Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / The Hobbit

Go To

See here for headscratchers related to the Peter Jackson film.

    open/close all folders 

     The Hobbit (the book) 
  • At the very beginning in what way did Bilbo "beg" Gandalf to send him on an adventure? Maybe I can't read between words properly but even Bilbo's ambiguously specific denial doesn't seem like a subtle "I want to go to an adventure" to me.
    • He didn't. Gandalf sent him on an adventure because he believed it would be good for Bilbo, and that Bilbo was actually more adventurous than he knew himself. In the end he is proven correct.
  • How is it that Gandalf emphatically warns Bilbo and the Dwarves not to mention skins or any other animal product around Beorn, yet later the book casually mentions that Beorn provided them with water skins? Were they made from Goblin skin?
    • Most likely, he made them after an animal had died a natural death. There's a difference between respecting nature and avoiding waste go hand in hand. He won't kill or hurt the animals, but he also isn't going to waste what they leave behind out of a sense of sentimentality. If anything, it shows the depth of Beorn's generosity, since he's giving these random people the water skins made from an animal he knew well and respected.
    • The really confusing thing is that he's called a skin-changer, implying that he uses a flayed bear-rug to shapeshift. How does he explain that one to his animal friends? Maybe the term is just poetic.
      • Tolkein meant it in the sense of "shapeshifter". Beorn shows up in bear form several times in the story.
      • In any case, Beorn almost certainly doesn't need an actual bearskin to shapeshift, since when Gandalf is infodumping he makes it plain he's unsure if Beorn is a man who can change into a bear or a bear who can change into a man (though he thinks the former is more likely). If Beorn needed a bearskin, that would be pretty solid proof that he's "really" a man.
    • Notably, during the Company's stay at his home, Beorn snuck off and killed a Warg, afterwards nailing its skin to a tree outside his house, so he wasn't averse to skinning his enemies. Perhaps the water-skins were made from Wargs he'd killed in the past?
    • Why would a bear shapeshifter be averse to killing animals, in the first place? Bears are predators.
    • Gandalf warned them against it because he knows Beorn is an animal-lover, he's stated the animals are as dear to Beorn as if they were his children, and didn't want to risk angering Beorn. That could prompt Beorn to either refuse them help or attack. When Beorn provides waterskins it's a sign that he's helping them. How Beorn got the leather for waterskins is not explained; either from an animal that died of natural causes or made from the skin of either the Goblin or the Warg.
  • Why is it that the Dwarves are so woefully underprepared for their journey? They know they're going on a dangerous quest and attempt to kill Smaug who has proven so far to be unbeatable. Yet until they find the Trolls cave they carry no weapons or any of such sort, their supplies run low often, they keep getting into predictaments, and if not for Bilbo and Gandalf I'd be surprised if they could make it out of The Shire without getting into trouble. Except for Glóin and another one (Óin I think) carrying lighter fluid and oil for torches, they don't really have anything. Did Thorin not realize that hey maybe going into Troll-infested forests and Goblin-infested mountains means you might need to protect yourselves with weapons and armor in case you ran into trouble?
    • They do carry supplies quite often on pack-ponies. It's just that the dangers of their journey means that they lose said supplies quite often (due to the animals taking fright and bolting into a river, being eaten by goblins, having to be left at Mirkwood's edge because they're on loan from Beorn). As for the weapons and armor, they might have been planning to obtain them later on and just took the opportunity to raid the trolls' lair when it came up. Armor is also quite heavy to travel in, and their general idea seems to have been to avoid trouble as much as possible—for instance, if they had known the pass in the Misty Mountains was now infested with goblins, they would have chosen a different path.
    • Smaug beat a Dwarven army with embedded defenses and a ring of power. Thorin didn't even bring a sword. A little bit of a gap there.
      • Of course, Thorin and Company may have figured that if Smaug can beat a Dwarven army with embedded defenses and a ring of power, then why bother to bring a lot of heavy armor and weapons that are just going to be useless against him anyway?
      • Pretty much the above, they most probably saw that the brute force of armies doesn't help, so they decided to try the sneaky way around it. Hence why they even need a burglar in the first place.
    • All that being said, what was Thorin's plan to retake the Mountain, anyway? What was he going to do, exactly, with a handful of Dwarves, a Hobbit, and a Wizard who can't be relied on to actually be there half the time? The Dwarves don't even have up-to-date information about whether the Dragon is even still there, let alone how they can take him down! We as readers know that the whole Quest for Erebor was orchestrated by Gandalf as part of his elaborate plan to eliminate Smaug, but Thorin doesn't know this. In fact, Thorin doesn't seem to know much about the situation, nor does he have the patience or humility to ask for help. He comes across less as a great King of Dwarves and more as a hotheaded, stubborn fool, leading a bunch of bigger fools blindly through the wilderness.
      • He didn't have one. It was a thievery mission. Getting Smaug killed was just... a lucky side-effect.
      • Even still, they must have known that facing the Dragon was going to be a possibility. What were they planning to do in that contingency? Grab as much as they can, run, and try not to get roasted?
      • You say that as if it's not the fallback plan of most ragtag adventuring parties.
    • The original plan was to nick the Arkenstone, then use that to unite the Dwarves and take back the mountain. Until they get there, they're not even sure Smaug's still around — nobody's seen him in decades. They were planning/hoping that Smaug had buggered off or died or something, and they could just nip in and grab the stone. It wasn't a great plan, but it's all they feasibly had to work with.
      • Only in the movies. In the book, the plan is simply to go and scout out the mountain, then think of some way to deal with Smaug, with Bilbo along to steal what treasure he could.
      They debated long on what was to be done, but they could think of no way of getting rid of Smaug - which had always been a weak point in their plans, as Bilbo felt inclined to point out.
  • Why is it called the "Battle of Five Armies"? There were armies of dwarves, elves, men, and eagles fighting goblins and wargs. Given that the wargs are every bit as sentient as the eagles, and apparently live free in the wilderness rather than being permanent mounts for the goblins, why don't they count as a separate (sixth) army of bad guys?
    • I was always under the impression that Five Armies in reference are indeed dwarves, elves, men, goblins, and wargs. The eagles must not count because they're more... air force? Beorn's kind of an army of one...
      • "Air force" wasn't really a thing when JRRT wrote the novel, though. Maybe he counted them as a subordinate Air Corps for one of the three main good-guy armies ... but if so, which one?
    • Eagles and Beorn don't count because they weren't a part of the massing armies that led to the battle. They came in at the last minute. And though they weren't insignificant, their numbers don't qualify them as an "army", anyway. A couple of dozen troops doesn't make for an army even under the most desperate circumstances.
    • I assume the Wargs are counted with the Goblins, as the two races were basically united in the same army.
      • This is not the case in the book. The Wargs are an army of their own. I quote:
    So began the battle that none had expected; and it was called the Battle of Five Armies, and it was very terrible. Upon one side were the Goblins and the Wild Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves.
  • I just wondered about when Gandalf tricked Beorn into having so many visitors by having them only come a few at a time until there were all in. Did Gandalf pull the same trick with Bilbo at the start of the book? Because the dwarfs came to his door bit by bit as well until the last few fell into the room with Gandalf, was this to stop Bilbo from turning them away at once as Beorn would have? Knowing Gandalf it could be true or it might be a coincidence.
    • Possibly. The other interpretation, used in the movie, was that Bilbo's house was the rally point to start the quest, and the dwarves arrived at different times because they were coming from different places. It could probably be either one.
      • or both, it could very easily have been both
  • Something I've wondered recently rereading the book. Why didn't Bilbo offer his share of the gold to the Man of Lake Town and the Elves? A fourteenth share is still very large and he only wound up taking only two small chests containing gold and silver back anyway. It’s his anyway to do as he pleases since he did his job as the burglar and I’m sure that would’ve been more than enough to restore Dale and appease the Elves considering how much Gold there was. Would’ve saved a lot of trouble if he had done that instead.
    • He technically did. He gave away the Arkenstone.
    • Indeed. Bilbo's plan was to steal the Arkenstone and force Thorin to buy it out from Bard with Bilbo's fourteenth share. And it would have worked if not for Thorin's plan to recover the Arkenstone by force with Dáin's help, and for... other complications.
    • Bilbo had a semi-justification for this. Thorin had told him he would choose his own share, and he rationalized that he had chosen the Arkenstone, and was therefore free to do with it what he wished. He admitted to himself, though, that this probably wasn't Thorin's intent and wouldn't fly.
    • Thorin had already made clear he wouldn't give the Lakemen and Elves a single penny under coercion. So even if Bilbo had followed the spirit of Thorin's offer and just chosen a big pile of gold and silver, which was theoretically "his to do with as he pleased," Thorin probably wouldn't have let him give it to them.
  • Also why did Bilbo confess to stealing and giving the Arkenstone to the people of Lake Town? If he'd just keep his mouth shut while the emissaries would come up with a lie that they pried the jewel out of Smaug's corpse (and it would come off as plausible since indeed many jewels got stuck between the dragon's scales) Bilbo could've saved himself much trouble. I get it that he's an honest chap but also pragmatic enough to lie when it proves useful to him.
    • Bilbo was dismayed at Thorin's reaction to seeing the gem in the hands of Bard. Here he had made a plan that he thought might succeed in getting Thorin to see reason, and Thorin's reaction was utter rage. He decided to try to explain himself to Thorin rather than lie.
  • Why in the world is there a race of being that turn to stone in daylight? What possible type of evolution/magic causes that? A being as large as a troll can't live on mushrooms in caves and it seems incredibly easy for trolls to get stuck out in open during the day given their bulk and low intelligence. How is possible that such a species has even survived that long without starving to death and/or all being turned to stone?
    • Mushrooms are not the only things to eat in caves, and they survive the same way any other nocturnal creature does—by going out at night.
      • Trolls are artificial beings derived with dark magic from Ents, anyway. No point bringing evolution into it.
      • Imperfect magic, to boot. One of the main themes of Tolkien's work is that evil cannot create. Any living creature that Sauron or Morgoth try to make is either a corrupted version or an imperfect copy of something already alive. Trolls are essentially cheap knockoffs of Ents; they naturally have a lot of flaws in their construction.
      • Or maybe it's an inversion of ents' normal physiology: they've got leaves, so they presumably get nourishment from sunlight, while gradually becoming more tree-like with age. Tolkien trolls, as diametric opposites of ents, are vanquished by sunlight and transform very quickly into stone rather than wood.
    • Trolls (and orcs, who are inconvenienced rather than killed by sunlight) predate the sun and moon.
    • Mythologically speaking, the sun is often representative of the eye of God, and so pure evil cannot bear its light. This is why it is so much more powerful in the earliest version of the story, even if it doesn't really fit with any reasoning given in the Silmarilion.
  • "What's in my pocket" is not a riddle. All riddles by their very nature can be solved using only common sense and logic. Bilbo has asked a question that only psychic or magical powers can answer, and that's not fair.
    • Gollum points this out. And Bilbo answers that Gollum didn't ask for a riddle that last round, he said, "Ask us a question." Fair or not, Gollum got what he demanded.
    • The narrator mentions this too, though mentions that those who dispute the matter in the end agree that Gollum's mistake was accepting the "riddle" instead of justifiably pressing the point, and thus sealing the agreement.
      • Exactly, it's said many who read and heard the story debated whether it was cheating of Bilbo to even ask that question, but since Gollum treated it as a genuine riddle by first guessing then demanding 3 guesses, the point of whether the question was valid is moot and for all intents and purposes of the game, it is to be considered a genuine riddle.
  • Probably not an answer for this one to be found, but how, exactly, did three swords (well, two swords and a dagger) forged in the greatest Elf-kingdom of the First Age wind up gathering dust in a Troll hoard on the other side of the world six thousand years later? I'll bet there's a great story there somewhere...
    • Being made of stone themselves, do trolls ever die? It's possible the same three trolls were at the sacking of Gondolin and took the weapons with them into Eriador before Beleriand was swallowed by the sea in the War of Wrath.
    • It's just his own supposition, but Elrond directly states that the trolls must have plundered a dragon's hoard to pick up these swords in the intervening time since Gondolin was destroyed.
  • Gandalf chief reason to get involved in the quest was his fear that the Necromancer/Sauron may have gained an ally in Smaug, which was a very wise move because odds are Sauron and Smaug knew each other personally from the first age, and it's even possible that at some point Smaug was under Sauron's orders. But, Smaug had been dwelling the Lone Mountain for almost two centuries, a fact that wasn't exactly a secret. It is canon that Sauron was in Dol Guldur for pretty much that entire period of time, so what gives? What was exactly stopping Sauron from knocking on his old pal's door and making him a job offer? Was Gandalf overtly cautious, and Sauron actually had no interest in such an ally?
    • Sauron was being cautious. He was disguising himself as the Necromancer and laying pretty low at the time. If Smaug had not been defeated, it was quite possible that Sauron would have enlisted him soon after he declared himself openly - nine years after The Hobbit.
  • Bilbo's presence in the dwarves' expedition is said to ensure good luck, as he's the 14th member, thus making them twice seven rather than unlucky thirteen. But the belief that 13 is an unlucky number is generally attributed to the story of Jesus and his twelve Apostles, one of which (Judas) was a traitor and suicide. Why would 13 be regarded as "unlucky" to people who supposedly lived thousands of years before Christianity?
    • That's one possible origin for considering 13 unlucky, but no one seems really clear on whether it's the only explanation. Pre-Christian mathematicians really liked 12, with its easily divisible nature (12 months and a 12-hour clock both pre-date Christianity), so 13 might have been seen as unlucky in ancient cultures simply because it was one more than the "perfect" number.
    • Also, given that Middle Earth is supposed to be the history of our world (and that Tolkien was a Christian and Eru is sort of the Christian God) it could be argued Judas's future actions could still be the reason for 13 being considered unlucky, even before they'd actually happened. Tolkien's friend C.S.Lewis used a similar argument to explain why pagan mythologies often seemed to come close to certain Christian ideas.
  • If the Trolls had so much food (bread, cheese, bacon, etc.) already stocked in their cave for Thorin and Company to replenish their own supplies with, why were they outside of the cave complaining about having nothing but mutton to eat? If the Trolls can't or don't want to eat the kinds of food (which was mostly untouched, as the dwarves noted) they already put into their own cave, why did they bother putting it in there at all?
    • Their complaint was that they only had mutton meat, since they preferred to eat human meat. Presumably, they eat the usual accompaniments along with their human meat (Bread, cheese, etc.) they're just upset that their main course is sub-par. Also, as we see with them eating the mutton, they will eat 'normal' food when they can't eat people, even though they grouse about it, so that stockpile could be the "I don't like it, but it's better than nothing" pile.
    Mutton yesterday, mutton today, and blimey, if it don't look like mutton again tomorrer," said one of the trolls. "Never a blinking bit of manflesh have we had for long enough," said a second.
  • Why are the dwarves safe when crossing the path for two weeks, but the instant they leave they are captured by spiders? What about the path that would make the spiders avoid it?
    • Magic (Literally). Mirkwood as a whole is under heavy magic, which is why it is so easy to get lost and turned around once off the path, and why the river that runs through it puts you to sleep. The path is explicitly kept clear of overgrowth by magic, and presumably part of that magic also keeps foul beasts off it as well. It is even considered that the remnants of Elvish magic are why the spiders abandon their pursuit right when Bilbo leads the Dwarves into one of their used fire circles. Also, getting slightly segued into predator psychology, while on the path the dwarves were a prepared force that could have put up a strong fight if attacked. Predator animals will often specifically avoid challenging prey that they think can fight back. Lost and confused off the path, and blinded by literal darkness, they're suddenly a lot more vulnerable. It could be the spiders were pacing them for the whole time, just waiting for them to appear vulnerable.
  • Why haven't the Elves killed off most, if not all, the Spiders in their forest? Sure their power is waning, but it hasn't waned enough that they can't gather an army to try to invade a mountain. You'd think they'd have gotten rid of this problem, or at least have the situation under control.
    • There isn't any sign that the spiders have attacked the elves, so from the elvish perspective the spider problem is under control, as long as strangers don't stir them up too much.
  • Are the dwarves being undeservedly harsh to poor Bombur when he wakes up in Mirkwood? The poor guy has forgotten everything since the Unexpected Party, and wakes to find himself stranded in Mirkwood, starving with no food. It's not really Bombur's fault he fell into the river.

     The Hobbit (animated) 

  • When the Men of Lake-town and the Wood Elves both demand a share of the treasure after the death of the dragon Smaug, Bilbo instantly agrees with Bard, the new king of Lake-town, and the Wood Elf King, that there is more than enough treasure to go around, and that all three factions should get a share. Now, Bilbo is clearly presented as being in the right, and as being the reasonable, sensible one, in contrast to the greedy and intransigent Dwarf king Thorin. Except that Bilbo is offering to give away treasure that does not belong to him; he could offer to pay the Men and Elves out of his own fourteenth of the treasure but does not even though he ends up keeping much less than a fourteenth anyway. Secondly, the Lake-towners have a reasonable claim, since they helped the dwarves and were, after all, the ones who killed Smaug in the first place, and Bilbo and the Dwarves brought Smaug's wrath down on Lake-town, leading to much suffering for its residents. But the Wood Elves actively hindered the Dwarves, imprisoning them without any provocation. Why should they get a share? In fact, how are the Wood Elves any different from the goblins in this story? The book version is somewhat different since there the Elves are acting in conjunction with the Humans, so the Elf claim can be argued to be a subsidiary to or an extension of the Human claim. In the animated movie, however, the Elves have simply shown up with their army and demanded a share of what is, after all, Thorin and the Dwarves' rightful property, and no one thinks to point out that this is nothing but plain banditry.
    • In the book, Bilbo does indeed try to use his own share for that purpose and has to manipulate things to try and get Thorin to let him.
    • In the book, it is also pointed out that a goodly amount of the gold was taken by Smaug from Dale so Bard and his people have a legitimate claim to a share of the treasure.
    • When they arrive, the Elves mention having suffered from attacks by Smaug, which they blame the Dwarves for since their hoard was what drew him to the region. They're basically suing for damages.
    • "My people have suffered greatly from the wyrm through the years—we demand retribution!"
      • The problem with the first two replies is that they begin "In the book." In the book, the story is a little different, as I pointed out in the original comment. As for the second two, the elves do indeed have a grievance with Smaug, but they cannot justly ask the dwarves to pay for damages caused by Smaug. That's like arguing that since I have a nice house that tempted a thief into robbing my house, and, in the process, the thief stole your car to make his getaway, therefore I owe you for the loss of your car.
      • If the thief robbed my house and stole your car to make his getaway, and I followed him and beat him up (or, more like, chased him to a third person, who beat him up for the same reason), recovering all of his stolen goods in the process, that doesn't entitle me to your car.

  • In the song where the party is captured by goblins, why the fuck do they all run right into the exact cave that the ponies just got dragged into? They clearly realized from the start that it was goblins at work. Seems like the only sensible thing to do would be to get the hell away from that cave, not run right into it, regardless of the ponies. Here's a link to the song if you've never seen it.
    • Weren't all their supplies on those ponies? They were a little too far up in the mountains to make it back without any food. Not to mention that Thorin the exile and his compatriots could only afford to fund one expedition. If they lose all their resources, then even if they avoid starvation on the trip back they've still failed in their quest.
      • On closer inspection, Thorin actually shouts something like protect the ponies, it's just really badly muffled by the music.
      • He says "The goblins are upon us! Save the ponies from the goblins!"
  • Why do Goblins have two throats? Does it have something to do with their singing ability?
    • They don't have two throats. They have one really large throat with a uvula that makes it look like they have two throats sometimes.

    Gandalf's epic Quest of Erebor-gambit 
  • If Gandalf is one of the wisest and most powerful people on Middle-earth, someone who's basically needed to keep things running as they should, why exactly does he spend so much time in The Hobbit just hanging around with a bunch of dwarves? Doesn't he have better things to do than find them a burglar and periodically rescue them from the trouble they get into? It's not so blatant in The Hobbit proper but once you start reading the other books you really start to wonder.
    • See above regarding the vital strategic necessity of making sure that Smaug is dead before Sauron can recruit him. Remember that by the chronology the events of the The Hobbit occur almost immediately after Gandalf has just finished confirming that 'The Necromancer of Dol Guldur' is in fact Sauron, and not some lesser evil.
      • Didn't a simple hobbit kill Smaug?
      • Nope. Smaug was killed by Bard, a guardsman from Esgaroth who just happened to descend from the King of Dale. All Bilbo did was flatter Smaug until he stupidly showed off the weak point he didn't know he had, information that reached Bard at the 11th hour.
      • And both the simple hobbit being in position to speak to Smaug and Smaug's follow-up attack on Esgaroth, where he died, were both a direct result of Gandalf helping manipulate Thorin's expedition into existence in the first place. Left to their own devices, Smaug would have spent the next several decades peacefully sleeping on his pile of gold, until the War of the Ring started and Sauron made him an offer.
    • In one of the Unfinished Tales, it's stated that Gandalf had two reasons for helping Thorin on this quest. First, he knew Smaug needed to be dealt with lest Sauron come up with a way to use him. Second, he wanted to re-establish a Dwarf kingdom at the Lonely Mountain. He was afraid that Sauron would use the same route that Bilbo and the Dwarves used in order to attack Rivendell, and that without the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the Men of Dale, there weren't enough "good" people in the North to stop him. Finally, it's also implied that on some level, Gandalf had retained enough of his divine knowledge to have an inkling that something else important was going to happen if Bilbo came on this quest.
    • Also, as to the "something more important to do", he did, in fact, several times after getting over the Misty Mountains he tells the Dwarves he has pressing matters elsewhere, is already running late, and has to go, till finally he does leave them before entering Mirkwood. The pressing business he was hurrying off to? Driving Sauron out of Dol Guldor with the rest of the White Council.
    • This is actually covered in the appendices to LotR, where Gandalf mentions how Thorin just happened to show up grumbling about the dragon in Bree while the wizard was thinking about how to deal with the Smaug problem. It wouldn't take a genius to go "Hey! I bet the dwarves who are holding an epic grudge can kill my dragon problem!" That way he would be free to deal with Sauron on his own.
    • Outside the story, Tolkien, from what I understand, wrote The Hobbit separately from the Lord of the Rings world, and only later put the two together.
      • Tolkien did indeed think of The Hobbit as being separate from the invented universe he'd been working on for years, and it shows up in his early drafts; for example, in the first edition of The Hobbit, Bilbo finds the ring and keeps it, and then meets Gollum and has a riddle-game with him because Gollum wants to eat him. Gollum loses and agrees to give Bilbo a present — namely, his magic ring, which Tolkien (at the time he was originally writing The Hobbit) just thought of as a way of making yourself invisible. Gollum goes off to get said ring and can't find it (because Bilbo has it) and is all apologetic, and actually shows Bilbo the way out — and that's the last we see of him. Years later, when Tolkien was trying to think up a sequel for The Hobbit, he had the idea of centring it on Bilbo's ring, and Retconned the ring to be an evil, powerful artifact crafted by Sauron. This meant that when his publishers brought out a second edition of The Hobbit, he completely rewrote the stuff with Gollum, making the ring into the Precious and lighting the spark that Gollum hated "Baggins" and wanted revenge. Like all of Tolkien's books, the tale (in the words of Word of God) "grew in the telling".
      • Tolkien also put an in-universe explanation in The Lord of the Rings for the differences between the first edition of The Hobbit and the revised version. The first version is the story Bilbo put in his memoirs when he was at least partially under the influence of the Ring and was trying to strengthen his claim to it. The second version is the more accurate version, probably written by Frodo.
  • Another reason, expressed in Unfinished Tales, is because Thorin insisted on it. Given how cynical and contemptuous he was of Bilbo, he agreed to take him only on the condition that Gandalf came along to look after his 'darling' until Bilbo had proved his worth. Gandalf's own route was also largely the same as the dwarves- he had to go east too, and then likely over the mountains himself (going via the Gap of Rohan would have been far too far), so Gandalf agreed.
  • Okay, so Gandalf engineered the quest to kill off Smaug so that Sauron couldn't recruit him later. What made Gandalf think that the dwarves plus Bilbo would be able to do away with Smaug? The dwarves had been no match for Smaug when he had first attacked, even though they were stronger and more numerous then, and Smaug was weaker. Okay, yes, it all worked out in the end, through a process Gandalf really could not have foreseen, but wouldn't Gandalf have thought at the beginning that he was sending these people to their deaths?
    • It seems likely that Gandalf originally had a plan in place, but it required him to be in the neighborhood - he may have had some dragon-slaying weapon or secret all lined up, but when he abruptly had to go deal with the Dol Guldur situation, he simply had to hope that things would not come to a head until he had a chance to get back.
    • Gandalf is a big believer in doing what feels right rather than what makes intellectual sense. It pays off for him wonderfully every time he does it.
  • Rather than steal the Arkenstone, give it to Thorin's supposed "enemies", and pissing the shit out of Thorin (AND THE 500 Dwarven warriors from the Iron Hills sent as reinforcements,), why didn't Bilbo simply offer his fourteenth share for the sake of peace to begin with? In the end, he only wound up with two small chests of gold&silver anyway, he knew from the start there was no way he could have lugged his entire share home. He even said, after the Arkenstone was shown to Thorin, that Thorin could use Bilbo's fourteenth share to pay for the exchange. Why not offer his share to begin with? Y'know, rather than make everyone more hostile by stealing a valuable heirloom and giving it to their enemies. I know it all worked out fine in the end, but still.
    • Because it wasn't about value, it was about leverage. Giving the Arkenstone to the men and elves meant that they had something that Thorin would really want—something he would be willing to bargain for and negotiate for. Bilbo's share of the gold? Thorin wouldn't have cared one wit about it. It was about getting Thorin to cooperate, not the men and elves.
      • I believe the above troper's point was that had Bilbo simply given away his share, there would have been no need for Thorin to cooperate. As you point out yourself, Thorin wouldn't have cared about Bilbo's share, and he could have done with it as he pleased. As is pointed out on the non-headscratcher pages, the text makes clear Bilbo basically intended to steal the Arkenstone for himself, which is why he had it anyway... giving it away to the opposing forces was more an attack of conscience than anything else. More accurately, the Arkenstone is a near-literal Conflict Ball that various people are handing around for no other reason than to get the Battle of Five Armies moving.
      • Bilbo may at that point have been suffering from the doubts planted by Smaug, over whether or not Thorin actually intended to pay him at all, once his job of getting to the treasure was done. From Thorin's later behavior this is understandable. Also, Thorin had come out and stated that he refused to pay anything while there were armed men and especially the hated Elves at his gates; this probably included anything Bilbo offered to pay. He would likely have been refused permission to turn over even his own share, as it would have been seen as Thorin capitulating.
      • there is also the One Ring in Bilbo's possession as well. The thing is semi-sentient and essentially exists to cause evil. It might have motivated Bilbo into stealing the Arkenstone and handing it over to Thorin's "enemies". The ring was able to inspire unwarranted homicidal rage in a hobbit (Gollum) of all creatures for crying out loud.
      • Bilbo calls the Arkenstone his share when he presents it to Bard and Thranduil. He is effectively giving up his claim in the hopes of resolving the conflict. In any case, it seems unlikely that Thorin would have gone along with Bilbo saying "give me my share and I'll go give it to the armies outside, and then we can avert this war." Thorin does agree to give one-fourteenth share for the Arkenstone but he never intended to fulfill that bargain. He has the dwarves shoot at the messengers sent to see if the one-fourteenth share had been made ready.
  • So when Elrond is reading the map, Gandalf tells Bilbo that Durin's Day is "the start of the Dwarves' new year when the last Moon of Autumn and the first Sun of Winter appear in the sky together." ...Did everybody else just forget that part, or what?
    • well, can you blame them? The movie skips over this detail quite a bit but Thorin and Company were on the road to Erebor for a good six months or so, roughly (May to November I would hazard to guess sine Gandalf said last moon of autumn. So maybe even eight). That's a long time to remember the map's specific instructions, especially considering all the stressful life-threatening events that follow.
    • The dwarves also make it clear that they don't know exactly when Durin's day will occur anymore, so they don't know exactly what date the door will be visible.
  • Why do the dwarves require Elrond to read the map of the Lonely Mountain in the first place? We know that Ori is literate and are told that the map was only about 120 years old. Languages do not decay that quickly, if it was written in some form of old dwarvish the word roots would allow a reader to get the gist of the message, for example compare Geoffrey Chaucer to modern English. In addition how did Elrond know there were 'Moon Runes' on the map and when they could be read? If you are leaving an encoded message you are unlikely to say 'oh don't forget to read the important secret message in the bottom left.'
    • In the book the map can be read perfectly fine. And neither Elrond nor anyone else knew that there were moon-letters on the map; it was a lucky coincidence that he got to read the map on the date and under the conditions on which the letters would be visible.
    • Indeed, in the scene where Elrond read the moon letters, both Gandalf and Thorin are said to be a bit grumpy that the elf just happened to find out by dumb luck and thus got the credit for being clever.
  • Is there some particular reason they couldn't have just opened the door and waited for Gandalf, THE WIZARD, to show up so they had some vague hope of facing a dragon? They just had to OPEN the door on Durin's Day, there's no reason they couldn't have camped out right there until Gandalf came back?
    • They didn't know when Gandalf was coming back. Also, do you really think Thorin Oakenshield is just going to sit there twiddling his thumbs with his peoples' ancestral wealth and the ancestral enemy that took it from them within his reach? Because I don't.

    Smaug and dragons 
  • Why are dragons so poorly adapted physically? Specifically, why are they armored on their backs, but not on their bellies? How does it make sense to give a flying creature an armored back but not an armored underside? Who or what is going to attack a dragon from above?
    • This is pretty easy, actually. The first dragons weren't flyers - they were basically huge snakes with legs, and their bodies were so low to the ground that the odds of someone attacking their bellies was miniscule (Túrin in The Silmarillion had to attack the dragon Glaurung while he was crossing a gorge in order to even have a shot at attacking him from below). Winged dragons were a later "model", and nobody ever called Morgoth the most practical or thorough of engineers- he probably just figured out how to slap wings on the basic creatures he already had and declared it "good enough".
    • Perhaps this is why dragons like Smaug have a huge love of gold and other precious metals. An insurance of having armor for the soft-underbelly.
    • Also, you have to consider that evolution isn't just a species getting better over time for no reason; it requires environmental pressure. The dragons never evolved projection for their bellies after developing flight because at that point, nothing was killing them frequently enough to affect their reproduction, and Arda is so relatively young that no dragon had the right set of mutations to pass on a set of hard-bellied traits.
    • Winged dragons aren't due to evolution. They were due to genetic engineering by Morgoth. The answer is simple: winged dragons were first unveiled at the final battle of the first age as Morgoth's last defense against the armies of Valinor. They were literally prototypes that he never got to perfect.
    • It should be noted that evolution in general simply doesn't happen in Middle-Earth. It runs on a mixture of creationism and lamarcianism. Evil creatures in particular don't evolve, much. They find themselves a comfortable niche and get increasingly stuck in it, unless driven by an external force. This is visible in any corrupt creature from Gollum to the Balrog of Moria, and even Sauron and Morgoth, himself.
      • Um, creationism (general definition, not the long-rejected 'stasis' variation) does not mean 'no evolution'. It simply means the universe was created via divine action, allowing for speciation but not having one creature evolving into another kind of creature (Ex. certain dinosaurs to birds). Just thought I'd clear that up.
      • Not forgetting that birds, of course, still are dinosaurs in every important way and phylogeny will tell you so. There are no kinds of creatures. They are all categorically related.
      • This is a world where the creators of most of the species are known and you can go say hi if you know where to sail, and if you need to talk to the Big G God of the setting they can get a hold of him. It is very much old-school creationism. Arda hasn't even existed long enough for evolution to be significant, it's less than 100,000 years old at most. At the end of the Third age it's exactly 7,422 years since they built the sun and moon, and they can be that precise because several characters (Galadriel and Cirdan, possibly Celeborn depending on which backstory you use, for example) are still around from before then.
  • Do dragons go extinct at some point in the overall universe? I remember that they were described as no longer being as great when Elrond is discussing the ring in Fellowship, but I'm not sure.
    • Dragons are still around during LOTR, most likely. Gandalf only says that there is almost certainly no dragon alive powerful enough to harm the One Ring (and speculates that likely no dragon ever, not even Ancalagon, who was considered the most powerful, could have done it). This is a mistake people commonly make, actually. I do believe it's established that after Smaug's death there was never another dragon of his epic stature, however.
    • Canonically, Smaug descended on the Lonely Mountain from an area to the north called the Withered Heath, where dragons are supposedly common. As stated, though, Smaug was known to be the largest and oldest of those dragons. Maybe Sauron bred the fell beasts the Ringwraiths later ride from the lesser dragons?

    The Necromancer 
  • Why did the Necromancer, who was of course really Sauron, imprison and torture Thráin, Thorin's father? What was he hoping to achieve? He took Thráin's ring of power, the last of the dwarven rings, but then never did anything with it. And he hardly had to imprison Thráin for any great length of time or torture him just to get his ring. Why not try to subvert Thráin? Why not offer to help him defeat Smaug and get his treasure and his kingdom back in exchange for his ring and his fealty?
    • Revenge, for the rings not being able to corrupt the dwarves.
      • If that's true, then Sauron was an idiot. What does that actually achieve? And he misses a huge opportunity.
      • Opportunity for what? Dwarves aren't short humans with beards; they're stated as having been made in the beginning to withstand the domination of others (which, of course, is why the rings did little more than make them greedy). Even in the pits of Dol Guldur, Thráin would in all likelihood tell Sauron to go fuck himself before agreeing to serve him. Look at Fellowship; Sauron promises Dáin the three taken dwarf-rings and the Mines of Moria in exchange for one measly hobbit; Dáin sends Glóin and Gimli to Rivendell to warn Bilbo and takes up his axe.
      • Just because one dwarf, who was already the ruler of a wealthy kingdom, resisted temptation, does not mean that any and all dwarves will resist temptation. Thráin was, after all, in much more desperate circumstances. And even if Thráin refused to be bribed, what did holding him and torturing him accomplish, once Sauron had his ring? It just seems pointless.
      • When did Sauron become the paragon of Pragmatic Villainy?
      • To elaborate, Sauron hates anyone and anything he can't control. Though we know very little about what actually went down between him and Thráin, one would assume that if he made such an offer and Thráin threw it in his face (and remember that though the dwarves as a whole tend to stay out of wars with whoever the current Dark Lord is, Durin's Folk have traditionally opposed Sauron, so their king- even a king in exile- certainly wouldn't bow down to an ancestral enemy for any reason) Sauron would easily be angry enough to have him tortured.
    • Another reason could be to extract information from Thráin (whether or not Thráin would actually tell Sauron anything is, as others have noted, up for debate). As King of a prominent (if at that point at their lowest) dwarven house, Thráin might have been in the possession of a lot of knowledge that Sauron would find useful for his purposes.
      • Like maybe the key and the map that would let Thrain's son sneak back into Erebor the back way. Gandalf did say specifically that Thrain was a witless prisoner of the Necromancer at the time, and could not remember anything but the map and key - which he probably fixated on as the one thing he had to keep from Sauron.
    • It's in character for Sauron to play with his food. Beren and friends aren't killed outright: he locks them in the dungeons with a hungry werewolf pack. Frodo expects to survive a considerable time once Sauron has taken the Ring off him. Why would Sauron want to kill a helpless victim, especially one who had had a ring of power taken off him?
    • Also it is mentioned in the books that Sauron especially hates Dwarves for being so hard to submit to evil. Hence his treatment of their King.
    • Sauron, as we know, had a real interest in soul work. Forcing souls to stay in their dead bodies. Building a Soul Jar. Things like that. Due to the special nature of the Naugrim, his usual methods don't work. Thrain may have been an experimental subject in a side project (how to break Dwarves.)
    • In Unfinished Tales, Gandalf actually addresses this question head-on and speculates that it was in fact apathy or "idiocy" on Sauron's part as another poster mentioned above: "I think that the Dark Power had desired nothing from him except the Ring only, and when he had taken that he troubled no further, but just flung the broken prisoner into the pits to rave until he died. A small oversight; but it proved fatal. Small oversights often do." Keep in mind that Thráin somehow managed to conceal the map and key from Sauron, suggesting that Sauron couldn't even be bothered to have him searched properly.