Note: this article may contain potential spoilers for those who haven’t yet read The Hobbit.
So then, The Hobbit will be a trilogy. That slim children’s book has grown from one film, into two, and now three. As Peter Jackson himself confirmed, “The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord Of The Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.”
Back in the days when Guillermo Del Toro was attached to direct, the two filmmakers announced that The Hobbit would be two films, with the first movie finishing at chapter 14 (the death of Smaug and the gathering of the five armies), leaving the final five chapters and yep, material from the appendices, to fill out the second movie.
Well, now it’s three, and there’s still the same amount of material to play with. So I’ve had a look through the thousand or so pages of the appendices found at the back of The Lord Of The Rings to see just what’s in there for Jackson to use. From the statement he released, partly quoted above, it doesn’t seem as though he intends to make the bridging film between The Hobbit and The Fellowship Of The Ring that many assumed, but instead tell the complete story of The Hobbit.
Now, I’m not going to lie, the appendices are pretty hardcore, even for a Tolkien fan like me. There’s a lot of this type of stuff: “The crown was claimed by Earnil… He was the son Siriondil, son of Calimmacil, son of Arciryas brother of Narmacil II”.
However, there’s a fair bit of stuff that can be expanded upon, and provide some epic scope to this new trilogy. Here are a few potential stories or pieces of material they could use…
If The Lord Of The Rings can be seen as the story of last days of Elves and the rising of man, then The Hobbit is most definitely a tale about the Dwarves. In the appendices is a wealth of backstory about them, which could easily constitute some amazing flashbacks and extra story material which not only would fill out the gaps in the story, but also fit The Hobbit into the wider narrative of the rise of Sauron, and Gandalf’s efforts to defeat him.
In appendix A you discover how the Dwarves came to Erebor, commonly known as the Lonely Mountain. It is here they discover the Arkenstone, Middle-earth’s most precious jewel, and it is this wealth which attracts the attention of Smaug the Golden, who without warning launches an attack on the mountain, destroying the power of the Dwarves. This would make for an excellent flashback perhaps, and would definitely make Smaug a powerful and terrifying screen presence.
The king of the Lonely Mountain at this time is a dwarf named Thror, grandfather of Thorin Oakenshield. Before his death (in Moria) he passes on his vengeance on Smaug to his heirs, thereby setting up the narrative drive of The Hobbit. It is Thorin’s father who first seeks to return to Erebor, but on his way there he is captured by Sauron and taken to Dol Guldur to be tortured, as he was in possession of one of the seven rings of power, tying in nicely to Sauron and his return.
While these serve as set-up to The Hobbit, and a wider link to the grand Rings narrative, there is a section which could easily be framed within The Hobbit as an event set in the present – the meeting of Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield. A chance encounter in Bree one night, the two found that they had a shared dream – to rid the Lonely Mountain of Smaug.
Thorin wished to reclaim his birthright, while Gandalf sought to put a strong dwarf king in the north, to act as a buffer against Sauron and stop him allying with Smaug (which would have been awesome by the way). This meeting could easily sit in the film, and indeed The Hobbit would be all the richer if the history of Erebor and why it was so important (both in the past, present and future) was made clear to the audience. Plus the chance for more Smaug and Gandalf should always be welcomed.
The Necromancer and Dol-Guldur
Casting a long shadow over The Hobbit is the Necromancer. An unknown villain who Gandalf is concerned about, it becomes clear that it is none other than Sauron, once again returned to power. If Jackson wants to truly make The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings mesh together into one epic film then tying it to the rise and fall of Sauron, and his quest for the One Ring is surely the way to do it?
After a defeat long ago by men, Sauron returns under the guise of the Necromancer to his new fortress of Dol Guldur and begins to build his power over hundreds of years, gathering the rings of power to him. As mentioned above, to this end he captures Thorin’s father and imprisons him. Gandalf, who is suspicious about the Necromancer’s true nature, at this time visits Dol Guldur and discovers the truth that Sauron is returning.
He also finds Thrain and receives the keys to Erebor, putting in place his plan to help Thorin reclaim it from Smaug. You could easily imagine a sub-plot involving Sauron hunting for the One Ring, as well as building his armies. It is only when Saruman discovers that Sauron is hunting for it that he finally agrees to Gandalf’s request to attack Dol Guldur, using it as a pretext to stop Sauron from finding the One Ring before him. This attack takes place at the same time as the Battle of the Five Armies, providing a useful and epic counter-point to what will surely be one of the highlights of the new films.
What also fits in nicely is the parallel journeys at the end of The Hobbit. While Bilbo returns to the Shire with his ‘magic ring’, Sauron returns to Mordor – what an exciting way to finish the films and set up the audience for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy! I genuinely hope they finish on this foreboding cliff-hanger, as it would make want to go straight into the next set of movies.
The other hidden villain of the piece is, of course, Saruman. Much of the appendices are about him, ranging from the time he enters the world, initially acting as a force for good, to his gradual descent into evil. Of particular note is how he befriends Gondor and convinces them to hand over Isengard to him, before discovering that the One Ring still exists and beginning a secret search for it.
It is Saruman who stops the White Council from attacking Dol Guldur (hoping that if Sauron were left alone, the One Ring would reveal itself to him), and then eventually decides to act when it becomes clear Sauron may gain the Ring before him. What is interesting about Saruman in The Hobbit is that he is not yet fully evil, nor under the power of Sauron yet, instead acting as an unknown quantity who can help and hinder equally.
It is only towards the end that his villainy really becomes apparent, when using the White Council for his own ends. However, his turn to evil is still undiscovered by the time of The Fellowship Of The Ring, which allows Christopher Lee the chance to ham it up as both a hero and villain.
But what if the third Hobbit film did provide a bridge to The Lord Of The Rings? Now I’m not sure how feasible this is, as it would require a lot more than using existing footage and reshoots, but Appendix A has a few things concerning a certain ranger and his time in Gondor. While known as Thorongil, Aragorn gets up to all sorts, including leading a fleet into battle against the Corsairs, and going one on one with their captain in battle.
There’s also this intriguing line from the story of his meeting Arwen, which would be perfect for any bridge film: “It came to pass that when Aragorn was nine and forty years of age he returned from perils on the dark confines of Mordor, where Sauron now dwelt again and was busy with evil”. This is then backed up by a further entry in Appendix B: “2957-80 – Aragorn undertakes his great journeys and errantries”.
That’s 23 years of events you can basically invent to serve your own purpose!
Sadly, the majority of the appendices are accounts of family trees, language, and calendar dates, so there’s little to mine there, unless Peter Jackson is planning on making a Middle-earth episode of Who Do You Think You Are. But is there enough from the points above to justify three movies? I trust Jackson a lot, especially in Tolkien’s world, but I do fear for the simple journey of Bilbo Baggins. That in itself is about a film’s length, so there is a very real danger of the extra material, as epic and cinematic as it undoubtedly is, proving far too much of a distraction.
Don’t get me wrong, I was the kid who always wanted to know more about the Necromancer and just what Gandalf was up to when I read the book, so to potentially see it on-screen is a dream come true – I just worry that it will be at the cost of the main journey, leaving a meandering film with a stilted narrative drive.
I really hope I’m wrong though, and will enjoy being proved so over the next few years.
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