Tolkien Calendar: The Hobbit

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November 16: TA 2941

Categories: Hobbit Calendar

Lonely Mountain is besieged.

"Who are you, and of....
© Alan Lee.
This day appears to be all about treasure and greed. No sooner has Smaug been slain by Bard at Laketown than the armies for both the good and the evil seek to besiege the Lonely Mountain in search of the vast treasures buried there. It is interesting that in receiving news of Bard's approach, and even being told that he is an honorable man, Thorin is having none of it, and makes all preparation to defend the Dwarf treasure.

Thorin sends word to Dáin for help, but that assistance is still far off. So the wolves and the Goblins gather, along with the armies of both Men and Elves...all to lay claim to their portion of the riches of the Lonely Mountain. This is the day they attack and Thorin is ready for them.

The sword is sharp, the spear is long,
The arrow swift, the Gate is strong;
The heart is bold that looks on gold;
The dwarves no more shall suffer wrong.

Now call we over mountains cold,
'Come back unto the caverns old'!
Here at the Gates the king awaits,
His hands are rich with gems and gold.

The king is come unto his hall
Under the Mountain dark and tall.
The Worm of Dread is slain and dead,
And ever so our foes shall fall!

© Middle-earth Journeys. Images © Alan Lee.

November 15: TA 2941

Categories: Hobbit Calendar

The Joint Forces Reach Dale at Dusk

"Who are you, and of....
© Alan Lee.
The dwarves, having fortified their position ready for a confrontation, are now faced with the reality: a large company of lake-men and wood-elves are setting up camp in Dale. An advance party sent to reconnoitre the dwarves' defences is surprised to find the wall and the pool which they have constructed; when Thorin challenges them in his capacity as "King Under the Mountain" (his grandfather Thror's title), they do not respond, returning instead to their tents. Soon afterwards, Bilbo and the dwarves hear them making sweet elvish music:

"Then Bilbo longed to escape from the dark fortress and to go down and join 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."

To squash this (entirely natural) instinct for peace and to remind the dwarves of the differences between them and their perceived enemies, Thorin retaliates by having them make music of their own. The metre and verse structure of their song matches that of the one the dwarves sang to Bilbo in Chapter One, but the words are far more forbidding. The earlier song encouraged the dwarves to set out on their quest; this one is preparing them for war. You can almost hear the beat of the military drum; the tone is defiant and proud, as though a fight has already been won.

The line "The dwarves no more shall suffer wrong" reminds us that Thorin is not simply reacting to recent events - his strong sense of injustice goes back generations to the time when Smaug first captured the gold and destroyed Dale. Whatever the claims of the Elven-King and the lake-men may be, Thorin does not appear to be in the mood to listen, and Bilbo is very apprehensive indeed that tomorrow the conflict will move beyond making music . . .

© Middle-earth Journeys. Images © Alan Lee.

November 6: TA 2941

Categories: Hobbit Calendar

Elves reach Lake-town. Dáin receives summons

" meanwhile what....
© Alan Lee.
The stage is being set for the foolish battle Thorin's intransigence promises. The Elven King, whom we know from LOTR is Thranduil, father of Legolas, arrives in Laketown with his host. This stop is in fact a detour for the Elves, who had planned to march straight to the Lonely Mountain. But as Thranduil is the lord of a good and kindly people, he cannot turn his back on Laketown's need. He brings provisions and artisans for the rebuilding, and rekindles hope and purpose in the Laketowners. This is the first time in Tolkien's legendarium that we see the Elves cast in the role of saviors to Men--a part they would play many times in the history of Middle Earth.

But this is just a peaceful interlude, and soon the Elves continue their march to the mountain, with Laketown's army in tow. At the same time, Dain of the Iron Mountains receives Thorin's message from the ravens, and begins his forced march to aid his kinsman. He will find the Elves and the Laketowners already there, along with an unforseen enemy who will threaten to destroy them all.

© middle-earth-journeys. Images © Alan Lee.

November 4: TA 2941

Categories: Hobbit Calendar

Elves turn towards Lake-town.

" meanwhile what....
© Alan Lee.
Thanks to the foresight of Bard, who is now running Lake-town if not ruling it, the King of the Elves is stopped in his march towards the Lonely Mountain. He feels pity on hearing the prayers (interesting word to use instead of plea or request) of Bard and turns his considerable army south towards Lake-town to give them aid. Although there are not enough boats and rafts for his host, he immediately sends food and provisions by the quicker route, taking his army round by foot over treacherous lands.

This short passage, although brief in words, is long on insight into the Elvenking, Bard and the relationship between Mirkwood and Lake-town. The last time we met the Elvenking he was full of wrath because the stubborn dwarves refused to account for their journey into his lands. His rather harsh (but understandable) decision to throw them into a dungeon until they came to their senses has, up until now, cast him in the role of a rather dangerous and scary character. But here we discover that he is the 'good' leader of a 'kindly people'. He makes another swift decision, and moved by pity he shows that he is as quick to aid as he was to anger. For Bard he is the obvious person to turn to in a time of extreme trial. We know that there has been a trade relationship between the Wood-elves and Lake-town, but Bard is banking on it being something more and shows us that there is friendship and mutual support between the peoples that live close to the dragon. For the people of Lake-town, Bard's appeal and the Elvenking's decision is the difference between life and death.

Tolkien pulls no punches in relating the aftermath of the dragon's attack. This is the familiar aftermath of a disaster: shock, displacement, sickness, hunger, loss of life for the vulnerable that survive the initial trauma. How familiar it all is. And all in a story seen as a children's fairytale!

© middle-earth-journeys. Images © Alan Lee.

November 1: TA 2941

Categories: Hobbit Calendar

Bilbo returns to Smaug's chamber in the afternoon. In the evening Smaug smashes the door, attacks Lake-town, and is killed.

...outside they heard the roar and rumble of Smaug's fury.
...outside they hear....
© Alan Lee.
"Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo, you fool!"

November 1 is one of those all inclusive Tolkien cataclysmic days. So much happens in an afternoon that it is hard to comprehend it all and keep one's timeline straight.

Bilbo has his final conversation with Smaug and succeeds in stirring the dragon's anger to the breaking point. His rather careless boasting and dropping of hints finds it's mark. Bilbo is scorched but eludes the enraged Smaug. Leaving his lair and searching for the intruder, Smaug is further incensed at not finding anyone. He takes out his fury on the mountainside, and the Dwarves and Bilbo barely escape into the mountain tunnel. Convinced that Bilbo is aided by the Men of Lake-town, Smaug roars off to reek his vengeance there. Bilbo's words indeed pointed him in that direction.

I am always struck by the Dwarves overwhelming pre-occupation with the golden hoards under the Mountain. It consumes their every waking moment and here it is no exception. Even living with the growing fear of the awakening Smaug and the danger that he presents, there is no talk of warning Lake-town. There is little talk of much else but the treasure, even when the frightened Bilbo issues his warnings.

So into the Mountain they go and while Lake-town is besieged, the Dwarves marvel at the golden treasure so long guarded by the Dragon. They are uneasy, but enraptured. This is also the day that Bilbo receives his priceless shirt of Mithril that plays such an important role many years hence.
Full on the town he fell.
Full on the town he ....
© Alan Lee.
The day of the thrush.

Tolkien has chosen an unlikely hero in that of the thrush who has watched and listened to all that has transpired on the Lonely Mountain. Thorin explains the thrush's alliance with the Men of Lake-town, and today the thrush proves its worth.

At Lake-town, the people see the golden light coming from the Mountain and are overjoyed thinking that the King Under the Mountain had returned to 'forge' his gold. They are soon terrified at the approach of Smaug and it is the thrush who shows Bard exactly where the dragon is weakest, and thus brings the Smaug to his end. For all his horror and might, in the end, Smaug is revealed to be just as vulnerable as any Hobbit, Dwarf, or Man. Thanks to Bilbo and the thrush, Bard knows just where to shoot that fateful arrow.

© Images © Alan Lee.

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Last edited: 12 June 2009 11:54:37