A Defense of Thorin's Claim on the Treasure of Erebor

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A Defense of Thorin's Claim on the Treasure of Erebor

By the end of The Hobbit trilogy, few will defend Thorin's seeming greed... but really he's just a stickler for a well-written contract.

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One huge problem that seems to put a hole in your argument, and that's how Thorin, once he is out of his Greedy stage, basically says he was wrong. He apologizes to Bilbo for how he acted, and from what I recall, heavily implied that Bilbo did the right thing. True that it might be more how he acted, but I don't think he really believed what he had said previously. So by apologizing, he admits he had no right, and that he should've kept his word.

And even if we go with Bilbo's contract, Thorin was being greedy and could've made another offer if he really wanted to. He could give them the money needed to rebuild, and then have a contract for them to rebuild or offer as warriors since they weren't as numerous before.

As for the people not doing anything, it's quite hard to expand when the people in charge are corrupt, and making everyone else live in misery as they live in luxury.

Important detail: a good deal of the wealth was added to the mountain's stores by Smaug himself during his rule. Thorin has no rightful claim to that portion.

P.S. Thanks

If I remember well from the books (I might not), Thorin said he would pay his due to the people, the problem was that they came armed demanding the money and he wouldn't give them any money in that case. In the movie they made him look him like a giant greedy asshole...

That was an awesome read. A good take on the subject, and pretty funny.
If only the 15th Dwarf would've been Nasrin Lawgiver the story might've ended differently. Sure, The Hobbit part 3 would have been a bit more boring, just like the Star Wars prequels and all their intergallactic economy-driven story, but it would've also been mercifully shorter.

Could counter-arguments be made by the prosecutor about the validity of the hole-in-the-wall negotiations because of the mental state of the defendant, one Thorin Oakenshield, during the proceedings? After all it was proven he had the Dragon Sickness and he was in no shape to dictate any terms.

Mosstromo:
Could counter-arguments be made by the prosecutor about the validity of the hole-in-the-wall negotiations because of the mental state of the defendant, one Thorin Oakenshield, during the proceedings? After all it was proven he had the Dragon Sickness and he was in no shape to dictate any terms.

Indeed, intoxication can undermine the mental capacity necessary to make a contractual agreement truly voluntary.

Didn't Smaug just chill inside the mountain for centuries, Scrooge McDucking in his gold, not really bothering anyone until Thorin's party showed up and pissed him off? I'd say that the fact that Laketown had managed to survive so long right next door a dragon's nest until Thorin appeared heavily indicates that it's destruction was indirectly caused by him.

Also, when Laketown came asking for their portion promised, which as mentioned was void due to duress anyway, they decided to do it while having an entire elf army at their back, which is really really god awful diplomacy on Bard's part.

Also one thing the writer didn't mention is Laketown knew about the prophecy about the dragon destroying their town, so they allowed the dwarves to continue on their quest knowing full well the risks to themselves by doing so. In essence Laketown allowed their town to be destroyed.

Thorin may have been suffering from Dragon Sickness at the time, but he was quite right in that he didn't owe Laketown anything whatsoever. Thorin had no obligation to give anything of the treasure to anyone but his traveling companions most of which were now living in the mountain anyway, Dragon Sickness or not.

Thorin was a prisoner of the Master of Laketown, and having committed no other substantive crime, was clearly held on condition of his assent to pay.

Weren't the dwarves arrested while stealing weapons from the town armory? How is that not a substantive crime?

There's also the fact that their entry into Laketown didn't go through the proper channels. I assumed that was a crime, what with the whole hiring of a smuggler to get them in. Was it not substantive?

Still doesn't change the fact the movie sucks ass.

Even if Thorin was legally right, that doesn't make him morally right, and I think that is what most people care about. Following the letter of the law while violating the spirit is generally frowned upon by people who aren't lawyers.

Even without considering his dubious verbal agreement, we might expect a decent person to help the humans. After all, they did help the dwarves (both in Laketown and by killing the dragon that the dwarves unleashed), they are largely good/innocent people who have lost everything and are in danger, and Thorin is now immensely wealthy. The requests of the humans and the elves (who were there to reclaim their own legal possessions IIRC) were pretty reasonable, and Thorin could have easily shown a little bit of charity, gratitude or even just diplomacy.

I didn't really find the joke that funny? Because the whole thing about that plotline is how you should value decency and honour above wealth and personal gain, so it's established that the gem is his and heck, the way people keep talking about contracts and 'rights' and '13th shares' is meant to sound ridiculous whilst other people are starving and fought off a dragon.

So it's kind of an odd joke. It's like writing a joke article on why Jake Gyllenhall's character was only behaving in a proper businessmen's manner whilst seeking to better tv-news in Nightcrawler? "It's funny because its true" doesn't actually work when they told you it was true first.

Actually Smaug got ownership of Erebor and its gold through right of conquest, it was a principle which granted a conqueror any spoils in war if victorious, regularly used as justification for subjugation of weaker states as when the Ottoman Empire conquered the Balkans or when European empires grabbed as much land in Africa and the New World as possible, principle was if someone couldn't protect its territories and resources they weren't worthy of having them

After the second world war the principle was rejected in favor of making war of aggression an international crime, the Lord of the Rings universe though probably wouldn't have any concept of international laws vilifying conquest

As for Bilbo taking the Arkenstone as payment it seems highly fraudulent as its usually within the right of the employer to decide how to compensate their employees, you can't just grab any property as payment

Laketown meanwhile is most certainly owed restitution, not only for the actions of the dwarves directly causing the destruction of their city, but also because of the greed of the dwarves attracting Smaug which lead to the destruction of Dale, most likely no contractual obligation, but by most moral obligations the people of Laketown is owed gold to repair their city since the actions of dwarves led to their homes being burned by a dragon twice

Thranduil has no right to any of the treasure and is simply staking a claim on what he perceives as rightfully his

Jordi:
Even if Thorin was legally right, that doesn't make him morally right, and I think that is what most people care about. Following the letter of the law while violating the spirit is generally frowned upon by people who aren't lawyers.

Even without considering his dubious verbal agreement, we might expect a decent person to help the humans. After all, they did help the dwarves (both in Laketown and by killing the dragon that the dwarves unleashed), they are largely good/innocent people who have lost everything and are in danger, and Thorin is now immensely wealthy. The requests of the humans and the elves (who were there to reclaim their own legal possessions IIRC) were pretty reasonable, and Thorin could have easily shown a little bit of charity, gratitude or even just diplomacy.

Funny story, when I finished reading The Hobbit for the first time, I broached the topic of the dispute at the mountain, I made this EXACT argument.

My wife, who had read the book years before, immediately jumped to Thorin's defense, saying that his ancestral claim should be respected first, that he should be left alone to secure the mountain, THEN go into more formal negotiations with the people of Laketown about helping them rebuild. She argued that rolling up immediately after the dwarves retake the mountain with the Elven-King and his army at their back, was just short of a bullying tactic.

I didn't realize that this basic disagreement was something that was a big point of contention/debate among fans of the story until now.

Paulhorne Schillings:
Still doesn't change the fact the movie sucks ass.

Seconded. God, I hate how bad this trilogy is. Too bloated, and it deviates from the source material in ways that either reduce the complexity of the original story or are just plain stupid.
For example, in the book, the dispute between the elves and the dwarves wasn't their not helping him against the dragon, but because Thraduil got greedy and refused to pay Thorin's grandfather a fair price for services his people rendered in building their fortress and many of the treasures of their great hall, leading to a war (because dwarves are damn serious about their treasure). The elves really did have no reason to stake a claim to what was in there and the way they changed it stripped Thorin of one of his most valid arguments for not speaking to the townsfolk.
And adding Azog to the story was a stupid change when his son, Bolg, would have served the same purpose equally well and not been as much of a change from the original (not to mention that the way they did the whole Azog thing in the movie was just kinda stupid by itself). And bringing back Legolas as more than just a cameo was blatant fan-service that added nothing to the movie.
And the stupid love-triangle! Answer to Tolkien's lack of women my ass! Jackson says, "The lack of female characters in Tolkien's work makes women seem unimportant." Great, so let's throw a girl in and put her in a love triangle, thus sending the message "Hey, girls, you only matter if two men are fighting over you!" Great job, Jackson!

This whole film series is just a mess. A well-acted mess, I'll grant you, but still a mess.

SNCommand:

Thranduil has no right to any of the treasure and is simply staking a claim on what he perceives as rightfully his

I remember reading that "the jewels of Eryn Lasgalen" were a Peter Jackson invention. Supposedly, they were Thranduil's heirloom, given to the dwarves to be made into jewels for his wife, but Thror considered himself powerful enough (or maybe he was just going mad with greed) to keep them. He even flaunts his theft in front of Thranduil in a deleted scene in An Unexpected Journey.

Granted, this isn't canon, and is only ever hinted in the movie. It's just something that PJ added to justify the dwarf-elf enmity. I think he took the concept from the Silmarillion, in which, long before The Hobbit, Thingol gives his daughter's dowry, a Silmaril, to be made into a jewel by the dwarves. They get corrupted by it and refuse to return it, so that would be the original grievance between the two races.

I can't seem to find any sources for this, but I've read it in several places before. Maybe the BluRay extras clear things up.

Thank you for the article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Don't know how much it would hold in court, considering the statute of limitations that may apply to such laws (plus being a fictional account), but a very interesting take on the whole situation.

P.S. The movie was awesome.

Yeah, while watching the movie I was totally on board with Thorin at the point he told the Lake Town people and the elven army to piss off. The people of Lake Town weren't owed anything, and yes while it probably would have been nice and proper for Thorin to help them out considering the destruction of their town, you don't obtain charity by showing up with an army and threatening to take things by force. If I were Thorin I might have tried to be a little more diplomatic, but I can hardly blame him for being pissed off when the moment he retakes his ancestral kingdom 2 separate armies arrive to bully him out of it.

I would have quite liked an ending where the Dwarven army just drove off the vultures, and took back their home. That wouldn't have been very Tolkein-ish though, admittedly.

The only legal ground that Bard has to stand on is the destruction of lake town, and even then it's incredibly shaky ground. If a hunter forces a bear out of its cave then that bear mauls some hiker, the mauling would entirely be the bears fault. The hunter has no legal responsibility (if the bear is in season) towards the hiker's death. And if Smaug were unintelligent that would pretty much be a one to one comparison, but Smaug is an intelligent creature able of sentient thought so the destruction of lake town is 100% Smaug's fault.

Nasrin is back! :D

Although I can see why, on racial grounds, Thorin would absolutely refuse to give the Elves what they want; it wouldn't have cost him very much of his treasure to at least provide the Laketown residents the funding needed to found a new town. They undoubtedly did him a massive favor by killing the dragon, something he couldn't do himself.

Still, no official contract had been laid down...

Redlin5:
Nasrin is back! :D

I know, right? Read the title and did a double-take! :D

OT: This was surprisingly interesting and illuminating. Tut-tut, greed is so ugly. v___v

The elves actually have a legal right to their property. The jewels did exist, though to what individual they were to be given was never stated. The jewels were actually the property of the elves who had a contract with the dwarves of Erebor to fit them to a necklace and a crown, a service for which they would receive payment. Then the mountain was infested with a dragon and that never happened. So really the elf king is just using a valid complaint to get more out of the situation( like someone complaining at a super market trying to get an extra loaf of bread) and there may in fact have been some form of financial restitution in the contract in case the jewels were lost or damaged or the job took longer than expected.

As for the men of Laketown, people seem to forget that they are the descendants of the Kingdom of Dale and thus at least part of the treasure is theirs because the dragon stole it from their city too, on top of the fact that their newly elected King is responsible for actually killing the dragon and thus making the treasure available to Thorin and CO.So again the argument could be made that they solved a pest problem and want payment.

As to Bilbo's share of the treasure being in the form of goods and not cash. You are making the assumption there is a standardized currency. Instead I think it's safe to say "cash" means money to hand, which likely includes gems gold bars and coins, possibly jewelry. At the very least it could be argued that the term "cash" is ambiguous and so open to interpretation. Furthermore Bilbo is not an employee but a partner in an expedition and so able to enter into equal negotiations with his partners to determine his share unless otherwise stated in the contract. Though I'll give you that just taking it was underhanded and kinda shady, something I think Bilbo admits in the book.

On the issue of the "if any" in the contract, that's in reference to the possible fact that there may be no profit at all from this expedition and so it is possible Bilbo may earn nothing. Not that if there is profit, Bilbo will earn only a 14th share or possibly nothing.

Barbas:

Redlin5:
Nasrin is back! :D

I know, right? Read the title and did a double-take! :D

Did you miss my rules lawyering??

Nasrin:

Barbas:

Redlin5:
Nasrin is back! :D

I know, right? Read the title and did a double-take! :D

Did you miss my rules lawyering??

In truth, it added a certain, how you say...je ne sais quoi to the forums.

image

Diablo2000:
If I remember well from the books (I might not), Thorin said he would pay his due to the people, the problem was that they came armed demanding the money and he wouldn't give them any money in that case. In the movie they made him look him like a giant greedy asshole...

You are close. Thorin does indeed say that he will honor his word and give the people of Laketown what he promised. The problem is that the elves show up and they start demanding treasure too. Thorin, who I'm sure you remember was thrown in prison for no reason by the elves, will have none of this. He says that the elves must leave, completely, before he will even consider talking with Bard. Seeing as the elves are helping keep the people of Laketown safe and alive, this cannot happen. And so, there's the problem.

A fun read, and a reminder of why life is so much more complicated with drawn out laws and contracts and whatnot.

Ah that classic chapter The Adjudication Of The Five Armies. I remember it well.

The legals are coming! The legals are coming!

Covarr:
Important detail: a good deal of the wealth was added to the mountain's stores by Smaug himself during his rule. Thorin has no rightful claim to that portion.

P.S. Thanks

Assuming those who would have a rightful claim to it are still alive to make it, which considering the nature of the thief, seems unlikely.

TravelerSF:
Didn't Smaug just chill inside the mountain for centuries, Scrooge McDucking in his gold, not really bothering anyone until Thorin's party showed up and pissed him off? I'd say that the fact that Laketown had managed to survive so long right next door a dragon's nest until Thorin appeared heavily indicates that it's destruction was indirectly caused by him.

Laketown actually aided the Dwarfs though, thats what provoked Smaug. They armed and supplied Thorin and his group knowing he was going to the Mountain, obviously that had the potential to piss the Dragon off if he failed.

The way I see it the rulers of Laketown share the responsibility of Thorin provoking the Dragons rampage.

I haven't bothered watching the second two films since the first was so unbelievably shit, but have they, and their fans, really managed to miss the point so badly? The whole point of the argument in the book was that no-one was in the right. The dwarves were being greedy dicks who didn't want to give up anything they had no matter who it might "rightfully" belong to (this is essentially the origin of the "dwarves love gold" stereotype so prevalent in fantasy these days). The elves were basically just being arrogant dicks who didn't like dwarves (threw them in prison for no reason, then demanded payment off them once they had some treasure). The humans were (anyone sensing a theme here?) dicks who just wanted a piece of the pie. In particular for the elves and humans, note that both thought the dwarves were dead and rocked up with an army hoping to clean the place out before anyone else had the chance; they only started trying to pretend to have legitimate claims after the dwarves refused to cave in to threats from two hostile armies. And finally, Bilbo explicitly admitted that he knew he had no right to the Arkenstone and deliberately stole it rather than claim it as his share because he thought it was the best way to end the conflict. He was the only one doing what he thought was right rather than acting out of greed, but he was also the only one who never even pretended to have a legitimate claim.

The best part is that not only does the book makes it very clear that no-one is in the right, it never even tries to resolve things. The argument only avoids turning into outright war due to the common enemy of the goblins, and with Thorin dead afterwards the argument is never continued and therefore never actually resolved. The survivors had evidently had a bit of sense knocked into them and decide to be more friendly (although the presence of a dwarven army now meant the elves and humans had no chance of taking things by force, and said dwarves already had their own stuff and hadn't spent decades living as vagabonds dreaming of their lost treasure, so the circumstances were rather different), but it was very much a case of "We've all just survived a big battle and there may be more coming, let's just start from scratch and share a bit" rather than anything to do with pre-existing claims.

What I'm most confused about is people blaming Bard for showing up at Erebor with an Elven army at his back, given that was blatantly not his choice and if it weren't for him there wouldn't have been any negotiation at all. He was hardly in a position to shoo away Thranduil and his entire army, was he?

Anyway, isn't this all ignoring the fact that, King or not, there's no way Thorin is entitled to literally 100% of all goods and material wealth within Erebor just because of his claim as King. Being King doesn't mean you don't get to own everything just because it's within your kingdom.

Also, if Bilbo really wanted to solve the situation, why didn't he just take his 14th of the treasure as pure cash and then given it straight to the people of Laketown? He doesn't seem too bothered by the wealth himself, so...

There are at least four issues with Bilbo's claim to the Arkenstone deriving from that phrase alone. First, Bilbo is promised cash, not goods, and therefore Bilbo's claim can only be valid with regard to the gold and not the gem.

Maybe, if the gold coins were a fiat currency. If they are, what government is guaranteeing their face value? The defunct kingdom of Erebor? If nothing or no one is guaranteeing their face value, they're valuable only for their gold content, not as cash. They become "goods" at that point.

Geo Da Sponge:
What I'm most confused about is people blaming Bard for showing up at Erebor with an Elven army at his back, given that was blatantly not his choice and if it weren't for him there wouldn't have been any negotiation at all. He was hardly in a position to shoo away Thranduil and his entire army, was he?

Anyway, isn't this all ignoring the fact that, King or not, there's no way Thorin is entitled to literally 100% of all goods and material wealth within Erebor just because of his claim as King. Being King doesn't mean you don't get to own everything just because it's within your kingdom.

Also, if Bilbo really wanted to solve the situation, why didn't he just take his 14th of the treasure as pure cash and then given it straight to the people of Laketown? He doesn't seem too bothered by the wealth himself, so...

Because it's a lot easier to take one rock to the people as a bargaining chip than mounds of gold and other treasure?

By this logic The Lord of the Rings is actually the epic tale of Sauron trying to reclaim his stolen property.

This is why lawyers suck.

COMaestro:

Geo Da Sponge:
What I'm most confused about is people blaming Bard for showing up at Erebor with an Elven army at his back, given that was blatantly not his choice and if it weren't for him there wouldn't have been any negotiation at all. He was hardly in a position to shoo away Thranduil and his entire army, was he?

Anyway, isn't this all ignoring the fact that, King or not, there's no way Thorin is entitled to literally 100% of all goods and material wealth within Erebor just because of his claim as King. Being King doesn't mean you don't get to own everything just because it's within your kingdom.

Also, if Bilbo really wanted to solve the situation, why didn't he just take his 14th of the treasure as pure cash and then given it straight to the people of Laketown? He doesn't seem too bothered by the wealth himself, so...

Because it's a lot easier to take one rock to the people as a bargaining chip than mounds of gold and other treasure?

Oh yeah, because it worked out so well taking the one thing that the increasingly unstable dwarf wanted most of all.

Besides, their actual plan was then "Use the bargaining chip to get him to hand over mounds of gold and treasure", so I'm sure the actual logistics of getting a whole bunch of gold past the walls wasn't a bigger problem than "How do we get this asshole dwarf to pay up for spectacularly ruining everything?"

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