Barrels Out of Bond

Drinking Elves. For a race that holds itself above all others in grace, beauty, and wisdom, it is hard to imagine they would take to such worldly pleasures as drinking wine. The Feast of Starlight does not appear to be just a celebration of celestial wonders but of earthly as well. It is not that their power diminishes with our knowledge of their wine drinking, but their reputation cannot hold them as the infallible immortals they are.

To be fair, wine seems to be the pleasure of only the Wood Elves. Lord Elrond or Lady Galadriel did not seem to enjoy the same pleasures. It shines a light on what Beorn had already said about, “less wise and more dangerous”. Their wisdom as King Thranduil has proven is not on any level of comparison with that of Elrond or Galadriel. And their quick willingness to arouse a conflict does paint them as quick to take offend and assume an offensive stance. 

Wine fancy

Elros: “Galion, you old rogue, we’re running out of drink. These empty barrels should have been sent back to Esgaroth hours ago. The bargman will be waiting for them.” 

The empty wine barrels stacked one on top of another is a concrete proof that wine isn’t just a passing fancy in the Woodland Realm, and not only exclusively consumed during Feasts. It just might be that Thranduil takes his wine with lunch and dinner as the world of Men does.

Ill-tempered king

Galion: “Say what you like about our ill-tempered king. He has excellent taste in wine. Come, Elros, try it.” 

It is interesting to note the Elves’ opinion of their King. It would seem that Thranduil being ill-tempered is common knowledge and an expected behavioral pattern of their leader. However, for all his faults as a leader, he can apparently distinguish between good and bad tasting wine, which in his Realm seems to be a redeeming quality. If they are sentenced to spend eternity in these cavernous spaces, then at least they can enjoy good wine. 

The Elves were also thought to be a very responsible race, especially when it came to keeping the order and peace in their respective kingdoms. The Wood Elves seem to take their responsibility very lightly.

Keys left to hang

Elros: “I have the Dwarves in my charge.”

Galion: “They’re locked up. Where can they go? Ha, ha.” 

Being the jailor Elros should have an eye on the keys to the cells at all times. However, Galion persuades him to try the wine and overrules his reasoning and he simply hangs the keys up taking in the festivities and enjoyment of wine with the others. This would not have been a problem had a Hobbit not been near them to see the keys being hung and taking them for himself. 


Bofur: “I’ll wager the sun is on the rise. Must be nearly dawn.” 

Ori: “We’re never gonna reach the mountain, are we?”

Bilbo: “Not stuck in here you’re not.” 

Balin: “Bilbo!”

The Dwarves have resigned themselves to spending an eternity in their cells. Apart from the deal that Thorin disregarded, there are no chances of leaving the Woodland Realm, no chance that they themselves can take. But then Bilbo arrives rattling the keys in front of their noses. Balin rejoices to see the Hobbit and having him be their only hope of escaping. He had come through once again. 

Downward escape

Kili: “What?”

Bilbo: “Shh! There are guards nearby!” 

Thorin: “Close the doors. It’ll buy us more time. Up the stairs.” 

Dwalin: “You first. Ori.”

Bilbo: “Not that way. Down here. Follow me.” 

Óin: “Go. Easy now.” 

Bilbo: “This way. Come on.” 

Dwarves’ voices echo through the hollow space as they are released from their cells one by one. They quickly take to climbing the stairs up to the main entrance to the kingdom, retracing the steps they took when being brought to the cells. One after another they climb in relative silence, to avoid detection.

However, Bilbo has another way for them to take. As they cannot discuss this new strategy in this big cavernous place without being spotted or heard by the Elves, they follow Bilbo down the stairs, toward someplace unknown.

 In the cellars

In the cellars, Elros and Galion have already fallen asleep due to an excess amount of wine they consumed. This is the perfect opportunity for the company to sneak past them and head for the barrels. 

Kili: “I don’t believe it. We’re in the cellars!”

Bofur: “You were supposed to be leading us out, not further in!”

Bilbo: “I know what I’m doing!”

Bofur: “Shh!”

Bilbo: “This way! This way! Everyone, climb into the barrels quickly.”

As the Dwarves realize they have followed the Hobbit into the cellars, discontent is heard. They cannot see any positive side to them being dragged further into the kingdom rather than out of it. Even though Bilbo had helped save their lives once and had proven himself worthy of their company, they still doubt his plans.

It seems incredible for Bilbo to have to plead to the Dwarves to listen to him and follow his instructions. Bilbo is desperate for them to believe him and take his advice. 

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A plea

Dwalin: “Are you mad? They’ll find us.”

Bilbo: “No, no. They won’t, I promise you. Please, please. You must trust me.” 

Thorin: “Do as he says.” 

Bilbo looks to Thorin to help him persuade his Dwarves of the efficiency of his plan. What they must do is trust him, but apparently, they still have not reached that point in their relationship. Thorin, however, is certain of Bilbo’s plan and thus instructs his Dwarves to obey him.

For all the time that he had not respected, trusted, or even wanted Bilbo on this journey, Thorin’s thoughts about him had changed dramatically. With just one look at Bilbo, he now knows he can trust him with his life.

Hold your breath

Dwalin: “Move your big ginger head. Bifur, get into the barrel. Move.”

Dori: “Everyone’s in.”

Bofur: “What do we do now?”

Bilbo: “Hold your breath.”

Bofur: “Hold me breath? What do you mean?”

It may appear a bit silly, seeing Dwarves entering barrels in order to escape, with only their head sticking out to see what the next step to the process might be, but unless they want to be captured again, maybe even punished for attempting to escape, their silly looks aren’t that big of a deal. They couldn’t have known where the barrels might be sent off to, since they weren’t there to scout the place.

Bilbo, knowing there is a river flowing just beneath their ramp, only needs to push a lever and the barrels are off to make their way downriver and toward Lake-Town. 

Escape from Elves? Impossible

Tauriel: “Where is the Keeper of the Keys?”

The Guards have discovered the Dwarves missing from their cells and are in pursuit within their own kingdom. Led by Tauriel they take to the cellars. They are a second too late, for the company along with Bilbo without a barrel to float in have taken to the river.

Tauriel’s look of surprise is shared by the rest of the guard. How could they have managed to escape their kingdom unnoticed? It is a point of pride to have their prisoners escape under their “watchful” eyes. To have Dwarves escape Elven jail cells, unheard of.

No barrel for Bilbo

Thorin: “Well done, Master Baggins.” 

Dwalin: “Go! Come on, let’s go!”

Thorin: “Hold on!”

Fili: “Bilbo!”

Bofur: “Hang on!”

Ori: “Help!”

Dori: “Ori!”

Since Bilbo hadn’t calculated as well as he probably should have, there wasn’t an empty barrel available for him. This realization made him panic, but still, with the pat of his foot against the ramp and his weight proving enough to tilt it open, he escaped as well, falling into the river head first. Thorin praises Bilbo for his ingenuity as he hangs onto a barrel holding on for dear life. The barrels flow downstream turning the Dwarves left and right, back and forth.

 Attack of the Orcs

Legolas: “Shut the gate!”

Thorin: “No!”

Bofur: “Watch out! There’s Orcs!”

Bolg: “Slay them all!”

Thorin: “Get under the bridge!”

Dwalin: “Kili!”

Fili: “Kili!”

Legolas orders the river gates on the borders of their realm to close. The guards standing-by close the gate just as Thorin in his barrel approaches. So much had been done in secrecy and it all had worked. Their escape would have worked perfectly had it not been cut short by the gate that they didn’t predict. As the Elves on the bridge prepare to fight the Dwarves, a seemingly stray arrow kills one of them with the head of an Orc poking behind the wall. Suddenly, the pack of Orcs comes barreling down on the Dwarves with Bolg as their leader. 

Having successfully killed the Orcs that were obstructing the path to the lever, Kili now takes his chance to reach the lever and let the barrels pass. Seeing this happen, Bolg strings a Morgul arrow to his bow, firing it directly at Kili, hitting his leg. The poison of the Morgul shaft with the impact of the arrow on his leg, Kili crumbles down to his knees unable to stand and finish his mission. 

Just before an Orc takes a stab at Kili, another arrow flies in his direction, this time killing the Orc. As he turns his head to see the face of his rescuer, Tauriel comes running into view, killing everything in sight. Encouraged by her mere presence, Kili focuses all of his efforts to stand and reach the lever, finally achieving his goal. 

Down the river

Bolg: “Kill her! Kill the She-Elf! After them!”

Fili: “Kili!”

Dwalin: “Nori!”

Thorin: “Cut the log!”

Dwalin: “Bombur!”

Legolas: “Tauriel wait! This one we keep alive.” 

Bolg: “After them! Cut them off!”

The Orcs could have had the Dwarves right then and there had it not been for Tauriel, so their only logical solution is to kill her. As one Orc tries to do so, Legolas makes an appearance, protecting her from harm. The barrels flow downriver once more with Kili falling into his and the arrow breaking off as it hits the barrel’s side. He is reunited with his company flowing downriver. With the Orcs on both sides of the river bank waiting in ambush to kill the Dwarves, they help each other eliminate every one of their enemies. 

The funniest bit in this sequence, for me at least, is the one where Bombur catapults himself against a spear sticking out of an Orc’s chest out the water and onto the bank. He then proceeds to take out Orcs left and right jumping from the left bank to the right.

When he finally stops, with his barrel almost completely smashed, he uses it as a shield against the oncoming Orcs while the weapons found on the ground he uses for his offensive. He twirls around with this barrel around him making him a mean killing machine. It is a welcome comical relief in this desperate escape.

Read on in my next post. 

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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