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Gandalf's Realpolitik

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Harad

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Gandalf wanted to rid the North of Smaug because he felt the showdown with Evil was coming in the near future. It did come about 60 years later.

But did Gandalf really expect the 13 dwarfs and 1 burrahobbit to rid the world of Smaug?

What did he expect? That they would annoy Smaug so much that Smaug would leave the Mountain and rain destruction on Esgaroth and then miraculously be killed by one brave man?

So wasnt Gandalf throwing the dice rather recklessly in the hopes of a miraculous result and putting the welfare of lots of Esgaroth people at risk--some of whom were killed--"three quarters at least had escaped alive." Not an attractive side of Gandalf unless you consider that the ends justify the means.
 
H

Harad

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Thanks for the reference but I am not asking the question why he wanted to take out Smaug. Instead I am asking for comments on the method that Gandalf used.
 

Elanor2

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Well, at first glance, Gandalf does seem a bit highhanded when he sets 13 dwarves and a hobbit to fight a dragon and set up a new kingdom in the north. And it is true that there was much death and destruction because of that (although it all ended up well afterwards).

But remember that Gandalf's role is to advise the people for ME, not to take direct action. In fact, where Gandalf is a bit disobedient, so to speak, is in the fact that he meddles too much and takes to much upon himself in many matters.

So, as an advisor, we might even say a strategic consultant, he sees that Smaug is a danger. It would be best to get rid of him and create an ally kingdom there. There was in the past an ally kingdom under the mountain there, the dwarves, so he contacts the dwarves. Not any dwarf, but the heir of the kindgdom, and gives him all the help he can (as an advisor, remember) to get his kingdom back.

It was Thorin's decision to reclaim his kingdom and to go out with only 12 companions. Probably Gandalf was not happy to see such a small number, but we are not talking of small people. A troupe of 13 powerful dwarves is to be feared, and dragons can be slain by single, powerful warriors. If the dwarves in The Hobbit seem a bit ridiculous it is because it was written for children, but the same dwarves in another of Tolkien's adult stories would have been a mighty force indeed.

Gandalf could not have foreseen that their quest was going to be such a string of disasters: captured several times, making enemies with the elves, getting Lake Town halfway destroyed and almost starting a war with the elves and men of the region. All these were the result of their decisions, and Gandalf worked hard to straighten them with advice, when he could spare time, of course.

It all finished well, thanks to Gandalf and Bilbo, mostly. But we should not blame Gandalf for the failures of Thorin and others.

As for Gandalf, he only insists once in something, that is, to bring along a hobbit. A very good hunch that saved the day, and ultimately the future. But that's another story...
 

Tar-Palantir

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I agree, Harad, that at first blush it would seem a little foolish to send 13 Dwarves and a Hobbit to get rid of Smaug. But let's look at Gandalf's options:

1) To do what he actually did. A guerilla task force of 13 Dwarves and 1 Hobbit. Sneak in and find some way to off the Dragon. I don't recall any particular strategy being discussed as to exactly how that was supposed to be accomplished.

2) Send an army. They would have had to send most in through the front gate - as a diversion? I would guess Smaug could back himself into a corner and incinerate Dwarves (or whomever) by the hundreds.

3) Send Glorfindel :D

I don't know......I doubt Gandalf foresaw Bard as the one who'd kill Smaug. Excluding option number 3, I'd guess number 1 had the best chance to succeed.
 
H

Harad

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Thanks all for your ideas.

I think there were 2 goals.

1) Burglary--that why Bilbo went along, and thats what the Dwarfs thought would be happening for the forseeable future. Never do we hear any indication that the Dwarfs planned to go mano a mano with Smaug. Quite the contrary--they are content for Bilbo to do all the "interface" work. Certainly in the long long term Thorin wanted revenge, but didnt have a clue apparently how to get it.

2. Gandalf says later that his main goal was to rid the North of Smaug. This, he kept from his unwitting advisees. Had he leveled with them: A) they may not have gone, but B) they might have taken more precautions to lessen the effects of their incursion.
 

Elanor2

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Hi Harad,

Just some additional comments with my ideas...

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2. Gandalf says later that his main goal was to rid the North of Smaug. This, he kept from his unwitting advisees. Had he leveled with them: A) they may not have gone, but B) they might have taken more precautions to lessen the effects of their incursion.
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I do not think that Gandalf did not told the dwarves what his objectives were. After all, the dwarves (keeping with their suspicious and slightly greedy nature) would have asked Gandalf why was he giving them the map and what did he expect to get out of the whole thing for himself. I can well imagine Gandalf telling them that if they, somehow, got rid of Smaug, he considered himself well paid.

For me, the dwarves objectives were also two:
1) Get their gold back. Hence the burglar. This objective does not necessarily imply getting rid of Smaug.
2) Get their kingdom back as well. This needs to get rid of Smaug, and fits with Gandalf's objective. Probably Gandalf preferred this second option.

However, (and strangely, I agree with you) Gandalf did not force them to take the second option. That this option was in their heads it is proven by the fact that they asked Gandalf to try to get a Warrior or a Hero to go with them. Gandalf gave them a Hobbit instead, which seems to contradict his own objective.

On the other hand, the whole concept of using burglary to get the dragon's hoard is ridiculous, as Bilbo himself mentions after he has seen the huge treasure. Did Gandalf, seeing that they were reluctant to fight Smaug, send them out with an irrealistic objective hopping to force them to fight, if cornered? If so, Gandalf shows ruthlessness indeed !

Of course, we can fall back to the well known argument that it makes a better (and funier) story this way :)

Regards. Elanor2
 

Legolam

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According to UT, Gandalf didn't intend for any burglaring at all, but brought Bilbo along because he was so much quieter than the Dwarves and could sneak in and perhaps do something to Smaug that the Dwarves couldn't. The dwarves misunderstood this point, and thought that he was being brought along as a thief. Gandalf argued with them, but they wouldn't understand, so eventually he stormed off in a huff and put the symbol of a thief on Bilbo's door in a fit of anger against the dwarves.

But as to Gandalf's plan for getting rid of Smaug, I don't have a clue! Just showing off my new found knowledge of UT!! :D
 
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Harad

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Orginally posted by Elanor2
(and strangely, I agree with you)
In all the slings and arrows, that is shirley the worst.

The crux is that Gandalf wanted Smaug taken out but sent Bilbo (not a warrior) to do it. How else would it happen, except that Bilbo would so annoy Smaug (without getting himself killed) that Smaug would dangeroulsy leave his hoard--something he had not done in living memory--making himself vulnerable to the other kind of slings and arrows. Of course, you cant make an omelet without breaking eggs, so there would be some casualties.

This is indeed "ruthless" or "realistic" or "practical" planning on the part of Gandalf. I am criticised in other threads for saying Aragorn should abandon M&P and help F&S after Parth Galen. But that decision would be no less "practical" than Gandalf's actions in this case.
 

Beleg Strongbow

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Yes it says in u.t that gandalf wanted to get rid of the dragon and thorin needed to get his own demain or some gold back. Now Gandalf thought and who better for stealing?? A hobbit! Small and quiet. Now he sent these on there way hoping that somehow something might happen to smaug.He was doing this because he thought if sauron wanted to march the witch king up to Angmar again only dain stood in his way. Now it is the iron mountains, erebor, lake men and dale. Gandalf had no idea how to get rid of smaug and just hoped that something lucky would happen to him
 
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Harad

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and just hoped that something lucky would happen to him
Lucky for Gandalf, unlucky for the poor sods at Esgaroth who got fried or drowned.

Its a costs/benefits analysis, of course. We just have to recognize that Gandalf made the decision in a secretive way, and was willing to accept the costs because of the possible benefits.
 

Elanor2

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Hi Harad,

Well, it is obvious that Smaug was not going to lie on his back and get itself killed nicely and quitely, but that he would put a fight. So casualties are to be expected if you want to get rid of a dragon.

But as I mentioned before, many of the disasters of the dwarves's quest were brought by the decisions that they took along the way. They could have negotiated with the elves, the lake men (some of them at least) and Dain's people. They could have checked the situation without alarming Smaug (hence the map, secret entrance and the Hobbit) and then devised a fighting strategy with their allies.

They did nothing of the sort, but greedily went ahead alone. That caused many casualties that might have been avoided. I do not know if Esgaroth would have been burned if Thorin had taken allies along the way. However, yes, casualties would have happened anyway. If Smaug would be alive by the time of the war of the Ring, Esgaroth would have been destroyed anyway, don't you think?

Regards. Elanor2.
 
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Harad

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Elanor2:

If Smaug would be alive by the time of the war of the Ring, Esgaroth would have been destroyed anyway, don't you think?
Possibly. In any case the situation in the North would have been much worse with the Dragon than without. Gandalf chose a "Wise" path to achieve the most good in the long run. He set into motion the Quest, and must have know a great deal about the characters of Thorin and crew. Their actions, even for ill, could not have been too surprising to Gandalf.

It all worked out rather well: Smaug killed, a force of Orcs destroyed in the Battle of the Five Armies, the annoying Thorin replaced with the more cosmopolitan Dain Ironfoot, and the OneRing recovered "safely." (Although the last was a revision to "TH" once "LOTR" was conceived.) Who are we to argue with success? Still I can't help feeling that Gandalf just started the snowball rolling down the mountain, "knowing" that the resulting avalanche would have positive results.
 

Grond

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There was no realpolitik at the time of the writing of the Hobbit. It was written as a children's fairy tale and no further tales were envisioned. I'm sure that Gandalf hoped that the Dwarves, with their deep convictions and a Hobbit, with a special nack that only Gandalf saw, would find some way of ridding the world of this nusiance. And they did!!

It was, after all, only to be a fairy-tale.
 
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Harad

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Youre right in a sense Grond, as it was originally written for children. However, I dont think I am wrong about the way Gandalf acted, and that is in keeping with the fact that "The Hobbit" is rather not-at-all-sugar-coated even as a "children's" story. A town (neither Sodom nor Gomorrah) is destroyed, one of the main characters (Thorin) is killed, and a large scale battle with accompanying casualties occurs. Even before "TH" was re-engineered to fit with "LOTR" is was more than your typical "children's" story.
 

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