Tolkien Geek

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


Chapter 2, Revisited

At this point, we get our first bit of additional material (other than the prologue) inserted into the main narrative.  As the company of Gandalf, Bilbo and the Dwarves sets up camp on a ridge, we are given a flashback scene (as recounted by Balin) that fleshes out Thorin’s back story.  In the scene, we cut to a battle taking place before the East Gate of Moria between the Dwarves, led by Thror, and Moria Orcs, commanded by Azog the Defiler.  During the battle, Thror is beheaded by Azog.

Now this event does in fact take place in Tolkien’s legendarium though we only read about it as part of Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings.

However, Peter Jackson chose to make what may turn out to be a controversial change in with his version of what follows.  Here in the film, Thorin’s father Thrain is said to have gone mad from grief at Thror’s death and “disappears” and we receive no other information about his fate.  The act is avenged by Thorin, who cuts off Azog’s right arm at the elbow while using a large hollowed oaken branch to defend himself (hence the name Thorin Oakenshield).  The battle intensifies but the loss on both sides leads to what appears to be a draw and the Dwarves fail to retake Moria from the Orcs.  It is assumed that Azog dies from his wounds.  But Balin states that it was this act of bravery on the part of Thorin that convinced him of his worthiness as the new King Under the Mountain in exile.  In this scene we see a younger version of Balin as well as Dain, though he is not indentified (Dain is the Dwarf with the mohawk seen consoling the younger Balin).

Here is where the tale differs in “The Quest For Erebor”: Azog, previously only referred to in a remark by Gandalf in “The Hobbit”, did behead Thror during an attempt by the Dwarves to enter Khazad-dum in Moria.  However, the battle ended there.  Azog became infamous and an object of hatred by the Dwarves in the following years.  In a subsequent battle, Azog was killed by Dain of the Iron Hills.  Dain also dissuaded Thrain from entering Moria at this time.  Azog’s son, Bolg, then inherited the rule of Moria and was still the Orc leader at the time of the events of “The Hobbit”.

So why the focus on Azog and the down played role of Bolg?  Bolg is a character listed in the film, though I’m not sure exactly which Orc he is on screen.  For some reason, Jackson decided to settle on Azog as Thorin’s great nemesis for the film version.  Perhaps “Azog the Defiler” is a catchier name than Bolg.  Or maybe it was thought to be too complicated.

But, to confuse matters further, Azog is alive in present day (albeit with a fancy new metal spike to replace his missing arm) and becomes the pursuer of the company (presumably) throughout the series, leading to the Battle of the Five Armies.  In the book, we know that Bolg is killed by Beorn in this battle.  We can only speculate how this will be presented in the third film.  Certainly, Azog as presented here is a pretty gruesome character.  I have no problem with this bit of license that Jackson is taking though I’m sure there are many who will.  In any case, an Orc scouting party spies the Dwarves across the ridge and resolves to inform “the Master” (who we do not know yet is actually Azog).

Now to the main event of this chapter – the encounter with the Stone Trolls.  I have previously spent quite a few words talking about Trolls in general and how they might be presented here.  In the book, which was a more kid-friendly story, they were seen as being at least as comical as they were menacing – complete with working-class British dialects.  My first impression was that their manner almost seemed to be based on The Three Stooges.  There was a lot of slapping, smacking and other types of physical comedy between them.  And they spoke with the same manner of speech as their counterparts in the book.

Though the Trolls are definitely slow-witted creatures, they appear somewhat more intelligent – if not outright sentient – than the trolls we saw in The Lord of The Rings.  Though, to be fair, those trolls were never given the opportunity to speak.  So, one could argue that they may actually have been capable of speech.

All in all, the Stone Trolls are shown pretty much as presented in the text though there were a few changes in the scene – notably, their discovery of Bilbo and the way Gandalf intervenes that leads to their turning into stone (Bilbo’s role in this is expanded at Gandalf’s expense).  And the look of them was consistent with the way they were presented in the Extended Edition of “The Fellowship of the Ring”.  As expected, they were done completely in CGI.

The voices of William, Bert and Tom were not provided by Andy Serkis as I had anticipated but rather by the actors who played Gloin, Dori and Bifur (respectively).  And the positions in which they are frozen in stone are consistent with their presentation in the Extended Edition scene of “Fellowship”.

Upon discovery of the Trolls’ cave, we see Gloin make the observation that it would be a shame to leave all of the gold sitting out in the open so he and a couple other Dwarves put a horde of it into a large chest and bury it as a “deposit”.  I have a feeling that we will see Bilbo uncover this on his return to the Shire in “There and Back Again”.  In fact, in his conversation with Frodo early on Bilbo does refer to his wealth as being comprised of “merely a single chest” of gold and jewels.

Thorin discovers the Elvish blades of Gondolin and is at first unwilling to take Orcrist (the “goblin cleaver”) for his own (given the manufacture) but is convinced of its value by Gandalf, who claims Glamdring (the “foe hammer”).  Before he emerges from the cave, the Wizard stumbles upon the small blade that we come to know as Sting.  He gives it to Bilbo who is hesitant to accept it because of his lack of experience with weapons.  It is here that Gandalf tells him, “True courage is knowing not when to take a life, but knowing when to spare one.”  This is not a line from the book but it points directly to the encounter with Gollum and Bilbo’s decision not to kill him.  This is a theme that Jackson highlights in the LOTR films as well.

One final note on the swords: I did not notice at any time in this film that Glamdring glowed blue in the presence of goblins or Orcs.  I don’t know if this was intentional since it did not glow in the Moria scenes in “Fellowship”.  That mistake was pointed out by Phillipa Boyens on the film’s DVD commentary.  I look forward to any insight on this issue that is provided on the DVD commentary for this film.

The next scene introduces Radagast the Brown, a character not in the book.  But as it relates to another added scene at Rivendell, I will save that for a revisit of Chapter Three.


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