Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 10 “A Warm Welcome”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • Bilbo’s first glimpse of the Lonely Mountain, rounding a bend riding the barrels and he wasn’t feeling happy vibes. He had also caught a cold.
  • It took all day to traverse the Forest River to reach Lake-town on the Long Lake, even travelling on the water. There were “clifflike gates” where the River met the Lake. In the southern end of the Lake, the waters fell over high falls.

  • Lake-town was built out on the water upon huge piles of forest trees, connected to land by a great wooden bridge. There was still trade, but a pale shadow of the heyday when Dale was alive.
  • The Lake-men still sang songs of Thror and Thrain, dwarf-kings of the line of Durin in the Mountain, some about their return, but they were a practical people who did not live by dreams.
  • The raft-elves had good working relationships with the Lake-men, and upon arriving went off feasting together.
  • Unhappy Dwarves, especially when they’re decrepit, are most unhelpful when full of self-pity. Thorin was the first Dwarf Bilbo freed. And they had a small verbal set-to before Thorin got to helping free the others. At least he helped. Dwalin and Balin couldn’t be arsed. As were Bifur and Bofor despite being less aggrieved. Fili and Kili though, took it like the youthful bosses they were, being less worse for the wear than the others, were much more helpful.
  • Lake-town security was lax. Thorin simply walked up to the guards on the bridge and announced himself as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!”, causing a commotion.
    • The greater wonder was he was believed, and looked it, despite being worse for wear, thanks in large part to the gold on his neck and waist. And his eyes deep and dark.
    • Fili in a rare character moment, expressed impatience with solemnities due to hunger and the injured.
    • The Lake-town guards were easy to intimidate.
    • The feasters in the great hall received the dwarves with excitement if they were Lake-men.
    • Though the songs of old about the riches of Erebor were not passed down with integrity, still they continued to ring bells in the Lake-men’s collective psyche. With the attraction of a revitalised economy, small inconvenient details like the actual identity of Thorin being the grandson, not Thror the King Under The Mountain himself did not bother the Lake-men, nor did he even have to say much himself.
    • Songs are definitely a good media to pass and keep traditions or pass new thoughts – the Master sure tried to use them to keep the hopes of Smaug’s demise up.
    • The hospitality of the Lake-men was astoundingly generous, healing and fattening the Dwarves in a week’s time, and restoring Thorin’s swag.
    • Poor Bilbo caught a cold, and could only say “Thag you very buch” for the last 3 days, even through the happy happenstance of the satiated Dwarves’ esteem of him growing with their girths.
  • The Elvenking got the report from his raft-elves
    • Nothing was mentioned about the captain of the guard and the butler whose inebriation gave the Company the chance to escape.
    • He demonstrated his wisdom and age by guessing the purpose of the Dwarves and surmising their demise in the venture.
    • He sent spies out nonetheless and waited for more information
  • At the end of the second week, Thorin, prudently riding the wave of welcome, requested assistance to begin provisioning for the last leg of the Company’s journey.
    • The Master only began to realise Thorin might just be who he claimed to be. But he was glad to give the Company a hand, which made more economic sense than continuing the money-losing prospect of simply feeding the Company indefinitely in what the Lake-towners had turned into a long holiday.
    • Dwarven reputation for single-mindedness preceded the Company.
    • Bilbo was the only unhappy party in the departure.

 

Key Notes/Quotes

Dreary as had been his imprisonment and unpleasant as was his position (to say nothing of the poor dwarves underneath him) still, he had been more lucky than he had guessed. The talk was all of the trade that came and went on the waterways and the growth of the traffic on the river, as the roads out of the East towards Mirkwood vanished or fell into disuse; and of the bickerings of the Lake-men and the Wood-elves about the upkeep of the Forest River and the care of the banks. Those lands had changed much since the days when dwarves dwelt in the Mountain, days which most people now remembered only as a very shadowy tradition. They had changed even in recent years, and since the last news that Gandalf had had of them. Great floods and rains had swollen the waters that flowed east; and there had been an earthquake or two (which some were inclined to attribute to the dragon—alluding to him chiefly with a curse and an ominous nod in the direction of the Mountain). The marshes and bogs had spread wider and wider on either side. Paths had vanished, and many a rider and wanderer too, if they had tried to find the lost ways across. The elf-road through the wood which the dwarves had followed on the advice of Beorn now came to a doubtful and little used end at the eastern edge of the forest; only the river offered any longer a safe way from the skirts of Mirkwood in the North to the mountain-shadowed plains beyond, and the river was guarded by the Wood-elves’ king.

More insight into the trade relations between the Elves and Lake-town, and the lay of the land.

So you see Bilbo had come in the end by the only road that was any good. It might have been some comfort to Mr. Baggins shivering on the barrels, if he had known that news of this had reached Gandalf far away and given him great anxiety, and that he was in fact finishing his other business (which does not come into this tale) and getting ready to come in search of Thorin’s company. But Bilbo did not know it.

Interesting. How and who delivered the message to Gandalf?

But men remembered little of all that, though some still sang old songs of the dwarf-kings of the Mountain, Thror and Thrain of the race of Durin, and of the coming of the Dragon, and the fall of the lords of Dale. Some sang too that Thror and Thrain would come back one day and gold would flow in rivers, through the mountain-gates, and all that land would be filled with new song and new laughter. But this pleasant legend did not much affect their daily business.

Lake-men seemed practical, a folk who did not allow daydreams to get in the way of daily living. However, as shown later when Thorin revealed himself, they were also quick to welcome him and the attendant allusions of wealth in the songs.

…. First of all a barrel was cut loose by Bilbo and pushed to the shore and opened. Groans came from inside, and out crept a most unhappy dwarf. Wet straw was in his draggled beard; he was so sore and stiff, so bruised and buffeted he could hardly stand or stumble through the shallow water to lie groaning on the shore. He had a famished and a savage look like a dog that has been chained and forgotten in a kennel for a week. It was Thorin, but you could only have told it by his golden chain, and by the colour of his now dirty and tattered sky-blue hood with its tarnished silver tassel. It was some time before he would be even polite to the hobbit.

“Well, are you alive or are you dead?” asked Bilbo quite crossly. Perhaps he had forgotten that he had had at least one good meal more than the dwarves, and also the use of his arms and legs, not to speak of a greater allowance of air. “Are you still in prison, or are you free? If you want food, and if you want to go on with this silly adventure—it’s yours after all and not mine—you had better slap your arms and rub your legs and try and help me get the others out while there is a chance!”

Thorin of course saw the sense of this, so after a few more groans he got up and helped the hobbit as well as he could….

Thorin’s pampered sense of privilege showed through. But perhaps as a long-suffering member of a wandering homeless race, he also quickly recovered his sense of practicality and assisted Bilbo with the others. Also, Bilbo could give as good as he got, no doubt thanks to the life-experience he was getting.

Nothing else could, of course, be suggested; so leaving the others Thorin and Fili and Kili and the hobbit went along the shore to the great bridge. There were guards at the head of it, but they were not keeping very careful watch, for it was so long since there had been any real need. Except for occasional squabbles about river-tolls they were friends with the Wood-elves. Other folk were far away; and some of the younger people in the town openly doubted the existence of any dragon in the mountain, and laughed at the greybeards and gammers who said that they had seen him flying in the sky in their young days. That being so it is not surprising that the guards were drinking and laughing by a fire in their hut, and did not hear the noise of the unpacking of the dwarves or the footsteps of the four scouts. Their astonishment was enormous when Thorin Oakenshield stepped in through the door.

The Lake-men’s mentality was an interesting study. Trade with the Wood-Elves was active, and they seemed to be holding their own in trade negotiations against the Elves, even seeming to be able to hold their own against the Elvenking who had a reputation as a powerful king in the neighbourhood. And the parts they lived was not exactly peaceful. Yet their security was lax, and they did not question Thorin’s claim nor his motive, instead putting out the welcome mat for the Company and hosting them mightily for at least two weeks in unofficial celebrations of the Mountain King’s return, never mind that Thorin was not the original one.

Another point of interest were the alleged sightings of Smaug in his younger days, Did this not portent his coming?

 

Thoughts

The stop in Lake-town was a necessary recovery process for the Dwarves. It also gave us some insight into Lake-town and the socio-economical and political realities of the Town and the region.

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