandalf’s doing?

Where else does dramatic weather assist with some dramatic intervention by Gandalf?

Why did neither Gandalf nor the birds know the goblins were so close?

If Gandalf knew that the goblins were about (even if he didn’t know that they were so close) why hasn’t he said so?

Is it just me, or is Gandalf here strikingly like the old man suddenly revealing the blazing Arkenstone earlier in the chapter?

I don’t recall any bats in the battles of LOTR. To what extent are they replaced by the darkness that Sauron sends forth from Mordor? Which do you prefer – bats or smoke?

Please do raise any other points you want about this part of the chapter. Next time we’ll button on our epaulettes, screw in our monocles and be armchair generals fighting the Battle of the Five Armies, as well as discussing Bilbo's reaction to it all

~~~~~~
Now you dwarves must be careful with that machine with a rotating cutting tip or reciprocating hammer or chisel, used for making holes - it's not a drill, y'know!"


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Sep 11, 8:08am)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 11, 12:48pm

Post #2 of 8 (1262 views)
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Clouds bursting and otherwise. [In reply to] Can't Post

Are the black clouds (the ones that aren’t bats) standard Middle-earth weather, or something Gandalf’s doing?

Possibly neither. The dark clouds only benefit the Goblins, so there is no reason to think that Gandalf might have conjured them. Either they are natural and the Wargs and Goblins simply managed their arrival to coincide with them or they are a dark manifestation of Shadow.

Where else does dramatic weather assist with some dramatic intervention by Gandalf?

Well, I can think of the breaking dawn when Gandalf and the Witch-king confront each other at Minas Tirith.

Why did neither Gandalf nor the birds know the goblins were so close?

The broken lands in and along the Grey Mountains seem to have given the Goblins enough cover to conceal their approach even from the birds.

If Gandalf knew that the goblins were about (even if he didn’t know that they were so close) why hasn’t he said so?

I'm sticking with my previous answer: Gandalf deliberately withheld what information he had to prevent any of the existing factions of Men, Elves and Dwarves from using it against the others. He needed to unite the Free Peoples of the North and could not risk further dividing them.

Is it just me, or is Gandalf here strikingly like the old man suddenly revealing the blazing Arkenstone earlier in the chapter?

That is probably very deliberate on Tolkien's part.

I don’t recall any bats in the battles of LOTR. To what extent are they replaced by the darkness that Sauron sends forth from Mordor? Which do you prefer – bats or smoke?

Maybe such bats saw more use in the War of the Ring in the battles fought in Mirkwood Forest. But the darkness we see in The Lord of the Rings feels more magical and reflects the power of Sauron.

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 11, 12:49pm)


No One in Particular
Rivendell


Sep 12, 1:58am

Post #3 of 8 (1237 views)
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Looking toward the future... [In reply to] Can't Post

There was a sneakingly convenient thunderstorm rolling through when Gandalf was "waking" Theoden in Meduseld. Smile

In reading this post a possibility crosses my mind for the first time: Gandalf kept the secret of the Goblin army to himself because he is trying to leverage the various armies. (I'm going to assume he knew about the march of the Dwarves at this point.)

If the Dwarves arrive too soon and there is battle, then there will not be sufficient strength to fight the Orcs. If Dain arrives too late and the Goblins get there first, then everyone loses. If the Elves and Men find out the Goblins are on the way, they may run, with disastrous results for the Northlands. If the Dwarves find out the Goblins are on the way, there's no telling what actions they might take; retreat, change course to attack the Goblin army due to the old hatreds, speed up and arrive at the Lonely Mountain too soon causing strife with Elves and Men.

The long game plan only works if Men and Elves are already there waiting, and Dwarves and Goblins arrive too close together for any f the armies to flee, forcing the Big Conflict. Everything hangs together by a thread.

Or just chalk it all up to Providence again, with Gandalf being able to "read" the situation and act appropriately.

Of course, this is pre-Olorin Gandalf; maybe it falls back to him manipulating events to try to secure a long term win with the destruction of the Goblin army.

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 12, 2:43am

Post #4 of 8 (1232 views)
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Which direction does the storm come from? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 12, 8:28am

Post #5 of 8 (1225 views)
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I think that's unclear [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think it's clear which direction the clouds (the ones that are not bats) come from- the text says:


Quote

A black cloud hurried over the sky. Winter thunder on a wild wind rolled roaring up and rumbled in the Mountain, and lightning lit its peak. And beneath the thunder another blackness could be seen whirling forward; but it did not come with the wind, it came from the North, like a vast cloud of birds, so dense that no light could be seen between their wings.


So I think that leaves the entire compass open! Perhaps 'it did not come with the wind, it came from the North' means that the non-bat clouds didn't come from the North?

~~~~~~
Now you dwarves must be careful with that machine with a rotating cutting tip or reciprocating hammer or chisel, used for making holes - it's not a drill, y'know!"


sador
Half-elven


Sep 12, 8:00pm

Post #6 of 8 (1180 views)
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Dain's options [In reply to] Can't Post

Much depends on the actual terrain; if the dwarves are formidable mountaineers, they might try to find some cover, and actually scale the heights at a vulnerable point, appearing before the besiegers' feet. Being short might be easier to find cover, and being armed with axes or mattocks might be very useful when striking upwards at their enemies' feet.

Of course, the success of such a plan depends on achieving a surprise effect; and I doubt that any of Dain's followers knows the terrain enough to accurately evaluate tge feasibility of this approach (unless Thorin and Dain had discussed tactics in their ravenly communications) - but then, neither does Bard, or (probably) the Elvenking. Even if they begin scouting the Mountain for such possible paths, it would divert many of their force; and if they do not, they might be surprised.

Also, if the Arkenstone works in any remote way like a Ring of Power (which Tolkien had not envisioned yet), or a Silmaril (which he did) - Dain could be hoping for internal strife between the besiegers. A powerful, sudden strike might take advantage of that.


And last, about Gandalf's sudden (see? I know that word too!) revealing himself as a prophet pronouncing an impending dread and reconciling the differences - this is what I was wondering about in the last chapter, when I asked if the title "A Thief in the Night" referred to him.
Probably not, but considering the Christian sources of the phrase, it seems quite possible.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Sep 13, 4:54am

Post #7 of 8 (1161 views)
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"The next day the wind shifted west..." [In reply to] Can't Post

"...and the air was dark and gloomy."

Later: "Soon the thunder passed, rolling away to the South-East".


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 13, 10:44am

Post #8 of 8 (1135 views)
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That helps a bit... [In reply to] Can't Post

One possible reason for trying to work this out (apart from thinking how to visualise the scene and its lighting) is the idea that directions have a metaphorical or literal moral meaning in Middle-earth. For example, the eagles appear coming down a gleam of light from the West at the end of this chapter, as do other things in LOTR that might be help from benevolent Powers. I included a question about this in my post 3 of 3, which I've just put up.

~~~~~~
Now you dwarves must be careful with that machine with a rotating cutting tip or reciprocating hammer or chisel, used for making holes - it's not a drill, y'know!"

 
 

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