What kept Gandalf from telling anyone in the Order about Bilbo's Ring?

Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by BalrogRingDestroyer, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    Gandalf sounded like he suspected that something was amiss about the Ring even when he discovered its existence during the timeline of the Hobbit. It seems odd that he NEVER consulted Saruman, Radaghast, or the Blue Wizards about it. It's not like Gandalf told NOBODY about it either, as I suspect he tipped off Aragorn at any rate.


    As there was, as far as we know, not enough warning to make Gandalf believe that Saruman had turned traitor, why did Gandalf keep the Ring a secret?


    For all he knew, not asking Saruman and the others for help could have delayed him long enough for Sauron to win the War of the Ring.
     
  2. Merroe

    Merroe Member

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    Gandalf never gave any notice to Bilbo's ring in TH. That is also logical, because the LotR story was developed much afterwards. In TH the role of the Ring was one of a mere utility, like for fighting spiders, breaking arrest in Thranduil's prison, or sneaking in and out of the Lonely Mountain. I remember no passage in TH where Gandalf took the slightest interest in Bilbo's Ring.

    Saruman was known as the expert on the Rings of Power. Since Gandalf never thought much of Bilbo's Ring until his farewell party, this opens two possibilities (but as far as I know JRRT never explicitly mentioned either of these):

    1. Gandalf mentioned it to Saruman but he took no interest either, thinking it was a ring of small power, or
    2. Gandalf did not mention it to Saruman since he thought it to be irrelevant, or perhaps also because of the animosity between both wizards.

    Regarding this animosity, Gandalf was annoyed with Saruman already from well before the Battle of Five Armies. Gandalf noticed how Saruman started spying on the Shire ("Saruman had long taken an interest in the Shire – because Gandalf did, and he was suspicious of him"). Saruman's jalousy made him belittle Gandalf ("When weighty matters are in debate, Mithrandir, I wonder a little that you should play with your toys of fire and smoke, while others are in earnest speech."). Most importantly, Saruman long stopped the White Council from taking any early action against Sauron (because he needed the time to look for the Ring himself), against Gandalf's advice.

    In these circumstances, when Bilbo's behavior at his farewell party finally alerted Gandalf that there was more to it than he had thought, he took care of what and how much he'd say ("But I spoke yet of my dread to none, knowing the peril of an untimely whisper, if it went astray. In all the long wars with the Dark Tower treason has ever been our greatest foe").

    The remaining part is explained in LotR, particularly at the Council of Elrond.
     

  3. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    Considering that Gandalf was there when Bilbo used it to sneak off and given the Arkenstone to Bard, I believe Gandalf would have wanted to know HOW Bilbo made himself invisible and that the topic would have been brought up before they reached the other side of Mirkwood on their way back.

    Also, the dwarves DID know about it and probably told Gandalf, once they stopped being mad at him, which was probably after Thorin's death.

    Considering that Bilbo tried to keep it secret and only revealed it because he kind of felt he had to when fighting the giant spiders so that the dwarves would have a heart attack, it seems unlikely that Bilbo would have WILLINGLY told Gandalf if he didn't already know about it.

    You mentioned animosity between Gandalf and Saruman. As far as I know, there wasn't any until Saruman openly displaced his treachery.

    Some like Galadriel wanted Gandalf to be head of the White Council instead, but I never have seen in any writings about Gandalf and Saruman (at least that I've read) that they were at odds with each other until the fateful meeting in Isengard in FOTR.


    As for an interest in the Shire, I don't see why that would make Saruman bad, at least as far as Gandalf knew. More to the point, we don't ever know HOW Saruman knew that the Ring was even there. I did, however, hear that it was Grima Wormtongue who told the Nazgul WHERE the Shire was, so presumably Saruman knew at some point.

    It seems odd that if Saruman guessed what was in the Shire, he would have sent punks like Bill Ferney or perhaps even Lotho (who actually had a motive to knock off Frodo) to go murder Frodo in his sleep and take the Ring. I doubt either of them would know what the Ring really was and would have brought it back to Saruman. Even if they likely would not want to give it up to him once they were at Isengard, I believe Saruman could have easily overpowered either of them, if he was strong enough to best even Gandalf. (How, I don't know, considering that Gandalf was able to pretty much tie in a contest with a Balrog.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2018
  4. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    Merroe is correct. In an essay titled “The Istari” in Unfinished Tales edited by Christopher Tolkien along with much commentary on his father’s notes, there is considerable animosity between Sauron and Gandalf, beginning before Bilbo’s journey to the Lonely Mountain with the Dwarves. Most of this animosity was on Saruman’s part, fueled by his jealousy of Gandalf; but some of it was on Gandalf’s part as he reacted to Saruman’s sarcasm, belittling, and obstruction.

    Saruman deduced that Círdan had entrusted Narya, the Ring of Fire, to Gandalf upon his arrival in Middle-earth and was jealous of him for that. Soon after he settled in Isengard, he began searching for the One Ring in order to wield it himself. Gandalf on his part might have deduced Saruman’s envy of Gandalf’s position as keeper of one of the Three Rings; but he could not know Saruman’s ulterior motive: his coveting the One Ring. Gandalf’s distrust of Saruman can be interpreted as a premonition: just luck, as Tolkien occasionally puts into the mouths of characters when they tongue-in-cheek reference the intervention of a Higher Power in Middle-earth.

    It was the squint-eyed Southerner at The Prancing Pony in Bree who gave up maps to the Shire and the names and locations of important people there when the Nazgûl captured him near Tharbad. (See Reader’s Companion.) He was Saruman’s agent, but betrayed Saruman to the Witch-king partly out of sheer terror of the Ringwraiths and in order to save his own life.

    As for Saruman’s assessment that the Ring was in the Shire and his (correct) guess that Gandalf knew where it was bestowed, he deduced that from the movements of the Nazgûl and the fact that they were asking for the location of “Shire” reported to him by Radagast.

    Saruman paid visits to the Shire in disguise because he wanted to know what Gandalf was doing. He also took up smoking pipeweed, a habit for which he ridiculed the grey wizard. Gandalf learned of these visits, but merely laughed them off at the time, assigning no wickedness to Saruman.

    By the way, several people knew about Bilbo’s Ring by the end of The Hobbit. The surviving members of Thorin & Co. knew, because Bilbo told them. (He deceived them about how he obtained it, however, telling them Gollum gave it to him for winning the Riddle Game.) Gandalf knew, and you are likely correct, BalrogRingDestroyer, in guessing that the Dwarves told him; but for that we cannot be certain. The Elvenking probably knew, too, because he told Bilbo at their parting, “May your shadow never grow less (or stealing would be too easy)!” It is possible Gandalf told him about the Ring; but the Elvenking was no dummy: he was wise and (in Hobbit terms) very ancient, and had surely investigated the escape of Thorin & Co. from his forest fortress most thoroughly, enough to determine that there had been an invisible thief on the premises. Finally, Gandalf certainly told Elrond at some point: we just don’t know if he did that at their first meeting on his return with Bilbo or later.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018

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