In our latest Library feature, Katelyn Rushe shares her theory that Bofur was left behind in Lake-town by Thorin Oakenshield on purpose. She raises some interesting ideas, and though they are based on the character of Bofur, they also throw some additional insight into the character of Thorin, as both characters are depicted in the three Hobbit films.
Was Bofur Left in Lake-town On Purpose?
by Katelyn Rushe
I’ve often said that the fun of watching a story play out over multiple installments is that it gets the creative wheels in your head turning. You would think that a film series like The Hobbit, which is based on one of the most thoroughly mapped out legendariums in literary history, wouldn’t allow much room for fan theories, but through the power of book-to-screen adaptation, a lot of things have changed in the tale and a lot of questions have been raised about them. One such change is the screenwriters’ decision to have four of the dwarves from Thorin Oakenshield’s company stay behind in Lake-town in the trilogy’s second film, The Desolation of Smaug.
For the sake of this essay, here’s a quick run-down of how that scene unfolds. Thorin is in a hurry to leave Lake-town so his party can reach the secret door into Erebor by sundown, a deadline that their entire quest hinges on them meeting. Having learned that his nephew Kili is injured, Thorin orders him to stay behind for the time being since he will likely slow their progress. Outraged by this, Kili’s brother Fili decides to stay behind with him, and the group’s medic Oin decides to stay as well so he can tend to Kili’s wound. In the midst of all of this, a fourth dwarf named Bofur wakes up late to discover that the group is leaving without him and he just misses the boat out of Lake-town.
The controversy of this change aside, the only leaving-behind of the four that ever felt contrived to me was Bofur’s. The reasons for the other three dwarves are fairly well set up and tie in naturally with each other, but in Bofur’s case, it just sort of happens. No one has much to say about it, and it seems almost random that it even happens to him at all. We know from a storytelling standpoint why it does; he’s one of the more likeable dwarves, and if he’s in Lake-town when the dragon Smaug attacks it, we’ll be more invested. In the context of the movie though, it’s a little hard to buy that twelve other dwarves (including his own brother and cousin) would fail to notice his absence from the group.
This leads me to my own personal fan theory about The Desolation of Smaug: that Bofur being left behind in Lake-town is supposed to feel contrived because in the context of the movie, it was contrived. My theory is that the other dwarves left him there on purpose.
Why would they do that? The answer, I believe, lies with the person who most likely would have orchestrated the whole plan—Thorin.
Looking at his interactions with Bofur before that, it’s easy to come up with a motive for the King Under the Mountain. For starters, Bofur doesn’t seem to take Thorin all that seriously as a leader. He follows orders most of the time, even if he’s not always thrilled with them, but when there’s danger afoot, he makes his own judgment calls without waiting to hear what Thorin thinks.
Take for instance the warg chase from An Unexpected Journey. After the company takes cover from their pursuers in a cave, they discover a tunnel, which Bofur immediately declares they should venture into. The rest of the company obeys this direction without so much as consulting Thorin.