Today we are honored to present a G-i-P Report provided by Marc Zender (see his course on Tolkienian linguistics – at Harvard University).
The 4th Production Video Blog of The Hobbit contains a short scene of what appears to be Gandalf etching his mark on Bilbo’s door. (See 05:00 in the video posted here). The image shows a bent nail at the base of Gandalf’s staff (see part of his cloak to the right), etching a rune into Bilbo’s green door. The rune is certh 19 G which, in addition to being the first sign in Gandalf’s name, is also used as his mark throughout The Lord of the Rings — e.g., labeling the firecrackers he brings for Bilbo’s birthday party, as a signature in his urgent letter to Frodo, as his secret mark on Weathertop, etc.
Readers of The Hobbit will remember that Gandalf marks Bilbo’s door in order to lead the Dwarves to Bag End: “… with the spike of his staff [he] scratched a queer sign on the hobbit’s beautiful green front-door.” The next day, when he arrives with the Dwarves, he beats “a hard rat-tat on the hobbit’s beautiful green door … with a stick” which “knock[s] out the secret mark that he had put there the morning before”. Bilbo is of course unaware of any of this, and therefore expresses some surprise and irritation at the Dwarves’ presumptuous arrival and assumptions, remarking: “I have no signs on my door—it was painted a week ago—, and I am quite sure you have come to the wrong house”. Gloin responds: remarking ”I assure you there is a mark on this door—the usual one in the trade … ‘Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward,’ that’s how it is usually read.”
Of course, Tolkien never provided his readers with an image of this complex mark. Rather than invent it, the filmmakers seem to have opted instead for the reasonable replacement of Gandalf’s initial.
[I would like to add to this information that in fact we do know the actual sign Tolkien wanted to appear on Bilbo's door. In J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator by Scull & Hammond, p. 99, we can find Tolkien's sketch with the door of Bag End, with Gandalf and three mysterious signs. They seem to be Anglo-Saxon runes (used in The Hobbit for the Dwarvish script): B for Burglar, D for Danger and a sign of a jewel/diamond for Reward. See the actual inscription in our news from 2009 - here).
Richard "Galadhorn" Derdzinski.]