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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
I haven't been following the movie board...


Nov 6 2012, 12:20pm

Views: 804
I haven't been following the movie board... [In reply to] Can't Post

... but I can see that there's some room for creative license here.

In Reply To
Who were the Five Armies? Sounds like a silly question - after all, it's there in the text, isn't it; 'Golblins and Wild Wolves. . . Elves and Men and Dwarves. But then, what about the bats, the eagles, Beorn - and if the goblins were riding the wolves, doesn't that make them the same army? I've seen so many theories in the Hobbit movie threads about who the five might be that it seemed worth asking...

My straightforward answer would be what you quote from the text, so two armies on the enemy side, and three on "our" side. I don't believe the goblins are riding on the Wild Wolves (aka Wargs), but on ordinary wolves. Still, the Wild Wolves, according to Gandalf, are in the "train" of the goblins, which to me sounds like a secondary role rather than a description of an independent army. So I think there's room to wonder about exactly which "five armies" are really meant. It's a bit like the Two Towers in that respect, isn't it? Even if Tolkien seems to have provided a specific answer (Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul in that case, I think, according to the cover he designed for the volume), there are so many other interesting possibilities.

I think imagining four armies (that would include the Eagles) in the forces of good, against one monolithic enemy army would be a nice reflection of other battles of the legendarium, where the good peoples are able to overcome their differences and form an alliance, while the enemy are driven by the will of a monomaniac. Yet that's not really what happens in The Hobbit. The good peoples aren't so much an alliance as a squabbling group forced by circumstances to fight together. And the goblins aren't driven by a single will - the Necromancer is out of the picture, and they are fighting for themselves. I guess that's why they are glad to hear of the death of Smaug - he was just another competitor for the "dominion of the North", not an ally. Only if driven by the overarching will of the Necromancer would the goblins and Smaug have been on the same side.

(Did the disappearance of the Necromancer have any bearing on the goblins' decision to try to win the "dominion of the North" for themselves? We are told that they wanted revenge over the dwarves for the Great Goblin's death, but dominion over the North seems rather more ambitious than just revenge on the dwarves. It can't be the death of Smaug that motivates them, because they only learn of that after they have mobilised, so is it the power vacuum caused by the disappearance of the Necromancer?)

So The Battle of Five Armies is rather different from other great battles in the Legendarium. No alliance of free peoples, and no single-minded enemy army either. There really are multiple armies here, each fighting principally for themselves.

Gandalf is the one who sees the threat coming and pulls everyone together at the last moment. 'How much Gandalf knew cannot be said, but it is plain that he had not expected this sudden assault.' How much do you think Gandalf did know?

I think that very phrase tells you that Gandalf knew a lot more than we are ever told. Whether Tolkien had worked out any of what later appears in Unfinished Tales when he wrote The Hobbit I don't know - but I bet he had worked out something along these lines for his own satisfaction, even though he didn't intend to include more than hints of it in his children's story.

Bilbo. He hates the battle (but enjoys dining out on the story in later years). We're told he put on the ring. What do you think of that? What does it say about him?

I think it says that he's not really a part of the great world of legend and myth that he's stumbled into. In this last part of the book, the great Legendarium has broken through the children's tale and there's really no place for Bilbo in it any more, except as a spectator. Bilbo sees the gulf between legendary tales and everyday reality: "I have heard songs of many battles, and I have always understood that defeat may be glorious. It seems very uncomfortable, not to say distressing." This is, as movie-Gandalf might say, "no place for a hobbit". But the relationship between "great tales" and everyday heroism is one that Tolkien will go on to develop more fully in LotR. (And of course Bilbo himself manages to turn his uncomfortable and distressing experiences into an enjoyable tale to "dine out on" as you say, once it's all safely over!)

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings

Subject User Time
* * The Clouds Burst * * 3: The Battle of Five Armies dormouse Send a private message to dormouse Nov 3 2012, 9:56am
    My thoughts. GothmogTheBalrog Send a private message to GothmogTheBalrog Nov 4 2012, 2:17am
    Answers sador Send a private message to sador Nov 4 2012, 12:41pm
    I haven't been following the movie board... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 6 2012, 12:20pm


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