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Old 12-19-2017, 07:30 AM
GonzoTheGreat GonzoTheGreat is offline
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Default What was Gandalf thinking?

At the moment, there's a wave of Hobbit movies on the television (often the same one two or three times in a week), which got me thinking about what Gandalf was thinking when he thought up the scheme to send the dwarves with a hobbit against Smaug.

He can't have expected those few dwarves to do what the entire population of a kingdom couldn't. So Thorin was not to face Smaug in combat.
He can't have expected Bilbo to kill such a dragon, so option was out too.
He can't have expected what actually happened; there's no reason such a fluke could be counted on.

Which brings up the question: what was his actual plan meant to do, and why did he think that would work?

Edited to add:
In my opinion, Tolkien just ignored this detail in order to be able to tell a good story. If so, he succeeded, but it does leave a bit of a loose end (or start, as the case may be).
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Old 12-19-2017, 09:26 AM
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I think it most likely that Thorin had been talking his ear off for DECADES about his family and glory and treasure and help please please please. so at some point he just snapped: "fine, great quest, let's go. One condition though, you need to bring my buddy along too. He's a bit of a whiny blob but I promise, he'll be super useful"
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:25 PM
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Going off very dim memories of when I last read The Hobbit some 20 odd years ago, wasn't the plan just to steal the big gem so Thorin could establish himself as King and unite the dwarves exiled from the kingdom Smaug was occupying?
That's what they needed the 'thief' Bilbo to come along, to do the actual taking of the gem.
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Old 12-21-2017, 04:52 AM
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That may have been Thorin's plan, but I doubt it was what Gandalf was hoping for.

After yks made clear that I should maybe provide a bit more detail to support my question, I went looking for that support. I started, naturally, in The Hobbit, where I found absolutely nothing useful for this. Maybe there is something somewhere, but not in the parts that I reread. Then I looked in the appendices to the LotR. Naturally, I checked the history part, which gives lots of details on things that happened before, during and after the events in the main books. This too turned up blank. Thus I was stumped, which explains why Oatman got post #3 here; I didn't know what to say. But then I got the bright idea of looking in Appendix A (Annals of the Kings and Rulers). That did actually recount the meeting between Gandalf and Thorin that I had been thinking of.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LotR, Appendix A, Durin's Folk
Among many cares he was troubled in mind by the perilous state of the North; because he knew
then already that Sauron was plotting war, and intended, as soon as he felt strong enough, to
attack Rivendell. But to resist any attempt from the East to regain the lands of Angmar and the
northern passes in the mountains there were now only the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. And beyond
them lay the desolation of the Dragon. The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect. How then
could the end of Smaug be achieved?
It was even as Gandalf sat and pondered this that Thorin stood before him, and said: 'Master
Gandalf, I know you only by sight, but now I should be glad to speak with you. For you have often
come into my thoughts of late, as if I were bidden to seek you. Indeed I should have done so, if I
had known where to find you.'
...
The story is told elsewhere of what came of that meeting: of the strange plan that Gandalf
made for the help of Thorin, and how Thorin and his companions set out from the Shire on the quest
of the Lonely Mountain that came to great ends unforeseen.
This says that Thorin and Gandalf had not actually spoken before they met in Bree, and it also says that what actually happened had not been foreseen (and hence not planned to happen that way) by Gandalf.

So, now that I am properly supported by facts, it should be clear that Gandalf's plan is not really all that obvious.
Gandalf hoped to get rid of Smaug, but I have no idea at all how that was supposed to work. Merely stealing some trinkets and then having the dragon go after the dwarves wouldn't be particularly useful, I think.
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Old 12-21-2017, 09:55 AM
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Have you considered that Gandalf didn't have a plan, just met Thorin and thought to himself "eh maybe i'll direct him over there and see what happens"
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Old 12-21-2017, 10:33 AM
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Possible, but it seems unlikely that Gandalf just send Durin's heir to get fried by a big dragon, hoping the spectacle would somehow be interesting.
And Gandalf had intended to rejoin them sooner, but the Necromancer business took more time than he'd expected. So, more likely than not, he'd planned to be part of the "deal with the dragon" crew.
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Old 12-27-2017, 05:29 PM
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Gonzo, I found your question quite interesting. Nothing I've found really provides a good answer, and most people seem to just wave their hands and gloss over this apparent hole in the plot.

However, I did find the quote below from a discussion on the Sufficient Velocity Forums: What was Gandalf's plan in the Hobbit?

(Please pardon the few typos--they are not mine. However, I have added emphasis where it seemed appropriate.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murazor
There is something about this in Unfinished Tales, where Gandalf talks with Frodo during their time in Minas Tirith about wtf he was thinking at the time. I'll take a look and see if there is anything directly relevant.

"I was very troubled at that time," he said, "for Saruman was hindering all my plans. I knew that Sauron had arisen again and would soon declare himself, and I knew that he was preparing for a great war. How would he begin? Would he try first to re-occupy Mordor, or would he first attack the chief strongholds of his enemies? I thought then, and I am sure now, that to attack Lórien and Rivendell, as soon as he was strong enough was his original plan. It would have been a much better plan for him, and much worse for us.
"You may think that Rivendell was out of his reach, but I did not think so. The state of things in the North was very bad. The Kingdom under the Mountain and the strong Men of Dale were no more. To resist any force that Sauron might send to regain the northern passes in the mountains and the old lands of Angmar there were only the Dwarves of the Iron Hills, and behind them lay a desolation and a Dragon. The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect. Often I said to myself: "I must find some means of dealing with Smaug. But a direct stroke against Dol Guldur is needed still more. We must disturb Sauron's plans. I must make the Council see that.'
"Those were my dark thoughts as I jogged along the road. I was tired, and I was going to the Shire for a short rest, after being away from it for more than twenty years. I thought that if I put them out of my mind for a while I might perhaps find some way of dealing with these troubles. And so I did indeed, though I was not allowed to put them out of my mind.
"For just as I was nearing Bree I was overtaken by Thorin Oakenshield, who lived then in exile beyond the north-western borders of the Shire. To my surprise he spoke to me; and it was at that moment that the tide began to turn.
"He was troubled too, so troubled that he actually asked for my advice. So I went with him to his halls in the Blue Mountains, and I listened to his long tale. I soon understood that his heart was hot with brooding on his wrongs, and the loss of the treasure of his forefathers, and burdened too with the duty of revenge upon Smaug that he bad inherited. Dwarves take such duties very seriously.
"I promised to help him if I could. I was as eager as he was to see the end of Smaug, but Thorin was all for plans of battle and war, as if he were really King Thorin the Second, and I could see no hope in that. So I left him and went off to the Shire, and picked up the threads of news. It was a strange business. I did no more than follow the lead of 'chance,' and made many mistakes on the way.
Somehow I had been attracted by Bilbo long before, as a child, and a young hobbit: he had not quite come of age when I had last seen him. He had stayed in my mind ever since, with his eagerness and his bright eyes, and his love of tales, and his questions about the wide world outside the Shire. As soon as I entered the Shire I heard news of him. He was getting talked about, it seemed. Both his parents had died early for Shire-folk, at about eighty; and he had never married. He was already growing a bit queer, they said, and went off for days by himself. He could be seen talking to strangers, even Dwarves.
"Even Dwarves!' Suddenly in my mind these three things came together: the great Dragon with his lust, and his keen hearing and scent; the sturdy heavy-booted Dwarves with their old burning grudge; and the quick, soft-footed Hobbit, sick at heart (I guessed) for a sight of the wide world. I laughed at myself; but I went off at once to have a look at Bilbo, to see what twenty years bad done to him, and whether he was as promising as gossip seemed to make out. But be was not at home. They shook their heads in Hobbiton when I asked after him. 'Off again,' said one Hobbit. It was Holman, the gardener, I believe. 'Off again. He'll go right off one of these days, if he isn't careful. Why, I asked him where he was going, and when he would be back, and I don't know he says; and then he looks at me queerly. It depends if I meet any, Holman, he says. It's the Elves New Year tomorrow! A pity, and him so kind a body. You wouldn't find a better from the Downs to the River.'
"Better and better!' I thought. 'I think I shall risk it.' Time was getting short. I had to be with the White Council in August at the latest, or Saruman would have his way and nothing would be done. And quite apart from greater matters, that might prove fatal to the quest: the power in Dol Guldur would not leave any attempt on Erebor unhindered, unless he had something else to deal with.
"So I rode off back to Thorin in haste, to tackle the difficult task of persuading him to put aside his lofty designs and go secretly - and take Bilbo with him. Without seeing Bilbo first. It was a mistake, and nearly proved disastrous. For Bilbo had changed, of course. At least, he was getting rather greedy and fat, and his old desires had dwindled down to a sort of private dream. Nothing could have been more dismaying than to find it actually in danger of coming true! He was altogether bewildered, and made a complete fool of himself. Thorin would have left in a rage, but for another strange chance, which I will mention in a moment.
"But you know how things went, at any rate as Bilbo saw them. The story would sound rather different, if I had written it. For one thing he did not realize at all how fatuous the Dwarves thought him, nor how angry they were with me. Thorin was much more indignant and contemptuous than he perceived He was indeed contemptuous from the beginning, and thought then that I had planned the whole affair simply so as to make a mock of him. It was only the map and the key that saved the situation.
"But I had not thought of them for years. It was not until I got to the Shire and had time to reflect on Thorin's tale that I suddenly remembered the strange chance that had put them in my hands; and it began now to look less like chance. I remembered a dangerous journey of mine, ninety-one years before, when I had entered Dol Guldur in disguise, and had found there an unhappy Dwarf dying in the pits. I had no idea who he was. He had a map that had belonged to Durin's folk in Moria and a key that seemed to go with it, though he was too far gone to explain it. And he said that he had possessed a great Ring.
"Nearly all his ravings were of that. The last of the Seven he said over and over again. But all these things he might have come by in many ways. He might have been a messenger caught as he fled, or even a thief trapped by a greater thief. But he gave the map and the key to me. 'For my son,' he said; and then he died, and soon after I escaped myself. I stowed the things away, and by some warning of my heart I kept them always with me, safe, but soon almost forgotten. I had other business in Dol Guldur more important and perilous than all the treasure of Erebor.
"Now I remembered it all again, and it seemed clear that I had heard the last words of Thráin the Second, though he did not name himself or his son; and Thorin, of course, did not know what had become of his father, nor did he even mention the last of the Seven Rings.' I had the plan and the key of the secret entrance to Erebor, by which Thrór and Thráin escaped, according to Thorin's tale. And I had kept them, though without any design of my own, until the moment when they would prove most useful.
"Fortunately, I did not make any mistake in my use of them. I kept them up my sleeve, as you say in the Shire, until things looked quite hopeless. As soon as Thorin saw them he really made up his mind to follow my plan, as far as a secret expedition went at any rate. Whatever he thought of Bilbo he would have set out himself. The existence of a secret door, only discoverable by Dwarves, made it seem at least possible to find out something of the Dragon's doings, perhaps even to recover some gold, or some heirloom to ease his heart's longings.
"But that was not enough for me. I knew in my heart that Bilbo must go with him, or the whole quest would be a failure - or, as I should say now, the far more important events by the way would not come to pass. So I had still to persuade Thorin to take him. There were many difficulties on the road afterwards, but for me this was the most difficult part of the whole affair. Though I argued with him far into the night after Bilbo had retired, it was not finally settled until early the next morning. "Thorin was contemptuous and suspicious. 'He is soft,' he snorted. 'Soft as the mud of his Shire, and silly. His mother died too soon. You are playing some crooked game of your own, Master Gandalf. I am sure that you have other purposes than helping me.
"'You are quite right,' I said. 'If I had no other purposes, I should not be helping you at all. Great as your affairs may seem to you, they are only a small strand in the great web. I am concerned with many strands. But that should make my advice more weighty, not less.' I spoke at last with great heat. 'Listen to me, Thorin Oakenshield !' I said. 'If this hobbit goes with you, you will succeed. If not, you will fail. A foresight is on me, aid I am warning you.'
'"I know your fame,' Thorin answered. 'I hope it is merited. But this foolish business of your Hobbit makes me wonder whether it is foresight that is on you, and you are not crazed rather than foreseeing. So many cares may have disordered your wits.'
'"They have certainly been enough to do so,' I said. 'And among them I find most exasperating a proud Dwarf who seeks advice from me (without claim on me that I know of), and then rewards me with insolence. Go your own ways, Thorin Oakenshield, if you will. But if you flout my advice, you will walk to disaster. And you will get neither counsel nor aid from me again until the Shadow falls on you. And curb your pride and your greed, or you will fall at the end of whatever path you take, though your hands be full of gold.'
"He blenched a little at that; but his eyes smouldered. 'Do tot threaten me!' he said. 'I will use my own judgement in this matter, as in all that concerns me.'
'"Do so then!' I said. 'I can say no more-unless it is this: I do not give my love or trust lightly, Thorin; but I am fond of this Hobbit, and wish him well. Treat him well, and you shall have my friendship to the end of your days.'
"I said that without hope of persuading him; but I could have said nothing better. Dwarves understand devotion to friends and gratitude to those who help them. 'Very well,' Thorin said at last after a silence. 'He shall set out with my company, if he dares (which I doubt). But if you insist on burdening me with him, you must come too and look after your darling.'
"'Good!' I answered. 'I will come, and stay with you as long as I can: at least until you have discovered his worth.' It proved well in the end, but at the time I was troubled, for I had the urgent matter of the White Council on my hands.
"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."
"But surely," I said, "he might have fallen in battle anyway ? There would have been an attack of Orcs, however generous Thorin had been with his treasure."
"That is true," said Gandalf. "Poor Thorin! He was a great Dwarf of a great House, whatever his faults; and though he fell at the end of the journey, it was largely due to him that the Kingdom under the Mountain was restored, as I desired. But Dáin Ironfoot was a worthy successor. And now we hear that he fell fighting before Erebor again, even while we fought here. I should call it a heavy loss, if it was not a wonder rather that in his great age he could still wield his axe as mightily as they say he did, standing over the body of King Brand before the Gate of Erebor until the darkness fell.
"It might all have gone very differently indeed. 'The main attack was diverted southwards, it is true; and yet even so with his farstretched right hand Sauron could have done terrible harm in the North, while he defended Gondor, if King Brand and King Dáin had not stood in his path. When you think of the great Battle of Pelennor, do not forget the Battle of Dale. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador! There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now only hope to return from the victory here to ruin and ash. But that has been averted - because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring not far from Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth."
From what I can tell, Gandalf didn't have a plan. He like the idea of Thorin getting rid of Smaug, but didn't know how to do it. He did intuit two important things, though.

First, he knew that Thorin couldn't just go in axe blazing and hope to win. He need subterfuge and reconnaissance, which would be facilitated by the map and key.

Second, he needed a hobbit, and his gut told him Bilbo was the hobbit he needed.

I guess Gandalf is just one of those guys you trust, even when he really has no idea what to do.
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Old 12-28-2017, 05:28 AM
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That makes ... well, not sense, but something. It makes something.

Gandalf didn't have a plan, he had hope. He based his actions on foretelling, and was noticeably better at that than Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan ever managed.
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Old 01-08-2018, 02:59 PM
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I had two conflicting theories. One was that on some level, Gandalf was hoping Thorin & Co might manage to somehow assassinate Smaug, as the dragon had been "sleeping" for so long that it was possible Bilbo or Thorin or something might get in close enough to put a dagger in its eyes or something. The other was that waking Smaug up, with all the destructive potential that implies, might help with his overall case that the White Council should be more proactive in combating the various evil powers in the world.

That being said, I thought one of the few points where the movies outdid the books was in the overall plan to beat Smaug. It's far more plausible that several hundred or thousand dwarves might kill Smaug, and that also gives impetus to having a burglar along, since as Bilbo says, he could never have stolen even the tiniest portion of the treasure of Thror. Also, ties into the whole "reclaiming home" aspect of the quest in the movies; IIRC, in the books all they want is to go get some gold back.
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Old 01-09-2018, 01:50 AM
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I googled some, and according to The Internet, Tolkien didn't really have a solid plan; or rather, his reasoning kept changing.

The fandom has inferred from the Silmarillion that Gandalf was terrified that Smaug might at some point be controlled by Sauron, and that's why Smaug needed to be killed off. Although if that was so important, then why did Gandalf leave the Happy 13 to themselves, I really don't know.

Personally, I still like the trolling Thorin idea.
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Old 01-09-2018, 09:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yks 6nnetu hing View Post
I googled some, and according to The Internet, Tolkien didn't really have a solid plan; or rather, his reasoning kept changing.

The fandom has inferred from the Silmarillion that Gandalf was terrified that Smaug might at some point be controlled by Sauron, and that's why Smaug needed to be killed off. Although if that was so important, then why did Gandalf leave the Happy 13 to themselves, I really don't know.

Personally, I still like the trolling Thorin idea.
The trolling idea is amusing, but do we really need to look beyond two rather obvious elements?

The Hobbit is a children’s novel. Bilbo, as a hobbit, is a diminutive, child-like character, selected so that the children that read it could easily place themselves within the role of the protagonist. But there is also an allegorical element. Bilbo also tends to mirror Tolkien’s own experiences. He too was a lad from the countryside drafted to fight in a war far from home. A war in which he had no personal stake. So Gandalf in a way is like the state, the outside force which drafts him into combat, but leaves most of the fighting and dying to the common men. As such, Bilbo thus served as a useful analogue not just for the child audience, but an analogue that mirrored the experiences of men drafted into wars.

Bilbo was chosen because he represented the types of boys that were drafted to fight in the Great War. Did David Lloyd George have a plan when he sent all those boys off to fight in France? That was the generals’ problem. Gandalf just provided Thorin with another soldier. Figuring out how to achieve the mission was Thorin’s (i.e. Kitchener’s) problem, not Gandalf’s (i.e. Lloyd George).
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Old 01-09-2018, 03:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimon View Post

The Hobbit is a children’s novel. Bilbo, as a hobbit, is a diminutive, child-like character, selected so that the children that read it could easily place themselves within the role of the protagonist. But there is also an allegorical element. Bilbo also tends to mirror Tolkien’s own experiences. He too was a lad from the countryside drafted to fight in a war far from home. A war in which he had no personal stake. So Gandalf in a way is like the state, the outside force which drafts him into combat, but leaves most of the fighting and dying to the common men. As such, Bilbo thus served as a useful analogue not just for the child audience, but an analogue that mirrored the experiences of men drafted into wars.

Bilbo was chosen because he represented the types of boys that were drafted to fight in the Great War. Did David Lloyd George have a plan when he sent all those boys off to fight in France? That was the generals’ problem. Gandalf just provided Thorin with another soldier. Figuring out how to achieve the mission was Thorin’s (i.e. Kitchener’s) problem, not Gandalf’s (i.e. Lloyd George).
That's the thematic/Doylist explanation. I think the expectation is that Tolkien also has a Watsonian explanation for the actions of his characters; after all, many of the thematic influences on Tolkien are also present in the Lord of the Rings, but care is still taken to present logical reasons for why the action and decisions of the characters unfold the way they do
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