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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
"Why is Gandalf so eager for Bilbo to risk his life?"

Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Dec 18 2012, 11:02pm

Post #1 of 14 (876 views)
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"Why is Gandalf so eager for Bilbo to risk his life?" Can't Post

 I was just reading an article on CNN that asks this question. (http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/18/showbiz/movies/the-hobbit-unexpected-journey-questions-answers/index.html?c=showbiz) The answer they gave seemed to test on the idea that Gandalf thought it was important to have a hobbit smell that would fool Smaug the dragon. I feel like there is more to this than that simple explanation. Off the top of my head, I think Gandalf thinks it will benefit Bilbo to leave the Shire, to broaden horizons, fulfill his potential for adventure and give him purpose from being part of a greater struggle. I think it has to do with his Tookish background and is an analogy for Providence and perhaps simply a literary device. What are your thoughts?


Eärwen of Mithlond
The Shire


Dec 19 2012, 5:26am

Post #2 of 14 (349 views)
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Yes, you are right. [In reply to] Can't Post

If you look at Bilbo's response to meeting Gandalf at the beginning of "An Unexpected Party" (The Hobbit), you'll notice that Gandalf already had a (possibly long) reputation as someone who is responsible for getting hobbits to leave the Shire.
"Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures? Anything from climbing trees to visiting elves -- or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores! Bless me, life used to be quite inter -- I mean, you used to upset things badly in these parts once upon a time."

Occupation: Ship-building
Hobbies: Swimming, long walks on the shore


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 19 2012, 12:52pm

Post #3 of 14 (390 views)
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I don't think it was as specific as hobbit smell [In reply to] Can't Post

In addition to the reasons you both gave, I think Gandalf wanted a non-Dwarf along to give the group some soul. I don't think he foresaw the Battle of Five Armies (especially the version of Gandalf in this book), but he did foresee Dwarvish greed and stubbornness, even among honorable folk like Thorin's. He knew a hobbit would help balance those passions, once the Took came out in the hobbit.

Gandalf tells the Dwarves that if they don't take Bilbo, they're stuck at the unlucky number of 13, but I don't buy that as a real reason. If 14 was so important, I'm sure they could have dug up another one, or left someone at home to get 12.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Dec 27 2012, 12:33pm

Post #4 of 14 (238 views)
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A"foresight"... [In reply to] Can't Post

In the film, Gandalf says he doesn't know why Bilbo is important. That frustrated a friend of mine, but to me it seemed appropriate that Gandalf might at least sometimes operate on instinct. It might be part of the sometimes-glimpsed "higher powers at work" theme. So Gandalf says to Frodo, about Bilbo finding the Ring:


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"Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought."


So maybe it feels right to Gandalf because he is part of bringing about that "meant".

We get a little more of Gandalfs reasoning in "The Quest of Erebor"; Gandalfs description of Bilbos meeting with he dwarves(published as part of Unfinished Tales). Struggling to persuade Thorin to include the ridiculous Mr Baggins in the party, Gandalf finally says:

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" ' 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, and I am warning you.' "



CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 1:26am

Post #5 of 14 (220 views)
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Bilbo brought luck to the Erebor quest at times; maybe Gandalf saw that in him.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Dec 31 2012, 9:23pm

Post #6 of 14 (183 views)
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"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit..." [In reply to] Can't Post

I think CuriousG's thoughts about Bilbo balancing out the moral short-comings of the dwarves and Wizardme's quote from LotR are both pretty solid reasons for including Bilbo, but they seem like after-thoughts to me. I guess it is because I read that Tolkein started with the random thought, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit..." I am no author, but I imagine that Tolkien had this fantastic mental image of a middle aged bachelor-type gentleman hobbit, somewhat like a caricature of himself or his friends, and he imagines, "then what?" Why, of course, he will go on an old-fashioned adventure! The thing is, Tolkien had already had his fill of "adventure," but it seems that his furry-footed protagonist is going to express some tension in the soul of the author -- an excessively comfortable sheltered life is not good for the soul, nor is a life of adventure. Should a man live at peace in an evil world, he must turn a blind eye to the needs of his neighbors and grow overly fond of his own comfort. Should a man live a life of adventure, he could become, um, harder for me to say but I'll go with dangerously proud, hard and selfish? (Seems like greed and selfishness are problems no matter one's state.) Anyway, I suppose Bilbo needed to go mostly as a plot device -- much as The Doctor needs a companion, or Katniss needs to be a tribute. Anyway, I suppose the larger question is, why do people who live in peace and prosperity in the modern age need to read about Hobbit's having adventures? I suppose Tolkein would agree with Chesterton who wrote, "“Fairytales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Along those lines, Gandalf chose Bilbo to show us that the measure of a man cannot be judged by size or experience, but by heart.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Dec 31 2012, 9:31pm

Post #7 of 14 (184 views)
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Hobbits as anachronisms [In reply to] Can't Post

I also think we need the hobbits like Sherlock Holmes needs Dr Watson: to fill in the gap between the reader's experience and the very different world into which the writer tips us. (Or Doctor Who's assistants - good illustration )
Of course, thAt is the "authorly" reason- it needs to be worked out in a way that is logical within the of


Aragalen the Green
Gondor


Dec 31 2012, 11:27pm

Post #8 of 14 (187 views)
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Perhaps to introduce the Shire-folk to future dangers? [In reply to] Can't Post

If events with Sauron are unfolding as Gandalf (and others) fear, it may be prudent to introduce the inhabitants of the Shire to the dangers that could await them? They have been protected for years, and watched over by the Dunedain, and have prospered and know very little of the outside world. They do seem to know about Mordor and the Dark Lord, but as part of events that are in the distant past (as well as the King--that is why they have a Thain, to be in charge until the King returns).

Gandalf's recruiting Hobbits for adventures may be a milder way of trying to educate them to the potential hazards of the Wide World (although I admit "mild" might not be the correct word, if some Hobbits never return). Bilbo's adventure certainly opens his mind to a greater world view, and he even comes to realize that his adventures are part of larger stories and events. He learns from the Elves, Beorn, the Dwarves, even the goblins and orcs and Smaug. Although the majority of the Shire inhabitants think he is a little "cracked", at least they are aware through his adventures that there is more to Middle-earth than the Shire.

Even the Dunedain and Gandalf would not be able to protect the Shire if Sauron regained the Ring, and it would give the folks at least a fighting chance if they understood what was at stake.

Another point I thought of, is Gandalf's own nature. From what I understand (in the Silmarillion), while in Valinor he was a Maiar of Manwe, and learned much of mercy from Nienna, of whom he was a disciple: "and those who hearken to her [Nienna] learn pity, and endurance in hope". The Hobbits seem in a way to personify these qualities, and perhaps Gandalf realizes these qualities are necessary to resist Sauron and the potential Loss of Light and Hope.

Then there are influences greater than Gandalf's. "I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought."(to Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring, Shadow of the Past).

I imagine others have answers to your question that may be the same or similar to mine (or very much better!); I have not extensively researched all the writings out there. And I am not the best at articulating my ideas; even though I have read Tolkien's works many times over the past 40 years. Thank you for this opportunity though!

" Well well!", said a voice. "Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn't it delicious!"
"Most astonishing wonderful!"


Aragalen the Green
Gondor


Dec 31 2012, 11:43pm

Post #9 of 14 (168 views)
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My apologies. [In reply to] Can't Post

In my post below, I was so wrapped up in trying to figure out my points, that I overlooked your comments here about "higher powers at work".

" Well well!", said a voice. "Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn't it delicious!"
"Most astonishing wonderful!"


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jan 1 2013, 1:36am

Post #10 of 14 (187 views)
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The Shire study abroad program [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
If events with Sauron are unfolding as Gandalf (and others) fear, it may be prudent to introduce the inhabitants of the Shire to the dangers that could await them? … Gandalf's recruiting Hobbits for adventures may be a milder way of trying to educate them to the potential hazards of the Wide World (although I admit "mild" might not be the correct word, if some Hobbits never return).

This seems likely to me – sort of an exchange-student program for the Shire, only more dangerous.



In Reply To
Another point I thought of, is Gandalf's own nature. From what I understand (in the Silmarillion), while in Valinor he was a Maiar of Manwe, and learned much of mercy from Nienna, of whom he was a disciple: "and those who hearken to her [Nienna] learn pity, and endurance in hope". The Hobbits seem in a way to personify these qualities, and perhaps Gandalf realizes these qualities are necessary to resist Sauron and the potential Loss of Light and Hope.

I have only read the Silmarillion once so I forget about these details. Lovely point.


In Reply To
Then there are influences greater than Gandalf's. "I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought."(to Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring, Shadow of the Past).

I do like the idea of Gandalf being an instrument himself who does not always know the great plan.

Thanks for your insights!


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jan 1 2013, 2:13am

Post #11 of 14 (275 views)
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"we can't live long in the heights" [In reply to] Can't Post

Just came across this bit from RotK that sums it up nicely:

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"Dear me, we Tooks and Brandybucks, we can't live long in the heights."
"No‟ said Merry, 'I can't, not yet at any rate. But at least that then, we can now see them and honor them. It is best to love first what you're fitted to love. I suppose you must start somewhere and have some roots and the soil of the Shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher and not a Gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them. Whether he knows about them or not. I am glad I know about them a little.'"



noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jan 1 2013, 9:48am

Post #12 of 14 (178 views)
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"The memory of the high and the perilous" [In reply to] Can't Post

In "The Quest of Erebor" (which appears in Unfinished Tales)
Gandalf makes exactly that kind of "exchange program" point about the Hobbits: he says he'd been impressed by their pity for each other during the Long Winter. But now they were getting soft - bourgeois perhaps. They are forgetting, or dismissing as trivial stories "The memory of the high and the perilous" Gandalf suspects war may be coming and wonders how to reconnect the Hobbits with the wider world. Bilbo, when we meet him at he start of the Hobbit, might be particularly irritating to Gandslf in this regard: he was once all for tales of Adventure, now he's got all fussy.

Is there a hint, I wonder that the modern, real world needs more of the "The memory of the high and the perilous"?


Rostron2
Gondor


Jan 8 2013, 11:01pm

Post #13 of 14 (134 views)
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I always thought of it this way, too [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf has always made the Shire and its folk his special charge. He has help from the Dunedain to guard the borders as we've seen, and he admires the Hobbits and it's true they have many admirable qualities. They do need a little shaking up, and Bilbo is a good candidate. He has more both the sensible and the adventurous qualities; he has wealth enough that he doesn't have to work -- so he can go off into the blue; he's a bachelor, so he isn't risking a family by doing so, etc.


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jan 9 2013, 12:03am

Post #14 of 14 (340 views)
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The Freedom of the Bachelor [In reply to] Can't Post


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he's a bachelor, so he isn't risking a family by doing so, etc.

A good point!

 
 

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