What Thorin accurately predicted is coming true. Now that Balin and Thorin have revealed the purpose of their quest, intentionally or accidentally, Lord Elrond is free to share his opinion on the subject, and he won’t be the only one.
Like child and parent
Gandalf: “Of course I was going to tell you. I was waiting for this very chance. And really, I think you can trust that I know what I am doing.”
Gandalf is justifying himself to Lord Elrond. There is obvious inferiority on Gandalf’s side of the relationship, which only leaves Lord Elrond as dominant. It seems as if the reason behind Gandalf’s secretive plan with the Dwarves is the same as that of a child trying to hide something from their parents. Now, having been caught in a lie Gandalf not only justifies himself but also apologizes in a way to Lord Elrond for keeping a secret in the first place.
Gandalf is desperately trying to convince Lord Elrond of his own ability to decide what is right and what is wrong and how best to benefit the peoples of Middle-Earth.
A dangerous move
Elrond: “Do you? That dragon has slept for 60 years. What will happen if your plan should fail if you wake that beast?”
Gandalf: “What if we succeed? If the Dwarves take back the mountain our defenses in the east will be strengthened.”
Elrond: “It is a dangerous move, Gandalf.”
Gandalf: “It is also dangerous to do nothing. Oh, come the throne of Erebor is Thorin’s birthright. What is it you fear?”
Lord Elrond is very sceptical of Gandalf’s company’s success. What he can only see as the result of this quest is trouble and eventual death. A positive outcome is what Gandalf is hopeful of, as opposed to Frodo’s fool’s hope of destroying the Ring in Mordor. In the Lord of Rings, the quest of the Fellowship was deemed impossible to succeed, whereas this quest might come to a desirable positive outcome.
Not only would the success of this quest bring a long-missing home to the Dwarves but it would also help the guardians of Middle-Earth.
Elrond: “Have you forgotten? A strain of madness runs deep in that family. His grandfather lost his mind. His father succumbed to the same sickness. Can you swear Thorin Oakenshield will not also fall? Gandalf these decisions do not rest with us alone. It is not up to you or me to redraw the map of Middle-Earth.”
Gandalf: “With or without our help, these Dwarves will march on the mountain. They’re determined to reclaim their homeland. I do not believe Thorin Oakenshield feels that he is answerable to anyone. Nor, for that matter, am I.”
It is not about the dragon, or the danger or the quest itself. It is about the mental health of the Durin family. We have seen in the prologue of the film how Thrór succumbed to the so-called dragon sickness. Thrain was not seen suffering from the same condition but we cannot be sure.
Does it follow, however, that this sickness runs in the family? From what we know of this particular mental illness it draws on a specific kind of madness. The possession of treasure and gold coins should, as the icelandic mythology tells, transform its guard into a fire-breathing lizard. Does it mean that any other inhabitant of Middle-Earth would succumb to the same fate as Thrór if they had a treasure horde?
Lord Elrond is right to fear this outcome given what ensued when Thrór ruled Under the Mountain. He also wants to make it plainly obvious to Gandalf that he is not right to influence the fate of Middle-Earth. It should not be forced but rather given berth to change in time.
Although Dwarves are now determined to reclaim the Lonely Mountain, the quest would never have occurred had it not been for Gandalf’s meddling and his estimate of it being the right time to approach the mountain.
While Lord Elrond and Gandalf discussed the situation, Bilbo and Thorin stand on a nearby staircase, listening. Bilbo is surprised at this new information about the leader of his company. He can see Thorin behind him shying away in fear as his forefathers’ mental illness is discussed.
Thorin himself is afraid of succumbing to the same fate as Thrór once he reaches the Lonely Mountain. That illness or his predisposition to develop it is Thorin’s greatest weakness. There isn’t much he can do about it but wait and see how it plays out.
There is compassion in Bilbo’s eyes. It is hard to have your worst weakness told in front of a member of your company whom you judged solely based on his race and appearance. Thorin does not have a moral high ground from which he can pass judgment on Bilbo, so he simply moves out of his way. Bilbo does not have to see his pain and shame come to physical manifestation. Thorin still has pride that cannot be easily broken.
Lady of Lórien
Elrond: “It is not me you must answer to.”
Gandalf: “Lady Galadriel.”
Lady Galadriel: “Mithrandir. It has been a long time.”
Gandalf: “Age may have changed me but not so the Lady of Lórien. I had no idea Lord Elrond had sent for you.”
Saruman: “He didn’t. I did.”
Gandalf: “Ah. Saruman.”
Gandalf is awestruck as Lady Galadriel spins to face him. She looks absolutely angelic as her silhouette moves against the backdrop of night. The only words that he can utter are those of compliment. Lord Elrond smirks behind Gandalf’s back as he openly flirts with Galadriel. However, she enjoys his flattery and rewards it with a smile.
Gandalf thought she was sent for by Lord Elrond when in fact it was Saruman who called the meeting of the White Council. As Saruman steps out of the shadow and utters his first words, Gandalf closes his eyes in regret of being caught. He turns to face Saruman with a polite smile in an effort to try and disguise his true feelings about this particular meeting.
Saruman: “You’ve been busy of late, my friend. Tell me, did you think these plans and schemes of yours would go unnoticed?”
Gandalf: “Unnoticed? I’m simply doing what I feel to be right.”
Galadriel: “The dragon has long been on your mind.”
Gandalf: “That is true, my lady. Smaug owes allegiance to no one. But if he should side with the enemy a dragon could be used to terrible effect.”
Saruman: “What enemy? Gandalf, the enemy is defeated. Sauron is vanquished. He can never regain his full strength.”
As opposed to Saruman, Lady Galadriel sympathizes with thoughts that plight Gandalf’s mind. And his concerns are legitimate. Moreover, Saruman views the situation as black and white when there is ample space for the color grey. The subtle movements that evil has made do not register with Saruman.
Gandalf: “Does it not worry you that the last of the Dwarf rings should simply vanish along with its bearer? Of the seven Dwarf rings, four were consumed by dragons, two were taken by Sauron before he fell in Mordor. The fate of the last Dwarf ring remains unknown. The ring that was worn by Thráin.”
Saruman: “Without the ruling Ring of Power the seven are of no value to the enemy. To control the other rings he needs the One. And that ring was lost long, long ago. It was swept out to sea by the waters of the Anduin.”
Although Saruman’s claim is true and Sauron cannot come to full power without the One Ring, it is folly to think that Thráin’s ring along with the two he already took would not sustain him enough to gather all manner of evil creatures to do his bidding. For that is precisely what is occurring in Dol Guldur.
Gandalf is right to fear what others fail to see. An unseen danger looms.
A watchful peace?
Elrond: “For 400 years we have lived in peace, a hard won watchful peace.”
Gandalf: “Are we? Are we at peace? Trolls have come down from the mountains. They are raiding villages, destroying farms. Orcs have attacked us on the road.”
Elrond: “Hardly a prelude to war.”
Saruman: “Always you must meddle looking for trouble where none exists.”
An outright war it isn’t but it is certainly a prelude to something much bigger than the simple hunt for Thorin’s head. What may appear as a solitary attack on a travelling company underlies a much bigger issue. It all ties together, however, single loose threads presented to the Council seem insignificant.
Saruman apparently has a longstanding problem with Gandalf. It would seem that this isn’t the first instant in which Gandalf had followed his own instinct and gone against what his “superior” wanted.
Read on in my next post.