A Tolkien Virgin: The Hobbit - Chapters 15, 16, and 17 - The Journey Continues

Chapter 15
Gathering Clouds


Smaug's horded treasure.
Ew... what a nasty turn of events! Thorin's lust for the treasure is about to ruin the fun of the entire story! Dare I say it's starting to feel a little like the Silmarillion, what with the lust of treasure perverting characters' abilities to think rationally. The story definitely feels a lot different now than just a few chapters back. Here, Bilbo is becoming the observer of events beyond his control, instead of the hero that life and success depended upon. And Thorin isn't the moody leader of a bunch of burglarizing dwarves, now he's a megalomaniacal self-styled dwarf-king corrupted by his own lust for power...er, I mean treasure. That's all I have to say about this chapter.

Also, I forgot to mention last time something I noticed. Jonathan was telling me the other day that Tolkien was openly opposed to democracy. He had a rather romantic notion of monarchy. So, it comes as no surprise that the evil Master of Lake-Town is an elected official, while the virtuous hero, Bard, that the people desire to make king is the descendent of the old monarchy in Dale.

Chapter 16
A Thief in the Night


Bilbo gives up the Arkenstone.
Ahhh... much better! I guess I was too quick to judge Bilbo, eh? Observer? Not so much so now... he's devised a plan.

When he started to leave, I was astonished... in a bad way. I thought, "well things have taken a turn for the worse, but how totally lame it is for Bilbo to just sneak off with the Arkenstone and leave his 'friends' like that." Even though I just might have done that myself! I think the most amazing feat Bilbo has accomplished the entire story is giving up the Arkenstone. With the lust for treasure (and Silmarils) that I'm accustomed to in Tolkien's work, especially in the Silmarillion, the last thing I expected was Bilbo being able to part with such an amazing gem. I thought for sure from the moment he took the Arkenstone (I started to write 'Silmaril' just now!) terrible things would be the result. But, now with the sudden reappearance and reassurance of Gandalf, I'm starting to feel like this is more like early parts of the book...everything will probably turn out just fine.

Chapter 17
The Clouds Burst


The Battle of Five Armies.
Tolkien sure does know how to write a battle! And what sinister imagery with the sea of bats added to the mayhem of the clashing armies below. The "common enemy" device to keep the dwarves and elves and men from battling each other works nicely here. The situation and ease with which Gandalf killed the Goblin-king way back when was almost comical...who would've thought it would have such serious effects all this time later (perhaps Gandalf would have, eh?)? Even though it's sad so many are dying, it's not as devastating as it could be since at least the 'good guys' aren't fighting amongst themselves anymore, which is a significant boon. Well, I guess the coming of the Goblins has more to do with the death of Smaug and their own lust for the treasure horde than with their rekindled hate for dwarves thanks to Gandalf's blow. But, then playing the blame game in this book can be really difficult since so many people are involved both contemporarily and historically (like in real life). It is safe to say that, inspite of the grand historical perspective, our heroes (now that they're acting heroicly again) and Bilbo--not the least among them--have had an integral part in bringing this all about. I wouldn't have thought that Bilbo and the dwarves would've had such a significant impact on so many lives at the beginining. There are definitely sillier parts, and fun parts, but their are also some fairly serious parts which makes me feel that the story is a little schizophrenic.

Were you surprised when Bilbo announced that the Eagles are coming? I'm proud to say that I remembered the reference to the Battle of the Five Armies from our heroes' experience with the eagles earlier. I wasn't sure that it was going to take place in The Hobbit, but once Tolkien called it that in this chapter, I knew the Eagles would make the scene sooner or later. I have to admit that now I'm wondering if Beorn is going to show up... he's the only major character previously mentioned not on the scene right now (aside from the spiders, I guess--and Smaug... and the Master of Lake-town... and Elrond... okay so maybe I exagerated).

till next time,

keep thinking,

mark-edmond
far(out)

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