Thursday, January 27, 2011
Was Thorin Right?
At the end of The Hobbit, was Thorin correct or right to refuse to deal with Bard and the Elvenking when they came to the Lonely Mountain to parley with the Dwarves about the treasure?
As most of us seemed, in class, to believe that Thorin was absolutely wrong in his behavior and his logic, I'm going to argue for him!
It's a problematic assertion that Thorin is in any way obligated to give the Men (or Elves) part of his treasure. It is, after all, his. I like to draw the analogy that if your was infested by a bear, and your neighbor helped you to get rid of the bear, do you then "owe" your neighbor part of your house? After all, without him, you wouldn't have the house at all. But it is of course stillyour house.
So Thorin may be more right from a legalistic point of view in not "owing" the Men any treasure.
But is it right morally?
Probably not. Many people of Laketown died, and the town itself was entirely destroyed, and the Captain Bard did kill the dragon. Certainly the neighborly thing to do would be to send as much aid as he could spare--after all, there is a lot of it.
A few things that may further excuse Thorin's greed are the Elves and the armies. The Elves have a very feeble claim to the gold (other than the Elvenking's love of shiny things) except that they aided the Men of Laketown after the disaster and perhaps, in a roundabout way, are owed some recompense. Thorin must not have been pleased to see them in the first place, which would put him in a foul mood.
Additionally, both the Men and the Elves bring armies even before talking to Thorin, implying that, before negotiations have even begun, they will take the treasure if Thorin does not give it up. (I also personally find it difficult to believe that they require very much monetary aid if they can muster an army.)
Are Thorin's actions, therefore, right? He is certainly morally reprehensible and merciless, but I posit that the Men and the Elves are acting as much out of greed as the Dwarves are, and it is a three-way problem of greed and pride which brings about this conflict.