We last left Thorin & Co. encamped in the old look-out post at the South-West corner of the Mountain and peering anxiously across the surrounding countryside for any clue to the whereabouts of the marauding Smaug. At length they spy many birds gathering, but no further news of the dragon reaches them as night falls. All through the night they keep at least one on watch, but the morning only brings more birds, among them the harsh cry of carrion crows.
Suddenly, Bilbo spies the thrush once again, glad to see that the old bird had escaped from Smaug's destruction of the mountainside. He flies straight to the party and sings to them most urgently, but no one can understand him. Balin wishes fervently that the bird was a raven, because of old there had been great friendship between the dwarves of the Mountain and the ravens that resided upon the top of the very look-out post Thorin & Co. are currently using for shelter, which had been named Ravenhill in their honor. Balin recalls the "wise and famous" raven Carc and his wife and tells Bilbo that the ravens had brought them news and carried messages in exchange for bright objects "they coveted to hide in their dwellings."
Once again, The Professor displays for us both his knowledge of the flora and fauna of his native England, where the raven flourishes, and ties to his "mythology for England" a potent symbol associated with the ancient Norse God Odin. The following quote is taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica On-Line:
"Odin was called the Raven God. He had a throne, Hlidskjalf, in a watchtower in the heavenly realm of Asgard, from which he could see anything that happened in the nine worlds of the universe, and nothing escaped his gaze. Odin would sit on this lofty throne with two ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory), perched on his shoulders. He sent these birds out into the world each day, and they would return to whisper in his ear everything they had seen."
The thrush suddenly departs with a loud call and shortly returns with a "most decrepit old bird" who proves to be none other than Roäc, son of Carc. He is ancient indeed, it being 153 years since he came "out of the egg"! From Roäc, Thorin & Co. learn that Smaug is dead, thanks to the knowledge of the old thrush ("may his feathers never fall"), who witnessed the deed. But Roäc also bears news that the Elvenking and his host are on the way, having heard of the death of the dragon. In addition, the Lake men who have lost lives and homes to Smaug's rampage are also on the way, seeking "amends from your treasure whether you are alive or dead." Roäc tells Thorin of Bard the Bowman, whose daring shot killed the dragon, calling him "a grim man but true" and expressing his hope that there will be peace once more among the dwarves, men, and elves "after the long desolation."
But Thorin, deeply caught up by treasure sickness, has no ear for peace, and desires only to secure the treasure to himself and his folk, ". . . none of our gold shall thieves take or the violent carry off while we are alive." He asks Roäc to send messengers to Thorin's kin in the north, but most especially to his cousin Dain in the Iron Hills, asking them to send a well-armed, fast-traveling fighting force to his aid.
Old Roäc seems unhappy to hear such war-like words, but agrees to help nonetheless. And Bilbo? Well, with the death of the dragon, the Tookish side of him is taking a well-deserved breather, and the practical, business-like Baggins nature emerges once again. He is concerned about how little food they have left and feels that, with the death of the dragon and the achievement of the treasure, his part in this business has been completed. Little does he know that his most important task - one that will require all of his ingenuity and generosity of spirit - is yet ahead of him.