The group huddles in the tunnel for what feels like days, with quiet that unnerves them. They cannot get out of the secret door anymore, and they do not know if Smaug had ever returned. Bilbo decides to venture down towards Smaug’s lair, and tells the rest of the dwarves they must come with him. Thorin joins him at the front before Bilbo ventures on ahead with his ring. There is no light, however, and Bilbo falls into the hall because of its total darkness. He calls out for Smaug but gets no reply. Bilbo yells at the dwarves for a light, and goes over shouting at them until Oin and Gloin run and prepare a torch. Thorin tells Bilbo they will not join him yet, but as he is still the burglar and investigator, he is completely welcome to look around while they huddle in the tunnel. Bilbo walks amongst the treasure with his torch and comes upon the Arkenstone at the top of the pile. Drawn to it, he puts it in his pocket and hopes to claim it for himself, though he knows that the stone may not have been meant in Thorin’s bargain. While close to the doors, a bat flies at his head and makes Bilbo drop his torch, the light extinguishing and leaving him in darkness.
He yells at the dwarves to bring him a light, but it takes them several minutes to work up the courage. Once the torches are lit, Bilbo makes his way back to them and informs them his struggles were merely because of a bat. With the light the dwarves see the immense wealth and forget their worries and venture into the hall to explore. Overcome with the gold, they pack on whatever trinkets they can carry, play harps that were magically kept in tune, and Thorin outfits himself in gold armor with a silver axe. He gifts Bilbo with a set of mithril rings and a leather helm studded with white jewels. Bilbo feels a bit silly in all the get-up and weary of looking at the jewels. Bilbo shouts to Thorin that while they may be armed, they still have Smaug to contend with. So the group cover their fine armor with their old cloaks and hoods and Thorin leads them expertly through the bone-littered rooms out to the front gate.
Bilbo, ever complaining of hunger, mentions the need for breakfast but in a place safer than Smaug’s front step. Balin mentions a look-out tower nearby that is only a five hours’ march and climb. Bilbo of course groans about this wait, but as he fears Smaug may be on top of the mountain waiting for them, they all agree with Balin’s plan. They hike and find the road mostly gone, but make their way up the hill and stop midway for a breakfast of cram and water (the narrator explains that cram is some biscuity thing the Lake-men make that’s sustaining but not wonderful to eat). They wonder on and find the guard tower built into the rock, where Balin explains they had little need of it when they were prosperous. They take up the guardroom and watch area, and while some of them sleep, others discuss what may have become of Smaug as there is no sign of him on the horizon.
The narration here switches to Lake-town. On the night Smaug smashed the secret door, some men in Lake-town see light on the horizon. Their view of the Lonely Mountain mostly blocked by other hills, a few believe that the King under the Mountain is once again forging gold. One man though believes it to be the dragon. When the river appears to turn to gold, most believe the songs have finally come true, and people rush out of their homes to see. However, the doubter runs to the Master and they sound the alarm, arming the men and preparing for the dragon’s coming. The doubter we learn is Bard, and he commands the archers as Smaug flies over, trying to light the pre-soaked houses. Anytime he is able to get something alight, the fires are quickly put out. Unable to swim the river and with the bridge gone, Smaug continues to fly over. He lights trees on the shore and with his tail manages to knock the roof off of the Great House, followed by more and more houses. Flames begin to take over and no arrow can penetrate Smaug’s diamond armor.
While the town burns, women and children escape into boats and the Master goes for his gilded craft hoping to flee in the confusion. Only a small portion of archers continue to fight, and Bard of Dale commands them. It is then that the thrush lands on his shoulder, and Bard is astonished to understand what it tells him. He aims for the bare patch on the dragon’s left breast as the thrush instructs, and with a dwarven-made arrow takes down the great dragon. Smaug lands on top of Lake-town, sinking it, but dead himself. The people gather on the shore, decrying the Master who abandoned the town so soon and voicing their wish to make Bard king if he had only lived. Bard then walks into the crowd, announcing his survival and feat as the dragon-slayer. The people take up the chant to rid themselves of the Master and make Bard king again, but an annoyed Master turns the town towards the thought of the dwarves who brought the destruction on them in the first place. Bard believes they probably all died by Smaug first, but thinks of the treasure in the mountain and his ability to rebuild Dale.
Bard helps to arrange shelter and food for those displaced, always in the Master’s name. A few die because of lack of shelter and food, and even the Master goes short on dinner. The people send for help from the wood-elves, but the king already knew of their plight because of the birds. Birds fly everywhere, telling all about the death of Smaug and everyone thinks of the treasure now supposedly unprotected under the Mountain. No one believes Thorin and company to still live, and each wish to make a claim. While the elf-king marches to the Mountain, he receives the message from Bard, and having pity, turns towards the Lake-town, sending supplies ahead of them up the river. They gather with the men for awhile and move the camp along the shore for fear of where the dragon lay. No one ever passes over the watery grave of Smaug, and no one ever tries to retrieve the jewels falling from his carcass. Instead, the men and elves get ready to march north to the mountain.
The party of dwarves and Bilbo notice the heavy presence of birds. The thrush shows up and Bilbo thinks he’s trying to communicate, but no one can understand him. Balin remarks he wish the thrush was a raven, birds that he used to be friends with and gather news from. The thrush flies away and brings back with him an old raven, who begins to speak to them in the language of men. He tells them that he is the son of a raven well known to them, and that he has both good and bad news for the dwarves. He tells them that Smaug is dead, but Smaug’s death has brought misery to the men of the lake, who now expect the gold of the Mountain to pay for their suffering. Elves are also on their way, and more may come who remember the vastness of Thror’s treasure. The raven tells Thorin to give the men a bit of gold, and to only trust Bard, not the Master. Thorin however will not share his inheritance and asks the raven to send his younger companions to dwarves close at hand to help them in their plight. Bilbo feels that the adventure is quite done now that Smaug is dead and would gladly give up his wealth in order to make the whole thing end.
With a few days to prepare, the dwarves learn that all other entrances to the Mountain were smashed in by Smaug, so they turn instead to fortifying the front gate. They build a brick wall with no entrance, making the only way in a narrow ledge or by ropes. Kili and Fili gather the rest of their supplies out in the valley and send the surviving three ponies back down south riderless. Lights appear in Dale, and the next day the company of men and elvish bowman march up towards the gates. They are surprised, however, to see the defenses, and more surprised when Thorin calls to them, asking why they come as if to war to his Mountain. Many turned around at first, and the other followed them not long after. The coalition camp moves closer to the Mountain, and Bilbo is warmed by the sound of their songs and laughter. Even some of the younger dwarves wish they could have been friends, but Thorin grunts and so they make their own music instead.
The next day a few men and elves come, and when Thorin bids an answer, Bard responds. He reminds Thorin that amongst the treasure is some that had belonged to the men of Dale, and asks for help for the people of Lake-town who have lost everything and yet have received no help from the dwarves yet. Bard points out that so far the dwarves have only brought ruin, and he wishes to speak with Thorin. Thorin will not speak to him while he comes with an armed host, feels no need to repay the men of Dale but will help those of Lake-town (eventually), and will definitely not speak until the elves have returned to their forest. Bard notes that the elves have helped them and he will not send them away. Though Thorin doubts Bard would have shared the treasure with his kin had he perished, Bard wishes to only address the situation as they now find it. Bard and his men leave after Thorin again refuses to speak to armed men. A messenger comes and in Bard’s name, asks for one twelth of the treasure, from which Bard will help the Lake-town and take his reward as dragon slayer. Thorin’s response is to shoot an arrow at the messenger, with it lodging in the man’s shield. The messenger then informs the dwarves that they are besieged, and tells them to enjoy their inevitable dinners of gold. Bombur especially hates this turn of events, as cram has begun to stick nastily in his throat.
- A lot happened in those three chapters, and it was barely 30 pages. No wonder Jackson can make a trilogy out of this; Tolkien glazed over a lot.
- This is the point when I really can’t stand Thorin. How selfish to keep a treasure that was only saved because of others and not help those who lost their lives because of the dwarves activities “reawakening” the dragon.
- Birds in Tolkien stories are never just birds, are they?
- I also feel for Bilbo at this point. He is stuck in the worst possible position, not believing in the fight Thorin wants to wage and not able to leave either.