Reader: The Hobbit. Chapter 15 “The Gathering of the Clouds”

The Hobbit Book CoverSummary Points

  • The Company had company, in the form of birds, and especially the old thrush.
  • Ravens were different from crows. and the Dwarves were acquainted with the ones who used to live in Erebor. Ravens are long-lived and could converse in the speech of men.

  • Roarc, son of Carc, whom Ravenhill was named after, translated for the old thrush and shared information, breaking news of Smaug’s death and the combined host to the Company.
  • Roac professed hope for peace among dwarves, men and elves, but aided Thorin by dispatching messengers to Dain and also continue the raven newsfeed service.
  • The Company set to work fortifying defences.
  • The combined host set up camp on the western bank of the river when they arrived at night to the desolate lands.
  • The next day, a scouting party from the host was surprised to find the Company alive. The army camp was moved to the eastern bank, nearer the Mountain.
  • The Elves sang in their camp and brought soothing enchantment to the environment, luring Bilbo and the younger dwarves with their merry-making.
  • Of course Thorin was displeased, and he mustered the Dwarves for a countering song-and-dance.
  • The next morning, a company from the host bearing the banners of the Elvenking and Lake-town approached the Dwarves, and Bard himself tried to talk Thorin into truce. But Thorin’s lust drove him, so he brooked no sharing or parley that Bard proposed. Also, he did not want anything to do with the Elvenking and demanded Bard break his alliance with the Elves before he would consider talks with him.
  • Bard was an honourable ally.
  • Later the same day, the Dwarves were declared besieged by the combined host. The declarer had gumption and style.
  • Thorin’s mood was worsening and even the other Dwarves dared not try to reason with him. But probably only Bombur, and Fili and Kili, and of course Bilbo disagreed with his stance.

Key Notes/Quotes

That day the camp was moved to the east of the river, right between the arms of the Mountain. The rocks echoed then with voices and with song, as they had not done for many a day. There was the sound, too, of elven-harps and of sweet music; and as it echoed up towards them it seemed that the chill of the air was warmed, and they caught faintly the fragrance of woodland flowers blossoming in spring.

Then Bilbo longed to escape from the dark fortress and to go down and join in the mirth and feasting by the fires. Some of the younger dwarves were moved in their hearts, too, and they muttered that they wished things had fallen out otherwise and that they might welcome such folk as friends; but Thorin scowled.

Elves definitely had some power or enchantment.

Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them. He did not, of course, expect that any one would remember that it was he who discovered all by himself the dragon’s weak spot; and that was just as well, for no one ever did. But also he did not reckon with the power that gold has upon which a dragon has long brooded, nor with dwarvish hearts. Long hours in the past days Thorin had spent in the treasury, and the lust of it was heavy on him. Though he had hunted chiefly for the Arkenstone, yet he had an eye for many another wonderful thing that was lying there, about which were wound old memories of the labours and the sorrows of his race.

Thorin’s gold lust manifested.

Thoughts

I keep thinking about the messenger/banner-bearer at the end of the chapter 15.

‘Ere many hours were past, the banner-bearers returned, and trumpeters stood forth and blew a blast:

“In the name of Esgaroth and the Forest,” one cried, “… yada yada … but if Thorin would have the friendship and honour of the lands about, as his sires had of old, then he will also give somewhat of his own for the comfort of the men of the Lake.”

Then Thorin seized a bow of horn and shot an arrow at the speaker….

“Since that is your answer,” he called in return, “I declare the Mountain besieged. You shall not depart from it, until you call on your side for a truce and a parley. We will bear no weapon against you, but we leave you to your gold. You may eat that, if you will!”

With that the messengers departed swiftly….’

Tolkien did not specify if the messenger was Elf or Man. But he struck me as someone with perhaps a bigger place in his society than your usual banner-bearer, with the authority and decisive way he spoke. Of course, he would have been empowered by both Bard and Thranduil. But they wouldn’t send just anyone to deliver the ultimatum now, would they? Especially Thranduil, who apparently asserted his will to not go on the offensive.

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