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No Claim But Friendship
Many also accuse Thranduil of leading an army of his elves like a flock of buzzards to take their pick of a hoard they had no rightful part in, once the dragon Smaug and (supposedly) Thorin were safely dead. "That will be the last we shall hear of Thorin Oakenshield, I fear. . . . He would have done better to remain my guest. It is an ill wind, all the same . . . that blows no one any good." Already he was making his way toward the Mountain, but considering that last bit, it would seem that while he was indeed looking forward to securing something for himself out of the deal, he was also concerned with maintaining the peace and protecting his interests abroad, for an unguarded and unclaimed treasure does not bode well for the surrounding countryside should the bandits swoop down on it like flies to honey.
Of the men of ravaged Laketown, it is said that "most of them would have perished in the winter that now hurried after autumn, if help had not been to hand. But help came swiftly; for Bard at once had speedy messengers sent up the river to the Forest to ask the aid of the King of the Elves of the Wood . . ." And what did Thranduil say? "Forget it, buddy; Iím on my way to the Mountain"? "[T]he king, when he received the prayers of Bard, had pity, for he was the lord of a good and kindly people; so turning his march, which had at first been direct towards the Mountain, he hastened now down the river to the Long Lake." No ifs, ands, or buts about it. "Their welcome was good, as may be expected, and the men and their Master were ready to make any bargain for the future in return for the Elvenkingís aid." Apparently his terms were not too crushing, perhaps even forgiven, considering how the spoils were divided in the end.
Once Thranduil and Bard did reach the Lonely Mountain, Thorin certainly made a louse of himself. Bard had a legitimate claim, asking a share of the treasure in recompense for that stolen from Dale by Smaug, and in return for the aid the dwarves found earlier in Laketown. "I would speak for him and ask whether you have no thought for the sorrow and misery of his people. They aided you in your distress, and in recompense you have thus far brought ruin only, though doubtless undesigned." Thranduil, as of yet, made no claim of his own, but Thorin reviled him and his host nonetheless. "The Elvenking is my friend," Bard shot back, "and he has succoured the people of the Lake in their need, though they had no claim but friendship on him." Such a gesture of magnanimity would not be expected of the penny-pinching cad many write-off as the Elvenking. In his position, he was fully empowered to set his own demands beside those of Bard, but when the final ultimatum was given, there is still no word of him. "At least [Thorin Thrainís son Oakenshield] shall deliver one twelfth portion of the treasure unto Bard, as the dragon-slayer, and as the heir of Girion . . . but if Thorin would have the friendship and honour of the lands about, as his sires had of old, then he will give also somewhat of his own for the comfort of the men of the Lake."
Thorin did not simply refuse the peace plan, but he shot at the herald, thus instigating the first violence. Even then, "We will bear no weapons against you, but we leave you to your gold. You may eat that, if you will!"
In parley with Bilbo later, Thranduil is revealed as more patient than Bard, who seems still very ruffled by Thorinís impudence. Bilbo gave the Arkenstone to the Man, not to the Elf, and Thranduil had nothing but praise for him. (He was NOT pestering Bard, "Here, let me hold it for a minute, you ingrate.") "Bilbo Baggins! . . . You are more worthy to wear the armour of elf-princes than many that have looked more comely in it. But I wonder if Thorin Oakenshield will see it so. I have more knowledge of dwarves in general than you have perhaps. I advise you to remain with us, and here you shall be honoured and thrice welcome." (And no, he was not after Bilboís mithril.)
After the battle, when enemies became allies, and "all other quarrels were forgotten," we may only hope that Thorin and Thranduil came to terms before the dwarf-lord died. While there is no canon indication one way or the other, they seemed to have the time, and Thorin was much more forgiving of Bilbo at least. "Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from him in captivity." Not only was it a respectful gesture, but Thranduil thus emplaced one of Ereborís more valuable defenses. "It is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise." He could have made good use of it himself, but would not keep what had been confiscated from another.
"Farewell! O Elvenking!" Gandalf said as they parted. "Merry be the greenwood, while the world is yet young! And merry be all your folk!" I doubt he would have been so courteous to monarchs he believed guilty of such abominations as attributed to Evil!Thranduil. Gandalf found no fault with Thranduil as he was. And nor did Bilbo, who rather endearingly offered to make restitution for his "keeping" in the Elvenkingís halls:
"I beg of you," said Bilbo stammering and standing on one foot, "to accept this gift!" and he brought out a necklace of silver and pearls that Dain had given him at their parting.
"In what way have I earned such a gift, O hobbit?" said the king.
"Well, er, I thought, donít you know," said Bilbo rather confused, "that, er, some little return should be made for your, er, hospitality. I mean even a burglar has his feelings. I have drunk much of your wine and eaten much of your bread."
"I will take your gift, O Bilbo the Magnificent!" said the king gravely. "And I name you elf-friend and blessed. May your shadow grow never less (or stealing would be too easy)! Farewell!" (Chapter XVIII, The Hobbit)
So, not only has Thranduil a keen sense of honesty and duty and even gratitude, but a sense of humor as well!
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