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* * The Clouds Burst * * 3: The Battle of Five Armies

dormouse
Half-elven


Nov 3 2012, 9:56am

Post #1 of 4 (929 views)
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* * The Clouds Burst * * 3: The Battle of Five Armies Can't Post

Reading from So began a battle... to They had only stemmed the first onslaught of the black tide.

Dain's army was poised to attack when the oncoming darkness that signalled the arrival of the goblins changed everything. Allies now, dwarves, elves and men cobble together the best plan they can make in limited time and take up their positions for the fight. It goes well at first, but soon sheer weight of numbers begins to tell against them.

A few thoughts/questions

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...

The goblins. This is a brief glimpse of goblins/orcs (if they're the same - are they?) as a society in their own right acting on their own initiative - not driven by the will of Morgoth, Sauron or wraith. They want 'dominion of the North' (for themselves, presumably) and the news of Smaug's death doesn't fill them with dismay ('Hey - he's on our side"), far from it - 'joy was in their hearts'. So - any thoughts on goblins?

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? What was he expecting - before the bats appeared or earlier, when he showed Thorin he had the Arkenstone? After writing 'Lord of the Rings' Tolkien picked up the elements that are present in 'The Hobbit' to develop the backstory that appears in 'Unfinished Tales' - unconnected passages which explain that Gandalf knew the Necromancer was Sauron and believed he was preparing a strike against Rivendell and Lorien which had to be pre-empted - hence the attack on Dol Guldur. He also feared that in time Sauron would be able to use Smaug - hence his involvement in Thorin's quest. So, any thoughts on Gandalf's role. How successful was he? If you think he wasn't, is that a strength or a weakness in Tolkien's storytelling?

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?



GothmogTheBalrog
Rivendell


Nov 4 2012, 2:17am

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My thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post

Who were the five armies? Goblins, Wargs (which are sentient wolves. As Gandalf says "They ride upon wolves, and Wargs are in their train!), Dwarves, men and Elves.

Any thoughts on Goblins? I always thought that Goblin and Orc were two names for the same thing. In Tolkiens note or whatever at the beginning of TH, he says that Orc is usually TRANSLATED Goblin. Or Hobgoblin for the larger kinds.

How much do you think Gandalf knew? He knew that the Goblins were coming. That's enough.

What does putting on the Ring say about Bilbo? It shows that he's smart. He doesn't know how to fight. He's intelligent enough to realize that and get the heck out of there.

Thank you for your cooperation in putting up with me.

"It was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and go before it." ~FotR


sador
Half-elven


Nov 4 2012, 12:41pm

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Answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Who were the Five Armies?
According to the narrator, because of the five armies you've mentioned. I won't quibble with him on matters of fact.

This is a brief glimpse of goblins/orcs (if they're the same - are they?)

It seems so. In The Hobbit, it seems that this name is specific to the larger types, a base Tolkien later covered by introducing the Uruks.
But it seems that "goblin" is the generic name in The Hobbit, and "orc" in Tolkien's other work.

as a society in their own right acting on their own initiative - not driven by the will of Morgoth, Sauron or wraith.
Yes, the description in The Field of Cormallen is both too good to be true (for the latter story) and contradicts much of what we know of orcs.

They want 'dominion of the North' (for themselves, presumably)
For whom else? But it could be that once the Necromancer will raise his ugly head, they will submit.

and the news of Smaug's death doesn't fill them with dismay ('Hey - he's on our side"), far from it - 'joy was in their hearts'.
It seems that goblins also like money.
From the view of their future progress taken in Over Hill and Under Hill - with good reason.

So - any thoughts on goblins?
They're always hungry.


(I wonder if Alassea's little goblin is always hungry, too?)

How much do you think Gandalf did know?
He even knew the expedition's leader.

But I wonder - if not from Gandalf, who else might have been the source if the narrator? The eagles? Beorn?

What was he expecting - before the bats appeared or earlier, when he showed Thorin he had the Arkenstone?
Well, if you want to picture Gandalf the strategy mastermind, he might have been quite happy at having three anti-goblin armies converging on the Mountain in time to stem the tide.
However, he expected them to come a few days later. But luckily, Bilbo's little scheme with the Arkenstone brought Dain to the Mountain post-haste - just in time, too!

How successful was he?
Hey, I don't quarrel with success!

If you think he wasn't, is that a strength or a weakness in Tolkien's storytelling?
The whole backstory is pretty absurd. If you want to take care of two enemies, you don't send a small expedition against one of them, with a leader you don't half trust, and another utterly improbable agent, which you have a hunch might turn out good.
And his fear that Sauron would strike against Rivendell, Lorien and the Shire first is ridiculous - that won't happen unless Sauron finds out that Isildur's heir lives in Rivendell, that his to-be wife is in Lorien ("There might be no Queen in Gondor" - huh?), and that the One Ring will find it way to the Shire.
I get it that Gandalf was alarmed by the chance that something might happen to his friends, while caring for Gondor and Rohan hardly more than for the Haradrim and Easterlings - but why would Sauron do that?

Bilbo. He hates the battle (but enjoys dining out on the story in later years).
Yeah. The worst warriors are the best talkers.

We're told he put on the ring. What do you think of that?
It has become almost an instinct by now. That's worrying.

What does it say about him?
On the other hand, he knows he would be no good in a battle. That's encouraging.


"With all the various Dwarves of different Mansions that we see being excellent Smiths in the Silmariilion and TLOR, why is it only Dain's faction of the Longbeard's who hold the secret to making the metal mesh?"
- Tolkien Forever



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for The Clouds Burst!

(This post was edited by sador on Nov 4 2012, 12:42pm)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Nov 6 2012, 12:20pm

Post #4 of 4 (655 views)
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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.


Quote
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.


Quote
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


 
 

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