Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


Chapter Ten, Revisited

In my original post covering “A Warm Welcome”, I noted that this was a relatively short chapter. It is here that much of the newer material included in the film takes place and revolves around Lake Town. Visually this new location is very close to Tolkien’s original drawing concept but is much more elaborate. It is almost Venice-like in its incorporation of the Lake within its layout. Just about every structure appears to have water access with many small boats moored to its underside.

The overall look and feel, however, is much more shabby, run-down and damp that I had expected. It is nothing like the Esgaroth of old that existed during the golden age of Dale when it was the center of commerce in that part of Middle-Earth. Since the original attack of Smaug, it has degraded into a city that barely subsists on its own resources and its residents seem to struggle to exist from day to day. It’s a very depressing place.

The Dwarves arrival is presented very different than the events of the book.  They get aboard land and see they must cross the lake to get to the town.  Here they encounter Bard who is a humble bargeman sent to recover the empty barrels sent down the river by the Wood Elves.  Bard tells them that entering Lake Town is difficult since the Master of the town has final say over who is allowed in. Sensing the Dwarves need for stealth, he agrees to smuggle them in by putting them back in the barrels and filling them with fish. It’s important to note here that shortly after this, back at the Dwarves' point of departure, the Orcs arrive and smell “man flesh” which clues them in to where the they were headed. Their pursuit continues.

Now, in Tolkien’s story the reader is not introduced to Bard until Chapter Fourteen – Fire and Water. But Jackson’s obvious desire to expand the role requires an earlier appearance here. Bard is introduced as a simple man trying to care for his children as a single father and is not subject to the greed of the master and the whimsical fantasies of his fellow townspeople.

After Bard gets the Dwarves past the gates, he takes them to his home which is being watched.  When some townspeople see the Dwarves, rumors begin to spread of the return of the “King Under The Mountain” and excitement builds over the potential reclaimed riches flowing back into the town.  Bard overhears Thorin’s name while the Dwarves are talking to each other and it sounds familiar to him. So he looks into it by locating an old tapestry that traces Thrain to Thorin. It is then that he realizes who Thorin is and what he represents to the fate of Lake Town.  

Meanwhile we are introduced to the Master of Lake Town and his toady (almost Wormtongue-like) personal assistant, Alfrid. The Master, always paranoid about potential challenges to authority, is convinced by Alfrid that Bard is formenting discontent among the townspeople. Alfrid is still smarting from Bard’s personal challenge to him while in the process of smuggling in the Dwarves. The Master appears to already have reservations about Bard but it is not yet made clear why. Later, we will learn that Bard is descended from Girion the former King of Dale and seems he is reluctant to take on the leadership that comes with this birthright (sound like any wandering Dunedain Kings we might have encountered before?).

With Bard away from the house, the Dwarves sneak into the town armory to steal weapons to take with them to Erebor. When they are caught and brought before the Master, Thorin announces who he is and the nature of his quest to the delight of the crowd.  Bard, wary of the possible fate of the town should Smaug be disturbed, steps forward and warns of the danger of the dragon. Yet the Master, seeing the potential riches to be gained from the King Under the Mountain returning to his throne, swats aside these protests and pointedly castigates Bard by association with his grandfather Girion for failing to slay the beast so many years ago. The Master, with the support of the townspeople, agrees to welcome Thorin and his party.  Unlike in the book, there are no feasts (is the movie not long enough already?) and the Dwarves are sent straight away the next morning.  

As they prepare to set off, Thorin insists that Kili stay behind because he is ailing from his wound and would only slow them down. Fili protests but Thorin tells him that one day he will succeed him as King and he must understand that some decisions may not be easy but are for the best. Here we are presented with two bits of information we either did not know or consider before. First, Fili is identified as Thorin’s heir since he is his nephew and there are no direct descendants to be next in line. Second, we now know that Fili is the older of the two brothers. Though the fact that Fili has a beard and Kili doesn’t (aside from the five-o’clock shadow) is probably meant to convey their birth order. Oddly enough, when I read the book as a child I had always assumed that they were fraternal twins.

Fili opts to stay behind with his brother and Oin (the party’s medical expert) also remains to tend to Kili’s wound. Simply due to the fact that he overslept, Bofur also literally misses the boat. The other nine Dwaves and Bilbo head up the Long Lake and set out for the Lonely Mountain.

The chapter as written explains that Elves are present at the town and they take the information of Thorin’s arrival and subsequent departure to Erebor back to Thranduil. At this point, I admit I’m baffled as to how this info will get back to the Elven-King though Legolas is a possibility. I’ll explain what I mean in the next post.

The last line of chapter ten is “the only person thoroughly unhappy [at leaving] was Bilbo”. This does not appear to be the case in the film as Bilbo will be seen to be a bit more adventurous and enthusiastic member of this party. We’ll cover that in the next chapter “On The Doorstep”.


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