Acorn

In the Halls of Erebor

Galadriel has banished Sauron and his nine servants to the East, leaving her to convalesce in Lothlórien. Saruman, promising to deal with Sauron alone, we can assume made his way into the East where he began his negotiations with the rising force of evil in order to help it spread as well as provide him with the possibility of ruling alongside it. 

Warning Erebor

Gandalf: “I need that horse.”

Radagast: “What? Gandalf, where are you going?”

Gandalf: “To warn Erebor. They have no idea what is coming. I saw them with my own eyes, rank upon rank of Moria Orcs. You must summon our friends bird and beast. The battle for the Mountain is about to begin.” 

After the banishment of Sauron, Radagast who has taken upon himself to bring Gandalf away from the eyes of the battle because of the drain on his life, they reach the more peaceful side of Mirkwood from where Gandalf can take to Erebor. Now that he has witnessed the evil that will attempt to overtake Middle-Earth and its armies who are on their way to Erebor themselves, he cannot stay behind when the company he sent on a quest is in danger. 

Moreover, Gandalf needs Radagast’s help to gather an army of their own and prepare themselves for the battle that is about to begin before the doors of Erebor. The summoning of “bird and beast” is a reference to the Eagles and to Beorn, who is an army in his own right. 

Radagast’s staff

Radagast: “Wait! Take this. If what you say is true, then you’ll need it more than I.” 

Gandalf: “Thank you.” 

Radagast: “A word of warning, eh? It can be a bit dicky sometimes. You just have to twiddle with the top. I expect you’ll manage.” 

Having had his staff disintegrated by Sauron, Gandalf is in dire need of another one. He would have gone without one, had Radagast not offered his own. Now, this staff is the same one we see in the Fellowship of the Ring. The difference in appearance between then and now is due to the fact that as Radagast hands it over it is still intact.

However, when Gandalf enters the battle and fights alongside Men and Elves, the top parts of the staff will break away leaving it looking iconic for the Fellowship of the Ring. 

I think it is very sweet for Radagast to give Gandalf instruction on how to use the stone in the staff properly. One of the wise and powerful Wizards describing the attitude of the stone in his staff as “dicky” is hilarious, but it suits the character of Radagast perfectly.

Doubt and mistrust

Thorin: “It is here in these halls. I know it.” 

Dwalin: “We have searched and searched.” 

Thorin: “Not well enough.” 

Dwalin: “Thorin, we all would see the stone returned.” 

Thorin: “And yet, it is still not found!”

The sheer doubt that Thorin expresses for the members of his company is astounding. He blatantly describes them as incompetent at searching for a stone in the piles of treasure. It can be seen that his only preoccupation in life after he had entered Erebor is retrieval of the Arkenstone, nothing else interests him. In his royal garb and his crown he stands before his subjects as a tyrant rather than an equal member of the company.

Now, that he has reclaimed his homeland, he has taken upon himself to act kingly, in a manner of speaking at least. 

Given the state of his deteriorating mind, his idea of kingship is to belittle his subjects, doubt their efforts, and express his anger and madness loudly, so as not to be mistakenly interpreted. Though Dwalin tries to ease the tension by reminding Thorin that the finding of the Jewel is as much their mission as it is his, implying they are on his side, no matter how he treats them, Thorin still spews his negativity toward him without any hesitation or regret. 

The birthright of the king

Balin: “Do you doubt the loyalty of anyone here? The Arkenstone is the birthright of our people.” 

Thorin: “It is the King’s Jewel. Am I not the King? Know this: if anyone should find it and withhold it from me I will be avenged.” 

Balin asks Thorin a bold question, to which Thorin reacts with more doubt than shame, as Balin probably wished he would. To doubt his own people is to betray the company as it once existed. Now those days are long gone. He has become a figure separate from the collective, an isolated, maniacal figure, with whom no one can come to terms. 

The Arkenstone as the birthright of the Dwarves as Balin presents it is interpreted as almost an offence to Thorin, for he sees it as his own possession rather than one communally shared. To this assumption he reacts with rage toward Balin asking the question of him not being the king to which no one before him reacts.

The absence of an affirmation or any kind of comment leads me to believe that they do not find him to be their king, at least not in the way they would want him to be.

Silence is golden

However, it is more prudent to keep silent than to state their opinion given the unstable mental and emotional state of their “leader”. For all they know, his rage could drive him to physically assault them, since he is not above inducing emotional and psychological pain. 

He threatens the Dwarves with revenge if the Arkenstone is withheld. Bilbo, standing right next to Thorin, is still at war with himself, not knowing if he should expose himself as the keeper of the Jewel or not. I would wager, he would have given the Jewel to Thorin if he were still the Hobbit they met in the Shire.

However, now that he has spent time with the Dwarves, become a friend of Thorin’s he does not know what the concept of the right thing to do has become blurry. 

Revealing the Arkenstone

Balin: “Dragon-sickness. I’ve seen it before. That look. The terrible need. It is a fierce and jealous love, Bilbo. It sent his grandfather mad.” 

Bilbo: “Balin, if Thorin had the Arkenstone or if it was found would it help?” 

Balin: “That stone crowns all. It is the summit of this great wealth bestowing power upon he who bears it. Would it stay his madness? No, laddie. I fear it would make him worse. Perhaps it is best it remains lost.” 

Without directly addressing the subject of Bilbo’s possession of the Arkenstone, Balin answers Bilbo’s gnawing question that he himself could not have answered. Balin is aware and seemingly afraid of the fact that the Jewel has been found. However, without it being given to Thorin just yet, he has the power to change the mind of the one who bears it. With a little upward movement of the eyebrows Balin solves the question of right and wrong. 

Had it only been for the loyalty Bilbo feels toward Thorin and his company he would have given him the Jewel that first moment after he had taken it from Smaug. However, even then the signs of Thorin’s madness were visible to Bilbo, although he could not quite understand it. Now, that Balin has explained what the finding of the Arkenstone would do, there is no doubt in Bilbo’s mind. The Arkenstone needs to be kept hidden from Thorin in order to save him from himself. 

Even though Thorin himself cannot see the change in himself, Bilbo takes it upon himself to not make the change even more drastic than it has to be and ultimately bring misery to the entire company. 

The acorn

Thorin: “What is that? In your hand.”

Bilbo: “It’s nothing.” 

Thorin: “Show me.” 

Bilbo: “I picked it up in Beorn’s garden.” 

Thorin: “You’ve carried it all this way.” 

Bilbo: “I’m gonna plant it in my garden. In Bag End.” 

Thorin: “It’s a poor prize to take back to the Shire.” 

Bilbo: “One day, it’ll grow. And every time I look at it, I’ll remember. Remember everything that happened the good, the bad, and how lucky I am that I made it home. Thorin, I…”

In a maniacal way Thorin storms toward Bilbo interpreting his behavior as hiding the Arkenstone. He demands to see what this Hobbit is hiding from him only to find it be something rather insignificant. As soon as he sees the acorn in Bilbo’s hand and finds out that Bilbo had carried it from Beorn’s garden, Thorin’s toxic attitude suddenly changes. His paranoia is stopped in its tracks with this simple and yet very meaningful action of Bilbo’s. 

A brief moment of sanity

In this one instance the madness thaws in Thorin and he becomes the Thorin that Bilbo’s has befriended during their journey. For a brief moment in time the real Thorin with sympathy and love for the Hobbit shines through. His eyes show kindness and wonder at this little creature from the Shire who values the simple comforts of home and love towards all things that grow.

Seeing Thorin snap out of his sick state of mind, Bilbo scrounges up the courage to tell him about the finding of the Arkenstone. Bilbo, it is my understanding, seeing Thorin be himself again, though it would bereave him of the guilt he has been feeling for hiding the Jewel from his friend. It might also be that Bilbo was hoping that it would in some ways help Thorin rather than hinder him, now that he has shown his true self again. 

Transformation

Dwalin: “Thorin. Survivors from Lake-town, they’re streaming into Dale. There’s hundreds of them.” 

Thorin: “Call everyone to the gate. To the gate! Now!”

As Dwalin informs Thorin about the newcomers to Dale, the smile his face had shown slowly turns into an expression of anger. It is a beautifully acted transformation from sanity into madness, and one Bilbo’s witnesses first, giving him ample reason not to continue with the sentence that he has begun.

Had Dwalin not interrupted the conversation they were having, Bilbo would have probably found a way to present him with the Arkenstone. However, now, seeing him switch to madness so quickly he abandons his reasoning and keeps the information for himself. 

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Featured image by Katie Az on Unsplash

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