Chapter Eleven, Revisited
From this point to its conclusion, “The Desolation of Smaug” interweaves three story lines covering the timeline of the next two chapters: 1) the arrival of Bilbo and the Dwarves at the Lonely Mountain, 2) the events taking place at Lake Town and 3) Gandalf’s investigation of Dol Guldur. These last two were both newly created but only one of them – Gandalf’s mission – was expected by me to be part of Peter Jackson’s translation of “The Hobbit” to film. Since I started off with that part of the story in my original post on this chapter, I’ll address it first.
It was clear from the teaser trailers being shown in 2013 that Gandalf had scenes in the abandoned fortress. Back in May of that year I wrote:
“I’m guessing [Gandalf’s exploration of Dol Guldur] will probably be edited against a part when the action with Bilbo and the Dwarves is moving slower. Here, prior to Thorin and company’s arrival at Erebor, would be a good time. In fact, we could very well get more than one scene.”
This is precisely what they did, though the previous scene involving the investigation of the now-abandoned tombs of the Nazgul was something I hadn’t guessed at. Azog had dispatched his son, Bolg, with a smaller party to pursue Thorin and the Dwarves allowing him to muster an army here at Dol Guldur under the watch of his “master”. Gandalf arrives at Dol Guldur with Radagast but, sensing the danger ahead, tells the Brown Wizard to deliver a message to Galadriel and inform her of what they had discovered so far. Perhaps he anticipated that the task before him would be too much to handle but, not knowing for sure, he sets out. And with the use of powerful spells he attempts to lift the dark enchantment surrounding the stronghold that makes it appear empty.
Azog and his Orcs respond by attacking him and almost overwhelm the Wizard before he is able to retreat. He manages to find relative safety on a cliff he created by blowing apart a chasm in front of him, sealing off the Orcs. It is here that the Necromancer reveals himself in the form we become familiar with in the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring, though he does not appear to yet be completely in solid form. The appearance of the fiery Eye gives Gandalf the evidence of his identity that he was looking for and he whispers “Sauron!”. Had we not seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy we would probably be wondering “Who’s Sauron?” But the answer to that question is to come later.
Bilbo, Thorin and the Dwarf party arrive at the desolation of Smaug – the ruined city of Dale at the foot of the Lonely Mountain. In contrast to the overall pale of gloom described in the book at this point we get a buildup of excitement as they grow closer to the supposed location of the hidden door described in the moon letters of the map. Now, Tolkien had written that Bilbo surmises from the smoke rising from a cliff-wall opening of the mountain that Smaug is still alive and guarding the treasure underneath Erebor. But Jackson makes it clear here that the Dwarves do not yet know for certain that this is the case. Indeed, they seem hopeful that since it is so quiet they won’t have to deal with that unpleasant task.
Coincidentally, it is Durin’s Day. So they hurriedly climb up a large carving of Thror on the mountainside. Incidentally, this embedded statue is not featured in Tolkien’s original story but it is reminiscent of the statues of Numenorean brothers Isildur and Anarien that make up the Argonath, which the Fellowship passed through in Fellowship of the Ring as they sailed down the Anduin in the Elvish boats. The party reaches the small cliff where the hidden door is supposed to be located (the same cliff featured at the end of An Unexpected Journey where the thrush was knocking). Thorin can hardly contain his excitement as the sun goes down in the West and he looks for the keyhole which was prophesized to be visible by the last light of Durin’s Day.
Alas, to his utter disappointment the sun disappears and no sign of the keyhole is seen. But as the Dwarves withdraw in disgust, Bilbo refuses to give up. He stays and sees that the door is indeed illuminated by the full moon – this is the last light of Durin’s Day he realizes! And, like the West door of Moria in Fellowship, they see an outline of the door and the very keyhole they are looking for. While this turn of events differs from the scene in the book it brings us not only a heightened sense of drama but once again echoes a moment from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
The key opens the door and they go in to investigate. And it is here that Balin informs Bilbo that it is time to fulfill the role for which he was chosen as part of the company. But investigating the situation with the dragon is secondary here because his main task it seems is to locate and recover the Arkenstone. Here Jackson is focusing on a tangible object that will play a prominent role in the coming conflict between the Dwarves and the Elves and Men of Lake Town. As alluded to in the film’s “prologue” at the Inn of the Prancing Pony, the Arkenstone now represents Thorin’s right to rule as King Under the Mountain. And its recovery, far more than the other hidden riches, is of primary importance in this quest.
Now Bilbo faces his third and most dangerous task (the first two being the encounter with Gollum and the attack of the spiders) and Balin even gives him an out, telling him he doesn’t have to do it if he doesn’t really want to. But Bilbo’s character and courage have built to a point where he is no longer the timid, comfort-loving hobbit that we saw at the beginning of the story.
Meanwhile, we cut back to Lake Town and see the Orcs stealthily arriving in search of the Dwarves. And, of course, we have a few of them conveniently left behind for them to find. Kili, helped by Fili, Oin and Bofur, is taken to Bard’s house to have his wound tended to. Oin, the resident “medicine man” tells Bard he requires Kingsfoil (or as we have also come to know it, Athelas). Bard recognizes this as something that they feed to the pigs and Bofur goes to search for some. When he finds it and heads back, the Orcs see him and follow him back to Bard’s house and attack them.
In the nick of time, Legolas and Tauriel arrive to save the day and take out a dozen or so of the Orcs. Bolg and the remainder of his party decide to flee and Legolas goes after them. Tauriel, on the other hand, sees Kili’s wound and is troubled that he will die. So she does not follow Legolas. To make matters worse, Bard is arrested by the Master’s men and taken to a cell.
But the folks in Lake Town are about to have to deal with some serious trouble that is about to be unleashed from Erebor which we will see in our revisit of Chapter Twelve, “Inside Information”.