Does Bilbo's contract v the dwarves provide him any claim to the One Ring? space its requirements for arbitration in the Dwarvish tongue enforceable? One lawyer take away a closer look at to uncover out.

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Editor's Note: James Daily, a lawyer and also co-author the The Law and Superheroes, commonly focuses his legitimate critiques ~ above the superhero civilization at the Law and the Multiverse website he operation with fellow lawyer and also co-author Ryan Davidson. Today, daily takes a look a an extremely important social document for tennis2007.org: The contract between Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves in The Hobbit.

Ordinarily i don’t talk about legal worries relating to fictional settings that space dramatically various from the real world in regards to their legit system. Thus, Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkien’s center Earth, etc. Room usually off-limits because we can’t meaningfully apply real-world legislation to them. However the contract featured in The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey was just too good a topic to pass up, especially because you can buy a high-quality replica the it that is over 5 feet lengthy unfolded.


First, the seems fairly clear (to me, anyway) the Tolkien composed the Shire (where hobbits live) as a nearby analog to pastoral England, v its similar legal and also political structures. For example, the Shire has actually a mayor and also sheriffs, and there is a mechanism of inheritance similar to the usual law. The common law fundamentals of contract law have actually not changed significantly due to the fact that the time that the Shire is intended to evoke, so it renders sense the the contract would certainly be broadly similar to a contemporary contract (and an in similar way that we might apply contemporary contract regulation to it).


So, without further ado, let’s gain to it.

The Contract in General

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As mentioned, the contract is rather long. This is in contrast with the contract as explained in the book, i beg your pardon is an extremely terse. Its terms amounted come this:


For her hospitality ours sincerest thanks, and for your offer of skilled assistance our grateful acceptance. Terms: cash top top delivery, increase to and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any); every travelling prices guaranteed in any type of event; funeral prices to be defrayed by united state or ours representatives, if occasion arises and also the issue is no otherwise arranged for.


Even in the book’s variation we view an issue: the dwarves accept Bilbo’s “offer” however then continue to give terms. This is no actually one acceptance but rather a counter-offer, because they’re adding terms. In the end it no matter since Bilbo successfully accepts the counter-offer by reflecting up and rendering his solutions as a burglar, yet the simple point is the the indigenous of a contract perform not always have the legal result that they case to have. Sometimes you have to look previous the kind to the substance.


But back to the movie version: It contends least 40 significant sections and numerous footnotes and also digressions in smaller sized type. Us will begin at the beginning and go ~ above till us reach the end, other than where the type of the contract requires some jumping around.

Bilbo's responsibilities to the Dwarves

Two clauses describe Bilbo’s main obligations:


I, the undersigned, agree to travel to the Lonely Mountain, path to be figured out by Thorin Oakenshield, who has actually a appropriate to transform the food of the journey at his so choosing, without prior an alert and/or liability for accident or injury incurred.

The aforementioned journey and also subsequent extraction from the Lonely mountain of any and all goods, valuables and chattels shall continue in a fashionable manner and also with every due care and also consideration as seen fit by said Thorin Oakenshield and companions, numbering thirteen more or less, come wit, the Company.


All contracts call for some factor to consider from every parties come the contract. Consideration, in the contract sense, way a bargained-for power or promise. Restatement (Second) of contracts § 71(1). Basically, this is miscellaneous of value provided or promised as component of the agreement. This have the right to be anything the the next agree is valuable; the classic example is a solitary peppercorn. Whitney v. Stearns, 16 Me. 394, 397 (1839).

Here, Bilbo is promising to go v the firm to the Lonely Mountain and also performing assorted services there, including extracting the treasure, to add a few more services we’ll acquire to later. In turn, together we candlestick see, the company promises to pay Bilbo one fourteenth of the profits, to add a couple of other obligations. Thus we have actually “a promise because that a promise,” otherwise recognized as a bilateral contract.

There are some other details to notice in this clauses. One is the use of identified terms (e.g. “referred come hereinafter as Burglar”). The parties to a contract may specify terms yet they wish, even in methods that contradict the meaning used in law or regulations.

This is necessary in this case due to the fact that of the usage of the characterized term “Burglar.” contracts to execute something illegal are ordinarily unenforceable (e.g. Collecting on an illegal gambling debt). But here what problem is not that the parties offered the word ‘burglar’ yet rather what kind of an interpretation they assigned come that defined term. As we chandelier see, the contract doesn’t require Bilbo to perform anything illegal (or at least not clear illegal), and so the contract will more than likely not fail for use of a questionable term.

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Thorin's right to transform the Journey

These 2 clauses also pose miscellaneous of a contradiction. ~ above the one hand we see the an initial of countless liability waivers:


a appropriate to change the course of the journey at his so choosing, without prior an alert and/or liability because that accident or injury incurred.” however on the various other hand we check out this explicit duty of care: “ shall proceed in a timely manner and with every due care and consideration.

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Ordinarily “due care and consideration” signifies taking on liability for negligence, so this disputes with the earlier liability waiver. Perhaps the two deserve to be reconciled by the phrase “as checked out fit by claimed Thorin Oakenshield and also companions.” Thorin and Co. Could constantly claim that the lot of care and also consideration they saw fit was very minimal, though that runs the hazard of make the i meaningless, which courts usually don’t like to do. ”As a basic proposition, at any time possible, the legislation favors reconciliation the clauses in ~ a contract which appear contradictory.” City the Columbia v. Paul N. Howard Co., 707 F.2d 338, 340 (8th Cir. 1983). Taken in addition to the many other waivers and also disclaimers, i think a court would more than likely conclude that Thorin & Co. Were not taking on any specific duty that care. ”A writing is taken as a whole.” Restatement (Second) of contracts § 202(2).