Analysis: Bard, the Black Arrow and the Windlance
One of the more interesting things to pop out of the TORn mega-spoiler list relates to Bard, the Black Arrow and the weapon known as the Windlance.
Readers, of course, already know that Bard’s Black Arrow plays a critical role in Smaug’s attack on Lake-town.
“Arrow!” said the bowman. “Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!”
The Hobbit, Fire and Water
This is where, in Peter Jackson’s trio of films, events have begun to diverge. (It’s also, by the way, where we’re going to head into movie spoiler and speculation territory.)
For, as we saw in The Desolation of Smaug, the Black Arrow is not designed for a bow — surely not even the Great Bow that Bard employs in the novel. Instead it’s designed to be fired from an artillery piece that the Romans would have been proud to use (for history geeks it kinda puts me in mind of the Scorpio) — a flinger of enormous bolts known as the Windlance.
Girion fires the Windlance at Smaug.
Weta’s recently released book The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers contains the specifications for the Black Arrow.
The head of the quarrel is about forty centimetres (almost sixteen inches) long and is supposed to be steel. The shaft is wood (the prop is aluminium with a resin head) and seems to be about one inch thick. The overall length is almost two metres (about six feet). The weight is not given; however, even the finished “hero” prop is “incredibly heavy.”
Source: Otaku-sempai’s post on TORn messageboards
Even Odysseus might struggle to fire this beast of a bolt from a bow.
Both Windlance and the Black Arrow are obviously key to the plot — and the demise of Smaug. The Desolation of Smaug dwells heavily on both:
First, Bard hands off the Black Arrow to his son, Bain, telling him to look after it.
Second, the camera lingers for long moments on a shot of the Windlance, seemingly sited atop the Master of Lake-town’s chambers.
You have been officially foreshadowed.
I think it defies belief that either of these props won’t play a key role in Smaug’s demise. It also defies a principle of storytelling attributed to author and physician Anton Chekhov — commonly known as Chekhov’s Gun.
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Anton Chekhov (From S. Shchukin, Memoirs. 1911.)
Yet, there’s a bit of a complication.
That’s because we have pre-existing production blog footage of Bard clambering across rooftops while fire rages throughout the Lake-town, with a quiver slung over on shoulder and a bow in hand.
Bard scurrying along Lake-town set rooftops lit by a red lights. You may remember this from the French-subtitled production footage Warner Bros. tried mightily to erase off the internet.
So which is the weapon that slays the dragon? The windlance, or the bow?
Here’s one possibility that I can conceive.
Bard — having finally escaped the clutches of the Lake-town guard — valiantly tries to slay Smaug using his longbow as the dragon vents its rage on the town. Hence those images we have seen of him scampering across the rooftops.
Yet his best efforts prove fruitless. Even with Smaug’s scales weakened by Girion’s blow long ago, Bard’s bow is still insufficient to deliver a piercing shot.
In his failure he realises — possibly at the urging of his son, Bain, (“Gotta keep the faith, dad!”) — that he must fully embrace the legacy of his forebear, and use the Black Arrow to finish what Girion began.
Cue a mad dash to reach the Windlance atop the Master’s chambers before Smaug smashes it to bits. Only then does our dragon antagonist finally taste cold, black iron and perish in a watery, steamy splosh.
I was discussing this possibility with DanielLB of the TORn forums who pointed out that after the decision was made to go to three films, a lot of pick-ups were shot to change scenes. He noted:
Either scenes were added (Kili-Tauriel healing scene), alternate version of scenes were filmed (the Dwarves entering Lake-town) or slight alterations (the Forest River scene).
Is the windlace THE weapon to kill Smaug a late minute decision by the film makers? After all, the flashback scene of Girion was a pick-up. Did they originally intend Bard to kill Smaug with his longbow (i.e. the scenes in the video), but have now changed it so he kills him with the windlance?
Personally, I feel something like this must be the case.
An alternate scenario would flip the order: the Windlance would fail, leaving Bard no choice to inflict the killing blow with his bow.
I think that’s less likely though. Yes, even though the teaser artwork shows Bard in the middle of the street, facing a raging Smug with bow in hand. Because such artwork is generally not meant to be taken literally — it’s all about conveying a mood.
In any case, it will be interesting to see how it shapes out!
Posted in Headlines, Hobbit Movie, The Hobbit on July 26, 2014 by Demosthenes