Tolkien Geek

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


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.


At 9:42 PM, Blogger Rohrerbot said...

First off, I love your blog and I love the thought and detail that goes into your writing. You actually made me order the untold stories of Tolkien via my kindle. I found your blog by typing in the Istari wizards because it had bothered me that I did not know the other two wizards.....who were they? And where did they come from? Where did they go? While I haven't reached that part of the book, I have read your posting on that particular topic and I'm am fascinated by the mythos that goes into his writings. If it were just fantasy, that would be one thing....but his writings are so much's about our endings....death....saying good-bye.....taking the magic and mystery away from life. Well this is what I get from his writings and I am sure there are millions of other interpretations, but I still remember reading the last pages of LOTR and the all made me sad to leave his world and say good-bye to characters that I fell in love with.....

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Nancy Reyes said...

linked. I'm happy to see you posting essays again.


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