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What strategic value does the treasure hoard of Erebor have that makes it so desirable for so many factions? Will the gold be used for trade and industry by the parties involved? Is it merely greed or a symbol of power? Are there magical items hidden within the hoard?

I understand that of the Five Armies, the Men of Laketown will benefit from the wealth of gold, as they can use it for trade to rebuild their city. But what of the Elf-King? Do the gems (white gems of pure starlight in the Peter Jackson films and green emeralds in the books) really possess such value (such that Mirkwood needs) that they were worthy of mounting a military campaign? And what of the goblins? What need do they have of gold and treasure? I doubt someone will engage in trade with them, besides, they're more of a pillaging folk, aren't they?

  • I think for the orcs it had something to do with the geographical placement of the mountain. A Strategic point to control for the evil side :D – LepelLeLama Jan 6 '15 at 7:19
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    Giant, near-impenetrable fortress that doubles as a mine AND a factory, plus it's full of treasure... who WOULDN'T want it? – Omegacron Jan 6 '15 at 14:42
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For the Orcs it's not about strategic value, it's about good old revenge. As the book says:

So began a battle that none had expected; and it was called the Battle of Five Armies, and it was very terrible. Upon one side were the Goblins and the wild Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves. This is how it fell out. Ever since the fall of the Great Goblin of the Misty Mountains the hatred of their race for the dwarves had been rekindled to fury.

The Elves are assigned two motives; one is helping out the Men:

But help came swiftly; for Bard at once had speedy messengers sent up the river to the Forest to ask the aid of the King of the Elves of the Wood, and these messengers had found a host already on the move, although it was then only the third day after the fall of Smaug. The Elvenking had received news from his own messengers and from the birds that loved his folk, and already knew much of what had happened.

And the other is greed:

"That will be the last we shall hear of Thorin Oakenshield, I fear," said the king. "He would have done better to have remained my guest. It is an ill wind, all the same," he added, "that blows no one any good." For he too had not forgotten the legend of the wealth of Thror.

As for magic items in the hoard, sure there are:

Altogether those were good days for us, and the poorest of us had money to spend and to lend, and leisure to make beautiful things just for the fun of it, not to speak of the most marvellous and magical toys, the like of which is not to be found in the world now-a-days. So my grandfather's halls became full of armour and jewels and carvings and cups, and the toy-market of Dale was the wonder of the North.

Undoubtedly that was what brought the dragon.

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    +1 excellent answer as always from the book standpoint. But in the movie the orcs (Sauron) want the mountain for its strategic value, as Gandalf clearly states (to Bilbo I think) when he gets there and the elves motives are mostly greed, and ally with the men of Lake Town mainly by common goal. – Joel Jan 6 '15 at 13:14
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    Of course, Erebor also has at least one mithril mail shirt. If there is more equipment of that quality in there, it would be a valuable conquest for any army. The others may not have known about the shirt, but considering that it was the wealthiest dwarven kingdom, it's pretty plausible to imagine it. – KSmarts Jan 6 '15 at 15:42
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Laketown

Laketown obviously needs to rebuild. They do not care about Erebor's strategic position, they simply want the gold they were promised so they can rebuild.

Elves

Like Laketown, the elves aren't really interested in Erebor, they are interested in their ancient heirlooms. They no doubt figured that if Thorin wasn't going to give those gems back, this would have been the best time by far to go and get them by force. There's only a dozen people holding the fort after all.

Sauron

And now we get to the one who actually wants Erebor, Sauron. Sure, the gold is interesting, but the real interest is Erebor itself, a near impregnable fortress that could very well make or break his hold on the north. Sauron sees taking Erebor as the first step towards rebuilding Angmar.

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"to seek our pale enchanted gold"

According to essays in Morgoth's Ring, Morgoth poured much of his evil power into the material world to make it evil and hostile. He specifically enchanted gold with the power to seduce and corrupt people with its desire.

Morgoth would have corrupted all of the gold in the world with that lust-inducing power, and he might have specifically enchanted the gold he had mined and in his vaults with more of that enchantment all the better to bribe people and beings such as dragons with.

So people would have lusted after and fought for gold far more than its intrinsic or monetary value justified. Also dwarves and dragons would have more or less accidentally and unconsciously enchanted their gold with their own lust for it, thus increasing its tempting power over all people who ever came near dwarf or dragon gold.

And during the Second age thousands of years earlier Sauron had given seven Rings of Power to the seven dwarf kings. Those rings failed to enslave the dwarf kings but greatly multiplied thier natural greed for gold. So for thousands of years the dwarf kingdoms have been greedy for more and more gold and demanded payment in gold only, and had gained control of more and more gold, and it became harder and harder to find gold to pay the dwarfs for anything. Thus gold's perceived value had skyrocketed to far more than in our world, despite there being far more gold lying around in dwarf and dragon hoards than in our world.

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Well it wasnt just any old hoarde. There were jewels of great worth both in value and history.

For example Thorin gives Bilbo a corslet that is worth more than the whole shire and everything in it.

Smaug has been given the title of richest villain in fiction by forbes1, with an estimated worth of $62 billion. Not to be sniffed at!

  1. http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mlg45jffl/1-smaug/
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