As all you fans know, The Hobbit is currently in state of pre-production along with its mysterious sequel, “To Be Announced,” which covers events that happen between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am both rather intrigued and worried by the possibilities such a sequel/prequel could represent. I am intrigued because there are just all sorts of wonderful concepts that this film could use (which I’ll discuss in more detail below) but I am also worried because Hollywood has a long and crappy history of taking great stories and finding ways of making them “cooler” thereby producing hideous garbage. For every Lord of the Rings there are a dozen literary works that have been turned into piles of moldy pig dung. But I have a lot of faith in Peter Jackson and I am not TOO worried about this possibility, although if I hear he’s coming up with a bunch of new ideas with little connection to Tolkien’s vision, I may very well start to worry again.
The purpose of this article is to examine several possible plot points and arcs Jackson might come up with for TBA. I make no pretensions to prophecy (you would not believe what I thought Attack of the Clones would be about), but I am fairly familiar with Tolkien’s works so I feel as eligible to make some guesses as anyone else.
Spoiler ALERT! I am going to be talking about the Hobbit from time to time in this article so if you don’t want to know important plot points of the upcoming movie, stop reading now! The Lord of the Rings will also be referenced, so if you haven’t seen that particular trilogy I really have no idea why you’re reading this article.
Note: All of these speculations depend on the idea that The Hobbit will follow the events of the book fairly closely. Also, to distinguish between the books and the films in this essay, I shall be presenting the names of the books in regular type and the movies in bold type.
OK, The Hobbit has ended. Smaug the Great lies dead amid the ruins of sunken Dale, the battle of the Five Armies has been narrowly won, Bilbo Baggins is safely back in the Shire, and the One Ring still sleeps.
What happens now?
The most important event of this period, which covers about 75 years in the books, is the gradual rising of Sauron from his secret identity of “The Necromancer” to dark overlord of Mordor, and the reawakening of the Ring that this resurgence brings about. Thus the characters that were actually alive at this point (I’m thinking Gandalf, Aragorn, and possibly Legolas) will be coming to the gradual realization that the Dark Lord is not only back (something in the official lore that Gandalf finds out during the course of the Hobbit) but that he is returning in force, gathering his minions for a great and final war against the West. I believe this theme will be a constant backdrop in TBA and probably the actual focus of the film. But what events of the many in the interim period will Jackson choose?
Balin’s Expedition to Moria
In, The Fellowship of the Ring (and in the corresponding novel) there are several references to the dwarven colony of Balin in the depths of Moria. You have this band of dwarves, three of whom will have been characters from The Hobbit, crossing grim and dangerous lands in attempt to reclaim their ancient stronghold of Khazzad Dum, a place of relative importance to the dwarves-as important as the Vatican is to Catholics. It is here that the greatest king of the dwarves, Durin, has carved out the greatest mine/fortress/homeland in the history of the Dwarves. One might draw comparisons to the Crusades, though with a far darker enemy awaiting the would-be liberators of the holy. There are great initial victories-the minions of darkness are driven back, the ancient halls re-inhabited, and the great treasure of mithril mined for the first time in many ages of dwarves.
But then the initial promise and potential of this colony gradually begins to become a far grimmer tale. The orcs, though defeated numerous times, just keep coming back and there are always more of them. As to the Balrog, and what he gets up to during the five years the colony exists, I’m not sure. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s playing a kind of cat and mouse game with the would-be colonists. He’s allowing them a glimmer of hope and joy, and then using his forces to smash them down. After all, he could have destroyed the dwarves in the first five minutes of their arrival if he was so inclined.
But it seems unlikely that this event, despite its strong ties to LOTR, will get much of a mention in TBA. After all, no major characters are involved in the adventure (unless Jackson really decides to play up Balin in The Hobbit). And the whole episode has little obvious link to the return of Sauron. But just in case Jackson does include it, you heard it here first!
Aragorn’s Journey of Self Discovery
A significant point in this era is Aragorn realizing who he is. He was kept in secret in Rivendell by Elrond and it is during this period that Elrond gives him the shards of Narsil (the shattered sword of Isildur that he carries around with him in the book version instead of leaving on display in Rivendell) and tells him he is heir of Isildur. It is also during this period that he meets Arwen and their romance begins. I’m quite certain this romance will play some part in TBA and, if I had to guess, I’d say it will be a major plot point of the film. Indeed, it would seem difficult to give the film any dramatic drive without Aragorn being a significant player because his journey to self discovery, his adventures in Rohan and Gondor (covered later in this essay), and his romance with Arwen are the only big character arcs in this part of the story.
The Quest of Aragorn and Gandalf for Gollum.
This is really the only specific subplot that I’ve heard hinted about in the teaser talk regarding TBA. While I’m always up for seeing Aragorn and Gandalf chew some dialogue together, I’m not sure it would be a very good focus for the entire movie.
Jackson might decide to make this hunt the plotline by which he links several events of this period, with Aragon and Gandalf going on this long quest of their own and having several adventures involving various major events of this prequel time frame. But I think that would be awkward. On the other hand, if Jackson doesn’t choose a kind of “buddy movie” framework, Aragorn and Gandalf won’t be together throughout most of the film. In fact, while we have a fairly good idea of what Aragorn was doing during this period, Gandalf’s story is rather murky. Presumably, he was doing what he’s always doing: nosing around, helping people, and getting in the way of whatever chunk of villainy he encounters.
Aragorn’s Adventures in Rohan and Gondor
This speculation details the story of Aragon’s earlier adventures. During this period Aragon undergoes many adventures in Rohan and Gondor while in the service of the fathers of King Theoden and Steward Denethor. He is greatly acclaimed in both places. By the time Lord of the Rings is written, his adventures have become the legends of an earlier generation. While details of his deeds in Rohan are sketchy, it is known that he was the right-hand man of Steward Ecthelion II. During that time Aragorn led a daring raid against the Corsairs in which he (under his secret identity of Throngil) destroyed the Corsair fleet and killed their “Captain of the Haven” in hand-to-hand combat (What a guy!). These events may even represent Aragorn’s trial by fire during which he proves to the Wise that he has what it takes to be King.
According to the books, Saruman was being the good guy (or pretending to be) during this period. The books never really nail down when Saruman went bad, though it’s implied he was always of an imperious and prideful nature. Whenever it was that he decided he wanted to get into the Ring business, it was during this period that he used the Palantir of Orthanc to search for it and thus linked his mind with that of Sauron and came under his sway. But he was never completely under Sauron’s thumb; Saruman has always harbored ambitions of seizing the one Ring for himself.
It is interesting to note that Saruman and Aragorn had some sort of dealings during this time as he advises Ecthelion to ignore Saruman’s council and to take more heed to Gandalf. Whether this was because of personal animosity or because Aragorn simply had more respect for Gandalf is unknown, but having Aragorn come to suspect Saruman while Gandalf remains oblivious would be a nice bit of foreshadowing of later events.
Legolas and Gimli
What are Gimli and Legolas up to while all of this other stuff is going on? While Gimli is fairly young himself during this period, Legolas has been as he was portrayed in LOTR for few thousand years. And while no previous relationship between Aragorn and Legolas is mentioned in the books, the clear indication in Fellowship is that Legolas and Aragorn are seasoned companions of old. Thus any adventures Aragorn has could well include Legolas. Given that age-removing digital technology is now possible, it’s a lot easier to have immortal characters remain the same in movies separated by a large span of years.
I predict that Gimli will have a fairly small role to play in TBA. He, unlike all the other Fellowship members save Bormir, has no previous connection to other members of the Fellowship. So any subplots involving him are going to be purely Dwarven in focus. And since he had no role in the Balin’s Colony subplot mentioned above, he can’t be part of that storyline either. So I’m predicting cameo status at best for the worthy Gimli.
Now we wander into the realm of how Jackson might depart from the established lore. He’s always willing to change Tolkien’s original storyline for the sake of his perception of the dramatic necessity of film. Thus Arwen becomes a kick-ass elven warrior instead of demure ornament, Aragorn saves Minas Tirith with an army of the undead instead of an army of mortal men, and Tom Bombadil is mercifully absent from sight.
So what might he change?
The Fall of Dol Goldur: The most obvious departure could be the fall of Dol Goldur. Dol Goldur is the fortress where Sauron was hiding before he went back to Mordor to start his dark empire in earnest. Under the alias of the Necromancer, Sauron built the fortress of Dol Goldor on the southern edges of Mirkwood and this was largely responsible for the evil that started to creep over that area (namely the giant spiders that will be plaguing Bilbo and company in The Hobbit).There is a section in The Hobbit where Gandalf wanders off for a large chunk of time and what he’s doing is attacking Dol Goldur with the help of the White Council, as he’s come to suspect that the mysterious Necromancer is actually Sauron in disguise. But, if instead Jackson decides to put the fall of Dol Goldur after the events of The Hobbit (or for that mattter, include it in the backdrop of The Hobbit)then things could start to get interesting.
I can see quite an impressive battle sequence here, wherein the White Council (Gandalf, Saruman, and Galadriel to name the known members) and their elven allies (with possibly Legolas and Aragorn, though Aragorn technically meets Gandalf after this event) attacks this lesser citadel of evil. Lots of orcs will be killed and we might even get to see a confrontation between an incarnate Sauron and Gandalf. Saruman (depending on where in time Jackson decides to put his betrayal of the Council) might even aid Sauron in his escape, though seeing him attack Sauron at Gandalf’s side would give an extra bit of pathos to Saruman’s later betrayal of Gandalf (and explain why Gandalf continued to trust him with Galadriel and Aragorn came to suspect Saruman). Sauron does run away in the books as he is unable to stand against the full might of the council, but a retreat after a fierce battle would be a lot more fun to watch.
While the books seem to indicate that this conflict did not include the Ringwraiths, there is certainly no reason why Jackson couldn’t throw them into the mix as well. Aragorn seems to be personally familiar with the Ringwraiths, both in the books and the movies, so it’s possible he met them during this battle (if Jackson decides to make him present).
Given the fact that Gandalf has been in Dol Guldor before, snooping about as is his habit (which is when he got the idea that the Necromancer and Sauron might be one and the same) there could be some nice flashback sequences of earlier experiences there. Or he might play a guide role as he did in the Mines of Moria.
Arwen: As mentioned previously, Arwen plays a much larger part in the movies than she ever did in the books. It might be interesting if, instead of an Aragorn/Gandalf road movie, we get an Aragorn/Arwen road movie. Or at least some scenes of them wandering around and doing various good deeds. Having her present at Aragorn’s side during a temporally misplaced battle of Dol Guldor would be even more interesting.
Radigast: The third wizard of the west, Radigast, is akin to Saruman and Gandalf, but he doesn’t get much of a mention the books and none at all in LOTR. This fellow, whose talents tend toward the animals of the wild and the birds of the air, would be an interesting and established character to throw into the narrative mix of TBA. Given that his sphere of influence is in the southern Mirkwood area and near Dol Goldur, it seems quite possible he would be involved in that conflict. Indeed, since Jackson didn’t use him in LOTR, he might even decide to kill Radigast during the battle, to add pathos and drama to the scene. Having Sauron kill him would be even more interesting. Or having Saruman kill him to save Sauron!
So there you have it; a few thoughts and speculations on the nature of TBA. It would be very satisfying for me if they all proved to be accurate, but I shall be perfectly happy if I’m completely wrong as long as the movie is good. It will definitely be interesting to see what Jackson decides to do without a solid Tolkien plotline to follow. I imagine after being fairly loyal to the writ of Tolkien in his first three movies (and presumably the fourth), he’s itching to write some scripture of his own. Only time will tell if this new look at an old tale will be a worthy addition to the Tolkien mythos or a craptacular reimagining. Whatever the case, it will make money.
So until 2023 and Lord of the Rings II: Back to Mordor, make mine Jackson!