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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTERS 14-17

After Smaug is killed by a man of Lake-town, an army of men
and elves sets out for the mountain to recover Smaug's hoard.
Instead they find the dwarves in possession of the treasure. The
dispute over the wealth is about to erupt into war when an army
of goblins and Wargs attacks.

Tolkien takes you back to the night that Smaug destroyed the
secret door, trapping the dwarves inside the passage. After
doing so, Smaug descends on Lake-town, which Tolkien now
calls by the name Esgaroth. (This sudden switch in name is
unexplained.) The townspeople resist at first, but faced by
Smaug's wrath, they soon flee. The Master of the town sneaks
off in his boat, trying to save himself. Only a small band of
archers hold their ground, led by a man named Bard. Bard is
descended from the lord of Dale, who was killed when Smaug
first drove the dwarves from the Lonely Mountain and
destroyed the town of Dale. Bard refuses to quit what seems a
hopeless battle, even though his companions are ready to leave
him. Suddenly a thrush-the same bird who listened to Bilbo
tell the dwarves about his conversation with the dragon-
perches on Bard's shoulder and reveals the vulnerable spot that
Bilbo had discovered in Smaug's armor. Bard fits his last arrow
to his bow and kills the dragon. Smaug plunges into the lake,
destroying the town.



The townspeople now turn on the Master for abandoning the
town. They talk of making Bard their king. But the Master
cleverly diverts them by turning their anger toward the
dwarves, saying that they aroused Smaug in the first place. He
also declares that if Bard is to be king he should rebuild the
ruins of Dale and rule there, not in Lake-town. For now, Bard
takes the lead in making sure the people of Lake-town have
shelter and food. He sends a messenger to the king of the
Wood-elves asking for help.

NOTE: THE IDEAL LEADER
In comparing Bard to the Master of Lake-town, Tolkien
presents his ideas about an ideal leader. Bard becomes a
leader by proving himself as a warrior; the Master leads by
virtue of his business acumen. Bard, a true leader, is willing to
risk his life to save the town; the Master places his own
interests and safety above those of his people. Tolkien is
making a point that a leader should serve his people rather
than use his position to further his own ends. Bard speaks
openly, even saying things that others don't want to hear, as
when he warns them that death, rather than wealth, may result
from the dwarves' expedition to the mountain. The Master, on
the other hand, tells his people what they want to hear and
manipulates them by appealing to baser emotions such as
greed and desire for revenge. What are the characteristics of
other leaders that appear in The Hobbit? In what ways are
they like Bard or like the Master? Keep the image of a grim
warrior-leader in mind, for it will reappear in The Lord of the
Rings in the character of Aragorn.

The Elvenking has already received news of Smaug's death
from the birds and is journeying with a large host toward the
Lonely Mountain to seize the dragon's hoard of treasure. But he
turns aside to help the lake people. What does this tell you
about the Wood-elves? Do you find your attitude toward them
changing? The building of a new town is begun under the
Master's direction. The elves, accompanied by Bard and his
men, set out for the Lonely Mountain.

The dwarves are not caught unaware, for they are told of
Smaug's death and the approaching army by ravens, who have
long been friends with the race of dwarves. Although the
ancient chief of the ravens advises them to make peace, the
dwarves begin to fortify the approach to the mountain.
Messages are sent to Thorin's relatives asking for help.

When the Lake-men and the elves finally arrive, Bard claims
the share of the treasure that was stolen from the town of Dale.
Thorin refuses, and so the army of men and elves besieges the
mountain.

In chapter 15, Tolkien hints at the tragedy of war. The dwarves
hear music from the camp and wish they could have welcomed
these enemies as friends. Bilbo longs to be among the elves,
feasting and laughing. Why then do the dwarves refuse to
parley? Is it only their greed for treasure, as the narrator seems
to imply, or do you think that some of Thorin's arguments are
valid?

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