Chapter Nineteen: The Last Stage
Watching the documentaries that accompany “The Return of the King” I was struck by the assertion of many critics of the film that it had “too many endings”. Actually the resolution phase of the final film didn’t even have all of the “endings” that occurred in the book (most notable absences are the scouring of the Shire and the fate of Saruman). Yet for some audience members who had just sat through three plus hours in the theater it was a little bewildering to see a fade to black followed by a fade in for another scene, several times over. However, given the scope of “The Lord of the Rings” there were a lot of endings to wrap up.
Here, Peter Jackson has expanded the story of “The Hobbit” by creating new sub-plots that will need to be addressed. In the last chapter Tolkien alludes to the reconstituting of the Kingdoms of Erebor and Dale and the fate of the Dwarf race. The conflict between them and the Elves, while not completely diffused, receives some closure. But what happens with Tauriel and Legolas needs to be addressed. Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel will need to be set up for their continuing roles in “The Lord of the Rings”. The move of Sauron to Mordor and Gollum’s emergence from under the Misty Mountains in search of his “precious” from the “thief” Baggins may also be touched upon as a springboard into the next films.
Whereas “The Return of the King” was truly about wrapping everything up, the ending(s) of “The Battle of the Five Armies” are more focused on setting up the next phase of this one long story.
As the last chapter opens, we learn that it is on May 1st (slightly more than a year since he left bag end) that Bilbo arrives at Rivendell. While overhearing a conversation between Gandalf and Elrond, Bilbo learns of what the wizard was up to just before the Battle of the Five Armies. As written by Tolkien, the passage implies that Elrond was not present at the meeting of the White Council and the subsequent driving out of the Necromancer from Dol Guldur. It says “Gandalf had been to a great council of the white wizards” and was recounting all of this to Elrond.
Appendix B “Tale of Years” in The Lord of the Rings later describes the White Council as headed by Saruman, though the exact membership (other than Gandalf) was not specified. It is generally accepted that the Council was composed of three of the five wizards and at least three Elves (Elrond, Galadriel and Cirdan the shipwright). Though Cirdan does not make an appearance in the films, it should be pointed out that all three of the Elven rings will be present at the battle of Dol Guldur in this last installment. Gandalf (secretly) wears Narya, red ring of fire. The Appendices explain that it was given to him by Cirdan upon the Istari’s arrival in middle earth. Galadriel is the bearer of Nenya, white ring of adamant, or water. And Elrond is the owner of Vilya, blue ring of air – the most powerful of the three Elven Rings. The trailers confirm all three present characters in Dol Guldur for this sequence.
Bilbo then revisits most of the spots he passed a year before. He and Gandalf find the hoard of gold that they buried after their encounter with Trolls. As they showed the dwarves burying it in “An Unexpected Journey”, I’m sure we’ll see Bilbo digging it up to take home. Logistically, this makes more sense to have this be the source of his newfound riches rather than having him haul gold and jewels back from the Lonely Mountain.
At last they come upon Bag End and, to his dismay, Bilbo sees many hobbits going in and out of his house. At that moment there is an auction taking place to sell off things since everyone assumed he was dead. Bilbo takes back his home and his possessions. Ever after the residents of Hobbiton consider him less more respectable and more Tookish since his departure. The Extended Edition of “The Fellowship of the Ring” featured a brief appearance of the Sackville-Baggins relations with whom Bilbo is on estranged terms. Could we see them back again? Maybe at least in the Extended Edition of this film.
Time passes and later that fall Bilbo begins writing his memoirs. Being as Bilbo appears to be only starting his famous book at the beginning of Jackson’s adaptation of “Fellowship” we probably won’t see this here but it’s more likely he will express his desire to “one day” write an account of his adventures. One day, Gandalf and Balin show up at Bag End for a visit. This is an iconic scene from the book and I have to believe we will see it in the film.
As they recount old times, Balin gives Bilbo an update of the progress made in Erebor, Dale and Lake Town. Earlier I wondered if Balin might make a reference to his desire to retake Moria from the Orcs, especially now that so many have been destroyed. Here might actually be a good opportunity to present this and provide a tie in to the next trilogy. Discovering the tomb of “Balin – Son of Fundin, Lord of Moria” would have a more meaningful impact if we know of his quest beforehand.
The last major line in the book comes from Gandalf, where he says to Bilbo: “You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all.” I am interested to see what Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens do with this dialogue, if anything. It almost echoes Galadriel’s line in “Fellowship” when she says ”even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
There is also her statement from the voice-over of the Prologue in “Fellowship”: “For the time will soon come when hobbits will shape the fortunes of all.” From that first prologue
There is one last item I wanted to speculate about. What will be the last scene? I see that Andy Serkis is not listed in the credits for this installment, at least not officially. I was wondering if we might not see him as something of an epilogue. Given the popularity of post-credit scenes in films these days, it might be wise to hand around until the very last frame as the music fades out. One would hate to miss a surprise scene showing Gollum emerging from the Misty Mountains muttering “Baggins…thief…he stole it. Stole the precious! Must find the Precious!!!!” We shall soon see.