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In The Hobbit, after Thorin and company raid the troll's cave they bury the treasure they looted. It's says "they" cast lots of spells over the treasure to help hide it.

Then they brought up their ponies, and carried away the pots of gold, and buried them very secretly not far from the track by the river, putting a great many spells over them, just in case they ever had the chance to come back and recover them.

Who cast these spells? Gandalf? The dwarves?

If the dwarves, do we see them cast any other spells in the books? I mean this company and their kin. Not the dwarves that put up the secret doors, like the one at Moria.

I know we also see this when the Company finds the hidden door on the Lonely Mountain:

They beat on it, they thrust and pushed at it, they implored it to move, they spoke fragments of broken spells of opening, and nothing stirred.

But I don't know if this means they would or would not know spells of hiding (or if the hiding spells were actually effectual). Yet, I don't think it in Gandalf's character to hide something as trivial as gold for some Dwarves and a Hobbit.

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  • Can you provide more complete context? A quote would be useful here. Mar 21, 2016 at 2:17
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    I note that it doesn't say the spells worked. Personally I would imagine this was just Dwarvish superstition. (I somehow visualize Gandalf standing around patiently and politely declining to point this out.) Mar 21, 2016 at 3:37
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    Yes, now that you point it out, the Dwarves did definitely have magic of sorts, didn't they. And if there was one set of spells they were going to retain after all the others were forgotten, it would probably be the spells for keeping treasure safe. :-) Mar 21, 2016 at 3:56
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    Well, are there any elves casting spells in the book?
    – Misha R
    Mar 21, 2016 at 8:02
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    @NKCampbell Yup. I mention that in the question.
    – user31178
    Mar 21, 2016 at 15:01

4 Answers 4

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"Far over the Misty Mountains old
through dungeons deep and caverns cold
we must away, ere break of day
to seek our pale enchanted gold.

The Dwarves of yore MADE MIGHTY SPELLS
their hammers fell like ringing bells
in places deep where dark things sleep
in hollow halls beneath the fells..."

So Dwarves like Narvi and his kin made spells about 5,000 years earlier in Moria, as the OP says, and in this song Thorin and company claim that the Dwarves of Erebor MADE MIGHTY SPELLS up until 170 years earlier – within the lifetimes of Thorin, Balin, and several other members of the company, who might have MADE MIGHTY SPELLS back then and still know how to make spells.

And what does "A Long Awaited Party" in LOTR say about the toys from Erebor given as presents to the Hobbit Children about 60 years after Bilbo's journey? That they were "OBVIOUSLY MAGICAL". Seeming "OBVIOUSLY MAGICAL" to Hobbits indicates that they were probably actually magical, and unless they are antiques they would have been made recently, probably to Bilbo's order, by spell-using Dwarves of Erebor.

Thus it is POSSIBLE that some or all the Dwarves in Thorin's group had some magical abilities, and treasure hiding spells seem like the type of spells Dwarves would know.

And so it is POSSIBLE that some or all of the treasure hiding spells were cast by Thorin's Dwarves.

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I won't call this an actual answer, but I would like to call attention to one aspect of Tolkien's Legendarium and that is that in it, magic works a little differently than what we're used to seeing in fantasy stories. "Magic" or sorcery as we would think of it is typically reserved for dark forces, whereas the magic of elves, dwarves, and even hobbits (I'll get to that) is more akin to a deep fundamental knowledge of crafts, in ways that, to us, would seem magical but really just involve a level of skill and understanding that we can't really achieve.

Examples of this being Gandalf's ability to set things alight, but only in the presence of a flammable medium - he explicitly states in Fellowship of the Ring when they are on Caradhras that he cannot simply create fire. Another example being in concern to the "magical" properties of the elven cloaks given to the Fellowship by the Galadhrim - when asked if they are indeed magic, an elf (maybe Galadriel, I'm sorry I don't have that source material at hand at the moment) responds with an explanation that is basically the gist of my whole response here.

So, concerning the magic of dwarves and even hobbits, I believe it is along these same lines. It is explicitly stated in The Hobbit, that hobbits have "little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly..." (The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party). As The Hobbit is supposed to have been written by Bilbo, this implies that, to the races themselves, the magic they possess is simply not considered really magical. As far as Hobbits are concerned, their ability to go about silently is just a skill or talent, apparently also possessed, to a lesser degree, by dwarves. But for 13 dwarves and a hobbit to be able to shuffle past and yet "I don't suppose you or I would have noticed anything at all on a windy night, not if the whole cavalcade had passed two feet off" (The Hobbit, Roast Mutton) is definitely what would be considered, by our standards, a magical ability. Try walking alone, through the woods filled with grass and sticks and dead leaves 20 feet from someone without them noticing, let alone 2 feet away accompanied by 13 others.

In summary, I think all races in Middle Earth have magic, to varying degrees, at least by our standards and understanding, and all members of those races are at least capable of learning said "magic". Even Aragorn, a man, has obviously "magical" healing abilities, and possibly magical combat abilities (as he was able to make it through an entire war without a single scratch, and strike terror in his foes with his presence alone).

It's also possible that, as The Hobbit was originally a stand alone story, nothing I've said is relevant and the dwarves really were casting outright supernatural magical spells.

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    There's also the possibility that the "magic" was of the folk variety, something without any actual effect beyond convincing those present that it did.
    – chepner
    Mar 7 at 17:12
  • This is a very good point! This sort of "innate" magic seems to be different from the sorcery that also existed: "this is what your folk would call magic...though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. But this...is the magic of Galadriel." and " 'Are these magic cloaks?' 'I do not know what you mean by that...They are fair garments...for it was made in this land...they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lórien...for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.' "
    – Mark Olson
    Mar 7 at 21:07
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My Tolkien books are in my boys' room, so I can't get to them until the morning. In the meantime, I did find the summary I quote below.

In spite of what the blogger writes, I agree that we can't rule out that the dwarves might have used magic. But I think it is worth noting that Gandalf was willing to use his magic to try to open the door. I've used bold to highlight that sentence.

If Gandalf was willing to use magic to get into the cave, why wouldn't he be willing to use magic to guard the recovered treasure? I want to reread the passage tomorrow to confirm my understanding, but if there is no contrary evidence in the book or in Tolkien's other writing, I think it's the simplest solution to think that Gandalf cast the guard spells.

The Book: After the dwarves are released from their bags, they demand to hear Bilbo's account of the troll incident. They berate him for trying to pickpocket the trolls, until Gandalf mentions that there ought to be a cave nearby that they should search for. They find it easily, but it is closed off by a large stone door. No amount of pushing, or Gandalf's magic, can open it. Bilbo finds a key that one of the trolls had dropped during their fight, and they use that to open the door. The troll's cave is full of gold, food, and weapons. Two swords catch their eyes, due to their beautiful, jewel encrusted scabbards and hilts. Thorin and Gandalf claim these for themselves, and Bilbo takes a knife. Gandalf notes that the swords were not made by men or trolls, but does not mention their elvish origin. Fili makes the decision to leave, but not before all the dwarves have taken as much food as they could. The dwarves sleep until afternoon, and then bury all the pots of gold in a secret area by the river. A great many spells are placed over the treasure to protect it - the text does not say if it's Gandalf who places the spells or not, but it's safe to assume that he is the only magic user in the Company. Thorin then asks Gandalf where he'd gone off to: the conversation plays out almost exactly as it does in the movie, only Thorin gets annoyed at Gandalf's mysterious answer and asks him to speak more clearly. Gandalf mentions that he'd visited Rivendell, and says that they will be going there in a few days time.

From The Hobbit: Book and Film Differences

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Note that in the Book of Lost Tales Part 2, the dwarf Mîm has as a major role, and his curse on the gold hoard in Nargothrond overshadows the role that the Silmarils play as the story goes on. That the members of Thorin's company could put spells on treasure is less surprising when one knows this is something Tolkien already has had Dwarves do. I wouldn't be surprised is this story element dated back to the earliest drafts of The Hobbit from the early 1930s, when Dwarves in Tolkien's mind were less developed towards what we know from the later Hobbit and especially Lord of the Rings.

And all this is no doubt influenced by the capabilities in traditional Germanic mythologies containing Dwarves, for instance:

In Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks1, the sword Tyrfing is forged, and subsequently cursed, by a dwarf named Dvalinn (source: Wikipedia)


1 Incidentally, edited as well as translated into English by Christopher Tolkien.

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