In all their talk they came perpetually back to one thing: where was Smaug? They looked West and there was nothing, and East there was nothing, and in the South there was no sign of the dragon, but there was a gathering of very many birds.
–Chapter 13, The Hobbit
Our journey to the Lonely Mountain has been long and arduous. Many months have gone by since my son and I first stepped outside Bilbo’s front door (see here, here and here). Often it’s slow going and I’m watchful for signs of weariness. Is The Hobbit too much for a six-year-old? Maybe. There are certainly times when the narrative doesn’t seem to ‘hit home’ with him.
… none of our gold shall thieves take… blah blah… send messengers to our kin… tell them of our plight… blah blah blah… bid him hasten!…
I catch my son making funny faces in the mirror.
Are you listening?
… “Back now to the Mountain!” cried Thorin. “We have little time to lose.”… blah… “Back to the Mountain!” cried the dwarves… blah blah blah… As they worked the ravens brought them constant tidings….
I hear clacking robot sounds.
Are you sure you’re listening?
… by that time they knew that the joined armies of the Lake-men and the Elves were hurrying toward the Mountain.
His leg starts to jiggle.
By this time, I’m fairly certain he isn’t hearing a word I read. And then…
I guess they’re going to have to call it Busy Mountain now, he says.
Yeah? What do you mean? It takes me a moment to put two and two together.
Well it’s not so lonely on the mountain anymore, is it?
Maybe there isn’t a Smaug-proportioned hang-on-every-word engagement with the story, but I’ve come to refer to our numerous moments of laughter and insight as “a gathering of very many birds.” It’s definitely worth the journey.
By the way, I’m enjoying this Season of Slow… will share more soon. How are your holidays going?