Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 9 “Barrels Out Of Bond”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • Dwarves used the rule of majority when in doubt or situations of non-consensus.
  • Dwarven tenacity could be worn down, especially when they had been starving for a while, in which case they would apply the better part of valour.

  • Bilbo’s quick thinking and dependency on the Ring to get out of a tight spot were growing well, which covered his presence even from the sense of the Elves.
  • Elves were fantastic shots even in the dark. And the Dwarves knew this.
  • Dwarves did not take well to being questioned, especially by Elves. In fact the animosity was mutual.
  • The Elvenking was a king who was hands-on with interrogation and a proactive protector of his people.
  • The Elvenking was also cunning in separating the Dwarves and keeping them and Thorin unaware of each other’s capture. But he still treated them all quite well. Truly a card-carrying member of the Geneva Convention.
  • Bilbo’s burglary ambitions were given a real boost by the Ring. It still took two weeks for him to find out where all the Dwarves were held.
  • Living by stealth in the Halls of the Woodland Realm wasn’t quite so glamourous, it was nerve-wrecking and the lustre gave out within 2 weeks.
  • If it wasn’t for Bilbo, Thorin would have parleyed with the Elvenking for freedom using the treasure he expected to retrieve from his quest; he was already thinking about it when Bilbo found him.
  • The Elves, particularly their king, had a fondness for wine. They were also partial to imports, specifically Dorwinion vintages.
  • The Elves’ interior decor inspired Bilbo’s escape plan. Two words: water-gate. And complacency in the captain of the guard and a butler named Galion (incidentally the only named Elf in the book) too free with liberties with his lord’s wines.
  • Elves generally held their drinks well. There is also a difference between regular wine and the fine vintages for the Elvenking’s feasts. They also snored when passed out from Dorwinion, dreaming deep and pleasantly.
  • Dwarves could be prissy and dense; Bilbo has learnt to give as good as he got when he couldn’t reason with them.
  • Bilbo was still gaining life-experience cred – he forgot to figure himself into his escape plan, which took place at night.
  • The Elven water-gate utilised an underground stream that was a tributary (but its waters were still uncomfortably cold at night) of the Forest River (with fast dark waters) which met the Long Lake (connecting the River Running) for sending stuff east and north to Lake-town. Goods travelling the other way had to be ferried upstream to the Elven realm.
  • The barrels gathered at the stony pier on the eastern side of the north bank of a wide bay carved out by the Forest River, where they were lashed together and left til the next morning for the delivery to Lake-town.
  • Bilbo pilfered his meal for that evening.

 

Key Notes/Quotes

… This was the bridge that led across the river to the king’s doors. The water flowed dark and swift and strong beneath; and at the far end were gates before the mouth of a huge cave that ran into the side of a steep slope covered with trees. There the great beeches came right down to the bank, till their feet were in the stream.

Across the bridge the elves thrust their prisoners, but Bilbo hesitated in the rear. He did not at all like the look of the cavern-mouth, and he only made up his mind not to desert his friends just in time to scuttle over at the heels of the last elves, before the great gates of the king closed behind them with a clang.

Inside the passages were lit with red torch-light, and the elf-guards sang as they marched along the twisting, crossing, and echoing paths. These were not like those of the goblin-cities; they were smaller, less deep underground, and filled with a cleaner air. In a great hall with pillars hewn out of the living stone sat the Elvenking on a chair of carven wood. On his head was a crown of berries and red leaves, for the autumn was come again. In the spring he wore a crown of woodland flowers. In his hand he held a carven staff of oak.

More on the Elvenking and his realm.

“What have we done, O king?” said Balin, who was the eldest left. “Is it a crime to be lost in the forest, to be hungry and thirsty, to be trapped by spiders? Are the spiders your tame beasts or your pets, if killing them makes you angry?”

So Thorin was the eldest in the book?

… the great gates were not the only entrance to the caves. A stream flowed under part of the lowest regions of the palace, and joined the Forest River some way further to the east, beyond the steep slope out of which the main mouth opened. Where this underground watercourse came forth from the hillside there was a water-gate. There the rocky roof came down close to the surface of the stream, and from it a portcullis could be dropped right to the bed of the river to prevent anyone coming in or out that way. But the portcullis was often open, for a good deal of traffic went out and in by the water-gate. If anyone had come in that way, he would have found himself in a dark rough tunnel leading deep into the heart of the hill; but at one point where it passed under the caves the roof had been cut away and covered with great oaken trapdoors. These opened upwards into the king’s cellars. There stood barrels, and barrels, and barrels; for the Wood-elves, and especially their king, were very fond of wine, though no vines grew in those parts. The wine, and other goods, were brought from far away, from their kinsfolk in the South, or from the vineyards of Men in distant lands.

Trade is an interesting topic, given the context.

Thoughts

Named Elves – there is only 1, Galion the butler. The King is only ever titled.

Delving for a bit beyond TH: the Wood-Elves, that is Silvan. of Mirkwood did not seem to have much tradeskills or crafts to their name and yet they did trade, though it seemed the trade was in-flow focused. Which begs the interesting questions: How did they get the things they need to use? Road tolls may generate some income, but when things worsened, as we see in the story, the scarcity of trade wouldn’t be enough to sustain the realm’s needs, even if the tolls are hiked up to the skies.

Oropher ruled for a fair bit before Thranduil took over. Even if Oropher’s administration had no treasury problems to begin, by the time the War of The Last Alliance rolled around in the SA, I’d think inflation and scarcity of goods and resources would have had impact on the prices of goods, especially luxury goods like Dorwinion wine, and the poverty line might have reared its ugly head? (Which might account for the lack of adequate protection for the troops that went to war, apart from hubris or bravado? I don’t think Oropher would be that inexperienced with conflict to think light armour was enough in itself for battle in such a large scale theatre). I would think Thranduil was a studious king-in-waiting, and it helped he had the smarts to pick up the pieces during and after the War, and literally made things work or continue to work. The Ages changed, but there’s still mouths to feed and a kingdom to run. So I do feel that economics play into Thranduil’s treasure-lust compulsion even if he didn’t pick up the gem-envy from Oropher.

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