The following cover the next three chapters:
The company is shut in the mountain and is forced to go down into it despite not knowing where Smaug is. He, of course has flown to Lake Town to destroy it. The company, still a bit cowardly, lets Bilbo go exploring alone, after he volunteers. He comes upon no dragon, but he does find the Arkenstone. Knowing that the dwarves were looking for this piece of treasure above all others, he takes it for himself, justifying his action as his rightful claim of his portion of the treasure. Bilbo even remarks that he has become a burglar now.
The next chapter details the account of the death of Smaug. Bard is able to fire an arrow into the weak spot under Smaug’s belly. He learns this from the thrush that overheard Bilbo telling the dwarves about Smaug’s weak spot. Bard is able to speak the language of the thrush because he is a descendant of the Lord of Dale, those of whom could speak to thrushes. So, indirectly, Bilbo is responsible for killing the dragon. In one of Tolkien’s original drafts, Tolkien had Bilbo kill Smaug on his own, but eventually decided Bilbo was no warrior. In this final version however, Bilbo is still able to kill him, through an actual warrior. Again, history and Providence collide to inform and shape the events of the story.
After the death of Smaug and the destruction of Lake Town, Tolkien quickly establishes a contrast between two potential governments that threaten to arise in the aftermath of destruction. A monarchy, with the people setting up Bard as king, or a continuation of a semi-democracy, or probably oligarchy, of the corrupt Master. I’m not sure if Tolkien is unfavorable to oligarchies or democracies, but if the title of the final book of LOTR is any indication, Tolkien probably favors a monarchy. I suspect this has as much to do with his British heritage as it has to do with his Christianity. However, after discussing about who would become leader, the town’s eyes, and even noble Bard’s, turn towards the mountain and the pile of treasure they could claim for themselves. Also at this time, the wood elves had come out of their kingdom to claim the treasure for themselves, after hearing about the death of Smaug, for the news had spread far and wide. The lust of treasure has attracted greedy peoples.
And chapter fifteen shows the extent of greediness and the prevalence the dragon sickness has upon Thorin, for he entreats no options of sharing the treasure with anyone, not even for humanitarian aid to the people of Lake Town, even after Bard pleads with him to share. In a selfish act, Thorin sends for aid to his dwarf kinsman to protect the treasure for himself. Smaug has died, but his legacy lives on and only a mere few days after his defeat, the entire region and the peoples within it are about to destroy themselves, something Smaug himself probably could not accomplish.
One final note: Chapters fourteen and Fifteen seem to me to have a slight style change to them as compared to the rest of the book. In these chapters, the descriptions and dialogue appear to be “higher” using words such as “behold,” descriptions of noble lines of descent, and fancy entreaties to opposing armies. The style feels like a simpler version of the Silmarillion and I wonder if Tolkien is trying to highlight the seriousness and the grandeur of the events occurring- a sort of massive historical event that is unfolding in which to do it justice requires such use of style.