A Tolkien Virgin: The Hobbit Chapters 13 & 14 - The Journey Continues
Smaug over Esgaroth...
Not at Home
Wait around for a few days? Man, as soon as I thought Smaug was gone, I would have made a break for it! Then, they dilly dally taking their pick from the treasure with the dragon possibly returning at any second..."get the heck out of there!" I wanted to scream. Furthermore, Bilbo's taking of the Arkenstone can't be good. Remember what happened to Thingol when he resisted the Dwarf-smiths' taking of the Nauglamir newly set with the Silmaril of Beren. Certainly witholding treasure from dwarves who think it rightfully their's is a dangerous thing.
Not much else happens. They successfully escape with no sign of Smaug anywhere about...except perhaps for that gathering of birds Bilbo and the Dwarves didn't understand. Well, I don't understand what it could mean either. Have they fled there from somewhere Smaug is wrecking havoc...are they a bird-army gathered by the thrush from two chapters back--or gathered by whomever the thrush reported to (the Lord of the Eagles, maybe?). Not much to say about this chapter...not much happens. As I move on, I'm left with uncertainty (what's up with Smaug and those birds) and a sense of impending doom (complications with the Arkenstone and Smaug's return from laying waste to Lake-Town). Maybe not Silmarillion-like doom, but doom nonetheless. Not that anything seriously bad could ever happen to Bilbo.
Fire and Water
Woah...how anti-climactic and complicated. Very interesting and disappointing at the same time. This is where the story moves from the semblances of a children's story to a more, I don't know, mature (?) story. The book has been about Bilbo almost exclusively till this point, and the fact that he is totally removed from the actual slaying of Smaug struck me as very odd. It's extremelely late in the book to introduce a new character, this Bard guy, to defeat Smaug (with the help of the thrush) and rise up as a potential future king. The one good thing this chapter does is remind me that the Hobbit, although it's about Bilbo ostensibly, is really part of a much bigger story with the Silmarillion in its history and the Lord of the Rings in its future (I'm pretty sure). If this chapter is just a tangent and not a widening/deepening of the focus of the Hobbit, it's a little too distracting for me. It's just a big deal that the focal characters of our story up to this point weren't there to help kill Smaug. Anyway, there's not a lot left in the book and I'm curious how everything gets tied up. Does Bard rebuild Dale with the treasure of Smaug? Does the Master of Esgaroth do something evil? Why the mention of Beorn and the orcs? Do they come into play later? Does the death of Smaug bring war back to this part of Middle Earth? But, more importantly, what is the fate of our Luck-filled Barrel-rider and where in the world is Gandalf !?!
As an aside, I've never thought of dragons whole bodies being so hot that wood ignites when it come into contact with the dragon--or water turn immediately to steam. There's some really cool imagery in the chapter, dealing with Smaug's attack of Esgaroth and his ultimate defeat and the destruction of the town.
till next time,