During the meeting at Bilbo's house, the Dwarves and Gandalf are discussing ways of entering Erebor. Thorin suggests taking a route up the River Running, to which Gandalf responds (emphasis mine):

"That 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 not to be found. [...] "

The Hobbit - Chapter I: An Unexpected Party

This sentence could be read in one of two ways:

  • "I tried to find any warrior - but all were too busy fighting"
  • "I tried to find a specific warrior - but he/she was too busy fighting amongst the rest of the warriors"

Is there any indication in Tolkien's writings that Gandalf went in search for someone in particular? Or did he simply go looking for any warrior who would join him?

In addition, where did Gandalf go in search of his mighty warrior?

  • 13
    "I tried to find one" being preceded by "not without a mighty warrior", especially followed by "warriors" in plural fighting one another, indicates grammatically that he was trying to find anyone who was a mighty warrior, not a specific one.
    – TylerH
    Dec 30, 2016 at 15:16
  • 1
    I took "in this neighborhood heroes are scarce" to be a subtle dig at the sedentary nature of hobbits.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 30, 2016 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


Gandalf had been trying to find a solution to the Smaug problem for a while:

"The state of things in the North was very bad. The Kingdom under the Mountain and the strong Men of Dale were no more. To resist any force that Sauron might send to regain the northern passes in the mountains and the old lands of Angmar there were only the Dwarves of the Iron Hills, and behind them lay a desolation and a Dragon.

The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect. Often I said to myself: 'I must find some means of dealing with Smaug. But a direct stroke against Dol Guldur is needed still more. We must disturb Sauron's plans. I must make the Council see that.' [...]

When you think of the great Battle of Pelennor, do not forget the Battle of Dale. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador! There might be no Queen in Gondor."

The Unfinished Tales, The Quest of Erebor

There is no indication that Gandalf had a particular individual in mind when he referred to "a mighty Warrior, even a Hero". I interpret this quote as being about any warrior or just help in general.

Concerning the quote that "warriors are busy fighting one another in distant lands", I'm not so sure. The obvious meaning is that Gandalf was allied with two or more factions but that they were fighting each other. If that is the case, I am unaware of who he is referring to. There are no major wars going on at that time.

It is more likely that it refers to a general apathy that Gandalf was struggling with in the South. He had been trying to attack Dol Guldur for years without success, being countered by Saruman at every turn.

The might of Gondor was no more: they had been pounded over the centuries from all sides and had lost major cities (Osgiliath and Minas Ithil) and territories. Only 60 years before, the White Tree had died in Minas Tirith and South Ithilien was invaded and ravaged by the Haradrim. Aragorn was only 11 years old and there were no indication that he would rally the people of Gondor and become King.

Nobody cared about a dragon in a lonely mountain but Gandalf.

  • yes, I read it the same way, that he had qualifications in mind, but not a specific person, and nobody with the right qualifications was available and willing to take on the task.
    – jwenting
    Dec 30, 2016 at 13:07
  • The rest of the Third Age world was not conceived in 1936, was it? I take ‘distant lands’ to mean parts of fantasy-land that don't concern this fairy-tale and are therefore undefined. Dec 31, 2016 at 4:39

There are wars in distant lands. From what I understood, the Eastern and Southern lands are pretty much in constant wars of small to medium sized clans of men, corrupted by Morgoth, who never had any dealings with Elves, Dwarves or Middle-Earth. We know the 2 blue mages are somewhere out there but we have no clue about what they're doing (and very little does Gandalf know as well).

EDIT: To answer the question: We don't know but I suppose he would have thought of Aragorn first if he were old enough at the time, which is unclear but probable.

  • 2
    There's no indication Gandalf was unaware of what the other Istari were doing. And Aragorn was 11.
    – isanae
    Dec 30, 2016 at 17:03

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