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”.


Chapter Nine, Revisited

In my original post covering “Barrels Out of Bond” I addressed the anticipated addition of Tauriel and inclusion of Legolas since I expected that it would be at that point where they would make their first appearance. I discussed at length my theories as to how each would be portrayed. My review and reaction to these characters required, in my estimation, a separate post. So, the remainder of what I revisit in this entry will be less than usual since a large portion of it has already been written.

Now that we got to meet the new female Elf and an earlier version of Legolas than we are used to I can go more into how their stories are intertwined with the plot threads already laid out in Tolkien’s book.

So our heroes (sans Bilbo) are imprisoned in their individual cells (though some Dwarves were double-bunked in the film. We find that Tauriel begins to show something of an interest in the youngest Dwarf, Kili. They share a moment while he is behind bars and seem to make an interesting connection. More than simple curiousity, Tauriel and Kili develop a subtle (or perhaps not-so-subtle) attraction to each other. Perhaps it is the fact that they are both less mature than their peers and share a kind of impulsive – and youthful - rashness in how they tend to behave and they recognize this in each other.

I am a little bemused at this plot twist but I think I know where this is headed. For those of us familiar with the book [spoiler alert] we know that one of the outcomes of the Battle of the Five Armies in the story’s climax is that Fili and Kili both die defending their uncle Thorin (who also, alas, does not survive the fighting). Certainly actor Aiden Turner has given us reason enough to feel connected to the character so that we would feel sorrow at his death. But Peter Jackson and his writing team appear to have raised the stakes a bit. Lost life and lost love? Get your handkerchiefs ready. I have no doubt that Tauriel is a major participant in the battle and Kili’s death scene will likely be stirring, perhaps even with his new Elf-boo at his side.

Anyway, I believe the groundwork is being laid here for that future course.
I previously raised the potential inconsistency of having an Elf – in this case Galion – become overcome with intoxication from wine when Legolas in a scene from The Two Towers Extended Edition is seemingly unaltered by massive consumption of alcohol. As such, I wondered if Galion’s passing out and leaving the cell keys unattended would be seen here – but it was. Here’s the likely loophole: Galion is a Silvan Elf, being somewhat inferior in nature to Legolas who is a member of the Sindar race. I’m guessing that, in Jackson’s estimation, Grey Elves (who are “High Elves”, no pun intended) can drink Wood Elves under the table. I’ll be looking for some sort of input from him in the DVD commentary.

Recently, I rewatched the film and I feel I need to make mention of a couple of items that I had forgotten about as they relate to the last chapter. When the Dwarves are captured, they are relieved of all of their weapons and, in the process, Legolas comes across a large locket-type possession of Gloin’s. When he inquires about one of the pictures, Gloin responds that it is “me lad, Gimli.” Cut to Legolas. We know the significance of this even if he does not.

Also, in the interrogation scene, Thorin is made an offer by Thranduil to give him his freedom if he promises to recover certain “white jewels” that he considers to be his. Thorin refuses, however, and is returned to his cell. Balin surmises that a deal was their only hope but Thorin, trusting in the hobbit, believes it isn’t.  Now, I recall in the prologue to film one there is a brief scene where Bilbo’s voice-over alludes to a rift between the Dwarves and the Elves. At that moment, Thranduil and his entourage are present before Thrain under the Lonely Mountain and one of his representatives appears to be showing Thranduil a necklace but then closes the box that it is in, thereby turning Thranduil away.  I assume this is a veiled reference to the Nauglamir which becomes a source of conflict between the two races back in the First Age of Middle-Earth.  I wonder at this point if this unnamed necklace will be used as a bargaining chip in exchange for Arkenstone when it later comes into Thranduil’s possession.

Meanwhile Azog has been summoned to Dol Guldur to appear before the Necromancer who tells him to prepare for war. As a result, he dispatches his son, Bolg, to take a party of orcs and continue the pursuit of the Dwarves. Bolg heads back to Elvish territory in Mirkwood and appears to be aware of the only accessible exit from Thranduil’s lair by which the Dwarves could escape. This is remarkable (and unlikely) hindsight for an Orc but we’ll let that slide. And all this going back and forth from the mountains to the forest to Dol Guldur and such would be a logistical nightmare for anyone familiar with a map of the eastern portion of Middle-Earth. But, again, for purposes of simplification we’ll go along with it.

Anyway, back to Bilbo, who we haven’t addressed yet. Under the cover of invisibility, he manages to enter Thranduil’s realm before the doors close and carries out his escape plan very much the same as it happens in the book. Once the Dwarves get in those empty barrels, however, things get a little crazy. Not only do Legolas and Tauriel pursue them but the Orcs led by Bolg suddenly appear and begin firing poison arrows at Thorin and company. The river is very rough and rapid and Legolas steps from Dwarf head to Dwarf head trying to fend off the attack of the Orcs. It’s a wilder ride than we probably expected. I enjoyed in particular the sequence with Bombur bouncing all over the terrain in his barrel, turning into a dangerous whirling dervish when it breaks and then flopping back into an empty barrel (where did that come from) back in the flowing river.

Before they finally escape (after many an Orc-head has been cleaved clear of its body), Kili is struck by an arrow and we shall see shades of Frodo’s Morgul wound in his coming suffering. And, as was in Frodo’s case, we’re going to need a female Elf to save him. In the interim, however, we have a scene with Legolas, Tauriel and Thranduil interrogating a captured Orc. At the orc’s mention of a dark power rising and his “master”, Thranduil quickly beheads him to Legolas’ dismay.  Thranduil simply asserts that there was no more information to be gotten but he clearly seems to be hiding what he knows or suspects about the Necromancer.

Tauriel leaves to follow the dwarves because they also learned from the orc that Kili was pierced by a “morgul” arrow and it is designed to kill him. When Legolas learns she has gone (after Thranduil has ordered the stronghold sealed against anyone coming in or out) he goes after her. 

That path will lead them to follow the Dwarves to Laketown. And, as we will see, our introduction to this new setting will deviate quite a bit from Tolkien’s original story.