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In My Realm Without Leave
Another charge Thranduil must face is that of his allegedly harsh and cruel treatment of the innocent dwarves of Thorinís Company, taking advantage of them while they were lost and starving. Closer inspection will reveal nothing terribly harsh about it, but only old-fashioned justice. Both sides held legitimate grievances, which might have been addressed more agreeably if tempers had not been deliberately flared, and had the dwarves harbored more respect for he who held legitimate authority over them at the time. ("A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom." ~ Gandalf, TTT, LotR) Even then, they were treated uncommonly well for the suspicious trespassers they seemed to be, offering no explanation to the contrary.
First of all, the dwarves left the path, thus entering and tramping through Thranduilís domain without given permission. Three times the elves endured their interruptions before they finally bothered to capture the intruders, perforce saving their lives from both giant spiders and starvation (for which they had small thanks). Thorin stubbornly refused to answer Thranduilís rightful inquires of their purpose within his borders, revealing his own cupidity. ("[H]e was determined that no word of gold or jewels should be dragged out of him.")
Thranduil was understandably miffed by this, and recognizing the hopelessness of the endeavor, gave orders to "Take him away and keep him safe, until he feels inclined to tell the truth, even if he waits a hundred years." He did NOT say, "Take him away and beat the snot out of the little dastard." "[F]or Wood-elves were not goblins, and were reasonably well-behaved even to their worst enemies, when they captured them."
Also, one might have advised Thorin against trying his own fortitude against that of an Elf. They have the time. And "a hundred years" was no figure of speech.
The rest of them could easily have been a different matter, for Balin was not only stubborn and impudent, but crass and offensive, "and did not even pretend to be polite." This was doubly insulting, if only Thranduil knew, since Thorin and the rest of them had gone out of their way to be excessively flattering and courteous to the Great Goblin beneath the mountains, yet had only scorn for a King of Elves. If nothing else, their attitude bears unwitting witness in favor of Thranduilís character, for they obviously had no fear of any great harm or deadly force at the hands of the Elvenking, whereas the Great Goblin would have taken their heads off without a qualm and put them on that nightís menu. As it was, they found relief (of a sort) in his custody, a roof over their heads, protection from the evil of the wood, and "food and drink, plenty of both, if not very fine. . ."
"Do you forget that you were in my kingdom, using the road that my people made? Did you not three times pursue and trouble my people in the forest and rouse the spiders with your riot and clamour? After all the disturbance you have made I have a right to know what brings you here, and if you will not tell me now, I will keep you all in prison until you have learned sense and manners!" (Elvenking Thranduil, The Hobbit)
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