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* * The Clouds Burst * * 4: The Eagles are Coming

dormouse
Half-elven


Nov 4 2012, 9:29am

Post #1 of 3 (762 views)
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* * The Clouds Burst * * 4: The Eagles are Coming Can't Post

From 'Day drew on' to the end of the chapter.

Goblins, Wargs and bats are carrying the field through sheer weight of numbers when Thorin and his companions burst from the mountain in full armour. Few though they are, they make an impact and dwarves, men and elves are drawn to support them - unfortunately, as it turns out, because they are so greatly outnumbered and before long are surrounded by their enemies. Bilbo watches the drama unfold and reflects on the awfulness of battle. But the day may be about to turn - he sees the Eagles approaching from far off and alerts the elves before a falling stone knocks him out.

'In the gloom the great dwarf gleamed like gold in a dying fire.' This is one of those perfect sentences you find in Tolkien. It encapsulates so much about Thorin and every word works. And that image, 'like gold in a dying fire' says so much about Thorin himself and his story. But do you think it also contains a suggestion that this is the end of the road for him? Do you think he leads his companions out of the mountain because he's so confident of victory that he doesn't count numbers or is this a conscious last stand? Does he have a strategy or does he just want to go down fighting?

Bilbo. We're told that his stand on Ravenhill is partly practical - best hope of escape - but also 'if he was going to be in a last desperate stand, he preferred on the whole to defend the Elvenking.' Why?
'I have heard songs of many battles, and I have always understood that defeat may be glorious. It seems very uncomfortable, not to say distressing. I wish I was well out of it.' Any thoughts on this? Is Tolkien's own experience of war speaking here?

Gandalf. 'Gandalf, too, I may say, was there, sitting on the ground as if in deep thought, preparing, I suppose, some last blast of magic before the end.' It seems an odd pose for a powerful wizard to strike in the middle of a battle when friends are being killed. What do you think Gandalf is actually doing here? Is there any suggestion that his 'deep thought' and 'last blast of magic' is connected in any way with the arrival of the Eagles (and later, as we learn, of Beorn)?


That's about it from me. If there's anything about the battle that I've missed, please feel free to say so. Sorry for the rushed posts early in the week and if you have been, thanks for reading and/or joining in.


sador
Half-elven


Nov 4 2012, 1:48pm

Post #2 of 3 (383 views)
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Answers [In reply to] Can't Post

But do you think it also contains a suggestion that this is the end of the road for him?
Not really. He is the gold, not the dying fire.

Do you think he leads his companions out of the mountain because he's so confident of victory that he doesn't count numbers or is this a conscious last stand?
Well, he can't just sit in there and wait for the others to decide the battle, can he?
Just like Theoden in Helm's Deep, he does not want to wait to be taken alive, like a badger in a trap.

Does he have a strategy or does he just want to go down fighting?
Well, it might be a good idea to get the goblins to the Gate, rather than climbing up the outskirts of the Mountain; so it's not a bad idea.
On the other hand - is there anything else he could do?

I wonder if there was any way Throin could watch the proceedings, and pick the right moment to burst out of the Gate. So he might have chosen the right moment.

Bilbo. We're told that his stand on Ravenhill is partly practical - best hope of escape - but also 'if he was going to be in a last desperate stand, he preferred on the whole to defend the Elvenking.' Why?

Well, Tolkien has said several times that elves are Good Folk. There has been precious little payoff for this statement - except for the Elvenking's truning aside from his march upon the Mountain to succouring Esgaroth.
So this is another reinforcement of the same sentiment.

Any thoughts on this? Is Tolkien's own experience of war speaking here?

Shippey sees it as based on the penultimate stanza of the King Edward's
school song.


Quote
Where the iron heart of England throbs beneath its sombre robe,
Stands a school whose sons have made her great and famous round the globe,
These have plucked the bays of battle, those have won the scholar's crown;
Old Edwardians, young Edwardians, forward for the School's renown.

Chorus
Forward where the knocks are hardest, some to failure, some to fame;
Never mind the cheers or hooting, keep your head and play the game.

Here's no place for fop or idler; they who made our city great
Feared no hardship, shirked no labour, smiled at death and conquered fate;
They who gave our School its laurels laid on us a sacred trust;
Forward therefore, live your hardest, die of service, not of rust.

Forward where the scrimmage thickens; never stop to rub your shin;
Cowards count the kicks and ha'pence, only care to save their skin.
Oftentimes defeat is splendid, victory may still be shame;
Luck is good, the prize is pleasant but the glory's in the game.

Here no classic grove secludes us, here abides no cloistered calm;
Not the titled, nor the stranger, wrestles here to gain the palm;
Round our smoke-encrusted precincts labour's turbid river runs;
Builders of this burly city temper here their strenuous sons.



What do you think Gandalf is actually doing here?
Gandalf of The Hobbit? Shivering in his boots.

Is there any suggestion that his 'deep thought' and 'last blast of magic' is connected in any way with the arrival of the Eagles (and later, as we learn, of Beorn)?
None whatsoever.

Which is odd, considering the fact that the Eagles were the likeliest source for him to ever learn of the goblins' movements.

But the master-strategist of Unfinished Tales surely knew something was going to happen.

That's about it from me.

It was great. Thank you!


"With all the various Dwarves of different Mansions that we see being excellent Smiths in the Silmariilion and TLOR, why is it only Dain's faction of the Longbeard's who hold the secret to making the metal mesh?"
- Tolkien Forever



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for The Clouds Burst!


CuriousG
Valinor


Nov 15 2012, 5:00pm

Post #3 of 3 (492 views)
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Sador conveniently said most of what I would have. [In reply to] Can't Post

My questions: why do you suppose Tolkien had Bilbo get knocked cold? Is it to increase the suspense of the battle's outcome? But we learn that soon enough anyway. I'm just not sure why we view most of the book through Bilbo's eyes, and in this event, we go blind.

Elves: this seems to be the first time Bilbo warms up to the Elves. He had no reason to be fond of them when he was in their halls while the dwarves were imprisoned there. Is there any transition in the story to explain his change of heart, or is this Tolkien projecting his own preference for Elves: if he were there, he'd stand with the Elves.

Why does Gandalf play the do-nothing role? When the goblins first imprisoned the dwarves, Gandalf killed a few before disappearing, then single-handedly rescued the rest. When they were chased up the trees by the wolves, he counterattacked with fire. When the goblins showed up to ignite the trees, he gathered himself for a last blast in death to take as many of them with him as he could. Here he's acting more like a pacifist priest. Unless he is concocting some heroic last blast; hard to say.

Bilbo's reflection on battle: Tolkien seems to do this a lot. First there's the grand and glorious aspect of battle, romanticized and heroic. Then there are the doubters and the non-heroic feelings of grief and despair. For me, he seems to combine the two aspects more successfully than most other authors (when they attempt it).

 
 

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