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The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Chapter 14 : Fire and Water | Summary



As the dwarves and Bilbo Baggins explore the vast caverns, the narrator reports Smaug's wrathful attack on Lake-town. Bard tells the citizens the dragon will attack the community. Many people get in boats to escape the fire and destruction, but Bard and other archers try to slay the beast.

The old thrush—who overheard the mention of Smaug's weakness—carries that information to Bard. With information on Smaug's unprotected spot, the defender uses a last black arrow and kills Smaug. Survivors of Lake-town arrive on shore where they face desperate conditions; winter is coming, and they are without food or shelter. Fortunately the Elvenking and his warriors arrive. An agreement is reached by which some men and elves will remain to build shelters and find provisions while a party will set out for Lonely Mountain to verify the fate of Thorin and of the treasure in Smaug's lair.


The theme of luck and destiny is found in this chapter almost more so than in any other. Bard the archer, who happens to be of noble blood, is able to understand the thrush's language and to learn that Smaug has a weakness. Likewise Bard is fortunate enough to have one arrow left: the black arrow that always does the job it sets out to do. Finally Bard is able to hit the exact unarmored spot that is Smaug's weakness.

Another interesting insight in this chapter is Tolkien's choice of title. Each title provides an interesting bit of insight into the chapter, but this one gives a little bit of foreshadowing. The title makes it clear what will prevail—the water. Likewise Bard of the Lake-men prevails over the fire-breathing dragon.

In this chapter and in the preceding few chapters, there is a change in tone and style; Tolkien's playful tone and language are nonexistent now. The mood is dark, and all humor has been put aside. It is as if Tolkien quietly provided comic relief in the beginning, but now as events lead to the Lonely Mountain, seriousness must take humor's place. The seriousness ties in with this stage in the hero's journey. At this point Bilbo and his companions face the reason for the journey's call to adventure—the retrieval of Smaug's treasure.

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