Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 14 “Fire And Water”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • Back to the night that Smaug smashed through the Front Gate, he indeed launched an attack on Lake-town.
  • The Lake-men were still in euphoria over the Dwarves’ visit. Thank goodness for the grim-voiced fellow and his natural skepticism with regards to happenings on the Mountain.

  • The Men had in place, a emergency procedure for dealing with Smaug. Surprisingly they still knew it and apparently had regular drills.
  • Smaug couldn’t get to the Town, and was maddened by the arrows the Men dared shoot at him (at the grim-voiced fellow, Bard’s direction).
  • Smaug’s long-range flame-throwing ability still overcame the defense and the Town was burnt.
  • The Men start to curse the Dwarves, while the Master of the Town was trying to save himself in his gilded escape boat.
  • Bard, who was a descendent of Girion the last lord of Dale, and his men held the defense, until he was the last archer still at his post. With the news report and advice from the old thrush, he took aim with the black arrow of his father forged by Dwarves that he recovered from Dale, and brought Smaug down, who destroyed the Town with his fall.
  • The Lake-men’s anger was first at the cowardly Master who has disappeared during the attack.
  • Saving the day had an effect on the saved, which precipitated the halo-effect on the saviour – the Lake-men wanted to make Bard king. Of course the Master was not happy. Political animal that he was, he was quick to divert the people’s anger to the Dwarves, but Bard made everyone focus on the relief efforts at hand
  • Bard was a natural leader and quickly organised the survivors and sent messages for assistance to the King of the Elves of the Wood.
  • News travelled, even in those days. Elven assistance came quickly, Bard’s messengers met the Elves on the third day and on the fifth day after Smaug’s demise, as the King had heard of Smaug’s death and was setting out to loot Erebor’s treasure-haul. Even Beorn and the orcs had heard.
  • The Elvenking regretted the Company’s supposed demise. Bard and the Elvenking were natural leaders and ordered the relief efforts quickly.
  • On the eleventh day after Smaug’s death, the combined army of Elves and Men reached the desolate lands.

 

Key Notes/Quotes

“Look!” said one. “The lights again! Last night the watchmen saw them start and fade from midnight until dawn. Something is happening up there.”

“Perhaps the King under the Mountain is forging gold,” said another. “It is long since he went North. It is time the songs began to prove themselves again.”

“Which king?” said another with a grim voice. “As like as not it is the marauding fire of the Dragon, the only king under the Mountain we have ever known.”

“You are always foreboding gloomy things!” said the others. “Anything from floods to poisoned fish. Think of something cheerful!”

&

There was once more a tremendous excitement and enthusiasm. But the grim-voiced fellow ran hotfoot to the Master. “The dragon is coming or I am a fool!” he cried. “Cut the bridges! To arms! To arms!”

Introduction to Bard. He was certainly a serious no-nonsense fellow.

 

Before long, so great was his speed, they could see him as a spark of fire rushing towards them and growing ever huger and more bright, and not the most foolish doubted that the prophecies had gone rather wrong. Still they had a little time. Every vessel in the town was filled with water, every warrior was armed, every arrow and dart was ready, and the bridge to the land was thrown down and destroyed, before the roar of Smaug’s terrible approach grew loud, and the lake rippled red as fire beneath the awful beating of his wings.

Amid shrieks and wailing and the shouts of men he came over them, swept towards the bridges and was foiled! The bridge was gone, and his enemies were on an island in deep water—too deep and dark and cool for his liking. If he plunged into it, a vapour and a steam would arise enough to cover all the land with a mist for days; but the lake was mightier than he, it would quench him before he could pass through.

Roaring he swept back over the town. A hail of dark arrows leaped up and snapped and rattled on his scales and jewels, and their shafts fell back kindled by his breath burning and hissing into the lake. No fireworks you ever imagined equalled the sights that night. At the twanging of the bows and the shrilling of the trumpets the dragon’s wrath blazed to its height, till he was blind and mad with it. No one had dared to give battle to him for many an age; nor would they have dared now, if it had not been for the grim-voiced man (Bard was his name), who ran to and fro cheering on the archers and urging the Master to order them to fight to the last arrow.

Smaug’s attack seemed dependent on his ability to breath fire on the town and the ability to approach the town on foot.  This is evidence there was strategy in the Lake-town’s design and the use of the bridge as the main conduit. Whoever designed the Town must have access to knowledge or advice on how to manage to Dragons. Who could that advisor be?

Also, Bard showed his mettle.

“That will be the last we shall hear of Thorin Oakenshield, I fear,” said the king. “He would have done better to have remained my guest. It is an ill wind, all the same,” he added, “that blows no one any good.” For he too had not forgotten the legend of the wealth of Thror. So it was that Bard’s messengers found him now marching with many spearmen and bowmen; and crows were gathered thick above him, for they thought that war was awakening again, such as had not been in those parts for a long age.

But the king, when he received the prayers of Bard, had pity, for he was the lord of a good and kindly people; so turning his march, which had at first been direct towards the Mountain, he hastened now down the river to the Long Lake. He had not boats or rafts enough for his host, and they were forced to go the slower way by foot; but great store of goods he sent ahead by water. Still elves are lightfooted, and though they were not in these days much used to the marches and the treacherous lands between the Forest and the Lake, their going was swift. Only five days after the death of the dragon— they came upon the shores and looked on the ruins of the town. Their welcome was good, as may be expected, and the men and their Master were ready to make any bargain for the future in return for the Elvenking’s aid.

Their plans were soon made. With the women and the children, the old and the unfit, the Master remained behind; and with him were some men of crafts and many skilled elves; and they busied themselves felling trees, and collecting the timber sent down from the Forest. Then they set about raising many huts by the shore against the oncoming winter; and also under the Master’s direction they began the planning of a new town, designed more fair and large even than before, but not in the same place. They removed northward higher up the shore; for ever after they had a dread of the water where the dragon lay. He would never again return to his golden bed, but was stretched cold as stone, twisted upon the floor of the shallows. There for ages his huge bones could be seen in calm weather amid the ruined piles of the old town. But few dared to cross the cursed spot, and none dared to dive into the shivering water or recover the precious stones that fell from his rotting carcase.

The Elvenking also showed he was more than just a disagreeable dwarf-hating Elf-king with a greed for treasure. He was shrewd but wise and ready to offer succour where needed.

 

Thoughts

An exciting chapter that showed some culture and politics at play. Bard was introduced and defined with clever use of words and situation. Also, the Elvenking’s shrewdness in deducing the facts of the situation showed he was no simpleton, and his willingness to respond to Bard’s call for aid definitely painted layers to his character.

It may seemed at first glance that the Elvenking was over-prepared for a treasure-haul. However, given the lay of the geo-political realities of the region, with orcs about and the ease with which news travelled, going after treasure may not be such a simple matter after all.

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