Bard takes a leap of faith and rides towards Erebor to attempt a conversation and a compromise with Thorin, so as to deter the Elven King Thranduil from attacking the Dwarves. No matter how much destruction and death the Dwarves’ waking of the dragon may have caused his people, Bard still believes in Thorin’s keeping of his promise.
King, not a Lord
Glóin: “Not a bad night’s work.”
Thorin: “Come on.”
Bard: “Hail, Thorin, son of Thráin. We are glad to find you alive beyond hope.”
Thorin: “Why do you come to the gates of the King under the Mountain armed for war?”
Bard: “Why does the King under the Mountain fence himself in like a robber in his hold?”
Thorin: “Perhaps it is because I am expecting to be robbed.”
Bard: “My Lord we have not come to rob you but to seek fair settlement. Will you not speak with me?”
Seeing the oncoming gallop of Bard’s horse, Thorin orders his Dwarves to stand with him on the gates of Erebor. As now the newly-appointed King under the Mountain, Thorin stands proudly looking down unto Bard. It is not a coincidence that he wished to have the gates raised as high up as possible. He wishes to express his stature against all others who come before his door.
A proud robber
As with all other Dwarves, pride and arrogance runs in his genes and are therefore his signature behavioral pattern to hold himself above everyone else. It is interesting to note that he addresses himself as the King under the Mountain. It is apparent that he wishes to strip himself of the image of Thorin Oakenshild he once proudly held.
Bard is honest in his address as well as observant. He cannot but conclude that Thorin’s behavior resembles that of a robber who is possessive of the loot that he managed to steal and is afraid of someone else stealing it from him. The interesting thing is that Thorin affirms that conclusion with his answer. He has built a wall and hidden away so as to protect his plunder.
As Thorin motions Bard to come to talk with him, a raven flies from the gate in the direction of the Iron Hills.
Thorin: “I am listening.”
Bard: “On behalf of the people of Lake-town I ask that you honor your pledge. A share of the treasure so that they might rebuild their lives.”
Thorin: “I will not treat with any man while an armed host lies before my door.”
Bard: “That armed host will attack this Mountain if we do not come to terms.”
Thorin: “And your threats do not sway me.”
Without ever looking at Bard he stands on the other side of the wall with one ear to the opening arrogantly listening to Bard’s argument. Bard is right to demand a share in the treasure as Thorin promised the people of Lake-town. However, Thorin finds an argument against his own promise that is based on an army of Elves with whom Bard has nothing to do.
What Thorin does not understand is that Bard is his only way of not engaging with the said army. However, even when Bard explains the problem he is facing, Thorin arrogantly defuses the threat by ignoring it.
Though from Thorin’s perspective it is a pressurized situation to have the Elves ready to attack Erebor unless he treats with Bard, in itself it is blackmail and a threat to his life. On the other hand, Thorin should have been open to this since giving his promise to the people of Lake-town without any threat being held over his head. The Woodelves’ offensive mood leaves Thorin only to react defensively.
Arrogant and dismissive
The problem does not arise from the mere threat to his life but in his own attitude. It would be one thing to be defensive while an offense is waiting outside the door. It is quite another to be as arrogant and dismissive of Bard when the tables have turned. Thorin practically begged Bard to help the company cross the Long Lake and take a risk upon himself to smuggle them into Lake-town.
Now, that the situation has changed and it is only a matter of honoring his own word or simply being fair to the one person who helped him, Thorin ignores his plight. The same plight that he himself inflicted upon him and his people.
Argumentation through aggravation
Bard: “What of your conscience? Does it not tell you our cause is just? My people offered you help. And in return, you brought upon them only ruin and death.”
Thorin: “When did the Men of Lake-town come to our aid but for the promise of rich reward?”
Conscience does not seem to be a part of Thorin at this point in time, as he again finds reason for not honoring the promise he had made. Thorin seems to forget or does not take into account the massive help that Bard had provided him only a short while ago. Let us rekap: the Dwarves were given aid by Bard to cross the Long Lake, they were smuggled into his own house which at that point in time was under surveillance of the Master’s spies, they renounced the weapons Bard offered them and tried to rob the city armory.
Lack of objectivity
After they were caught Thorin himself made the offer of providing the people of Lake-town with the treasure and gold from the Mountain in order to sway the public to let them stay and aid them in their quest. No one threatened him, or blackmailed him into giving over the treasure, he himself offered. After they sent them off with new clothing and well-fed, the only thing the people of Lake-town got in return was death and destruction.
Now, Thorin expects the people of Lake-town to have done this altruistically? How could he even think of altruism when he himself has paid his way, cheated, broken, and entered into other races’ homes in search of refuge and still acted as a stubborn and proud Dwarf although he had not a leg to stand on? He cannot see beyond himself, however, he expects others to aid him and not ask for anything in return. Very much like his grandfather, indeed.
Bard: “A bargain was struck!”
Thorin: “A bargain? What choice did we have but to barter out birthright for blankets and food? To ransom our future in exchange for our freedom? You call that a fair trade? Tell me Bard the Dragon-Slayer why should I honor such terms?”
Now, this part of the conversation brings out Thorin’s thinking. We can concede that he is right to think the way he does. The bargain that was struck certainly does not seem fair. However, it was one he himself had made. There are always other options, however, he chose to barter with what he thought would bring him the most reward. It was solely his doing and certainly not Bard’s for asking him to honor it.
The fact that Thorin is aggravated with himself for having done it is a completely different thing. It is his own problem.
There is resentment and anger toward Bard for being the Dragon-Slayer in this tale. They tried to fight the dragon, and after they poured melted gold over him, they thought they had achieved their goal. However, to have a Man be the hero of what was supposed to be their victory seems to infuriate Thorin. Men, whom he does not respect as a race, to claim victory over Smaug must be painful.
They not only helped him establish himself and his people by finding work in their world and sustaining him, but they have also now overshadowed him again. I would say that Thorin is infuriated because he knows he could never measure up to the race of Men. They were there twice when he needed help the most, and instead of gratitude, he feels anger and jealousy toward them.
No honor left
Bard: “Because you gave us your word. Does that mean nothing?”
Thorin: “Be gone! Ere our arrows fly!”
Bard again turns to the promise he had made. Dwarf promising something and giving his word to someone is the highest honor they can bestow upon another. Which is precisely what gives Thorin pause at that moment. He turns from Bard struck by the fact that he is not honorable, piercing to the core of his character. It would seem there is no honor left in Thorin. He has completely lost himself in the madness that has overtaken him. The possession, the greed has taken the last shreds of what he once was.
As he looks at the members of his company his moment of brief clarity into his character turns swiftly again into the character he has become. He does not want his company to see him vulnerable, unable, or weak. He needs to remain arrogant, dismissive, and proud if he is to be the King Under the Mountain that the company deserves. Or at least that is what he perceives they need him to be.
Bilbo: “What are you doing? You cannot go to war.”
Thorin: “This does not concern you.”
Bilbo: “Excuse me but just in case you haven’t noticed, there is an army of Elves out there. Not to mention several hundred angry fishermen. We are, in fact, outnumbered.”
Thorin: “Not for much longer.”
Bilbo: “What does that mean?”
Thorin: “It means, Master Baggins, you should never underestimate Dwarves. We have reclaimed Erebor, now we defend it.”
The relationship between Thorin and Bilbo has changed. Though Thorin does not doubt Bilbo’s loyalty, he treats him as a separate entity from the company with which he travelled across Middle-Earth. Now, any action taken by Thorin and the Dwarves in general does not concern Bilbo in the least. He is now merely a house guest as it would seem.
Thorin does not see himself on the same level as the Hobbit like he did while they travelled together. Now, Thorin treats Bilbo as his subordinate, as if he were his King as well as that of the Dwarves. He smiles wickedly as he contemplates the consequences of the raven he sent to inform the Iron Hills Dwarves of their situation. He is certain in his plan’s success that he does not doubt a single thought or word he says.
Even after Bilbo explains the situation he faces, Thorin dismisses it as if the army outside the gates were merely toy soldiers.
Interestingly, the opinion of other Dwarves is also not asked. Thorin decides their fate himself. Because of this, the uncertainty and general doubt in his leader’s sanity, Balin turns his head away from Thorin in sadness, anger, and disagreement.
It is apparent that even the wisest and oldest of the company is unable to face his leader given the backlash he experienced the last time he faced him about the Arkenstone. There is no one capable of stopping this warpath Thorin has taken.
Follow me to my next post.