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Two Dreams & a Wizard
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One possible explanation for the real reason why Gandalf selected that middle-aged Hobbit to accompany Thorin's company on their quest.


Turning his pipe in his hand, Isengar Took sat back in his seat, looking thoughtfully at his old friend. “Gandalf, I wonder if you would do me a favour,” he said slowly.

“Probably, if I can. What is it?”

Gar fidgeted uneasily in his seat. “I had a dream that troubles me. In fact, I’ve had this dream in two forms three times each.”

“You think that is significant?”

“Well…I dreamed three times about my first adventure, and it happened. I dreamed three times about the lass I’d wed—and I held back, so she married another, and I’ve regretted it ever since. Now….”

“What is it, Gar?” Gandalf’s voice was gentle; he was fond of this adventurous Hobbit, and was suddenly aware of how elderly he had become. Had he dreamed of his own death?

“I am worried for my nephew Bilbo,” Gar said in a rush. “In my dream, you are visiting him at his home, Bag End, and so are thirteen Dwarves.”

The wizard’s bushy eyebrows rose. “Thirteen? Visiting a Hobbit? That’s unusual.”

“It’s never happened,” he said flatly. “I understood that you were going on an adventure, and you had selected Bilbo to go too. But my nephew seemed to have grown settled and secure, conventional and conservative.” His distaste and disappointment were clear in his tone. “Each time, each set of dreams had differences from the other. In one, the Dwarves were able to carry him out of himself by one action. In the other, the other, they couldn’t. And each time, far in the future, something happened—a horrible, horrible catastrophe—and the entire world was affected. Everything became dark, Gandalf, and no one had any hope of happiness; they had no hope at all! All the Kindreds—Hobbits, Men, Dwarves, Elves, even Ents!”

Gandalf leaned back in his chair. “Did you recognize any of the Dwarves?”


“When is this?”

“I’m not sure. Bilbo is middle-aged in it, although he’s barely a tween(1) now, but you know yourself that it depends on how long he lives—and he may live long.”

“What is the adventure about?”

“I don’t know.”

Smoke rings were accumulating up near the ceiling as both of them thought. Finally Gandalf asked, “What was the difference?”

“I know my nephews, Gandalf, three of them especially. Of them all, Bilbo has the most heart, the most curiosity, the most joy in sharing what he’s learned. He has a real gift for poetry and song.”

The wizard asked another question. “What was the difference between the two dreams?”

“In one, they talked and talked, and Bilbo refused to go. He’s not unreasonable, you know, Gandalf, and he’s not a coward, but they could not sway him. In the other, they were playing music and singing. I saw his face; he was swept out of himself, he glimpsed more than he had ever dreamed could be, and it awakened his Tookish(2) side. I don’t know if this adventure, whatever and wherever it is, succeeds. I could be asking you to send him to his death far from home. I don’t know! But I have a feeling I can’t shake that the outcome for him, personally, is very important in light of that other, more distant outcome. Does this make any sense at all?”

“I don’t know,” Gandalf answered. “But you have given me much to consider, my friend, and I will not forget.”

“Thank you, Gandalf. I have a new blend of pipeweed you might like to try,” he added more cheerfully.

Much later, the wizard met Thorin Oakenshield one frosty day at the Last Inn(3). Sitting in a quiet corner, Gandalf asked, “So, Thorin, where are you bound, so far from the Blue Hills?”

“I’m traveling to the Iron Hills, hoping to persuade more of my folk to join me in ridding the world of that cursed dragon, and take back the Lonely Mountain,” Thorin growled.

Gandalf considered him over his pipe and asked, “How long have we known each other?”

“Since before Smaug killed my father and drove us out.”

“How are you doing, changing that?”

For a moment, it seemed his question had been too blunt, even though Dwarves are blunt themselves. Then Thorin relaxed his grip on his axe and sighed. “Not well. My folk are becoming used to being scattered and to our precarious toehold in the Blue Hills. The younger ones know little else. Since Moria(4) was lost to us, even the older ones prefer such security as they have to possibly losing all. I am not sure I can raise a large enough force.”

“Do you need a large force?” Gandalf watched him keenly from behind a smoke ring.

“Of cour—One always uses a large force, against a dragon. Everyone knows that.”

“Including the dragons,” Gandalf pointed out. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they teach their hatchlings how to combat armies. They expect to fight them.”

“Or a Hero, but those are thin on the ground these days,” Thorin grumbled.

“What about a group, smaller than an army, yet larger than one or two?” suggested Gandalf.


“Well, you know your own business best,” the wizard said with a shrug. He yawned. “It was pleasant seeing you, Thorin. Good night.” He rose to his feet.

“What size group?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“What size group, smaller than an army?”

“I don’t know. How many of your kin are you sure would answer your call?”

Thorin thought that over. “Ten. Well, twelve, if I include my two young nephews, Fili and Kili.”


“Would that be enough?”

“Not quite. You’d need another.”

“I’ve spent almost one hundred and seventy-five years trying to get even one more!”

"Oh, well, if you feel you can add the risk of the bad luck of having thirteen!" Gandalf shrugged.

Thorin frowned. “Unless you’re offering? And why would you do that?”

“I’m not interested in treasure, if that’s why you’re looking at me so suspiciously,” Gandalf retorted. “I might help out, here and there, but business of my own might call me away. No, I mean another viewpoint, from someone who isn’t a Dwarf. Someone with a fresh outlook, so to speak, and different professional skills.”

“You aren’t suggesting an Elf or an Ent, I suppose, and few enough Men are brave enough or strong enough to keep up with us.”

“Noooo, I was thinking of another. But you’d have to give him a fair offer, mind, or why should he leave home?”

“I would not be ungrateful,” Thorin said stiffly. “We’d offer the customary agreement, of course.”

“Summon them, then. Meet me in at the Green Dragon in Hobbiton—“

“In the Shire?”

“Why not? Quite a few folk travel through it, and it’d be a quiet place for discussions. He may not be easy to persuade, so I cannot promise. Oh, and Thorin! Am I right that you play the harp?”

“I do. Why?”

“Make sure all of you folk are good players or singers, or both. He is a music lover; a good song may well make up his mind in your favour.”

Thorin shook his head. “No.”


“My harp is over 500 years old! It’s been handed down for all that time, and while I have made a few repairs—any Dwarf must learn to make the instrument he plays, so he fully understands it—I will not risk it on an adventure. There are few enough heirlooms left of my House and folk!” He looked up craftily. “But you’re a wizard.”

“As you well know.”

“And that means you are wise. If you can devise a way to guarantee my harp’s safety—and that of the other Dwarves’ instruments—then we will bring them. If not, the most your musical friend can expect is our voices, and perhaps a flute or two.” There was a note of finality in his voice that told Gandalf not to quibble.

“Let me think about it.”

“Fair enough,” he agreed.

The next morning, the innkeeper gave Thorin a sealed note. Opened, he read:

Very well. I shall bring you each a pouch into which an instrument may be placed. No matter the size of the contents, it will fit easily inside a pocket, and when wanted, may be taken out. This will serve only twice per object, so you may not use the pouches more than that number of times. Any attempt to take the pouch apart will result in the destruction of said pouch and its contents, and possibly anything within 10 feet of it.

Meet me at the Green Dragon in Hobbiton just before teatime in four months.

Thus it was that Thorin Oakenshield and his party were each given a message by the innkeeper of the Green Dragon to leave their luggage in the rooms Gandalf had booked in Thorin’s name, and then to go to a place called Bag End (directions from the innkeeper) up the Hill, where’d they find a sign on the door, to take their instruments, and not to be late. Each Dwarf made sure that he had put on his best detachable party hood when he freshened up, that his instrument (two clarinets, two fiddles, two viols, three flutes, a horn, Thorin’s harp in its green bag, and Bombur’s drum) was either in tune or polished, before he set out.

And as Bilbo would later record in his book, after the tea that stretched beyond High Tea into supper and the washing-up that so alarmed him, the Dwarves adjourned to his parlor:

It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin struck it, the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over the Water and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill.

The dark came into the room from the little window that opened in the side of The Hill; the firelight flickered – it was April – and still they played on, while the shadow of Gandalf’s beard wagged against the wall.

The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the shadows were lost, and still they played on. And suddenly first one and then another began to sing as they played, deep-throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes; and this is like a fragment of their song, if it can be like their song without their music.

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold….

…As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in the dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond the Water a flame leapt up – probably somebody lighting a wood-fire – and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames…..


(1) tween—The Hobbit stages of life are: babes, faunts (what we’d call toddlers and little children), lads and lasses (teens), tweens (ages 20-32), Hobbits and Hobbitesses (fully adult, 33 and more). This, by the way, is why Pippin is in such trouble with his family when they get back, because he was a tween and ran away without permission.

(2) Tookish side—Bilbo Baggins’ mother was Belladonna Took, and that family is commonly regarded by other Hobbits as…less conventional than the norm, more apt to do unusual things and try new things, by no means considered a good trait by most Hobbits. On the other hand, they are a very wealthy and powerful family, which also helps establish Bilbo’s position in Hobbit society. Throughout the book, he is often ruefully reflecting that it’s always his Tookish blood that lands him in trouble.

(3) the Last Inn –inn located at one end of Iant Methed (“Last Bridge”) over the Bruinen (Loudwater) river on the Great East Road, Rhudaur, in the wilderness between the Shire and the Misty Mountains.

(4) Moria – the greatest of the Dwarf-holds, located in the Misty Mountains. The Dwarves delved too deep, and roused the Balrog, which killed many of them. Only a very few managed to escape and survive. Among them was Thór, Thorin’s father, who established their new hold at the Lonely Mountain—until Smaug took it and killed him. Thorin was one of the few to escape. The loss of Moria is a crushing defeat to all Dwarves, and one of Thorin’s ambitions is to retake it. Bali, one of Thorin’s company, after the quest, was able to gather a small force, and went with that object. They prospered for five years, then were overwhelmed by the orcs, their fate unknown until the Fellowship went there and Gandalf battled the Balrog.

(5) The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin Co.: Boston, 1966, 28th printing), pp. 21-24.

This story is the result of a difference between The Hobbit book- and movie-verses. As a harper myself, I had looked forward eagerly to seeing/hearing Thorin’s harp, but Peter Jackson disappointed me. This is one possible explanation (of sorts) as to what happened to those instruments after the Dwarves left Bilbo’s the morning after the party, a question that has been bothering me since the first time I read it so long ago.

A fun thing about writing fan fiction is that a story idea can take one to places as unexpected as the Lonely Mountain, considering other questions besides the one that starts the path of story. As I wrote this, I began to think about the importance of Frodo not being a typical Hobbit in his saving Middle-Earth. And why is he so unusual? He too has some Tookish blood, and he’s been raised and educated by Bilbo, who himself is called “old Mad Baggins” long before he disappeared to retire to Rivendell. Then I wondered: how was it that Bilbo was so open himself to wider experiences and horizons? All the tales he had heard from Isengar Took, one of two uncles who had ventured out of the Shire upon adventures, may have influenced him in ways he didn’t realize himself until he was 50.

Aragorn’s becoming the Returned King of Gondor and Arnor, after a thousand years, is only one example of Middle-Earth belief in prophecy. His entire life has been dedicated to that end; he is the tenth generation of his family in that endeavor, which is why, during his childhood, protected and hidden in Rivendell from the Shadow, he is given the name Estel, Sindarin for Hope. Gandalf, sent to Middle-Earth in the guise of a wizard by the Powers, has spent much longer subtly seeking knowledge that will aid in the saving of that world. And would Gandalf have impulsively chosen someone about whom he knew little, for such an important quest? I doubt it.

All this, for lack of a harp!


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