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I wonder if Tolkien ever explained why Gandalf insisted that Bilbo should go with the dwarves on their journey to reclaim Erebor. Gandalf didn't know about the One Ring and Gollum at that time. Did Gandalf foresee something or was he just thinking that Bilbo would be crucial for defeating Smaug (which Bilbo in the end of course was)?

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possible duplicate of Why was Gandalf involved with the Dwarves mission to rob Smaug? –  Plutor Jun 26 '12 at 15:53
@Plutor - I don't think it's a duplicate - this question asks about Biblo, whereas that question asks about Gandalf –  SSumner Jun 26 '12 at 16:09
That question explicitly includes Bilbo in the question. –  Plutor Jun 26 '12 at 16:22
The linked question did indeed answer mine. I accepted SSummers answer, since it quotes the relevant passage from the book itself. –  mort Jun 26 '12 at 17:23

6 Answers 6

up vote 38 down vote accepted

There is no explicit answer, but in the Hobbit, the following passage occurs:

"Of course there is a mark," said Gandalf. "I put it there myself. For very good reasons. You asked me to find the fourteenth man for your expedition, and I chose Mr. Baggins. Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal." He scrowled so angrily at Gloin that the dwarf huddled back in his chair; and when Bilbo tried to open his mouth to ask a question, he turned and frowned at him and stuck out his bushy eyebrows, till Bilbo shut his mouth tight with a snap. "That's right," said Gandalf. "Lets have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say that he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is. or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea about himself. You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet. Now Bilbo, my boy, fetch a lamp, and let's have a little light at this."

So the dwarves wanted another member for their journey, and Gandalf thought Bilbo would fit (presumably a full-sized man or elf would be out of place among the dwarves). Bilbo was a relative of a slightly 'less respectable' group of hobbits - the Tooks, who were known to be adventurous.

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Also its said that Hobbits are good at sneaking and hiding –  202 Jul 7 '12 at 7:36
@Cover202: Bilbo, a hobbit who never left the Shire (until he met the dwarves) and was an altogether respectable hobbit (until he met the dwarves) walked with a natural silence that the dwarves couldn't match when they tried. –  Jeff Jul 19 '12 at 14:16

This question is answered in full in the book Unfinished tales : The quest of Erebor. As far as defeating the dragon goes Gandalf had his own reasons aside from the dwarfs for seeing the dragon dead. Gandalf feared an alliance between the necromancer (Sauron) and Smaug would lead to the dragon attacking the elf strongholds of the golden woods and Rivendell.

Thorin initially wanted to take an army of dwarves to slay the dragon Gandalf counselled against this. Advising that a smaller stealthy party approaching the mountain would have more success. He said Thorin needed 2 things first a secret entrance which he told Thorin where to find and secondly he needed a thief trained in the arts of stealth who could get Thorin and his companions inside the mountian and he persuaded Thorin that Bilbo was such thief.

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But why Bilbo instead of some other thief (with actual experience)? –  cjm Sep 5 '12 at 15:30
@cjm: "But why Bilbo instead of some other thief (with actual experience)?" - again, this is all explained in the Quest of Erebor. –  Darth Satan Dec 17 '12 at 8:58

Because Bilbo asked him to go (or at least Gandalf believed so)!

"All the same I am pleased to find you remember something about me. You seem to remember my fireworks kindly, at any rate, land that is not without hope. Indeed for your old grand-father Took's sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for."

"I beg your pardon, I haven't asked for anything!"

"Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it."

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Well, that doesn't really explain why Gandalf was so determined that Bilbo go with the dwarfs. If he simply wanted to send him off to an adventure, he surely could have found other journeys for Bilbo to make. –  mort Jun 27 '12 at 15:49
Unless I misread the quote Bilbo asks for Gandalf's pardon not to go on some idealistic crusade...(oops wrong universe). –  TGnat Jun 27 '12 at 18:29
Gandalf believed that Bilbo wanted to go. Gandalf was looking for someone to go with the dwarves. And maybe Gandalf was tired of looking for someone to go with the dwarves? There is no explicit answer, it could have been a combination of many reasons. –  richieaj Jun 27 '12 at 19:50
There is a near-explicit answer. I quoted it in my answer - the dwarves asked for a 14th man, and Gandalf believed that Bilbo was a suitable candidate –  SSumner Jun 27 '12 at 21:48
I think if we look at the fact that Hobbits are considered to be naturally good at stealth, especially compared to dwarf. Also we could argue that since hobbits are also considered "small" people like dwarfs there is less chance of friction with a party of dwarves and a hobbit as say choosing a human or even an elf. So to me this makes sense why he would choose a hobbit. And if we read the answer posted by @richieaj we can see why he choose Bilbo. Bilbo came from a family of more inquisitive/adventurous hobbits which goes against the norm. So he appears to have been the best choice. –  AquaAlex Sep 1 at 14:30

Gandalf didn't have the Ring in mind for the quest, but he did obviously have Sauron in mind, and as stated before, preventing an alliance between Sauron and Smaug was one of his reasons for helping. Really there's no special answer to this very important question. Gandalf didn't "consult" anything to pick Bilbo. He picked him as an educated guess, or even a hunch. Bilbo simply had the qualities that Gandalf was looking for. He was the best candidate. So in a way, yes, the fact that Hobbits aren't easily corrupted, regardless of the ring, their simplicity and goodness is also one of the reasons why Bilbo was picked. A Hobbit was needed. It's just because Gandalf is wise, this is one example of where he makes a truly wise decision that's not easy to explain.

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In the Quest for Erebor chapter of Unfinished Tales while visiting Hobbiton his attention is brought about Bilbo because he' 'gone off' and disappeared, talks to Sam's grandfather & asks him where Bilbo's gone.

He needed an adventurer & knew Bilbo was one instinctively since he was young.

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Looking back I think that the oneof the reasons Gandalf wanted the go on this quest was to look for the ring. He knows that hobbits aren't easily corrupted by the ring. And because he had a relationship with bilbo he asked him. Killing Smaug was only a reason he used to convince the dwarves to go on the quest, but the main reason for going was to find the ring.

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Source? I have never seen anything to back this up. –  SSumner Dec 5 '12 at 4:35
I highly doubt that. Gandalf had no idea where the ring was and it took him some years to figure out that Bilbo's magic ring was actually the One Ring. –  mort Dec 5 '12 at 9:47
I don't think Gandalf knew Bilbo at that time either. –  Feldpausch All4 Jul 15 at 21:56

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