Roäc was of a family/community of ravens living near Erebor that had a longstanding alliance with the Dwarves of that area. Roäc’s father, Carc, built his home with other ravens above a guard-post that Dwarves had inhabited before being driven out by Smaug, giving the location the name of Ravenhill. In 2770, Smaug drove the Dwarves out of Erebor and many ravens left also, but Carc and his wife remained. 18 years later, Roäc was born.
171 years after Smaug had gained control of the Lonely Mountain, Thorin & Co. found themselves sheltering in this same guard-post. Remembering Carc and the old alliance, Thorin described the ravens as long lived with long memories and said they passed their wisdom on to their children. Shortly, a clearly aging raven appeared identifying himself as Roäc, son of Carc.
Speaking in ‘ordinary language’ that all could understand, Roäc relayed the news of Smaug’s death to Thorin & Co. But he warned that hosts of elves and lake men were coming to claim part of the treasure as theirs. He then counseled Thorin to deal not with the Master of Lake-town but with Bard, slayer of Smaug, who Roäc describes as ‘true’. “We would see peace once more among dwarves and men and elves after the long desolation”, said Roäc. “But,” he added to Thorin, “it may cost you dear in gold.”
Thorin bade Roäc to send out word to Dain and all other Dwarf kin that help was needed to defend the treasure. Roäc wasn’t sure if the decision to send for reinforcements rather than negotiate with the men and elves was a good idea or bad idea but he did as Thorin requested.
Days later, Roäc brought news of Dain’s approach toward the now besieged company in the guard-post. The raven is now certain. “I do not call this counsel good.” He warns Thorin, “The treasure is likely to be your death.”
After Thorin realized the Arkenstone was in the hands of Bard, Roäc was again sent to hasten Dain. And the ravens of Roäc’s band were reportedly used extensively in communications between Thorin and Dain in the stand off. But no more details of Roäc (other than the mention of his last errand) can be found in the story after his prophetic warning to Thorin.
Analysis: It is worth noting that not only was Roäc communicating messages for the Dwarves he was openly counseling Thorin. This would seem to indicate that Roäc considers his position to be equal to Thorin’s. His final counsel, “The treasure is likely to be your death.” proves to be accurate and could be an indication of great wisdom on his part or perhaps even a prophetic nature. Ravens are said, in some folklore, to have a prophetic ability.
Also, to desire for peace to the extent that Roäc would counsel others toward it, might seem counter to the real and folk-lore nature of ravens. As eaters of carrion, they are associated in many cultures and stories with war and even said, at times, to promote it.
However, Roäc provided perhaps the only means of communication that existed between Thorin and Dain. Had Roäc refused the ravens’ help, Thorin may have been forced to negotiate with the lake men, elf alliance.
Douglas A. Anderson, in “The Annotated Hobbit”, compares Roäc and Carc to the ravens Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory) from Norse mythology who gathered intelligence for the god, Odin.
Anderson also points out that Roäc and Carc “are marvelously onomatopoeic invented names for birds in bird-speech.” (pg 316, The Annotated Hobbit, Douglas A. Anderson)
- “The treasure is likely to be your death, though the dragon is no more.” (to Thorin)
- “We would see peace once more among dwarves and men and elves after the long desolation (to Thorin)