Chapter Fifteen: The Gathering Of The Clouds
Now the rising action leading to the big climactic battle begins. The Dwarves are still keeping a lookout for any news and they are not disappointed. Soon gatherings of birds are noticed, a sign that something strange was happening. The thrush that originally guided them to the secret keyhole returns with a raven who can speak the Common Tongue. This is Roac, son of Carc, an ancient bird who brings them tidings that the great dragon is dead. He tells them the timeframe (three nights prior) and also shares with them that this news has already spread to the Elves who are now headed to the ruins of Lake Town.
“The Annotated Hobbit” points out that while ravens are considered to be unlucky birds in traditional English folklore these birds have often appeared as messengers in Norse mythology, a culture that partly forms the foundations for pre-Norman England. Here, through the speech of Roac, we get our first mention of Balin’s lineage as “son of Fundin”. Although filmgoers get their first look at that name as it appears on the contract Bilbo signs back in “An Unexpected Journey”.
One other parting bit of information given by the raven is a warning that they should be wary of the Master of Lake Town but to trust in Bain, who is a descendant of Dale’s last king, Girion.
Now all of this is quite convenient to the story as it brings Bilbo, Thorin and company up to speed on the events beyond Erebor. But Peter Jackson’s films do not feature the thrush and are unlikely to show Roac either. With less than five months until the release of “The Battle of the Five Armies” there is no casting information for “voice of Roac” anywhere to be found. So I’d say it’s a good bet that this entire scene will not appear in the final film. This brings us to an important question however: how will this information reach Thorin? And since it is also Roac who is sent to summon Dain and the Dwarves of the Iron Hills for aid in Tolkien’s original story we are left to wonder how the raven’s role will be replaced here.
Thorin becomes enraged at the idea of other races of Middle-Earth laying any claim to the treasure and (after sending Roac off to fetch his kin) he orders the party to head back into the mountain and prepare to defend it by erecting a new battlement at the front gate. As they go about this fortification they receive additional updates from other ravens about the movements of both the Elves and the Men of Lake Town.
I expect that there will be frequent cuts back to Bard and his approaching army as well as to Thranduil, Legolas and the Elves. But what of Tauriel and her new Dwarf friends (Oin, Bofur, Fili and Kili) who are still at Lake Town? How will they get to their fellow Dwarves at the Lonely Mountain? The best that I can speculate is that they will quietly (if not secretly) depart ahead of Bain. But what of Tauriel? Will she separate from her recently healed Dwarf-hunk, Kili? Perhaps she will accompany them which would make for an awkward meeting with Thorin once they arrive.
As with the Dwarves, we don’t yet know how the news of Smaug will reach Thranduil and the Elves of the Woodland Realm. We last saw Legolas in pursuit of Bolg on horseback heading away from the town. All of this will provide Jackson, Walsh and Boyens with a tremendous need for a plot device to achieve this broad dissemination of information.
The rest of this chapter focuses on the parlay between Thorin and Bard (and later his messenger) for a portion of the now-unprotected gold. Bard points out that some of what lies beneath the mountain is by rights belonging to the people of Dale – that which Smaug stole from them. Plus he explains that it was they who aided Thorin and the Dwarves on their quest, giving them shelter and provisions, and all they got for their troubles was a destroyed town.
The power that the gold has over Thorin (i.e. the Dragon Sickness) obstructs his ability to see reason. And when Bard requests one-twelfth of the treasure to reach a peaceful settlement, Thorin refuses them a single coin and declares invalid any claim on the gold from anyone other than himself and his people. The fact that the Men have allied with the Elves only further infuriates him and he commands them to depart – firing off an arrow as an interjection of his position. The Men declare the mountain to be in a state of siege and will not allow any Dwarf to leave its protection unless they agree to their demands, encouraging them to reconsider the situation.
The Dwarves dig in and none of them dare oppose Thorin. Bilbo, however, has had enough of this situation and mulls a plan that might help diffuse the situation which will unfold in the next chapter.
At this point in the films, Thorin and Bilbo have built a strong relationship of trust and mutual respect. This will be put to the test as we see Thorin harden his position and become more obsessed with the gold. His focus, however, will also be on finding the Arkenstone which Bilbo has already pocketed. In order to give the final scene between Bilbo and Thorin later a more powerful impact we will probably see a full-on schism between the two. With Bilbo imploring his friend to be rational and Thorin suspecting the hobbit of being disloyal to him and their quest, harsh words will likely be spoken and perhaps blades will even be drawn.