Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


Chapter Three: A Short Rest

This is a particularly important chapter as it relates to the overall plot. The brief stay at Rivendell therefore is clearly a major event. Here we are introduced to a significant character featured in “The Lord of the Rings”, Elrond the half-elven. As the return of Sauron has not yet been confirmed by the White Council, I would imagine that Hugo Weaving (who has stated that he plans to reprise is role) would portray Elrond as somewhat less solemn and pessimistic. On the whole, we will probably see him more in keeping with the way he was written in “The Hobbit” – a wise and genial host.
And here his role is important to explain the origins of the company’s newly-acquired Elvish blades and to translate the moon letters on Thrain’s map. Here we have another (perhaps a better opportunity to show the audience some of the geography of Wilderland and explain the route that they plan to follow, showing some of the landmarks they will eventually encounter.
It has been reported that Peter Jackson still has the original scale model of Rivendell from the trilogy and it’s likely that the sets that weren’t saved were digitally scanned for future reproduction on a green screen.
This will also be our introduction to the Elves as a race and it should be noted that their characterization will need to be altered from the way they are presented here if the producers are to maintain consistency with the Elves shown in “The Lord of the Rings”. In “The Hobbit”, the Elves of Rivendell are playful and whimsical. While these Grey-Elves (Sindar) are not of the same nobility as the Noldor Elves of Lothlorien, it would seem out of place to have them gleefully singing “Tra-la-la-lally, here down in the valley…” as Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves approach.
To the extent that there is Elvish singing, I would expect that composer Howard Shore would create a song and translate it into Sindarin. “The Annotated Hobbit” highlights a song that was present in one of Tolkien’s manuscripts but was not included in the final text of the book called “Elvish Song in Rivendell” that could be used or adapted. The overall musical theme could start with a more subtle and muted version of the Rivendell theme that Shore wrote for inclusion in “The Fellowship of the Ring”.
These Elves, unlike those of Lothlorien, will probably be dark-haired like Elrond, Arwen and Elrond’s sons (Elladan and Elrohir, who briefly appeared in “The Return of the King” reforging the Shards of Narsil). While it would not be surprising to see Elladan and Elrohir in this scene, it would not be in keeping with Tolkien’s official chronology to show Arwen as she is supposed to be living with her grandmother, Galadriel, in Lothlorien during this time.
Jackson has always sought an expanded role for Arwen - considering the lack of strong female roles in the films – but it seems too extraneous to try and include her here. Likewise, while there has been speculation that we could see Aragorn, I don’t find it practical for the future King of Gondor to make an appearance. First of all, in the year of this Quest for Erebor – 2941 Third Age – Aragorn is only ten years old and does not yet know of his Dunedain heritage. Until he turns 20 in 2951 T.A., Aragorn is know by the name given to him by his adoptive guardian, Elrond: Estel (which in Sindarin means “hope”).
Peter Jackson has been know to play it fast and loose with Tolkien’s timeline. The most start example is the missing 17 years between Bilbo’s last birthday party and Frodo finally setting out with the Ring in “Fellowship”. But I am skeptical that he and Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens will make such a wholesale change. That being said, if some time during production it is confirmed that either Viggo Mortensen or Liv Tyler has been officially attached to the project, I will take a look at the possibilities and implications for the films in a separate post.
Ironically, the title of this chapter is quite literal in identifying the rest as a short one as the company arrives in the evening and leaves the next morning. As written, the interaction with Elrond and the Elves is quite brief. Jackson could very well take this opportunity to lengthen the scenes and add some material to the script. Perhaps this could be a time for reflection over the history of the Dwarves (Thorin’s line in particular), of Gandalf’s discovery of Thrain in Dol Guldur (seen through flashback) or some other plot elements.
Originally this project was planned as two separate films, “The Hobbit” proper and a “bridge” film that would feature events leading up to “The Lord of the Rings”. The producers and (at the time) Director Guillermo del Toro explored material from other sources, such as “Unfinished Tales”, that could be put into this latter film. One of those topics was the White Council and its investigations into the identity of the Necromancer as well as the ultimate discovery that Sauron had indeed returned.
One of these meetings, however, took place during Gandalf’s absence from the quest that comes later in the story and could find its way to a scene within this production. The meeting presumably takes place in Lothlorien. We know that three members of the White Council are Galadriel, Gandalf and Saruman but this group could be expanded to include Elrond, the wizard Radagast the Brown and other prominent Elves such as Glorfindel and Cirdan the Shipwright. One of the difficulties, however, in presenting such a scene is the availability of Christopher Lee as Saruman.
Lee is currently 88 years old and has stated that, though he would very much like to be part of this project, his is not up to traveling to New Zealand. It is conceivable that he could film his scenes in England with stand-in actors against a green screen. But in the event that this doesn’t work out I don’t know how you have a White Council scene without Saruman. One possibility that I see is to include some dialogue about the Necromancer, Dol Guldur and speculation about Sauron in a side conversation here at Rivendell between Gandalf and Elrond. [ed. note: on December 7, 2010 it was announced that Cate Blanchett was officially attached to the project - Sir Christopher Lee's own website confirmed on January 11th 2011 that he would be playing Saruman again - though no details of the logistics for filming, which begins in February 2011, were given.]
On a side note, I wanted to touch on an issue related to the calendar of Middle-Earth. (If you are turned off by quibbling minutia, then stop reading). In my analysis of Appendix D to “The Lord of the Rings”, I was critical of a line used by Christopher Lee in the “Fellowship” movie. During the scene (not, incidentally, included in the book) where Gandalf and Saruman are in Orthanc discussing the Ring, Lee as the White Wizard says that the Nine Nazgul “crossed the River Isen on Mid-summer’s Eve”. The problem with this is that there is no Mid-summer’s Eve in the Middle-Earth calendar and I was curious as to where Jackson came up with that concept. I had dismissed it as being a mistaken reference to Mid-Year’s Day which, in conjunction with the two Yule and two Lithe Days, was used to account for five of the 365 days of the year, the remaining being divided equally among twelve 30-day months.
Mid-Year’s Day occurs between the sixth and seventh months (comparable to June and July) and falls fairly close to the summer solstice – the day of the year with the longest period of daylight. I was, however, particularly taken aback by the fact that this gaffe was spoken by Christopher Lee (practically a Tolkien scholar in his own right). Surely, I thought, he would have pointed out to Jackson that this reference was faulty.
In a comment added to that post, a reader pointed out that “on the existence of a mid-summer’s eve…Elrond mentions mid-summer’s eve at the end of Chapter 3 of The Hobbit”. I made a mental note of this but in re-reading this chapter I found that this observation is not entirely applicable. In deciphering the moon letters Elrond comments that, because he could read them by holding them up to the light of the current moon, they “must have been written on a mid-summer’s eve in a crescent moon, a long while ago.” [my emphasis] His reference to “a mid-summer’s evening” as opposed to “the” Mid-summer’s Eve or Day (as a specific date on the calendar) is merely a general meteorological observation about the condition under which the letters were written.
Not to belabor the point (too late), but Tolkien writes that later in the evening “they went down to the water to see the Elves dance and sing upon the mid-summer’s eve” and “the next morning was a mid-summer’s morning.” In other words, Tolkien refers to them as a typical evening and morning that happen to be taking place at a time of the year corresponding to mid-summer. The days are not capitalized as proper nouns as would be Yule, Lithe or Mid-Year’s Day. A note in “The Annotated Hobbit” explains that:
“The reference here to mid-summer is ambiguous. It could mean the summer solstice, around June 21, or it could mean June 24th, the Feast of St. John the Baptist.”
In any case, to have Saruman refer to the event of the Nazgul crossing the Isen as being on Mid-summer’s Eve or even any mid-summer’s eve for that matter is odd. In The Tale of Years, the specific date given is September 18 as the day when “The Black Riders cross the Fords of Isen.”
Sorry to beat this into the ground but every time I watch that scene it remains a pet peeve of mine. The alteration of Faramir’s character in “The Lord of the Rings” I have no real problem with but a mistaken reference to a date? Go figure. I suppose it’s the little things that most get to me.

Bilbo and his companions continue their journey to the Misty Mountains in Chapter Four: Over Hill and Under Hill.


UPDATE: 1/13/12
Having seen the film, we can revisit Chapter Three here.


Chapter Two: Roast Mutton

All of the scenes or events in the book can be categorized as major, minor or incidental. Major scenes are central to the story and the primary drivers of the plot. Minor scenes are less important to the overall story but still necessary to reinforce aspects of the narrative. Incidental scenes, while being interesting or entertaining, are not critical and can be excised if necessary. Chapter Two describes the short section of the journey to the Misty Mountains and revolves primarily around the company's encounter with the Trolls. I consider this to be a minor scene and it's actually one that has caused a great deal of thought on my part regarding how it might be presented in the movie.
Given Peter Jackson's tendency to cut material in his translation from book to script, it begs the question as to whether or not we can expect to see it. I would say yes based on the two times that Jackson refers to this event in "The Fellowship of the Ring". In the theatrical release, Bilbo recounts this incident to a rapt audience of hobbit children during the birthday party sequence (something not a part of the book). In an additional scene that didn’t make the theatrical cut but was included in the Extended Edition, we actually see the trolls (in their stone form) from Frodo’s point of view when he regains consciousness in the Trollshaws. Sam points out to him “Look Mr. Frodo, it’s Bilbo’s trolls!” It is clear by the effort the Jackson made to include the trolls here that he wanted to make a direct connection to “The Hobbit” – and indeed he may have been thinking ahead to this production.
The major consideration here, however, is how Jackson will present this scene. In “The Lord of the Rings”,we are shown a cave troll – slow, dim-witted, wild and (we assume) incapable of speech. The cave troll is shown entirely in Moria, so the issue of sunlight and its effects on it is moot. We see other trolls in the later films swinging the Morannon gate open and fighting the Armies of the West – both at Minas Tirith and on the battle plain outside of Mordor. In these cases the sun, while muted by the darkness caused by Sauron to shield his Orc army, is nonetheless present.
The three trolls in “The Hobbit” are very different from those we have already seen. Written for a lighter story, the trolls (which I will hereafter refer to as the Stone Trolls) are almost as comical as they are menacing, with a manner speech associated with working class Britain. Also, they show at least a low level of intelligence. That is to say they act more like beings than creatures.
In “The Annotated Hobbit”, one of the notes points out that Tolkien presented the Stone Trolls’ speech “in a comic, lower-class dialect” and that “this linguistic joke shows a perception for language similar to that which Tolkien ascribed to Geoffrey Chaucer”. But Tolkien demonstrated that he had rethought his depiction of the Stone Trolls in a 1954 letter to Peter Hastings, an Oxford bookshop manager. He observed that:
“When you make trolls speak you are giving them a power, which in our world (probably) connotes the possession of a ‘soul’.”

This would contradict Tolkien’s later presentation of trolls as being not much different than animals (such as Wargs) in that they are basically creatures corrupted and used by Morgoth (and later Sauron) to serve merely as tools or weapons for the wars against the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. In this letter, Tolkien also goes on to point out that:
“I might not (if The Hobbit had been more carefully written, and my world so much thought about 20 years ago) had used the expression ‘poor little blighter’ [in referring to Bilbo], just as I should not have called the troll William.”

There are several variations of trolls in Middle-Earth such as cave trolls, hill trolls, snow trolls, etc. And, according to “The Complete Tolkien Companion”:
“One detail has lingered with especial clarity: the association of a troll-race with stone. Trolls bear the same relationship to stone as Ents did to wood; and to stone they retuned if caught by direct rays of the noonday Sun; for like Orcs they were bred during the years of the Great Darkness of the First Age, and the Sun was their enemy.”

This same entry describes the Trolls who fought for Sauron – the Olog-hai (comparable to the Uruk-hai Orcs): “This breed was at once perceived to be vastly more dangerous, being a fell race, strong, agile, fierce and cunning, but harder than stone; who could, for a while and if their Master’s thought was with them, endure the sunlight.” So while Tolkien’s depiction of the Stone Trolls is not necessarily in direct contradiction to the trolls in “The Lord of the Rings”, Jackson can still play down some of these characteristics to make them seem less profoundly different.
The look of the Stone Trolls is already “set in stone” so to speak. Undoubtedly, Jackson would start with the full-scale set models used in the Trollshaws scene of “Fellowship”. Richard Taylor’s Weta Workship artists could uses this as a template for designing the animate versions of these creatures. Most likely they would be presented in CG rather than a Treebeard-like mechanical puppet since the expense of the latter is probably not justified for such small part in the overall production.
I would expect that the voices would be created by Andy Serkis who demonstrated his vocal talents not only as Gollum but as the Witch-King and several individual Orcs. To make the Stone Trolls more in line with Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth, Serkis would need only to ditch the dialect and not have them refer to each other by proper names (as Tolkien himself previously commented on).
Other than connecting this film to the trilogy through this particular event, this scene is important in tow other respects. First, it highlights Bilbo’s role within the company as the “burglar” or rather the member of the party who is expected to take a large share of the risk by being the one to head into trouble first. This parallels Bilbo’s mission to reconnoiter down into the Lonely Mountain to gather information about Smaug’s lair. It is Bilbo’s first attempt at discovering his courage and resourcefulness as a part of his developing character.
The other important plot point is the discovery in the trolls’ cave of the three great Elvish blades – Orcrist, Glamdring (which becomes Gandalf’s weapon) and the knife that Bilbo will come to call “Sting”. The very first use of Sting will come in Chapter Five as a defense against Gollum as well as the potential means for killing him which Bilbo chooses not to do. Pity will stay his hand and this will have powerful ramifications that follow to the very climax of the trilogy that will follow.
One final interesting note on Chapter Two. It is recorded in “The Annotated Hobbit” that J.R.R. Tolkien’s second son, Michael, gave a speech to the Tolkien Society in England in 1977. And during this speech he said that, as children, he and all of his siblings at one point or another all thought that this was the best chapter in the book. He said, “We thought there was something rather nice about trolls, and it was a pity that they had to be turned into stone at all."


UPDATE: 1/9/12
Having seen the film, we can revisit Chapter Two here.