Roac is a minor character in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. Roac is responsible for passing some key information on to the characters late in the book.
Roac is the hereditary chief of a group of ravens that live high on Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. He is 153 years old at the time of the book, having inherited his position from his father Carc, who had served the line of Durin for many years. For this reason, Roac serves Thorin Oakenshield, giving him some vital information about the death of Smaug, and the impending Battle of Five Armies.
Roac poses an interesting question to those who study Tolkien and the internal consistency of his worlds. In Tolkien's world, only certain classes of creatures are capable of sentience. Animals are usually not included in that list, with the certain exception of spirits in animal form. Roac, however, is capable of speech, memory and social behavior. This would appear to make him sentient.
There are about three main explanations for this.
- Roac is a Raven, birds that are, in real life, capable of speech, memory and social behavior. Tolkien's portrayal of a Raven society is only slightly more exagerrated then what occurs in real life.
- Roac is, like the Eagles, a spirit or Maia, granted physical form by the Valar to help guide mortals. Since the exact numbers of the Maia were never mentioned (just that there were many), it is a possibility that hundreds of Maia were dispatched in raven form to look over the Dwarves.
- The existence of talking ravens was an artifact from the fact that at the time of the Hobbit, Tolkien was not writing a piece of his serious mythology, but was rather writing a story for children, and therefore did not put any internal consistency in it. A talking raven, was, after all, just an interesting plot device.