Since no inch of geekdom goes unexplored in our modern age, lawyer and author James Daily runs a website called Law And The Multiverse that examines the actual legality of the fictional laws in genre shows (For instance: What right to privacy does a superhero have?). And while he normally deals with contemporaneous fictional worlds, Daily branched out to Middle Earth in a new article for Wired. The question: Does Bilbo’s contract with the dwarves in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stand up to legal scrutiny?
Way back in the first film, Bilbo officially joins the Dwarven campaign as their “Burglar” after signing a nearly five-foot contract. And while some props departments might merely fill that scroll with jibberish, Hobbit props designer Daniel Reeve drafted actual legal text onto his version (conveniently available for purchase). Under the assumption that the Shire has a legal system similar to the common law of pastoral England, Daily dives into the lengthy contract with his own equally lengthy analysis.
Aside from a few “anachronisms, unnecessary clauses, typos, and a small number of clear drafting errors,” Daily is impressed with the contract on the whole, although he brings up some interesting issues. One big one that has ramifications for the final film is whether Bilbo has a right to claim whatever he likes as his 1/14th of the Dwarven treasure (like, say, an Arkenstone) or whether the Dwarves get to determine his payment. There’s also a question of whether the contract falls under Shire or Dwarven Kingdom jurisdiction, not to mention the fact that by signing the contract Bilbo agrees to discuss all future contract disputes in Dwarvish.
All that plus way more deep cut legal analysis is available over on Wired.