Does it seem that there was a lot left out in The Hobbit?

Discussion in '"The Hobbit"' started by BalrogRingDestroyer, May 3, 2018.

  1. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    What wasn't said:

    1.) What Gandalf hoped to gain by getting rid of Smaug. Some suggest that he didn't want Smaug to ally with Sauron, but that theory seems unlikely. Sauron was known as the Necromancer, and I don't think Gandalf outright suspected the Necromancer of being Sauron. I know in the movies he at first didn't, and I'm not sure he did in the books either. If he had, I think he would have told Saruman to go fly a kite when suggesting that they not do something about the Necromancer sooner. If Gandalf thought the Necromaner was just a local, albeit very dangerous, bully in the Mirkwood/Lorien region, he wouldn't have been as eager to attack Dol Guldor as he would have if he KNEW it was Sauron.


    2.) What the dwarves's plan of dealing with Smaug was. The Desolation of Smaug movie had a lot of plot issues that varies from the book, the worst of them being the character of Tuariel and Bombur in the bouncing barrel. However, their fight with Smaug near the climax of the second movie actually DOES make sense. I mean, how are you going to get the treasure if you don't take out Smaug? Even if Bilbo could take the treasure, as he himself says, it would take over a century to carry everything up even if there were no dragon.


    3.) Gandalf seems to have not thought that the dwarves's plan could BACKFIRE, as it very nearly did. It nearly got them stuck in the mountain and it was only Bard who stopped Smaug from wiping out Laketown fully. He says that heroes are in far away places and are too busy fighting each other. Yet, a hero is what ends up defeating Smaug in the end.

    4.) How was Gandalf planning to stop a repeat of the Battle of the Thousand Caves? It looks like there was going to be another dwarf vs. elf fight, which, if it had gone on, would likely have soured dwarf/elf relationships enough to alter the timeline of the Lord of the Rings to cause the West to lose the War of the Ring. Gandalf does know about the goblins coming, but, from what he said, it appeared he expected them to come LATER on. So what was his plan to stop a dwarf/elf war? If he had one, why did he want to wait till the last possible moment before springing it?

    5.) Why didn't Bard honor Thorin's request to have the Elf King depart? He could have simply used whatever payment Thorin gave him to repay the Elf King for his help. Bard seems like a level-headed enough guy that I'm surprised he didn't think of this.
     
  2. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    That’s a lot of questions for just one thread!

    [1]

    Let us just remember that TH was written long before LotR started taking shape. In other words, the LotR story needed to “link” to an already existing book. JRRT wrote the following in one of his letters about this process:

    The magic ring was the one obvious thing in The Hobbit that could be connected with my mythology. To be the burden of a large story it had to be of supreme importance. I then linked it with the (originally) quite casual reference to the Necromancer, end of Ch. vii and Ch. xix, whose function was hardly more than to provide a reason for Gandalf going away and leaving Bilbo and the Dwarves to fend for themselves, which was necessary for the tale.

    [2]

    Gandalf and the dwarves had their own reasons but shared the same objectives. The hoard could indeed not be moved (that was mentioned in TH as well): the dwarves wanted to regain both Erebor and their gold, whereas Gandalf was concerned about the weakness of the defences in the North.

    You can read more details in how the while plan was plotted in “The Quest of Erebor” in the “Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth”; in particular, how Thorin’s original plan was to attack Smaug with a big dwarf host and how Gandalf advised (and eventually persuaded) Thorin to use stealth instead – and a “burglar”.

    [3]

    Agreed. Their action plan was far from perfect, as Gandalf explained (in the same story mentioned before):

    ’So it was that the Quest of Erebor set out. I do not suppose that when it started Thorin had any real hope of destroying Smaug. There was no hope. Yet it happened. But alas! Thorin did not live to enjoy his triumph or his treasure. Pride and greed overcame him in spite of my warning.” ’

    [4]

    The stand-off between dwarves, elves and men was not of Gandalf’s making. The conflict was evidently caused by Thorin’s lust for the gold and the riches he had recovered and his refusal to negotiate a fair contribution for the damage Smaug had caused. As such, the situation was out of hand.

    I’m not sure what made you conclude that Gandalf had foreknowledge on an impending attack?

    [5]

    A fair point.

    The woodelves and the men from Esgaroth were long befriended and engaged in mutually beneficial trade. Asking the elves to leave would not have been an act of kindness, nor look very noble if done to conform to a rather arrogant demand from Thorin, would it?

    As Bard put it: “The Elvenking is my friend, and he has succoured the people of the Lake in their need, though they had no claim but friendship on him”.
     

  3. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    [6]

    It's a fairy tale for children. Tolkien's skill in verisimilitude, and ear for dialogue, plus his retrospective efforts to fit the events of TH into the legendarium mentioned by Meroe above, can lead us to stray into "realistic" questions about actions and motivations; I'm not sure about their germaneness in a story featuring stone trolls, shape-shifters, and talking birds, not to mention a talking dragon.

    Especially a dragon who talks with the voice of an upper class Englishman!
     
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  4. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    "I’m not sure what made you conclude that Gandalf had foreknowledge on an impending attack?"


    Gandalf - Doom has struck and sooner than I'd thought.



    Gandalf already had some inkling about the Goblins of the Misty Mountains and the Grey Mountains planning revenge on the dwarves for the death of the Great Goblin, the wounding of the chief Warg, and the death of several of his subordinates. Gandalf already knew about it, but misjudged the timing of the attack. He had said, earlier, when disguised as a random old man traveler, that he had news, some that Bilbo did not yet know.

    If Gandalf knew that the Goblins planned an attack on Dwarfkind- telling Thorin that before a war between the good guys commenced was a good idea. They were beginning to fight when a dark cloud of evil bats arrived, causing the fight to halt. Had the attack of the Wargs and Goblins come later, they would have met a decimated army of men, dwarves, and elves, done in by fighting amongst themselves.

    Had that happened, the North would have been LOST to the forces of evil, which was against the very intentions of Gandalf of the whole quest, of securing the North.
     

  5. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    You are right: had the attack come later, the outcome may have been much different.

    Should Gandalf have seen this coming, then he would have alerted everybody. Thus, the hypothesis of foreknowledge appears unjustified: “How much Gandalf knew cannot be said, but it is plain that he had not expected this sudden assault”.

    It struck me that, compared to LotR, Gandalf played a rather secondary role in the final events of TH. He was away on other business most of the time, nor had he any part in the convergence of armies around the Lonely Mountain. His only contribution there was to call the leaders together at a highly needed war council.
     
  6. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    Since The Hobbit is so obviously about growing up, it's natural that the "father figure" should withdraw at some point, as Tolkien put it in Letter 131:

    ". . .and so leaves the Hobbit without help or advice in the midst of his 'adventure', forcing him to stand on his own legs, and become in his own mode heroic".

    In this he was following a long tradition of mythological and literary "wise old men" who set the action going, and then leave their sons or pupils alone, to see what they will do.

    LOTR is far more complex, of course, and the characters must carry more than a simple one-level function, but the structure holds: one of the themes is still growth -- in wisdom, this time, and Gandalf must "dissappear" for a while (twice, in fact, in Frodo's case); it's notable that both Frodo and Aragorn, Gandalf's pupils, express their realization of this lack of wisdom, and at nearly the same time: "All my choices have gone ill"; "All that I have done this day has gone amiss".

    One method the senex figure uses to set the action in motion is to involve a "vice" as it's called in drama, the "tricky slave" of Greek and Roman comedy, who helps (and sometimes hinders) the hero. Prospero does this. Sam is not an Ariel, exactly -- he's not a "spirit", certainly -- and Gandalf doesn't free him from a tree, though he does free him from the "ground" you could say, in the sense that he takes him from his role as suburban gardener. From the viewpoint of the Dwarves of The Hobbit, Bilbo fulfills the "vice" role (and quite admirably, I might add).

    Since I seem to have adopted The Tempest as an analogy, Gollum, who, as the other half of the Ariel-Caliban trickster pair, is not "set to work" directly by Gandalf, but his sparing by Bilbo is clearly approved, and his work in the plot endorsed, by him: "My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end. . .".

    Finally, after all his other tasks in the story are completed, Gandalf returns to his role as the retreating father figure to the hobbits, leaving them, one last time, to face their final adventure on their own, after acknowledging their growth: "You are grown up now. Grown indeed very high".

    Though that last bit may have been in part a wry little comment about Merry and Pippin. :)
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
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  7. Barliman

    Barliman Member

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    Since this thread is about The Hobbit, I thought I'd remind folks (not that I think you forgot) that Bilbo only spared Gollum in TH after Tolkien had written The Fellowship, so Riddles in the Dark events wouldn't conflict with motivations in the later work.
    Prior to 1951 readers of TH only knew the lie Bilbo told Gandalf.
     
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  8. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    True enough, but of course, from the standpoint of the first edition, it wasn't a lie, but what "really happened". In fact, he didn’t spare Gollum in the 1937 edition,: Gollum felt constrained by the rules of the Riddle Game to give Bilbo the ring. On finding that he had lost it, he was apologetic:

    I don't know how many times Gollum begged Bilbo's pardon. He kept on saying: "We are ssorry; we didn't mean to cheat, we meant to give it our only present, if it won the competition."

    At which point, Bilbo demands that in lieu of the present, Gollum show him the way out -- which he does.

    In the story Bilbo tells Gandalf and the Dwarves, after escaping the caves, he doesn't lie, but simply leaves out the part about the ring: "'not just now' he thought".

    Even after the episode of the spiders, where Bilbo reveals to the Dwarves how he disappeared, there's no hint of dishonesty:

    They had to have the whole vanishing business carefully explained, and the finding of the ring interested them so much that for a while they forgot their own troubles. Balin in particular insisted on having the Gollum story, riddles and all, told all over again, with the Ring in its proper place.

    The confusion about the "lie" is due in part to the note to the 1951 edition, after the completion of LOTR, but before its publication:

    . . .the true story of the ending of the Riddle Game, as it was eventually revealed (under pressure) by Bilbo to Gandalf, is now given according to the Red Book, in place of the version first gave to his friends, and actually set down in his diary. This departure from the truth was a portent of great significance.

    This was compounded by Tolkien's brief retelling of the episode in "Of the Finding of the Ring" in the prologue to LOTR. I won't give the quote here, as it's readily available, but in The Annotated Hobbit, Douglas Anderson points out that "this is not the story as Bilbo first told it to his companions" contradicts both stories given in TH, in either edition, and concludes: "Bilbo's dishonesty, of great importance in The Lord of the Rings, is nowhere explicitly present in The Hobbit."

    I did, in my previous post, stray into LOTR, but only to show the structural parallels with TH. But you're quite right, of course, that it was in the later work that Gandalf approved "the pity of Bilbo".

    And welcome to the forum, Barliman! :)

    Edit: I've just been informed (by him) of Barliman's identity.

    Oh, brother! :D
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2018
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  9. Barliman

    Barliman Member

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    Yes, I was hasty in my post, but it was one of those mornings, "I'm that busy. No time for talking. I must be trotting. It's hard work for two legs, but I don't get thinner."
     
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  10. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    I know. :rolleyes:

    Me, neither. :(
     
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  11. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    Excellent reading, thanks all! And well met, dear Barliman!
     
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  12. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    The part that most got me was how exactly anyone planned to get rid of Smaug.


    Gandalf wanted him dead, or so I've heard, so that he didn't join with Sauron. However, Gandalf went looking for a burglar, not a dragon slayer. It's just lucky that Bard was around or else Smaug might have gone after the Elves of Mirkwood next and he might possibly have later crossed paths with Sauron.

    However, I don't see any inkling that Gandalf knew that Bard was around to save the day. In fact, I found a remark to the contrary, that Gandalf said that they'd need a hero to do it but that heroes are usually far off fighting each other to help out. (Perhaps he planned to recruit Legolas. If Legolas to take down that fell beast thing from such a distance, it is probably that he could kill Smaug too.)

    Perhaps Gandalf really hoped that someone would find any weakness of Smaug's and go report it to someone so that Gandalf could get a hero to go kill him. But Gandalf almost seemed like he KNEW Bilbo would find the Ring and make himself invisible and get Smaug to reveal his weakness and that Bard would show up and save the day before Smaug could sneak off and join Mordor.
     

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