The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien, Alan Lee

Worse for the journey down the river in barrels, but still alive and kicking, the Prodigal Son returns.

Men of Lake-town gathering barrels


Bilbo gets his first glimpse of the Lonely Mountain, and shepherds the dwarfs along their path.

"Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!" said the dwarf in a loud voice, and he looked it, in spite of his torn clothes and draggled hood.  The gold gleamed on his neck and waist; his eyes were dark and deep.  " I wish to see the Master of your town!"

"We have no need of weapons, who return at last to our own as spoken of old.  Nor could we fight against so many.  Take us to your master."

Music, more than anything, wins the dwarfs the support of the Master.  People remembering the stories and singing convince the Master to side with the dwarfs instead of his elven trading partners, and even the elves themselves start to wonder if their king was mistaken in detaining the dwarfs.

As returning heroes and legends out of story, the dwarfs (and poor ill Mr. Baggins) are feted and equipped for two weeks before moving on.  Time to rest, recover, and regroup.  So our adventure continues, our party heading across Long Lake, and with the elfking making his own plans regarding the dwarven wealth.

Of particular note here is that Lake-town (and once upon a time, Dale) exists and thrives out here.  Back in Chapter 3 we stay at the Last Homely House, since then we've journeyed further into the land of monsters and untamed wilds.  Beorn provides hospitality, but his home is a haven of wilderness, shelter but not civilized.  The woodelves of the Mirkwood (once the Greenwood) were a known entity, and were not considered a bastion of hospitality or civilization by the elves of Rivendell or by Gandalf.  "Last Homely House" may be more of a conceit than a truth, or an assumption of racial superiority.  A map of Middle Earth places Rivendell in the north-western quadrant, with Misty Mountains and Mirkwood to the east, but beyond those we see kingdoms of man (Gondor, Rohan),  the kingdoms of the dwarfs (Iron Mountains), and even elfhames (Mirk/Greenwood, Lorien), though the last are considered wild and dangerous.  It is in truth the last bastion of peace and comfort for some distance, but civilization and hospitality exists within shockingly short distance all around Rivendell.

All that being said, it is true that Lake-town is not the haven or bastion of civilization on par with Rivendell, or the once bustling Dale.


As for the movie.  First and foremost, we get a little of Gandalf's side quest, something that is brushed aside as a "story for another time" in the book.  In my opinion, this is a nice little treat.  It doesn't consume much time, and fulfills that Gandalf has THINGS TO DO.  Though perhaps "The enemy is preparing for war" is a bit over stated, since we're looking at 50+ years until the war in question.  It's more "the enemy is preparing to prepare for war," which lacks a certain gravitas.
My notes for the added scenes involving the orc hunting party and the elves include the following:

 

  • blah, blah, interrogation, blah, blah
  • woodgie woodgie dark arrow
  • cause of course we need to keep Legolas & Tauriel
  • orcs tracking dwarfs, *yawn*

 

I want to talk about the changes in how the party enters Laketown.  In the book they enter openly, self-assured in their right to be there, intruding on the Master's dinner party, and backed by popular rumor (even if they don't like the whole idea of sharing their wealth).  In the movie they are smuggled in by Bard, albeit with a comedic moment involving fish and a rather good moment highlighting the corrupt nature of the Master, and only come to public light when they are caught (extremely clumsily) stealing from the armory.  Then Thorin, in a bit of oration promises  "all will share in the wealth of the mountain," which wins him the interest of both the Master and the townsfolk, and really is complete and utter bullshit.  I mean, we all know he has every intention of sharing as little of the wealth as possible.

Excellent oration aside, Thorin is such an asshole in this section.  You were caught in the act robbing the city armory, they have every right to treat you like a criminal even if you are royalty.  Poor and arrogant behavior on the part of the dwarfs isn't in anything new, and just continues throughout now.
My best guess is this was all done in the interests of heightening tension and drama.  Largely it just seemed overdone with a few bright spots to carry it.  The overly dramatic prophesy is overly dramatic, but the rumors are reasonably accurate.  I don't know why there was any need to make Bard a smuggler, and the dwarfs are acting not only arrogant, but like petulant children in response to the weapons Bard provides.  Their robbing of the armory is just impetuous and poorly executed. 

Bard's accusation of the "blind ambition of a mountain king who cannot see past his own desire," is both accurate and prophetic for what is to come.  But perhaps also accurate is Thorin's response, "I have the only right."

I'm just grumpy about the whole ailing Kili plot.  Why do we need this?  We don't need the love story, and the leaving behind of three dwarfs just wrankles.  I will get even grumpier as it continues.

For all my complaints above, the Master is done brilliantly, and if anything is achieved in the changes, it is to show the Master as a corrupt individual, and I like that direction.  Stephen Fry is generally amazing, and a magnificent choice for the part.  Amusingly, in the discussions I've had with others about who we thought could have pulled off a Tom Bombadil, Stephen Fry is pretty much the only name that comes up (generally otherwise the thought of Bombadil in the movie fills most of us with dread).  Alfred is absolutely despicable, which by and large is his entire purpose.  He feels like a precursor to Grima Wormtongue, though in this case more as an enabler than a corrupter.

I've complained a lot about Legolas and the decisions regarding Tauriel's role in the movie (seriously, if she'd just been kick-ass elven ranger who thought the dwarfs deserved help or just wanted to hunt down orcs she'd be awesome).  The Legolas/Tauriel scene added to this chapter I think is actually important and worthwhile.  In translation to screen we lose some of the depth and allegory of the text, in in that some of Tolkien's personal beliefs and dislike of war.  This scene gives the movie a little more than just an epic high fantasy.  Even without the concern for Kili, Tauriel has strong impetus for her actions, seeking to scour the land from the invading evil represented by the orcs.  As she says to Legolas, "When did we let evil grow stronger than us?"  The elves have power, from their long lives accumulating experience and honing skills, and from their magical and natural affinities.  Thranduil shows us how that can twist a soul, Tauriel shows us how it can still burn bright.