Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Q&A: What if The Hobbit didn't Happen?

How would The War of the Ring be different if Bilbo and the dwarves had not been successful?

There are many ways that the quest could have failed.  The dwarves could have been killed by the trolls, the goblins, the moon letters might not have been noticed by Elrond, the dwarves could have abandoned Bilbo, been killed by spiders, trapped in the halls of Mirkwood...I think you get the idea.  

Even Gandalf acknowledges that the events of The Hobbit were intrical to the success of the War of the Ring.  He even gives a few examples:

"Yet things might have gone far otherwise and far worse. When you think of the great Battle of the Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valour of Durin's Folk. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell. There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now hope to return from the victory here only to ruin and ash. But that has been averted - because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring in Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth."  (The Return of the King Appendix A)

First off, the obvious and most important connection: the Ring.  Bilbo never would have found it and given it to Frodo to take to Mt. Doom.  This would either leave the Ring undiscovered for another millennia, or perhaps Gollum would have taken it to Mordor, a goblin may have found it, or maybe even Saruman might have found it's location.  It is no doubt that the finding of the Ring was the catalyst to the War of the Ring, and extremely important.  

But let's assume that someway, somehow, Frodo got a hold of the Ring.  Because The Hobbit never happened, Bilbo and Frodo would not have had ties with Gandalf, and so he would not be able to identify the Ring and counsel Frodo not to use it.  Both Bilbo and Frodo could have been corrupted with devastating results.

That right there stops the quest.  But, again, assuming that someway, somehow, Frodo realizes that the Ring has to be destroyed in Mt. Doom, he his three hobbit friends set off.  But Gandalf never would have told Strider about them or given him the note to prove to the hobbits his benevolence.  Without Strider, the hobbits almost assuredly would have died or been captured on the way to Rivendell.  It is very possible that the hobbits never would have had the courage to embark on this mission anyway, since they did not have Bilbo's inspiration.

So, assuming someway, somehow, none of these things happened, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin make it to Rivendell.  Bilbo of course remains in The Shire since he never had dealings with the elves.  So Frodo meets Elrond, Gandalf, Aragorn, and all of the other members of the fellowship and get their act together.  

But it is very possible, as Gandalf points out, that Rivendell would be destroyed by Smaug or the goblins of the mountains.  Even if it had survived, the mountains would have been much more treacherous than they already were when Frodo and crew were crossing them.  

If we fast forward to the Battle of Pelennor, it is very likely that Smaug would have been corrupted by Sauron and used as a weapon there.  Maybe Sauron would even begin breeding dragons.  

Obviously, the events in The Hobbit were a major factor in all things War of the Ring.  There is any number of ways that the war might have gone differently, including the strong probability of failure.  What do you think would happen?

Oh, and thank goodness for divine intervention, am I right?


  1. Yes! You're right! Wow. I never really thought about that. Great post! ;)

    1. Thanks! And to think that at the time Tolkien was writing The Hobbit he wasn't even thinking about The Lord of the Rings!