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Why did Thorin need Dain's help? I thought there were a lot of dwarves from Erebor living in Blue Mountains. Why didn't they help Thorin?

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    are you referencing the films or book? I seem to recall a statement made by Thorin in the first film that he was unable to recruit anyone else save the other dwarves who meet at Bilbo's
    – NKCampbell
    Nov 18, 2016 at 17:55

2 Answers 2

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Consider the following map of Middle-earth:

enter image description here

Erebor is circled in red. The Iron Hills, where Dáin and his people live, are circled in blue. The Blue Mountains (Ered Luin) are in green. Sure, they could have sent word to the Blue Mountains for help, but why bother asking for reinforcements from the other side of the continent when Thorin's cousin, with his massive army of Dwarven warriors, is right next door?

What's more, Thorin and company needed reinforcements immediately; as Bilbo astutely points out, Smaug wasn't exactly keeping a well-stocked pantry:

"Back now to the Mountain!" cried Thorin. "We have little time to lose."

"And little food to use!" cried Bilbo

The Hobbit Chapter 15: "The Gathering of the Clouds"

They wouldn't survive a prolonged seige for all the time it would have taken the dwarves of the Blue Mountains to trek all the way across Middle-earth to help them out; even Thorin's company, moving about as fast as you'd expect thirteen dwarves and a hobbit to go, took about six months1 (though admittedly with some delays). A full Dwarvish army would take at least that long, likely much longer.

So why didn't they take an army with them?

This is a somewhat more sensible proposition, and was actually Thorin's original intention (emphasis mine):

I [Gandalf] promised to help him if I could. I was as eager as he was to see the end of Smaug, but Thorin was all for plans of battle and war, as if he were really King Thorin the Second, and I could see no hope in that.

Unfinished Tales Part 3: "The Third Age" Chapter III: "The Quest of Erebor"

As hinted in the above quote, Gandalf persuaded Thorin to favour a stealthy approach over open warfare, something which is discussed by Gandalf in the text itself:

"[Storming the front gate] would be no good," said the wizard, "not without a mighty Warrior, even a Hero. I tried to find one; but warriors are busy fighting one another in distant lands, and in this neighbourhood heroes are scarce, or simply lot to be found. Swords in these parts are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and shields as cradles or dish-covers; and dragons are comfortably far-off (and therefore legendary). That is why I settled on burglary.

The Hobbit Chapter 1: "An Unexpected Journey"

Tramping through Eriador with a batallion of Dwarvish soldiers is rather the antihesis of a stealthy approach.


1 The initial party at Bilbo's house took place in April, while the company reached Erebor on "Durin's Day", which is pegged by varying sources as either the end of September or mid-October.

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    So you circled the Blue Mountains in green, not blue?
    – Ethan
    Nov 18, 2016 at 19:45
  • Smaug wouldn't notice an army tramping through Eriador. Tramping through Rhovanion, maybe! Nov 19, 2016 at 9:35
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He doesn't have a Blue Mountain army

Armies are expensive to maintain (especially to greedy dwarves) and Thorin's vast wealth was pretty much lost when the Mountain fell, and when Thror went missing (with their Ring) in Moria. Most of the Blue Mountain dwarves are not of the House of Durin- and they lost quite a bit of their own strength helping Durin's folk (Thror, Thrain, and Thorin) fail to retake Moria, and are probably none too willing to follow another Durin's heir on another hopeless quest.

And for that matter, the armies of Erebor and Dale did no good against Smaug the first time, and that was with the benefits of actually holding the defensive fortifications. Marching straight up is basically asking for a disaster. Granted, something could be said for the fact that they were caught unawares.

I don't think it's ever exactly stated (or I am completely unaware) of how Gandalf thought a burglar would help the Dwarves reclaim their treasure (not when it is so vast), nor how a burglar would help kill Smaug (other than the way he actually did- tricking Smaug into showing his weakness). That said, Gandalf was most certainly correct that an army was not the best way to kill Smaug. This answer indicates that he had no plan, it was just a shot in the dark.

The movies patch that plot hole by indicating that Thorin just wants to retrieve the Arkenstone, with which he'll be able to convince his kin (namely Dain) to come to his aid and fight the dragon- clearly he thinks that an army prepared and ready will stand a good chance against Smaug.

Gandalf convincing Thorin not to array an army is because dwarves are stubborn- Thorin probably couldn't have conceived of any other way than to kill Smaug than with an army, which Gandalf knew would not work- thus, he convinced Thorin of another path.

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  • "I don't think it's ever exactly stated (or I am completely unaware) of how Gandalf thought a burglar would help the Dwarves reclaim their treasure (not when it is so vast)" The point of the burglar is to steal the Kings Jewel. Thorin then, if Smaug is dead, rules an empty dragon free kingdom while his people or other subjects turn up or he legs it back to the mountains and rallies support for himself as a legitimised King Under The Mountain. Sure the armies failed to kill the dragon before but with this magic stone we cannot fail... maybe.
    – TafT
    Nov 19, 2016 at 0:44
  • "when Thror went missing (with their Ring) in Moria." Thror gave the ring to Thrain before he left for Moria. The ring was lost when Thrain was captured, taken to Dol Guldur and lost the ring to Sauron himself. Jan 1, 2017 at 21:46

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