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Why does Thranduil not help the Dwarves of Erebor (and Men of Dale) when Smaug was attacking? Was it that he simply did not want to risk the lives of his people after already witnessing two kingdoms fall? Or that, perhaps, there is a reason further back in history?

Note: I'm mostly talking about the first Hobbit movie (haven't read the books, don't plan to), but if there is a deeper answer, I know enough Middle-earth lore to understand it.

  • I expect it was too little, too late. By the time the elves heard about it and could react, it was all over. – Oldcat Apr 22 '14 at 17:48
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    You really should read the books. They're far superior to the films – The Fallen Apr 22 '14 at 19:26
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    Its explained in the lego hobbit game, lots of pointing and smashing of blocks I seem to remember.. – Marriott81 Apr 23 '14 at 9:49
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This is hinted at in the theatrical release and made more explicit in the extended edition: Thranduil wanted the white gems, the Dwarves wouldn't give them to him, so one of the reasons why he doesn't help is out of spite.

The idea here is to weave in elements of the ancient quarrel between the Elves and the Dwarves. Jackson, of course, is not legally allowed use the Silmarillion material, so he can't make explicit references to the Ruin of Doriath or the slaying of Thingol, so this is his way of dealing with the matter. (Have I tempted you to read the books yet?)

If an Elf acting out of spite doesn't seem in keeping with the "woodland hippy" cliche that's embedded in popular consciousness: it's very much in keeping with some of the Elves of the First Age, who could be a fairly hot-headed squabbling bad-tempered lot (Thranduil is written this way in the second Hobbit movie).

It's probably good to throw in a quote from the Silmarillion here:

'How do ye of uncouth race dare to demand aught of me, Elu Thingol, Lord of Beleriand, whose life began by the waters of Cuivienen years uncounted ere the fathers of the stunted people awoke?' And standing tall and proud among them he bade them with shameful words be gone unrequited out of Doriath.

It's also a practical matter. As Bilbo says in his introduction:

For this city lay before the doors of the greatest kingdom in Middle-earth: Erebor. Stronghold of Thror, King under the Mountain, mightiest of the dwarf lords.

If a dragon has just successfully overthrown "the greatest kingdom in Middle-earth" then Thranduil and his people really don't stand much chance against it, especially not in open warfare. Again, from Bilbo's introduction:

Thranduil would not risk the lives of his kin against the wrath of the dragon.

So there you have it: greed, spite and caution.

  • This is a very good answer, but I disagree with the "greatest kingdom in Middle-earth" argument: It's based on Bilbo's observations, who hasn't seen too much of the world yet - e.g., Lorien and Gondor. – mort Apr 23 '14 at 8:51
  • Good answer. I'd add the element of distance. IIRC it takes at least a few days to travel from Thranduil's realm to Erebor by boat and on foot. So allowing time for a messenger from Dale/Erebor to reach Thranduil, an army of elves to be gathered, and said army to reach Erebor to do battle with Smaug, there would be nothing left but smouldering ruins. – Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 23 '14 at 9:48
  • @RoyalCanadianBandit - this would be true of the book, but in the movie Thranduil is already near enough to Erebor when the sack happens and the Dwarves escape. – user8719 Apr 24 '14 at 15:53
  • Technically, wouldn't Thranduil be considered an Elf of the First Age? Wasn't he at least a young adult by the destruction of Beleriand? – Omegacron Dec 22 '14 at 22:02
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    @Omegacron - it's implied but not stated explicitly, I believe. However, and interestingly, the Hobbit does contain a reference to the Ruin of Doriath: "In ancient days they had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of stealing their treasure. It is only fair to say that the dwarves gave a different account, and said that they only took what was their due, for the elf-king had bargained with them to shape his raw gold and silver, and had afterwards refused to give them their pay." – user8719 Dec 22 '14 at 22:11
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Odd that the Elven army was there already.
It took Smaug only minutes to over take Erebor so the elves couldn't have gotten a call for help and been there in time.
It felt to me that the Elven army was there to claim the gems of their ancestors that the dwarves wouldn't give to them. It looked like the Elven Army was there to battle the dwarves and decided to let the dragon do their dirty work once they saw it was attacking Erebor. The immortal Elves realized at that moment that they didn't have to go to war with the dwarves, but rather just wait out the dragon and claim what was theirs. At least that's what it looked like to me

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