Study Guide

Bard in The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again

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Now, in our "Character Analysis" of Bilbo, we mentioned that he is our hero but not a hero. In other words, he's our main character, even though he's not a traditional leading man. Bard is the reverse: he is a hero, but definitely not ours. He seems like a good guy, but he has no major character traits beyond Tough, Decent Person. He comes into the story because someone needs to kill Smaug, but once he's achieved that and done some threatening of Thorin, he pretty much disappears from the narrative again. He's not part of The Hobbit's emotional core at all.

Bard is a proud, grim man descended from Girion, Lord of Dale. (Dale was a wealthy city in the old days, before Smaug came and destroyed it.) He's the one who first realizes that Smaug has come to attack Lake-town, and is the guy who speaks to the thrush about the weak point in Smaug's underbelly that Bilbo discovered. Bard is also the man who takes his bow and arrow and shoots Smaug in the correct place, thus killing the terrible dragon.

While Bard doesn't rise up against the Master of Lake-town, he becomes the real commander of Lake-town's army. He marches them up to the Lonely Mountain to claim their rightful share of the treasure to rebuild Lake-town and Bard's own city of Dale. And after the Battle of Five Armies, Bard receives one-fourteenth of Thorin's treasure in recognition of the deal Bard made with Thorin before his death. Bard uses this money to rebuild Dale and Lake-town, and to restore Dale to its former glory. So by the time Balin comes to visit Bilbo, he bears the news that Bard "had rebuilt the town in Dale and men had gathered to him from the Lake and from South and West, and all the valley had become tilled again and rich" (19.32). Thus, Bard does pretty nicely for himself.

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