Chapter Fourteen: Fire and Water
OK, so if you’ve been following along in order you’re probably wondering why I am skipping over Chapter 13: Not At Home. Well, the reason has to do with the way I look at the story thus far as it will need to be translated to the big screen. Essentially, Chapters 13 and 14 happen concurrently in the chronology of the story – the Dwarves examine the now dragon-less horde under the mountain while Smaug goes on to meet his destiny. In his telling of the story, J.R.R. Tolkien explores how Thorin, Bilbo and the rest of the company deal with being trapped inside the Lonely Mountain, all the while wondering when and if Smaug will return. It is this potential danger that keeps the tension going. But it is only later in Chapter 14 that we learn of the dragon’s fate. And, in fact, the time period covered in Chapter 13 is approximately two days and well beyond the part of Chapter 14 that I see as the end of film two.
It makes more sense to focus on Smaug’s attack of Lake Town as the climax of the film with the “cliffhanger” leading into to the final film being what will become of the Dwarves who are now buried in their tomb-like imprisonment in Erebor. I’m not sure how it will be presented in the movie but I think the audience should leave “The Desolation of Smaug” wondering (assuming they haven’t already read the book) how our heroes will make out in this situation. Therefore, I am guessing that almost all of what takes place in Chapter 13 will be moved to the beginning of film three. Operating under this assumption, I am jumping to Chapter 14. In the sidebar to the right, I have moved Chapter 13 out of order and I now list it as part of “There and Back Again.”
Everybody still with me? Good.
In Chapter 12, Smaug was filled with wrath and, having purposely closed off access in or out through the secret door, turns toward Lake Town. Here he intends to rain down fire and destruction on the Men who he believes played a hand in helping the thieves that dared try and plunder his treasure.
Back in Chapter 10: A Warm Welcome the Dwarves first meet the Men of Lake Town, many of whom were descended from the now-ruined city of Dale which sat at the foot of the Lonely Mountain. Being as the character of Bard appears to be prominent in this film production I have already assumed that we will be introduced to him at that time. In the novel, however, we only now become familiar with him.
By the time of “The Lord of the Rings” it is Bard’s grandson Brand that rules the revitalized city of Dale. We learn at the end of that later story that Brand is the son of Bain, who is Bard’s son. But Bain is not introduced in this book. Here Peter Jackson chose to bring Bain into the movie. The only reason that I can deduce is that he wanted to establish that Bard has a living heir. It may be that the discussion of Bard’s back story, as a descendant of Girion the last King of Dale, will take place between him and his son. Bain may also play a minor role in the events that are about to take place. Exactly what role I’m not sure.
Bard will be played by Welsh actor Luke Evans who commented that the role was very physically demanding. So the attack on Lake Town will undoubtedly be full of action and stunt work. There is a subtle parallel between the characters of Bard and Aragorn – both are strong, heroic Men who are exiles from a ruling house and reluctant to accept their destiny as a leader. As such, I expect Bard to come across as very Aragorn-like in the film. As written, Bard seems to me to be quite stern and stoic is his demeanor and not immediately likeable. Jackson’s Bard may very likely stray from this representation.
The Men of Lake Town see flashes of light in the distance, which is Smaug assailing the secret door on Erebor. They are at first confused by this phenomenon and even speculat that the new King Under the Mountain had fulfilled his quest. But it is Bard who first recognizes the danger and declares that it must be the dragon. He calls his fellow townsmen to arms and it is not long before Smaug becomes visible and everyone is in a panic.
Again, as this will likely be the climax of the film, Smaug will probably inflict some serious damage to the Town to the point when all seems lost for the Men. The “deus ex machine” device (which is also present in the book) will be the appearance of the very Thrush that we saw at Erebor. It will have overheard Bilbo’s description of the dragon and his flawed underbelly and knows to convey this “inside information” to Bard. Being of the blood of Dale, Bard has the ability to understand the Thrush’s “speech”.
Fire engulfs the wooden structures of the town and many of its inhabitants resort to leaping into the Lake for safety. Others, mostly women and children, load up small boats in an attempt to escape the fire of the dragon. Leading a group of archers in the town’s defense, Bard tries to rally them to fire arrows at the dragon. As his companions abandon him he is left quite alone and it is here that the Thrush communicates the dragon’s weak spot to Bard. He is able to plunge a large arrow into Smaug’s “sweet spot” which sends him into a death spiral onto the remains of the town and he is swallowed up by the lake.
This is the consummation of all the different strokes of fortune that we have seen in the story – Bilbo discovers the hidden door because of the Thrush and, because he faces Smaug and escapes, he discovers the way to kill the dragon which the same Thrush communicates to Bard. And the Thrush is linked to the prophecy written in the moon letters on Thorin’s map. There is a distinct feeling of destiny being more at play here than luck.
Though at first everyone believes he was killed in the process, Bard emerges from the wreckage. At this point, the townspeople declare him to be King Bard of Esgaroth. Naturally, the Master of Lake Town is none too pleased with this turn of events. In defense of the scorn now laid upon him because of his cowardice, the Master shifts the mob’s attention to who he says is to blame for this terrible calamity. He says their anger should be aimed at Thorin Oakenshield and his party though they assumed that the Dwarves had met a deadly fate.
While Bard takes over the leadership role from the Master in trying to recover from the attack, the legendary treasure hidden under Erebor becomes the subject of discussion and spreads among the people. Bard sends messages to the Elven King, Thranduil, for aid which will come swiftly and soon they will make plans to march North. However, this interaction I believe will be saved for the beginning the next film.
So now the dragon is dead. As the second film comes to a close, the news of the unguarded treasure under Erebor spreads far and wide. Now all roads lead to the Lonely Mountain. The final act in the story has been set up. It will bring together the all of the races of Middle-Earth for a final confrontation that will play out in the third and final film “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.”