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Old 04-06-2008, 10:07 AM   #81
Rikae
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sauron the White View Post
Well in truth Skip, we have a great deal more than "all we know is what he wrote". JRRT also gave us visuals of his world. In the case of Laketown, the picture that he himself drew clearly shows a rather substantial bridge with many thick pylons supporting it. It is clearly not a suspension bridge or something with ropes holding it up so that it can be quickly "cut".
So, your point is what, exactly? That Tolkien wrote aobut the bridge being cut, but then drew a bridge that didn't look as though it could be cut in order to get his real point - that the bridge was not cut - across?
And you talk about us having faith!
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:16 AM   #82
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There were bridges in Laketown. Perhaps some of them were strung with rope so that they could be cut. Do not take my heretical word for it as an unbeliever. Use your own powers of observation and look at the Professors own drawing that davem preproduced in this thread. On the far right side is a smaller bridge of far different construction that the chief bridge to the mainland. It appears to more closely resemble the structure of a suspension bridge and may well have ropes which can be cut.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:30 AM   #83
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I don't see how that bridge on the picture could be destroyed very quickly no. As others have pointed out (but you have ignored): JRRTs paintings often contradict his written depictions when it comes to detail. Clearly the bridge on the picture can't be "cut", which is what Bard cries out for in the book. The bridges (note the plural form) JRRT had in mind when he wrote the passage in the book therefore must have been different bridges to the one he painted at another occation.

Tolkien wrote that the bridge or bridges were destroyed quickly and personally I have little difficulty imagining it being done. "It's easy if you try", in the words of John Lennon. Why would you deny yourself the pleasure of it making sense? Or do you perhaps find it more enjoyable to ignore everything that doesn't correlate with your own narrow interpretation of the passage.

And btw, the distance between The Lonely Mountain and Lake Town was rather significant. Although they had little time to destroy the bridge it wasn't a matter of seconds. I would imagine to took Smaug a fair bit of time to reach the town even if he was travelling quickly.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:37 AM   #84
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from Skip Spence

Quote:
I don't see how that bridge on the picture could be destroyed very quickly no
.
Very good.

Quote:
As others have pointed out (but you have ignored): JRRTs paintings often contradict his written depictions when it comes to detail.
The illustration of Laketown contradicts not one single description of it or Laketown in THE HOBBIT. If I missed the description of the main Laketwon bridge as something different that what is shown in JRRT's own illustration, please refer me to the portion of the text.

Quote:
Clearly the bridge on the picture can't be "cut", which is what Bard cries out for in the book.
My point to the letter. Thank you for supporting it.

Quote:
The bridges (note the plural form) JRRT had in mind when he wrote the passage in the book therefore must have been different bridges to the one he painted at another occation.
Again, that is the point I made in the post above yours. We agree.


Quote:
Tolkien wrote that the bridge was destroyed quickly and personally I have little difficulty imagining it being done. "It's easy if you try", in the words of John Lennon. Why would you deny yourself the pleasure of it making sense? Or do you perhaps find it more enjoyable to ignore everything that doesn't correlate with your own narrow interpretation of the event.
I save my faith and belief for things that cannot be validated by more mundane forms of observation and proof. In this case, I need not try at all since this is not a matter of faith or belief. One can see with their two eyes. We have the illustration by JRRT himself. I have to accept that, as its creator and maker, he knew what both Laketown and its main bridge looked like.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:42 AM   #85
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Originally Posted by Sauron the White View Post
There were bridges in Laketown. Perhaps some of them were strung with rope so that they could be cut.
So now they only cut some of the bridges? Why? You seem bent on making the passage make even less sense than it does to begin with. I can only shake my head...
Quote:
Originally Posted by STW
Do not take my heretical word for it as an unbeliever..
Give it a rest, please.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:58 AM   #86
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Sauron the White
I give up. In the op you asked us to try to explain why the bridge of Lake Town was destroyed. Yet seemingly you have no interest whatsoever in trying to understand our explanaitions or discussing them and you constantly ignore anything you can't lash out at, often by (I assume) wilfully misrepresenting our arguments.

I promised myself I wouldn't argue with you the other day yet here I am again. But not any longer. Smell you later!

Edit: Perceived insult removed. "Give piece a chance", to once again quote Lennon. ;-)
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Old 04-06-2008, 11:12 AM   #87
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from skip spence

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Sauron the White
I give up. You really are a peace of work, aren't you?
If you are going to try to insult me it might be nice to get the phrase right. Its not peace of work --- its piece of work. I do not remember insulting you. I am merely trying to discuss points you raise in your posts.

from Rikae

Quote:
So now they only cut some of the bridges? Why?
I would guess that they can only cut which can be cut. Some bridges - the suspension types with ropes - would lend themselves to that procedure. Others - like the main Laketown bridge drawn by JRRT himself - would not lend itself to being cut.
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Old 04-06-2008, 11:13 AM   #88
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The large bridge was cut - Tolkien is clear:

Quote:
The bridge was gone, and his enemies were on an island in deep water too deep and dark and cool for his liking. If he plunged into it, a vapour and a steam would arise enough to cover all the land with a mist for
days; but the lake was mightier than he, it would quench him before he could pass through.
You can't get away from the text. "The bridge was cut & his enemies were on an island" cannot be interpreted in any other way than that the big bridge was cut/thrown down.

As to the picture, it is wrong - in Barrels out of Bond we read:

Quote:
It seemed a town of Men still throve there, built out on bridges far into the water as a protection against enemies of all sorts, and especially against the dragon of the Mountain. From Laketown the barrels were brought up the Forest River. Often they were just tied together like big rafts and poled or rowed up the stream; sometimes they were loaded on to flat boats.

built out on bridges far into the water[
does not conform to the picture, which shows only one large bridge, & Lake Town is hardly 'far out'. Hence, the picture is both correct & not correct (& possibly so is the text). The only explanation I can think of to this dilemma is that Tolkien at some points visualised Esgaroth as being linked to the shore(s) by a number of bridges which could all be cast down (ie they were some form of suspension bridge) & at other points he conceived of it as having one big, substantial bridge

Quote:
A great bridge made of wood ran out to where on huge piles made of forest trees was built a busy wooden town, not a town of elves but of Men, who still dared to dwell here under the shadow of the distant dragonmountain.
So, there is a single, great bridge built on huge piles of forest trees, which clearly (from the picture) could not be 'cast down' or cut in short order unless it had some form of mechanism built in (possibly of Elvish design???) & at the same time there are a number of bridges which can be cast down - the book seems to contradict itself. Whatever, Tolkien clearly states that when the Dragon attacks the town is an island in deep water, so whether there was one, or many, is not really the issue.

The only possible way of making the two concepts fit is that lake Town was a collection of seperate buildings connected by bridges - but you still have to accept that the big bridge was destroyed in some way because when Smaug attacked it was cut off: 'an island'.
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Old 04-06-2008, 11:34 AM   #89
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Evidently, the folk of Laketown believed that cutting the bridge would either offer protection from Smaug landing, or as davem stated earlier, that cutting the bridge would diffuse the stampeding masses, rather than centralize their egress along one route.

In any case, Smaug did not land, and there was no crush of hysterical refugees flooding the bridge.
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Old 04-06-2008, 11:44 AM   #90
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I am not arguing that the main bridge was not destroyed. I am saying that it was not one of the bridges which could have been cut because the illustration Tolkien gave us - which is far more detailed than any text description with words - shows a substantial structure built on thick plyons and not a supsension bridge upheld by ropes to be cut.

I think you can question how well this passage was written since JRRT himself says they had "little time" and this main bridge seems to be the type that would take a great deal of effort to not only take down but destroy - and Tolkien seems to think there is a difference.

So, if JRRT says the main bridge was destroyed, then it was destroyed.

This thread was started to question the wisdom of the decision to destroy the bridge as a tactic to fight a fire breathing dragon who is attacking you from the air.

Quote:
built out on bridges far into the water[ does not conform to the picture, which shows only one large bridge, & Lake Town is hardly 'far out'. Hence, the picture is both correct & not correct (& possibly so is the text).
The picture of Laketown that you reproduced for us shows one angle of Laketown closest to the mainland. Perhaps a more complete aerial view of the entire area would show us something different ... perhaps not. I have no idea and that is all speculation which cannot be proven or disproven. I have no idea what JRRT meant when he used the term "far out" in terms of meters or yards or miles. I also have no idea as to what the exact scale is in the picture. Do you?

Quote:
So, there is a single, great bridge built on huge piles of forest trees, which clearly (from the picture) could not be 'cast down' or cut in short order unless it had some form of mechanism built in (possibly of Elvish design???) & at the same time there are a number of bridges which can be cast down - the book seems to contradict itself.
Yes, I agree. The picture clearly shows two different kind of bridges.

Quote:
Whatever, Tolkien clearly states that when the Dragon attacks the town is an island in deep water, so whether there was one, or many, is not really the issue.
Yes. The issue that I began with is that the decision to cast down and destroy the bridge was not a wise one since it meant nothing in stopping a flying fire breathing dragon who was attacking you by air.

Quote:
The only possible way of making the two concepts fit is that lake Town was a collection of seperate buildings connected by bridges - but you still have to accept that the big bridge was destroyed in some way because when Smaug attacked it was cut off: 'an island'.
As I have said, if JRRT said the bridge was destroyed, then it was destroyed. My main point is that such an action is not the wisest or best tactic employed against a fire breathing dragon attacking you from the air. A different and more minor point was the difficulty - or perhaps impossibility - of actually downing and destroying such a substantial bridge in such "little time" as JRRT says was available to the people of Laketown. However, that is a writing problem. I have no doubt that if this event had happened in LORD OF THE RINGS, it would have been written differently, things explained in more detail, and it would have made much more sense.

Its too bad JRRT never finished his attempt at rewriting THE HOBBIT. Maybe this portion would have been changed. Maybe not.

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Old 04-06-2008, 12:38 PM   #91
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Tolkien's painting of The Death of Smaug shows the great bridge thrown down


Rateliff comments:
Quote:
The decision for Lake Town to have only one great bridge seems to have been determined through the two illustrations Tolkien drew of the scene apparently created over the Christmas 1936 vacation ..... if so the changes in page proof... would have been made to bring the text into agreement with the illustration 'Mr Baggins' p444
So, it seems that the 'bridges' were part of the original conception but that after drawing the pictures Tolkien changes the text - or at least most of it, as there are still references to both Bridge & bridges. Possibly the most important thing is Tolkien's conception of Esgaroth being 'an island' when Smaug attacked. We have an illustration by Tolkien of the Bridge having been thrown down - therefore it was thrown down (even if its not easy to conceive of how it was done). Why? Well, different theories have been put forward & you pays your money & takes your choice.
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Old 04-06-2008, 01:03 PM   #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sauron the White View Post
I would guess that they can only cut which can be cut. Some bridges - the suspension types with ropes - would lend themselves to that procedure. Others - like the main Laketown bridge drawn by JRRT himself - would not lend itself to being cut.
Yes, I know that is your theory, but again, why? If you expect us to believe they cut only some of the bridges, leaving some intact, you're going to need to explain what possible purpose that would serve - otherwise, the simplest and therefore most reasonable explanation is that all the bridges were cut, regardless of whether the bridge in the illustration looks easy to destroy or not (it isn't a blueprint drawn by an architect, I hope you realize).

EDIT Ah - I see you've abandoned that tactic:
Quote:
Originally Posted by STW
As I have said, if JRRT said the bridge was destroyed, then it was destroyed. My main point is that such an action is not the wisest or best tactic employed against a fire breathing dragon attacking you from the air.
However, I would like to point out that, just slightly earlier in the thread, you did say:
Quote:
Originally Posted by STW
The illustration of Laketown contradicts not one single description of it or Laketown in THE HOBBIT. If I missed the description of the main Laketwon bridge as something different that what is shown in JRRT's own illustration, please refer me to the portion of the text.


Quote:
Clearly the bridge on the picture can't be "cut", which is what Bard cries out for in the book.
My point to the letter. Thank you for supporting it.
So, are you now accepting the idea that the illustration is misleading, by agreeing that all the bridges were cut?

As for the wisdom of the destruction of the bridge -how was Smaug "foiled" if he didn't intend to cross the bridge? Your explanation - that it spoiled some of his fun - indirectly supports the idea that destroying the bridge was a good tactic if you mean that Smaug could have then killed more of the Lakemen... on the other hand, the suggestion that Smaug's intention was to destroy the bridges himself, and his fun was spoiled that way, makes no sense in light of the fact that the next half of the sentence is "and his enemies were on an island in deep water too deep and dark and cool for his liking." What is your explanation for the inclusion of that phrase?
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Old 04-06-2008, 01:07 PM   #93
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STW
I would guess that they can only cut which can be cut. Some bridges - the suspension types with ropes - would lend themselves to that procedure. Others - like the main Laketown bridge drawn by JRRT himself - would not lend itself to being cut.
I don't understand the problem you have with the word "cut". . . you dont actually "cut" trees yet we have no problem using the phrase.

Also, I don't know the process of destroying a bridge, but through time it has been done thousands of times in warfare and plenty of time in haste. . .why should one not be able to do it in Lake Town?
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Old 04-06-2008, 01:36 PM   #94
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Rikae said

Quote:
So, are you now accepting the idea that the illustration is misleading, by agreeing that all the bridges were cut?
no
Are we clear about that now?

In my last post before this one I said very clearly

Quote:
I am not arguing that the main bridge was not destroyed. I am saying that it was not one of the bridges which could have been cut because the illustration Tolkien gave us - which is far more detailed than any text description with words - shows a substantial structure built on thick plyons and not a supsension bridge upheld by ropes to be cut.


The quibbling about methodology is a very minor point that some here seem to cling onto like grim death. The point of this thread was a far larger one: when you are being attacked by air by a fire breathing dragon it is not the best course of action, indeed it is foolish, to spend your resources destroying the main bridge to the mainland as it does nothing to defeat the attacker and is in fact limiting your own routes of escape.

If Smaug wanted to go to the ground in Laketown, he had more room on the docksides than he did on the bridge. That is clear from the detailed illustration JRRT himself did of Laketown. However, there was no reason for Smaug to go to the ground in Laketown. In fact, a smart attack strategy dictated just the opposite for Smaug. Use your speed in the air and distance from the people on the ground who are attempting to kill you. Why get closer so they can fight you better? Stay in the air where you have the advantage. Nothing in the text says Smaug intended to land in Laketown.

davem
does that second illustration - the rougher one - show a covered bridge?

from Rune

Quote:
I don't understand the problem you have with the word "cut". . . you dont actually "cut" trees yet we have no problem using the phrase.
JRRT says that the people of Laketown have "little time" to prepare for Smaug. It makes some sense that you could cut the ropes on a suspension bridge in "little time" and down the bridge. It does not make sense that you could down that much larger bridge regardless of the verb you want to use. Yes, you can cut down a tree. In how much time with a more primitive saw? Now cut down all those thick pillars, or enough of them supporting that bridge. Now go beyond that and destroy it. All in "little time" as JRRT says they had.

It simply is not the best writing in the book. It does not hold up without a ton of other assumptions and a great leap of faith.

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Old 04-06-2008, 03:21 PM   #95
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After following this thread with a mixture of amusement and bemusement, I felt I had to toss in my two cents.

I've been an illustrator, and a fiction writer. And I have to say, it's often extremely difficult to put down on paper (or canvas) an image of what one sees in one's head. I suppose that if I had devoted more time to drawing than to writing, I would be better able to render the illustrations, but one does have to make choices. So I went looking, and came across this in Tolkien's letters (#27, to the Houghton Mifflin Company, from 1938, apparently in reference to a request for JRRT to supply drawings of hobbits for use in a future edition of TH):

Quote:
I am afraid, if you will need drawings of hobbits in various attitudes, I must leave it in the hands of someone who can draw. My own pictures are an unsafe guide.
And, from letter 280 in November 1965:

Quote:
I do not recollect when the rough sketch of the Death of Smaug was made; but I think it must have been before the first publication, and 1936 must be near the mark. I am in your hands, but I am still not very happy about the use of this scrawl as a cover. It seems too much in the modern mode in which those who can draw try to conceal it. But perhaps there is a distinction between their productions and one by a man who obviously cannot draw what he sees.
Between the two comments (and doubtless others, I was looking specifically for references to either Smaug or Lake Town), I think it's fairly safe to assume that Tolkien did not consider himself a very good artist, and that he had difficulty rendering accurately things that he imagined. It's a tough job. I do think that his art gives the reader a good feel for how he envisioned the things he created in his imagination, but they are more impressionistic than realistic, and I believe he acknowledged this. He also remarks in the first letter that his illustrations in which hobbits are shown are largely "general impressions," and that "the very ill-drawn one in Chapter XIX is a better guide," the "hobbit in the picture of the gold-hoard, Chapter XII, is of course (apart from being fat in the wrong places) enormously too large." Which it is, else Smaug is mighty small for a dragon. All of this, to me, points to one thing: don't use Tolkien's illustrations as hard evidence of how something looked; go with the written story.

That said, it seems to me that cutting the bridges when one is about to be assaulted by an enemy capable of a nasty aerial attack is rather puzzling -- wouldn't that be cutting off one's escape routes as well? But the passage davem quotes, which shows us Smaug's reaction to the cutting/destruction of the bridges, does seem to indicate that the dragon would have liked to have used some sort of ground (or bridge ) attack. Why this should be so... I certainly can't say, though Smaug does appear to use both methods, else he would not be ensconced in the Lonely Mountain, sitting pretty on his hoard with all the Dwarves driven away. Perhaps he had it in mind to frighten the folk of Lake Town, then set up residence in it until he had driven all the humans away. Or perhaps even his fiery attack is more effective on the ground, because of the closer range. I surely can't say, and it's been a while since my last reading of The Hobbit. But I would agree that it does seem rather a peculiar situation, especially on a cursory examination.
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Old 04-06-2008, 03:29 PM   #96
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You know, this reminds me of a discussion over another writer's illustration for his work: William Blake's engraving for the poem "Tyger, Tyger". The ferocious tiger, "burning bright" with dread might etc etc has a winsome smile on its face--and it's not a salacious, vicious, smug smile but a really Tony the Tiger happy smile.

Sometimes you have to face the fact that a writer is not as good at drawing as he is at writing and that visual imagination is a different thing than verbal imagination. Was Tolkien's ability as a visual artist as accomplished as his ability in language? Has he been claimed Artist of the Century?

Really, Tolkien is full of anomalies and changes and "niggling" and we get our kicks here coming up with fun hypotheses explaining them all. If the passage makes sense to readers as a written passage, why get nickers all pulled up because the drawing shows discrepancies? At a certain point, the siren call of the drawing led him to depict the place a certain way: the drawing for him became a primary work of sub-creation and not some hand maiden to the text. After all, his writing demonstrates many attributes of Old English style but his art work shows many affinities not to Anglo Saxon art but to contemporary art. It's one of the eccentricities of his genius--and I mean by that his guardian spirit.

EDIT: lol, cross posted with Ibrin
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:44 PM   #97
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rune Son of Bjarne View Post
Is the first part about the wings a joke? It is just that I cannot see how there can be common knowledge about a fable-animal, the descirption of dragons are very different depending on what part of the world you are in and in some places there are no "given" form that the dragon has.

About Smaug needing thermal updrafts: It is a possibility, but would that not limit is mobility? It would be extremely difficult for him to fly away from whatever mountain range he was living by, just like you never see the big vultures of South America very far from the mountains.
Not a joke, given their relatively small wings, dragons must fly like a hummingbird or bumblebee does, with a high-speed rotary wingstroke. Also they have hollow bones for lightness, and very long, sticky tongues for fishing dwarves out of deep holes in the ground. Dragons like Smaug also exude a thick, sticky mucilage from their undersides that allows jewels and other treasure to stick permanently to them. The spot over their heart is mucilage-free, for reasons unknown.

But alas, some dragons are born too fat or become so with age, and must exist as winged but flightless animals, like penguins. Smaug could still fly, but probably not for very long (glycogen depletion would get him in the end, just like it should have poor Gimli). So he wanted the bridge intact so he could waddle into Laketown on his legs and really have his way with the place in a nice slow fashion.
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Old 04-07-2008, 01:37 AM   #98
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StW
If Smaug wanted to go to the ground in Laketown, he had more room on the docksides than he did on the bridge.
Smaug would not land on the bridge. He would land a sizeable distance (hundreds of metres) out from it, then approach it on land. Smaug would obviously not want to fly at speed into something so flimsy and close to the water. Walking across is a different matter, but he couldn't land on any part of Lake Town because of his velocity and flying style.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Galendor
Not a joke, given their relatively small wings, dragons must fly like a hummingbird or bumblebee does, with a high-speed rotary wingstroke. Also they have hollow bones for lightness, and very long, sticky tongues for fishing dwarves out of deep holes in the ground. Dragons like Smaug also exude a thick, sticky mucilage from their undersides that allows jewels and other treasure to stick permanently to them. The spot over their heart is mucilage-free, for reasons unknown.
I'd say being so hot would have something to do with their flying ability. Smaug's treasure chamber is hot as I remember, and he could be "quenched" if he were to venture into the lake. A dragon's heat must be connected to its lifeforce/energy (cold blooded?) and would help it lift off the ground. And where in Tolkien's work do we find that Smaug has "relatively small wings"? It is only in his pictures, which, as we have already discussed, are not drawn entirely for accuracy. More for appeal.

If I were to make more speculations about dragon anatomy, they would include the dragons' ability to store energy for long periods of inactivity, which would then be activated in periods of great anger, malicious glee and greed. Dragons sound to me a little like lizards, basking in the sun for energy, which is then stored, and as such living for a long time with little effort. The energy a dragon "basks" in, coincidentally, is derived from the inner fire spirit in the dragon (fea), and partially from stored food energy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StW
JRRT says that the people of Laketown have "little time" to prepare for Smaug. It makes some sense that you could cut the ropes on a suspension bridge in "little time" and down the bridge. It does not make sense that you could down that much larger bridge regardless of the verb you want to use. Yes, you can cut down a tree. In how much time with a more primitive saw? Now cut down all those thick pillars, or enough of them supporting that bridge. Now go beyond that and destroy it. All in "little time" as JRRT says they had.
Look, if you are going to criticise Tolkien for writing poorly, and your source for this is his own pictures, you're not making sense to me. There is a simple explanation - the picture is fallible, the text is not. Tell me straight; do you agree or disagree with that explanation? Are you trying to say that Tolkien draws more accurately than he writes, or writes according to his drawings? Sauron, you don't have much room to stand here.
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Old 04-07-2008, 02:55 AM   #99
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For your delectation, here's an interesting depiction of the dragon, though not drawn by Tolkien, I hasten to say.



Whether or not the wings shown here are practical for landing on bridges is open to debate.
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Old 04-07-2008, 05:07 AM   #100
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re: Estelyns picture

Great dragon. Is that by illustrator Viktor Ambrus? the style seems reminicient.
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Old 04-07-2008, 05:22 AM   #101
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Look, if you are going to criticise Tolkien for writing poorly, and your source for this is his own pictures, you're not making sense to me. There is a simple explanation - the picture is fallible, the text is not. Tell me straight; do you agree or disagree with that explanation? Are you trying to say that Tolkien draws more accurately than he writes, or writes according to his drawings? Sauron, you don't have much room to stand here.
A picture can say a thousand words. The section in the text on the bridge is short and brief. The illustration - by JRRT himself - is very detailed compared to the scant description in the text. And there is nothing in the text which contradicts the illustration. In both it is a heavy wooden bridge. Period

I find it interesting that so many want to ignore or simply pretend that illustration did not exist. It reminds me of songwriter Paul Simons observation:

Simon & Garfunkel "The Boxer"

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

And I love how some here can act as if they are handing down the Truth from the Mountaintop on the anatomy and physics of mythical creatures. Amazing powers indeed.
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Old 04-07-2008, 05:32 AM   #102
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Sauron, one of your main arguments seems to be that, if Smaug wanted to, he could have landed on the docks. Therefore he was not forced to land on the bridge (which nobody claims, but you keep holding on to it nevertheless) or the shore.

I don't think we are given a detailed description of the docks in the text, so the pictures is all we have. I see several problems with Smaug landing on the docks. All of them are not provable, but they should give at least plausibility to Tolkien's claim that Smaug was foiled by the destroyed bridge.

First, although the construction looks stable and certainly carries the weight of the wood houses, we don't know Smaug's weight or landing speed. When he died, the structures didn't support him, so it is possible they wouldn't have supported his landing (or at least Smaug couldn't have been sure whether they would, which is enough).

Second, while the docks look wide enough to provide the space, they are still directly adjacent to the water. As I said earlier, one mis-step and Smaug would end up in the water and his attack would have failed.

Third, keep in mind that Smaug has two wings. One of those would face the houses, and the docks are definitely not wide enough so that this could not have been a problem. Smaug is strong enough to destroy a house, but how much strength does he have within his wing? At the very least, crashing into houses with one wing would have thrown him off balance, which brings us to point two.

I agree that Tolkien isn't very clear, but I wonder whether it would have improved the chapter if he had been clearer. The passage is fast-paced, as is suitable for a dragon attack, and going into details about bridges and landings and the dragon's intention might have made it dull instead of exciting. At any rate, he makes more sense, regarding the intentions of both, Smaug and the Lakemen, than you give him credit for.

You also say that Smaug's attack would be most effective if as an exclusive air attack. You should be aware that this is conjecture. We don't know how effective he would have been on the ground, where his wings were useless, but other strengths could factor in. You say that he would be more vulnerable on the ground, but this is supported only by other conjectures of yours.

An aside question linked to this: I don't think Tolkien ever had somebody attempt to shoot an arrow at a dragon's eye. Does this imply that a dragon in Middle-earth cannot be harmed by this, or that Tolkien didn't think of the possibility? We have, on the other hand, people attempt to shoot arrows at a Mumak's eye.

edit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sauron
And there is nothing in the text which contradicts the illustration.
Correction: There is nothing in the text which contradicts the illustration, except for everything that you deliberately choose to ignore.
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Old 04-07-2008, 05:45 AM   #103
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Originally Posted by Sauron the White
I am not arguing that the main bridge was not destroyed. I am saying that it was not one of the bridges which could have been cut because the illustration Tolkien gave us - which is far more detailed than any text description with words - shows a substantial structure built on thick plyons and not a supsension bridge upheld by ropes to be cut.
Then, Sauron, you are still arguing that the picture is misleading; as it not only depicts a bridge that doesn't look as though it can be cut, but one that doesn't look as though it can be destroyed in "little time" at all, something the text tells us was done. So, any way you slice it, either that bridge was destroyed (and the picture is misleading), or it was not (and to make this assumption reasonable, we'd need to explain why only some bridges would be destroyed).

Regarding the idea that Smaug had more advantages in an air attack, consider that his fire-breath was probably not like gunfire from a plane - it would have most likely had a far shorter range. This would mean he would have to fly very close to the town before being able to ignite it, and then would have only had a brief moment to do so before having to veer away to avoid a crash. Also consider that he possessed immense strength and size, as well as a tough hide - features that wouldn't be particularly useful for a predator designed primarily to rely on agility and speed while hunting. Considering this, and also the lack of wings among some dragons and the well-known vulnerability of their undersides (I mean, come on - even hobbits heard about it!), it's quite likely they preferred to attack, in general, from the ground, probably using flight more for transportation and, if it was ever necessary, defense (their underside might be exposed, but if they intended to make a quick retreat rather than an attack, this would present little danger).
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Old 04-07-2008, 05:51 AM   #104
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For your delectation, here's an interesting depiction of the dragon, though not drawn by Tolkien, I hasten to say.
In that picture, Smaug got pwned.
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Old 04-07-2008, 06:50 AM   #105
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Smaug would not land on the bridge. He would land a sizeable distance (hundreds of metres) out from it, then approach it on land. Smaug would obviously not want to fly at speed into something so flimsy and close to the water. Walking across is a different matter, but he couldn't land on any part of Lake Town because of his velocity and flying style.

I'd say being so hot would have something to do with their flying ability. Smaug's treasure chamber is hot as I remember, and he could be "quenched" if he were to venture into the lake. A dragon's heat must be connected to its lifeforce/energy (cold blooded?) and would help it lift off the ground. And where in Tolkien's work do we find that Smaug has "relatively small wings"? It is only in his pictures, which, as we have already discussed, are not drawn entirely for accuracy. More for appeal.
I agree, and don't actually think Smaug flew like a hummingbird. He is a magical being, like a Balrog, and not subject to normal physical laws. The text seems to support that his assault on Laketown took the form of repeated long swooping passes (i.e. he could not hover).

The writing supports the notion that Smaug was quite large. When he realized someone (Bilbo) had stolen a piece of his treasure, he "shook the mountain roots" in his rage. When Smaug went looking for the thief, by his own testimony he ate six ponies. When he tried to blast Bilbo with fire as Bilbo escaped running up the secret passage, Bilbo was saved because Smaug's head could not fit into the passage, which was described earlier as being five feet high by three feet broad. So Smaug's head was more than three feet wide.

Considering his head size, Smaug was as big or bigger than a large elephant. That means on all fours he was probably over 12 feet tall at the shoulder and weighs over 7 tons. Despite this mass, he could move quickly on the ground, he could run on all fours. In the chapter "Inside Information" it says: "He thrust his head in vain at the little hole, and then coiling his length together, roaring like thunder underground, he sped from his deep lair through its main door, out into the huge passages of the mountain-palace and up towards the Front Gate."

Although the writing does not explicitly say it, I think Smaug did not want to attempt a landing in Laketown for reasons already pointed out - Laketown might not support his landing force. And Smaug clearly did not want to fall into the lake, as stated that might quench his fire and he did not want that to happen.

Although Tolkein does not explicitly write it, we are given the impression that Smaug is very large, unthinkably strong, fast, and invulnerable over most of his hide. I assume from the description that you certainly do not want to face him on the ground, he would roast you or rapidly run at you and crush you. Hundreds of men, elves, or dwarves could not face him on the ground and survive.

So my impression from reading the story is that by cutting the bridge, Laketown removed any possible way for Smaug to assault by land. It removed an attack option from him. And Smaug was too wise to attempt a landing in Laketown. He was big and flying fast, so his landing might break through the wooden docks (as it did when he fell from the sky in death). I also think it is within the scope of imagination to belive that the Laketowners had built in to the bridge design an ingenious (but admittedly undescribed) mechanism for rapidly dismantelling part of the bridge. There is an engineering solution to almost any construction problem.
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Old 04-07-2008, 11:08 AM   #106
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Then, Sauron, you are still arguing that the picture is misleading; as it not only depicts a bridge that doesn't look as though it can be cut, but one that doesn't look as though it can be destroyed in "little time" at all, something the text tells us was done. So, any way you slice it, either that bridge was destroyed (and the picture is misleading), or it was not (and to make this assumption reasonable, we'd need to explain why only some bridges would be destroyed).
The picture shows what it shows. Period.
The text says what it says. Period.

If JRRT says the bridge was destroyed, then it was destroyed. If he says the townspeople have very little time to do this in, then they had very little time.

If the description of the bridge and the illustration of the bridge clearly show a bridge which probably cannot be destroyed in very little time - then who is at fault?

Wait I know the answer to that one: ME for pointing it out.
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Old 04-07-2008, 11:18 AM   #107
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I'd say being so hot would have something to do with their flying ability.
Maybe so. Or at least, their flying ability might have had something to do with them making fire. This is just speculation, but maybe Smaug was filled with hydrogen (like a zeppelin), which floats, and can also be used for fire. Which explains why maybe Samug didn't want to launch a chiefly aerial attack: It would be harder for him to fly after all that fire-breathing (or maybe he would sink from decreased levels of hydrogen, annd therefore, floating ability), whereas it would not affect his ability to run away.
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Old 04-07-2008, 11:30 AM   #108
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First, although the construction looks stable and certainly carries the weight of the wood houses, we don't know Smaug's weight or landing speed. When he died, the structures didn't support him, so it is possible they wouldn't have supported his landing (or at least Smaug couldn't have been sure whether they would, which is enough).
Realizing this is all supposition and speculation and is far from fact... when Smaug died he was falling straight down - a landing would be at an angle far more friendly to the physics of slowing down..... and there was nothing to slow his fall before hitting those buidings ... a landing on his own would have been significanlty slowed by his own powers.

Quote:
Second, while the docks look wide enough to provide the space, they are still directly adjacent to the water. As I said earlier, one mis-step and Smaug would end up in the water and his attack would have failed.
And so is the main bridge that so many here seem to think Smaug would have walked across to the town. If I may quote you "one mis-step and Smaug would end up in the water and his attack would have been foiled". That applies to the bridge also. Or do you think a thin railing perhaps three feet high would restrain him if he lost his balance? And from what I can see in the drawing by JRRT, you can make a case that the docks offer a wider space than the bridge.

Quote:
Third, keep in mind that Smaug has two wings. One of those would face the houses, and the docks are definitely not wide enough so that this could not have been a problem. Smaug is strong enough to destroy a house, but how much strength does he have within his wing? At the very least, crashing into houses with one wing would have thrown him off balance, which brings us to point two.
In the absence of measurements - which nobody has - this is impossible to state either way. Do you know how wide his wings were when outstretched? Do you know how wide the docks were? Do you know the exact configuration of his wings? Do you know anything about the balance problems of a mythical dragon.

Quote:
You also say that Smaug's attack would be most effective if as an exclusive air attack. You should be aware that this is conjecture. We don't know how effective he would have been on the ground, where his wings were useless, but other strengths could factor in. You say that he would be more vulnerable on the ground, but this is supported only by other conjectures of yours.
No. It is not conjecture that I say Smaug was effective by air. That is a fact since we have the exact words of JRRT who describes his rather lethal attack against Laketown. I am not speculating about what might happen, or what could happen, or giving you some hypothetical situation as what could occur if several factors lined up right - I am simply observing what JRRT tells us happened.

If you think dragons are so effective on the ground and they were such a lethal unstoppable killing machine, perhaps you could also speculate on why Morgoth tried so hard for so long to give them wings. Perhaps the SILMARALLION would tell us that.

In the chapter "Of The Fifth Battle" , the Dwarves of Belegost surround Glaurung attacking him and wounding him badly enough to cause him to flee the battlefield.
A ground attack against a dragon seems to be rather effective if done right.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:00 PM   #109
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Originally Posted by STW
If the description of the bridge and the illustration of the bridge clearly show a bridge which probably cannot be destroyed in very little time - then who is at fault?
Everyone but you seems to agree that the drawing - ok, you'll like this - that TOLKIEN is at fault for (*gasp*) making a drawing that is not photorealistic.

However, you seem to just want to make a point along the lines of "Tolkien should never have written that the Lakemen destroyed the bridges at all", correct? Well, I think I've seen an argument elsewhere that might apply.
Have you considered that "The Hobbit" is not a manual on how to conduct warfare, nor is it a historical record or an architectural blueprint for semi-aquatic villages, but a fantasy novel - and that one does not judge a fantasy novel fairly by applying the criteria belonging to books of war strategy, etc.? Have you considered that The Hobbit has been highly successful as a fantasy novel, and is beloved by generations of readers in spite of its... inaccuracies? The verdict of the vast majority of readers of The Hobbit goes against your opinion.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:07 PM   #110
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Originally Posted by Sauron the White View Post
And so is the main bridge that so many here seem to think Smaug would have walked across to the town. If I may quote you "one mis-step and Smaug would end up in the water and his attack would have been foiled". That applies to the bridge also. Or do you think a thin railing perhaps three feet high would restrain him if he lost his balance? And from what I can see in the drawing by JRRT, you can make a case that the docks offer a wider space than the bridge.
How many times has Macalaure repeated that Smaug would have landed on the ground and walked over the bridge (not including the time he mentions it in the post to which you are replying)?
Some people did mention the idea of Smaug landing on the bridge, but that was abandoned quite some time ago in favor of the more reasonable theory that he wished to land on the ground and cross the bridge. Why do you keep bringing this up?
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:11 PM   #111
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No. It is not conjecture that I say Smaug was effective by air. That is a fact since we have the exact words of JRRT who describes his rather lethal attack against Laketown. I am not speculating about what might happen, or what could happen, or giving you some hypothetical situation as what could occur if several factors lined up right - I am simply observing what JRRT tells us happened.
Interesting, that's exactly what the rest of us are doing when we point out the lines about Smaug being "foiled" and the deep water. For the third (at least) time - how do you explain these lines? And no, I don't mean the "foiled" line taken out of context, but this line as it is in the text, followed by the phrases about the water (which I won't quote, as you can find them above).

Quote:
Originally Posted by STW
If you think dragons are so effective on the ground and they were such a lethal unstoppable killing machine, perhaps you could also speculate on why Morgoth tried so hard for so long to give them wings. Perhaps the SILMARALLION would tell us that.

In the chapter "Of The Fifth Battle" , the Dwarves of Belegost surround Glaurung attacking him and wounding him badly enough to cause him to flee the battlefield.
A ground attack against a dragon seems to be rather effective if done right.
Hmm - in other words, the dragon might, concievably, need to quickly escape his foes? You don't, I notice, compare how much damage Glaurung managed to do from the ground vs. how much Smaug did from the air - nor do you compare the relative ease with which Smaug was killed vs. Glaurung wounded.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:12 PM   #112
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StW I really think you are placing too much emphasis on the illustrations. Look at this one :


Scale & perspective are simply wrong - the figure of Bilbo is is far too small.

So, forget the illustrations. The facts are

1) originally Lake Town was connected to the shore by a number of bridges which could be thrown/cut down fairly quickly & easily.

2) after the story had been submitted to the publisher Tolkien drew the two pictures I've posted which show a single 'Great Bridge'. The Bridge is, according to the text, very large & broad - certainly large & broad enough for Smaug to cross. Tolkien then changes some references in the text to bring them in line with the drawings - but only to the extent that a single Great Bridge has come to replace a number of smaller bridges, The Bridge on the drawings (as with the drawing of Bilbo above) is not 'to scale'.

3) When Smaug attacks Esgaroth is meant to be cut off ('an island in deep water'). So bridges or Bridge have to be thrown down. Smaug's intent was to enter Lake Town on foot but he couldn't do that & had to resort to an aerial attack, making him vulnerable (Tolkien is clear that his only point of vulnerability is the unprotected spot on his left breast - not his eyes).

4) Tolkien changes from bridges to Bridge & thereby creates a problem for himself in that while its possible to cut the bridges its not possible to cut the Bridge. Tolkien ignores that problem & just states that the bridge is thrown down - & if you insist on playing up the importance of the pictures as evidence (though of what I'm not sure), if you take a look at the painting I posted earlier http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showpos...1&postcount=91 you'll see quite clearly that (however it was done) the Bridge is very definitely thrown down.

Smaug has to be flying to be killed because his ONLY vulnerable point is ONLY accessible from underneath. Smaug either knows this (maybe he felt a draft on that bit when he moved about), or his preferred method of assault is on foot. It doesn't matter. What we know is he intended to use the Bridge & was foiled when he found it wasn't there & so he was forced into making an aerial assault, & that proved his undoing. Pride cometh before a fall, & all that.....

EDIT You might also want to consider the size of the Black Arrow in the painting to the size of Smaug - the arrow is WAY too big if the painting is to scale...

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Old 04-07-2008, 12:14 PM   #113
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you seem so bent on arguing emotionally with me that you ignore what I actually have written.

Here is what you said

Quote:
How many times has Macalaure repeated that Smaug would have landed on the ground and walked over the bridge (not including the time he mentions it in the post to which you are replying)?
Some people did mention the idea of Smaug landing on the bridge, but that was abandoned quite some time ago in favor of the more reasonable theory that he wished to land on the ground and cross the bridge. Why do you keep bringing this up?
here is what I replied to Macalaure regarding Smaug and water

Quote:
And so is the main bridge that so many here seem to think Smaug would have walked across to the town. If I may quote you "one mis-step and Smaug would end up in the water and his attack would have been foiled". That applies to the bridge also. Or do you think a thin railing perhaps three feet high would restrain him if he lost his balance? And from what I can see in the drawing by JRRT, you can make a case that the docks offer a wider space than the bridge.
Please observe that my reply directly discusses the idea of Smaug walking across the bridge and not LANDING ON THE BRIDGE as you seem to think. I do not care if he lands in CHina and then walks all the way to the bridge, he still has to walk across it, is near the same water that Macaulure feels is such a threat to him, and can still make that same misstep that he warns against.

Are you clear on this?
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:21 PM   #114
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from davem

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Smaug's intent was to enter Lake Town on foot but he couldn't do that & had to resort to an aerial attack, making him vulnerable (Tolkien is clear that his only point of vulnerability is the unprotected spot on his left breast - not his eyes).
please.... Please.... PLEASE ...... somebody just quote directly from Tolkien in the text where it clearly says that
SMAUGS INTENT WAS TO ENTER LAKETOWN ON FOOT.
I beg you. I implore you. I humbly ask of you. Show me that in black and white.

Not your suppositions.
Not your conjecturing.
Not your musings.
Not your assumptions.

If you state something so emphatically that it is presented as fact, please present the support in the text for that as a fact.

Otherwise, it is merely your assumption, your belief which you certainly have a right to. You decide to make a deliberate choice to see it that way despite the absence of any clear presentation of that conclusion as a undebateble fact.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:23 PM   #115
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Sauron, if that is what you meant by your reply, than perhaps you are "arguing emotionally", because it doesn't seem you read what Macalaure said.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macalaure
I see several problems with Smaug landing on the docks.
He wasn't talking about Smaug's ability to walk on the bridges or the docks, but to land on them.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:24 PM   #116
Sauron the White
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davem
I did not mean to ignore your post with the Bilbo drawing.
I do see what your point is. I would say however, that the accuracy or inaccuracy of one drawing does not either add, validate, deny or invalidate the accuracy of a completely different drawing of a completely different subject.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:25 PM   #117
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Originally Posted by Sauron the White View Post
Otherwise, it is merely your assumption, your belief which you certainly have a right to. You decide to make a deliberate choice to see it that way despite the absence of any clear presentation of that conclusion as a undebateble fact.
Oh dear - apparently reading comprehension and interpretation of literature at anything other than the most literal, word-for-word level is not allowed!
Well, that's it - I'm giving up reading in favor of watching Jerry Springer.
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Last edited by Rikae; 04-07-2008 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:28 PM   #118
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now you are picking from one section when I clearly replied to his words from a different section as quoted in my post. Why would you do that? It matters not if he lands on the docks, lands on the bridge, lands on the mainland and then walks across the bridge ...... he can be attacked, can make the misstep Macaulure mentions and fall into the water. He does not have to land on the docks for this to happen. Or is it only the docks that present a problem because i mentioned them as an alternative landing area?


Anybody is free to see a problem with Smaug landing on the docks. Fine. But its all conjecture, supposition and guess work based on ...... based on what exactly?
Nobody has measurements regarding
a- Smaug and any part of his body
b- Laketown or any part of its structure

It would seem that before anyone can go making definitive statements about what clearly can and cannot happen and attempt to pass them as factual information, those things are needed.

Nobody has them

Last edited by Sauron the White; 04-07-2008 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:40 PM   #119
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sauron the White View Post
Rikae
now you are picking from one section when I clearly replied to his words from a different section as quoted in my post. Why would you do that?
A tip that may help you read for meaning more effectively in the future:
When a person first says "There are a number of reasons why X might be true... all of them are not provable but...",

and then he follows this statement immediately with a list entitled "First, Second, Third, etc."

it is generally safe to assume that the items in the list are the "reasons" to which he has just referred, rather than some totally unrelated collection of statements.


Quote:
Originally Posted by STW
It would seem that before anyone can go making definitive statements about what clearly can and cannot happen and attempt to pass them as factual information, those things are needed.

Nobody has them
Well, if that's so, it would seem that, from your perspective, there is nothing to discuss. The sensible thing to do, in that case, would be to leave the thread to the foolish people who actually think there is something worth saying about it.
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:43 PM   #120
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I have no problem at all with anyone presenting ideas or theories or suppositions or assumptions. Until they are presented as facts when they are otherwise.

I did not edit out the First, second , third points of Macaulre but presented them complete. While he was talking about landing on the docks, the same reasoning could have applied also Smaug being anywhere near water where he could misstep. That was my point which I think was a fair one.

If Smaug landed on shore, and walked across the big bridge, is it not realistic to expect that he would be met with hostle action from some of the townspeople trying to stop him? And could not that hostile attack also cause the dragon to "misstep" on that bridge and fall into the very water that he is suppose to fear? I think that is reasonable and that was my point.

Last edited by Sauron the White; 04-07-2008 at 12:49 PM.
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