Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.
After the dwarves question Gandalf’s judgment in bringing Bilbo along, Gandalf insists they take him at his word. Gandalf sees more incisively than others, a fact that can make his motivations inscrutable to his comrades—his perspective is too vast and too informed by his long life as a wizard for lesser beings to truly understand. The adventurers will learn that Gandalf’s choices are sound, but he requires many leaps of faith from them.
“What did I tell you?” said Gandalf laughing. “Mr. Baggins has more about him than you guess.” He gave Bilbo a queer look from under his bushy eyebrows, as he said this, and the hobbit wondered if he guessed at the part of his tale that he had left out.
After Bilbo tells the tale of his escape from Gollum but neglects to mention the invisibility ring, Gandalf instantly senses that Bilbo is hiding something. This moment speaks to the power of Gandalf’s intuition but also exemplifies Gandalf’s position as the group’s moral center. Gandalf takes a mentor role with Bilbo, subtly guiding the hobbit toward his best self, and seems mildly alarmed or at least surprised at this small lapse in integrity.
Not until then did they notice that Gandalf was missing. So far he had come all the way with them, never saying if he was in the adventure or merely keeping them company for a while. He had eaten most, talked most, and laughed most. But now he simply was not there at all!
The narrator explains the moment the dwarves and Bilbo realize that Gandalf has abandoned them without a word, a development that troubles the group. While Gandalf always has reasons for his actions—the adventurers soon find out Gandalf left to check the path ahead for danger, and his separation allows him to save the group when they are captured by trolls—his tendency to keep those reasons to himself causes his friends great stress and confusion.
Then Gandalf lit up his wand. Of course it was Gandalf; but just then they were too busy to ask how he got there.
The narrator reveals how, just as a mob of goblins is fixing to murder the adventurers, Gandalf appears and saves their lives. Gandalf’s ability to appear out of nowhere at just the right moment gives him a deity-like quality, as though he were always somewhere in the air, pulling the strings and shepherding the group through danger. This quality enhances his mystery and power while also making the times when he doesn’t turn up that much scarier.
Now you can understand why Gandalf, listening to their growling and yelping, began to be dreadfully afraid, wizard though he was, and to feel that they were in a very bad place, and had not yet escaped at all.
The narrator reveals Gandalf’s inner reaction to a dangerous situation. The adventurers find themselves trapped in trees with bloodthirsty goblins and wolves below, and we see another of Gandalf’s key roles in the narrative: as a measurer of the stakes. Gandalf appears so powerful and seems to know exactly what to do so often that when he himself feels afraid, readers sense how truly dire the situation must be.
“Farewell!” they cried, “wherever you fare, till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!” That is the polite thing to say among eagles. “May the wind under the wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.
After eagles fly the group to safety from marauding goblins, Gandalf thanks the birds in the manner of their custom. In a world so firmly stratified by lines of race and species, Gandalf can move freely among the different spheres. This freedom stems partly from his knowledge and skill but also from the power of mutual respect. The eagles treat him as an equal because he has learned their customs and respects their ways.
“There is always more about you than anyone expects!” It was Gandalf. For the first time for many a day Bilbo was really delighted.
Here, after Bilbo bravely betrays Thorin in an effort to spare soldiers’ lives, Gandalf praises Bilbo for his integrity. This moment of warmth shows the positive effect Gandalf’s mentoring can have: A word of genuine praise from the wizard totally lifts Bilbo’s spirits. Gandalf may have great power, but he uses that power compassionately, truly delighting in uplifting others.
It was in this way that he learned where Gandalf had been to; for he overheard the words of the wizard to Elrond. It appeared that Gandalf had been to a great council of the white wizards, masters of lore and good magic; and that they had at last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood.
Here, the narrator reveals that Bilbo learns where Gandalf disappeared to during one of his absences. In this scene, readers begin to realize why Gandalf may have withheld this information before: He was attending to very dangerous business and likely didn’t want to distract his comrades with worries about his well-being. This knowledge serves as yet more confirmation of Gandalf’s wisdom and compassion. Though the wizard can be frustratingly mysterious, he always acts with purpose and sound judgment.