In The Hobbit, why is it necessary for Gandalf to leave the expedition?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It's an interesting question, because to get a more complete appreciation as to what's going on in The Hobbit, it might be helpful to look outside of The Hobbit, and more towards the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings.

Gandalf takes his leave of the company at the end of chapter 7, when they've come to the edge of Mirkwood, claiming he has business in the south. Later, Bilbo will learn more about Gandalf's departure, that he'd left to attend "a great council of the white wizards . . . and that they had at last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood" (The Hobbit, chapter 19).

However, The Hobbit provides a limited view into a much larger conflict. For Gandalf (and here, I'm drawing from the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings), the adventures of The Hobbit, served as only a part of the much larger struggle against Sauron (referred to as "the Necromancer" in The Hobbit), who had been building his strength in Mirkwood. Indeed, Sauron's presence was at the very heart of Gandalf's concerns about Smaug—he feared that, when Sauron at last moved against Middle Earth, he would use the dragon as a weapon.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I assume you are referring to Chapter 2 when the dwarves suddenly notice that Gandalf is no longer with them before they get captured by the trolls. Although at first we are told they are most put out by his unexpected absence - for he vanishes without saying that he is leaving - it all works out for the best, as Gandalf is able to return and to save them from the trolls who have captured them and are imminently about to eat roast dwarf for dinner. When Gandalf has tricked the trolls into staying out in sunlight, he explains why he left them:

"I went on to spy out our road. It will soon become dangerous and difficult. Also I was anxious about replenishing our small stoc of provisions. I had not gone very far, however, when I met a couple of friends of mine from Rivendell."

It is these elvish friends from Rivendell that inform Gandalf about the two trolls, and he fears that the expedition might have become "waylaid" by the trolls, so he hurries back to save them.

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