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Battle of Five Armies

The name Battle of Five Armies refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Battle of Five Armies (disambiguation).
Battle of Five Armies
Matt Stewart - The Battle Under the Mountain.jpg
Conflict: Battle of Five Armies
Date: 23 November T.A. 2941 (speculative)[1]
Place: the slopes of Erebor, and the Valley and ruins of Dale
Outcome: Victory for the Elves, Men, and Dwarves

Elves of Mirkwood, Lake-Men, Dwarves of the Iron Hills, Thorin and Company, and Eagles

Orcs of the Misty Mountains, Orcs of the Grey Mountains, Wargs, Bats

  • "A vast host" of Goblins, Bats, and Wargs


Severe; three parts of the goblin warriors of the North perished[4]

The Battle of Five Armies was an important battle waged in T.A. 2941.[5] The five warring parties were the Goblins and the Wargs against Men, Elves and Dwarves on and near the Lonely Mountain.


[edit] History

[edit] Prelude

Thorin and Company, including the "master-thief" Bilbo Baggins trying to recapture the heirloom of their fathers' (and possibly to kill Smaug, too, and thus to recapture the whole Kingdom) had camped without at Erebor for some weeks. Bilbo had already done some exploration of the old hallways using the Back Door and had stolen a golden cup from the treasure. By this deed and by Bilbo's bold speech Smaug's anger was kindled.

Erroneously believing, due to some remarks Bilbo had made during his conversation with Smaug,[6] that some scheme of the Men of Esgaroth was the reason for the Dwarves' (and Bilbo's) presence, Smaug flew to Esgaroth to show them who is "the true King under the Mountain".[6] Smaug's fires burned down the whole town, but the dragon was killed by Bard the Bowman. The Elves of Mirkwood soon learned that Smaug had been killed and thus set forth to claim the treasure, believing there was no one left who had a claim on it. Having heard of the disaster that had struck the befriended men, the Elven host turned aside to offer any help that could be provided. Some day after the Elves had arrived at the Long Lake a united host of Men and Elves set forth towards Erebor, believing that the Dwarves had been among the first casualties of Smaug's wrath. To their surprise they found Thorin and Company quite alive, the gate to the halls beneath Erebor barred by a wall and themselves treated as foes, coming armed towards the gates.[7]

For several reasons Bard, being heir of Girion, Lord of Dale, claimed one twelfth of the treasure: first, he was the dragonslayer and without him, the Dwarves could never have reclaimed their old home. Second, a great deal of Dale's treasure had been robbed by Smaug and thus belonged rightfully to Bard and not the Dwarves. Third, the men of Esgaroth had helped the Dwarves on their journey and now had suffered severely; their whole city burned to the ground and their stocks being destroyed by Smaug, whose anger in the end was only risen by the Dwarves alone. Therefore they demanded compensation and Bard intended to pay it from the part of the treasure he claimed.[8]

Yet Thorin rebuked these claims. He would not fulfill any of the conditions as long as an armoured Elven host camped near Erebor. For the Elves did not have any claims on the treasure and Thorin himself had been imprisoned by the Elves.[8]

As a result, Thorin and Company were trapped in a bloodless siege, with Thranduil and Bard hoping to wait him out.[8] However, Thorin had sent messages of his plight to his relatives using as messengers talking Ravens that lived on the Lonely Mountain. These reached Dáin Ironfoot of the nearby Iron Hills, and he marched to Erebor with 500 heavily armed Dwarves of the Iron Hills, most of them skilled veterans of the War of the Dwarves and Orcs[3]. When Dain's forces arrived, battle was almost joined between the two sides (now three armies were on the field) but at the last moment Gandalf intervened between the two and revealed that while they were bickering amongst themselves, the Goblins of the Misty Mountains and Grey Mountains under Bolg were using the opportunity to march against them. They had been incited by Gandalf's earlier slaying of the Great Goblin, but had now mobilized for a full-scale attack after hearing news of the death of the Dragon and the now relatively unguarded treasure hoard.[9]

[edit] The Battle

The three commanders agreed that the Goblins and Wargs were the enemies of all and previous grievances between them were put on hold in face of the greater threat. They arranged their forces on the two spurs of the Mountain that lined the valley leading to the now-sealed off great Gate of Erebor; the only entrance to the Mountain that remained unblocked (any others had been destroyed by Smaug long before). The 500 Dwarves and 200 or so Lake-men formed up on one spur and over 1000 Elves on the other, while a light rear-guard lined across the mouth of the valley to lure the Goblins between the two spurs of the mountain, and thus destroy them. Bilbo Baggins tried to sit out the battle on Ravenhill which was held by the Elves and where also Gandalf had withdrawn to.[9]

Battle of Five Armies: Men of Esgaroth by Joona Kujanen.
Soon the Goblins and Wargs arrived, and at first the plan worked: they were lured into the chokepoint and took heavy losses. However, due to their superior numbers, the allied Free peoples did not hold the advantage long. The second wave was even worse than the first, and due to their sheer number now many Goblins scaled the mountain from the opposite side, and began to attack the arrayed forces from above and behind, as the main wave pressed forward. The battle raged across the Mountain, and then a great noise was heard: Thorin and his 12 Dwarf companions inside the mountain had thrown down a section of the stone wall they had erected across the mouth of the gates, killing many Goblins. Thorin and Company emerged, covered in the best armour and armed with the best weapons in Erebor. Then Thorin cried, "Rally to me my kinsfolk," and charged down into the valley to join the battle with many Dwarves and many Men and Elves joining them. Thorin advanced through the Goblins' ranks all the way up to the gigantic Goblins that formed the Bodyguard of Bolg, but could not get past them. Also his battle-line was too short, the flanks unprotected and thus his attack soon crumbled, Thorin and many others were cut off and hard beset by Bolg's bodyguard. The battle degenerated into a chaotic close quarters melee, no quarter asked or given.[9]

As the battle was turning fully against the Free Folk, a large army of Giant Eagles of the Misty Mountains arrived, led by the Great Eagle. Bilbo was the first to spot their entrance on the scene and began shouting that "the Eagles are coming!", a shout that was then continued among the other troops of the Free Folk. At this point Bilbo was knocked in the head by a large stone thrown by a Goblin from above on the Mountain, and he was knocked out.[9] With the support of the Giant Eagles, the Goblins that had scaled Erebor were driven off. The tide was eventually turned, when Beorn himself arrived at the battle, apparently having heard news that a large army of Goblins were on the move. This time he did not appear in his former shape of a giant Man, but in that of a gigantic Bear. Beorn drove through the Goblin lines, but paused to carry the wounded Thorin out of the battle with his paw. Beorn then returned to the battle with even greater wrath and smashed the ranks of the Bodyguard of Bolg, ultimately killing Bolg. The Goblins panicked and scattered, to be picked off by hunting forces from the victors later.[10]

[edit] Aftermath

Thorin had been mortally wounded on the field, and his nephews Fíli and Kíli died defending him as he lay on the ground with shield and body. Thorin died soon after the battle, after he had met Bilbo one last time and had taken back the harsh words he had spoken before.

After defeating the Goblins and Wargs, the victors divided the treasure. Bard took Bilbo's fourteenth share of the gold and silver in return for the Arkenstone, whereupon he shared his reward with the Master of Lake-town and gave the Elvenking Thranduil the emeralds of Girion. Bilbo, despite having forfeited his share, was offered a rich reward by Dáin Ironfoot but refused to take more than two small chests of gold and silver.

It is said that three quarters of the Goblin warriors of the North were killed on that day. The Goblins of the Misty Mountains and the Dwarves both were significantly spent after the battle, and until the War of the Ring, the North remained quiet on both sides.[10]

[edit] Other versions of the Legendarium

In its first versions, the conflict around Erebor ended after the Siege. While Bard and the Elvenking laid siege, Gandalf would arrive and negotiate a peace treaty. The actual Battle, dubbed by John D. Rateliff the "Battle of Anduin Vale", would be on the return journey, in what would later be known as the Vales of Anduin. There, Goblins and Wargs would waylay Bilbo. The Five Armies in this incarnation were the Goblins, the Wargs, the Woodelves, the Woodmen, and Beorn Medwed leading a troop of bears.[11]

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

1966: The Hobbit (1966 film):

The battle is completely omitted. Bilbo kills the dragon, and returns home.[12]

1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):

The "Five Armies" are the Elves, the Men, the Dwarves, the Goblins (and Wargs) and the Eagles. Bilbo estimates the force of the Men and Elves on 10,000, but this may not be an accurate estimate. The number of Dwarves of Thorin and Company to have died is seven, but only Thorin and Bombur are named among the dead. Only Glóin is shown as having survived the battle.

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

The battle takes up most of the last chapter. Because Bilbo is the main character, his role in the battle is much expanded. After leaving Thranduil, he has to fight his way to Balin, Lianna, Corwin, Gandalf, Beorn, and ultimately Bolg.

2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:

The battle comprises the majority of the film. The five armies are described as Elves, Men, Dwarves, and two armies of Orcs - one from Dol Guldur and the other from Gundabad.[13] Azog acts as commander, rather than Bolg, and set up a signal post on Raven Hill to coordinate the battle.
In the third installment The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the Orc army led by Azog attacked the Lonely Mountain and the conflict between the Dwarves, Men and Elves was quickly averted. In the Extended Edition, Dain sent forth his goat cavalry and spinning ballistas upon the Elven forces, who tried to counter with shield wall and archer formations; during this early conflict, most of the dwarven cavalry was killed or the dwarves dismounted from their goats and elves were killed until the Were Worms burst forth from the earth and the fighting stopped instantly in the face of the new enemy.
Seeing the danger, Dáin ordered his forward units to rush out onto the plain and set up a phalanx formation to counter the Guldur Orc charge while Thranduil and the elves remained motionless. Just before the Orcs collided the Dwarvish forces, Thranduil sent in hundreds of elves jumping over the Dwarven lines to strike deep into the enemy lines, blunting the Orc charge and giving the Dwarves a chance to mount a counter-charge that skewered hundreds of Orcs, followed soon after by the rest of the Elvish and Dwarvish forces. Determined to regain the initiative, Azog sent in his "War Beasts", a cohort of huge armored trolls who smashed into the left flank of the allied armies and began wreaking havoc. Thranduil's Elven archers countered some of the trolls by letting lose several volleys of thousands of arrows which took out several of the beasts and hundreds of orcs, which in turn allowed Dáin's war-chariots the opportunity to charge into the orc lines and cut many of the orcs down. Azog furiously countered the "war machines" with his ogre shock-troops who charged against the chariots, brought them down and slaughtered the drivers and goats.
Satisfied that the allied armies were now pinned down, Azog sent the other half his army against Dale in a flanking move to cut off their escape and force them to fight on two fronts. Seeing this, the men of Lake-town in the valley along with Bard, Gandalf, and Bilbo made their way to the city to regroup with the rest of the Lake-Town forces and defend it while the Dwarves and Elves continued to engage Azog's forces on the plain.
On the hills outside Dale, huge catapult trolls launched volleys of rocks against the defending walls while a large troll equipped with a stone headpiece charged the north wall and bashed through it, creating an opening for the orcs to enter. Within the city, garrisons of Lake-town guards, well-armed militiamen, and citizens were joined by Bard entering the city with rest of his army, Gandalf, and Bilbo. Taking stock of the situation, Bard rallied his forces and personally lead the primary defense against the orcs in Main Street. Soon the fight became a vicious street brawl, locked into tight corners of one-on-one fights.
As the battle raged on for several hours, the allied forces became increasingly demoralized and exhausted as Orc reinforcements continued to pour out of the tunnels onto the battlefield plain and into Dale simultaneously. Realising that Bard was in trouble, Thranduil and a large contingent of elves charged into Dale to aid it; though during the charge, Thranduil lost his Elk mount. Out on the plain, Dáin along with the Dwarvish and remaining elvish forces found themselves caught in a deadly battle of attrition; the numerical advantage of the orcs was proving more decisive than the superior soldiery skills of the allied forces. In the chaos, Dáin lost his war pig and helmet as he and his remaining forces were being rapidly pushed back. About to be overrun, Dain ordered a retreat to the walls of the mountain and temporarily disengaged Azog's forces. Inside the walls of Dale, Bard too ordered a retreat further into Dale. The surviving Elvish forces, numbering no more than 6,000 left standing at this point in the battle, were withdrawn by Thranduil from the gates of Erebor and ordered to move closer towards the city of Dale and the outskirts of the valley itself for an imminent retreat from the battle altogether, leaving the Dwarves to to their fate.
Drunk with the prospect of victory, Azog regrouped his forces on the plain for a final destructive charge against the remaining Dwarvish forces, which had been whittled down to just 4,000. Locked out of the mountain itself and bereft of any other choice, the Dwarvish army turned to face the orcs, aligned into a crescent-phalanx formation with Dain at its apex and prepared to make its final stand.
Azog waited for a moment until a team of armoured trolls came to the front of the orc lines and then ordered the charge. As he did so, another horn blast sounded from the mountain, causing the orcs to stop in their tracks as the doorway to the mountain was cleared by a huge bell, out of which ran Thorin and his companions, causing the Dwarvish soldiers to shout and cheer at the sight of the king. Roaring a defiant Dwarvish war-cry, Thorin charged the Orc lines and, emboldened by his bravery, Dain's forces charged with him, smashing headlong into Azog's forces and taking out large groups of the orchish forces. Farther out in the valley and within Dale itself, the remaining men of Lake-town and the Elvish forces too found fresh resolve and charged back into battle also. The battle raged on harder than ever only now the allied forces began to evenly match their enemies blow for blow.
During the battle, Thorin decides to kill Azog in Ravenhill and is followed by Dwalin, Fili and Kili. At first they are aided by Balin heading a dwarven war-chariot. On their journey towards the peak; they are chased by ogres, wargs, and a huge armored battle troll, but even among all the chaos around them, they successfully make it towards their destination. When they reach the peak, Azog is nowhere to be found so Thorin sends Fili and Kili to scout the upper levels. Fili is then captured, impaled by Azog and thrown off a tower. Bilbo arrives to warn the Dwarves of Bolg's army which is near but is knocked out by Bolg in Ravenhill. Bolg later finds Tauriel and injures her but before he can finish her, Kili arrives to save her but is impaled by Bolg's mace and dies. In anger Tauriel throws Bolg off a hill but she is dragged down with him. Legolas then spots Bolg and engages in a climactic duel with him in which the giant Gundabad Orc is killed when Legolas plunges a shortsword into his head. After Bolg's death, the Great eagles arrive, led by Radagast and Beorn who quickly demolish the Orc army.
Thorin confronts Azog in an epic fight to avenge Fili and he gains the upper hand by throwing Azog off a hill but the Defiler sends Orc soldiers to kill Thorin but this fails. Azog then returns with a flail but Thorin breaks the ice on the river and Azog falls in the water due to the weight of his weapon. Thorin follows Azog's body but is stabbed in the foot and while he is incapacitated, Azog stabs him in the chest, mortally wounding the Dwarf but Oakenshield plunges Orcrist through Azog's chest and stabs him into the ice, killing the Orc. Thorin later apologises to Bilbo for almost killing him and dies having made peace with Bilbo. Despite Bilbo's efforts to keep him alive, Thorin succumbs to his wounds and dies. He is found dead when the rest of his company arrive.


  1. Karen Wynn Fonstad, The Atlas of Middle-earth (second edition), page 99
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Clouds Burst"
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Thief in the Night"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  6. 6.0 6.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Fire and Water"
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Gathering of the Clouds"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Clouds Burst"
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit: Return to Bag-End, pages 713-4
  12. "The Hobbit.mp4" dated 5 January 2012, YouTube (accessed 10 January 2012)
  13. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (extended edition) Appendices