From The Blog

Riddles in the Dark: Episode Three

The third episode of Riddles in the Dark is here!

Prof. Corey Olsen and Dave Kale tackle one of their favorite events in all of Middle-earth history: The Battle of Azanulbizar.  Heroic deeds, cinematic taunts, slaughter and death, and, of course, the burned dwarves, they cover it all.  They share some of their favorite passages from Appendix A of The Return of the King, delve into the geography of the valley of Azanulbizar and its appearance in The Lord of the Rings, and speculate about how the War of the Dwarves and the Orcs may factor into the The Hobbit film and its backstory.  They also address listener feedback about Thrain and Thror and share the “shadow and a threat” that have been growing in their sleep: will the filmmakers conflate the Battle of Azanulbizar and the Battle of Five Armies?

Prediction of the Week: will the filmmakers conflate the Battle of Azanulbizar with the Battle of Five Armies?

(A) No, not at all, they will be depicted completely separately.
(B) Yes, partially.  They’ll retain the idea of the Battle of Azanulbizar but some elements will be incorporated into the Battle of Five Armies.
(C) Yes.  The Battle of Azanulbizar will be completely removed and whatever elements appear on-screen will do so in the Battle of Five Armies.

Download: .mp3 (right click and choose “Save As…” to download)


  1. Chris February 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    I’d love to hear speculations about how, with the “epic” tone of the upcoming film (necessary in light of the world established by the LOTR films), you think the filmmakers will preserve the playfulness that seems (to me at least) to be at the heart of The Hobbit. Will the dwarves’ treasure still contain toys? And what of the fantastic songs besides “Far over the Misty Mountains”?

    Many thanks for another very entertaining podcast!

  2. Feorhund February 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    The “Chip the glasses” scene is in the trailer (I don’t know if they are singing though) so we know there will be humor along those lines. We also get the idea that there will be Bombur fat jokes. There was plenty of (added) humor in LOTR with Gimli and the Hobbits, so I’m sure they will find a way to keep a good bit of the lighthearted moments in it.

    I think PJ’s sense of humor will fit much better in The Hobbit than it did in LOTR. I for one don’t see why people are worrying about it. Just look at the design of the Dwarves!

    Then there are things like “Tra-la-la-lally” that I don’t want to see in the films and didn’t really like in the book (which I do love btw). To me “The Hobbit” was like a distilled translation of Bilbo’s already distilled account of the journey. You can imagine Bilbo or a latter scribe adding in the sillier stuff to make it a kids story (think of Bilbo recounting the story of the Trolls to the Hobbit children in FOTR). It is much like what happened with many real fairy tales.

  3. Adam February 28, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    I have a bit of a problem with Smaug being used too heavily as a framing device in Film 1.

    Firstly, We won’t get to the Lonely Mountain in that film, so actually too much Smaug build up would be anticlimactic, as its setting up something we won’t get to see pay off for. I can see an intro to film two, much like the Gandalf/Balrog start in the Two Towers, or Smeagols scene in Film Three, fufilling some parts of this role.

    Secondly, I can’t for the life of me, see the biggest, coolest reveal of both films: Finally seeing Smaug in all his glory, being in the first few minuites of either film. I mean, IF we SEE him early on, even in the second film, it will surely be a siloutte flashing past the moon, a burst of flame, a flash of scales, dwarves running screaming through firey halls.. something of this ilk, but fast intercut scene, no serious exposition.

  4. Chris February 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Well said. I suppose Bilbo and (most of) the hobbits really are sort of the Victorians of Middle-Earth–reinterpreting what is epic (or romance) material into “Fairy Tales” for children because the “practical” adults around them want nothing to do with it. Still, there’s a charm, simplicity and humor to the Hobbit (tra-la-lallies notwithstanding) which the Lord of the Rings lacks, and which I hope is not overshadowed by the seriousness of the “Quest of Erebor” events. May they keep as many of the songs in as they can–at least in the extended cuts. “Chip the glasses” is one of the main songs I was thinking of–and I would LOVE to see the Misty Mountain orcs sing “Goblin Town” or “Fifteen Birds,” though I realize there’s little hope of this.

  5. Feorhund February 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm #


    Don’t forget, we didn’t get to Mordor and Sauron until film 3.

    However, I don’t think Smaug will be the main focus, at least not as far as the Dwarves are concerned. I think we will be reminded of the threat he poses, but I feel the events of the Goblin-Dwarf war will be what the Dwarves focus on more. I think Thorin will blame the orcs for putting them in Smaug’s path to begin with. That way when they get to the Great Goblin it will be more climactic. Though Gandalf will certainly be more worried about preventing Sauron from getting a new Dragon to fight with.

    On the other hand, I can see, from following Gandalf and the White Council, that we will get an understanding of how important it is to keep Sauron and Smaug apart, and there could be some kind of play made by Sauron’s forces to get to Smaug at a climax. The end of film one could be an ominous shot of Smaug – still hidden in shadows – stirring, and flames suddenly rushing towards the camera. With the flashbacks of shadowy Smaug from earlier – I believe during the Misty Mountain song – letting us know what this could mean.

    Sorry if this makes little sense, I wrote it in a hurry.

  6. Feorhund February 29, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    I have to say that I have a big soft spot for the songs in the Hobbit cartoon 😀

    I too would love a number of the songs left in, as long as they make sense within the overall setting of Middle Earth.

  7. Adam March 5, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Thats true, but I think Sauron and The Dragon are very different things in this regard, when Bilbo sneaks down that tunnel utterly unaware of what is ahead beyond rumour and dread, we need to be there with him.

  8. Adam March 5, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    That was on course in response to your first line Feorhund, I am with you on the general split between emphasis on the two films!

  9. Feorhund March 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I agree, it would be wrong to have shots of Smaug’s face ala The Eye. And Bilbo has no way of knowing what he looks like, while Frodo actually has visions.

    Just to clarify, I don’t think we will see any real glimpses of Smaug beyond shadows and maybe brief shots of scales etc. And that would all be in a single flashback during the Misty Mountain song (And I doubt they will have Thorin explaining the story again to Bilbo after the song as in the book; it would be redundant to show and tell. I think Bilbo will “see” what happened as he is taken away with the song).
    The rest of the time I think we will just hear about how dangerous Smaug would be as a weapon of the enemy, and maybe see quick flashes of the devastation already seen in the initial flashback, similar to the small flashes of Isildur cutting off the ring.
    That’s going to be a huge moment when we finally see him as Bilbo does. And even then, we won’t see him in all his glory until he comes out of the mountain to attack.
    I hate to admit it so early, but The Hobbit could be better than LOTR, at least in terms of having a more focused plot. There was almost too much for Jackson to work with in LOTR especially when trying to balance the POV’s once the Fellowship split. With the Hobbit he has the luxury of a tighter main plot that he can branch from when he feels he can expand the world to get a better understanding of the stakes.

  10. Sarah March 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Could the Battle of Azanulbizar be portrayed like the first battle of the ring, in which Isildur defeats Sauron? It would give sufficient backstory to build up the animosity between the dwarves and the goblins, as well as provide the Oakenshield to Thorin’s name. Could be done in a flashback when the dwarves are captured into the goblin caves (Thorin has a flashback while being carried down into the mountain). It would keep this battle separate from the Battle of Five Armies, while still maintain the “epic-ness” of both (as they did in LOTR).

  11. Feorhund March 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    I could definitely see it as a flashback or two. Though I would want to see at least some of it before the caves. I’m not as pessimistic as Prof. Corey and Dave; though I can see Jackson having Azog escaping death until Five Armies as it has more dramatic weight since the dwarves win the battle but fail to kill the main target. It could be seen as too much of a win for the dwarves that early.
    I would have expected it as a prologue before the Frodo Frame was revealed. It would be odd to have a prologue that is outside the frame story. I can see Bilbo asking a dwarf how Thorin got the name Oakenshield at some point and then getting a narration with flashes of the events around the battle. This way Bilbo gets an idea of just how much the dwarves hate goblins.

  12. Sarah March 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    I like that theory a lot!! Very plausible also!

  13. Ed Powell March 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Oh Council of the Wise, I beg your indulgence to throw a spanner in the works.

    When watching the extras for the LoTR films, all 12 hours of them, I was struck by the dedication of the craftsmen to fidelity to the books. The workmen carried the books around with them and consulted on each little detail. The swords, the armor, the flags and pennants, the architecture, the sets, the scenery, the props, the costumes, each one thing was loving crafted by workmen dedicated to complete fidelity to the vision in the books. This dedication showed in the film.


    There was one person in the extras who was clearly not dedicated to fidelity to the books, and that was Phillipa Boyens, the scriptwriter. (Fran Walsh, the other scriptwriter never appeared, and Peter Jackson only appeared rarely in his role as script-writer). What I got from Phillipa Boyens was an attitude that the plot details of the books were a “nice to have” but she was basically interested in telling a story that would “work” on the big screen. And there weer plenty of bizarre changes to the plot, some acceptable (Saruman’s death at Orthanc, no Bombadil, etc) and some of them wrong (Faramir’s behavior, the giant eye). Some were so inexplicably bad (warrior Arwen at Helm’s Deep) that after that plot detail was leaked to the fans, they decided to excise it completely from the film even though they had spent a lot of money filming her battle scenes.

    Warrior Arwen haunts me when I think of The Hobbit. What crazy “warrior Arwen” changes are lurking in that indifferent head of Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh? Assuredly the rest of the film will be outstanding, but the script worries me.

    So I think this contest is too in the weeds. You are discussing reasonable options that you (me, we) the die-hard fans *might* accept in an attempt to condense the book or add a little more action. The problem is that Boyens and Walsh are not us, they are not meticulous, and they will have no compunction about making wild major changes if it suits their view of the viewability of the movies.

    So here’s a question: what crazy ass “warrior Arwen” changes might you expect, if you put yourselves int eh mindset of Phillipa Boyens, et al.?

  14. Feorhund December 14, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    Well, now we know.for the most part 😉 I was pleased with how they handled flashbacks in film 1.


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