The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Discussion of The Hobbit: a good place for Tolkien beginners to start
Merry
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Tue Jan 20, 2015 6:00 am

I found this clip on youtube that I thought did a good job of telling the story of 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqsVr7Q3iug

I'm not sure what the purpose of the clip was, but it emphasizes some of the most important themes.
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Lindariel » Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:09 pm

Thanks for sharing this Merry. It is wonderful to see how all of the elements tie together. I was particularly glad to see them emphasize the importance of the Pity of Bilbo for Gollum and that the Battle of the Five Armies was actually the first skirmish in the War of the Ring. Perhaps you recall this essay I wrote a while back for one of MeJ's contests:


Our friend Finarfin2003 makes a very cogent argument establishing the date of Tuesday 29th February, 3019 – the day that Frodo encounters and “tames” Gollum and Merry and Pippin encounter Treebeard -- as the second most important date in the War of the Ring. However, I believe that the reasons Finarfin2003 stated for the importance of Frodo’s act of pity towards Gollum point to an earlier act of pity that made Frodo’s mercy possible.

I am thinking of this encounter back in the year 2941:*

“Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it. It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second. He trembled. And then quite suddenly in another flash, as if lifted by a new strength and resolve, he leaped.” – The Hobbit

Bilbo came to this merciful conclusion on his own, without the benefit of Gandalf’s guidance. He probably could have killed Gollum quite easily, given the advantages of his invisibility and the sword Sting. Certainly, it would have been easy to justify doing so, as Gollum clearly intended to kill and eat Bilbo. But Bilbo’s own innate goodness and hobbity sense of fair play just wouldn’t let him do so.

And thank goodness he didn’t! As Finarfin2003 pointed out, without Gollum, the entire quest to destroy the Ring would have failed at many different points – in the Dead Marshes, at the Black Gate, on the way to Cirith Ungol, and ultimately at the very Cracks of Doom.

Gandalf himself suggests this when Frodo expresses regret that Bilbo had not killed Gollum when he had a chance: “Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.”

And when Frodo declares that Gollum is no better than an orc and deserves death, Gandalf continues, “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.”

Later, when Frodo encounters Gollum, he comes to the same conclusion: “Very well. But still I am afraid. And yet, as you see, I will not touch the creature. For now that I see him, I do pity him.”

Even Sam, who distrusts Gollum completely and wishes on numerous occasions to be rid of the creature for good, cannot bring himself to kill Gollum when he has the chance, and is moved to make the same choice as good old Master Bilbo: “Sam’s hand wavered. His mind was hot with wrath and the memory of evil. It would be just to slay this treacherous, murderous creature, just and many times deserved; and also it seemed the only safe thing to do. But deep in his heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched.”

And so, I maintain that, as crucial as Frodo’s act of Pity towards Gollum proved to be in the War of the Ring, Frodo would never have been able to do so, had Bilbo not shown Gollum mercy first. Also, Frodo had the benefit of Gandalf’s wisdom and guidance in this matter and the sterling example of Bilbo’s merciful behavior in equally dire circumstances. Bilbo had no advice or experience to fall back on except his own good nature and sense of fair play. Viewed in this light, Bilbo’s act of pity is more miraculous that Frodo’s. Indeed, Gandalf proved to be completely correct – The pity of Bilbo did rule the fate of all of Middle-earth and ultimately determined the outcome of the War of the Ring.

* Let me note that I feel entirely justified in selecting a date outside of “The Great Years” because in my opinion the “War of the Ring” officially began back in 2460 when the Watchful Peace ended with Sauron’s return to Dol Guldur, the White Council was formed to oppose the Necromancer in 2463, and the Ring was found by Deagol that same year. These were the first forays of what became the “War of the Ring.”
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:37 pm

I think this is a very important theme and I'm glad that Phillipa B. emphasized it in the video. I didn't remember your essay, Lindariel; otherwise you might accuse me of plagiarism! Look what I'm talking about next month:

http://www.stjoesmarion.org/events/catholic-journey-through-middle-earth/20150127

The filmmakers attribute this to fate, but I have included in my paper that there is ample evidence in the legendarium that Gandalf (and Tolkien) attributed this to the providence of God.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Lindariel » Thu Jan 22, 2015 5:18 am

That's great Merry! Please feel free to use anything you'd like from my essay. After all, the vast majority of it consists of direct quotes from The Professor's great work, so it's really not mine. I just drew the relevant quotes together and made a few observations, that's all.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:03 am

Thanks! Your comment above about when the War of the Ring began is interesting, too. PJ makes a comment somewhere--maybe in the video we've been talking about--that the Battle of the Five Armies is the first battle in the War of the Ring. I agree with both of your comments, but it's interesting that these beginnings happen even when most of the participants don't even know that the Ring was found. It has made me wonder if, in real life, we may not even know what we're fighting about! The more I read about World War I, the more I think most of the participants weren't sure why they were there.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Lindariel » Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:05 pm

Merry, I think we can view these early movements in the War of the Ring in two ways:

(1) As Sauron continues to regain his shape, which he cannot do fully unless he regains his Ring, he makes initial moves to try to isolate his enemies in the North (Mithlond, Rivendell, Lothlorien,Thranduil, the remnant of the northern Dunedain) from his enemies in the South (Gondor, Dol Amroth, the remnant of the Elven Haven in Belfalas). Also, his minions urgently search for the lost Ring in the vicinity of the Gladden Fields where Isildur was lost, little knowing that it had already been found many years ago by Smeagol, who eventually hid himself and his Precious away in the depths of the Misty Mountains. Sauron has his eye on Erebor and the dragon Smaug, and probably would have begun making overtures to the dragon at some point, however --

(2) Gandalf also has been examining the chess board of Middle-earth. He has heard the tales of a Necromancer taking up residence in Dol Guldur. With Saruman lulling the White Council into inaction by constantly preaching the demise of Sauron and that the Ring has been lost forever in the Sea, Gandalf undertakes his own investigation of Dol Guldur and discovers that the Necromancer is Sauron taking shape once again, and the delirious and nearly dead Thrain who surrenders the map and key to Gandalf before dying. When Gandalf comes across Thorin, he sees an opportunity to push Sauron into making a move before he is ready and to possibly remove Smaug and Erebor from the equation by launching Thorin on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and also finally forcing the White Council to take action against Sauron and drive him from Dol Guldur.

Just think of what might have happened if Gandalf had NOT taken the initiative and successfully removed Smaug and Erebor from Sauron's clutches. Sauron may very well have forged a successful alliance with Smaug, who would have been an absolute terror, effectively pinning Thranduil and his forces inside his underground fortress, laying waste to much of Lothlorien. Instead of losing tens of thousands of orcs from Gundabad and the Misty Mountains in the Battle of the Five Armies, Sauron could have used them in a major northern offensive against Rivendell and Mithlond and the Dunedain. What if young Aragorn had been killed in this northern offensive? What if Saurman had succeeded in wiping out Rohan? Gondor and Dol Amroth would have been caught in a vice.

Most importantly, if Gandalf had not acted, Bilbo would never have gone on his adventure and found the Ring! By taking the initiative, Gandalf forced Sauron to abandon Dol Guldur and a possible northern offensive and instead concentrate his malice first on Gondor.

All of this happens without anyone having knowledge of the whereabouts of the Ring itself.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Fri Jan 23, 2015 1:36 am

Great summary, Lindariel. It would be interesting to speculate what would have happened had Bilbo not found the Ring. I keep wondering, too, what kind of ally Smaug would have made. What could Sauron have promised him that was sweeter than what he already had? Was he capable of any kind of allegiance?

I'm going to read 'The Quest for Erebor' again tonight. I love that essay!
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Lindariel » Fri Jan 23, 2015 9:49 pm

It's an interesting point to consider. During the First Age, dragons and Balrogs were among Morgoth's most powerful weapons, but I don't believe The Professor ever indicated that Sauron had any authority over them. Sauron did number werewolves and the vampire Thuringwethil among his allies. I wonder what, if any, influence Sauron had over the Balrog of Moria, or whether that ancient evil acted autonomously. We do know that orcs of Moria were numbered among the various factions of orcs (Saruman's Uruk-hai, Moria "scum," and Grishnahk's Mordor orcs) that attacked the Fellowship on Parth Galen and abducted Merry and Pippin. It would make for an interesting chess board indeed if both the Balrog and Moria AND Smaug were independent evil entities who might ally with Sauron or work against him behind his back as Saruman did.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Fri Jan 23, 2015 11:49 pm

It's really hard to think of the Balrog of Moria being capable of any kind of alliance. I know the Balrogs were supposed to be Maia, but it doesn't seem that they are capable of speech. As such, they seem to be more like animals than sentient beings (in the Star Trek sense!). Do Balrogs from the time of Morgoth speak?

I think it's a minor theme through Tolkien that bad people make bad allies--no loyalty or selflessness.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Lindariel » Mon Jan 26, 2015 6:05 pm

Merry, I believe we can infer that Balrogs DO have some kind of speech from the following passage from "The Bridge of Khazad-dum":

Gandalf: Then something came into the chamber -- I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell. What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open!


Wouldn't the Balrog have required speech in order to cast a counter-spell, especially since the spell Gandalf placed on the door required "muttering words that ran down the sloping roof with a sighing echo"?
Last edited by Lindariel on Wed Jan 28, 2015 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:03 am

I suppose spells do require speech, Lindariel. It seems strange, then, that Balrogs don't really speak 'on camera', as it were--none of their speech is 'recorded' by Tolkien. And if they are sentient, what miserable creatures they must be, living alone and for so long.

So is the Balrog in Moria allied with Sauron? Or with anyone?
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Lindariel » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:17 pm

Merry, here's the entry on Balrogs from The Encyclopedia of Arda:

The Balrogs originated as Maiar, beings of the same kind as Sauron himself. They were primordial spirits of fire that had allied themselves with Melkor in ancient times, and became the most feared of his servants, especially during the Wars of Beleriand in the First Age. Details of their numbers are hard to state with certainty, but there seem to have been relatively few of them - probably no more than seven.

In appearance, the Balrogs were man-like, but fire streamed from them, and they were swathed in dark shadows. They carried whips of flame and induced great terror in friends and foes alike. In the War of Wrath, Morgoth was assailed by the forces of the Valar. Most of the Balrogs were destroyed in that War, but some few escaped over the Blue Mountains and hid in Middle-earth. Durin's Bane, the creature that drove the Dwarves from Moria, was one of these.

The Balrogs Before the First Age

The Balrogs were in origin Maiar, of the same order as Sauron or Gandalf. Melkor corrupted them to his service in the distant past of the World, in the days of his splendour. They were originally gathered by him in his ancient fastness of Utumno during the time of the Lamps of the Valar. When this fortress was destroyed by the Valar, at least some fled and lurked in the pits of Angband (whether any of the original Balrogs were slain in the Valar's attack on Utumno is not known).


Clearly, the Balrogs are Melkor's creatures, and their principal allegiance is to him. They are Maiar, like Sauron, so they have no reason to view him as a superior. However, that final sentence is interesting -- after Melkor's fortress of Utumno was destroyed, some of them fled to Angband -- to Sauron! So there is some connection there, and Sauron at least sheltered some displaced Balrogs, whether they did his bidding or not.

As far as the Balrog of Moria is concerned, it's hard to say what the actual relationship might have been between the fire demon and Sauron. According to the account above, this Balrog did not flee to Angband after the destruction of Utumno, but instead fled over the Blue Mountains and hid, I assume deep under Moria until the dwarves woke it with their mining in 1980 of the Third Age. At this time, Sauron is still shapeless after the loss of his Ring, although his "shadow" fell upon Mirkwood around 1050, and the White Council suspected one of the Nazgul had taken up residence in Dol Guldur in 1100.

The question becomes, what kind of communication could a shapeless Sauron have had with a Balrog hidden/sleeping deep beneath Moria? Did Sauron even know the Balrog slept there?
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:41 pm

Good questions. It seems to me that the Balrog at Moria was an independent agent. Even the orcs there fled from him.

It's interesting, too, that Tolkien didn't give Balrogs names. I mean, he named inanimate objects!

(And, of course, this is all reminding me of the epic poem, 'Christmas with the Balrog'!)
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Lindariel
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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Lindariel » Wed Jan 28, 2015 3:16 pm

Actually, Merry, the Lord of the Balrogs DID have a name -- Gothmog. Gothmog was responsible for the mortal wound that ultimately claimed Feanor's life.

FYI, Peter Jackson stole that name and gave it to the Orc Captain in charge of the assault on Minas Tirith in his ROTK movie.

BTW, great minds think alike -- I had your poem in mind when I was putting together that post about Balrogs. I think about it every Christmas holiday!
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Re: The Hobbit - The Movie: Speculation and Discussion

Postby Merry » Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:17 am

Oh, that's right. Time to read the Sil again soon. Are there other individual Balrogs written about, even if not named, in the legendarium?

We should print 'Christmas with the Balrog' every Christmas. I think we actually have a good number of lurkers here each day and they might enjoy it!
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