The other day I watched a video clip from director Peter Jackson’s upcoming movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; part two in a trilogy of films based on the classic 20th century novel by J.R.R Tolkien.
Jackson, as you may know, was also the director of The Lord of The Rings trilogy of films (the sequel to The Hobbit) which netted him Oscar nominations for all three, as well as the coveted Best Picture Award for the final film “The Return of The King”.
The Hobbit is one of my favorite stories of all time, and one of the few books I like to re-read every few years. Seeing this awe-inspiring video and realizing that the new movie was coming lit the fire for me, so I once again decided take the plunge. But as I dove into my worn, weather-beaten paperback copy of The Hobbit, I quickly became reacquainted with the same gnawing feeling in my gut that happens every time I read it (or any one of the other “Rings” books for that matter).
I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy worlds with dragons, wizards and trolls. Perhaps it’s the chivalry of noble men with magic rings or the notion that good always triumphs over evil that keeps me coming back. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was consumed with playing Dungeons and Dragons growing up. In any case, I love stories about bands of brothers who stick together on a journey and see it through to the end.
And that’s where my problem with Gandalf comes in.
Gandalf is the wizard in the story who “nudges” poor little Bilbo Baggins (the hobbit) on his journey with a bunch of dwarves to slay a dragon and obtain a ransom of wealth. Gandalf is one of those dudes who can pretty much destroy the whole damn world if he wants to. So why he seems content to send little people out on a dangerous quest is a mystery.
But it’s not the fact that he takes hobbits and dwarves off to fight dragons that upsets me. It’s the fact that Gandalf also likes to play “Now you see me, Now you don’t” that really pisses me off.
You see, Gandalf is one of those guys who likes to get everyone together, tells them how horrible the journey is going to be and even promises to go with them on what seems like an impossible quest. Then at some point early on during the course of the adventure, he conveniently pulls the disappearing act, and his 23 skidoo tends to occur just after an early battle. Gandalf will say something like: “Urgent matters to attend to, if you must know” or some other such nonsense. And no amount of tears or pleading from the little guys will make him change his mind.
What’s worse than Gandalf actually leaving the group is the fact that he somehow “magically” returns dozens of chapters later, just in time for the final battle and to obtain a share of the glory. Then all the way home Gandalf never has to leave again. Nope, travels with Bilbo every step of the way for months at a time. WTF?
As I finished the last page where Gandalf and Bilbo are laughing about their “adventure” together, I couldn’t help but imagine if something like that happened today. Suppose you and a team of others were building a state of the art high-rise building. Early on, your best crew member (Gandalf) leaves for no reason, but then comes back months later to hammer the final nail and claim he was a part of it. Instead of gold and glory, I’d be willing to wager Gandalf would be sporting a black eye.
Oh, you may have fooled the hobbits and the dwarves Mr. Gandalf, but not me. I’m on to you wizard.