The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
But the [Elvenking] reckoned without the dwarves. The knowledge that the Arkenstone was in the hands of the besiegers burned in their thoughts; also they guessed the hesitation of Bard and his friends, and resolved to strike while they debated.
Suddenly without a signal [the dwarves] sprang silently forward to attack. Bows twanged and arrows whistled; battle was about to be joined. (17.39)
Dain, Thorin's cousin, is actually willing to ambush the elf and human armies just so he can get to his cousin in the Lonely Mountain. We have discussed that the dwarves seem to operate in a moral grey area that the elves do not seem to share – would Tolkien's elves be capable of this kind of treachery? What do you think would have happened at this stage if Gandalf hadn't suddenly called a halt because the goblins are coming?
So began a battle that none had expected; and it was called the Battle of the Five Armies, and it was very terrible. Upon one side were the Goblins and the Wild Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves. (17.44)
The goblins and wild wolves (a.k.a. Wargs) are so evil that the good and basically decent peoples – men, elves, and dwarves – agree without hesitation to band together. It must be nice having such an easily defined, obviously wicked enemy to fight against. When you start grouping these characters into good and bad races, their loyalties are much easier to identify. Thus, the morality of Tolkien's novels seems difficult to apply in the real world.
"It will not be long now," thought Bilbo, "before the goblins win the Gate, and we are all slaughtered or driven down and captured. Really it is enough to make one weep, after all one has gone through. I would rather old Smaug had been left with all the wretched treasure, than that these vile creatures should get it, and poor old Bombur, and Balin and Fili and Kili and all the rest come to a bad end; and Bard too, and the Lake-men and the merry elves. Misery me! I have heard songs of many battles, and I have always understood that defeat may be glorious. It seems very uncomfortable, not to say distressing. I wish I was well out of it." (17.62)
Perhaps one reason why our hero Bilbo stays on the sidelines of the Battle of Five Armies is to show how un-glorious battle really is: unlike the people in the midst of the fighting, Bilbo has the space and time to realize that war is "very uncomfortable, not to say distressing." Even if his friends are fighting on the right side, that's not much comfort when he begins to think of the cost in lives.