Chapter 3, Revisited
Alright then, this corresponding part of the film has the most new material added to it. In fact, once the company leaves Rivendell, the story follows the book fairly closely up to the end of Chapter 6.
Here, the main portion of the chapter (the “short rest” at Rivendell) is actually sandwiched between two completely new sequences – the inclusion of Radagast the Brown and a meeting of the White Council.
While riding away from the Trolls’ cave, the subject of Wizards in general comes up when Bilbo asks Gandalf if there are more. Gandalf explains about Saruman the White, the head of the order, the two Blue Wizards and Radagast the Brown. There has been some disagreement as to what the names of the Blue Wizards were which I discussed in a previous post on the Istari. Gandalf, unfortunately, leaves the matter unsettled as he muses that he isn’t able to remember their names.
As to Radagast, Gandalf describes him as a great Wizard – in his own way. This comes in response to Bilbo’s humorous question “Is he a great Wizard, or is he more like you?” We then cut to Radagast at his home at Rhosgobel, at the western edge of the forest, Greenwood (also known as Mirkwood) the Great. He discovers much of the surrounding fauna dead or dying of some evil sickness. In nursing a hedgehog named Sebastian back to health we see (from the inside) his home being overrun by giant spiders, who eventually disperse. The presentation of these animals may give us a hint of the ones we will probably see at Beorn’s dwelling.
At the warning of a bird, Radagast heads to the abandoned forturess of Dol Guldur to investigate the evil power that is rumored to inhabit it. Riding a wooden sleigh pulled by large rabbits, he arrives at the old fortress and is attacked by what looks like the Witch-king (Lord of the Nazgul) in his spirit form. This is surprising since we’ve only previously been able to see Nazgul in the “wraith world” of the Ring.
After Radagast repels the attack, he discovers a Morgul-blade much like the one that is used to stab Frodo on Weathertop. The Wizard flees but not before seeing a dark shape that he takes for an evil sorcerer, or Necromancer. The part of the Necromancer has been cast so we will probably see more him in the third film, when the White Council drives him out of Dol Guldur.
Shortly after this scene, Radagast comes upon Gandalf and the Dwarves to warn him about what he has discovered.
Now here is a major logistical plot hole. In order for Radagast to get from Dol Guldur (or even Rhosgobel) to where the company is he would have to either 1) cross the range of the Misty Mountains or 2) travel south going around the end of the range and head back north along the western side. This last option is a considerable distance and there is no way he could cover it in that amount of time. The former option is less likely because he would have to be able to go over the mountains with his rabbit-drawn wooden sleigh. For those in the audience not familiar with the geography of Middle-earth, the point is probably lost on them. However, the idea the Dol Guldur would be so close to where the spot where we just encountered the Trolls would make it confusing for anyone trying to grasp that geography.
I understand the need for Radagast to share his findings with Gandalf prior to a meeting of the White Council. But for him to appear on the western side of this massive mountain range makes very little sense. In the book it was Gandalf who personally visited Dol Guldur and this role is now given to Radagast in the film. And without this role, Radagast serves little or no purpose. Originally, I had expected not to see Radagast until after the arrival at the Carrock. In fact, if you take the first scene at Rhosgobel, put it into the second film and have Radagast share his concerns about Mirkwood to Gandalf just prior to the encounter with Beorn it would make more sense.
The problem is that then you would not have any of this info at the meeting of the White Council that Jackson places at Rivendell.
I may be picking at nits here but the whole sequence seemed odd to me.
At this point, the Orc scouting party arrives to attack the travelers. Radagast “distracts” the Orcs by drawing them off in pursuit of his wooden sleigh. However, this proves ineffective and the Orcs switch their attention back to the Dwarves. So what was the point of having Radagast there anyway?
Gandalf leads everyone down a secret path between two rocks just as a band of Elves arrives and does battle with the warg-riding Orcs. The path eventually leads to the hidden valley where Rivendell is set. And in the end, it appears that Gandalf used this opportunity to trick Thorin into going there despite his reluctance to trust the Elves. I suppose it helps build on the animosity that the Dwarves have with the Elves but I don’t know that this kind of subterfuge was really necessary.
In any case, they arrive at Rivendell to be greeted not by gleeful Elves singing “tra-la-la-lally, down here in the valley…” as in the text but rather by the mounted Elf hunting party that had just clashed with the Orcs. Elrond appears as less somber and brooding than we saw him in the LOTR since the rising danger in the east is not yet of grave concern. He is actually warm in his greeting of Gandalf and doesn’t appear to show any resentment toward the Dwarves even after it occurs to him that it was their presence that brought the Orcs so close to his borders.