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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Hobbit - Chapter 10

Attended by:

AelKenny Rhiano
Belenos Rhiano
Rhun Darkmoon
Shawn Daysleeper

Ael gave a quick summary of the events of chapter Nine:

Well, in Chapter 9, Bilbo and the dwarves, after escaping the spider, wind up captured by the wood elves and brought the elven king's halls. Bilbo, now is still hidden by the ring. The dwarves refuse to reveal their plan to reclaim their treasure from Smaug because they don't want to give the elves a share of the spoils. So Thorin and the dwarves are thrown in the dungeon.

The elves exchange goods with the men of Lake Town via barrels that are floated on a river that flows under the elves’ dwelling. Empty barrels are sent floating back down the river from a storeroom. In the storeroom, Bilbo catches a guardsman napping. He steals the guardsman’s keys, frees the dwarves, and puts his plan into action. He helps pack each dwarf into an empty barrel just before the elves return and shove the barrels into the river; then, still invisible, he hops onto an empty barrel. The trapdoors open and the dwarves speed out along the river toward Lake Town.

In Chapter 10, The barrels, with one hobbit on top and thirteen dwarves inside, flow down the river and out of Mirkwood forest. Looking to the north, Bilbo sees the Lonely Mountain, the group’s ultimate destination. For the time being, however, the river takes them toward Lake Town (its alternate name, Esgaroth, is mentioned in Chapter 12). Lake Town is a human city, built on Long Lake, south of the Lonely Mountain. At Lake Town, the barrels are brought to shore when boats from the town row out and cast ropes toward the floaters, and while the men are away, Bilbo frees his companions from the barrels. Everyone has survived, but they are cramped, wet, and hungry.

Thorin, filled with a new sense of purpose, strides proudly up to the town hall and declares to the Master of Lake Town that he, a descendant of the King under the Mountain, has returned to claim his inheritance. The people of the town rejoice. They have all heard the stories of how gold flowed down the river when the King under the Mountain reigned before Smaug came. They treat the dwarves and even Bilbo like kings. After a fortnight, the company is strong and eager again. Though they still have no idea how to deal with the dragon, Thorin feels that they cannot wait any longer. He obtains boats, horses, and provisions from the Master of Lake Town, and the company sets off up the River running toward the Lonely Mountain.

Belenos asked if 'gold flowing down the river' referred to it coming from a mine. Ael confirmed it did. From Dwarven mines.  Rhun then commented that the people of Laketown feted the travellers but also seemed to have high expectations of them.

Ael agreed and went on to elaborate. The way in which Thorin Oakenshield’s name and the name of his grandfather command immediate respect in Lake Town despite Thorin’s tattered appearance highlights the importance of ancestry and family name in Middle-Earth. We have already seen the importance of lineage in defining a person’s character and prospects, first through Bilbo’s oscillation between his Took side and his Baggins side, and also through Thorin’s obsession with his birthright, the treasure under the mountain. When the party arrives at Lake Town, we see that lineage also influences social interactions. Since strangers often bring trouble, a well-known name is powerful. A mark of social and familial stability, a name like Oakenshield represents a time when peace and prosperity prevailed. For the people of Lake Town, the return of the grandson of the King under the Mountain recalls a time before Smaug when gold came from the Lonely Mountain.

Thorin is very representative of dwarves as they are portrayed in the Hobbit....brave, stubborn, proud, and greedy for gold. Though his birthright and noble bearing initially make Thorin seem like a fairly heroic figure, the dwarf’s status quickly declines as Bilbo’s rises. Soon after Gandalf leaves the party, it becomes apparent that Thorin is not a true leader: he is incapable of formulating a plan, makes hasty and poor decisions, and generally relies on Bilbo to see him through his adventures, all the while treating Bilbo like an insignificant underling. Once Thorin gets his hands on Smaug’s treasure, he becomes irrationally greedy and obsessed with wealth, to the extent that he would rather wage a violent war than give the men from Lake Town their fair share of the treasure. Thorin is partially redeemed by his dying apology to Bilbo, but not even this act of remorse can fully redeem him. In general, the arrogant Thorin works as a foil for the unassuming Bilbo, setting off Bilbo’s best qualities and creating a leadership void that provides Bilbo the chance to seize the initiative and become a true hero.

Belenos remarked that it would seem that ancestry and name were not just important to the dwarves. Ael agreed, as Laketown was a human town. He also mentioned when all of Bilbo's relatives were discussed, some were less reputable than others. Name and status was very important.

Shawn remarked that he did not think elves saw name and ancestry as important as other races do, expect for maybe the Noldor. Ael agreed this was so, going on to remark that he did not think it was important prior to the creation of the silmarils. Rhun asked why that would change things and Ael went on to explain. Once the simarils were created, we begin to see jealousy, possessiveness and other negative emotions in the Noldor.  When Rhun asked why this would be so, Ael elaborated. It is like, in my humble opinion, the simarils were like the apple from the tree of knowledge.  In Valinor "great became their knowledge and their skill; yet even greater was their thirst for more knowledge, and in many things they soon surpassed their teachers. They were changeful in speech, for they had great love of words, and sought ever to find names more fit for all things they knew or imagined." But remember, Melkor grew to hate the Noldor. He envied their properity and growth and he would go often among them, offering advice and wooing them. And they listened and were tainted by his lies.  Fëanor, having rebelled against Fingolfin his half-brother, was banished, and with him went Finwë his father. Fingolfin remained as the ruler of the Noldor of Tirion.

Belenos then asked if this meant they were tainted by Melkor before the silmarils were made and Ael confirmed this was so. After Fingolfin was banished..Melkor... Soon after with the aid of Ungoliant he slew the Two Trees, and coming to Formenos he killed Finwë, stole the Silmarils and departed from Aman. Fëanor then, driven by the desire of vengeance, rebelled against the Valar and made a speech before the Noldor, persuading them to leave Valinor, follow Melkor to Middle-earth and wage war against him for the recovery of the Silmarils. He swore a terrible oath to pursue Melkor and claimed the title of the High King; but though the greater part of the Noldor still held Fingolfin as King, they followed Fëanor to be not separated from their kin.

The Noldor led by Fëanor demanded that the Teleri let them use their ships. When the Teleri refused, they took the ships by force, committing the first kinslaying.

We have references in the Silmarillion that point to Galadriel being the granddaughter of Olwe, but it seems that lineage mattered more to the Noldor than to either the Vanyar or the Teleri.

Concerning the humans.....The introduction of the people of Lake Town places humans in Tolkien’s hierarchy of good and evil races. The human denizens of Lake Town are quite cautious when it comes to confronting the dragon. When the company sets off for the mountain, the humans refuse to go near it, leaving Bilbo and the dwarves to fend for themselves. Though they are concerned most about themselves, the people of Lake Town cannot really be blamed for fearing Smaug—they are convinced that he is invincible. Though Tolkien here emphasizes human fallibility and fear, he portrays humans as generally good creatures.

So..they may show all this respect to Thorin, but when it comes to slaying the dragon...

And the wood elves could have helped. He could have cut them in for a share of the treasure. There was enough to go around.

Belenos asked why he didn't and Ael explained one of his failings as we would see, is greed. Rhun went on to remark then that when Gimli asked his gift of Galadriel he was actually exceptionally 'ungreedy'. Ael commented that if we are comparing him to Thorin, he was a most unusual dwarf.  Ael also remarked, "I would like to think so. I cannot see any race being static and totally unchanging. And remember, if we apply the theory of evolution, then we must allow for the idea that dwarven communities would adopt to the circumstances of their environment."  Belenos commented then that as supposedly  even real life human learn from history, so too can dwarves (considering the difference in time of the story of the Hobbit, versus the Lord of the Rings books).