Elves turn towards Lake-town.
"..in meanwhile what next?"..."I suggest Lake-town....
© 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.