The following shall cover chapters ten and eleven.
As the company hilariously exits their waterlogged barrels and are deposited at the mouth of the river, Tolkien informs us that despite their capture by the elves, it was good that the company came the way they did to the lake. The eastern road that they were told to stay on and travel to the eastern end of the wood, had become impassible. A greater good came out of the hardships the company endured. Shall we remember this when we are amidst trials?
When the dwarves and Bilbo enter Lake Town I am a bit surprised at the change that comes over Thorin. He introduces himself as the King Under the Mountain, making no pretense or mystery about who he is or what his intentions are, unlike when the Elvenking asked about his journey. The townspeople seem to respond well to this, remembering the songs that portrayed the days of old. I love how cultures and stories are preserved through song in Tolkien’s works, a lost art in today’s society.
Thorin’s pronouncement at his title and intentions are a bit arrogant, shortsighted, and prideful. Tolkien says as much when he calls attention to the attitude Thorin takes in this chapter as almost already having conquered the dragon and reclaimed his realm. In the next chapter however, he is basically cowering at the desolation he and the dwarves encounter on the mountainside and the thought of facing the dragon. In fact the dwarves suggest to send Bilbo to the front gate when they can’t find the side door. Thorin, to me, is a well rounded character with strengths and weaknesses, but all in all, sometimes it is difficult to like him.
In the next chapter the company departs Lake Town having been well fed and nourished. They are given supplies, including ponies. In fact, they seem quite cheerful, that is, until they reach the mountain. At this point in the story, the book begins a turn to a darker, more serious tale. We will see this more clearly in later chapters, but the descriptions of the wasted mountainside are foreboding, dark, and sad.
Once again it is Bilbo whom the dwarves must rely upon. He’s the one that finds the path to the door, and he’s the one that doesn’t give up, leading to the discovery of the key hole that opens the side door. And he’s the one, who will have to face the dragon. Alone.