The Hobbit | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit | Chapter 15 : The Gathering of the Clouds | Summary

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Summary

Back at the stronghold the group notes the unusual activity of the birds. Roäc, an ancient raven, arrives and delivers both good and bad news. The dwarves learn of Smaug's death, but they are warned that a large force of elves and men is approaching. When the bird advises Thorin to work with Bard toward a peaceful solution, Thorin angrily vows to protect the gold and enlists the bird to take a message to Dain, a cousin, to come to the aid of his group. The dwarves block the main entrance and sing a song praising their achievement and vowing to defend their treasure. When the men and elves arrive, they request a parley (negotiation), but Thorin refuses and fires an arrow at them in defiance.

Analysis

Now greed truly rears its ugly head in this chapter. It could be said that Thorin's reaction to the Lake-men and elves demonstrates a greedy side, but the other groups have to take some of the blame for putting Thorin on the defensive.

Still, gold has come to possess the minds and hearts of Thorin, Bard, and the Elvenking. Thorin has a mostly human or dwarven reaction to Bard's group coming to the mountain with weapons. Roäc's reporting of the men "marching" to the mountain likely puts Thorin on edge.

The Elvenking's presence also puts Thorin on the defensive; they didn't exactly part ways on good terms. The Lake-people do have a valid claim for part of the gold; for one, the dragon had stolen from them, too. Likewise Bard kills the dragon, making it possible for Thorin and his men to claim their ancestral home.

The Elvenking really has no claim to the gold and isn't particularly nice to the dwarves when they pass through his territory. His motives are more about his own glory and acquiring more treasure for himself.

Dramatic irony is present in this chapter. Tolkien—like the oral storytellers and minstrels in the Middle Ages—shares historic events and prophecies with songs and poetry. The song that the dwarves sing is much like the one that entices Bilbo to go on the journey in the first place, but this version has a much more threatening tone: "And ever so our foes shall fall!"

It is also an example of dramatic irony that grand halls were traditionally built as ways to increase the security and sense of community. They were the places where kings generously gave presents to their people. Now Thorin sees no sense of community, and he certainly isn't feeling generous. The gold sickness is affecting everyone, but especially Thorin and the dwarves.

For Bilbo the hero's journey has reached a step called the approach. He is now involved in a setback, as the dwarves, men, and elves fail to reach an agreement on the dividing of the treasure and it looks as though war is inevitable. Bilbo has an idea for a new approach that he will put into effect in the next chapter.

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