Getting Better

I think I’m doing a bit better than I was as far as my depression is concerned.  I’m certainly not great, nor am I where I want to be, but things seem better.  It’s another funny thing about depression.  It’s really hard to tell whether I’m better or not.

I feel like I need a way to measure my progress.  In some ways, it is obvious and easy.  I was sleeping maybe three or four hours a night.  Now I’m sleeping seven to eight hours a night.  That is real, measurable progress and I’m pleased with it.  In most other ways, I really can’t tell.

I think there are a few reasons why it’s so hard to tell whether I’m getting better.  First, while there are actual, physical changes that happen in the brain with depression, they are not exactly trackable.  It’s not like when you have a fever.  It’s easy to see when your temperature has returned to normal.  Instead you need to know what normal feels like even though you never really thought about it when you felt normal.  It’s tricky.

The second reason it’s difficult to know whether things are getting better is that part of depression is a lack of confidence.  In other words, I don’t really trust myself.  As soon as I think I might be doing better, I am flooded with self doubt.  Am I really better or am I just confused?  Is this feeling real or not?  It’s hard to tell.

The third reason it’s so hard is that feelings change all the time depending on what’s happening.  If I’m feeling down, is that the depression or is there a real reason why I’m feeling down?  How long should the feeling last if it has a real reason?  I spend half my day trying to figure out which feelings are justified and which are not.  It’s frustrating.

I came up with a sports analogy, and my therapist seems to think it works, so I’m going with it.  If I rolled an ankle during a game, I would have to miss some time.  It starts off very clear that something is wrong.  It hurts every time I put weight on it.  This is stage one.  Then it gets better, but it’s not 100%, I still favor it.  This is stage two.  Then it gets even better, I’m pain free, but I’m still hesitant.  So, I’m still not 100%.  This is stage three.  It is only when I can play without even thinking about the ankle that I am truly better, stage four.

Two things are certain.  I am no longer in the first stage where the depression, like the rolled ankle, hurts all the time.  Nor am I feeling better, in stage four, where I no longer think about it at all.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  It’s incredibly hard to figure out where in the middle I am.  Some days, I’m clearly still making accommodations for the depression.  I’m still favoring it, I think that’s stage two.  Other days, I’m at stage three, the pain free, but still thinking about it stage.  So, I suppose that puts me in between stages two and three.

The good news is I’m making progress.  The bad news is the progress feels really slow.  Whether I can get myself to notice the good or just dwell on the bad depends on the day.  I feel a bit scattered.  But, it is better than I was doing before.

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The Hobbit – Chapter XI – On The Doorstep

This is another chapter that has always stuck with me.  It’s a little strange that it would have made an impression when I was a kid.  Not very much happens in this chapter.  It’s mostly a group of frustrated dwarves looking around and waiting.

The chapter starts with the company striking out on their own.  As excited as the townsfolk were, they weren’t excited enough to risk being near a dragon.  It doesn’t take long for everyone’s spirits to drop.  Bilbo is the only one who manages to keep some optimism.  And, as we’ve gotten used to, Bilbo is responsible for all the success that the group manages.  He is with the group that discovers the path to the “backdoor.”  And he is the one who notices the thrush and the sun and the keyhole.

I can’t remember if I talked about the key and the thrush.  Thorin has had the key since the beginning of the story.  And the thrush was part of the moon letters that were discovered in Rivendell.  They said that a thrush would be the sign on Durin’s Day (the last day of fall) that would reveal the secret door.  It’s lucky for everyone that they arrived on time and that Bilbo was paying attention.

That’s really about all the action there is in this chapter.  It mostly serves to increase the tension.  There is a palpable sense of dread as they get closer and closer to the dragon.  We’ll find there is good reason to dread in the next couple of chapters.

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The Hobbit – Chapter X – A Warm Welcome

A Warm Welcome is quite similar to A Short Rest, and not just because of the three word chapter titles.  Both chapters are kind of a pause in the action.  They are both a chance for the company to rest a little and heal before they move on to something more difficult.  And both allow the group to get resupplied, which is important since they keep losing their supplies and ponies.

The chapter opens with Bilbo finally releasing the dwarves from their barrels.  Except for Thorin, Fili and Kili, they continue to be very little help.  They are bruised, wet and grumpy.  But they all survived the trip.  Thorin wastes no time in announcing himself to the master of Lake Town.

Lake Town has been living in the shadow of the dragon for years and years.  Some of the younger people don’t even believe in the dragon anymore, but there are songs and stories about the old days when the dwarves ruled the mountain.  So, when thirteen dwarves and a hobbit appear, most of the town takes it as a sign.  The dwarves will free them from the tyranny of the dragon.  The master is suspicious, but as a politician, follows the people.  The dwarves are treated royally (and the hobbit is mostly ignored).

One thing that struck me in this chapter is the way Tolkien so effectively keeps the dragon ever present throughout the book.  It’s almost a little like Jaws.  The actual dragon doesn’t appear until the end of the story, but he is a presence from the very first chapter.  No matter what the party has to endure, there is always the thought that they still have a dragon to deal with if they get through it.

This chapter also plants some seeds that will bear fruit later.  I mentioned that the master of the town is suspicious of the dwarves.  But, he is also thinking ahead to what will happen if the stories are true.  The dragon has accumulated a spectacular hoard of treasure.  He hopes that, if he helps the dwarves, and the dwarves are successful, he can lay claim to a portion of the treasure.  This is really the first sign that things aren’t going to be simple, even if the dwarves are successful.

It feels a little funny, but I have barely mentioned Bilbo in this chapter.  That’s because the hobbit has very little to do in the chapter.  He catches a really bad cold and spends most of his time feeling lousy and sneezing.  However, he is the one member of the company that is uncomfortable with the reception in Lake Town.  Now that he can see the Lonely Mountain, he knows that the worst is still ahead.  He doesn’t want the distractions or celebrations when they haven’t really accomplished anything yet.

After a couple weeks of resting and feeding, Thorin decides it is time to continue their quest.  They are fitted with new supplies, food and ponies.  Now they are about to begin the most dangerous phase of their journey.

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The Hobbit – Chapter IX – Barrels Out Of Bond

Way back in my first entry in this series, I commented that I like the fact that Tolkien apparently doesn’t care about spoilers.  The title of this chapter proves it again.  Before you even start reading, it is pretty obvious that the dwarves will be imprisoned and will escape in barrels.  Like all good stories, the what isn’t nearly as important as the who and the how.

After dealing with the spiders in the last chapter, the company is exhausted, hungry and completely lost.  When they stumble upon the elves and get captured, they are almost grateful.  Luckily, Bilbo slips the ring on his finger and turns invisible.  He is able to follow the prisoners and hide out while coming up with a plan to free his friends.

I’ve mentioned before that I like the size and scope of Tolkien’s world.  The dwarves are imprisoned and Bilbo is trying to figure out a way to help for weeks.  In so many other books, the whole thing would take fifteen minutes and be done.  I like the fact that not everything is quick, easy or obvious.  It takes time to build which makes the payoff better.

This is also the chapter where Bilbo comes into his own as a burglar.  That is, after all, his role in the party.  He is supposed to burgle things.  He made a clumsy attempt way back with the trolls, but he’s never shown himself to be successful before now.  (I suppose someone could argue that Bilbo burgled the ring from Gollum, but really the ring chose Bilbo.)  It turns out that Bilbo is pretty good at it, although he doesn’t enjoy the job very much.  As he says, “I am like a burglar that can’t get away, but must go on miserably burgling the same house day after day.”

While Bilbo is clever in coming up with his plan to free the dwarves, he is certainly possessed of a lot of luck.  Bilbo finds that the elves get supplies in barrels from a nearby town and then send the empty barrels down the river to be collected by the townsfolk.  He decides to pack the dwarves in the barrels and send them down river away from the elves.  That’s fine, but the plan couldn’t have worked if the guard hadn’t gotten drunk and fallen asleep.  And it couldn’t have worked if the king weren’t throwing a big party to keep everyone distracted.  And it couldn’t have worked without the magic ring.  Lucky for the dwarves that Bilbo has so much luck.

In the end, the dwarves do ride in barrels out of bondage.  They are bumped and bruised and faced with a lot of uncertainty, but they are away from the elves and further along their journey.

 

 

 

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Stop What You’re Doing and Write Something

Yes, you. Right now. Stop reading this and write something.

Words connect us across time and space, class and race, culture and gender. I can’t talk to Frederick Douglass because he’s dead. I can’t visit Pompeii because it was destroyed. I can’t see a dodo bird because they’re extinct. But I can read about all of those things, and it’s almost as good as being there in the flesh. In turn, two thousand years from now, when we’re all dead and our civilization is gone, people will wonder how we lived our lives. They may or may not be able to play our DVDs or log into our Instagram accounts. They will certainly be able to read our words, and  your experience today can live forever in the imagination of a person who won’t be born for centuries. You enter into eternity when you write. You become a record keeper for humanity’s journey through the universe.

I read an essay by a woman for a class I tutor in. The topic of the essay was how much she hated writing. As you might have guessed, this young woman wrote an  amazing essay about how much she dislikes writing. In the last week, I’ve read great writing from my brother and from my girlfriend, two more people who’ve told me how little they enjoy writing. While I’m pleased that they shared their insight and ideas, I’m also saddened by the possibility that they won’t write again unless compelled to by school or by work. How much of their perspective have I been denied? What worlds exist in their minds that I’ll never be privy to? And not just them, but all the people I know who don’t write. I want to hear those thoughts, and live in those worlds.

Writing is unique among art forms because it’s the only one that (basically) all Americans are taught. Even while schools are cutting arts programs to the bone (which is a tragedy of our own making), reading and writing remain crucial to learning. Once school is over. most people aren’t forced to study music or art on a daily basis, but if you’re literate, then you read and write every day. Everything, from reading a novel to cruising social media, increases your exposure to the written word, and all of that makes you a better writer than you think you are. All you need is an experience, an opinion and some time.People say I’m a good writer. That happened because I wrote. Thousands of words, hundreds of pages, for years and years. Things that you’ve read, and things that you haven’t. Things that I haven’t read since I wrote them. All it takes to write, and to become good at it, is to write.

You already know how to write. You don’t need any special equipment to do it- just a pen and a paper, or your work computer, or even your cell phone. There are free services to host your writing everywhere. People will pay you for your stories. You’ll get better with every word you put down, just like I did.

Why are you still reading this? Go do it!

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Knowledge Without Belief

Since at least the time of Plato, people have generally accepted that knowledge is justified true belief.  Sure there are some who disagree by raising Gettier Problems or denying the possibility of knowledge, but for most people, most of the time, justified true belief is knowledge.  Lately, though, I’ve been questioning that definition.  It sure seems like I know a lot of things which I don’t happen to believe.

Over the past few months, I’ve been dealing with a major depressive episode.  As I’ve said before, depression is a very solipsistic experience.  Living in my own head for so long has forced me to reflect on my feelings, beliefs and knowledge.  And I can’t help but notice just how often my beliefs and my knowledge are disconnected from each other.  I’m not in a position to know if my experience is unique, but I suspect it is pretty normal for people suffering depression.  There is a lot of self doubt.  This self doubt isn’t undermining my knowledge, it is undermining my beliefs.  It is fair to say that I don’t trust myself anymore when it comes to feelings and beliefs.  But I do still trust my knowledge.

I first noticed the disconnect with instances of knowledge about myself.  Right now, I don’t believe much of anything that’s positive about myself.  I don’t believe I’m good at my jobs.  I don’t believe anyone would choose to spend time with me.  I don’t believe anyone would want to read anything I write.  Yet, I know I’m good at my jobs, I have ten plus years of performance reviews to prove it.  I know people willingly spend time with me.  I have the texts inviting me places to prove it.  I know that at least some people appreciate what I write.  I have their unsolicited comments to prove it.

It could be argued that my self doubt is not really what I believe, what I really believe is what the evidence demonstrates.  This seems to go against any normal definition of belief, though.  Belief is a feeling.  I believe something if I feel that it is the case.  It is contradictory to say that I don’t believe what I feel that I believe.

It could also be argued that I don’t know the things I think I know, they are at best true opinions.  This doesn’t seem right either.  The disconnect is not in the logic or the evidence.  It is nothing objective.  The disconnect is in the subjective, the feelings.  Six months ago, I knew I was good at my jobs.  I had justified true belief.  The only thing that has changed is the belief, the justification is still there.  If knowledge can cease to be knowledge because my feelings change, it makes all knowledge subjective.  And that goes against any normal definition of knowledge.

A third counter would be to argue that self knowledge is just different, justified true belief has nothing to do with subjective truths like being good at a job.  It has to do with facts about the world.  The problem here is that even subjective facts are facts about the world.  Even something as subjective as liking mint chocolate chip ice cream is a fact about the world.  To think otherwise would result in a bizarre, and unsustainable, dualism.

Besides, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the disconnect between knowledge and belief is not confined to knowledge about myself.  There have always been little aberrations in my acceptance of knowledge as justified true belief.  For instance, I’ve always talked to inanimate objects.  I can’t help but feel like it makes a difference.  If I’m friendly towards my car, my car will be friendly back, it will work better and last longer.  At the same time, I know that this is not the case.  So, my behavior indicates a belief, that inanimate objects have feelings, that contradicts knowledge that I have, that inanimate objects do not have feelings.

I am certainly not unique in behaving in ways that contradict my knowledge.  Examples can be found everywhere from knocking wood to wearing rally caps.  Most people know that spirits and magic are not real, they know that simple cause and effect explains most phenomena, but they will still knock wood to protect themselves from jinxes and getting stuck in bad situations.  Most people know that whether or not a batter gets a hit is entirely up to the players on the field.  But that doesn’t stop us from turning our hats inside out when our team is down late in the game.  There is a clear disconnect between our knowledge and the behavior that expresses our beliefs.

When dealing with depression, or anything else that undermines basic beliefs, it is important to hold on to something stable.  In my case, that thing is knowledge, a set of facts about the world.  From a purely pragmatic point of view, I need a definition of knowledge that doesn’t include belief.  In my moments of extreme doubt, I need to be able to tell myself things that I know to be true.  Cogito ergo sum won’t work.  When a belief that nobody cares about me asserts itself, I can’t counter it with “I think therefore I am.”  I need to counter it with knowledge that my family and friends care about me.

The best definition that I can come up with for knowledge without belief is the justified possession of facts.  It is not a radically different definition.  Knowledge still has to be justified, it needs reasons or evidence to count.  Knowledge still has to be true.  It would be strange to say that you know something which is false.  It just separates knowledge from belief.  It allows my knowledge to remain no matter what is happening with my feelings.  That creates a sense of stability which is important for anyone’s psychological well being.

But is it right to redefine something based on a psychological need?  In this case, I think the answer is yes.  It is unlikely that there is a true definition of knowledge out there in the world to be discovered.  There is no eternal form for knowledge.  Instead, like most words, the word knowledge is a tool.  The better we define it, the more effective a tool it will be.  If I want to use the word knowledge as effectively as I can, I need a definition that accounts for things that I know regardless of what beliefs I hold.

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The Hobbit – Chapter VIII – Flies and Spiders

From the very first time I read The Hobbit, Flies and Spiders has fascinated me.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly why, but I can always speculate.  It is the first chapter without Gandalf.  Before this, there was always the sense that Gandalf could take care of whatever problem they faced.  His absence raises the tension.  We finally get the payoff of Bilbo being the fourteenth member of the party, too.  I remember as a kid being a little frustrated by the talk of thirteen being unlucky when there were fifteen in the party.  Now it makes sense.  And, of course, there are the spiders.  I’ve always liked spiders and other creepy crawlies, much to my mother’s horror.  As an eleven or twelve year old, giant talking spiders were about the coolest non-Star Wars things I’d ever heard of.

The other great thing about this chapter is that the dwarves finally find out why Gandalf wanted Bilbo on this quest.  The dwarves are pretty much useless throughout the chapter.  They complain a lot, make bad decisions, point fingers, and Bombur is asleep and has to be carried because he falls into an enchanted river.  This, of course, is all before getting captured by the above mentioned spiders.  Bilbo is the only one who keeps his wits, keeps them close to on track and rescues the dwarves from each of their troubles.

This is also the chapter where elves become an important part of the story, although they will be more important in the next chapter.  As the party is reaching the end of the forest (Of course they don’t know they’re anywhere near the end of the forest, they feel like it goes on forever.), they are almost out of supplies.  They are hungry and tired and desperate.  Then, they start seeing fires burning just off the path.  They are desperate enough to decide to go ask whoever is tending the fires for help.  Only whenever the reach a fire, it goes out and everyone has a hard time finding each other again.  The group doesn’t know it, but the fires are lit by elves.  The Mirkwood elves are ancient, but mostly isolated.  They don’t trust outsiders generally and when a group of dwarves stumbles into their camp, they scatter.  Except for the last time, when they capture Thorin before they scatter.

Bilbo’s elvish sword gets its name in this chapter.  It’s really just an elvish knife, but that makes it plenty big enough to be a sword for a hobbit.  He uses it to free himself from the spider silk and then to fight off the spiders.  It stings them, so Bilbo calls it Sting.  It’s a simple origin story, but I like it.  Tolkien had a way with names.  Hobbits are simple folk.  It wouldn’t make sense for Bilbo to call it something grandiose.  It’s a fitting name all around.

So, those are some guesses as to why I like this chapter so much.  Every time I read the book, I look forward to Flies and Spiders and it always pays off.  Now on to see what those elves are all about.

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Back, Into The Light (Part 1)

I’ve wanted to try writing fantasy again, and I’ve also wanted to write a serialized story. So here it is, my serialized fantasy story! Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Without further ado, onto Part 1!


Back, Into The Light (Part 1)

“Tell me a secret. Something you’ve never told anyone.” Even when he whispered, the gravelly heaviness of Law’s voice filled the room. He and Maki were laying in the bed, resting. The pain in Maki’s abdomen had finally subsided, but the cramps left her drained. She was content to lay there in silence until tomorrow. Law wouldn’t have it. He was a talker.

She thought for a moment. There were too many secrets to choose from. Past lives and old friends clouded her mind with a thousand insignificant and monumental memories. She’d never confessed to blaming her sister for not locking the front door the night that their dog ran away. Their mother favored Maki openly, and her word was as good as gold. Juva received no dinner as punishment. Juva and her mother were both long dead, but Maki could still imagine how hungry Juva must have been as she stood in the corner, watching them eat roasted chicken.

Or she could tell him how she got her favorite dress. It was a burgundy gown which stopped just above her ankles. Gold trim traced the collar and snaked down the left sleeve, ending in three tassels which hung from the wrist. The man who stole it for her told her that the rings had a special meaning, but she’d forgotten what it was almost as fast as she’d forgotten his name. He was a poor lover and an excellent thief, and she needed the latter skills more than the former before she’d met Law.

She could tell him about the boy from Ilna. No, she thought as she touched her own protruding belly. That secret never happened. She’d convinced herself that nothing so cruel could happen to a child, mostly to convince herself that nothing so cruel could happen to her child someday.

“I don’t want to,” she said. “My secrets aren’t youthful mistakes or embarrassing stories. I keep my secrets because they hurt too much to speak out loud.”

“Are you afraid that I would judge you?”

“Yes.”

Law sat up in the bed, staring straight ahead. He placed a warm hand on Maki’s shoulder, then moved slowly to stroke her curly hair. “I know enough about you to know that your secrets are darker than most. But there’s so much I don’t know about you. I want to learn, and I want to carry some of those burdens for you, if you’ll let me.”

Maki turned to look at Law. She’d feared his kind for most of her childhood. The Calans were the go-to boogeymen for parents who wanted to scare their children into obedience. Her mother had used stories about Calans liberally. There was the purple beast with razor sharp hooks at the end of his hands that came for little girls who didn’t eat all of their dinner. A three-meter tall, fire breathing Calan would snatch her out of bed in the middle of the night if she wasn’t kind to her sister. Most terrifying was Boe, the only Calan monster her mother gave a name to. No one knew what he looked like, she said. He would appear out of the shadows and take bad children to The Darkness.

Law didn’t resemble any of those terrible stories. He looked more like a man than a monster. His black fur was short and well groomed, shimmering in the low light of the afternoon. His ears were atop his head, pointed and canine-like, twitching constantly at the slightest noise as if independent of the rest of his body. Maki’s mother was right about their height though. Law was easily over two meter tall, though not quite the three meters her mother had invented to frighten her. His chest was broad and the muscles of his back rippled beneath his fur. His eyes were like superheated coal, blacker than night and red hot when he wanted them to be. She looked at him, this Calan, who treated her better than any human had. He returned her gaze, and it was soft and warm, like him. It made her want to tell him the most painful secret she had, the one which undid everything she’d wanted in her life before, and that she’d finally found with him. The father of her unborn child needed to know.

“I’m immortal,” she said finally.

 

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The Hobbit – Chapter VII – Queer Lodgings

The title of this chapter betrays the age of The Hobbit (First published in 1937).  People just don’t use the word queer in this way anymore.  I suppose if it were a modern book, the chapter would be Weird Lodgings.  As a kid, I’m sure I didn’t even notice the title of the chapter.  As an adult, I just can’t help noticing.  It just shows how much things have changed in the last eighty years.

This chapter functions similarly to chapter III, A Short Rest.  After a lot of danger in the mountains, our group finally gets a bit of a reprieve.  After the eagles drop them off, they come to the home of Beorn.  Gandalf describes Beorn as a “skin-changer.”  He can either be a very large, wild looking man or he can be a bear.  Gandalf warns the hobbit and the dwarves that either way, Beorn is a dangerous enemy so they should all be on their best behavior.

Another way this chapter is similar to A Short Rest is the way it contributes to Tolkien’s world building.  Beorn, like Elrond, is a minor, almost incidental, character in this book.  No one would notice or complain if Tolkien had just said Gandalf had a friend in these parts and the group stayed with him for a couple of nights.  Instead we get a lot of characterization for someone that we’re never going to see again.  We get Gandalf speculating about whether he is a bear, descended from the great bears or whether he is a man, descended from the first men.  We learn that he doesn’t trust strangers.  He accepts Gandalf’s story, but still goes out to verify it for himself.  We learn about his love of all animal life.  He has animals serve his guests and he hosts great gatherings of bears.  He eats a lot of cream and honey.  The honey is made by very large bees.  He hates the goblins.  He likes stories, but doesn’t care for the dwarves’ stories about gold and silver because he doesn’t care about such things.  He is also intimidating, but has a genuine sense of humor.  I’m leaving out detail, but the point is that he is a more fully drawn character than the main characters in other books.

In terms of the overall story, there are a few important points in this chapter.  First, the group lost their ponies, their packs and all their supplies in the mountains.  Beorn loans them ponies to go as far as Mirkwood, although they are to be sent back upon reaching the forest.  He also gives them food and water-skins for their journey.  And he gives them advice.  Mirkwood is a dangerous place.  He warns them not to leave the path for any reason, not to drink the water in the forest and not to eat anything they find in the forest.

The most important development, though, is that Gandalf is leaving the party.  The dwarves try to convince him to stay, but he says he has business to attend to and that this was never his journey.  Gandalf’s departure leaves everyone in a bad mood as they prepare to enter the dark forest.

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The Hobbit – Chapter VI – Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire

Chapter VI has always felt to me like the end of the beginning.  Up until now, Tolkien has been setting the stage, establishing the characters and putting the plot in motion.  After this chapter we will get into the real meat of the story.

There is a lot of action in this chapter.  Bilbo finds his friends, and surprises them with the help of his new magic ring.  Of course, he doesn’t tell them about the ring at this point.  It feels natural, the dwarves have a much improved opinion of their burglar after he demonstrates that he can escape from goblins on his own.  He doesn’t want them to think it was all because of the ring.  At the same time, it fits perfectly with what we will learn about the ring in the Lord of the Rings.  His reluctance to share can be seen as the ring already exerting its influence on Bilbo.

Then, the group decides they need to put distance between themselves and the goblins before nightfall.  They move as fast as they can, survive a rock slide by sheltering in the woods where they find a clearing.  It turns out the clearing is a meeting place for the evil wolves, known as wargs, and the goblins.

Soon after the group arrives at the clearing, the wargs start to gather.  The dwarves, the hobbit and Gandalf climb some trees and Gandalf starts hurling fire down upon the wolves.  These wolves are intelligent, but they can’t climb trees or control fire.  Unfortunately, goblins soon arrive, and goblins can control fire.  The goblins move the fire to the trees that our heroes are in.

Here is probably the most blatant instance of luck in the whole story.  The great eagles happen to be flying nearby.  The eagles don’t care about dwarves one way or the other, but they dislike the wargs and the goblins, so they investigate.  When they see what is happening, the eagles rescue the dwarves, the hobbit and the wizard.  Luckily for everyone, Gandalf had done a favor for the head eagle, so the eagles agree to bring the group to safety and further along on their journey.

For all the action in the chapter, there isn’t much development.  The characters remain the same.  The main plot is not advanced.  As I said at the beginning, this chapter just serves to close this section of the book, happily with a lot of excitement.

 

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