The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
A Viewers Companion
The Hobbit Guides
We also have Viewer's Companions to the first two Hobbit movies, An Undexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, which you'll find here:
If you want to take a look at our 'Movie-goer's Guides' for the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, you'll find them here:
If you're interested in the development of The Hobbit movies, you'll want to take a look at the Riddles in the Dark project. Tolkien Professor Corey Olsen presents a series of podcasts looking at the adaptations in thorough detail, and lots more Tolkien-related material too.
When we quote from the book The Hobbit (or other works) you'll find a number in [square brackets] next to the reference. Check the References list at the bottom of the article for the full source.
The Battle of the Five Armies is essentially an adaptation of the last six chapters of The Hobbit, from the beginning of Fire and Water through to The Last Stage. Though there are plenty of variations in the adaptation from the page to the screen, the overall structure of the film remains remarkably true to the story of the book. Within that structure, though, there are lots of adaptation choices and developments worth a closer look.
A Note on Spoilers
This article assumes that you have seen all of Peter Jackson's films, or at least that you don't mind being spoiled on their plot points (and since the major plot points in this film come from a book published in 1937, there shouldn't be too many significant surprises). The earlier articles in this series hid story notes that might have been spoilers for later episodes, but now that the movies have come full circle, this article makes no attempt to hide potential spoilers for other movies or books.
About the Title
The title of the film itself represents a tiny change from the original: Tolkien called the battle in this part of the story just the 'Battle of Five Armies' (not 'the Five Armies'). That's hardly a major change (especially as none of the characters in the film ever use the name) but, given that it appears right in the title of the film, it's a hard change to miss.
Perhaps more relevant is the fact that the five armies in the film are slightly different from the five in the book, but we'll address that when we get to the battle itself. First, we have a rampaging Dragon and a lurking Dark Lord to deal with...
The Battle of the Five Armies starts exactly where The Desolation of Smaug ended, with the Dragon Smaug descending on Lake-town to wreak his revenge, about to meet his end at the hands of Bard and his Black Arrow.
The story of the Dragon's death follows a line of evolution that began even before the book was published. In the original drafts, it's Bilbo who slays Smaug, discovering the bare patch in the Dragon's armour while he sleeps within the mountain and stabbing him with Sting. In the published Hobbit, Bilbo still discovers Smaug's weakness, but news of his discovery is carried to Bard in Lake-town, who shoots his Black Arrow at that spot. The film version takes these plot developments to their conclusion, and removes Bilbo's involvement entirely; now Bard spies the hole in Smaug's armour for himself and Bilbo plays no part in the Dragon's downfall.
Bilbo may lose his part in the slaying of Smaug, but another character gains a part of his own: Bain. There's no mention of Bard having a family at all in The Hobbit, let alone of his son playing a role in the death of the Dragon. It's not until The Lord of the Rings that Bard's son Bain is mentioned, and there's nothing there to indicate that he had even been born at this point in history.
The Master of Lake-town meets a sudden and unexpected end when the falling Smaug crashes through his boat, taking him and his gold to the bottom of the Lake. The Master's end is especially sudden and unexpected to book-readers, because in the original version he survives Smaug's attack and lives through the battle to follow (though he is ultimately lost attempting to escape with the gold of Lake-town, so to that extent the two versions mesh). The character of Alfrid Lickspittle - a new character not present in the book - carries on some of the Master's role throughout the rest of the film, though without presenting Bard with any challenge for authority over the Lake-men. Perhaps this simplification of the storyline is part of the reason for the movie's early despatch of the unfortunate Master.
Meanwhile, the Dwarves left in Lake-town make their way back to rejoin their colleagues in the Lonely Mountain, and Thorin welcomes them as his 'sister-sons'. That's an old word for 'nephews': Fíli and Kíli are the sons of Thorin's sister Dís.
On the Warpath
There follows a short sequence showing Azog leading his Orcs on a march towards the Lonely Mountain. These marching Orcs raise a couple of questions.
The book gives us a simple explanation of the Orcs' march eastwards: enraged by the death of the Great Goblin (back in An Unexpected Journey, in film terms), the Orcs set out to take their revenge. Azog's army here doesn't seem remotely concerned about the Great Goblin; they're being sent out at the orders of Sauron in Dol Guldur. It's not completely clear at this point what they hope to achieve: this army of Orcs seems a little excessive to stop thirteen Dwarves and a Hobbit, especially since (as far as they know) there's already a live Dragon guarding the Mountain. We're given a little more explanation of their intentions later in the film, so we'll defer discussion until that point.
This army is led by the great Orc Azog. As we've mentioned in earlier movie guides, the book's version of Azog is long dead: he was killed at the Battle of Azanulbizar in the year III 2799 (that's 142 years ago, from the film's perspective). The film's version of Azog was merely maimed, and survived to lead this army against the Dwarves who wounded him in battle.
In Sauron's secret fortress of Dol Guldur, the captured Gandalf's prospects are looking bleak until the rest of the White Council arrive to rescue him. This is a sequence of events about which Tolkien tells us almost nothing. In The Hobbit, we have this simple summary: 'It appeared that Gandalf had been to a great council of the white wizards ... and that they had at last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood.' We do learn a little more elsewhere (specifically that Sauron's apparent defeat was in fact a feint, and that he had planned all along to return to Mordor). Apart from that, the film-makers effectively had carte blanche to develop this sequence in almost any way that suited their story.
The line from The Hobbit quoted above comes from a much later point in the story, as Gandalf and Bilbo pass through Rivendell on their journey home, and Gandalf describes the events at Dol Guldur to Elrond. If Elrond needed to be told what happened, it follows that he must not have been at Dol Guldur himself. He does appear there in the film, though given his appearances in the trilogy so far, it might have seemed a little strange for him to have stayed at home.
The Nazgûl have a strange ghostly quality (and indeed at one point Elrond tells one of them, 'you should have stayed dead'). This ties in with the earlier films' references to the 'tombs of the Nazgûl', but it doesn't really have a basis in Tolkien's Nazgûl, who were simply Mortal Men whose lives had been stretched over millennia by their Nine Rings. There are certainly ghosts and spirits in Tolkien's world, but the Nazgûl weren't among them.
When Sauron appears, he makes a rather strange comment: 'The East will fall'. Actually, the East has already fallen to Sauron; it's the West that will fall, from his point of view. The film even acknowledges this shortly afterwards: following Sauron's apparent banishment, Galadriel suggests that 'he will flee into the East'.
Galadriel seems to have all sorts of abilities that are difficult to explain (though it should be said that Tolkien hints at her power without going into detail about what it is or how it works). It's possible that what we see here is tied to her secretly wielding a Ring of Power (we hear the Ring-rhyme as she enters Dol Guldur, with the line about the Three Rings of the Elves over her entrance, followed by the line about the Nine Rings as the Ringwraiths enter). Otherwise it's difficult to explain how she is able to use her simple phial of light against Sauron, or why she glows blue in their final confrontation.
It's perhaps not entirely obvious what happens to Sauron at the end of this sequence. Galadriel tries to banish him 'back to the Void', but she thinks that instead he will simply flee. The movie doesn't really make it clear that this was Sauron's plan all along: he anticipated an attack and used it to cloak his planned withdrawal to Mordor (which is how he comes to be there in The Fellowship of the Ring).
We return to Erebor to find the Dwarves constructing a defensive wall against the approaching Elves and Lake-men.
Thorin is desperate to recover the Arkenstone (though as we now know for sure, Bilbo secretly took possession of it in The Desolation of Smaug). Previous films have vaguely hinted that there was something faintly mystical about the Heart of the Mountain, and that it somehow conferred the power of command on its holder. Indeed the whole purpose of the Quest (in the film's version of events) was to recover the Arkenstone so that Thorin would have the power to command all the Dwarves. That power doesn't seem to have been necessary after all, as Thorin has no apparent problem to calling on Dáin's army without any need for the Heart of the Mountain. Ultimately the movie leaves the nature of the Arkenstone as an unexplained mystery.
We catch a glimpse of a raven flying out of Erebor without explanation at this point. In the book that raven is a character in his own right: Roäc son of Carc, king of the ravens of Ravenhill (Ravenhill plays its own part later in the film as Azog's command post). Roäc could speak '(and Bilbo could understand what he said, for he used ordinary language and not bird-speech)' , which is how he is able to send Thorin's call for aid to Dáin and his armies. (Later in the film we get a hint of this, when Roäc returns and apparently uses bird-speech to announce the arrival of Dáin, but there's no suggestion that the raven could use 'ordinary language').
When Thorin speaks to Bard through the Dwarves' new stone wall, he addresses him as 'the Dragon-slayer'. The film doesn't offer any direct explanation of how Thorin could possibly know that Bard slew Smaug; in fact it was Roäc the raven who brought him this news before setting out for Dáin in the Iron Hills.
Bard demands that Thorin turn over a share of the Mountain's gold based on his promises back in The Desolation of Smaug, but he fails to mention a rather stronger claim: part of the gold is actually his. Smaug gathered the treasure of Dale into the Lonely Mountain, so as heir of Girion, Bard and his people clearly have a reasonable claim to have that treasure returned to them. Bard makes this claim explicitly in the book, but though the same right applies in the film, too, he chooses not to mention it.
Catching up with Legolas and Tauriel, we find ourselves at Gundabad. We never actually visit Gundabad in the book, but it is mentioned as the capital of the Northern Orcs, and the place from which Bolg led out his armies on their march to Erebor.
Geography seems a little fluid at times in these movies, and here we have another example: Gundabad is more than three hundred miles from Erebor, and involves a journey through difficult and mountainous lands, yet the two Elves make the trip there (and later back) in a matter of hours at most. The army of Bolg that sets off in this sequence also makes quick work of the journey, though they have to march for 'night after night' to make the same trip in the book. This isn't the first time we've seen characters travel hundreds of miles in seemingly no time at all, and it's tempting to imagine that the geography of Middle-earth is simply different in the movie's version than the book's. Every time we see a map in the movies, though, they seem to be following Tolkien's geography exactly.
Legolas claims that Gundabad was once the stronghold of Angmar, which is actually a more complicated claim than it appears. It certainly wasn't the main stronghold of Angmar (that was at Carn Dûm on the other side of the Misty Mountains) but it might conceivably have been associated with that realm in some way. We have no explicit historical connections between the two, but they were geographically close together, and there were Orcs present in Gundabad while Angmar was at its height, so some kind of alliance is far from impossible.
'In another age,' says Legolas, 'our people waged war on those lands'. It's far from clear what he means by this, but certainly the Elves of Mirkwood never went to war against Angmar. Those wars were fought almost exclusively against the Dúnedain, the ancestors of Aragorn. Angmar was finally defeated by a force sent by Gondor, though some Elves were also present at the final battle. Those Elves were from the lands west of the Misty Mountains, and only very distantly connected with the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood, but perhaps when Legolas says 'our people' he's speaking about Elves in general, rather than just those of his own land.
The story of Legolas' mother dying in Gundabad is unique to the films; Tolkien himself never mentions her. The story is remarkably close to that of Arwen's mother Celebrían, who was captured by Orcs and carried off to their dens (though not specifically to Gundabad). Unlike Legolas' mother, Celebrían was rescued, but she left Middle-earth shortly afterwards. There's no way of knowing whether these two stories are connected, but the similarity suggests that the movie may have used the story of Celebrían at least as a template for the fate of Legolas' unnamed mother.
Gandalf, on his borrowed horse, arrives at the camp of Thranduil and Bard, bringing warning of the army he saw Azog lead out of Dol Guldur. This is a short sequence, but one loaded with exposition (though it arguably raises more questions than it answers).
When Gandalf left Radagast earlier, he had no staff (his own having being destroyed in Dol Guldur in The Desolation of Smaug. When he arrives in the camp here, he does have a staff, and one that looks almost exactly like Radagast's. It's been speculated since the first film that Gandalf would somehow acquire Radagast's staff, and indeed he does seem to have done exactly that, or at least created an exact copy. Presumably, he took (or was given) the staff as he set off; perhaps we'll find out for sure in the Extended Edition of the movie.
When the Wizard Gandalf rides into camp with warnings of an imminent Orc attack, the general response is a little strange: he's essentially ignored. From Thranduil's reaction, it almost seems that Gandalf is given to inventing frivolous Orc invasion stories on a regular basis. In the book, nobody knows the Goblins are on their way, and the film later has them arrive unexpectedly too, but it also has to deal with the fact that Gandalf has seen Azog's army set out (which doesn't happen in the book). Having Thranduil and Bard disregard Gandalf's warning seems to be the only way to keep this story thread as it was in the book.
Gandalf finally reveals Sauron's purpose in marching his Orcs on Erebor: it has a strategic position that is 'the gateway to reclaiming the lands of Angmar in the north'. This is one of those points in the film where it seems to be using its own independent geography, because Angmar is about five hundred miles west (not north) of Erebor, beyond Mirkwood, the Great River and the Misty Mountains, and has no obvious connection to the Lonely Mountain whatsoever. What's more, Angmar has been a dead and empty land for more than a thousand years at this point, so if Sauron really wanted to reclaim it, there's absolutely nothing to stop him. Finally, Gundabad is right on the borders of Angmar, so its armies are marching hundreds of miles to attack the Lonely Mountain in order to recapture a country that's practically on their doorstep in the other direction.
Taking it as read that Sauron needs to hold the Lonely Mountain, that still doesn't explain why he sends out two separate armies against it. When he laid these plans, it had been held by Smaug - who's evidently at least sympathetic to Sauron's cause in the movies - for nearly two hundred years. At the time the army set out from Dol Guldur, then, there was no battle for it to fight at Erebor, and in fact no need for it to be there at all. The Necromancer's scheme only makes sense if he somehow already knew that Smaug was going to be slain, and how things would unfold afterwards.
If Angmar should rise again, claims Gandalf, 'Rivendell, Lórien, the Shire... even Gondor itself' are all in terrible danger. He doesn't explain why this should be: apart from the Shire, all these places existed when Angmar was at the height of its power, and none were remotely threatened - certainly not Gondor, about a thousand miles to the south.
All these plot tangles seem to emerge from the film's attempt to tie together the story of the Necromancer with that of the Lonely Mountain. In the book, there's really no connection between the two (when Gandalf arrives at Erebor, he doesn't even mention what he's been up to in Mirkwood) so there's no need for the elaborate and rather puzzling explanations we get in the movie.
Prelude to the Battle
The armies of the Elves and Lake-men approach Erebor, and things quickly come to a head when Thorin discovers that they have the Arkenstone.
One minor but curious change is to Thorin's insult to Bilbo on the wall. Furious at Bilbo's betrayal, the book has Thorin call him a 'descendant of rats' , while the film keeps to the basic idea of the insult, but there he's a 'Shire-rat' instead.
Roäc the raven returns and makes noises to Thorin that must surely be intended to represent some kind of bird-speech (and apparently bird-speech that Thorin can understand, since this is clearly news of the imminent arrival of Dáin). Roäc's part in the film has been cut down quite significantly from the book, in which he flies back and forth carrying messages between Thorin and Dáin, and even offers useful advice of his own.
With the unexpected arrival of Azog and his Orcs, the initial face-off between the Elves and the Dwarves develops into a full-blown battle, with the Elves, Dwarves and Men swiftly allying themselves in the face of the new threat. Though this battle gives its name to the film, and takes up a substantial chunk of its running time, the equivalent sequence in the book takes up just five pages.
The battle that's about to start involves Elves, Dwarves, Men and Orcs: a total of four armies at this point, not five. In the book, the five armies are spelt out like this: 'Upon one side were the Goblins and the wild Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves.' The 'wild Wolves' were the Wargs that appeared at the end of An Unexpected Journey; the book's Wolves are intelligent and form an army in their own right, but that would hardly work as things have been set up in the films. Instead, the fifth army is apparently the second army of Orcs being led by Bolg, who are yet to arrive on the field. (Actually, it's occasionally suggested that the Bats or, especially, the Eagles might be considered armies, too, so perhaps the film intends the Orcs to form a single force, with the Eagles as the fifth of the Five Armies, though that doesn't seem especially likely.)
Azog arrives in striking fashion when immense Were-worms suddenly emerge from the ground, and his Orc armies use their tunnels to make an unexpected appearance on the battlefield. This is an event that has no direct precedent in the book, but seems to have been constructed from two passages that do appear there. First, way back in Bag End, Bilbo spoke of 'wild Were-worms in the Last Desert' that live 'East of East' ; they're presented as little more than folklore, and they never actually appear, but they are at least mentioned. Second, when the Goblins gathered for war at Gundabad, they got there 'going ever by tunnel or under dark' ; that's a description of their journey to Gundabad, not from Dol Guldur to Erebor, but it's presumably the source of the film's secret worm-tunnels.
As Azog's Orcs charge against the Dwarves, Dáin shouts, 'the hordes of Hell are upon us', which is curious because Dwarves had no concept of Hell ('For they say that Aulë the Maker ... gathers them in Mandos in halls set apart...' ). He might perhaps be making a reference to Angband, the Hells of Iron that was the source of Orc invasions in the First Age, but an oblique reference to ancient history seems a little out of character for Dáin. In the original storyline, Dáin had personally killed Azog long beforehand, and this might be an exceptionally subtle reference to that (book Dáin would expect Azog to be long dead) but that does seem rather a stretch.
The tactics used by the Orcs in the film's version of the battle are rather more elaborate than the book's fairly simple account. The book's battle is confined almost completely to the valley outside the Gate of Erebor, and the only real tactic the Goblins use is to climb the Mountain from the north and come down its slopes (this last seems to have inspired Bolg's approach from the north in the movie). The idea of a group of Orcs splintering off to attack Dale, or of a separate command post on Ravenhill, are elaborations added by the movie.
It's not easy to make out the shouting of Dáin's Dwarves, but at one point they seem to be shouting in unison a known Dwarvish battle-cry, Baruk Khazâd!, 'Axes of the Dwarves!'. (This is typically followed by Khazâd ai-mênu!, 'The Dwarves are upon you!' , but that doesn't seem to be in the film.)
In the book, Bilbo takes no active part in the battle at all; he becomes invisible as it begins, and is accidentally knocked unconscious shortly afterwards, missing the outcome. It's hard to see how a film entitled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies could have the Hobbit sit out the Battle entirely, so in the movie version he takes a much more active part. In a nod to the original, at one point he is indeed knocked out by a flying stone, but he quickly recovers. Indeed he actually takes part in the fighting at one point, hurling hefty stones with remarkable accuracy. Hobbits were indeed renowned for their keen eyes and throwing skills: 'If any Hobbit stooped for a stone, it was well to get quickly under cover' , as several large Orcs discover to their cost.
Ravenhill was an old guard post of Erebor; in the book the ravens of Roäc's line roosted there (hence the name), but in the movie Azog chooses it as his signal post, and thus it becomes the scene of Thorin's final battle with the great Orc. As we've mentioned, Azog is already dead in the book, so this climactic battle doesn't take place. Ravenhill's location is open to some speculation: Gandalf tells Bilbo that it's to the north, and thus the way the Bolg's armies will come, but at the end of the film we get a clear view of a map of the Lonely Mountain, and Ravenhill is clearly shown to the southwest there (which is also its location in the book).
Neither Legolas nor Tauriel have any part to play in the book's version of the battle, for the straightforward reason that neither of them is in the book at all. In the movie, Legolas' part is significant enough that he becomes the slayer of Bolg. Bolg in the book is crushed by Beorn, who has a huge part to play in the battle, breaking the enemy lines and putting them to rout. Beorn is there in the movie version, too, but so briefly that he's barely noticeable.
The Eagles in the book arrive at the battle independently, following the Goblins from the Misty Mountains. The involvement of Radagast is a new element introduced by the movie, though it fits his character perfectly well (and we know from other sources that he had good relations with the Eagles). In the book, it's Bilbo's last act before being knocked unconscious to shout that 'The Eagles are coming!' , and he has the same line in the movie, though now he whispers it to himself instead, after he's been knocked out and recovered.
There are three casualties among the Dwarves, just as in the book: Thorin, Fíli and Kíli, though their ends are quite different (necessarily so, since Azog - who kills two of the three in the film - doesn't appear in the book at all). In the book's version of the battle, all three of them fall together in a charge against Bolg; they fail, and are cut down by Bolg's bodyguard, but Bolg himself is later killed by Beorn.
One scene that we don't see in the movie is the burial of Thorin. He's entombed under the Mountain with both the Arkenstone and his sword Orcrist. The movie's Arkenstone has been much more significant to the plot than in the book, and indeed the entire Quest has been recast as a search for the Arkenstone, so it seems hard to imagine that such a powerful royal symbol would be buried forever as soon as it had been recovered.
Thorin and both his heirs are dead at the end of the film, leaving the question of who would inherit the Kingdom under the Mountain. The film doesn't address this, but the Kingship passed to Dáin Ironfoot. He was only a very distant cousin of Thorin's, but he was the next surviving member of the ancient royal line of the Longbeard Dwarves.
The scene where Legolas takes leave of his father has no book equivalent (because Legolas isn't in the book) and indeed it's the first hint we've had from any source that Legolas and Thranduil are estranged. Thranduil's comments at Legolas' departure suggest that the dating works slightly differently in the film; Thranduil recommends that he seek out Arathorn, and says, 'he is a good man', then goes on to mention his son 'Strider' with the potential to be a great one. These comments don't mesh with the book's timing; on Tolkien's chronology, Arathorn had died eight years beforehand, while Strider (Aragorn) was just ten years old at this point. This seems to imply that these characters have slightly different timelines in the movie universe (though when Aragorn gives his age in the Extended Edition of The Two Towers - eighty-seven - it matches up with Tolkien's original dating).
... And Back Again
The film closes with a few scenes depicting Bilbo's journey back to the Shire. It leaves out some of the details of the journey, such as return visits to Beorn's house and Rivendell, but nothing that's truly essential to the plot. (The visit to Rivendell in the book is primarily a stage for Gandalf to explain what happened with the Necromancer, something the movie can dispense with since we've already seen those events unfold.)
It's obvious from the movie that Gandalf accompanies Bilbo back through most of his journey. What's less obvious is that Beorn was also with them for much of the way, back to his house on the far side of Mirkwood, where they spent Yuletide before setting out again.
Though Bilbo kept his possession of the Ring a secret from Gandalf, as the two of them part the Wizard reveals that he knows all about it. The book is rather vaguer on this subject. Indeed, Bilbo and Gandalf never discuss the Ring at all in The Hobbit, and all we're told for sure is that 'His magic ring he kept a great secret, for he chiefly used it when unpleasant callers came.' . Gandalf was told a partial story at some point (presumably by Bilbo, though even that is uncertain) but the Wizard later had to resort to hard questioning to discover the entire truth about how Bilbo found the Ring.
Beyond the Ending
And so we come to the end of the last - as far as we know - of Peter Jackson's film forays into Middle-earth. Following Tolkien's dating, The Battle of the Five Armies ends with Bilbo's return to the Shire in June III 2942, and the next film in historical sequence, The Fellowship of the Ring, starts with Gandalf's arrival at Hobbiton in September III 3001. That leaves a gap of fifty-nine years between the two films (we're assuming here that the films follow the same timing as the books - something that seems to be correct, but is never definitively established). In this last section we'll look at what some of the main characters were doing over this period, as well as the nine who will make up the Fellowship of the Ring. (We haven't listed all the individual Dwarves here; for the most part they settled happily into the Lonely Mountain, but a few became involved in greater history, and those few are discussed below.)
To simplify the dating here, we've used years 'AB' or 'After the Battle'; an arbitrary and unofficial usage that helps to make it obvious where different events lie within the inter-story period. So, 1 AB is III 2942, the year of Bilbo's return to the Shire after the Battle of Five Armies, and his famous Birthday Party, at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring, was in III 3001 or 60 AB. Following the Party, there's a further gap of seventeen years before the story proper begins with Frodo leaving the Shire, so these brief biographies go up to that point (III 3018 or 77 AB) where it's relevant for them to do so.
- Aragorn was ten years old when the battle took place. He was living at that time in Rivendell, but he does not appear to have met Bilbo or Gandalf, because we have a reference to his first meeting with Gandalf in 15 AB. Soon afterwards Aragorn set out across Middle-earth, and for more than twenty years he served in the armies of Rohan and Gondor under the pseudonym of Thorongil. Afterwards he went to Lórien, and it was at this time that he and Arwen became promised to one another. In 68 AB he joined Gandalf in the hunt for Gollum, and finally, eight years later, he succeeded in capturing Gollum and delivering him to Thranduil.
- Balin travelled back to the Shire with Gandalf in 8 AB to visit Bilbo, and then returned to the Lonely Mountain. Forty years later, he led a party out of Erebor to attempt to resettle Moria accompanied by Ori and Óin, as well as other Dwarves of Erebor. At first they met with success, and Balin established himself as Lord of Moria, but a force of invading Orcs brought the ill-fated expedition to an end. Balin died in Moria in 53 AB (it was his tomb that Gimli and the Fellowship discovered in Moria as they passed through more than twenty years later).
- Bard became Lord of Dale, inheriting the title from his ancestor Girion. He continued to rule until 36 AB, and after his death he was succeeded by his son Bain. Bain ruled as Lord of Dale for a further thirty years, but it was Bard's grandson Brand who was Lord when the War of the Ring broke out. Brand indeed lost his life in that War, and Bard's namesake, Bard II, succeeded to the Lordship after the defeat of Sauron.
- Beorn established himself as the leader of a people on the western edge of Mirkwood known as the Beornings. We don't know for sure how long he survived, but at some point he was succeeded by his son Grimbeorn, who was the leader of the Beornings as the War of the Ring began.
- Bilbo Baggins settled back into his life at Bag End, and acquired a reputation among his fellow Shire-hobbits for being both rich and eccentric. Due to the power of his secret Ring he aged only slowly, and at the age of ninety-nine (in the year 48 AB) he adopted his orphaned young cousin Frodo as his heir. After his 111th Birthday Party, he left Bag End and the One Ring to Frodo, setting out into the World. The following year he settled at Rivendell, and remained there as the guest of Elrond.
- Boromir was born in the year 37 AB. Raised in Minas Tirith, he was six years old when his father Denethor became Ruling Steward of Gondor. Boromir was thus the heir to the Stewardship, and grew to become a warrior of Gondor. In 77 AB, at the age of forty, he travelled into the north to seek advice from Rivendell, and thus he was present at the Council of Elrond and became a part of the Fellowship of the Ring.
- Dáin Ironfoot succeeded Thorin to become King Dáin II of Durin's Folk, and re-established the Kingdom under the Mountain alongside Thorin's remaining companions and his own son (also called Thorin). Dáin and his kingdom prospered over the years, but it came close to disaster in the War of the Ring. In 76 AB, with Men out of the East threatening his borders, a messenger from Sauron came to Dáin seeking news of the Ring. Dáin refused to treat with this messenger, and his refusal eventually led to the Battle of Dale, in which he fell alongside Brand of Dale, the grandson of Bard the Bowman. Erebor was besieged, but after Sauron's defeat, Dáin's son Thorin and Brand's son Bard were able to break the siege and drive the enemy away.
- Elrond remained in Rivendell and played little part in history until the War of the Ring. Aragorn had been fostered at Rivendell since before the Quest, but it was not until 10 AB that Elrond revealed to him his true name and lineage. It was after this that Aragorn met Elrond's daughter Arwen for the first time.
- Frodo Baggins was born in 27 AB. He was raised at Brandy Hall in Buckland, where his parents were lost in a boating accident when Frodo was just twelve. Nine years later his older cousin Bilbo adopted Frodo as his heir, and from that time Frodo lived at Bag End in Hobbiton. Twelve years afterwards, Bilbo held his famous Birthday Party and disappeared from the Shire, leaving Frodo as the master of Bag End until he became drawn into the Quest of Mount Doom.
- Gandalf continued to journey through Middle-earth, visiting the Shire several times, although we have little detail about his movements in this period. He was at the last meeting of the White Council in 12 AB, and met Aragorn for the first time in 15 AB. At Bilbo's Birthday Party in 60 AB he was instrumental in persuading Bilbo to leave the Ring behind, after which he visited Minas Tirith to research its nature, and also (in 68 AB) arranged with Aragorn to hunt in earnest for Gollum.
- Galadriel appears to have remained in Lórien for most of this period, though apart from the meeting of the White Council in 12 AB (which she presumably attended) we have no record of her activities during this time.
- Gimli was sixty-two years old at the time of the Quest of Erebor, and he wished to accompany his father Glóin, but was judged too young by Dwarf standards at that time. He did, however, travel with Glóin as an emissary of Dáin to Rivendell in 77 AB, and so found himself at the Council of Elrond and ultimately among the companions of Frodo as part of the Fellowship of the Ring.
- Gollum remained under the mountains in misery for several years, but in 3 AB he set out from the his lair to track the 'thief' who took his Precious. The trail took him far and wide across Middle-earth, but eventually he was drawn to Mordor. The journey took him years, but some time after 68 AB he was captured in the Dark Land. As a prisoner in Mordor he revealed the names 'Baggins' and 'Shire', and after years of captivity was released. Captured by Aragorn in 76 AB, he was taken north to the Wood-elves and later escaped to continue his search across Middle-earth. Seeking to pass through Moria he became trapped, until the Company of the Ring also entered Moria and Gollum was able to follow them on their journey.
- Legolas has a story that clearly diverges between the book and movie versions. In the book, Legolas was sent to Rivendell by his father Thranduil, and this is the first time he appears in the narrative. In the movie, he became estranged from Thranduil and set out alone, apparently to seek out Aragorn. It's implied that he must eventually have returned to his people at some point, as he brought news of Gollum's escape to the Council of Elrond in both versions of the story.
- Meriadoc Brandybuck ('Merry') was not born until long after the Battle of Five Armies in 41 AB. He was brought up in Buckland, and helped to set up a home there as a ruse to conceal Frodo's escape from the Shire. Thus he was drawn into the flight to Rivendell and the events of the War of the Ring.
- Peregrin Took ('Pippin') is the youngest of the characters listed here, born in 49 AB and raised in the Tookland in the Shire's Westfarthing. In 77 AB he helped his friend Frodo to move from Bag End and make the journey to Buckland, a journey that would eventually take him with the Company of the Ring as far as distant Gondor.
- Radagast is something of a mystery; we have no clear accounts of his activities before the War of the Ring. The only thing we do know about Radagast during this period is that he abandoned his home at Rhosgobel. The reasons for this are never explicitly explained, but its proximity to Dol Guldur doubtless played a part in Radagast's decision to leave.
- Sam Gamgee was born in 39 AB, and was raised on Bagshot Row below Hobbiton Hill. His father Hamfast, or Gaffer, Gamgee was the gardener at Bag End, and Sam followed in his footsteps. At first an assistant and helper, by 77 AB he was in sole charge of Frodo's garden and, at Gandalf's insistence, he became involved in his master's journey out of the Shire.
- Saruman attended the meeting of the White Council in 12 AB, where he falsely claimed that the One Ring was known to have been lost forever (whereas in fact he hoped to discover it for himself). After the meeting he withdrew to Isengard and began its fortification, but it was not until about 59 AB that he finally dared to look into the Orthanc-stone. Ensnared through the Stone by Sauron, at this time Saruman truly became a traitor to the White Council, as Gandalf discovered when he went to Isengard in 77 AB to find himself captured and imprisoned.
- Sauron feigned defeat at Dol Guldur, but returned to Mordor the following year and established himself in secret. In 10 AB he abandoned his secrecy and started to reconstruct Barad-dûr, summoning his allies to Mordor. Three years later, the long dormant Mount Doom once again burst into fire. Over the decades that followed he bent his thought to the finding of the Ring, while building the forces that would deal a planned fatal blow against Gondor and the lands of the West.
- Thranduil remained as the Elvenking in Mirkwood throughout this period. He obviously maintained good relations with Gandalf, because it was to him that Gollum was entrusted after his capture, and Gandalf went to his Halls to question the creature. Gollum later escaped, and (at least in the book) Legolas was despatched by his father to take the news to Rivendell.
|1||Quenta Silmarillion* 2, Of Aulë and Yavanna|
|2||The Hobbit 1, An Unexpected Party|
|3||The Hobbit 15, The Gathering of the Clouds|
|4||The Hobbit 17, The Clouds Burst|
|5||The Hobbit 19, The Last Stage|
|6||The Lord of the Rings Prologue 1, Concerning Hobbits|
|7||The Lord of the Rings Appendix F I, Of Other Races|
All by J.R.R. Tolkien; * edited by Christopher Tolkien