The Hobbit Film Trilogy: Bard the Bowman

 

Greetings, readers! Today I once again find myself wandering through The Hobbit films. This time, though, the focus is on the most important Man in the films, Bard the Bowman.

Ever since I encountered him in the pages of The Hobbit, I have liked Bard. His sense of justice, his courage, and his compassion all combined to make him a very appealing character. When I heard they were making a film of The Hobbit, one of my first thoughts was: “Yes! That means we get to see Bard on the silver screen! Yahoo!”

Well, we did not get to see him in An Unexpected Journey, but by the middle of The Desolation of Smaug, there he was. He came up on the Dwarves nice and quiet after they had escaped the Wood Elves – and he managed to not only intimidate Dwalin with a well shot arrow but also to startle Kíli, the Company’s only archer!

It takes some work, but Balin eventually convinces him to smuggle the Company into Lake-town. The good old Dwarf’s only mistake is to mention Bard’s wife, who has been dead for some years. But, despite that mistake, Balin gets them passage to Lake-town on Bard’s barge. And Bard, just like in the book, stays true to his word. He gets them safely into Lake-town – though they probably smelled strongly of fish for a few hours after!

And once they are in town, Bard hides the Company in his house, introducing his son Bain and two daughters to them (interestingly, Bard had no daughters in the book, and we only learn about Bain in The Fellowship of the Ring). As the Company prepares to head for the Mountain, Bard hears Thorin’s name mentioned. Recognizing the name, but unable to recall why, he leaves Bain in charge of the household to search for answers…

… and finds he is sheltering the dispossessed King under the Mountain in his home. He also recalls the prophecy which states that, although the King under the Mountain “shall come into his own,” the lake “will shine and burn.” Which means his family and the people of Lake-town are in serious trouble. But, just as in the book, no one heeds Bard’s warnings. He is always predicting all manner of disasters, they say, which never come to pass. Why should this be any different?

Disappointed by his people’s blindness and the determination of Thorin to enter the Mountain no matter what, Bard leaves the Company to be celebrated by the townspeople. He and his children do not see the Company off but remain at home, where Bofur, Fíli, and Óin find them some time later.

At first, Bard will not let them in. “No!” he snaps before Bofur can speak. “I’ve had enough of Dwarves!”

But when he sees Kíli’s condition and learns that no one else will help the four Dwarves, Bard’s compassion overrules his frustration. He lets them into the house once again, and does his best to help them with Kíli’s injury. When the Mountain starts to rumble, however, Bard realizes that Smaug is awake. Though the dragon has not left the Mountain in years, with a Company of Dwarves disturbing his rest, it is all too probable that he will leave his hoard to attack Lake-town.

And with that in mind, Bard unveils the great Black Arrow that has been passed down through his family since the time of his great forefather, the last King of Dale, Girion.

My only issue with the Black Arrow as portrayed in the film was that it was too big. In the book, the black arrow was an ordinary arrow. It was, apparently, made of iron, but otherwise it was an ordinary arrow. Still, before Bard can prepare the Arrow for firing, he is captured by the Master of Lake-town and his servant Alfrid, who are hoping to ruin Bard’s reputation with the Lake Men. Unknown to the Master, however, Bain has hidden the Black Arrow and returned to the house – in time to run into a bunch of Orcs and two Elves.

It is going to be a long night.

Thinking they have removed the last obstacle to their power, the Master and Alfrid congratulate each other on locking Bard up. But in doing so they only succeed in leaving Lake-town largely defenseless when Smaug attacks. Bard, however, manages to escape his cell – proof that you cannot keep a concerned, loving father locked up when his family is in danger. Grabbing a bow and a quiver full of arrows, Bard is the only one to challenge Smaug as the dragon sprays the wooden houses with fire.

As Tauriel and the Dwarves work to get Bard’s children out of the flaming town, Bain spots his father firing on the dragon. He points him out to the others in the boat, and Kíli sees one of his arrows strike the dragon. But Tauriel tells them that though the shot was well aimed, it cannot pierce the dragon’s scales. From where she sits, it appears that Bard is a deader.

That is when Bain sees the boat where he hid the Black Arrow, still afloat and undamaged. Without a word, he jumps out of the boat carrying his sisters, the Dwarves, and their Elven guard. Going to the boat, he grabs the Arrow and climbs up the bell tower to his father.

Bard first chastises his son for coming back to him, then smiles when Bain holds up the Black Arrow. He then has to keep his son safe when Smaug whacks the bell’s tower, taking off the top of the tower and the bell. Bard picks up the Arrow, then finds his bow has snapped.

Smaug lands and begins taunting the “Bowman,” telling him he cannot save his son or anyone else. But Bard has other ideas. Using the remains of his bow, some rope, and his son’s shoulder, Bard nocks the Black Arrow and prepares to take aim. Bain, of course, is very scared about being the rest for the Arrow – especially since his back is to the dragon that wants to eat him! Bard tells his son to “look at me,” in order to keep him calm and still. (Very William Tell – nice job, Peter Jackson!) Bain calms down as Smaug takes another step forward…

And reveals the missing scale in the left side of his chest. Bard takes aim at the space and, as Smaug jumps into the air, fires. The shot is true and Smaug dies – conveniently landing on the Master as he tries to escape Lake-town with a boatload of gold, removing him from the film as well (fare thee well, Stephen Fry).

By dawn, the survivors of Lake-town have reached the lake shore. Bard’s daughters go into the crowd, searching for their father, as Alfrid tries to become the new Master of the Lake Men. Remembering his conduct of the night previous, when he tried to escape the town on the Master’s barge (since they needed to lighten the load to get through a particular channel, the Master tossed him overboard), the Lake Men are not going to just roll over and accept Alfrid as their new Master.

When one woman tells that to Alfrid’s face, he prepares to strike her – only for Bard to stop him. Reunited with his daughters, Bard is acclaimed the hero of Lake-town. The people begin to chant “King Bard! King Bard!” Alfrid, trying to keep himself in a good position, joins in the chanting.

The crowd goes absolutely silent, and Bard shoots him a disgusted look. That is when the people come up with the happy idea of hanging Alfrid from the nearest tree. They grab him, hoist him over their heads, and start off, Alfrid screaming for mercy as they do so.

I was looking forward to what Bard would do in this scene. I knew what he had done in the book, and I was really hoping he would behave in a similar manner in the film.

Peter Jackson did not disappoint me. Bard stops the Lake Men, reminding them that there has been enough death and counseling them to have at least a little mercy for Alfrid. However, a little mercy does not include liking him, as Bard proves when Alfrid tries to lean on him as a friend and Bard dumps him on the ground.

With that matter settled, Bard leads the people to the ruins of Dale, hoping to get them to something resembling shelter, since winter is setting in. But the ruins are little help against the cold, and the Lake Men have few supplies. Bard decides that he will go to Thorin and ask for the recompense he promised the Lake Men, so that they can get about surviving the winter and rebuilding Dale and the Lake-town. Then, just to make sure Alfrid will pull his weight, Bard puts him on guard duty.

In the morning, he discovers that this was a lousy idea. In the night, Alfrid slept, and an army of Wood Elves has taken up residence inside Dale. Not long after making this discovery, Bard meets Thranduil who, perhaps recalling Thorin’s stinging rebuke about how little he helped the Dwarves after Smaug took the Lonely Mountain, has brought supplies for the Lake Men. Bard, in gratitude for Thranduil’s aid to the Lake Men, agrees to help him get his own compensation from Thorin.

However, Bard wants to at least try to get what was promised to his people without a war. He rides up to the front entrance of the Lonely Mountain, which Thorin has had sealed off. There he begs him to remember that he gave his word, that the people of Lake-town have paid dearly for helping him and his Company, and now they need Thorin’s help.

But Thorin’s natural weakness for gold – in the film it is repeatedly called “dragon sickness” – prevents him from feeling any pity or compassion for the people of Lake-town. Nor, for that matter, does he feel any need to repay Bard for his help: first in bringing the Dwarves to Lake-town, then in sheltering Fíli, Kíli, Óin, and Bofur when no one else would.

Aggravated, Bard returns to Thranduil and reluctantly agrees to join the Elven King’s attack on the Lonely Mountain at dawn. Though Bard does not want to go to war with the Dwarves, Thranduil has helped him and his people. They owe the Elven King for that, and Thorin still owes Bard’s people the gold he promised them. He knows he has gotten mixed up in the grudge match between Thranduil and Thorin; he also knows there is no way he can get out of it without him and his people being left to die off slowly throughout the winter.

Gandalf’s arrival only makes matters worse for him. Bard learns from the wizard that an army of Orcs is headed for the Mountain; their leader wants to kill Thorin and he is willing to go through everyone in and around Erebor to do it. The situation is looking grimmer by the second when Bilbo suddenly arrives. He presents Bard, Thranduil, and Gandalf with the Arkenstone, the one treasure in the hoards of Erebor which Thorin desires above all else. Bilbo seems certain that Thorin will hand over the treasure he owes Bard and Thranduil in exchange for the Heart of the Mountain. With a bargaining chip such as this, Bard hopes they have a way of avoiding war with the Dwarves.

But Bilbo’s plan, while not worthless, has the undesired effect of making Thorin even more determined to go to war. This is made apparent when Thorin’s cousin, Dain Ironfoot, arrives with an army of five hundred Dwarves from the Iron Hills. War among the three races is about to commence when the Orcs arrive. Instead of turning against each other, however, the would-be enemies turn to face the Orcs whom they all recognize as a threat greater than their grudges and broken promises.

When Azog sends an Orc battalion into Dale to attack the Lake-town survivors, Bard’s first thoughts are for his people and, most especially, for his son and daughters. He leads his men into battle against the Orcs and still manages to come to the direct defense of his three children. Throughout the rest of the Battle of the Five Armies, Bard holds the Orcs who enter Dale within the ruined city, eventually destroying them all while preserving the lives of his children and most of his people.

Nothing more is mentioned about Bard in the film, unfortunately, but I do know a few details from the book(s) which may interest you, readers. After the Battle of the Five Armies, Bard and his people did receive the recompense from the Dwarves that they were promised.   Dain, who became the new King under the Mountain after Thorin’s death, honored his cousin’s promise to the fullest extent. Bard gave some of the jewels Dain returned to him – emeralds which were heirlooms of his family – to Thranduil in gratitude for his help during the Lake Men’s time of need.

With all this new wealth, Lake-town was rebuilt, and its new Master “was of wiser kind” than the former. Trade between the Woodland realm, Dale, Lake-town, Erebor, and the people to the South resumed – pretty soon, gold was running as thick as the river was deep! The people were all rich beyond imagining. Bard became king of the rebuilt Dale, and Bain succeeded him when his time came. Bain was then succeeded by his own son, Brand, who ruled Dale up to and during the War of the Ring.

A few months prior to the War of the Ring, messengers from Sauron came to Dain and Brand, asking them to find the One Ring, since they were acquainted with Bilbo at one time. Neither the King under the Mountain nor the King of Dale gave Sauron’s messengers a satisfactory answer to this “request.” When the messengers left, they promised retribution if the two kings did nothing to aid Sauron.

The reprisal came during the Fellowship of the Ring’s travails. Dale and the Lonely Mountain were both attacked several times. In one of the final engagements, Dain and Brand were killed where they fought side by side against the Orcs. Thorin III (Thorin Oakenshield was Thorin II) and Bard II, Dain’s and Brand’s sons respectively, then became the King under the Mountain and the King of Dale, after leading the final assault against the Orcs. At the same time Dale and Erebor were under attack, Thranduil’s realm was also assailed a number of times, but each attack was successfully repulsed. With the fall of Sauron, Mirkwood was renamed Eryn Lasgalen (which means ‘wood of green leaves’), and life in the North went back to normal.

But this normal would not have existed if thirteen Dwarves and one Hobbit had not driven the great dragon Smaug out of the Lonely Mountain; and if one Man had not taken aim at the dragon and found his one weak spot. Without Bard, even driving Smaug out of the Mountain would not have been enough. If Smaug had been allowed to remain in Erebor, all the North would have become his domain while he was under Sauron’s control. As Gandalf said at the beginning of The Desolation of Smaug, the dragon had to go, or Middle-earth would pay dearly for his staying under the Mountain.

Well, readers, as you can see I was very pleased with Bard’s portrayal in The Hobbit films. The only thing I would have done differently, had I been filming the movies, is that I would have shown him paying Thranduil for his help, with the mention that he would be the new ruler of Dale henceforward. But maybe the Extended Editions of The Hobbit films will have a scene or two showing us some of what happens to Bard after the Battle of the Five Armies. We shall have to wait and see.  😉

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

http://borg.com/2012/08/02/jackson-confirms-division-of-the-hobbit-into-three-films/

http://borg.com/2014/12/18/a-battle-of-two-reviews-examining-peter-jacksons-the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies/

http://borg.com/2014/08/02/cloaks-daggers-new-book-offers-unprecedented-access-to-movie-costume-props-and-sets-of-the-hobbit-series

http://borg.com/2013/12/25/movie-review-an-amazing-adventure-awaits-in-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug/

http://borg.com/2012/12/25/the-hobbit-argo-and-arrow-lead-off-our-list-of-the-best-of-2012/

http://borg.com/2012/12/15/opening-weekend-review-the-hobbit-a-masterpiece-of-fantasy-perfection/

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